"I never can get interested in things that didn't happen to people who never lived. "
It took the human race several thousand years to come around to the idea of fiction. Medieval writers seemed to not quite get the difference between 'romance' and 'history'. Malory kicks off the Morte by demonstrating that King Arthur really existed, as if that was necessary to establish its credentials. Three hundred years later, the Defoes and your Richardsons still had to half-pretend that Moll and Robinson and Pamela were real people.
But nowadays, we mostly don't notice the huge leap of faith which fiction involves. We read things which never happened to people who never lived and somehow feel worried when they are in danger and sad when they die and really, genuinely pleased, pleased enough to go around smiling for the rest of the day, when their estranged godfathers send them a permission slips to go on the outing to Hogsmead. A story teller asks us to treat his characters as if they were real and we take it for granted that he's going to do so as well. Otherwise, how can we invest this emotional capital in them?
The worse the story, the more investment is required. One might get something out of, say, Virginia Woolfe without 'buying into' it at all. 'I don't care about, or come to that, believe in, these characters', you might say, 'But what beautiful prose! What clever construction! What stunning irony!' No-one ever read, say, Bob Howard for the prose, construction or irony. But lots of people have said 'Yeah, I know the writing sucks, but dammit, I care about what is going to happen to Conan.'
Some people might say that making the reader care about what happens to Conan is just as much a feat of good writing as making some witty comments about Mrs. Dalloway's flower arrangements. I'm not going to stop them.
'Wanting to know what happens' is not the whole story. In series fiction, you know exactly what is going to happen: the hero is going to escape, beat the baddies and live to fight another day. The very first story depicts King Conan nostalgically remembering the days when he was a full time barbarian. This rather rules out the possibility that he really ended his days, say, nailed to a cross in the middle of the desert. Granted, in something like X-Men, there is a larger cast so the characters are more expendable: but then, we have less emotional capital invested in each of them. The trick is to make the reader feel that the hero has something to lose; that something is at stake; that the game is being played for money, not match-sticks. Steve Ditko's Spider-Man mattered much more than Superman ever did because Spidey was capable of being affected by his adventures. He came home with a black eye; he ripped his uniform; he fell out with his friends. Superman lived in a dream world where nothing bad could ever happen. Spider-Man's world felt sort-of kind-of real.
Doubtless, there are variations and nuances to this rule. The Hobbit slides from being a non-threatening fairy tale to a full-dress epic in which people die. Movies like The Sixth Sense sometimes manage to envenom their tails by only revealing that their genre is 'ghost story' rather than 'thriller' in the final frame. But it's a dangerous game to play. Lewis Carol, Geoffrey Chaucer and Neil Gaiman have successfully written stories set inside someone's dream. But the worst ending any story can possibly have is 'He woke up and found it had all been a horrible dream.'
There were these two race horses. The first race-horse said: “I'd never won a single race in my career; but yesterday, my trainer put a tot of whisky in my oats, and I came in first place.”
“Funny you should say that,” said the second race horse “They were giving 100-1 against me last week, but my trainer gave me a tot of brandy, and I won the race.”
“That's amazing!” remarked a passing greyhound. “My owner's been putting rum in my doggie-biscuits, and I've won five races in a row.”
“Good heavens!” said the first horse “A talking dog!”
Like most jokes, this one makes us laugh because it breaks a rule. The opening line implies that we are listening to the kind of story in which any horse, dog or tree is entitled to speak (and where landlords are only mildly surprised when people walk into their pubs with ducks on their head) provided it sets up a bad pun. The final line reveals that we were, after all, in the real world where animals can't talk.
There are a large number of jokes like this. Instead of getting a laugh by breaking the rules of grammar, logic or decorum they actually break the rules of joke-telling. (Many of them are about horses, for some reason. 'Whoever heard of a horse bowling?' 'If I could run I'd be at bloody Ascot'.) The most famous involves a chicken and a road. The joke-teller asks the question in such a way as to make the hearer search for a cleverly illogical reply. He then gives a perfectly common sense answer (implying, I think, that the hearer was rather stupid for not knowing it.) By failing to break any rules, it breaks the rule that a joke should involve the breaking of the rules. It's a self referential paradox. It's a metajoke with 'This is not a joke' printed underneath. And it's not very funny.
When I was growing up, 'knock, knock' jokes were still a pretext to make a weak pun about someone's first name. ('Knock, knock.' 'Who's there.' 'Sam and Janet'. 'Sam and Janet who?' 'Sam'n'Janet evening, you may meet a stranger, across a crowded room'.) The 'Late Arrivals at the Detective's Ball' round in I'm Sorry, I Haven't A Clue is simply a sophisticated, Radio 4 way of telling knock-knock jokes. ('Will you welcome Mr. and Mrs. Teasefalcon, and their daughter Moll.') But, if my godchildren are any thing to go by, the only 'knock, knock' jokes which survive are the ones where the point is to break the rules of knock-knock jokes. And they aren't very funny, either.
'Utopia'; 'The Sound of Drums' and 'Last of the Time Lords' systematically violated the rules of Doctor Who. The overall effect was to squander the emotional capital which I have invested in the characters over three seasons, and to reduce the setting to a Supermanish dream-world. The trilogy left me feeling that I had been the victim of one of my god-daughter's knock-knock jokes.
Over the previous twelve months, the expectation had been created that modern day Cardiff is the location of the dreadful Torchwood; and that stories set in Cardiff are therefore more mature and adult (i.e. contain more occurrence of the word 'fuck') than those set elsewhere. Further, the rules of the dreadful Torchwood seemed to say that the parent series can be alluded to, but not referred to directly. It is therefore mildly disconcerting that in the prologue to 'Utopia', we see the TARDIS appear in Cardiff. We momentarily feel that the rules of the dreadful Torchwood have been broken. They haven't, of course: this is Saturday, not Wednesday, and the Cap'n Jack who ends up on board the TARDIS is a pre-watershed Jack who watches his language and doesn't have sex with Martha, not even once.
In the dreadful Torchwood, Jack is represented as a very dark character with a terrible secret in his past. His transition back to Doctor Who is played for laughs – he runs across Cardiff and hitches a lift by hanging on to the outside of the TARDIS (in itself a minor violation of the programme's rules). The mystery associated with his character in the dreadful Torchwood evaporates in contact with Doctor Who: all those flashbacks where he seems to have been a part of historical events are explained away -- Bad Wolf simply dumped him on earth a century or so too early. His indestructibility is the result of the same plot device. (The first thing which happens in Season 2 of the dreadful Torchwood is that Jack acquires two more Dark Secrets: a long lost brother and a psychotic ex-boyfriend. The Dark Secret which defined his personality in 'The Empty Child' – that he used to be 'A Time Agent' and has lost a portion of his memory – has been largely forgotten.)
Since 1970 the 'Time Lords' have been the controlling idea in Doctor Who : after the TARDIS and the Doctor himself, they are the one central thread which defines the series. Over the course of episodes 1 – 7 of Season 1 of the new series, RTD progressively revealed that the Time Lords no longer existed. This could be seen as a massive re-writing of the rules, although at the same time, it was highly reactionary: RTD s had, after all, re-defined 'The Doctor' as 'a character who is fleeing some kind of disaster or tragedy which we don't know about' – pretty much how he was introduced in 1963.
The revelation at the end of 'Utopia', that Professor Yaffle is a Time Lord is thus a huge violation of the newly established rules of the series (which say 'the Doctor is the last of his people'); but, at the same time, a massive restoration of the status quo. The moment when Derek Jacobi is transformed into John Simm is supposed to be a Sixth Sense moment which says 'Everything you thought you knew is wrong' But (even if the sodding Independent hadn't revealed the twist in advance) it's not really that big a surprise. We've been expecting that the major baddies from the original Who would stage come-backs; we've had Daleks and Cybermen, so who's next on the short list? The regeneration isn't quite what we expected from this story, but it's very much what we expect from Doctor Who. If anything the minor twists – the use of regeneration as an element in a story, not merely a hand-wave to facilitate a staff reshuffle; and the 'bleeding' of the plot of 'Human Nature' into that of 'Utopia' – are more unexpected and disconcerting breaches of the rules.
So: we aren't quite sure if we're in the dreadful Torchwood or in Doctor Who, we aren't quite sure if we're following the rules of the old series or the new series; a large chunk of what we've been told about the setting of the new series turns out to be false; a major actor appears purely in order to be written out. Watching 'Utopia' is a dislocating and disorientating experience.
"Am I mad, in a coma, or back in time?"
'Sound of Drums' starts as it means to go on. The apparent cliffhanger (the Master has taken the TARDIS and trapped Our Heroes at the end of time) is resolved practically off-stage: the Doctor had sufficient magic pixie dust in his pocket to get everyone home. However, this small piece of rule-breaking ('the Doctor's in terrible danger, whoops, no, with one leap he's free') plunges him into the middle of a bigger and much more interesting cliff-hanger. Harold Saxon is the Master, which we had seen coming; and he's the Prime Minister of England, which we possibly hadn't.
The rest of the episode involves a whole raft of genre-violations, including.
[a] The Doctor Who theme tune is referenced within the series itself. (It's rhythm represents the drums which the Master hears in his head and which have driven him mad.) This is almost the oddest thing in the whole story: a much bigger piece of taboo breaking than if the main character had actually been referred to as Dr. Who. Having characters in the series humming the theme tune made me feel I was reading TV Comic or looking at the wrapper of a bar of Nestles chocolate.
[b] Throughout RTD's tenure, alien planets have been taboo (because mainstream audiences can't deal with the planet Zog.) For the same reason, the name 'Gallifrey' was avoided until the second Christmas special. So the flashback sequence is quite transgressive. It's odd to see an alien world on the new show; odder to see live Time Lords; and oddest of all that they are dressed in the silly Flash Gordon costumes they were saddled with in 'Deadly Assassin.' (If anything in the show needed re-imagining, that was it.) There is also a bijou jokette for the asexual community: the novice Time Lords are wearing robes a lot like those the Time Lords wore in their first, monochrome appearance. Much more shockingly, this scene actually gives us information about the Doctor's life on Gallifrey before he became a wanderer (an area where even Big Finish and the New Adventures trod carefully) and partly demystifies the Master's origins.
As ever, the Highest Ranking Sympathetic Supporting Character -- the Time Lord who is 'initiating' the novices – has dark coloured skin. You can break all the narrative rules you like, but the BBCs diversity guidelines are sacrosanct.
[c] Martha speculates out loud that 'the Master is the Doctor's secret brother'. This is a long held fan-theory. Colin Baker once said it was the sort of thing one should ponder, but which would be spoilt if it was ever said to be definitely true. It feels very odd that it should cross the third wall into the series itself. The Doctor doesn't directly contradict Martha: he merely says "You've been watching too much TV." Villains turn out to be the hero's sibling in TV shows, not in real life -- says the main character in a long running TV series. If this were played upon the stage, I should dismiss it as improbable fiction. Why did the chicken cross the road?
"You know, Doctor ", said Jo suddenly "I think you've got a sort of a sneaking liking for him."
The Doctor looked indignant. "Like him? I can't stand the fellow. He's ruthless. Depraved. Totally evil. In fact, a thoroughly bad lot. Only..."
"Only what, Doctor."
The Doctor looked a little sheepish. "Well, I do sometimes think the cosmos would be a duller place without him."
"Terror of the Autons"
Harold Saxon is the nexus of this meta-textual dislocation. Casting Sam Tyler from Life on Mars in this role was a deliberate bit of intertextuality. Sam spends his whole life wondering whether he is experiencing real life or a dream. He talks to characters on the TV and hears them answer. He momentarily becomes confused about whether or not Camberwick Green is a real place. The final image of the show implies that Sam has chosen to become a fictional character. So it doesn't seem strange to see him playing the Master, a character who has crossed from the world of Doctor Who annuals and Sugar Smacks packets to that of serious Drama, but who refuses to be tied down to any genre.
At one level, scarily, he's part of the real world -- real London, real parliament, real newscasters, real Anne Widdecombe -- a psychotic lunatic in charge of a realistic near future England. (In another piece of meta-textual irony, 'The Sound of Drums' was transmitted on BBC1 while BBC2 was showing the first part of their grovelling biography of, er, Tony Blair.) On the other hand, the actual Downing Street scenes utterly resist any semblance of realism. feeling more like something out of My Dad's The Prime Minister. As the story goes on, we'll see Saxon portrayed as a genuinely psychotic dictator, and as a peculiar pantomime villain who plays pop-records while he slaughters and tiptoes around in his dressing gown to taunt the Doctor.
In the original series, The Master was a comic-opera villain who literally twirled his moustache; who had no motivation except to spread chaos across the universe and be its emperor, but who was always polite and charming to the people he intended to kill. Simm is as far as way from the old theatrical ham as it is possible to get -- yet we never doubt that we can see Roger Delgado behind his eyes. In this respect, his performance is very similar to that of Christopher Eccleston, who, as older readers will remember, once played the role of the Doctor.
The difference between 'The Sound of Drums' and, say 'The Claws of Axos' lies in the amount of emotional capital we are being asked to invest in the Doctor and the Master. The scene in which the latter gasses the entire cabinet may be slapstick, but the scene in which he and the Doctor confront each other (over a cellphone) demands to be taken seriously as drama. It has long been established that the Doctor and his Moriarty mutually respect – even need – each other; but RTD raises the emotional ante. These are no longer merely contemporaries: these are the only surviving Lords of Time. (The title of episode 13 is deliberately ambiguous.) Earlier in the season, the Doctor was shown to have a similar bond with Sec because he is the last Dalek in the universe, which takes us full circle to the first Dalek story in Season 1. Having refused to confirm or deny that the Doctor and the Master are brothers, RTD comes very close to implying that they are lovers.
This superheated emotional plot is matched in intensity with what is literally the biggest cliffhanger in the series' history. In the past, the rule has been that the Doctor will always save the day. The alien invasion will be averted. If London is over-run with dinosaurs -- or, more probably, glove puppets of dinosaurs -- everyone will have forgotten about it in a week's time. New Who has attempted to fix the series in a consistent, developing near future: if Big Ben is destroyed in 'Aliens of London' then it will have scaffolding around it in 'The Christmas Invasion'; if London is menaced by a giant space ship in 2005 and a giant spider in 2006 then in 2007 everyone will leave the capital. (Granted, the news doesn't get as far as Cardiff, but Cardiff is nearly three hours away by train.) This is the central premise of the dreadful Torchwood: 'the 21st century is when everything changes.'
Hence, the Master's triumph at the end of episode 12 is a violation of the rules of the old series, but completely consistent with what the new series has led us to expect. The Master has finally made himself ruler of the earth; the Doctor is not merely defeated, but humiliatingly transformed, first into an old, old man, then into a grotesque goblin. (The notion that the main character can be played by a special effect for the better part of an episode is another creative violation of the rules of series television.) As if to underline the point, episode 13 begins with the caption '1 year later': this is no cliff-hanger to escape from, but an event in the Doctor Who pseudoverse which has really, irrevocably happened.
Robin: But he knows that we know about his hideout there!
Batman: Correct! However, knowing that, he'd think that we'd think he would not return there, therefore he did and so will we!
When Willliam Hartnell turned into Patrick Troughton in 1966, it was an off-the-wall, genre-bending experiment: surely changing the lead actor in an on-going series is the one thing you can never do? (And if you must, surely you wouldn't draw attention to it.) When Christopher Eccleston turned into David Tennant in 2005, it felt almost cosy. We've had Daleks, we've had Autons, now we've had a regeneration, so we know the dear old series has come back to our screens. It's part of the Doctor's job-description to regenerate from time to time. You might say that 'change is the only constant', if that was the sort of thing you felt inclined to say.
What shocked us much more was the departure of Rose at the end of season 2. It seemed impossible to imagine new-Who without Billie Piper: unbelievably, we had a version of Doctor Who in which the companion was more indispensable than the hero. So Martha's whole function in Series 3 was to not be Rose. Almost the first thing the Doctor says to her is that she is not Rose's replacement. She worries that the Doctor is taking her to the same places he took Rose; she is jealous when she finds out that Rose was a blond; she has a crush on the Doctor and is completely overlooked because she is not Rose. But, of course, Rose's replacement is precisely what Martha is: she reads Rose's lines, behaves just as Rose would have done, fills, in short, a Rose shaped hole. A companion is a companion is a companion.
Martha's role in 'Last of the Time Lords' is actually rather clever. Where the function of a companion is to be rescued by the Doctor, Martha has to be the rescuer on rather an large scale -- spending a whole year travelling the earth in order to find the four components of the only gun which is capable of killing the Master. It turns out that this is only a feint – what she's really doing is spreading a secret message to everyone in the whole wide world (a direct lift, by the way, from Big Finish's Dalek Empire.) Martha is betrayed to the Master by a human turn-coat; but it turns out that this is precisely what she wanted to happen: this betrayal brings her close enough to the Master to put the Doctor's plan into operation.
These kinds of stories, which rely on the hero being able to infallibly second guess the villain, are never quite believable. But what struck me more forcefully was that Martha mocks the Master for having believed in something so silly as a gun broken into four parts: that is, for believing in the kind of plot device on which 'The Key to Time'; and 'The Keys of Marinus'; were hung. Martha fools the Master because he thought the story was operating under the rules of Doctor Who where it was actually operating under the rules of the real world. She might almost have said "You watch too much TV." Good Lord! A talking dog!
"English children have 'The Beano' in the same way that they have rickets."
Newspapers still print lies about the Old Series having had Wobbly Sets. (They still occasionally even say that Daleks can't go up stairs.) But it's perfectly true that there was something amateurish and ramshackle about Doctor Who: it was never a high-budget prestige series; always a slightly cobbled-together, small scale fixture in a peculiar time-slot that was neither quite for kids or quite for adults. Some people will always think a newer, glossier programme is not really Doctor Who.
This is also true of the Doctor himself. In, say, 'The Time Warrior', he cobbled together a device out of spare parts which enabled him to track where Lynx was taking the missing scientists. He repulsed the attack on Wessex's castle by manufacturing scarecrows that resembled knights and cooking up some supercharged stink-bombs; he defeated Irongron by brewing some sleeping draft from herbs in Lady Eleanor's kitchen. He was not God (although, of course, he could supply any number of jury rigged dei ex maxhinae) and he certainly wasn't a superhero. He was a gentleman amateur who travelled the universe and sometimes found himself in a situation where he could lend a helping hand.
At the climax of 'Last of the Time Lords' – the single most embarrassing thing ever to appear on Doctor Who -- the Doctor is transformed into Christ-in-a-Geeky-Suit because everyone in the whole wide world believes in him. It's hard not to read this as a metaphor. Doctor Who has been transformed into an all-conquering Beeb-saving TV success because it is loved, or at any rate, switched on, by practically every UK citizen who owns a TV set. Once, it was a deformed, grotesque caricature, placed in the graveyard slot against Coronation Street, with guest appearances by Ken Dodd, Nicholas Parsons and Bonnie Langford. Now, it's like the Second Coming of Eric and Ernie, the highlight of Christmas, advertised in mainstream movie houses, on the front of every Radio Times. My Doctor defeated the baddies because he had one or two gadgets that possibly they didn't, like a teaspoon and an open mind. This Doctor solves everything with a wave of the sonic screwdriver, or, failing that, by being born aloft by angels, resetting time, bathing the world in heavenly light.
Once a boffin; now a saviour but somehow no longer Doctor Who.
The Marquis De Sade meets Leopold Sacher-Masoch in hell.
"Whip me! Beat me! " says Masoch.
"No." says De Sade.
That the Doctor escapes from his cage because everyone wishes for him to do so is a pretty egregious narrative cop-out. It is followed by a far greater narrative sin -- the violation of a rule which (I believe) the series never once transgressed in 45 years.
Time Travel (specifically the Deactivation of the Paradox Machine, but still, basically, Time Travel) is used to undo events which have previously happened. Time winds back. The Master never conquered the earth, decimated the population, levelled the cities. The narrative promise of Episode 12 is broken. We woke up, and it had all been a horrible dream.
RTD attempts to make up for this betrayal by turning the emotional volume all the way up to 11. The destruction of Earth, Martha's quest for the magic gun, the mutation of the Doctor – all this has in fact been only an external outworking of the Doctor / Master love story. It's on this relationship that all our emotional poker chips should have been wagered. And, I have to say, the pay-off is handled extraordinarily well. In 'Doomsday', when Rose left forever, the Doctor almost cried. When the Master dies, he blubs uncontrollably. Because his love for a member of his own kind, even an enemy, is greater than his love for any human? Because he and the Master were friends long before they were enemies? Because the Master is the last Time Lord and the Doctor is now alone in the universe? Because all their battles through time and space were really part of a big S&M love affair?
The Doctor and Martha second-guessed the Master about the gun; but the Master and the Doctor second guess each other much more efficiently. Each does the one thing which the other wouldn't expect. The Betrayed, Crucified and Risen Again Doctor forgives the evil one, and that pierces him far worse than any mere defeat. The Doctor's old boy-friend humiliates him, not by destroying the world, but by refusing to regenerate. The Doctor beats the Master. The Master beats the Doctor by letting himself be beaten. In any S & M relationship, the apparent victim is really the Master.
So. Having invited us to invest all our emotional capital in this scene, Davies proceeds to throw it back in our faces.
After the Master's funeral -- a scene so jaw droppingly out of keeping with the style of the show as to make me say 'I literally cannot believe I am watching this' -- we see a hand, presumably that of Saxon's wife, remove his ring from the pyre, while the Master's demonic cackling is played in the background. The cremation is a crass, silly quote from Return of the Jedi so we naturally associate the ring with Flash Gordon, in which the removal of the Ming's ring signified that he was still available to menace the hero in a sequel. Demonic laughter has frequently been used in Doctor Who to signify that the apparently defeated Master is still alive.
You thought that the relationship between the Master and the Doctor had been recast in terms of Serious Drama. We invited you to take the characters seriously. But the Master was only a comic-opera villain after all. He'll be back to tie the pretty lady to a trainline again in the next thrilling installment. My word! A talking dog!
Yet the lack of realism lets it down. Lee and Will find themselves filming on a fantastically elaborate and pop-video-looking wasteland, complete with a very unlikely smashed-up jeep upturned on a pile of rubble. The kids later actually succeed in getting the jeep to run. Maybe it's absurd to care about details like this, yet unless we believe in their world, it's difficult to care and difficult to laugh.
Guardian review of 'Son of Rambow'
And, just when I have almost chewed my own fist off in disbelief that the BBC would let RTD get away with anything so dreadful, along comes the news that Captain Jack is the Face of Boe.
I have watched 'Utopia' repeatedly, and when Martha refers to the Face of Boe, there is not one trace of a reaction on Jack's face. He should have done a double take and said 'Hey, that's what they called me when I was a kid.' But he didn't. Of course he didn't. Because RTD just made it up, out of his head, on the spot. Don't ask why Jack would have waited a billion years and then informed the Doctor, in the form of a very oblique acronym, that Prof. Yaffle is a Time Lord, a piece of information which Jack already knows, having been there, will be of no help to the Doctor whatsoever.
It makes no sense. He made it up. Out of his head. On. The. Spot.
Don't tell me that I am being a pedantic little asexual fanboy This sort of thing matters. It matters because it makes it hard for us to emotionally invest in these characters ever again. It matters because it makes the whole imaginary world dissolve into a dream. It matters that a story-teller, at a basic level, doesn't care about his characters. So why should we?
Now all that remains is to hit a couple of reset buttons and restore the status quo. Captain Jack waited a hundred years for the Doctor to come and find him (this was his whole personality), but he decides to go back to his little team after all. Does this happen because it is the kind of thing which Captain Jack would do, or simply because there has to be a second series of the dreadful Torchwood?
Not-Rose realises that the Doctor is never going to be her boyfriend because she's not Rose, so there is no point in hanging around with him any longer. Faced with the choice between 'saving the universe, meeting Shakespeare, visiting alien planets, and being on really quite close and intimate terms with an amazing guy, but accepting that he's never going to fuck you' and 'staying home and finding some boyfriend', well, obviously everyone would choose the latter. Do you think that possibly RTD has Issues about having been some girl's Gay Best Friend until she went off with a straight guy?
So. Jack back in Cardiff, Martha back at the hospital, Doctor back in the TARDIS spluttering setting-up for the Christmas special. Omega's in his black hole and all's right with the world.
They woke up, and it had all been a dream.
"What has happened to the magic of Doctor Who?"
In the 72 hours after the this debacle, I learned.
[a] That Martha's exit was, in fact, another feint: we'd get to hear her saying 'fuck' and 'pee' in a few episodes of the dreadful Torchwood but she'll be back in the TARDIS before the end of Season 4. It's pretty hard to emotionally commit to characters as characters when so much of the plot is narrated in advance, when the actors are so much more important than the characters they play.
[b] That temporary companion for the Christmas special would be Kylie Minogue. This elicited the reaction 'Oh well, at least it's not Catherine Tate, the hopelessly miscast, unfunny comedienne whose portrayal of the moronic and unbelievable Donna made the 2006 Christmas special practically unwatchable.'
[c] That the permanent companion for Season 4 would be Catherine Tate.
After this, the news that the series would be rested at the end of Series 4 felt less like a gap year, more like euthanasia.
After watching 'The Daemons' for the first time Louise H. remarked that the much revered older series couldn't sustain the kind of critical analysis which the new one is subjected to.
Of course it couldn't: but neither does the old series invite that kind of analysis. 'The Daemons' presents itself as a mock gothic sub Dennis Wheatley cliff-hanger yarn; therefore, we accept it as a mock gothic sub Dennis Wheatley cliff-hanger yarn. We boo the Master, scream at the monster and wonder why Miss Hawthorne is so underused. But if you announce to the world that Doctor Who is 'not genre but drama' then it is entirely possible that some of us are going to treat it like drama and complain when, as drama, it fails.
It's just conceivable that Alan Moore or someone could re-imagine Tom and Jerry with realistic animals and a socially realistic setting. But it wouldn't be fair to expect us to laugh at the mouse being put through the meat grinder. We'd be more likely to ask 'Why does no one send for the RSPCA.'
So. That is why I didn't review Doctor Who, series 3. Yes, there were good things in it. 'Blink' was genuinely good; 'Human Nature' very nearly worked. It must be said that both stories were really post-modern deconstructions of Doctor Who: when they tried to do actual non-ironic Doctor Who stories like 'The Lazarus Effect' and 'Evolution of the Daleks' one felt that their heart wasn't really in it. No, there wasn't anything as disastrous as 'Fear Her' or 'The Idiot's Lantern.'
But at a fundamental level, 'Last of The Time Lords' has killed my interest in the show. RTD doesn't believe in it any more, so why the hell should I?
If you have enjoyed this essay, please consider buying a copy of The Viewers Tale or Fish Custard which collects all my writings about Doctor Who to date.
Alternatively, please consider making a donation of £1 for each essay you have enjoyed.