Dark water


THERE WERE moments - many moments - throughout this year's series of Doctor Who when it felt like the show was on the mend, when we were on our way to a cure.

Yes, the series opener, Deep Breath, was as big of a pig's breakfast as everything else since Steven Moffatt took over as showrunner. But Peter Capaldi was immediately captivating, a real Doctor, something the superficial "sexy" Doctors we've had since the 2005 relaunch never were (and from the original series - or Real Doctor Who, as we like to think of it around here - Peter Davison. Like Eccleston, Tennant and Smith, he's a perfectly good actor, but he isn't the Doctor).

Subsequent episodes showed promise. Into The Dalek had something new to offer, and neither Robot of Sherwood nor Time Heist were half as bad as their trailers suggested they would be. Listen, Kill The Moon and Flatline were fine, solid episodes, compensating for the pedestrian The Caretaker, and derivative Mummy On The Orient Express. But there was the obligatory turd: In The Forest Of The Night, an embarrassing misfire filled with stage school brats, that saw the Doctor shrugging his shoulders and leaving humanity to die.

Which leaves us with the two part season finale, a game of two halves. The first exhilarating instalment, Dark Water, featured some intriguing ideas, and left us with a truly jaw-dropping cliffhanger. But the concluding Death In Heaven brought us full circle, serving up a proper pig's breakfast - and a thoroughly distasteful one, at that.

Death In Heaven is nasty. Ugly, and nasty, with any of the good ideas present in Dark Water sacrificed to overblown emotional histrionics. Missy has orchestrated the whole thing because she wants the Doctor to notice her, or something. Even now I can barely remember the motivation. But it was some tedious bollocks about "feelings" and "emotions", put there to show us how talented and brilliant the showrunner is. Wasn't it more fun when the Master wanted to do things just because he was evil, and wanted to destroy the Doctor? Don't get me wrong: Michelle Gomez, as Missy/The Master, is great fun, but all the wind is taken out of her sails by Moffat's boring, posturing, sub-Hollyoaks emoting. And who thought it would be a good idea to bring back the Brigadier - one of the show's best-loved characters - as a Cyberman? Is that what we're doing now - raping the past for cheap thrills? What will we get next season, Sarah-Jane Smith as a Haemovore?

It's all just such a shame. The talent is there (on screen), but there are forces behind the scenes working against the show. Is it the bean counters at BBC Inc., making sure to milk their cash cow for every last cent? Is it the rampant egos of writers who aren't half as talented as they think they are? Or is the state of Doctor Who just indicative of the current state of British television, which, like every aspect of life in the UK, is dominated by perfectly lovely, well-connected people who all knew one another at university?

Who knows. Peter Capaldi is incentive enough to watch, but he's ill-served by the text. As are we all.


John G said...

Spot on. I found it weirdly difficult to remember why anyone was doing anything from one moment to the next, & many ideas were so silly one tuned them out - eg the governments of the world (including, one assumes, America, Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, France etc etc) agreeing that in the event of something whacky cropping up, The Doctor will be president of Earth. And he's put on an Airforce One-type plane instead of everyone sheltering in the Tardis (for instance). The relentless privileging of romance over everything else is surely the product of writers who've never been in war (as the writers of the original series had all been) or indeed suffered any hardship beyond drooping about over some girl or boy who's 'not that into you'.

kaos said...

The most incisive dissection of the show can be found here:


Anna Chen says it all so much better than I could ever hope to.

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