Wednesday, September 11, 2013

I have some problems with Doctor Who. Presented in gifs.

Um, hi.  So.  I fail at blog!!  I should say, I fail at blog and job simultaneously.  I'm going to work on that, I really am.  With recipes.  And stuff.  And maybe we'll actually get some spring and summer next year instead of two years of fall and winter...?

But first.

Regarding Doctor Who.  It should go without saying,


So the series finale happened and it took me forever to even get around to watching it.  And then I did and just...

So much squandered potential, so many near misses with coherency and impact and goodness, but ultimately nothing came together.  That's what kills me most, the little glimpses of how this could have been like series 5 good, but then it went oh so wrong.  And I've been burned before.  But seeing Who go the way of Heroes is just too sad.

Now, Neil Gaiman is right of course - George R R Martin is not my bitch and neither is Steven Moffat.  Should he ever be trolling the internet and come across this sad gif party (doubtful, though he is the master troll) I would not want to come across as entitled in my criticisms.  But I HAVE FEELINGS and they are disappointment and sadness for what now will never be.  And here's why.

I was the Moff's BIGGEST FAN.  The constantly growing and changing and always lovable characters, the real emotional investment, the real scary monsters! and oh the perfectly crafted witty dialog that just filled me with glee.  I watched every episode like this:

And oh my god are they flirting again?  Gonna need a hazmat suit for all the chemistry going on in here.

My problems with how things have been going down lately can be summed up by two things, really: lack of coherency, and broken promises.

Series 5 was such a complete masterpiece because every little part linked together.  I mean, yeah, Churchill episode and lizard people, whatever.  But the rest!  It was this beautiful tapestry of feels and plot points interweaving back and forth and that is exactly what a show about time travel should be!  The themes for each character were so well developed, in broad strokes and subtle touches, over a length of time that felt like a realistic progression.  And when Moffat started running the show, he was running the show.  He made bold choices and challenged long-established conventions that made long-term fans question whether he had the "right" to address or decide certain aspects of Who canon.  Well, if not the show runner, who does?

Some of his bravest moves:

He introduced the Doctor's name as a plot point.
He gave the Doctor a more permanent and significant companion than he'd ever had: his wife.
He declared unequivocally that the Doctor would, in his current incarnation, die.

So if you've been watching, you can see where I'm going with the broken promises thing.

Now, some of these things are more technical points, and one is a more emotional point, and it's in both of these areas that series 7 has fallen enragingly flat.

So let's start with technicalities.  Silence in the Library and Forest of the Dead.  Moffat's plot's grand entrance into the Whoverse.  The big shocker for the Doctor is that this woman knows his name.  There is, he says, only one reason he would tell someone his name and it's enough for him to instantly trust this stranger with his life.  What could it be?!??!?!?!11

Flash forward to The Wedding of River Song (even that episode name emphasizes the weirdly unbalanced and disappointingly sexist way it played out, ugh.)  So in the wedding of River Song and The Doctor, he claims to have told her his name as, we presume, some part of the traditional Gallifreyan handfasting where the bride's parents are the only ones who have to consent?  (sorry, grr.)  Or maybe as some gift to her (as his aggravation makes the whole wedding seem to be? again, GRR) in exchange for her sacrifice of allowing time to proceed and ostensibly kill him?

Ok, so he didn't actually tell her his name then.  We'll come back to what he did say on another point.  So when the tenth Doctor was shocked that she knew his name, was that actually because he thought he would only tell his name to his future wife?  If so, why did he play clueless as to her relationship with him for so long?  Can't be it.

Fast forward to this most recent finale, The Name of the Doctor.   We've been hearing a lot of chatter about the Doctor's name and how it can never be uttered cause if it is - mysterious somethings!!  A half-assedly reintroduced Great Intelligence shows up at the Doctor's future grave, which is the TARDIS all huge and shady and it is an emotional gut-punch of a sight.  But sadly there's nothing to substantiate the situation.  The Doctor's name is the password to the TARDIS where baddies can get in and wreak havoc on his timeline, which will wreck up the timeline of everything ever cause the Doctor was everywhere.  Ok, there's your mysterious somethings.

So how does River know his name?  She "got him to tell her."  It "took her ages."  So uh... what's the one reason he would do it?!  How did he know it would be the password to his future grave - morbid planning for a man who, we have so oft been told, hates endings.

The whole name thing, which was what kicked off Moffat's entire multi-season arc and kept reappearing to tie it together, and which I was so hoping would have an exciting payoff that revealed something new about the Doctor and the Whoverse- just kinda flopped.

So then there's the whole "The Doctor is dead" thing that kicked off series 6.  Now, mind you, I like series 6, especially the first half.  But this is where the perfectly wrapped-up, concise, every detail thought through series 5 plotline started to unravel.  I get it.  Moffat probably spent years planning his first season and then he had to turn around his probably less-formed ideas for its continuation in a very short time.  Nobody's perfect, and I mean, it wasn't LOST bad.  I still thought he knew, for the most part, what he was doing and where things were going.

But Doctor Who has to be the most forgiving show ever for crazy plot workarounds.  It's no hard science fiction show, everyone expects a level of shenanigans and rule-breaking and world-ending insanity that would break the reality of a less whimsical series.  Who fans suspend disbelief to great extents out of their love for the wacky time-destroying antics.  But when you hammer home again and again that THE DOCTOR IS DEAD. IT IS NOT A DUPLICATE IT IS REALLY THE DOCTOR. HE CANNOT REGENERATE. THIS IS A FIXED POINT IN TIME WHICH CANNOT EVER BE CHANGED. ALL RECORDS KEPT THROUGHOUT TIME MAINTAIN THAT THIS IS THE TIME AND LOCATION OF THE DOCTOR'S DEATH.  ....Nobody's actually expecting the show to end.  No one's expecting the Doctor to go away and not be around anymore.  But what we were expecting was an excitingly ridiculous and ingenious plot maneuver that none but Moffat could imagine in which the facts we've seen remain the same, but the show goes on.  If you can't deliver that, why promise it?

So back to the Wedding of River Song, when the Doctor tells his bride not his name, but that he is actually inside a suddenly much more coordinated robotic replica of himself-

you may kiss the...robot

-which will somehow transfer over to the main timeline, and allow him to survive being shot by whatever that special death ray was -

and his "body" being burned, which seems like overkill for the poor Ponds - and also stop time from being broken.

Ok, wait.  The fixed point did not say "the Doctor must show up here at this time."  It didn't say "the Doctor must be shot by a death ray here at this time."  It said The Doctor must die here at this time.  But, ok, sure, you solved that one.

(Note: please please please please have this make more sense on Sherlock.)

This finished but unresolved point is, in my mind, the last time the show even tried to make any kind of sense.  And as I said before, I'm willing to accept a pretty creative kind of sense.  Sure we've had the loose plot of the mystery of Clara (blah) and the ongoing promise of the Doctor's name and Trenzalore panning out - but we already talked about how that paid off (or didn't.)  The premiere of the second half of series 7 was the first episode written by Steven Moffat I've ever not liked.  Everything has just been so half-hearted, poorly planned, poorly fleshed out, and lacking the detail and heart I'd come to expect.

Oh, and then there's this BS.  

You guys have watched the Night and the Doctor episodes, right?  The ones that take place right after series 6 ends?  Lol what you never knew they existed because why would important plot and emotional payoff be hidden away in some mini-sodes no one gets to see unless they buy the DVD?  GOOD QUESTION!  Well they keep getting taken down from Youtube but we'll see if these last!


In a nutshell, we see the Doctor and River on their first adventure together after their wedding (in both their timelines for once!) and then the Doctor runs into himself and River in the future - on the night River mentions in Forest of the Dead, the last time he saw her before she went to the library to die.

That's the tragedy with River - we always knew what was coming.  But the mini-sode is called "First Night" - all along we've been seeing glimpses of later-timeline River's spoilers of their great romance, but for the Doctor all that was in the future.  Now seeing the beginning of River's timeline too, all that's left is the good stuff in the middle.  Of which, we have been repeatedly told, there is a lot.  We also see River from 5 years down the line in the mini-sodes.  And we know they see each other often.  This is the end of the mystery and the start of a substantial relationship - something which we were pleasantly treated to with Amy and Rory, despite the conventional wisdom that happy marriages make bad TV.  

Well, so much for that.  River appears in one more episode before vanishing for the rest of series 7.  I've been raging about that all along, but it turns out there was a reason for it - just a really terrible one!  Turns out, all that good stuff between the first and last night which we've been led to believe should have spanned decades of their timelines, at least?  I guess that all happened off screen.  Cause in the Doctor's timeline, River's already dead.  Even when this was revealed I had some hope they could make it not a complete letdown - I never accepted that, once the Doctor actually knew River, he would expect her to be content living as a data ghost in a computer raising fake children.  I mean, seriously, no.  (Also, the whackadoodle screwdriver she had in her first episodes?  Not yet seen!)  There were spoilers yet to be discovered about River's existence beyond the Library.

Well it turns out, as a specter who's psychically linked to, I guess just about anybody, the Doctor can not only see and hear but physically interact with River.  Um, YAY DEATH PROBLEM SOLVED???

Nope, cause in the next breath he's all "you're not real I need to say goodbye so you'll fade away."

WHAT?! WHY, YOU STUPID IDIOT?!   Shouldn't a "get out of death free card" for his wife be the Doctor's, hater of endings, best idea ever?  YOU'RE THE ONE WHO PUT HER IN THE COMPUTER ASSHOLE, NOW YOU'RE NOT GONNA LET HER HANG OUT WITH YOU?

Nothing about this makes sense.  Nothing.  Oh but he has to go save Clara cause blah blah blah.  Whatever, Moffat.  You promised us this epic romance which, while tragically back-to-front, was really about all the grand adventures in between, and then you just left all of those to our imagination.  That is the cruelest broken promise.

And that's mainly how I feel about Doctor Who these days.  That and the rapid decline of its handling of female characters have put quite a damper on my enthusiasm, but at least it makes Matt Smith's departure a little less painful.  We'll see what the 50th and Christmas special bring - I know River's got one last hurrah in store and I hope it makes sense and doesn't suck.


  1. I... same. :(

    I think maybe he caught whatever narrative disease that struck down Shyamalan: an incredible first run that everyone rightfully praises causes an ego so huge it explodes, then collapses in on itself into a black hole from which no constructive criticism or talent escapes.

    1. Oh man I hope that's not it. :[ I still have hopes for Sherlock! And we know Mycroft can't carry that on his own...

    2. Birdy and Christie, you both summed up all my feels. I have nothing further to add except NERD RAGE and a feminist rant which I'm currently still too heart broken and wrathful to write coherent sentences for.