Sunday, July 11, 2010
There are spoilers... you have been warned.
In 2005 Rose absorbed the Heart of the TARDIS, The Doctor kissed her, Captain Jack died and then didn't and I may have gotten all misty eyed.
In 2006 the Cybermen and the Daleks crossed the Void, Rose was lost in a parallel dimension, The Doctor nearly told Rose he loved her and I bawled.
In 2007 The Master unleashed the Toclafane, The Doctor felt the full weight of 900 years, Martha walked the Earth and I shed a tear or two.
In 2008 Davros returned, Rose crossed the Void, The Doctor duplicated, Donna was forced to forget and I wept and cheered in equal measure.
In 2009 The Master was everyone everywhere, Wilfred got himself stuck, The Doctor heard four knocks, said goodbye to all his companions and I did The Ugly Cry.
In 2010 the Universe ceased to exist, Amy got married, The Doctor violated his own rules and I didn't especially care.
*insert loud and resounding raspberry here*
Sadly, the 2010 season of Doctor Who has been the weakest of NuWho (as I so charmingly saw it referred to in various places online). The stories have been without the passion we've come to know and love, the characters have been watered down echoes of seasons past and it just feels like we've seen it all before, but better.
And I choose to lay the majority of the blame for this squarely at the feet of two people... the character of Amy Pond and the new executive producer/head writer Stephen Moffat.
Sure, Matt Smith is still finding his feet, and the direction they've chosen to take the character perhaps doesn't help... he's too busy telling people to shush (although if I had to travel around with Amy and Raury, I'd be telling them to shut up a lot too) and that warmth seems to be missing.
But I blame Amy Pond because the Companion is always the other half of the Doctor Who experience. The Companion is our eyes and ears, our entry into the world of The Doctor (especially a new Doctor) and when she doesn't work, I find it hard to engage with that particular season.
Until now Martha was the weakest of The Doctor's season-long companions. Martha was in love with The Doctor from the second episode... that was something I just could never get on board with so soon after the loss of Rose.
But now there's Amy Pond. Amy Pond would shag The Doctor (or even snog him on her wedding day... which is just classy!), but isn't in love with him. Amy Pond treats her fiancé somewhat like Rose treated Mickey, but Amy doesn't act like she cares about him that much in the first place. Amy Pond is as dull as the water in the Leadworth duck pond... and about as shallow.
At no point during this season did I really engage with Amy Pond. In the first episode of the season she was fun and feisty and interesting, if a little scattered, and showed a degree of promise as a character... but what little promise there was has either been squandered or just left to fizzle away. She had a very brief hero moment in the second episode, The Beast Below, but Moffat's need to underline the particular point they were trying to make (which I would imagine most of the audience would have gotten without the underlining) somewhat screwed that up. Since then she's just become more and more unworthy as a Companion.
Amy has had no Dalek moment, no Rise of the Cybermen moment, no Human Nature moment, no Silence in the Library moment and certainly no Left Turn moment. Yes, she had that quite good "Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue" moment in the finale... but it wasn't enough.
Her character hasn't even had a worthwhile arc (she was unsure about marrying Raury for about half of the season, then decided that she loved him, was separated from him for the next two episodes and then had him completely wiped from her memory) and as far as I'm concerned she isn't adding anything to Matt Smith's Doctor.
Amy, not to put too fine a point on it, is dull and unengaging.
That's where the blame falls at the feet of executive producer/head writer Stephen Moffat.
From 1989 to 1993 Stephen Moffat wrote what is possible the BEST female character in all of "young adult television". He wrote Lynda Day for a show called Press Gang. To be fair, he wrote amazing dialogue for all of the characters in that show... it was witty and acerbic and topical and complicated and amazing and touching and instantly quotable.
So why the hell is Amy Pond so dull? Seriously, I would love it if someone could answer that for me. Is it Karen Gillan? Is it bad writing? Is it a complete and total lack of new directions to take the Companion in? Is it this seeming need to have the Companion be integral to the season long plot in some way?
It was very much brought home to me how dull and uninteresting Amy was when Meera Syal guest starred in the "Hungry Earth/Cold Blood" two parter. Her interactions with The Doctor made me wish for "what might have been" with a better Companion.
Or could it be that the chemistry between Amy and The Doctor is hampered by the fact that they chose to dress the 28 year old eleventh incarnation of The Doctor like he was a 70 year old professor of classical literature? And by they, I mean costume designer, Ray Holman and, one assumes, Stephen Moffat. When a character's normal everyday street clothes look better for the character than the character's clothes... there's a problem.
But I guess my biggest complaint about this season is that the stories have been particularly lacklustre and below par. I have a feeling that that may well be because Russell T. Davies left the series and seemingly took all of the subtlety and heart with him... considering that he wrote 31 out of the 60 episodes while he was on board, and potentially provided some shaping of other episodes (also known as The Joss Whedon Effect), there is definitely a marked decrease in the quality of this season's episodes.
I've also read a degree of stuff online from people who dislike RTD because he puts "character before story"... well, you know what I say to that, other than to blow a resounding raspberry... I would much rather watch teevee where I connect with the characters and their emotions resonate with me and involve me (also known as The Lost Finale Effect) than I would watch something that merely checks all the story boxes and leaves the characters essentially going through the motions in service of the plot. Sure... great teevee has both, but you know what, I believe there have been episodes of NuWho that do both just fine...
Of my favourite NuWho episodes, The Girl in the Fireplace, Doomsday, Blink and Turn Left, two were written by Davies and the other two were written by Moffat... and oddly enough two are very "Doctor Lite" episodes... but I believe that they all have great story and great emotion. In fact, two of them made me cry...
This season hasn't produced a single standout episode... okay, the very end of Vincent and the Doctor did make me tear up, but that was completely down to guest star Tony Curran and guest writer Richard Curtis... the actual "sci-fi" element of the plot (the invisible alien critter that only Vincent can see) was mostly a waste of time (find critter, identify critter, discover critter is lost, alone and blind, kill critter anyway) and wasn't engaging on either of the levels I mentioned earlier.
It's doubly disappointing because the season started on such a high note... The Eleventh Hour was an exceptionally good episode... but sadly the season, like Amy Pond and Stephen Moffat, hasn't lived up to it's promise.
And the reopening of the Pandorica to reveal Amy Pond in this last episode... I felt completely and totally cheated... not to mention disappointed.
I was particularly annoyed by the lazy writing of the majority of the finale. One line that I particularly remember an earlier version of The Doctor saying is that he was unable to revisit earlier points in his own timeline... and yet, thanks to River Song's little wrist doodad (which looks highly similar to the one Jack Harkness has), there he is, flipping all over his own timestream and being the reason that he can escape, and that Amelia finds the clue in her letter box, and Raury puts the sonic screwdriver in Amy's top pocket, etc etc etc...
It all became extremely Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure... and while it might be acceptable for lesser shows (or the movies) involving time travel, I expected more of Doctor Who.
I was impressed with some of the moments at the end though... especially with the quick scene that never actually made any sense in the Flesh and Stone episode, and weaving it into this one. I wish there had been more of those moments, a reworking of scenes we were already aware of or just writing things in that seemed odd within the context of the episode but that could have been revisited.
And yes, as already mentioned, the scene at the wedding at the end was possibly amongst the best in the whole season...
"Raggedy Man, I remember you, and you are late for my wedding!"
But as I mentioned in my review of The Eleventh Hour, the story arc for this whole season has been handled rather ham-fistedly. While I don't have a problem with the arc being introduced in the first episode, the continual need for them to underline it each episode seemed inelegant compared with previous seasons where it's only on a second viewing that you start to join all of the dots and realise that the plot line for the finale has been being laid in all the time (the disappearing planets of Season 4, or Harold Saxon of Season 3).
It was also predictable... what's the one thing that would be important to The Doctor that could explode and create tears throughout the fabric of space and time... and then fix the damage that it caused... well DUR!
And the "a particle of every part of the Universe is inside the Pandoria" coupled with "Amy Pond can remember everybody into existence" ideas just weren't strong enough. What would have been better was if Amy wasn't at all surprised by the fact she had parents... it would have made her remembering The Raggedy Doctor much stronger I think.
I also don't think that this "Silence" plot is an interesting enough story to warrant it being stretched out to next season... but that's exactly what's going to happen *sigh*.
What this season has also done is bring back a number of elements from past seasons and hasn't treated them particularly well.
Firstly, The Weeping Angels. When they showed up in Blink they were a brilliant creation... they had presence, they had menace, it was honestly an edge of your seat episode. Maybe it was because it was a "Doctor/Companion lite" episode and all bets were off, the characters were all new and anybody could be taken by the Angels.
But bringing them back, especially at the same time as you revisit River Song (more on her in a moment) seemed unnecessarily greedy... and for me, it diminished their power (and River's). You knew they weren't going to get the Doctor or Amy (because in NuWho a Companion lasts a whole season so whatever happens to them before the finale is inconsequential) and the Soldier Monks weren't interesting enough to get worked up about.
Next, the quasi mysterious River Song. I put the caveat on that because when she first showed up in the "Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead" double header, she was mysterious... she was tantalising and new and was something of a step ahead of the Tenth Doctor. But unfortunately because Alex Kingston isn't getting any younger and since every other time we meet her from here on out is going to take place in her past but The Doctor's present and future (if that makes sense), they seemed to have shoehorned her into the Weeping Angel double header, which honestly, could have been filled in by any random guest star of the week and didn't require her character in the slightest.
I have no problem with her inclusion in the two part finale, especially since her character seemed a lot more like the feisty woman we met in originally... in fact, she was fantastic in her scene with the Dalek.
But now that I've mentioned Daleks...
I get that Daleks are a fan favourite, really, I do... but four of the six season finales (counting The End of Time Part One and Two as a season finale) have featured The Doctor somehow wiping out "all Daleks in existence" or variations on a theme thereof.
And there are six other episodes that seem to be there only to explain why, in this particular instance, these few remaining Daleks were somehow exempt from the aforementioned Dalek genocide. Either totally finish them off once and for all, or stop claiming that whatever you end up doing somehow will do anything more than defeat this particular crop of Daleks on screen.
Personally, I'd be all in favour of really ending them for good, because I think that episode could have power... but I know that it will never happen.
For this new Doctor however they decided that the Daleks also needed a makeover, so now we have Daleks in a range of fashion colours. Two or three colours I understand (take the Star Trek model... red for commanders, yellow for soldiers, blue for science), but five seems excessive. And it's not even like the Daleks haven't been available in varied pallet (personally I like the gold and white ones)... these new ones just look like they've gotten, well, fat... like Teletubbies...
So where to from here?
The first step would to be ditch Amy Pond. She's no Rose Tyler, so I believe she only deserves one season's worth of time in the big (old, borrowed, new) blue box... especially now that she and Raury are officially married (and, side note... does Raury even HAVE a surname?)... while it may be a first to have not only a married Companion, but a married couple as Companions... given that it's this particular married couple... I'll pass.
Maybe they should bring back Lady Christina de Souza from Planet of the Dead... maybe it's time for a male companion, is Captain Jack Harkness free?
Secondly, fire whoever came up with the tweed/bow tie idea for Matt Smith and get him into a better, more flattering outfit. I know The Doctor tends to stick to one signature outfit per incarnation... but does he absolutely have to?
Thirdly, hire a new head writer... Moffat can still be executive producer and a writer, but just not the head writer. Or just make him put the same amount of effort that he put into the last part of the finale into every single episode.
All that being said... even at it's suckiest, Doctor Who is still better than about 90% of stuff on teevee... it's just that I expected more...