Saturday, 30 March 2013

Dr Who and the blog post of doom.

You can tell that I'm supposed to be something important because I'm writing a new post. One thing you can say about Murdocal is that the height of her motivation comes when she has a big deadline approaching. Anyway, here I am and I'm not going to be able to achieve my goal until I get this out of my system. Tonight is the BBC1 premiere of the second half of Season 7 of Dr Who. This starts the journey to the end of Steven Moffat's third series as head writer of the popular science-fiction show and, if recent reports are anything to go by, perhaps the journey to the end of his reign. I would personally relish this decision as I'm one of the ever-growing group of people who are becoming tired of Moffat living out his boyhood fantasy and creating a show his younger self would love. 

Now I would consider myself something of a fan of Dr Who but I freely admit that I'm not the greatest of Whovians (I don't really understand the show's obsessive fandom and it scares me that some of these people exist). However, the last few series (mainly the ones since Moffat took over but I'll include the four David Tennant specials) have left me bored and slightly jaded. I can't see anything in the majority of episodes being produced lately that made the show so special. Aside from 'The Doctor's Wife' and 'Amy's Choice' none have really stood out from the crowd. I think there is a great deal of quality lacking from the writing and, thanks to a bigger budget, more focus is being put on they way the story is told rather than the story itself.

Having just seen the newest episode it serves as a good explanation for what I think the show has become. There was a major problem with the sound throughout the episode and the sound effects and background music continuously drowned out the speech. Dr Who has become primarily about spectacle rather than about quality so why let anyone hear what's going on when you can distract them with everything else. The story revolves around the modern world and the importance of the internet in an obvious and, frankly, unoriginal attempt to build on the existing fear of cyber crime and identity theft. The plot is nothing to shout about and I couldn't really find myself getting too caught up in the fear as the threat wasn't very prominent. The only person we were concerned about was Clara and, as we know by now, even if she dies it doesn't matter much. There was no real effort in creating the 'monster'.

What I did enjoy about this episode were the lovely little moments between the Doctor and Clara. They are both interesting characters and I think both Matt Smith and Jenna-Louise Coleman are fantastic performers. Take a look at the scene where the Doctor changes his outfit (paying special attention to his adorable bow-tie chest) and when the two take off on a motorbike for some breakfast. Amazing. It's these moments of real humanity when we get a deeper look into these two figures that create the most excitement. For all his flaws, Russell T Davies was a writer whose major concern was his characters and the effect his storylines had on their lives. You really cared about the main characters and, as he was more concerned with the characters than the science-fiction, you cared about the people who the Doctor was destined to save. 

Moffat tries to make you care about his supporting cast but he constantly ruins the more down-to-earth moments by doing things like placing the pair in a bad CGI plane. The larger budgets should have made an already great show even better and more polished. Instead, like so many Hollywood movies, Moffat and co. have become distracted by the almost endless possibilities that technology can bring them. This wouldn't be a problem if it hadn't come at the expense of the writing. After all, some of the finest episodes of Dr Who are the ones with the simplest set up but a really clever plot. 

These days we're just given plots that have the most aesthetic potential. It's almost as if buzz words are thrown into the ring and they attempt to place the ideas in a Who setting: we haven't done dinosaurs and kids loves dinosaurs; POTC is popular, we'll do pirates; and vampires, they're pretty 'in' right now aren't they. It's all a bit cliched and lazy. I mean take the first episode of this current season for evidence of just how little Moffat and his team think of their audience. We have an episode that basically just exists so they could reference past incarnations of the Daleks (and for Moffat to once again show off about how much of a fanboy he is) and, again, there is no real sense of danger. We know the Doctor isn't going to let Amy turn into a Dalek and the idea that the magic air that does so will also work on the Doctor is unlikely going in. And where did this Asylum of the Daleks come from anyway? If the Doctor knew there was a building where the Darleks that other Daleks fear are kept wouldn't he have destroyed it just in case? Plus, where the fuck did the Dalek parliament come from? Are we expected to believe that during the Time War the Timelords rounded up all the Daleks in the universe except their politicians? I don't think so. 

But I don't want to get too into the numerous plot holes in this and many other episodes as all the series of Dr Who so far have pushed the edges of the canon as far as they can. No, the reason I pick this episode over any others is simply the ending. Moffat has reached the stage where he clearly think his audience are so idiotic that the only thing they need to deem an episode a triumph is 5 minutes of Daleks shouting "Dr who?" repeatedly. Fuck that. Despite what the BBC may think, the people who watch Dr Who aren't the inmates in the mental hospital in One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest. And any argument that starts "it's a kids show" can fuck off too. That doesn't mean the plots have to be so simplistic and overly reliant on blowing shit up that you could genuinely believe a child wrote it.

Now, I'm not a hater of Steven Moffat in particular but there is no denying that he did a better job as a writer of solo episodes. He has single-handedly written some of the most terrifying and wonderful episodes in the modern show's history. The man can write. What he can't seem to do as well is handle the series wide story-arc. Again, one thing in favour of Russell T was his ability to create intriguing hints about the series finale. Who didn't watch the last episode of series 1 and not get an insane amount of joy from the whole "I scatter the words through space and time" thing that brought together all of the little references throughout past episodes? There is an argument to say that he pushed this formula to the limit but, regardless of this criticism, I can probably reenact every series final of the Russell T era. Ask me anything about the last few episodes of the Moffat reign and I'm left a little helpless. I know there was a massive box and a Roman Rory-bot. Oh and River Song kept turning up all the fucking time. Now there is someone who really outstayed her welcome. I wouldn't mind so much but the major plot twists surrounding her character stood out a mile away. She had so much potential when she first turned up but it all just became an annoyance. She was obviously Amy's daughter, she was obviously the one meant to kill the Doctor and she was, most obviously, not going to do it. 

I don't think I would mind her so much if Amy and Rory were interesting enough characters to warrant adding to their family. They are, in my mind, the worst companions to date (yes even worse than Martha) because they don't go on any real journey. Week after week they get themselves into dangerous situations because of their own stupidity but never learn anything. The only type of journey they go on revolves around whether Amy/Rory is really in love with Rory/Amy. It's dull. At least all of the other companions changed for the better. Rose and Mickey both became more confident and badass thanks to the Doctor. Martha travelled the world to save Earth from the Master and is a fucking solider/qualified Doctor. Donna gained much more purpose and confidence. Amy? Well she got a husband, a baby and a new house in London. Yay, personal growth!

Anyway, I'm rambling now. I don't want to end this without clarifying that I'm not saying Dr Who is all bad. I'm not just saying this because I don't like change or because I'm too familiar with the old days. I think shows like this need to change every so often to keep it fresh and I love Matt Smith as the Doctor. He brings a naive excitement to the role and I think he's totally filled and reshaped the hole David Tennant left. (Let's be honest, Tennat was only the favourite Dr because he was the one who had done it for longest in the modern series. He's great but he isn't the definitive Doctor.) As for the old episodes, I grew up watching some of the old series but I was too young to have a great attachment to it. The think I remember most about Dr Who before Russell T revised it was the creepy closing credits with Jon Pertwee's face underneath. I also don't follow some of the arguments out there that has become too dark, too sexy and that there is too much of a focus on romance. It may be a bit darker but so is everything these days. As for being sexy, we have to be honest and say that Dr Who has always been a bit sexy. Look at the some of the past companions and suddenly Amy Pond's quite normal denim mini-skirt doesn't seem that crazy. 

On top of that, there have been some great episodes and the show does have some of the best writers at it's disposal. Neil Gaiman's episode was both clever and exciting and I can't wait for his second one this series. Mark Gatiss always brings something interesting to the table. (He has also written the only episode of Sherlock that I believe warrants the spectacular respect that the show has gained. I like the show but again it's all very meh. Without the two leads that show would be nothing. There I've said it.) What I don't see is any kind of consistency. We are celebrating the shows 50th anniversary this year but what are we really celebrating? The slow decline of a once clever and different show into an all too familiar Michael Bay style science-fiction show. The series, the loyal audience and the great cast just aren't getting the kind of material that they deserve. It's not fair to the people out there who have stayed with this show since their childhood. How can it be that they they are expected to get the same amount of excitement they once got at the sight of a dustbin with a plunger attached to it whilst listening to the title repeated for half an hour?

Then again, if you can't beat them, join them. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who. Dr Who.

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