Despite being the direct continuation of the original 1963 television series, the new Doctor Who version, first aired in 2005, features almost the same plot devices as the series from the past century. The Doctor undergoes regenerations, changes faces, and personalities. Not to mention an iconic fashion sense.
But then again, the revived show also brought some novelties, like romantically involved Doctors, more varied storytelling paired with higher production values, somewhat scarier villains, and the female Doctor. So yes, Jodie Whittaker’s casting, though favorably received, distanced the series from being a “boy’s club” all-around.
Regardless, as a long-spanning series centered around apparently ageless time-traveling aliens, Doctor Who loves little callbacks to previously told narratives and often uses them. One of the longest-lasting callbacks, next to the “reverse the polarity of the neutron flow” technobabble, is the Doctor’s favorite martial art — Venusian Aikido — mostly utilized by the Twelfth and Thirteenth Doctor on numerous occasions in the new run. However, considering the increased use of the Sonic Screwdriver in the new series, we’re left to wonder: Is Venusian Aikido overused in the new Who?
Fans of the Revived series have witnessed Doctors wielding this martial art across several seasons of the show. The Twelfth Doctor used Venusian Aikido in Episode Three of Season 8, called “Robot of Sherwood,” when he disarmed Robin Hood. He used it once again in “World Enough and Time” (S10E11), when he successfully flipped Jorj into the ground, knocking him out.
Thirteenth Doctor, and the self-proclaimed “grandmaster pacifist,” used Venusian Aikido to stun Epzo with only one finger in “The Ghost Monument,” commenting on the cleverness of Venusian nuns who have devised the skill. Whittaker’s Doctor used the very same technique to disarm Jarva Slade in “Kerblam!” The White Dragon comic book story that pairs the Thirteenth Doctor with Bruce Lee in 1972, against Chen Luo’s men, suggesting that the Doctor taught Bruce Lee Venusian Aikido, which he planned to use in his film Enter the Dragon.
So, what exactly is Venusian Aikido? First, let’s go back to the beginning of the show.
Barry Letts, one of the best-known producers of Doctor Who, was strongly opposed to the idea of an aggressive Doctor. Therefore, Terrance Dicks, one of the more prolific scriptwriters of the show, suggested Aikido, a Japanese martial art with no attacking moves and is entirely based on self-defense. Of course, this resonated with the idea of a pacifist Doctor, and the concept of Venusian Aikido was developed to cater to the extraterrestrial nature of the Doctor and the entire series.
According to some accounts, and the Thirteenth Doctor, Venusian Aikido was developed by Venusian nuns on Venus. As such, it’s devised to be the most effective non-lethal fighting style for non-terrestrial life forms featuring five arms and five legs. The Doctor often mused that he’s one of few two-armed life forms to become truly adept with this martial art, though it’s worth noting that Grandmaster Paradox is the only one-armed being that ever mastered Venusian Aikido.
Venusian Aikido, based on the Japanese martial art Aikido, specifically focuses on defensive maneuvers while using the attacker’s momentum against him. Combined with joint locks, throws, and strikes to the body’s pressure points, Aikido allows its practitioners to outmaneuver and temporarily neutralize the attacker while inflicting as little harm as possible. It’s a perfect martial art for the Doctor, as it allows him/her to disarm the opponent, or in more extreme examples, paralyze instead of attacking him, thus evading the dangers of being hurt.
And while the Twelfth and Thirteenth Doctor remains our major sources of information for Venusian Aikido, at least in the television series, they are far from being one of the first incarnations to have used it. According to audio stories and novels, Voyage to Venus and Endgame, respectively, The Second Doctor learned Venusian Aikido whilst on Venus with his companions. Eighth Doctor, the one from the 1996 Doctor Who film, remembered being taught by “a many-armed glowing-eyed being in misty caverns.”
However, there’s no single incarnation of the Doctor that has used Venusian Aikido more often than Jon Pertwee’s Third Doctor. Out of all the first Eight incarnations presented in the Classic series, none were more action-oriented than Jon Pertwee, who brought the Doctor center-stage instead of allowing the character to be a subtle manipulator of proceedings. He regularly used Venusian Aikido in physical altercations with his foes — more than ten times during his 5-seasons run with the show — which only showcased how strongly the popular James Bond films influenced his era.
Future Doctors have dabbled with Venusian Karate, including the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, Twelfth, and Thirteenth Doctor, but none embodied the full-action oriented beginnings as Jon Pertwee’s Third Doctor. His use of Venusian Aikido was far greater and more frequent than Capaldi and Whittaker’s respective Doctors combined.
On the one hand, the Doctors of the Classical era had used Venusian Aikido quite extensively, especially when the art was introduced in the series by the Third Doctor. On the other hand, in retrospect, its use was appropriate for the action-oriented era inspired by James Bond films.
The show’s writers took a different approach to the Ninth, Tenth, and Eleventh Doctor, who either never used Venusian Aikido or have scarcely used it. Instead, they accentuated the Doctor’s problem-solving skills that allow him/her to simply outwit his opponents, effectively eliminating any need for Venusian Aikido. The Doctor’s intellect was his sword. Which brings us back to the original question: is Venusian Aikido overused in new Who?
Unfortunately, there’s no single answer, as it mostly depends on the fans. Part of the fandom believe that the use of Venusian Aikido in the new series is nothing more than a callback to the Classic era and doesn’t position the Doctor as a being of brute, excessive, or unnecessary force. The other part believes that Venusian Aikido is overused in the new series, just as the Sonic Screwdriver was at the beginning of Chibnall’s era.
For example, most fans believe that Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor didn’t have to incapacitate the soldier leading her away from physical danger in the recently aired “War of the Sontarans” — our renegade Time Lord could’ve easily outsmarted the soldier. So it would seem that the overuse of Venusian Aikido in the new series, isn’t just an easy way out for the Doctor but also an easy way out for the show’s writers, who pen its use to cover up for the shoddy writing.
Ultimately, both sides of the fandom might be correct — with the actual truth being somewhere in between.