Friday, May 05, 2006

Doctor Who - Season 2: Episodes 1 - 3

I think that I have worked out what’s wrong with Russell Davies' new 'Doctor Who'. It’s roughly the same thing that was wrong with Tony Blair’s new Labour.

Yes, I know I am being an ungrateful little asexual fanboy. I spent 14 years wanting 'Doctor Who' to return: surely now that it’s back on Saturday nights, it’s my duty to like it uncritically. And no, I’m not denying that a lot of the time the new series is very, very good. Each of the first three episodes of Season 2 has had a number of Great Moments. 'New Earth' had the scenes between the Doctor and the head-in-the-tank. It had the unexpected pay-off scene in which Cassandra dies in her own arms: a genuine coup to turn her from a comic villain to tragic heroine in the space of one episode. (But note: the 'time goes round in a circle' motif has already been used in both 'Father’s Day' and 'Parting of the Ways.' You might want to watch that, Russell.) 'Tooth and Claw' had some neat in-jokes ('Dr. James McCrimmon from the township of Balamory,' indeed.) It had some classic gothic atmosphere; and a really great scene between Rose and the werewolf in the dungeon. It had Queen Victoria. And as for 'School Reunion' -- well none of us asexual fanboys were ever going to be anything other than deliriously happy with a story that had both K-9 and Sarah Jane in it, along with more references to old stories than you can shake a sonic screwdriver at. The pre-cred sequence, in which the Doctor walks into a classroom and starts to teach a physics lesson made me laugh out loud.

So what’s the problem?

Before Russell Davies embarked on his Project, 'Doctor Who' had spent 14 years in the wilderness. Of course it had to be re-branded before it could get back on air: no one wanted or expected the new series to be a pastiche of the old. To be a viable TV programme, as opposed to a fossil, it had to look outside its natural constituency (the asexual community) and appeal to the mainstream. It had to become the sort of programme that your mother could watch. Naturally, certain sacred cows -- the TARDIS consol, the 25-minute format, cliff-hanger endings -- had to be slaughtered. We didn’t care. We had our baby back.

However, it has gradually become apparent that the main purpose of Season 1 was to get renewed for Season 2, and the main purpose of Season 2 is to get renewed for Season 4. (Season 3 is in the bag.) To achieve this, R.T.D needs there to be impressive gobbets that can be put into the trailers. He needs unexpected scenes which the tabloids can run spoilers for, as if 'This is the moment when the Doctor kisses Rose' was an important news item. He needs Comic Relief sketches, Christmas specials and Radio Times covers -- so that the series is in people’s minds even when it is off-air. He needs all the papers to run exclusive photo galleries of all this season's 'new monsters'. He needs people to be talking about the return of Sarah and K-9 six months before it actually happens. He needs people to know that the 'The Cybermen are coming back' even if they don't know what a Cyberman is; in much the same way that even of us who don't know anything about cricket can hardly avoid knowing that someone called Wayne Rooney has twisted his ankle. What he doesn’t necessarily need is coherent stories which actually make sense.

Davies conceives of episodes as simple, easily marketable high-concepts. His original pitch for Season 1 included a broad outline of what each story would be about -- first, one set in the far future involving the end of the world, then a ghost story featuring Charles Dickens, then, a big present-day alien invasion (1). It's been a standing joke for years that while asexual 'Doctor Who' fans refer to stories by their titles ('The Green Death', 'The City of Death'), everyone else uses a kind of shorthand -- 'the One with the maggots', 'the One in Paris.' Davies seems to conceive of stories as 'the one with Queen Victoria and a Werewolf' and not feel the need to elaborate the idea much further.

Davies puts it like this:

'Last year we did Charles Dickens and ghosts; this year we're doing Queen Victoria and a werewolf...There's a certain comfort zone in watching 'Doctor Who' and thinking 'Oh, they're doing this sort of an episode. It's what I call a celebrity historical. Shove a real famous person in there - one you will recognise at the drop of a hat. There's no point in doing Louis Pasteur, because what did he look like? With Queen Victoria or Charles Dickens you just recognise them immediately. It's almost like the Horrible History take on historical travel.'

I want to die.

By his own admission, he wants to treat 'Doctor Who' as a character piece in the mould of 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer.' There is nothing particularly wrong with this: 'Doctor Who' has always swiped omnivorously from the TV hits of the day. In an episode of 'Buffy' the theoretical plot -- some new kind of vampire threatens the town -- is rarely more than the background against which the real storyline, about the relationships between the main characters and their supporting cast -- can emerge. In principal this transfers well enough to 'Doctor Who'. In 'New Earth', the science-fiction plot about cloned zombies in the hospital basement (which makes absolutely no sense whatsoever) is little more than a device to set up the comedy-romantic situation in which Cassandra steals Rose’s body, which also doesn’t make much sense, but is rather entertaining. The Doctor waves his magical deus ex machina at the zombies and they go away in about 30 seconds. We know quite well that he’s just going through the motions: our attention is meant to be directed at Cassandra, and her realisation that she can‘t prolong her own life at the cost of someone else‘s.

The trouble is that the writers are still under the impression that they are writing 'Doctor Who' stories. They come up with milieu that contain enough material for an old 100 or 150 minute story, and then try to cram the whole thing into 45. Very strong ideas -- anthropomorphic animals vivisecting humans; a Victorian werewolf who wants to found a steam-powered Galactic empire; the Doctor being offered the One Ring and being tempted to take it -- are introduced and thrown away in the space of half a scene.

(Interestingly, the BBC continues to market the programme as a 'spooky' and 'scary' monster show, and to promote it to kids, complete with 'Totally Doctor Who' in the 'Blue Peter' slot, and a comic that includes a free slitheen whoopee cushion with every copy. One wonders how long it will be before some latter day Michael Grade says 'Enough with the soap opera: give the kids more time with the monsters!')

Look at 'School Reunion': not so much a story, more an idea for a story. It’s the three-way relationship between Sarah Jane, Rose and the Doctor that we are supposed to be interested in, and this is handled fairly well. We are asked to picture the Doctor as a tragic, Peter Pan figure with an endless succession of Wendys -- a strikingly new conception of the character, but one that is implicit in everything that has gone before. 'You can stay with me for the rest of your life, Rose, but I can’t stay with you for the rest of mine' is a fine, genre re-defining line. The episode’s central question -- what does a 'companion' do when she stops travelling with the Doctor? -- is one which has never been asked before outside of asexual fan-fiction. However Davies and writer Toby Whithouse do not allow themselves sufficient space to elaborate this idea. Rose realises that she isn’t the Doctor’s first companion; Sarah is pleased to see the Doctor, then angry that he left her behind, then accepts that her time travelling days are over. Rose and Sarah are jealous of each other but become best friends. Even Mickey has an epiphany. That’s more like a novel than a single incident in a soap opera: certainly far to much character development to be squeezed into 45 minutes. One feels that Davies has had the idea of the Rose/Sarah relationship, but can’t quite be bothered to turn it into a story: it is raised and disposed of within a single scene. (2)

We have managed to survive for 43 years without thinking that the Doctor was more or less romantically involved with all of his previous companions, so I don’t really see why Davies feels compelled to re-write history. Yes, there were occasional moments of sexual tension in original TARDIS -- notably the curiously Oedipal relationship between Doctor Jon and Jo Grant. (Jo goes off and marries a scientist who is explicitly said to be like a younger version of the Doctor. The Doctor won’t go to the engagement party, but drives off in a sulk.) And of course Doctor Tom and Romana could easily have been read as an old married couple -- was that trip to Paris a honeymoon, or a dirty weekend? But in general, the relationship between the Doctor and his companion has been avuncular, fraternal or paternal. Doctor Bill once threatened to give Susan a jolly good smacked bottom, which is not something one can imagine Doctor Chris doing to Rose -- although, god knows, I’ve tried. Doctor Jon was Sarah’s eccentric old uncle, even her grandpa. Doctor Tom was younger, but he was too alien, too Other to be the sort of person you could think of taking on a date. Sarah and the Doctor were close, certainly, but there was never anything remotely flirtatious about their relationship.

The background story about the alien infested school, is completely unrelated to the Sarah Jane plot: it’s just a device to bring the Doctor and Rose, Mickey and Sarah together, and to keep them on the move. Any other threat-to-earth would have done as well. It‘s a pretty good idea, or it would be, if Davies would slow down long enough for us to have a look at it. 'There is a school where the teachers are child-eating shape-shifting aliens. The school dinners are made of Magic Alien Goo that keeps the kids pupils docile. While the kids are eating the poisoned school dinners, the teachers are eating the kids!' For an idea like this to feel spooky or scary, it needs to emerge gradually, and we need time to get to know the subsidiary characters. (In an old-style four part story, the fat school-boy who isn’t allowed any chips would have been the viewpoint character in episode 1: we would have followed him through his school day and been presented with a series of mysteries. The revelation that the Headmaster eats children would have been the cliffhanger ending to part 1.) The writer solves the problem of not having enough space to tell even this simple story properly by adding a second story and not telling that properly either. The Evil Child Eating Alien Bat Creatures aren’t merely feeding on the kids; they are using them as living components in a super-computer that will enable them to take over the universe. (The Evil Child Eating Alien Bat Creatures would have made total sense without the addition of the Demon Headmaster; the Demon Headmaster could have been using the kids in his Magic Computer Plot Device even if there hadn’t been any Evil Child Eating Alien Bat Creatures. It really does look as if two scripts had been spliced together; and the rumour that the Headmaster was originally going to turn out to be the Master seems horribly plausible.) A third underdeveloped plot thread in which the evil Headmaster tries to make a Faustian pact with the Doctor has to be dropped into the mix as well. So while lots of cool stuff happens on the screen -- people run around, things explode, villains talk apocalyptically about the end of the universe and we cut back to short intense character based interludes -- there’s no attempt to make it hang together as a story. One key piece of information is barked out so quickly by David Tennant that I had to rewind twice to work out what was supposed to be going on (3).

It’s a safe bet that RTD and his target audience don’t care. People will turn on 'Doctor Who' because Davies has successfully created a piece of Event Television. Many of them will watch it with their brain disengaged. Provided they are not actually bored they will turn on again next week -- more so, if next week’s episode is an Event as well. If they turn on it will get high ratings; if it gets high ratings, it will be back for a fourth, and a fifth season. Plot explanations, fleshed out minor characters; elaboration and exposition of ideas might risk seeming boring. Action and set pieces won't. And provided there is a programme called 'Doctor Who' on TV on Saturday nights, we asexual fans have nothing to complain about. Davies 'Doctor Who' exists primarily in order to be an advertisement for itself.




(1) Other writers are commissioned to write some of these stories, presumably in close collaboration with R.T.D. Compare this with the Olden Days, where story concepts and scripts were pitched to the producer by freelance writers, and then beaten into shape by a script editor. This meant that the old series had an 'anthology' feel: you couldn’t mistake a Robert Holmes script for a Terry Nation script. The new series is more homogenized -- whoever is actually writing it, you feel you are watching a Russell Davies script.

(2)One is reminded of 'Boom Town', the low-point of Series 1. Davies starts out with the (excellent) idea of the Doctor having to decide what to do with a defeated enemy; he turns this into the (excellent) idea of the Doctor and the Slitheen eating a meal together. The brief restaurant scene contains some (excellent) dialogue between the two characters. But it is embedded in a story that almost ostentatiously fails to make sense (nuclear power station in the middle of Cardiff, blowing up the earth in order to power a skateboard?) and is resolved by a more-than-usually silly deus ex machina. 'That was a good story' we are left thinking, 'I certainly hope they write it someday.'

(3) The shape shifting alien bats have shape shifted so many times that they are now allergic to their own Luminous Magic Alien Goo. Since you have to eat Luminous Magic Alien Goo in order to make a Take-Over-The-Universe-Super-Computer, they are feeding the Goo to human children who are not allergic to it. K-9 can defeat the aliens by blowing up barrels of Luminous Magic Alien Goo and splattering them with it.

23 comments:

Louise H said...

You are as always quite right- you are indeed being ungrateful (Being politer than Mr Moffatt I won't comment on the rest of the phrase).

After umpteen years of painfully slow the new pace is likely to seem a little excessive. I'm not sure that it makes it brain dead television (although I'm sure it cab be watched that way)- more "fill in the gaps yourself" TV.

For what it is trying to do, I think the new show is succeeding admirably- which is to move to a focus on relationships while keeping up the spectacle. Neither need long expositions. Another scene between Sarah Jane and Rose, plus a scene between Rose and the Doctor in which she confronts him with her sense of betrayal would have been superfluous; we've got enough of the message to be able to read in the rest.

We could certainly do with some non-one episode plots sometime soon though.

Abigail Nussbaum said...

Let me get this straight: watching for character interaction and development = mindless flocking and disengaged consumption?

Yes, Davies writes lousy plots. Yes, he shapes the plot around the character development and not the other way around. Yes, he stirs in potentially ground-breaking concepts like the whatchamacallit paradigm just to get the plot moving and then leaves them largely ignored. Yes, the decision to put character development front and center doesn't excuse lousy plotting. Yes, often said lousy plotting runs roughshod over the character work. All of this was going on last season - what brought on the bitterness now?

And whence this conviction that the decision to write the show as character-driven is motivated by the desire to be a part of the zeitgeist, rather than simply being the result of Davies' interests and limitations as a writer?

Phil Masters said...

I think that Andrew's point is that the crammedone-episode storylines aren't leaving enough time to do the character interaction and development properly either. Especially not when the show (a word that seems appropriate here) is also trying to cram in a significant weight of authentic skiffy high-concept ideas.

I'm strictly a part-time Who-fan myself, and I may nonetheless be suffering from nostalgia for my youth - but I really do find all the rushed one-episode storylines increasingly tiresomely rushed. I dunno if Andrew is right about the precise reason why things are being done this way, but his reading has the ring of plausibility.

(Compare and contrast my own favourite Who story ever, The Talons of Weng-Chiang, which had high-concept skiffy ideas, history, twists and turns in the plot, good jokes - and, in fact, some pretty strong character development. Sigh. My youth.)

But like I said - part-time Who-fan, really. So for me, the new Who is an entertaining thing to record on Saturday nights and watch at leisure, which could just do with some longer stories.

(Amusing fantasy; the BBC high-ups look at the example of Lost, now into its second full series without having explained a damned hting about its real plot, if it has one which I sometimes doubt, draw conclusions, and go to Russell Davies with this briliant idea for how the next series of Who should go. Davies shudders and eventually forces himself to watch one of the old extended Dalek war stories. If we're lucky, that is; otherwise, he just watches The Key to Time...)

Gavin Burrows said...

My first reaction is to wonder whether you’re not conflating ‘event television’ with ‘a character piece’. The two may well be put together in Buffy from what I’ve seen of it (two and a half episodes at the last count), but they’re not automatic bedfellows. And I doubt anyone’s going to start posting here in defence of event television, so that all seems to obscure your real point.

Phil Masters said...
I think that Andrew's point is that the crammed one-episode storylines aren't leaving enough time to do the character interaction and development properly either.


Like the characters and the sci fi elements are constantly telling each other “these 45 mins ain’t big enough for the both of us”, and playing some strange game of musical chairs against each other.

You won’t catch me defending the single-episode format. But perhaps the real lapse of the School Dinners episode is its failure to integrate the two elements. What’s Sarah Jane feeling cosmically dumped got to do with a load of shapeshifting aliens, a menacing headmaster and some chips? Or, more accurately, what should be the linkage device is raised but then rushed over far too quickly – namely the Doctor’s two-second consideration of the Headmaster’s offer. “Mmm, maybe well-meaning evil…. No, better not! Thanks all the same.” (If the titular Last Temptation of Christ had been as brief, they might have sold more popcorn in the foyer afterwards but would it be as well remembered.)

Without such links we just have a bunch of characters pontificating in cafes, then getting up at some arbitrary point to battle some CGI stuff. With them we get much better episodes such as Girl in the Fireplace. (Which admittedly would have been better still extended across two episodes!)

To my mind such linkages are the very advantage not only of s.f. but all fantastical literature in general. If I meet you in the street I have precisely your words and the expression on your face to deduce your mood. If I read a soap script you wrote I get the same, merely transplanted onto your character. If I read an s.f. script you wrote that day, you have an entire cosmos to shape at your disposal. If you were feeling a bit conflicted that day maybe you’d write a cosmic war. Entire species can arise merely to exemplify your fleeting mood. I feel a bit funny pointing this out after you wrote yourself in an earlier post: “The main ‘fantasy’ plot can be quite silly, but this doesn’t matter because it’s really a peg on which to carry some character drama.”

I also wonder if we’re not all comitting the cardinal sin of comparing the best of the past series with the worst of the current one. School dinners aren’t going to match the Talons of Weng Chiang, no matter what they’re sticking on the chips. Far too often the old Doctor Who just regurgitated the sci fi cliches without it having any significance on the characters whatsoever. And as for ‘event’ TV, too many old stories felt like they’d started off listing five cliffhangers then extemporised some joining material. If 45 mins is too short, two to three hours often made things far, far too slooooooooooooooooow…

Helen Louise said...

I agree. I'm also thrilled that depsite my limited watching of Doctor Who I qualify as geek since I always call "the one with the maggots" The Green Death, and I know that they were made out of stuffed condoms.

I had that problem with Boom Town too, it could have done with being a two-parter, but they probably would have thought it too slow moving and without enough scary creatures for that. I got the impression that the entire episode was just padding for the scene where the Doctor and Margaret talk in the restaurant, and also as a space to get out Mickey's angst about Rose, introduce the Bright Lights of the TARDIS, mention Bad Wolf again and have some jokes about fat women running.

That said I've enjoyed the series so far even with some of the plot holes (why oh why could the werewolf break out of a room full of mistletoe but not into it??) and I loved the look on the Doctor's face when he saw Sarah Jane, as if he was thinking, "My girl's all grown up!" :)

My housemate's recently become a fan, or at least a viewer - she loves David Tennant but is now annoying me by pointing out plot holes and complaining about the Doctor/Rose/Mickey plot. Sigh. But then I spent ages complaining that the Doctor said there were free radicals in tea (there are anti-oxidants, which clean up free radicals), so perhaps I've no right to moan.

Phil Masters said...

My first reaction is to wonder whether you’re not conflating ‘event television’ with ‘a character piece’. The two may well be put together in Buffy from what I’ve seen of it (two and a half episodes at the last count), but they’re not automatic bedfellows.

Indeed, and right. The classically clever thing about Buffy was that it managed to conflate them consistently and coherently; it used post-Hammer-horror battles against monsters-of-the-week as a metaphor for the trials of adolescence, and kept the metaphor going quite reliably for years. (Conversely, its spin-off, Angel, never found quite such a reliable metaphorical coherence, and hence was never such a classic show, despite any individual good bits.)

Buffy was struggling against adolescent angst/world-devouring monsters, and the plots could move smoothly between the two (to the point where it could get downright explicit and self-referential about it). Rose has this complex father-figure relationship with the Doctor, who has this cosmic loneliness... And the fights with monsters are fights with monsters. Quite well-depicted fights with monsters, sometimes, but cramming the two disparate tropes into 45 minutes can be a squeeze.

On the other hand, having just caught up with episode 4, I'm reminded that it's still perfectly possible to tell a very good Dr Who story in 45 minutes flat, including jokes, angst, spooky corridors, and a great final shot that ties off some loose ends. It just needs a scriptwriter with one big solid idea at the start, rather than lots of little ideas to bodge together.

culfy said...

Is it just me or are the constant references to the 'Torchwood' backstory getting supremely irritating; they don't seem to be integrated into the story; merely placed like a kind of "Where's Wally" spot the reference?

Actually, I rather enjoyed Boomtown; if only because a friend of mine is in it; (when the Doctor and Rose are in the Cardiff tearooms; she can be seen sipping tea behind them).

Paul Brown said...

No, culfy, it isn't just you. I get the feeling that "torchwood" is meant to be this season's "bad wolf"; the difference, of course, is that, whilst the meaning of "bad wolf" could be debated and mulled over to your heart's content, "torchwood" is already known to be a spin-off series and, let's face it, spin-offs are hardly known for their quality. Other than "Frasier" I can't think of a spin-off that wasn't poor at best.

American Ronin said...

Angel was a pretty good spin-off I thought. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine could be counted as a spin-off, and I continue to maintain that it was the high point of the franchise. Happy Days was technically a spin-off, although I tend not to count it since that's more a case of a successful series using one episode to introduce a new series (whcih Happy Days later did itself, by introducing Mork from Ork).

But beyond that, I really can't think of any good spin-offs, and I can definitely think of several crap ones.

Charles Filson said...

Joanie loves Chachi? Just to name a bad spin-off from the same series.

Helen Louise said...

I was wondering, can anyone tell me, beyond obvious aesthetic details, what the difference between a Dalek and a Cyberman is? They're both lifeforms in mechanical bodies with no emotion, harvested from society's undesirables (the homeless... Big Brother rejects...), engineered by some embittered scientist called Davric or Lumos or something.

I'm also curious - so why is Doctor Who like New Labour? Is it the abundance of cheesy grins?

Louise H said...

Good question. I don't know the answer- Cybermen seem to be generally benevolently motivated to convert or kill people whereas Daleks do it for malevolent reasons but the practical difference this seems to make is small.

Possibly Andrew was suggesting both New Labour and Dr Who are all fur coat and no knickers. (But maybe I just feel like using that expression this morning.)

Andrew Rilstone said...

Daleks have sink plungers and say "Exterminate"; Cybermen have handlebars and say "Delete."

(Er...Daleks are aliens from Skaro, a planet in a distant galaxy, who were horribly mutated as a result of a neutron war; their scientists created the Dalek shell to house their monstrous bodies. As a result of this, they will only be content when they have wiped out all other forms of life and rule the universe. Cybermen are humans from Telosormondas, the lost tenth planet of earth's solar system. They voluntariy replaced all their body parts with prosthetics, and as a result became devoid of emotion. They are generally shown as motivated by a wish to surive. (I seem to recall than when Mondasortelos was destroyed, they wanted earth as a new planet to live on.) Dalek stories are traditionally large scale space operas; Cybermen stories are traditionally smaller scale horror stories. The classic Dalek story involves a group of rebels on a future Earth that has been ruled by the Daleks for decades; the classic Cyberman story involves a small group of explorers accidentally waking up frozen cybermen in an ancient tomb on an alien planet, and being wiped out one by one.)

My analogy between R.T.D and T.B was

#1: Both of them had to revive a once-popular franchise. In both cases, they realised that they had to appeal to people who *didn't* like it; as well as the traditional fanbase. This meant removing all the elements that the non-fans found unacceptable. Both of them succeeding in making their franchise succesful, but (according to some people) they did this only at the cost of removing from it all the elements which made it worth reviving in the first place. They also, incidentally, have a dangerous tendency to insult their traditional constituency: T.B seens to regard the Labour Party, and R.T.D to regard Doctor Who fans, as "the enemy."

#2 According to some people, T.B thinks up a press release that will earn him a good headline in the politics section "Daily Mail" (or which will look good in party political broadcast, or get a round of applause at conference) and then works out a policy to go with it. In some cases he doesn't bother with the actual policy. According to some people, R.T.D thinks up a press release that will earn him a good headline in the media section of the "Daily Mail" (or which will make a good trailor, or a good leak on a website) and then works out a story to go with it. In some cases, he doesn't bother with the actual story. According to some people, the only ultimate purpose in the press releases, news headlines and conference speeches is to make sure that he gets elected for a fourth term; according to some people, the only ultimate purpose in the headlines, websites and trailers is to ensure that Doctor Who get's renewed for a fourth season.

Phil Masters said...

Good point about daleks being traditionally space-opera monsters, and cybermen being essentially horror monsters - though of course, as with all decent simplifications, there's a temptation to point out the contrary evidence. (There have been large-scale/space-operatic cyberman stories, and one or two uses of daleks as horror monsters - not least in the last series of New Who.) Still, I think it holds quite well.

The other difference for me is that there does seem to be something primally effective about the daleks, whereas the cybermen are only as memorable and chilling as the last story they appeared in. That may be an accidental product of my own Who-watching experience, though - or it may be as simple as "Daleks are blankly inhuman, cybermen are always, visually, blokes in suits".

But they do both still have some stuff in common - they're both rather stock emotionless robotic Nazis, all too often used to rather lazy neo-Luddite effect. It's unfortunate that the franchise is a bit short of other effective recurrent baddies. The Silurians/Sea Devils don't have the same cachet, although they have a lot of plot potential, I can't see the Yeti coming back, and the Ice Warriors lack a well-defined image...

And there is but one Master, and he was Roger Delgado. There, I will be doctrinaire.

The Davies/Blair analogy also amuses, and also now causes me to think the Tony Blair may be to British politics what White Wolf once was to the RPG hobby. (Though you have to know the chicks in gaming theory to quite understand why.)

Gavin Burrows said...

Andrew’s close, but there’s a reason why the Cybermen are honorary horror stories and the Daleks honorary war stories.

The Daleks want to enslave you. They don’t care what you think or whether you express human emotions, provided you slave away for them in an underground mine. (Why you have to use your bare hands to do this when they seem to have abundant technology in every other way sometimes gets some cod-scientific explanation. But the real reason is they’re just plain sadists.)

Cybermen are machine vampires. They want to turn you into one of them, replacing the old you part by part. (The Borg are really just a product upgrade of the Cybermen.)

Or, put another way, Thatcher was a Dalek and Blair is a Cyberman.

All this really got forgotten a lot of the time, much in the same way as they couldn’t be bothered to change the quarry where that episode was filmed.

And as for the Master… how much more obvious could they be making it that there is one other Time Lord left alive, but it’s the Master?

According to some people, T.B thinks up a press release that will earn him a good headline in the politics section "Daily Mail" (or which will look good in party political broadcast, or get a round of applause at conference) and then works out a policy to go with it. In some cases he doesn't bother with the actual policy.

Unfortunately all too often he does try to bring out the policy as well.

Helen Louise said...

Thank you. I'm touched that you took the time to answer my question. Perhaps one day I'll be a real geek... Anyway, I get it now and will stop moaning :)

NickPheas said...

Bah humbug! You're being nowt but a curmudgeon.

I remember Doctor Who when it wasn't being made with an eye on ensuring that there would be a next series. What did we get? Fricking Bertie Basset and the Happiness Patrol.

Phil Masters said...

Okay, so - all together now - Dr Who[?] isn't as good as it used to be: It Never Was.

oblivionboy said...

You're bang on in your critque. RTD has huge problems coming up with stories which have much replay value over time. If they do its because they are "Eventful" -- I've rewatched the last two episodes of season one several times.

I've looked on the web, and on the groups and by and large, you're right: the new season seems to be garnishing its own set of myopic fans that seem to be happy just that its on the air. But to come back on the air and just pass 45 minutes of time is hardly an honorable objective. Especially with a show with this much history. I'm reminded ALOT of Sylverster McCoy's epoch with the new season. I stopped watching DW at this point because the shows were largely incomprehensible, and had fallen into a kind of surreal parody of itself. This season is similar, with far too many references to "torchwood", and too many "Doctor" this, and "Doctor" that.

How come everyone he comes across knows who he is and that he wiped out the timelords, especially since presumably the timelords were sitting at the very edge of time itself (various references I don't want to get into), and this event would have been known only by those that would have been around or after that time?

But wait! I'm using logic, something that DW has never been the best at, but certainly seems completely missing in season two.

David Tennant definately COULD be a good doctor, as I believe Sylvester McCoy COULD have as well. In fact it is in the openning scene of the ill-fated (and rather dull), Doctor Who movie from the 90s that was shown in North America, that we see McCoy's true potential. If only for a few minutes.

But not if the writing really sucks.

I do agree that the format seems ill suited to the stories. They are underdeveloped and not enough happens in them. The better stories appear to be the two parters, which should be a hint to the BBC.

Also is it just me, or is almost every episode (even the cyberman one -- shades of frankenstien) Horror based? I mean come on?

Anyways, all to say, keep up the criticism (in the literary sense, not the negative). Its only this way that the show could get better. Blindly accepting it, only reinforces it. I'll watch the remaining episodes of season two, and hope for a better season three.

Tom R said...

> "'You can stay with me for the rest of your life, Rose, but I can’t stay with you for the rest of mine' is a fine, genre re-defining line."

Anyone else raise one Vulcanoid eyebrow and smirk at the irony of Doctor David telling SJS "Humans grow old!" to a Terran female who looks (give or take a laugh line or two, and different haircut) pretty much exactly as she did in 1977?

In fact she's looking rather remarkably like President Laura Roslin in CSI: Galactica 24 JAG.

Now, if it'd been Danniella Westbrook, say...

Soupdragon said...

I'm new to new Doctor Who, and were very confused by the comment (on yer fab blog, BTW) about the in-joke "James McCrinnon from the township of Ballymorry". Can someone tell me what this refers to? I had a quick squiz on Google but apart from your blog, no-one seems to have picked it up.
Is it an 'old' Doctor Who character, or summat similar praps?
Cheers any and all ~
SD

Andrew Rilstone said...

My bad: James McCrimmon was the full name of "Jamie", the kilt-wearing companion of Patrick Troughton's Doctor, and (I think) the companion who appeared in the greatest number of episodes. Balamorry is a BBC kids TV show set in the fictitious town of Balamorry and filmed in the real town of Tobermory, and Archie the inventor looks nothing like me, at all.

balcairn said...

This pretty much sums up all my thoughts on the series. (a fair bit more eloquently than I ever could!) Thank you. :)