‘Doctor Who’ should be my go to show, I’ve loved it from my days of watching the original series and for a good few years into the new series, but since mid-way through Matt Smith’s run I began to lose interest. Peter Capaldi tempted me back in, and despite his Doctor I haven’t been fully invested in it since. Did season 9 change that? It came close. So close. The first two stories were pretty good, and I liked the two part format giving us more time in each story. I shared my thoughts on them through this blog. I planned to do the same with the others. But I didn’t like them. Not only did I not want to invest my time in watching them, I didn’t want to use more of that time to write about them, and who enjoys bashing a show they once loved?!
Season 9 quickly became unwatchable for me. In fact, I’ve only just gotten around to watching the last three episodes and I was pretty underwhelmed. I could’ve lived without watching those. Capaldi continues to be great, the effects have been outstanding for TV, and there’s been plenty of atmospheric horror–yet for the most part the stories have been weak, all premise and no plot, or unintelligible and this incarnation of the Doctor hasn’t been as delightfully odd and obnoxious as he was set up to be. A real missed opportunity.
It’s been another series spoiled by a failed story arc. There was the tease of the confession dial, then the return of Clara dominating the show–even after she died. This confession dial/hyrbid thread was a mystery, and Doctor Who needs a mystery, but it was hardly a plot. The character of ‘Me’, a young girl tormented by immortality, wasn’t really a character at all but a plot device, and sadly one that felt like another stock sassy female. If Robert Holmes is known for his double-act characters, Moffat will surely be know for his Mary Sues. Yet Me has now been retconned into Doctor Who lore as a visitor of all ex companions now, she might not pop in the show again, but she has her own spin-off novelisation and she’s now planted in my head as a part of the mythos/history. The finale felt epic and swept me up within it with Gallifrey, the sisterhood of Karn, the haunting cloister, and with Rassilon–great geek who touchstones–yet it was like watching the third part of a three-parter where I missed the first two episodes. It didn’t feel like there had been any lead up, any tangible beginning and middle to make this ending satisfying. I finished the finale and then reflected–‘what was the actual plot?’. Rassilon was a pop-up villain previously, but we haven’t seen him since. I’m sure if I think back over the Time War references there will be meaning there, but I shouldn’t have to do that. The story should be laid out. Given to us. And not the blink and you miss it info dump which supposedly tied up the silence story arc. Rassilon should really have been the big bad of the season, to have had a presence and a relationship to the Doctor and the stories for his downfall to be anything but an opportunity for grandstanding that ego of the Doctor.
Speaking of which… The Doctor has always had an ego, and there have been flashes of it throughout it’s history. He’s also beeen silly, and embarassing–think recorders, playing the spoons, quips, jelly babies and terrible clothes. He is the definitive fun yet odd uncle. Then David Tennant happened. A great Doctor, a tormented Doctor we pitied and sympathised with, at a point when the series enjoyed an unprecedented and quite unexpected popularity. It earned this appreciation. Yet, somewhere along the line I think it became too conscious of the love it had received through misery, and that it was ‘cool’, and it piled on the emo angst and instead of showing us how cool the Doctor was, it began to tell us–the ‘clever boy’ self-aggrandizing. Capaldi’s Doctor offered a break from that. He didn’t need our love. He didn’t do hugs. He was old. Then suddenly he’s playing an electric guitar standing on a tank, wearing sonic shades, we’re being given hints about why he left Gallifrey which threaten the very question of ‘Doctor Who?’, and the Doctor is threatening all of time and space for his guilt over Clara’s death.
Writing of which… The Doctor’s breaking of the time laws to try and save Clara does kind of make out that Peter Davidson’s Doctor really didn’t think much of Adric… Going to Gallifrey twice after Adric straddled a bomb that slammed into a planet of vicious dinosaurs, and didn’t try anything to save him.
Back to point… The Doctor has now become that uncle in the midst of a mid-life crisis and split with his long-time wife, with the latest Iphone and flash car as age-defying props, and a girlfriend 20 years his junior hanging off his arm. He’s become a bit sad.
Seeing a Doctor in an original TARDIS console room or on the latest console room still fills me with comfort and the promise of adventure and escapism, and I will stick with Doctor Who in the hope of things getting better, but this is not the show I have loved for more years than I care to think about. Although there are limits–I won’t be watching the rest of the 2016 Christmas special. That was f***ing awful. I lasted about 15 minutes. Where’s a weeping angel to turn your to stone when you need one.
For me to enjoy Doctor Who again the Doctor needs to come second to the stories he’s in–stories of mad scientists, alien invasions, scary monsters–and for the Doctor to be the explorer, the vulnerable hero, for him to flash that ego and show us why it’s deserved by winning the day without a reset button, all with his companions being dragged along for the ride, like we, as viewers want to be. Here’s hoping…