Fans are a funny lot. You can lay everything out in front of them. Hand over a simple concept on a silver platter, just to make sure they know exactly what’s going on. You can prepare them as much as you want.
Trust that the imagination of the viewer is one of the most potent and powerful weapons a writer has when putting a story out there.
You can make it exceedingly clear that the show really has no limitations. Anything is possible. All of time and space, and sure, other dimensions too. The entirety of the universe — in fact, the Multiverse, which also contains the Whoniverse.
And yet, some of our imaginations are not quite as fully formed or adaptable as they should be. Sometimes, we simply can’t get out of our own way.
Example: The titular Time Lord can have a hand in destroying all reality, time, and space… and then reboot all of it again from within an exploding box… but we balk when it turns out our moon could really be an egg.
Example: The Doctor can wear an 18ft scarf, the lint covered, shabby, rumpled ensemble of a homeless person, or a piece of celery, but the fan base dissolves in distasteful disbelief if the Doctor wears a colourful coat.
Example: Usually after regeneration, the Doctor is unstable and/or unhinged. New bodies will do that. While one or two incarnations, like the Fifth and the Tenth might fall into comas, another newly regenerated incarnation actually physically assaulted a companion! Yeah, you know who I’m talking about. That’s right, tied him up, and hung him upside down in a cabinet. But we forgive the Fourth Doctor for assault and battery on poor old Harry Sullivan, but we condemn ol’ Sixie for the momentary choking of Peri.
Example: Time Lords’ bodies are so fleeting, disposable, interchangeable, and unremarkable; they may as well be trying on different boots. The Doctor has been tall, short, fat, thin, fast, slow, young, old, exuberant, tetchy, brilliant, useless, bland, dazzling, unassuming, and commanding, and in a pure form beyond regeneration, shown to be a small gnomish creature like something out of Lord of the Rings.
But mention the possibility even now of having a woman play the role, and a section of the fans want absolutely nothing to do with it, gnash their teeth, go on a hunger strike, and vehemently boycott such an abominable heresy.
Example: Time Lords regenerate on a seemingly regular basis. A limit of 13 bodies has traditionally been in place for decades of the show. Of course, when you think about it, how does one explain the limit? If it’s a rule, there must be a reason for it to be honoured and upheld, although it’s never been explained, just accepted. If it’s a natural limit, one might think it’s perhaps like the average life span of human beings.
Meaning that yes, the average life span of a Time Lord is maybe 13 bodies, but that would mean some might get 15, but some might get only 11. But no… it’s always 13. That tells me it’s artificial, not natural. Because the powers that be offered up a whole new life cycle to the Master for the 20th anniversary, or when those same powers did the Doctor a favour and extended his life. Well, we’re supposed to believe they helped him, anyway.
So really, the whole “13 body limit” is really just an arbitrary number to get these folks to simply pace themselves and not go on a reckless binge, and waste regeneration energy trying on new bodies like they were new socks. I’m lookin’ at you, Romana.
If we’ve really been paying attention, there’s no good reason why we should believe there’s any limit on bodies at all. It’s been clear forever that there are no limits. Never has been.
Yet look how the sky fell and our worlds collapsed when we found out the Doctor had no limits either.
Sure, sometimes, it’s the execution of the story or idea. That has a lot to do with it. When the writing’s good — oh, you can get away with just about anything. Some of those ideas and concepts suffered from having happened under the stewardship of a lesser producer, writer, or showrunner. One can only wonder how those same ideas might have been received with the proper execution.
But sometimes, it’s our own little prejudices and preconceived notions. Maybe some folks’ imaginations aren’t up to the task. Or maybe some of us grew up and forgot what child-like acceptance of unlimited possibilities are all about. Possibly, at times… maybe we didn’t hold up our end of the bargain. After all, we’re supposed to bring our fertile imaginations to the table. It’s possible that one or two times, we failed Doctor Who.
Yes, some ideas might have been solid, and the only thing that stopped us from enjoying them… was us.