Monday, June 6, 2011

Doctor Who: A conflicted DW fan makes his case.

Okay, if you’re looking for a review of the latest episode of DOCTOR WHO, the one for the mid-series finale A GOOD MAN GOES TO WAR, you won’t find it here. I make it a point not to review the first part of a two-parter, of which this latest episode most certainly is.

What does that mean? Well, because they’ve decided to split the season up (sigh…really?) into two halves, you won’t seen another DOCTOR WHO review here till September.

That said I’d like to discuss a few things about the current series that I’ve been feeling recently. Chris and I were discussing this a bit the other day and I thought, since I usually post something about DW on Monday’s, why not make a post about it. I’m not going to post much in the way of spoilers, so don’t worry about that, but these will be my thoughts about ideas and plotlines ect. so proceed with whatever caution you feel like.

Let me start by saying that I am (as you all know) a GIANT DW fan. I loved Series 1 with Christopher Eccelstone in the role and I loved the majority of Series 2-4 + The Specials with David Tennant. I would look forward to seeing it every Saturday with baited breath. Like I would get seriously excited. I remember getting up an hour early one Monday morning just so I could watch the Series 4 opener PARTNERS IN CRIME before work, and when Rose showed up at the end I totally freaked out. I’ve ordered t-shirts, mugs, and my gf spoils me with DW paraphernalia on my Birthday usually, and on Christmas (hello remote control Dalek!). That’s the kind of fan I am.

Now, which are my favourite stories/episodes from those seasons? THE EMPTY CHILD & THE DOCTOR DANCES, THE GIRL IN THE FIREPLACE, BLINK, SILENCE IN THE LIBRARY & THE FOREST OF THE DEAD. What do all those episodes have in common? Writer Steven Moffat is what. So when I heard that Russell T. Davies was leaving the role of showrunner and that Moffat was replacing him I was over the moon! I mean, my favourite DW writer…running the show? What more could one ask for?


Having to deal with “Regeneration Jitters” once again (with David Tennant leaving the lead role and Matt Smith taking it over) was bad enough, but to also watch a changing of the guard ushering in a new era of WHO had me kind of basket-casey as a fan…till I saw some of the first real footage of Smith dressed as The Doctor and I relaxed a bit. Then I saw the Moff scripted Series 5 opener THE ELEVENTH HOUR which I thought was a pretty damn fine intro of Smith as the character and I was pretty sold on him as the Doctor. Fast forward a bit. Smith is brilliant as the shows’ lead and while I have a soft spot of Rose and Donna, Amy Pond is a decent enough companion. Rory seemed underused and had yet to go through a Mickey-like transformation from slobbering boyfriend to staunch warrior, but it was early days still. Overall the cast was cool and I was totally still enjoying on some level.

Series 5 had a number of good episodes. The pinnacle was indeed the two-parter weeping angel story FLESH & STONE and THE TIME OF THE ANGELS that occurred mid-season…again scripted by Moffat. That said, the only other ones that even resonate in my head are VINCENT & THE DOCTOR and THE BEAST BELOW….both not scripted by Moff and both are the only ones that feel excessively Who-ish. Yeah, there are a few others I enjoyed, but I think my feelings while we watched every week was that the Moff was building to some HUGE finale revelation. Well, while THE PANDORICA OPENS and THE BIG BANG had their moments…no one was ever really in peril and no one really died. Rory was an Auton and all it took to fix things was rebooting the universe. Easy right? So the whole season builds on the “crack” in the skin of the universe and how the TARDIS blows up in the future for some reason. Do we fix the cracks? Yeah….but apparently that doesn’t fix the future TARDIS exploding thing. The other thing is we STILL don’t know who River Song really is, or what bad thing she did to end up in the Stormcage.

So the Series ended. I was…confused. Not about anything in the show…but rather about how indifferent I felt about the whole 5th series organized by my fave writer of the show. For what it’s worth, in Series 1 Rose took the time vortex into her head and the Doctor kissed her to get it out and sacrificed himself to do so (memorable!), Series 2 not only had Rose adjusting to a new Doctor, but also had the two-parter finale THE ARMY OF GHOSTS and DOOMSDAY (arguably the most memorable EVER!), and say what you will about Series 3 (but again the build up and the three-part finale was stellar and totally memorable) and Series 4 (fanwankery though it may be the two-part finale had Davros, crazed Daleks and 3 Doctor’s! Memorable.) and of course the Specials which contain my all time favourite episode THE WATERS OF MARS, and the finale for Tennant THE END OF TIME PI & II (both incredibly memorable)…

So what about Series 5 then?

Well…THE ELEVENTH HOUR was good. Memorable on the level that the above mentions are? Not really. What about the two-part finale? Again, not really. I totally enjoyed them, sure but I am not sitting here waxing nostalgic about them.

Series 6. Neil Gaiman’s ep THE DOCTOR’S WIFE is the obvious standout up to this point. But the rest of the season? It’s about a hundred red herrings and double-speak with little pay-off. The two-part opener was great. Memorable? I guess better than anything in Series 5, but it doesn’t touch any of the ones I mentioned in the RTD years.

I don’t want to say that I dislike Moffat’s tenure. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I am enjoying it, but something missing. More running? Maybe. Haha! I think the sad thing is that Matt Smith is such a brilliant Doctor, and he’s kind of getting a shortened stick for stories. Amy and Rory, while manageable as companions just don’t resonate with me the way their predecessors did. Rory still hasn’t done a Mickey (lovesick BF to badass warrior) transition…and maybe he shouldn’t or never will. But to be honest, the whole lovesick hubby thing is getting tired. He’s there to crack jokes, look forlorn and defend his wife Amy…who talks in Moff-speak riddles about who she’s really talking about half the time (The Doctor or Rory) and even THAT is getting old. Amy is feisty, sure. She’s impressive, sure. Does she temper the Doctor the way most companions do? No, she doesn’t. In fact she mostly leaves him to do what he likes, which in the past has proven to be quite catastrophic when he gets angry and unmanageable. Hell, the Doctor himself seems to be playing all his cards close to his chest. A Doctor hasn’t been this secretive since the ill-fated 7th Doctor Sly Mcoy had the role in the late 80’s…and THAT did not go over well. As the show went on a nearly permanent hiatus after that till it was re-launched (as a show anyways) in 2005. That’s kind of brave on the Moff’s part to make the Doctor again be left to his own devices to be secretive and possibly destructive (even though he tries to do good, he makes people into weapons)…when every other season of the show since it re-launched in 2005 was meant to show us how the Doctor’s personality NEEDS tempering, otherwise he runs amok.

The River Song thing. I have SEEN A GOOD MAN GOES TO WAR and I know who she is (I won't reveal it here, no worries). To be completely honest, Moffat and Co. all swore up and down that this was going to be such a BIG reveal and a “game changer” that we’d NEED the summer off just to think about it and digest it. It wasn’t really, and to be honest, the mid-series finale was kind of a mess. It had some good ideas, but overall I can’t say I was surprised by anything about it, and to say I was entertained would be stretching it. It had some very cool moments, but the whole thing felt put together slapdash. I do have to reserve my opinions for the second part though so take all that with a grain of salt. River Song went on and on and on about the whole thing, and even the Moff has clearly painted his series around her…but is she interesting enough? After the last episode I am just not so sure. I WOULD have said she was interesting enough after THE SILENCE IN THE LIBRARY when she met Tennant’s Doctor…but now? Yeah, just not really.

I’m now left kind of wondering where the new series has gone slightly off the rails. Is it unsalvageable? Not at all. It’s totally doable to bring it back with such an incredible lead in the role…but I think we need to ditch Amy and Rory (at least for a while) and DEFINITELY River Song. We need some new blood now in the TARDIS. I’d like to see Smith be able to play the Doctor as more open with himself and others. I mean obviously he still keeps the things to himself he always has, but right now on the show he’s nearly a closed book. He never explains anything. Not until after he’s done it and even then he doesn’t.

I can’t make any judgments about this whole season as we’ve only seen half of it, so who knows, perhaps the second part of A GOOD MAN GOES TO WAR (titled strangely LET’S KILL HITLER) is going to knock my socks off. And maybe the rest of the 6th season will make me be as excited as I used to be about the series. I can hope.

As it stands I sit here on Saturdays and feel like I am just going through the motions watching and that nothing is really blowing me away. I’ve had a few “gasp” moments of revelation that are key to Moffat’s writing, but nothing like the end of BLINK or THE GIRL IN THE FIREPLACE yet. I used to say that in Series 5 we had to watch the whole thing to get that big gasping reveal or twist…but we never really got it did we?

So here’s me, watching Series 6 on baited breath...awaiting the ending of BLINK or THE SILENCE IN THE LIBRARY…and that just may never happen and I’ll have to be satisfied with that. Consider me supremely conflicted about the whole thing.


  1. Spot on review. My bottom line is would I buy the DVDs because I want to watch Series 6 again? Answer - absolutely not. And I probably won't watch the other half because I simply don't care what happens to any of them. I'm BORED! Matt has signed on for Series 7 - I hope Amy is given the flick. There is such a thing as being too clever by half and Moffat is doing just that. I find the series has been going rapidly downhill ever since the flying shark - the silliest episode since the reboot. I wish Moff would go back to his earlier fine writing, but I fear the worst. - Ian

  2. Thanks for the comment Ian. Yeah, Moffat used to be my fave writer on TV, but he's consistently been going downhill...and all it took was Neil Gaiman's episode to show me that.

  3. I liked The Doctor's Wife a lot...Except for Rory dying..again. I did not like Eleventh Hour. I have two daughters, 6 and 8. The idea of the Doctor picking up on a 7yo girl is a little creepy. Later after meeting kiss-o-gram Amy and hearing him make innuendo laced jokes about River Song I find it even creepier. That I truly consider Moffat's fault. If there had been less innuendo with RS I probably would not have been bothered.



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