Doctor Who‘s audio-drama spinoff Redacted fixes a mistake from the original RTD era of the show. The returning Russell T Davies, who has announced Ncuti Gatwa as the next Doctor, originally revived the series back in 2005 with Christopher Eccleston as the Ninth Doctor. It was the first series of Doctor Who since the show was canceled in 1989. The period between 1989 and 2005 was a fallow period for televised Doctor Who, the Paul McGann movie notwithstanding, but an immensely creative and productive time for fandom.
It was this period of Doctor Who fandom that Russell T Davies attempted to pay tribute to in season 2, episode 10, “Love and Monsters.” It told the story of Elton Pope (Marc Warren), a man who became obsessed with the mysterious Doctor (David Tennant) and his blue box. Doctor Who’s new story, Redacted, released weekly on BBC Sounds, tells a similar story. It follows podcasters Abby (Lois Chimimba), Shawna (Holly Quinn-Ankrah), and Cleo (Charlie Craggs), hosts of The Blue Box Files, as they’re thrown into a mystery involving the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker), and all who knew her being erased from time.
As with Russell T Davies’ “Love and Monsters,” Doctor Who: Redacted is also a metaphor for fandom and the friends made through a shared passion. In “Love and Monsters,” the London Investigations ‘N Detective Agency (LINDA for short) soon abandon their search for the Doctor and instead enjoy each other’s company, becoming firm friends. This reflected fandom in the 1990s when, in the absence of new episodes, people would meet up at conventions to ostensibly celebrate Doctor Who but, in reality, catch up with their friends. This comparison from RTD was lost on a lot of viewers at the time, and “Love and Monsters” became more of a showcase for the infamous Abzorbaloff (Peter Kay), designed by the winner of a children’s TV competition. Doctor Who: Redacted, created by author Juno Dawson avoids such stunts and crafts a far more satisfying story of the friendship and romance that can develop between like-minded people, essentially fixing RTD’s past mistake.
Besides Elton and Ursula (Shirley Henderson), the other members of LINDA were merely presented via character traits, doomed to be absorbed into the grotesque form of the showstopping Abzorbaloff. The audience was told that LINDA were firm friends via Elton’s voiceover more than they’ve ever shown in their interactions. In Redacted, however, Abby, Shawna, and Cleo laugh and joke with each other, complain about boyfriends and jobs and support each other through difficult moments in their personal lives. They feel more like the living, breathing, multi-dimensional characters one would expect from an RTD Doctor Who script.
That being said, Redacted owes a huge debt to RTD, not least in the various cameo appearances by supporting characters from his original 2005-2010 era. These brief scenes place the Tenth Doctor’s adventures in the context of Doctor Who‘s fictional universe as weird stories that have passed into urban legend. It highlights how old that first RTD era now is, with hazy recollections of Adipose and Judoon on the Moon replacing the hazy memories of giant maggots and Sea Devils that defined Doctor Who‘s place in the public imagination of the 1990s.
Despite a gap of three decades between the wilderness years of the 1990s and now, Abby’s obsessive investigation of the Doctor’s adventures evokes the feeling of attempting to tackle the Doctor Who canon in the pre-streaming age. In Doctor Who: Redacted, the richly drawn characters of Abby, Cleo, and Shawna essentially form a better realized, millenial LINDA. In affectionately highlighting this commonality between generations of Doctor Who viewers, Redacted feels like the perfect tribute to the fandom that RTD fumbled with “Love and Monsters.”
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