Last weekend, we went to the cinema with Stacey to see Alice in Wonderland. And very enjoyable it was, too. But that's not what I want to write about. You see, as it was an afternoon screening, and thus full of kids, they showed the 3D trailer for the new series of Doctor Who that starts next month:
As the 11th Doctor's distinctive physiognomy swam into view, a defiant pre-teen voice announced loudly to the cinema: "I hate him."
Yes, a small boy hates a version of the Doctor he has seen for all of about a minute's screen time. But then, he's one of a whole generation of new Who fans who are having to deal with an experience that's completely new to them: the Doctor becoming someone else. If that boy was 8 or 9, David Tennant was the Doctor for pretty much the whole of his life. He might vaguely remember the Christopher Ecclestone series – and he's probably watched it – but the tenth Doctor is his Doctor, and this guy is some impostor.
And this is perhaps the last of the great challenges for the new Who: can it survive the transition to a new Doctor, after a long-running, popular predecessor? It's worth bearing in mind that the last time the series successfully achieved this was way back in 1982, when my 10-year old self watched with mingled horror, excitement and dismay as my beloved fourth Doctor fell off a radio telescope and became the alarmingly youthful fifth Doctor.
So, it's been 28 years since this form of switch was pulled off successfully. That's a challenge. And there will be a generation for whom David Tennant will be as Jon Pertwee was for me: something from the past. And they'll be easy to win over. The adult fans will come easily, if the quality stays high. The challenge is that key childhood group that drive the appeal of this family show. "I don't want to go," said the tenth Doctor as regeneration overtook him. Many of the audience would have been sharing that same feeling.
The Stephen Moffat, Matt Smith and company have about an hour to persuade the kids that the change is good.
Me? I'm already persuaded. I'm looking forward to the new Who. Much as I enjoyed the RTD era, its tics and weaknesses were aggravating me by the end of the End of Time. Time for something fresh. Time for change.