Posts Tagged ‘Doctor’

Warning: spoilers.Β 

This episode started out promisingly, and had some genuinely nice dialogue. Absent Amy and Rory, I suddenly realised just how little time we’ve spent with the Doctor since Smith took over the role – by which I mean, how rarely we’ve seen him alone – and why this has been a bad thing. As a character, the Doctor is so much a creature of his actions around, reactions to and interactions with the denizens of the universe that, paradoxically, his most important development often happens when we catch him without an audience. Tennant’s Doctor was all flashfire wit and insight when people were watching, but the performance was always tempered for viewers by our knowledge of the loneliness, rage and furious compassion that caught him in moments visible only through the fourth wall. This was a cinematic trick as much as a matter of scripting and ostensibly a simple one, but for whatever reason, it hasn’t translated to Moffat’s governance of the show, primarily (I suspect) because the little narrative spaces that used to flesh out Tennant’s Doctor have more commonly been used, with Smith, to focus on his companions. So when, in Closing Time, we were presented with the Doctor just being alone on the street, talking about what he wasn’t doing, or monologuing to baby Alfie about life, or even just physically exploring and interacting with his environment without constantly cutting back to someone else, it was genuinely refreshing. For the first time in a while, I felt like I liked the Doctor; that he was more than just a convenient backdrop for the dramas of Amy’s life. Similarly, it was nice to see Craig again; he was a good character the first time around, and his subsequent development felt consistent.

That being said, Closing Time is a far from flawless episode. The Cyberman plot is a deliberately simple background conceit whose primary function is to let the Doctor wander around talking to people, and while I’m generally in favour of that (see above), the Cybermen are such a big part of the show’s lore that bringing them in so cheaply – and at the cost of such a patently ridiculous and openly lampshaded retcon as being blown up with love – feels like serious laziness. An original villain could have achieved the exact same impact without being nearly so ridiculous, and the episode would have been stronger for it. And then there was the ending, where we see River Song confronted by the eyepatch woman (who ten bucks says is yet another future version of River) and hauled away by the Silence to kill the Doctor, which… yeah, look: is ANYONE at this point surprised by the revelation that River is the one to kill the Doctor? Didn’t we already know this? In which case, given that we’ve been repeatedly told that it’s his last day before failing to die (sorry, before dying permanently oh wait) did we really need the extra reminder? I’d feel less ambivalent towards the ending if it had fit with anything in the episode, or of it had introduced any information we didn’t already possess; but instead, it felt like textbook double-handling for the sake of filler: old setting, old characters and old motive, with only the most meager sprinkling of catharsis to justify it. Given my druthers, we’d have just cut from the Doctor being in the TARDIS to seeing River in her astronaut suit under the lake, but there you go.

But as always, and even though she only appeared for a second without actually speaking, my biggest problem with Closing Time was Amy, who has apparently gone on to become a model in a perfume ad. Now, OK. There is nothing wrong with modelling per se, although the industry itself is rife with problems. Nor is anything wrong with perfume! But consider the Doctor’s past companions: Sarah Jane, who starts out as a journalist and keeps on investigating later; Rose Tyler, who starts out a shopgirl and goes on to work with Torchwood; Martha Jones, who starts out a trainee doctor and also goes on to work with Torchwood/chase aliens; and Donna Noble, who starts out a temp and ends up brainwiped, after which she gets happily married. Donna’s arc was tragic and infuriating – she grew so much as a character, only to have all that growth and all her adventures erased. But for all the problems inherent in her removal from the show, we understand that her living a normal life is only made possible by her lack of memories. But Sarah Jane, Rose and Martha all acknowledge the impossibility of trying to adapt to everyday living after travelling with the Doctor – it’s why they all end up having similar adventures of their own. But Amy, whose whole life has been far more entwined with that the of Doctor than any of them, and whose daughter was stolen away from her because of him, can cope well enough with the change to just go off and become aΒ model? I know she started out as a kissogram, but seriously: what the fuck? I keep asking myself: do she and Rory ever have any more children? How can they not be scarred by what’s happened to them? How does any of this even work?

And that’s another thing: as much as I liked watching Craig and Alfie together, I couldn’t help but juxtapose the father/son bond as written in Closing Time – where Craig’s love for his son is so strong that it blows up a Cyberman spaceship – with the complete and utter absence of a mother/daughter bond between Amy and Melody. Which is a recounting of the point I made last time – that Amy and Rory have stopped grieving for Melody/River – but even so, when the very next episode features a dad going through hell to return to his child, I can’t help but feel the issue is being thrown into stark relief.

But, yes. Otherwise, this was a decent enough episode. But after the final installment next week, I’ll be happy to see the back of this season. Moffat might still be in charge, but there’s a clean slate in the offing, and for all the show’s faults, I’m keen to see it improve.

Warning: spoilers, rant, etc.Β 

Internets, I don’t know what to tell you.

It’s pretty firmly on record that I was less than impressed with A Good Man Goes To War, which is why I’ve been putting off watching Let’s Kill Hitler. And then I saw this piece in today’s Guardian about whether Doctor Who has grown too complicated, and I decided to bite the bullet.

In retrospect, I’m sort of wishing I hadn’t.

The introduction of Mels is a retcon of epic proportions. If we’d seen her before in earlier episodes or heard her mentioned Bad Wolf style, that would be one thing; but we didn’t, and we haven’t, and that makes the whole setup for the piece feel utterly contrived. We’re with Hitler for five minutes – which is a relief in some ways, because any longer would have been unbearable – but there’s absolutely no reason AT ALL that the episode has to be set when and where it is, except that someone, somewhere thought it would be cool. Which, look: I get that coolness is sort of what Doctor Who is meant to do, but dropping in on Hitler is a pretty hefty way to fuck up the established timeline, and the fact that this is played for laughs – as irrelevant – in a show whose earlier series spent episode after episode making clear the dangers and difficulties inherent in messing with established events is sloppy, unprofessional and stupid. Which means, for my money, that the episode utterly fails at coolness.

In fact, it fails at everything.

Things I am sick of seeing in Steven Moffat episodes:

  • Female characters who are universally either River Song or other girls who’ve known the Doctor since childhood;
  • Robots, robotic processes or other soulless, impersonal creatures as the only villains; and
  • Dopplegangers of everyone. OH MY GOD, THE DOPPLEGANGERS.

With the exception of Neil Gaiman’s excellent piece, these three things define every single episode in the new season. They are also the hallmarks of Moffat’s earlier and best offerings, including The Girl in the Fireplace, The Silence of the Library and Blink. From what I’ve heard, the next two episodes are no different, and it makes me want to tear my hair out with frustration. These were all great ideas the first time around, but after the sixth or seventh repetition, they’re getting very, very worn. FIND A NEW STORY AND TELL IT INSTEAD.

Oh! And then we have the sexism. Did I mention the sexism, internets? Because I’m rather annoyed by it! While regenerating, River/Mels snaps that she’s concentrating on a dress size, rushes off to weigh herself once she’s done, exclaims over the hot clothes she can wear in her new body, and then has her brainwashing-induced personality explained away by the Doctor with the hilarious addendum of “plus, she’s a woman.” AGH. Oh, and we get ANOTHER scene where the Doctor dies (only he doesn’t really) while everyone sits around being sad anyway – seriously, he’s the TITULAR FUCKING CHARACTER, he’s not about to die, there is NO TENSION IN THESE SCENES, JUST MELODRAMATIC BULLSHIT OH MY GOD – and yet more robots whose repetitious dialogue goes on and on and on; and more dopplegangers of everyone to pull focus so that the writers are spared the indignity of actually having to create new characters with actual depth; and then we end with River effectively depowering herself as a TimeLord to save the Doctor despite her brainwashing, and what the HELL? Seriously? She’s been trained to kill him her whole life, but then she mysteriously deprograms herself when he calls her River, even though that makes no sense? WHY DOES SHE SUDDENLY SWITCH SIDES WHEN SHE’S JUST SUCCEEDED IN HER LIFE’S MISSION? I don’t buy that the TARDIS made her reconsider, somehow, magically. No: she’s a main character, we should see this important deeply transformative shit actually HAPPENING and not just be told about it afterwards.

GAH.

So, yeah. NOT IMPRESSED. The Guardian asked if Doctor Who is too complicated now. I say no, unless by complicated you mean narratively disjunct, with new retcons every episode, plots that don’t make sense, and characterisation so thin you could shoot peas through it. In which case, IT IS COMPLICATED.

I’m going to watch the next couple of episodes in the hope that things might fix themselves, but honestly, my optimism is low. If Amy needs rescuing one more time, or another female character gets killed/depowered/hurt for stupid reasons that are never adequately explained solely to advance the arc of Rory or the Doctor, I will get very, very cross.

And now, I’m going to go change into my The Doctor Is In t-shirt, and pretend that David Tennant and RTD are still running the show. Also, there will be wine.