Matt Chorley: The Emperor's New Clothes (02/09/12)

Doctor Who is back this week. But the programme rarely justifies the hysteria that precedes it
  • @MattChorley

It's the longest running science fiction show in the world. Well, enough is enough. I'm calling time on the Time Lord.

It's not so much Doctor Who itself, which had an air of novelty to it when it came back with Christopher Eccleston. It's the near-hysteria that greets every new series, every new snippet, every raised eyebrow by the cast that hints at the return of the Buggles or a clash with the deadly Pixies of Marzipan. Tremble in your jimjams as the Archangel of Lamshanc, looking suspiciously like Hazel Blears in a shower curtain, wreaks havoc on the planet, Ahhbisto.

Doctor Who returns this week for a "blockbuster" series, with the devastating news that Karen Gillan is being ousted as the Doctor's assistant. Presumably she's too busy being prime minister of Australia. Or is that Julia Gillard? Perhaps they are doing a swap.

Saying that you don't like Doctor Who is the social equivalent of admitting you think Clare Balding is merely quite good at reading out swimming results or that Downton Abbey is just a little bit silly.

There have been 784 episodes in total, all of which seem to involve a dandy peering at some odds and sods in the props department while someone rubs a cheese grater up a piano wire.

It is a children's show, appropriated by adults who should know better. Doctor Who has never made me want to hide behind the sofa; just turn over to You've Been Framed for real entertainment. I'd always rather watch people walking into closed patio doors than some thesp with a green colander on his head desperate to garner street cred with his grandchildren.

Last week, we had its "showrunner" Steven Moffat telling us it could go on for ever. Not even The Brittas Empire went on for ever. Actually what Moffat said was "it could make money for ever". Which is more the point. Doctor Who is one of the biggest commercial monsters on the planet. It is difficult to know where the drama ends and the lunch boxes begin.

It's over-complicated, over-hyped and it has taken over. It is the McDonald's of telly – all franchise, fries and barely-met expectations. And you can stick that sonic screwdriver in your black hole.