Uncollected Thoughts: Doctor Who s11 e01 – The Woman Who Fell To Earth


Well, as at least one other person has said in connection with the debut of the Thirteenth Doctor, the Universe hasn’t come to an end, yet.

The newest new era of Doctor Who, the first episode of which I watched almost 55 years ago, involves two great changes. The first, and in many ways most important, is the arrival of Chris Chibnall as showrunner, replacing Steven Moffat, whose initially brilliant tenure on the show had long since collapsed into an undisciplined mess of uncontrollable whimsy.

The second was the one everyone picked on, and that’s the new Doctor, Jodie Whittaker, the first female Doctor.

Howls of outrage from the unreconstructed masses have abounded, castigating the decision to cast a woman as political correctness gone mad, evidence of a rigid feminist agenda and all sorts of other mayhem, coupled, naturally, with statements about being perfectly willing to accept a female Doctor, just not when it’s being done to an agenda, which unanimously came over as about as believable as a Donald Trump comment.

To set things rolling, Chibnall went for a literally down to earth opener, an Earthbound story with an unconscious echo of the early Pertwee days, though I don’t remember any of his stories taking place up North, let alone in Sheffield, which frankly has never looked so good. There was no place for the Tardis, and we didn’t even get the Doctor herself for the first fifteen minutes, with Chibnall taking time to gently build up the new assistants. I now I’ve been critical in the past about Moffat, and Russell Davies before him, making more of the assistants than the Doctor, but the difference between these three and their recent predecessors is just how determinedly normal Ryan (Tosiin Cole), Jaz (Mandip Gill) and Graham (the controversial choice of Bradley Walsh) all were.

Actually, the best of them was the combative Grace (Sharon D. Clarke), wife to Graham, Nan to Ryan (Jaz was his old schoolmate, creating an easy, family-like network from the off) but she was killed off, to great regret.

But what about the Doctor? You never get the best of them first off, when they’re still milling around, trying to sort out which bits (if any) of the last regeneration they’re going to keep, and what’s going to be new. Whittaker fizzed with energy throughout, fast-talking, improvisational, a born leader. There were a few metafictional speeches, which most;y got their business over with quickly and let us get on with the story, which was convoluted and fast-paced without ever quite getting too clever.

I normally view any self-regarding Yorkshire fiction with suspicion if not repulsion, which is only natural from a Lancastrian, but the Sheffield setting and the reference to the Doctor’s new Sonic Swiss Army Knife without a Knife including added Sheffield steel were acceptable.

Overall, a decent debut, enough to have me wanting to view the second part. But I think the episode did plenty enough to stick two fingers up at the misogynists. And more importantly to me, it showed signs of being a lot more grounded than the Moffat era, and that is very welcome.

Uncollected Thoughts: Doctor Who – Twice upon a Time


Since the high point of the 50th Anniversary special, and Matt Smith’s ending close behind it, I have gone a long way from Stephen Moffat’s Doctor Who. From the little I have seen of her in the role, I think I have done a disservice to myself over Pearl Mackie as Bill Potts, but how would it have been possible to enjoy a single, however delightful, character/actress when I found the writing so tiresome and ridiculous, and the direction it has meant for Peter Capaldi so meaningless and irrelevant?

This year’s Xmas Special marks Moffat and Capaldi’s departure. It’s always intriguing to watch a new Doctor emerge, to try to guess from the seconds of time they are allotted in such Specials what they might possibly be, to wonder if a lost enthusiasm is about to undergo its own regeneration.

Of course, the decision to break with tradition and go with a female Doctor, Jodie Whittaker, for the first time has attracted controversy and much head-full-of-shit predictions of doom from a large part of the Whovian audience. One particular YouTuber has poured out a stream of videos castigating the decision, predicting that the show will be killed off, this time forever, and generally being completely Cassandra about the whole thing.

I use the term ‘head-full-of-shit’ for this gentleman and those who flock to ‘like’ his pronouncements of doom because their reasoning is full-of-shit. The key moment came when he said that he had no intrinsic objections to there one day being a female Doctor, providing it was done for the right reasons: apparently, the selection of Jodie Whittaker is solely due to a stridently feminist agenda, crossed with fervent Social Justice Warrior preoccupations.

Do you recall that episode of Yes Minister in which Jim Hacker decides to spearhead the promotion of women within the Civil Service, in an attempt to bring parity forward? This led to a glorious scene where the Private Secretaries all meet to welcome the scheme, to heap praise on it as a worthy intention and one to which they would all lend their support, before going on to explain why a female Private Secretary would be completely unsuitable for their particular Department.

Yeah, full-of-shit, like I said.

In condemning this bozo-esque response, I’m not maligning those with genuine, and reasoned concerns about the idea, or about what we already know of how it’s to be executed, and in particular those who, for some strange reason, plan to actually watch the new series before making up their minds. Weird bunch, aren’t we?

In the end, and of course it literally was the end, Capaldi regenerates, the camera does everything it can to actually prevent us seeing anything of the Thirteenth Doctor, except that her left and right eyeballs are definitely surrounded by women’s eyelashes, then there’s one facial shot, two words (“Oh, brilliant!”) and the usual cheap melodramatic chaos. The Tardis goes haywire (why do they always regenerate inside the Tradis when they know it always wrecks the bloody place?), turns on its side, opens the door and, after a bit of desperate clinging to run out the last of those measly seconds Moffat left to Chibnall, she falls out. Into the raw timestream. And the Tardis vanishes.

Oh, of course I’ll watch the first episode of the next series. But it’s hardly encouraging.

After that long digression, what of the story? What of the meeting of Two Doctors, of Twelfth and First (a lovely performance by David Bradley, echoing my distant recollections of William Hartnell to gentle perfection), both determined to resist Regeneration and die?

Twelve’s got the better excuse. He’s been doing this for so long, he has seen so many people come and go, and that goes for versions of himself too, he’s tired beyond endurance of saving a Universe that never gets better for it, that only wants saving all the more for his doing so. Is he never allowed to seek rest?

One is  the anomaly. He’s the hard-headed, practical Doctor, the rebel who left Gallifrey to learn why Good, with everything it’s got stacked against it, always beats Evil. He wants to claim the right to live and die as himself. If he does so, all that everyone from Troughton to Capaldi will cease to exist. But One doesn’t yet know that he is why Good wins every time (little bit megalomaniacal there, Moffat, but we’ll let you have that one).

The story’s about One learning to accept his future, which comes as a lesson learned from how Twelve resolves the practical problem before them, a case of Frozen Time for which their joint decision to commit Time Lord suicide at the South Pole is responsible. You can read that as a bit of reflexive ego from Moffat, propounding NewWho’s superiority over Old… sorry, ClassicWho, teaching it a lesson: I certainly didn’t miss that implication.

How it’s worked is this: a First World War British Captain facing a scared German Soldier in No Man’s Land, both wounded, both with a gun pointed at the other, neither able to speak the other’s language, is about to die. With the stiffest of upper lips, he is prepared for it, accepts it. Instead, he winds up at the south Pole, with the two Doctors, kidnapped by a barenakedlady made out of CGI glass.

To save confusion, this is not an enemy. This is Testimony, an organisation created in the 5 Billionth Century, that reaches through time to people at the moment of their death, extracts and copies their memories and returns them to that moment, so as not to upset the flow of history. In short, they are granting immortality, to everyone, who’s names, faces, bodies, personalities can be recreated on these women of glass. The dead, all of them, can live again. Including Bill Potts.

Much of the hour is taken up with working through this plot, to find out who Testimony are and learn they’re not baddies. In the end, Twelve and One have to take the Captain back, to the crater, to the frightened German, to his death. By then, hope of a miracle has undermined his stoicism.

The Captain is played by Mark Gatiss. In a way, he’s a stereotype, almost but not a caricature. Gatiss plays him note-perfect, in every quaver and semi-quaver. He may be a type but he’s a human type, quiet, determined, incredibly brave. He breaks your heart just standing there, so clearly baffled by what has happened to him, yet accepting of his fate. He goes without a name until the moment he has to return to his position in the crater, and then that name is both so obvious and yet so heart-achingly perfect: Captain Lethbridge-Stewart.

But Twelve has a trick, one impossible trick.bTime can be cheated, but only because of the day this is, the one impossible day in all the history of War. He moves the scene forwards in time, two hours. From the German trenches, the sound of singing, Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht. From the British trenches, Silent Night, Holy Night. It’s the Christmas Day Armistice, the troops spreading out into No Man’s Land, shaking hands, sharing food and drink, booting a football around. And two wounded men in a crater receive first aid, and don’t shoot each other.

Of course, it’s all a Moffat cheat, it’s the complete upset of everything Testimony do, it’s changed time, and I can see that even as I’m swept up into the great big swirl of emotion, and I give way to the sentiment being evoked, and to the stoic, quiet man who accepted his duty, who trusted his wife to carry on, whose love for his sons was evident even as he was accepting that his removal from them was the natural way of things, who gets to go home after all. Goodwill and tidings of joy to all Lethbridge-Stewarts, whenever you are.

He’s pulled it off, or enough of it for me to give Moffat credit for a beautifully judged finale, only he’s Stephen Moffat and he can’t help himself, he has to go and blow it completely with some twattishly stupid, overwrought, overdrawn-out writing that Capaldi has no alternative but to go Over The Top with, as he rants around the Tardis shouting instructions to the next Doctor as to what he’s got to be, like the next Doctor doesn’t already know after twelve times round the houses, sounding for all the world like Stephen Moffat trying to stamp an indelible stamp all over Doctor Who and tie Chris Chibnall into a strait-jacket.

Then Chibnall gets his, what was it, ninety seconds? and chucks poor Jodie out of the door still wearing Capaldi’s clobber (her own is nothing to write home about either).

So, behind the running around, the outrageous appeals to sentiment (I so did not need Jenna Coleman popping up to play Clara-the-Calamity, even for sixty seconds) there was a deeply affecting story that deeply affected me. Only it wasn’t the Doctor’s struggle with himself to accept Regeneration, which was a hideous piece of ghastly hamming, it was Mark Gatiss and Captain Lethbridge-Stewart, and the understanding that no matter how alien they seem to us now, such men were real, and what they thought and felt was real, no matter how much they had to mask it.

And that made this hour worthwhile to me.

Uncollected Thoughts: The Doctor Falls


Series 10

It’s been something like two whole seasons since I last watched Doctor Who, with not even getting rid of Jenna Coleman being enough to tempt me back whilst Stephen Moffat was still there. I tended to read the reviews in the Guardian, though not always, doubtful that the praise being lavished on the current series, and particularly on Pearl Mackie as current companion, Bill Potts, was enough to make the series any more palatable to me.

Last night marked the end of the season and the ends of Moffat and Peter Capaldi, who will always go down for me as the Doctor who could have been abso-frickin’-lutely brilliant but in the end was wasted by the flailing/flailing imagination of his writer. It got such a write-up, and gave one massive spoiler away that I felt compelled to break the moratorium and catch the episode whilst it’s still just possible to use the BBC i-Player without having to register.

Given that she’d been killed and turned into a Cyberman, I probably wasn’t getting to see Bill at her best, but I saw enough to think I’d probably concur with the consensus: Pearl Mackie looked like she was a brilliant companion.

As for the rest of it, well, even with two Masters, it was all a bit flat. A lot of it can be put down to my not having seen any of the series to date, but very little of it worked. Take the Master and Missy. It’s been done before with multiple Doctors but this is, I believe, the first instance of two successive versions of the Master hyping each other up. I never felt them to be equals though, the John Simm version was clearly the dominant one (Moffat never could handle strong women), and their fate was a colossal clunker, for all it tried to be portentous.

Missy hugs the Master and kills him, leaving him enough time to reach his Tardis, escape, and regenerate into her. She’s going to go stand alongside the Doctor in his solitary, foredoomed, final battle against the Cybermen. But the Master is so determined not to assist his old friend-turned-enemy, that he shoots Missy in the back, with one of those special, made-up-on-the-spot magic guns that lets Moffat do a big flourish without having to bogged down with consistency, logic or anything remotely plausible, because you see it doesn’t just kill his next regeneration but all the ones after it. It’s a magic destroy all regeneration energy gun, you see.

Never mind that no-one believes that shit for a second, or thinks that if Chris Chibnall doesn’t want the Master/Missy,the showrunner after him won’t bring him/them back in an instant, though hopefully with an actual explanation instead of Moffat’s out of a back pocket and no-one will notice bullshit.

Then there’s the rest of it. The Doctor goes around merrily blasting Cybermen with his sonic screwdriver until the Bill-one blasts him. He sets off an explosion that destroys all of them, blasts them to bits, except himself and the Bill-one. Why are they intact when the more more heavily armoured ones are smithereened? You want an explanation, a rationalisation? Ha, ha! you mad fool.

Up pops Puddle-Heather from a puddle. Don’t ask me, go google her like I did. Remember that bit about how Bill can’t possibly be turned back from being a Cyberman, it’s completely and utterly impossible? And you believed it? Stephanie Hyams snogs Pearl Mackie on Saturday night prime-time TV and we are definitely not in Kansas any more, Toto, and all the better for it, and, hey presto, Bill’s Bill again. She’s Puddle-Bill, mind you, and she’s off on a tour of the universe with Heather, not the Doctor, whose dead and unregenerated body she leaves in the TARDIS.

Now I do remember the impressive effort Moffat put into satisfyingly breaking the Twelve Regenerations cycle, back when he’d do things like put explanations in, so suddenly, with no apparent reason, the first Doctor of that new cycle isn’t going to regenerate, until Bill drops a tear on him, which wakes him up, but only after she’s jumped out the door.

(This is a right mess by now, isn’t it?)

So now the Twelfth Doctor is bubbling over with regeneration energy, but he’s fighting it. We get that by now massively overused line, “I don’t want to go” (is that going to be used in every fucking regeneration in future?) and Capaldi’s fighting it down. He’s had enough, he doesn’t want to change any more, he’s sick of turning into another person over and over again, the TARDIS takes him somewhere where it’s snowing outside and he stumbles out still shouting that he’s never going to change again and it’s echoed by the cliffhanger, the bit that got me to watch this farrago again, the bit where David Bradley does what he did so stunningly three and a half years ago in An Adventure in Time and Space, where he reincarnates old Bill Hartnell, and out of the snow, equally refusing to change, walks the First Doctor…

Cue Christmas Special.

Now I’ll watch that one, just to see how Chris Chibnall gets out of that, though I don’t mind saying I would roll on the floor, kicking my little heels in the air, if they had the balls to make David Bradley the Thirteenth Doctor and roll it round again, not that they will. But I haven’t missed anything whilst I’ve been away, and Moffat hasn’t got any better, and if Chibnall isn’t planning a radical change of pace, I won’t be back for the next series either.

But we shall wait and see.

A Knight with Honour


A man of grace, talent and courage
A man of grace, talent and courage

Initially, I didn’t think I had anything worth saying. I’ve seen John Hurt in many things, and I’ve been aware of his name since he burst into prominence in The Naked Civil Servant, though I didn’t watch it then (there was no way that was going to be on my mother’s television set) and I have seen nothing but clips and quotes from it since.

But from that point onwards, John Hurt was a serious name, and his presence in something, anything, even Alien (one of the few roles of his that I actually have seen, and in the cinema too) was a sign of seriousness, of purpose, of a level of quality.

The John Hurts of this world don’t appear in any old kind of tat.

Of all his roles, the one with which I am most familiar is that of the War Doctor in the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special, in which he was brilliant. You can say that it was beneath his talents, and despite my affection and admiration for the time when Stephen Moffat still had it, and in spades, I wouldn’t argue strenuously with you, but I can’t think of anyone else who could so effectively have conveyed the ranges of emotion that the role demanded. Without Hurt, it could and probably would have been a mess.

So as I read about his career, it strikes me that for the very limited amount of insight and appreciation I can bring, John Hurt is one of those whose passing simply must be marked, as one more loss to a world growing steadily blacker. One less figure whose very presence meant Here Be Quality. I don’t believe in Knighthoods and Knights, but he was a Knight of Quality, a Knight with Honour.

Another (and hopefully last) post about the new series of Doctor Who


For no better reason than the obvious one

I don’t want to keep going on about Dr Who especially as I’ve severed myself sufficiently from the programme that I haven’t even read the blogs for subsequent episodes on either the Guardian or TV.com, but another thought has come into my head to further define what I now find so unacceptable about Stephen Moffat’s writing.

No, I’m not talking about his continuing habit of making Clara Oswald into such a puffed-up, self-absorbed, pig-ignorant embarrassment who can’t recognise being out of her depth when on the ocean bed without a bathyscape (sorry, I really loathe the character, does it show?)

The thought arose from re-reading Terry Pratchett’s non-fiction collection, A Blink of the Screen, and the several essays he had to write at different times, defending and defining the writing of fantasy. Despite the heavily advertised SF trappings, Dr Who is and for a very long time has been a fantasy programme. What else is the sonic screwdriver but a magic wand? In particular, under Moffat, it has made its name as a programme in which anything can happen.

But the main problem with Anything Can Happen fiction is that you can’t have simply Anything Happen. Fiction can be greatly enlivened by the employment of the unconventional and the unexpected, but these must in turn obey conventions and be at the very least expectable if they are to succeed.

To take an example: think back to that moment in The Fellowship of the Ring where the Fellowship is racing to escape from Moria, only for the awakened Balrog to pursue them across the Bridge of Khazad-Dum. Only Gandalf stands between the Fellowship and disaster. Imagine therefore that, instead of waxing defiant and breaking the bridge with his staff, Gandalf whips out a Thompson Sub-Machine Gun out from under his grey robes and blows the Balrog to fiery chunks?

Why can’t you do that? After all, it’s only what Indiana Jones did in Raiders of the Lost Ark when that sword-enhanced Arab stepped out in front of him, demonstrating the looseness of his wrist when it came to scimitar-swinging. Indy just blew him away.

But what happened in Raiders was the explosion of a cliche in a manner that, whilst unexpected, was nevertheless completely in keeping with the world of the story. Guns not only existed but had already been used in the film. All Indy did was to refuse to follow a convention of the kind of pulp fiction that informed and underwrote Raiders.

To try a similar trick in Tolkien, who is engaged in the creation of a coherent secondary world in which guns, gunpowder and other weaponry of that class do not function, would be to explode the book, and Middle-Earth with it.

Dr Who has for a very long time, and especially under Moffat, a much looser programme. Anything Can Happen. It continually does. Anything Can Happen, and so large amounts of Anything must keep Happening, every time, so as to continually dazzle the audience and keep them gasping. But the more Anything that Happens, the bigger and brighter and less expected the next Anything must be. It becomes a game of spectacle, which is precisely the point at which a diamond-hard control is required.

And that’s what Moffat lacks. Some of the things he springs on his audience are solely for effect. They cannot be related to the story in any way. Take episode 1 this series, where the Doctor emerges from a fog of dry ice, in medieval times, riding on a twenty-first century tank and playing heavy metal guitar on an electric guitar that is not plugged in because there is most of a millennium to go before there will be anything that it can be plugged into but he’s still rocking it like Pete Townsend.

That’s not even something that was done in service to the plot, but it’s emblematic of Moffat’s whole approach. The trouble is that if Anything Can Happen, and literally Anything Does Happen, then every part of the story ceases to hold any meaning. Dramatic tension, emotional significance, personal development, all these are dependent upon the story holding a real measure of conflict and the realistic possibility of consequence.

But if, at any time, the hero can produce a rabbit of any shape, size or colour out of his back pocket, danger and death and destruction become irrelevant.

Where is the battle if the wizard can, whenever he feels like it, turn the opposing army into pink butterflies? What is the point of the story if it can be resolved by some madcap, off the wall gesture that has no bearing on what has happened thus far?

If Anything Can Happen, there is no point to what does happen or what has already happened.

Moffat obviously used to understand that but he’s lost sight of what is a fundamental requirement of fantastic fiction. He’s fallen in love with the idea of spectacle and incongruity, and lost the ability to control his fiction. At that point, any writer is doomed, usually to see his audience drain away like the dirty suds at the end of the bath. As we now understand is happening.

A Bit of a Gloat


Gloating is an ugly emotion, and I get so few chances to indulge in it.

Having jacked Doctor Who in after a series of increasingly disastrous and nonsensical episodes, I have to confess to finding myself amused to read that the series is apparently in trouble.

If the reports I have been reading are to be believed, last year’s ratings – the first series to feature Capaldi – tanked it big time, and the first two episodes of this season – the ones to which I took such exception when I watched them – made last year’s audiences look like a major success.

Add to this the by-now confirmed fact that Jenna Coleman is leaving and the new rumours that Peter Capaldi wants to quit to spend more time with his wife and children, and the waters are seriously mounting.

But what astonished me most was the rumour that the BBC are considering radically reformatting the programme by cancelling the 2016 series and substituting a short series of films, a la Sherlock.

This isn’t without precedent: there was a year under Russell T Davies where the same approach was adopted, but I don’t think that had anything to do with audiences.

We shall await developments with interest. This is but one report and may have no truth to it whatsoever, but in case it’s on the money, I just wanted to bring this up. Needless to say, I believe I have the solution: it should be Stephen Moffat who leaves. Time for fresh minds and ones that can combine imagination and wit with plots that actually make sense.

Doctor Who : The Last Christmas – Uncollected Thoughts


I’m not showing a picture of the Doctor or his Companion

Oh dear. And it was all going so well, right up to the last moment, when…

Actually, strike that. It wasn’t going at all well. This year’s Doctor Who Xmas Day special was, and let’s be honest about it, a mish-mash of styles, trying to marry up industrial strength whimsy in the form of Nick ‘Santa Claus’ Frost, complete with two self-aware elfs and a battery-powered Rudolph, and Xmas horror in the form of Dream Crabs who weren’t even pretending not to be a direct rip-off of Alien. It can be done and if anyone could do it, you’d have bet on Moffat.

But not this year’s Moffat. Not after the disaster of a one-year-too-many series which has gone overly loud on the emotional moment basso profundo pedal time and time again, and wasted the opportunity that always exists with a new Doctor.

That Moffat had lost that fine touch was obvious from the opening scene of Santa knocking down a chimney stack, the elves bickering, the reindeer running riot and Clara standing there in the snow earing nothing but pyjamas and dressing gown (which she was to wear for the whole episode), open-mouthed. In the snow, falling like a cartoon. And not feeling the cold in the slightest.

After that, the second-hand horror hardly had a chance, and that was before we got to the Polar expedition scientist Shona. Shona – twenty-something, with a pronounced Lancashire accent and heavily into Slade’s ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’ which was only thirteen years older than she was – was played by Faye Marsay, and played to perfection. If this were a previously undiscovered episode of Victoria Wood As Seen on TV from 1986 or thereabouts.

The Earth’s under attack by these Dream Crabs, who cause people to live in their dreams until they die. That meant that, whenever somebody woke up, they were still asleep and dying, until the Doctor finally got everyone to realise they were dreaming and wake up, by flying away on Santa’s sled. Except for the one who spent more time guzzling on a turkey leg than anyone outside a dream state physically could: he died, but that was all right because nobody gave a damn about him, or the fact that a living Dream Crab remained behind, temporarily sated and looking for another victim. Missed that, didn’t you, Moffat?

Clara’s dream as, of course, Xmas Day with Danny. She’d already drawn the Doctor’s attention to the fact that Danny hadn’t survived, the lie on which the series ended with she and the Doctor separated, and this Xmas idyll – he’d got her all the right presents – allowed Clara for the only time ever to be what she wanted to be: relaxed, in love and content.

And Moffat struck gold in this scene: Dream-Danny was so beautifully dreamed by Clara, so exact, that the moment he heard that he was a dream and a dream that was killing Clara, he ordered her out, sacrificing himself again to ensure that she would live.

It was a beautiful highlight, which made the ending turn out so appalling. Everybody’s waking up to grossly disintegrated Dream Crabs (except for the poor, dead sod that Moffat forgot after he’d served his purpose as cannon-fodder). Except for Clara, who wants a few more minutes… So theDoctor has to turn up in her real-life bedroom, to pry the rubber mask off her face and reveal… that Clara fell into her dream sixty-two years after she last saw the Doctor.

She has no regrets. Well, not many. She travelled all over. She taught in every country in Europe. She lived a full life. There were no more men for her after Danny: well, there was one who matched up to him but, well, you know… (break out the sick-buckets, please). Jenna Coleman’s time, which has been the subject of no litte debate, is clearly up.

Except, and I am typing this bit from within the sick-bucket itself, the Doctor suddenly wakes up with a faceful of disintegrating Dream Crab again, races off to Clara, sonics the Dream Crab off her face and fuck all that misleading shit, she’s still young, and lovely and, do you know what, despite everything that’s happened, perfectly willing to reject every atom of character, personality or believable response to the trauma she suffered over Danny, cos she can still go surfing the Universe of Time and Space.

It’s unbelievably glutinous and unforgivably false to anything resembling human emotion. My response, the moment the Doctor woke up a second time (in defiance of all story logic, such as it was, that had been established) was an out-loud, “Oh, fucking hell, no.”

And that’s me and Doctor Who  done. Call me when Moffat leaves, because until then I m just not interested any more. Marry Xmas.

Uncollected Thoughts: Doctor Who series 8 finale – part 2


Nothing personal. Just go away. Now. Please.

Hmmm.

To repeat what I said last week, I have struggled with this series. Not with Peter Capaldi as The Doctor, but with Clara Oswald, companion and self-important entity, bowing out at the last with a declaration of how special she felt at having gone travelling with the Doctor, and a thank you for making her feel special. Here I was prepared to say that she got so far up my nose that you would have to reach through the next three incarnations to get her out, but to be truthful, by this point the once-glorious Impossible Girl had just become a black hole that sucked in any sympathy I could muster wherever she was in this story.

Which was a shame for parts of it were good, and one part was very good indeed when Moffat’s desire to touch the heartstrings worked perfectly.

The story itself was relatively simple: the Master had worked out how to bond Cybermen to the dead, an unbeatable combination, and had been zipping up and down the Doctor’s timeline applying her formula to his friends and those who had died for him. Interestingly, the whole point of this inescapable menace was to place the army that could control the Universe and all of Space and Time in the hands of the Doctor. It was both an appeal to the Dark Side that Moffat’s been teasing ever since Capaldi’s eyebrows came along, but mainly it was an attempt to get the Master’s childhood friends back, and to prove that the Master could not possibly be all that bad, because the Doctor is just like her.

To do good. For a moment we were in Bag End, in the Shire, as Frodo Baggins offers the Ring to Gandalf. All the wrongs you could right… but just as Gandalf found the strength of heart to refuse the Ring, the Doctor removed the One Bracelet that Controlled Them All, and instead flung it to Danny-the-unassimilated-Cyberman, who led the Cyberman army to destroy all the Master’s plans.

After that, it was all a matter of endings, and there were too bloody many of them, lined up like dominoes, some of them better than others. Clara insists that the Master be killed for what she’s done (though the part of me that isn’t prepared to be blinded by great goops of emotion at this point notes that Clara isn’t out for justice but revenge for her poor dead Danny, and that though Danny fought nobly back against proper Cybernising – with not even an inadequate explanation for how – it was Clara who got him killed: talk about Displacement Activity). However, in order that dear Clara shouldn’t be tainted by comitting murder, the Doctor does it himself disintegrating the Master (a truly scenery chewing performance by Michelle Gomez) into a puff of smoke.

No Regeneration there then. Until the next showrunner wants to bring the Master back, so lets hope that the next one has more of a taste for tedious but necessary explanations of how than Moffat has sadly proven to be.

Then there’s the suggestion that Danny can come back from the dead to Clara, except that he instead sends back the boy he killed when a soldier, which was in its way equally saccharine. This led into the goodbye scene between the Doctor and his Companion with both of them lying furiously to each other in a wholly unconvincing manner (except that Jenna Coleman’s booked to do the Xmas Special, for which Nick Frost is playing Father Xmas – I may plotz, which is not meant disrespectfully. Npt to Nick Frost).

The other two endings were good though. A long time ago, last November to be exact, Gallifrey was restored and the Doctor (Matt Smith) promised to find it, setting up an exciting plot strand full of potential, which has been completely ignored all series. Now the Master has found it, and it’s back where it’s always been. Just before being disintegrated, she whispered its co-ordinates to the Doctor, except that she lied and she’s dead and it wasn’t there. Maybe this will get some people off their arses and pursue that story.

But the one that sealed it for me, though it was in its own way just as full of synthetically created emotion as everything else, was Kate Stewart. The Brigadier’s daughter popped up to appoint the Doctor President of Earth and commander of the globe’s armies, a somewhat unnecessary foreshadowing of the Master’s plan, but she also popped out, sucked from a crashing plane and spiralling off to die.

Except that she’s found safe and alive in the graveyard, under the safe guard of a Cyberman who spared the Doctor the actual execution of the Master. One Cyberman, among those created from the Doctor’s associates, who saved the woman who grew up to step into his shoes. Though Nicholas Courtney cannot give us a bow, his shade can occupy a Cyberman’s uniform and stop time for a moment for those of us who go back that far.

So the series is over. I switched off quickly to avoid trailers for the Xmas Special. It surely can’t be as bad as this was, please.

Uncollected Thoughts: Dr Who series 8 finale – part 1


The Impossible (to believe in) Girl

It began so well.

I like Peter Capaldi as the Doctor. I liked the opening episode of the series. But I’ve liked each succeeding episode of this series a little less, each week, to the point where, even though I can objectively say that the first half of this year’s finale was excellent, I felt little or nothing during it. No surprise at the revelation that the Cybermen were back, given that that had leaked so much that someone as determined as I am to avoid spoilers was aware of it. Not even surprised that Missy is the Master, picking up on the tease flung out by Neil Gaiman in series 6 about how Timelords can change gender.

Nor moved by the central motivating issue that set this story into motion: Danny’s dead. Dead, knocked down and killed by a car whilst crossing the road, because he was concentrating on what Clara had just told him: that she loved him, and she really meant it.

That raised a hurdle that the show couldn’t clear. No, not a hurdle, but a barrier. Because Clara put it in absolute terms, terms of such devotion and commitment as we all dream of hearing being spoken to us and I didn’t believe a word of it. In fact I didn’t believe a syllable of it. They were words written by someone who has felt that true, unbelievable emotion but I have not seen a single thing this series that but an atom of belief into me that Clara felt like that towards the man she has consistently cheated and lied to, with whom she has shared no even plastic romantic moment, has never confided anything with openness and honesty.

Shot through as many feet as are needed to cripple a centipede, the episode’s driving force didn’t stand an earthly.

In fact, it is Clara and how she has behaved throughout this series that has slowly drained away my enthusiasm. Each week, she has been consistently and increasingly stupid, self-willed, self-important and blazingly ignorant of what the fuck she has gotten herself mixed up with now, until the point when the Doctor takes over and shows up how idiotic she’s been behaving and she doesn’t learn a single thing. I’ve slagged off Moffat before for an underlying misoginy in both Sherlock and Doctor Who at different times, but this has been ridiculous.

And all the while people have been leaping around with joy at these stories and praising Jenna Coleman to high heaven, and I’ve been wondering what for. After all, she had decided that she had found her One, the last man, person, thing, she would ever say ‘I love you’ to, but she had to very specificly tell him this on the phone and not in person, for no easily discernible reason than that it was a supposedly clever way to get him killed.

After that, I was on no sympathy with anything in the episode, which was a shame because, a few seriously unwise stabs at jokes by Chris Addison aside, it was probably excellent, written and played well by all. That final scene, where Danny first tries to convince Clara that he is the real Danny, then tries to keep her from coming after him, into death herself, reached a stunningly good conclusion when Clara exploded and threatened to cut off the connection if he told her he loved her one more time, and Danny, after a pause that felt like a lifetime, brokenly whispered it in a voice, and with a deliberation that convinced even me that he did, truly, feel that deeply for her. But I was a long way from being able to feel that scene as it deserved: had I not been so removed conviction, I am certain there would have been tears.

Next week, the series is all over, and so is Jenna Coleman. I shall miss her chirpy face and the pageboy bob, and the opaque tights when she’s wearing the short skirts, but to be honest, I’ve had enough of her. Moffat’s Doctor has been the only one of the New Who I’ve enjoyed, but in this series we’ve gone back full circle to what I didn’t like about the first series of the revival. I’d rather have Jenna Coleman than Billie Piper any day, but I do not want to watch a Doctor Who that’s all about the bloody assistant and her journey.

I think it’s time for Moffat to move on. I’d like to see another mind at work. If nothing else, it would give me a decent excuse to drop out because my enthusiasm is dying on its feet.