Actor Samuel Anderson will be joining the regular cast as Danny Pink, a fellow teacher at the Coal Hill School and a coworker of Clara’s. Anderson has been in a ton of British television shows that I’ve never seen or heard of, but fan reception of his acting seems to be positive. Anyway, I have a lot of feelings about this announcement, so let’s get right into it.
Moffat and co. have been making an effort these last few seasons to pepper everything liberally with shoutouts to Classic Who, and this decision seems to be following in that vein. As you may or may not know, the First Doctor’s first human companions ever were a pair of Coal Hill School teachers, Barbara and Ian. So now that Clara has magically stopped being a nanny and is now a teacher with no explanation, we’ll have another Coal Hill couple in the time vortex. In part this is a neat callback to the beginning, especially since Moffat, for better or worse, has Big-Red-Button-reset the whole premise of New Who. However, it also sort of smacks of Moffat running out of ideas; Classic Who easter eggs are cool, but lifting Classic storylines? Not so much. Let’s hope it’s a tribute and not a glorified rerun.
The other good thing about this is that it means that, for the first time since Martha told Ten where he could metaphorically stuff it, we will have a series regular character of color. Moffat’s tenure as showrunner has been whiter than bleached laundry, so I’m excited to see a little diversity coming back to a show that once seemed to care about it.
I do have my concerns about this, of course, too. Moffat has, historically, not done well by the characters of color in the episodes he wrote before he was showrunner. In “Girl in the Fireplace”, despite that being one of the few episodes in which Mickey travels with Rose and the Doctor, the story focuses on Reinette. It also features several unnecessary, dehumanizing digs at Mickey, including this gem:
Rose: No, you can’t keep the horse.
The Doctor: Why not? I let you keep Mickey!
In “Blink” (yes, I’m going after “Blink”, keep your fezzes on), the one episode Moffat wrote while Martha was a companion, Martha is shunted into the past to support the Doctor on a shop job salary while Moffat’s original character Sally Sparrow has fascinating adventures in the present. The fact stands that Moffat has, purposefully or not, successfully avoided writing any major characters of color in Doctor Who so far. In both these episodes, said characters (along with most of the rest of the recurring cast) were given second billing to Moffat’s own creations, so I’m interested (albeit a little terrified) to see what happens when he is writing a character who is both of color and his idea.
We’ve only seen one Moffat-created recurring character of color so far in Sherlock’s Sally Donovan, and she doesn’t give me much hope. While I’m sure Moffat didn’t sit down and think “I’m gonna give my show one whole black lady and she’s gonna be the meanest person ever”, Donovan is the one character who’s routinely demonized inside and outside the show, and she was basically written out of Season 3 altogether. So this is, in essence, Moffat’s very first time writing a major character of color in what I assume will be a sympathetic role. Hopefully he’ll do a good job, but I’m not gonna hold my breath.
This is all very negative of me, and I’m loath to let casting decisions, however exciting, alone sway my opinion that this show has gone massively downhill since the good old Davies days. Still, though, between this announcement and Capaldi, I’m starting to have a little hope about the future of Doctor Who. Now we just have to wait until the end of the year to find out if that hope is well-placed. Till then, Whovians!