Monday, September 3, 2012

My Problems With DOCTOR WHO Lately

Be warned: massive spoilers for basically the entire new series, as well as Saturday's episode abound below.

Let's talk about one of my favorite shows of all time: Doctor Who.  When I was introduced to Doctor Who 2 or 3 years ago, my mind was freakin' blown.  I'd never seen a show that was so cavalier about how little it took itself seriously, while also delivering some of the most heart-wrenching, beautiful episodes in television. Which is why it frustrates me to watch it lately.

Doctor Who still has the potential to do amazing things.  There are always some absolutely phenomenal episodes sprinkled throughout the seasons, and often some really bad ones as well.  It happens.  You groan, you shake your head, you move on, because the next one will probably be awesome.

So, why was I so upset at Saturday's episode?  Because it could have been really, really cool.

Doctor Who, starting around Season 6, kind of started to suck.  Not terrible, but not the awesomeness that was Season 5.  Season 6 started with a bang, with the Doctor dying.  But, unfortunately, it all went down hill from there.  The resolution to that plot was stupid and not at all satisfying.  The idea was that the Doctor had to die or time would rip itself apart--it was a fixed point in time.  So, the Doctor used a robot body, hid inside of it, and the robot body gets shot in the head and "dies."'s a robot.  This isn't just tricking some random enemies into thinking he'd dead, this is tricking...TIME.  So, it doesn't make sense.  Time is not a person. It doesn't think.  If a fixed point must happen, then how does faking his death fit the bill?  He's still alive.  His life force still exists.

And the prophecy at the end of the episode was horrifying: silence will fall when the question is asked.  What is "the question"? "Doctor who?"  Ugh!

We can't learn his name.  It's one of those mysteries that's been around for so long that answering it would be meaningless and add nothing to the story.  Learning his name would be the equivalent of explaining the Force in Star Wars, there was no point, and it ruined the fun. Besides, none of us speak Gallifreyan, so learning his name would be the equivalent of "Your name is Bill!"  There's not going to be any "dun dun DUN!" feelings.  We'll just go...", I guess?"

It seems that Moffat is falling to the same inability to resolve plots that Davies started suffering from (see: Tinkerbell Jesus Doctor).

Photo from Deviant Art user kotkata111
Seriously.  This seriously happened.  This is awful, and it makes me want to go weep in a corner.

The Christmas special was AWESOME.  It was sweet and dramatic and whimsical, and it represented everything Doctor Who can be.  The season 7 premier, unfortunately, fell flat.  Why?  A ton of inconsistencies.  A great break down of this can be found here--an opinion piece written by Alex Day.  I'll be mentioning a lot of his points, but I don't necessarily agree with all of them. ...most of them, though...yes...

1) Oswin is exactly the same as all of the other female characters currently in the show.

Here's an interesting fact: not every female in the world is a beautiful, smart, flirting, teasing, confident woman.  Amy Pond was cool because she was similar but different to Donna.  Both were strong redheads, but Donna was more brash, more loud and willing to call the Doctor on his shenanigans.  Amy was sexy, flirty, and more sassy.  But River started showing up more...and she was exactly the same as Amy--flirty, sassy, sexy.  And then they introduced Oswin, who  It's like Moffat can only write one type of female.  There are other personality types out there, y'know.

While I'm on the subject of Oswin, let me complain loudly about how we've been introduced to the new companion early.  The actress that played Oswin is also the new companion.  How exactly this works, since the companion's name is different, I don't know, but it's annoying.

Even though Oswin was really derivative of every female that has come before her, she was still a cool character.  I happen to like sexy, flirty, sassy girls, so I liked her, too.  However, if she had been a throwaway character, just a redshirt, the episode's conclusion would have been so much more tragic.  Her somehow being tied to the new companion just clouds the emotional impact of an innocent human being turned into a Dalek--which was a brilliant, tragic, awesome ending to the episode.  Too bad it didn't have the impact it should have because of everything else that happened.

2) Amy and Rory.  Just...everything about them.

"So...we're married now."
"This is great TV."

They were handled so sloppily in this episode.

Their introduction was great.  Everyone knows that Rory worships Amy, so to see them acting bitchy and bitter toward each other and getting divorced?  That's a great way to start the episode, and it's a character arc we haven't explored yet.  What led to their break up?  When last we saw them at Christmas, they were fine, so this must take place at least at year, if not more, later, right?  It takes people a long time to reach that point, especially in a relationship like theirs where at least one of them (Rory) would do everything he can to stay.  Shit, he waited for her for 2000 years.  He's not going to let this go so easily.

But then, when they explain why they were getting doesn't make any sense.  She can't have kids and Rory wants kids.  Ever since Demon's Run, in which she had a baby (River), she can't have kids because of something they did to her.  But the way this is delivered, she says almost what I wrote exactly--almost word for word--to Rory.  But...he should know that right?  As Alex Day says:
"This scene, which should have been great, was the most awful infodump I’ve ever seen. “I can’t have kids!”, said Amy. “I know”, said Rory. So Rory knows. So why is she explaining it? Amy just continues “ever since Demon’s Run they did something to me” … he should know that already! She is literally saying it for the AUDIENCE. Bad writing. Objectively."
And this is especially annoying because it reminds me of something else that was handled badly with the Ponds: the loss of River.  It might have been a clever reveal that Amy's daughter Melody Pond grows up to be River Song, but they still effectively lose their daughter.  It might be nice to see River all grown up and know she turned out okay, but you basically lost your daughter.  For all intents and purposes, she's dead.  And they never deal with that emotionally.  They have a baby, she's pregnant, Amy's all Momma-Bear about getting her daughter back, and when they reveal that the baby is River, Amy's reaction is basically "Oh well."  You're not...the the least bit upset that you don't get the raise the baby you carried and stressed over for long?  You're totally okay with how this turned out?  Yeah...okay...

And now she wants to have kids again?  This should be adding to the anguish of not getting to raise the child they already have.  This should be a huge deal.  But instead, it's resolved by the end of the episode.  They fight and fight and then they start making out and the episode ends with Rory coming home with a fist pump and a hissed "Yessssss!"  Really?

3) The Daleks...just...everything about them...

This could have easily been fixed with a single throw away line.  It's not, however, and we're left with a huge gaping question that is never bothered to be answered.

When talking about the Daleks at one point, Rory asks "What color?" which is a valid question.  When last we met the Daleks, their outer casing had been changed.  They were super colorful...they kinda looked like Power Rangers or something.  A lot of fans were really upset by this--it wasn't the intimidating, sleek, polished metal look of previous Daleks.  And there were only 5 of them. But when Rory asks his question, Amy and the Doctor just look at him like he's an idiot.  Why?  Aren't you curious, too?

Then, the crew gets taken before a massive Dalek council.  It's really intimidating to be presented before a shit-ton of Daleks, especially since any one of them could come unhinged and kill you with a zap instantly.  But...where did they all come from?
The Daleks have a complicated history.  They keep getting killed off and brought back.  But every time they're brought back, they've explained how it's possible.  The first time we meet the Daleks in the revived series, it's a single Dalek.  The Daleks were thought to have been killed off in the Time War, and this is the only one that remains.  When it dies, that's the end...or so we think.

Then we meet the Dalek Emperor, who has created a new race of Dalek's from dead humans.

Then a few rag tag survivors have to try to free the Daleks from the time-locked Time War.

Then the Daleks are recreated from Davros, who has survived and been floating around somewhere.

The plot of trying to rebuild the Dalek race has been used over and over again.  They're like Voldemort, they keep trying to rebuild, but they always get foiled in the end.  So the introduction of these new Daleks should be a big deal.  The Doctor should be shocked, taken aback, horrified by their sudden growth in numbers.  But he never even questions it.  The asylum is a fine plot point--that one I can accept.  But the sudden growth of new Daleks?  Where did they come from?

For some reason, the Daleks refer to the Doctor as "The Predator" in this episode.  This is bizarre because it's never been mentioned before.  Since these are new Daleks, they might have a new word for the Doctor, but why?  Why not just call him the Doctor?  Why would the Mighty Morphing Dalek Rangers invent a new word, and one so spooky.

"The Predator" implies that the Daleks fear the Doctor--after all, that makes the Daleks "The Prey."  But the Multi-Colored Rainbow Force didn't act scared.  They acted superior, above it all.  Fear of the Doctor, if these are real Daleks, doesn't make sense because true Daleks have no emotions other than rage.  If these were created from humans, that would be one thing.  That's what made the Daleks in "The Parting of the Ways" so interesting.  It's what made Oswin so interesting, and Dalek Sec.  They've proven time and time again that Dalek/Human hybrids don't work because they destroy that emotionless bloodlust that makes the Daleks who they are.

Cyberman: “Daleks, be warned. You have declared war upon the Cybermen.”
Dalek Sec: “This is not war, this is pest control!”
Cyberman: “We have five million Cybermen. How many are you?”
Dalek Sec: “Four.”
Cyberman: “You would destroy the Cybermen with four Daleks?”
Dalek Sec: “We would destroy the Cybermen with one Dalek! You are superior in only one respect!”
Cyberman: “What is that?”
Dalek Sec: “You are better at dying!”

Oswin helps the Doctor out by hacking into the Daleks hive mind and erasing all mention of "The Predator."  What's confusing about this is that, while that might work on the new Daleks who only know the Doctor by "The Predator," it wouldn't work on the older Daleks--the Shiny Happy Rainbow Fun Time Force.  They still know the Doctor by "The Doctor."  So, why is this presented as such a big deal.  It basically provides them with a very brief window to escape.  The Technicolor Dream Team is still going to reinform the other Daleks, so the Doctor dancing around at the end, echoing the Daleks' confused question "Doctor who?" is a little bit stupid.  It leaves a big ol' plot hole.  Two...really.

4) Oswin and the Doctor

"I am unique in my sexy flirtiness because I'm not a blonde or a redhead."
This brings me back full circle.  One of the things that makes Doctor Who such an awesome show is because the Doctor cares about people--all people.  He's often put himself and everyone else in danger to try to bring one person over to the good side, to try to help them redeem themselves.  Whenever someone dies, he is deeply, profoundly hurt by the failure.

This episode could have been that.  Oswin is a spunky, awesome girl.  She has spirit.  She's a genius that can tap into complex networks.  To learn, after spending so much time with her, that she's already been turned into a Dalek and she's developed a delusion to help her cope...this should be an event that does a number on the Doctor's emotions.  And he is first.  But then he runs away, gets back to the ship, and apparently forgets all about it.  In an episode by Davies, this would have ended with the Doctor staring out the window, thinking of the lost girl, saddened by how fucked up the universe can be.  Instead, it ends with the Doctor spinning around gleefully, muttering "Doctor who!"--and I've already explained why that is complete bullshit.

All in all, it's frustrating because there is the base of a really cool episode here.  If the Doctor had only had one of the companions along with him--probably Amy--we could have learned about the deep issues that have caused Rory and Amy to split.  Then, the Amy being infected with Dalek nanobots can still work well, and the Oswin story wouldn't get messed up with a whole bunch of extra crap.  It could've been a one-off, really emotionally shattering episode about a human that rejects her situation. The revelation had so much power behind it.  Too bad they immediately clouded that effect with everything else.