Doctor Who. A show I’ve loved for a long time. I watched Davison and McCoy on and off when I were a lad, but my interest in the franchise really sky-rocketed with the poorly received Paul McGann movie, which I really enjoyed (despite some oddities). I really liked Eccleston (again, despite the show’s cheap-and-cheerful spin on the continuity and a very annoying early-series Rose). And actually, that’s a theme with my ongoing enjoyment of the Doctor’s adventures – I always seem to find something to love about it in spite of itself. There’s always something rubbish about Doctor Who, and that can vary from the special effects to the writing, but the whole has always been better than the sum of its parts for me.
Until recently, that is.
I think I started to fall out of love with Doctor Who with the whole …of the Doctor trilogy, culminating in the Time of the Doctor. I’m in the camp of fans who didn’t like that story one bit, largely because of the hand-wavy way it got out of the whole regeneration issue. (Firstly, I don’t think, by any stretch, Matt Smith should have been the final regeneration. And even if you accept the awful logic that said he was, then the way in which he got rebooted with 13 new ‘lives’ was something out of a bad fantasy novel. It’s science fiction without the science.)
But the new Doctor (the first of a new cycle of 13, although official marketing says he’s ‘12’, and previous scripts seem uncertain on the matter) filled me with hope. Capaldi looks the part; we know he’s a great actor – shades of William Hartnell and Tom Baker abound – but even from his very first few seconds on screen with Clara it was obvious he was in for a torrid time from the writing team. I’d already lost faith in Steven Moffat’s storytelling ability, but I hoped a new series with a new Who would salvage the series. In a nutshell, it certainly hasn’t yet.
So far, I’m bemused by how dislikeable the new Doctor is. His constant quips about Clara’s appearance took a while to get used to – they were pretty sexist in the first few episodes, and only recently has this been tempered with warmth and fondness. He ‘hates’ soldiers (more about this later), to the point where he acts like a total cock at the very mention of them. He’s always ready to pull the trigger and sacrifice some lives, and he spends more time bickering than actually solving problems.
Enter, stage right, Clara Oswald. She’s now the principle character. She solves the problems; she leads the Doctor by the hand. She joked that she was his ‘carer’, but that’s pretty accurate at the moment, as Capaldi’s doctor seems schizophrenic, old, bitter and forgetful; completely out of touch with his human side. Clara, on the other hand, shows great strength of will, consistency, and gets the best of the screen time. Until, that is, Danny Pink arrived on the scene.
Danny Pink is not a bad character, despite what fandom is saying. What he represents, however, is bad for the show in my opinion. Steven Moffat seems to think that Clara only worked because she was in a strange ‘will they, won’t they?’ relationship with Matt Smith’s Doctor. Now Capaldi has taken over, looking old enough to be Clara’s granddad yet clearly harbouring some quite creepy feelings for Oswald, that dynamic doesn’t work. And so Clara is becoming defined by another man – a strong soldier, who recently swore to protect Clara and ditch her if essentially she didn’t report in to him. As the strongest character on the show so far, does Clara need this?
|Who's the main character in this show? |
Clue: It's neither of the blokes in the foreground.
Of course, Danny’s other purpose beyond reining in that tearaway girl, is yet to be seen. But it’s almost certainly to be a foil for the new soldier-hating Doctor – forced to travel with a soldier, what will the Doctor do (beyond being unpleasant and insufferable)? There will hopefully be some resolution at the end of this series explaining all this – why the Doctor now hates soldiers so much when he used to be a strong ally of UNIT and the Brigadier, when he encouraged Martha Jones and Ricky/Micky to become soldiers, and when he himself was one for a while – AND what Danny Pink’s main role really is. After all, he’s only a soldier because the Doctor made him want to be one, right? And he must get together with Clara if Awesome Pink is to be explained, right? That ‘God’ woman must have a part to play too… not to mention the Doctor’s ‘familiar face’ (from
I guess). Basically, Steven Moffat’s signature is dropping lots of weird stuff
into a series only to explain them in the finale (or shove them aside and shout
“Timey-wimey, wibbly-wobbly stuff!”). When introducing a new Doctor after
arguably the most popular actor ever, however, that’s a bit of a gamble. Given
past form, I suspect the finale will be a cop-out, and that Danny will die
tragically leaving Clara heartbroken. The point is: it’s not okay to make characters
do weird, out-of-character stuff just to get to a payoff. The ends, however
clever, don’t justify the means – all it does is break a viewer’s faith in a
character’s core values. It’s bad writing. Like having an alien in the
Caretaker episode that’s supposedly ‘threatening the world’ but really can’t
even destroy a secondary school, because it’s just there as a deus ex machina
to bring Clara, Danny and the Doctor into a taut relationship. Like showing us
the ‘thing under the sheet’ in Listen and having the Doctor be terrified of it,
only to reveal that logically it must have been a very brave or messed-up
orphan playing silly beggars (the Doctor, who once dallied with being a god, is
scared of a kid under a bedsheet). Like having a spaceship powered by gold only
require the addition of a golden arrow (made by those same aliens’ allies) be
fired into its hull by Robin Hood to save the day.
In short, I’m rapidly losing faith in Doctor Who. The writing is all over the place, and I fear Capaldi, great as he is, has been ‘sold a pup’. I keep watching because of nostalgia: I want it to be great. For that reason alone, I’m happy to be proved wrong – but that payoff had better be bloody amazing, otherwise I fear the Doctor may have had his day.