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.

Dr Who series 9: Uncollected Thoughts part 2


Actually, I forgot this was on.

I’ve watched the second episode via the i-Player. It wasn’t as frenetic as the first part, nor, quite, as silly. Instead, it was tedious and long-winded, and boring, and I only stayed to the end out of duty, which for the few of you interested in my words about Dr Who, I’m going to betray anyway.

It just wasn’t worth talking about. It was dull. And Capaldi was as hammy as a ton of hickory ham.

If Moffat ever leaves, someone nudge me. And please, please let Mark Gatiss have the major influence on Sherlock.

Doctor Who Series 9: Uncollected Thoughts


Go away. Please. Just go away.

Well now, that was embarrassingly bad, wasn’t it?

After the announcement that Jenna Coleman was leaving Dr Who, thus removing from the series its single, most glaringly awful annoyance, I made the last-minute decision to rescind my personal ban on watching the series. That was an awful mistake.

‘The Magician’s Apprentice’ was a perfect example of Stephen Moffat’s increasing tendency to throw it a lot of brightly coloured bits of jumble, whirl them around a bit and pretend that the outcome was a coherent story. So, we had, in short order, a fourteen year old boy wandering into an explicable war scene, the Twelfth Doctor all set to help him out of a forest of hand-mines (so much effort for a very weedy, nonsensical pun) and learning that freckle-face’s name is Davros, some guy sliding around on roller skates under a monk’s cowl, looking for the Doctor, Missy freezing aircraft all over the world to attract UNIT’s attention, the Doctor partying in 1128AD with an electric guitar and more anachronisms than you could shake a stick at, a conversation with a very low-key, non-shouty Davros who’s due to die in the morning and the Daleks destroying Missy, Clara and the TARDIS.

That none of it made the least amount of sense, and will make even less after part 2 finishes the story off next week, is exactly why Moffat has, with unbelievable rapidity considering how well he handled the Fiftieth Anniversary, fallen out of the bottom of the dustbin and needs to be removed from control of the show. It has already become unwatchable, and that’s without Clara.

Take Missy’s return. When last she was seen, the Doctor was killing her, permanently, no regenerations, no flowers by request, so as to ensure that Clara, who was intent on doing it out of revenge for the death of Danny (you remember, the guy who got run over by a car when she announced her undying love by mobile phone whilst he was crossing a busy road: talk about Displacement) wouldn’t have to live with blood on her hands.

Nobody believed for a minute that that was the last we’d seen of the erstwhile Master. So, how do they get over this hurdle? What ingenious little story lies behind this latest resurrection? Six words: ‘Not dead. Back. Get over it.’ with one might bound, Moffat frees himself from the curse of rationality forever. He can do anything he wants, and then just flip it without explanation. The last link to reality is this shattered and Dr Who becomes literally meaningless.

Then there’s Clara. She’s in the classroom, teaching badly as always, Jane Austen, brilliant writer, and totally great kisser, and then suddenly, without anyone batting an eyelid, she’s shooting off to UNIT HQ at the Prime Minister’s personal request (which no-one finds in the least bit strange), and it’s not because she’s the Doctor’s current official companion, it’s because UNIT, and Kate Stewart, desperately need Clara’s superior knowledge and understanding of A) how to recognise an alien invasion when you see one and B) what to do about an alien invasion.

Seriously, I am not kidding. Moffat has gotten so totally involved with his jumped-up companion – who is so fucking ignorant she actually tells the Daleks, the Daleks, that they can’t destroy the TARDIS – that he thinks he can sell the idea that a 29 year old teacher knows more about planetary defence than the whole of UNIT.

After that, the bit with the Doctor in the Twelfth Century was basic-level inanity, and not even Clara being exterminated could raise a smile because we know it won’t take.

What made everything exponentially worse is that this fifth-rate, amateurish tripe was based on a supposedly serious idea. Admittedly, it’s a very old idea, one that was explored back in Tom Baker’s day and, what’s more, taken directly from dialogue of a higher standard that this dog.

We saw it all a very long time ago in ‘Genesis of the Daleks’, the moment when the Fourth Doctor held up two bare wires that, it touched together, would destroy at source the entire Dalek race, removing them from history before they entered it. It was a moral dilemma of epic dimension. Moffat even had the conversation replayed, as Baker posed the question of what if you had the life of a young boy in your hands that, by snuffing him out, you could avoid untold dearth, destruction and carnage?

That’s exactly what the opening scene did. And the Doctor, the Twelfth Doctor, left Davros where he was as soon as he learned the boy’s name.

The cliffhanger is that the Doctor returns, directly from Skaro, where he’s seen Clara evaporated, mad with grief, toting a Dalek exterminatory arm and ready to save Clara’s life by exterminating Davros to little pieces.

Cheap, inane, moronic. I shall submit myself to watching next week’s second part, then wash my hands of things until Moffat walks. Please, please, please let this colossal abdication of writing standards not have crept into Sherlock as well.

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.