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Why I don’t like Doctor Who anymore
OK, here’s the blog I told myself I wouldn’t write.
Being born in Britain in the 70s I have, of course, grown up with Doctor Who. Admittedly I took a bit of a break in 1985 when the exciting US programmes enticed me away, programmes such as The A-Team, The Fall Guy, perhaps even home-grown tosh like Metal Mickey.
But when I got my own personal TV for my bedroom in 1987 one of the first shows I had the choice of watching was Doctor Who and I lapped it up. Even though the 1987 series was a bit weak I still enjoyed Pex vs the Rezzies and aliens crash-landing a bus in a 50s Butlins.
And then one day in 1992 I walked into the Guildford branch of HMV and found some sci-fi TV VHSs. Early Hartnells jostled next to Kirk-era Star Trek tapes. I bought An Unearthly Child, both “The Daleks” tapes, both “Dalek Invasion” tapes and The Cage. I went home, played and enjoyed the marvels of telly styles I’d never seen before.
I also discovered there was a magazine, Doctor Who Monthly, which had been coming out for years! Nobody had ever told me! I’d never seen or heard of it. I started with issue 192 i think, and still have everyone since. It’s only recently I’ve been thinking about cancelling it.
Because I don’t like Doctor Who anymore. Or, more accurately, I don’t like any Doctor Who since David Tennant blubbed his final line “I don’t want to go!”.
When Russell T Davies, brought back Doctor Who bigger and bolder than it had ever been (even including the mighty years of Tom Baker) I was thrilled and relieved that they hadn’t ballsed it up. The same reaction I had to Paul McGann’s 1996 effort, but let’s leave that discussion for another day.
And then… he announced that he was leaving. And suddenly the Whovians went crazy, all pushing for Steven Moffat to take the job, purely because they liked his stories. And that’s when I started to feel the collywobbles. I liked a majority of Moffat’s stories, but I hated such drivel as The Girl in the Fireplace (or G’i't’F'ace as cleverer wordsmiths than I came up with). The Doctor falls in love with some blonde woman for no discernible reason, sidelining the other blonde tart he’d been disastrously sorta shacked up with for the season so far. While she still had a boyfriend, I might add. Who was with them.
I felt, rather like before the Gulf War, that I was the only one saying “whoa, let’s not get carried away”, but the resounding chorus even got as far as BBC Wales for soon RTD was also promoting Moffat as the man for the job. Fandom went mad and started calling Moffat “The Grand Moff” and coming up with stupid anagrams “The Vast Toffee M.N.” (because they had two letters left over). Fandom, as one, were behind him. I was doubtful. A great storywriter does not necessarily make a great showrunner.
Fast forward to January 2009 and a sudden shock announcement that David Tennant’s replacement was going to be announced. Fandom had been hounding David with “when are you leaving?” questions almost immediately he became the Doctor and it never let up. It drove me crazy, nothing would shut up these people so desperate to not savour the present. I was somewhat amazed that David lasted as long as he did with this constant erosion.
Fandom again went C.R.A.Z.Y. They were divided between hyping people like Paterson Joseph and Chiwi Et.. Chiti Ew… another guy with a name so unpronounceable that I can’t even google him. Both Black guys. I’m of course no racist, but this would be as ludicrous as the Doctor suddenly being a woman, or from Korea. You couldn’t adequately explain it away, the Press would have laughed for months, some other countries would stop buying the series, it was just damn silly. Also, the favourite, Paterson Joseph is not that great an actor, as anyone who’s watched him in many things will know. He’s competent yes, but not great. Not like Christopher Eccleston, nor David Tennant. This of course didn’t stop Doctor Who fandom. They were certain. So certain, in fact, that one website even proclaimed he had been cast as the 11th Doctor.
No other names were brought to the fore, just those two. Racking my brains as hard as I could I couldn’t think of anyone else either. So I waited for the announcement. And just before that moment came suddenly another name floated up out of nowhere. Suddenly the betting shops were offering odds on him. Strange. So strange in fact that were I a betting man I’d have put a large amount of money on it. I have a very suspicious mind.
Sure enough the next day the bombshell was dropped. They showed footage of this new guy in a show called “Party Animals” and also in a thing with former blonde bimbo assistant, Billie Piper. And he was terrible. An awful mockney accent and no presence. But he’d been cast by Moffat and pals. The only thing they’d talk about was how much they liked his hair. They decided he was ‘the one’ and wouldn’t even consider anyone who auditioned after him. My spidey senses tingled. This seems a bit shallow, I thought. They’ve pooh-poohed the stuntcasting of a Black actor for the stuntcasting of a 26year-old. Say what you like, this was stuntcasting. How do you get press after such a popular Doctor? You do something completely unexpected and random. And it worked.
Fandom went crazy, again. Like they always do. They declared him perfect and wonderful because of the way he waggled his fingers in the interview. I’m not making this up. I voiced some concerns about this shallowness on a website and was shouted down in a nasty series of vitriolic, personal attacks, designed to humiliate. This received the tacit approval of what had previously been a friendly forum and I left, disgusted.
Doctor Who fandom can be an inclusive friendly place, until you stray from the party line. There’s a strong “this story is great, this story is crap” which you’re not allowed to disagree with. People shout loudly at the dogma of which is best without in some cases even to have seen them. Anyway, fandom had decided that they would love the new doctor. They projected their own desires on the upcoming season “i think it’s going to be much darker, and he’ll have an older companion to heighten that he’s an old man”. They’d already decided his costume and where the season would go. From a few grains of sand they had created a world.
Into this atmosphere, Steven Moffat could do no wrong. They had decided to love everything and anyone who disagreed would not be received warmly. The new Logo (a logo?) was revealed. It was awful. Fandom declared they loved it. A new, terrible costume was revealed. Fandom first went “yuk” then talked themselves into loving it. “It’s growing on me” is the oft-repeated mantra. The new TARDIS. Over-simplistic and plasticky fandom went “it’s growing on me”. I’ve gone on record in a previous blog that I didn’t like it.
And then finally the new series came. Steven Moffat could have had Smith sitting in a corner for 60 minutes gurning and dribbling, fandom would have declared it to be Brilliant. I hated it. “Geronimo!” is the new Doctor’s catchphrase (you have to have a catchphrase now, for some unexplained reason) and fans love it. The first episode was slow, slow, slow, very talky, cheap looking and nothing much happened. There was some tedious drawn-out scene where the Doctor was fed a variety of foods, not liking any of them. Fandom hooted with laughter. Moffat had a girl companion in his own personal fetish gear for no good reason, fandom approved. Oh look, she’s mentally ill, haha, how hilarious, three psychiatrists she’d been through, haha (it may not be three, I don’t care). Because you see, mental problems are funny! Like Edina’s comedy drunkeness in Absolutely Fabulous it doesn’t mean anything! It’s just stuff to laugh at, oh my aching sides! Let’s ignore reality, let’s just treat it like a sitcom. Smith, for his sins, was ok. Not great, not terrible. Not “the Doctor” either.
But no, this new season’s buzzword is “fairytale”. Not for us the Bidmead RealScience. RTD’s Magic>the laws of science has been trounced by the laws of fantasy. Look, a spaceship with an eye. So presumably this spaceship wasn’t built by spaceship builders eh? Or maybe it was and they have Giant Eye parts in a warehouse. Look, a sledgehammer subtle “crack” running through every episode.
What did fandom think? Guess. That’s right, as one, like an army of robots they declared it Brilliant. Wafer-thin nonsensical plot with an “up yours Tennant” scene where Matt Smith walked through an image of the previous incarnations to proclaim “i am the Doctor” in the way a toddler tells his parents “No!” when told to clean up his mess. Curiously the Doctor defeated the monsters the same way he’d done in an earlier Moffat-written episode. Remember that.
Realising that they couldn’t be seen to love 100% of it, fandom collectively rounded on the theme tune. All blame was shifted onto Murray Gold. Nothing to do with Moffat was it? Somehow the nasty Murray Gold had forced poor little Steven Moffat to have a dreadful theme tune. Yup that’s how it works. In time you’ll hear “it’s growing on me”.
Episode 2 came. Moffat tried his usual schtick of being frightening. Or rather, faux frightening. We’re all scared of wooden heads aren’t we? No? Oh well, let’s bung on some scary music from Murray, that’ll fix it. You’re scared now aren’t ya? Yeah, thought so. The episode itself had more than a passing nod to V for Vendetta. In fact so much did it resemble V-for that had it not been based on the 80s-rejected story of a Space Whale (more fantasy) it would have been a direct rip-off. In one scene the Queen (look, she’s black! Aha! Aren’t we clever?!”) is seen in a big flowing cape all neatly laid out (even with an object on top of the fabric) that she couldn’t be more posed and set-up than if Annie Leibovitz had been standing off-camera.
Episode Three followed this lumbering and inadequate episode. This was the one fans had been waiting for. This was the final straw for me. Churchill summons the Doctor to London. Why? Erm, well ok, that’s a big plot-hole, there was no reason. There are Daleks fighting for England. The Doctor (for that’s what they call this lumpy-faced finger-waggler) goes mad and attacks it. He then says “I am the Doctor!!!! And you are The Daleks!!!!” for no good reason. Possibly the clunkiest line ever in Doctor Who. The Daleks beam up to their spaceship, the Doctor follows and their spaceship (clearly an empty warehouse) he describes as “pretty beaten up”. No it isn’t! There’s no signs of damage anywhere! Clearly someone forgot to tell the set dressers. The Doctor does DramaticPose#c perfectly positioned in the centre of the screen, no, left a bit Matt, that’s it lovey, ok, ACTION! The Daleks for no good reason create uber-Daleks who promptly zap them (ooh, they didn’t see that coming???) and then bugger off. Oh and there’s a Star Wars rip-off where some spitfires roar into space (ignore the logic, it’s fantasy) and zap away fruitlessly. There’s a c-plot where someone’s husband is killed but it’s glossed over in a “why did we bother writing this bit?” kind of way. Churchill (about twice his weight) whips the TARDIS key, Amy shouts “oi churchill!” (a nod to a transient advert), a living bomb is allowed to remain an active threat on Earth and… that’s it. I could mention the HIDEOUS redesign of the Daleks (so very blatantly an idea to wring more money out of the gullible fans) but i’m sure you’ve already seen the hunch-backed Tefal wok design for yourself by now. Fandom decided it wasn’t Moffat’s fault, nor the writer Mark Gatiss, it was the fault of a ‘shopping list’ of plot elements. Some writers can do a shopping list, others can’t. Mark Gatiss can’t. But it’s ok, it’s clearly not Moffat’s fault is it? Happily skirting over that as Showrunner, Moffat is responsible for ALL the major decisions. The buck stops there, y’know?
And that’s when I decide, this ‘aint for me. From reports I get back from people still watching, almost every episode is peppered with “ooh that’s a bit like a previous episode/a film” and ‘witty’ dialogue undermining it episode by episode. Episode 1 features the stellar “who the man?” i remind you. Ha-ha-hilarious, isn’t it? no.
Some claimed from ten minutes into episode one that Smith “claimed the role” but I just didn’t get that. They say “David Who?” about the most popular Doctor there’s ever been and slag off his acting style.
There’s a phrase “50 million Frenchmen can’t be wrong!” in an old song, which I disagree with. Remember how many millions followed Hitler. How many believe that no-one walked on the moon in 1969? Weight of numbers does not prove anything to be right. Fandom is still vociferously claiming that Smith is better. I don’t see it. Clearly it’s a problem with me. Fandom can’t possibly be wrong can it?