Monday 10 November 2014

Review of Doctor Who Series 8 - 2014

I have watched all the new series of Doctor Who featuring Peter Capaldi as the Twelfth incarnation of The Doctor.

I am very pleased to report that I found Capaldi to be a great Doctor, one of my top three with the Second and the Fourth. Whenever he was on screen and given decent things to speak and do, I was enthralled.

But the series as a whole was only partially-good. The problem was in the writing: specifically the emphasis, and the story arc of the series as a whole.


Three episodes were excellent: Listen, Mummy on the Orient Express, and The Caretaker; several others were very good: Robot of Sherwood, Time Heist and Flatline. So that is half the episodes as good to excellent - a decent hit rate!

But some episodes were bad: the opener - Deep Breath was a very unsatisfactory introduction; Into the Dalek was the waste of a good idea, and the rest, including the Finale, just didn't work.

Plus, of course, Kill the Moon was The Worst. Doctor Who. Episode. Ever.


The problem was, as so often in the revived Doctor Who: The Companion.

Structurally the series as a whole was a Chick-Lit Soap Opera with SciFi interludes. Several episodes were actually framed by Clara's tedious 'relationship', especially her annoyingly frequent phone calls. And when we weren't being tormented by relationship issues; we were much too often subjected to Clara's sophomoric and cliched analyses of what kind of person The Doctor really is...

The ratio of discussing The Doctor to actually seeing him in action was way too high (especially in the first episode).

I wanted to shout the old script-writing principle - Don't Tell Us: Show Us .


Actually I liked Danny Pink - and would have been happy to see him as a Companion - the actor has a charm about him, and his interchanges with the Doctor in The Caretaker were very enjoyable - but he was pretty much wasted on Clara; being the butt of her off-the-peg 'feistiness'.


In general, taking the story arc of the whole series - I think the basic problem is that the head screen writer Steven Moffat has caved-in to feminist critics, pandered to (real or imaginary) prime-time viewers; and focused on 'building-up' female-interest - to remake Doctor Who as The Clara and Doctor Show.

All this at the expense of showing us this brilliant new Doctor doing Doctor-type things.


Well, plot-wise it seems we will at last be rid of this smug and pedestrian young woman companion - but unless the weaknesses of this series have been recognized, and the correct lessons have been learned, then the next series will be different but not better.



James Higham said...

Haven't seen it, not having a tele but am interested in critiques such as yours, Bruce. I've heard bad thing, not many good. Clara has been written badly, it seems. Pity - I liked the latter Matt Smith Clara.

HerewardMW said...

Worst episode was the forest one. Watch it again and tell me how the story and its outcome would have been any different if the Doctor wasn't in it.

AJ said...

The sad part is we know the New Who writers can write relationships well. Rose+Doctor left such an impression on fans that they still reference her occasionally (Day of the Doctor). Day of the Doctor was one of the best things I've seen on Who, Queen romance included. We've all got mixed feelings on Amy and Rory. Clara, though, turned into a giant tumor in the show. She was an obvious Mary Sue character with more plot influence than the Doctor himself. Here's hoping the next season is more enjoyable.

I would have no problem with a female Who (we now know this is possible thanks to the Master) -- as long as they get completely new writers who actually know how to write female characters.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Hereward - Agreed, it was a stinker.

@AJ - You *cannot* change the sex of the Doctor because that changes the archetype, and then it is a different show. I don't much care what they do with the Master because he has never interested me - but having the Doctor and the Master *kissing* is simply crass, embarrassing and sophomoric.

Arakawa said...

Interesting to digest the above comment with respect to character and archetype.

If the character is more important to the story than the archetype -- any changes you could dream up are feasible as long as you are able to maintain it as the same character throughout. (To pick a less controversial archetype transition, you can certainly have a story chronicle the hot-headed young man's growth into the wise advising wizard.) If the archetype is what's important as in the case of Dr. Who, that is indeed not possible.

After all, regeneration effectively amounts to replacing the current Doctor character with a different interesting character in the same archetype, to keep the show from going stale. It is not obvious on casual inspection how, say, Matt Smith's Doctor and the Fourth Doctor are remotely the same person -- the viewers have to basically take as an informed attribute, supported by the fact that the characters embody roughly the same archetype, at least.

So if you had a regeneration change the Doctor's character *and* archetype... there would indeed be nothing left to carry over. Arguably this has already happened by starting to involve later Doctors in romance, but this is still not as blatant as a gender-swap.

Arakawa said...

Also, a major issue with involving the Doctor in romance is that, by the very-long-running nature of the show, any such involvement has to end either in horrific tragedy (at best) or as an out-and-out temporary fling. However, a large part of the satisfaction of romance, even to the secular audience, requires to at least imply indefinite fidelity. So it will not work even on its own terms.

So, when they actually made an episode entitled 'The Doctor's Wife', that one was about the TARDIS.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Arakawa - Excellent points.

Joseph A. said...

I enjoyed Capaldi's first season a lot. And you're quite wrong about "Kill the Moon." It is the best depiction of the prolife argument ever shown in popular culture. In fact, I am shocked that such a thing could have been made today -- and by the BBC! I was delighted.

Bruce Charlton said...

@JA - I'm not alone in hating Kill the Moon - as well as being thematically girly stuff and Doctor-Lite; it was simply inept dramatically, in multiple ways.