Monday, November 07, 2022

Chibnall and I [6]

 6: Review

After Twice Upon a Time I said I was giving up on Doctor Who: it was no longer worth my headspace. (The discourse about the First Doctor threatening to slap Bill recently broke out again on Twitter: it's actually worse than I thought.)

I did, in fact, watch every Chibnall episodes and even jotted down some of my opinions, although I have dedicated considerably more time and effort to thinking about Tom Baker. I may try to publish The Viewer's Second Tale in time for Ncuti. 

But nothing in the last three years have particularly changed my mind. This is #NotMyDoctorWho; and what is worse, it never was. I am quite pleased that a woman got cast as the Doctor, party because it was a new thing which shook the format up a little bit; and partly because it was a symbol of which side we were on and because it annoyed the fascists. But I hold out some hope that the Fourteenth, or as we may have to say, Fifteenth Doctor will be more than just a semaphore flag to wave at the kind of people who call that kind of thing "woke". If it isn't: if its only redeeming feature is the symbolism of casting a monoped in a part for which two legs seems to be the minimum requirement -- well, that's exactly what the kinds of people who call these kinds of things woke accuse the kind of people they accuse of being woke of doing. I don't think the main purpose of TV is to offend neo-nazis; but I don't think it's there to make people like me go "squee" either.

I thought Power of the Doctor was quite fun. I was amused by several of the scenes. I enjoyed the cameos. I didn't think the Doctor-Master hybrid made sense even within the narrow definitions of sense that regeneration stories usually make: I didn't really understand what was meant to have happened (Regeneration somehow pictured as a kind of possession? I suppose the decrepit Master steals Tremas's body in Keeper of Traken.) I thought the idea of the Dalek which has studied The Abolition of Man could have been a jumping off point for something interesting, but it wasn't. The story had a sort of large scale glitz and unearned sentimentality which doesn't seem to me to have very much to do with Doctor Who. The Aquadiabolical one simply bored me. Flux made me want to smash my television into little tiny pieces, or, if they are slightly more clear headed, that the Vogon had never been born. This one diverted me amiably as it was going on.

I remember someone once said that they felt about Bob Dylan as they do about Test Match cricket: they can listen to it; its not unpleasant; but they look around and find that everyone else in the room is deriving great significance from it. There are some Doctor Who fans who really really like the Power of the Doctor and jolly good luck to them. I** L***** gave ten out of ten, said that it made him cry, and that it would be impossible for anyone to do anything better. Given that he vowed never to watch the show again after the casting of a gurl in the main role, this is quite impressive. I truthfully don't know whether gloss and untethered sentiment and drive-by story fragments are honestly what some people like (in the way that some people honestly like jazz or prog rock or dogs) which is fine -- or if "this is the greatest thing ever and if you can't see that you are no true fan" is a defence mechanism, loyalty to a beloved franchise, a kind of anti-critic vice-signalling. (It wouldn't be very bad if it was.)

I don't know what else to say. Seeing Jo and Mel and Tegan and Ace and Colin and Peter and Paul and Old Uncle Tom Cobley and All was nice, in the way that eating a chocolate souffle with two much cream was nice. Seventeen years ago seeing a Dalek would have been nice but now there is nothing special about seeing a Dalek because we see them all the time. I didn't hate it; and I suppose after three years of Chibnall that's kind of a win.


I'm Andrew.

I am trying very hard to be a semi-professional writer and have taken the leap of faith of down-sizing my day job.

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Andrew Ducker said...

I didn't hate it either.

But it did feel like the kind of thing that was written by someone who had nothing to say, but had seen a bunch of previous Doctor Who which they liked, and wanted to put some of that on the screen.

dm said...

I definitely teared up at the mention of Adric (despite not having any real affinity for the 5th Doctor), seeing Aldred and McCoy (my absolute favourite Doctor-Companion pairing) together again (although his "it's never OK to blow things up" line just went against everything that made that relationship between the aging hippy and the young radical so special). I teared up when Jodie teared up. But it's a nonsense to pretend it was a "good" or interesting story by any reasonable metric. Unless you loved it, in which case, as you said, all power to you.

But it will always ding a story a few credibility points if the real life Abzorbaloff rated it highly.

dm said...

Something I found frustrating is the continued underuse of a character who is, to my mind, the best villain of the era: Ashad. I found him genuinely chilling in his first story, but since then absolutely nothing interesting has been done with him. The performance and design are still effective, but the concept of someone who is ideologically a Cyberman without actually being one is something begging to be explored. Similarly, the ideological reasons for this story's Dalek defection were properly interesting, but again, unexplored in any meaningful sense.