October 2, 2012

What the hell happened to Doctor Who?

I started getting a little frustrated with Doctor Who at the end of season six. Overall, I liked more episodes than I disliked (and I downright loved some of them), but things got wrapped up with a tidy bow at the end and it didn't feel right. It worked, but it felt slapdash. I let it go. Then we got to season seven and nearly every episode has felt hurried. With the exception of "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship," I've been disappointed.

Full spoilers for this season below the picture.

Let's discuss the episode I loved first. Part of the charm was in the title and comes from my love of Jurassic Park. "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship" hit all the notes of a perfect Doctor Who episode for me. It was fun, it was adventurous, it displayed the Doctor's childlike curiosity and wonder, and then it got serious. The romp through the spaceship bits were fun, Rupert Graves was fantastic, Mark Williams was so good as Brian Pond I forgot he was Arthur Weasley, and then the ending slapped you in the face. The Doctor does have a cold side, and the way Matt Smith played him at the end of this episode reminded me of Eccleston's Doctor. Darker. Less compassionate. You can tell he's been alone too much.

Now, jump back to "Asylum of the Daleks." Enjoyable. Oswin was just genius (though I hope she's less sarcastic as a companion because even though Donna and Amy are my favorites, we need a different personality). The action was intriguing, I liked that the Doctor wiped himself from Dalek memory. Overall, it was a solid episode for me. I didn't like that Amy left Rory because she couldn't have children. They are Amy and Rory. It seems beyond absurd to me that Amy wouldn't talk to him about it before asking for a divorce.

"A Town Called Mercy" was okay for me. Susan the horse was funny, the Gunslinger becoming protector of the town was a nice twist, and I liked seeing the similarities between Kahler-Jex and the Doctor. They've both had to make hard decisions. And I'm a huge fan of Ben Browder. But the Ponds weren't themselves. Amy doesn't listen when she's told to stay behind; why does that change now? Rory was just kind of there. Meh.

I mostly shook my head at "The Power of Three." The slow invasion idea was neat. The Doctor spending a year with the Ponds led me to believe that they were going to leave the TARDIS on their terms, choosing to celebrate their everyday life instead. The moment when the Doctor told Amy, "You were the first face this face saw" made me experience all the feels. Kate Stewart of UNIT was brilliant, and I loved her chemistry with the Doctor. But then... it all went downhill. Fast. First of all, you're telling me a girl/android/thing sat in a waiting room for a YEAR and no one noticed? What happened to all the cubes? Why did the Shakri collect people? Why didn't the Doctor rescue those people from the ship before it blew up? What happened with the cube face nurses? And why did they resort to having the Doctor wave around the sonic screwdriver to magically fix everything in a second?

It's like they were so focused on showing the Pond life that they forgot about the enemy and the resolution.

And then, the farewell to the Ponds in "The Angels Take Manhattan." Immediately after watching it I was distracted by sadness. I adore Amy and Rory, and I'm not ready to see them leave the show. Their fate and the Doctor's reaction to losing his friend was heart-wrenching. But then I thought about the episode, and I talked it over with a friend, and I just became annoyed. The story was full of holes and plot points that didn't make sense, and the Ponds deserved so much more. They at least should have got a two part finale!

Let me go down my list. Why was River there? Why couldn't he travel back to New York and find them? Convoluted timeline, blah, blah, blah. He's the Doctor. What was the point of the gangster guy and the detective? Why did he give Rory to the angels? What was he getting out of the Angel farm? Why didn't the Angel who grabbed River's wrist transport her; was it because it was chained? How is the Statue of Liberty walking across town without anyone noticing? Why did the Doctor erase himself from every database and if he has that ability, why is he doing it now? And why, oh why, did they introduce Rory's father and make us adore him if the plan was just to rip his son away? That was one of my first thoughts after Rory got zapped by the angels: who is going to tell Brian? It was almost Whedon-esque of Moffat. And why wouldn't Amy address the Doctor telling Brian in the afterword? Oh, and why so many mentions of Amy being a mother if the Doctor wasn't going to fix her infertility problem?

Gah.

I did like moments from the episode: Rory and Amy jumping off the building together, Rory's line about the Statue of Liberty made me laugh, the Doctor's reaction to losing Amy and the way River believed it would be okay, and I like that Amy insisted on him never traveling alone.

I'm bummed. I hope that the story of the Ponds isn't finished because it wasn't ideal. I'm happy that at least they were together in the end and not dead... but I'm left feeling unfulfilled. And confused. Steven Moffat is better than this. I know he only wrote the premiere and "The Angels Take Manhattan" but I assume as the executive producer, he's seeing the scripts. Are they too concerned with making it shiny and blockbuster-y? Because for the most part it feels like a summer movie that is more excited about making the Statue Liberty a giant scary Angel instead of telling a story, and that makes me worried about the rest of the season.

What have you guys thought of this season so far? (And please let me know if you have answers to my questions!)

57 comments:

  1. Yep, totally agree on all these points. Couldn't the doctor go back in time to New Jersey? Send a message for the Ponds to come on over and then back to London with them? Too many plot holes. And the giant angel no one notices changing places when they aren't looking? Isn't someone looking at that statue all the time in NY??? But maybe it's just a way to have them ready to go if a future plot calls for it.

    ­Rod Salm
    Death At Your Door, a weekly webcomic about Death trying to live a life.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I had questions about a lot too, and I watched it twice. May need to watch it again to understand more, but here's what I can offer in the way of your questions. Whether my answers satisfy those questions or whether they inspire twice as many, I don't know, but here goes.

    Few things. You ask what he ws getting out the angel farm--it was stated that he was a collector. He just liked collecting things. The angels were something he collected. It's possible he put them all there himself and this whole "farm" was divined once they were collected there by him, as opposed to him stumbling upon it after it already existed.

    The angel who grabbed River could not transport her because it was very, very weak. It had been tortured and chained up for a very long time. It didn't have enough time or strength to transport her right away, and once she was looking at it, it obviously couldn't keep trying.

    The Statue of Liberty wouldn't have "walked" across town without people noticing. The angel are fast, and when it's that late at night and no one is watching, it can move very quickly.

    As for Brian, it's not ideal. But I think the Doctor sort of admitted to him that they wouldn't be coming back one day when he talked about what happened to his previous companions. There was a lot of unspoken words about their fate in that tense conversation, and while it doesn't suffice for an explanation as to what happened to his son, it's probably going to have to be enough for now.

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  3. O.K. as a fan of the doctor for too damn long,back to the pbs days in the 80's,I understand your dilemma.However I personally feel you are nitpicking.I do agree they deserved a two part ending but the way they went was all in all solid.Most of the time one episode leads into several episodes in the future.Hence the origin of the angel in Manhattan,who the detective was,why River was there.I assume (possibly incorrectly)that some parts of this episode will be addressed in future episodes we will have to see.But understand this is Doctor Who,IT WILL MAKE YOU CRAZY,but it is one hell of a ride.

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  4. This season felt dysfunctional. I've never been a fan of the Ponds, but their ending was rather lame. When the statue of Liberty was an angel, they lost me. I don't think in a city the size of New York, the city that never sleeps, something as large as Lady Liberty doesn't have eyes on her...

    The Power of Three could have been, should have been so much more. Why the slow build? And letting the other patients die without even a whimper of consciousness! Wholly disappointed in that episode.

    Dinos in Space (as my nephew has taken to call it) was classic Doctor Who camp, fun and dark, with excellent supporting players. It made me happy.

    Series 7 is not a season I'd recommend to a newbie.

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  5. First: Glad to know I'm not the only one who loved Dinosaurs on a Spaceship. I thought it was the best episode in a long time. There were so many great things, great lines, and great characters. But then I started hearing nothing but bad reviews of it.

    As for Angels Take Manhattan, I thought it was great as an episode (not as good as Blink, but VAST amounts better than "Time of the Angels"), but the ending was lacking. The Doctor can never seem them again. Why? Because plot says so. That's basically the only reason. I could get into all the myriad ways that the Doctor could easily rescue them, or at least visit them occasionally, but I won't, because this is a long enough comment as is.

    I thought that them jumping off the building was beautiful and tragic and perfect... And then they turn around and do a different ending that's not nearly as beautiful or tragic, and doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

    As for the season as a whole, I've mostly enjoyed it... Had some problems with some of the episodes, but I was entertained for the most part, and that's the important thing. Well, ONE of the important things. I do sort of agree that some of the episodes and bits felt hurried.

    Also: What was the point, in Asylum of the Daleks, of having Amy and Rory split up? Didn't make any sense for either character, then they're reconciled and nothing about it is ever mentioned again. Plus, the whole "I left you because I love you so much" felt really forced and kind of stupid in this context. Particularly since... shouldn't she have told him this ages ago and tried to work through it as a couple, rather than her just deciding one day on her own, "I'd better throw him out for his own good." Just one man's opinion.

    At any rate, I'm still very much looking forward to the Christmas episode and the new season, because on of the best parts of the season so far was the new companion. She's pretty awesome.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Rory is awesome. I can take Amy or leave her. The new companiion seems to have promise. I think they said the angel didn't teleport her because it was too weak. Didn't make sense since it feeds off of time and something weak would want to eat. The statue of liberty was a huge let down. A. We know that the statue was built, are we saying that Angels can inhabit any statue now. B. yes, there is probably always someone looking/glancing at it. C. even if someone wasn't looking at it at the moment, they would notice it was gone the next and people would notice a giant statue of liberty statue around town and constantly be staring at it.

    I also didn't like the ending. It felt cop-out-is to me. I loved their self sacrifice building fall thing and loved Rory getting zapped back again, but never to be seen again. Whatever! Tell amy you will meet her in washington DC in two months, pick them up and take them home.

    The angels were so good and so scary in their first episode and have gotten worse ever since. More angels don't mean more scares for some reason. They work better in a more horror movie type atmosphere.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I get somewhat frustrated with people that that pick apart every little nuance of this and really, any other fantasy/sci fi show. I have found the season not as good as 6, but no way NEAR as bad as some have been ragging on it. I just don't see it. Being a "newbie" Doctor Who fan, less than 1 year, obviously I may not have ground to stand on, but I've been a fan of scifi and fantasy all my life. You have to suspend belief on a certain level with these genres. I just enjoy the ride.

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  8. I've always found Rory annoying and Amy I would flip flop between liking and being annoyed with her. I cried a ton at this last episode. I'm hoping the next companion is entertaining.

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  9. I think it's fair to ask all of these questions this season, and would agree that these episodes seem to take place in a holding pattern; with Smith still in place thru the 50th Anniversary happenings and the cast shuffle around him, it was tough for these episodes to matter in the same way as last year's batch, which were wrapped up in an up-front story arc.

    But the thing that didn't ring true for me at all was this: you're telling me that the Weeping Angels have beaten and hurt the Doctor by taking his two best friends away, and he doesn't even wish revenge or punishment in passing?

    This is the same man who, as you said, left someone to die for the killing a triceratops he'd just met. And who made a laughing stock out of a general's whole life for assisting in the kidnapping - and care of! - Amy and Melody. For both River and Amy to be written to get him to move on immediately afterward made this seem even clumsier. Even Ten mourned Rose visibly for a spell before meeting Martha.

    But, I also think Amy and Rory's story continues - and so did at least one enterprising soul.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "But the thing that didn't ring true for me at all was this: you're telling me that the Weeping Angels have beaten and hurt the Doctor by taking his two best friends away, and he doesn't even wish revenge or punishment in passing?"

      You are absolutely right.

      Delete
  10. This is just a continuation of the same shit that was present in Matt Smith's first season, emerged fully in "A Good Man Goes to War", "Let's Kill Hitler", and "The Wedding of River Song".

    Moffat CAN be a good writer IF he has someone with veto power over his stuff.

    The problem is, without someone script editing him, you get these lapses of logic, wildly inconsistent characterization, the Mary Sue-ness of River Song, and the Marty Stu-ization of the Doctor.

    "Asylum" Pretty good, highly flawed, terrible final few minutes.
    "Dinosaurs" Best of the bunch, still highly flawed.
    "Mercy" Good story, not Doctor Who. Doesn't understand the character of the Doctor (he HAS killed before to save others... hell, it wasn't even that long ago that he last did it, it was the PREVIOUS FUCKING EPISODE), nor does it understand the Ponds.
    "Power of Three" Interesting concept, terribly done. Too much Ponds, too little plot, no logic to the ending, Kate Stewart shows promise.
    "Manhattan" No logic. Load of shit. Hate River Song (have hated her since Tennant was still the Doctor). No longer care about the Angels.

    Moffat also fails in that, much like Russel T. Davies before him, he puts way too much focus on the companions and not on the Doctor. They also love melodrama too much. It's not that Doctor Who should avoid spotlighting companions, the "Ace Trilogy" in McCoy's final season was brilliant, Turlough was used to brilliant effect in the Black Guardian trilogy, and again in "Planet of Fire" (though the four individual stories are not among the series' best). There was also the strong usage of Ian and Barbara in the First Doctor's run, and the U.N.I.T. team throughout Pertwee's time into the beginning of Tom Baker's run, but even then (with the exception of Ian and Barbara because the show was still VERY new at that point), they weren't the central part of the show, it was always the Doctor's story.

    As it is, we're seeing more and more "blockbuster action flick" crap focusing on the co-stars rather than high quality sci-fi focusing on the star.

    It's not a new problem, it dates back to "Rose", but it's only grown more pronounced in these past few seasons.

    ReplyDelete
  11. So much to process - thanks for the great thoughts everyone!

    ReplyDelete
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