Tuesday, 22 December 2015

It’s not Who, it’s me…

I need to address something, but it’s not a Christmas card

A rough night in 'Space Glasgow'
This year’s series of Doctor Who has been “the best ever” (TM).  At least, I’m told it’s been “amazing” (TM), Capaldi has “knocked it out of the park” (TM), the two-parters format has been “a triumph” (TM).
As I say, I read and hear this , but, with the exception of Mr Capaldi, I just haven’t felt it. 

This is the first post about this year’s series which I’ve written, I still haven’t seen at least one episode, and I only finally saw the finale a few days ago; weeks after it screened. Even when I did get the rare opportunity to watch an episode as broadcast, I happily let my Dad watch the soccer on another channel without a single word said. 

Peter Capaldi himself has just had a well-deserved holiday in New Zealand - during which time he must have gamely posed for photographs with every fan within these shores.  Did I see him speak in Auckland, try to find him, follow his progress, feel envy at everyone else’s ‘Cap snaps’?
To quote the man himself in Local Hero: “Nyet, ni nada..."

Call myself a fan?  Well, that’s just it… I don’t think I have been this year.  Of Capaldi? Always. Of current Doctor Who? Well, not really, no.

It might have been the first episode which did it - may we never have to suffer so colossally self-indulgent a scene as that one again (those of you who’ve seen it and somehow convinced yourselves you like that sequence know what I’m talking about).  

When I was 13 I tried to write an (appalling) Doctor Who film script.  In it, the Doctor picks up an electric guitar, idly strums it, considers tuning it, and puts it down again.  A throw-away scene demonstrating the visual dichotomy between an outwardly mature British Gent, and an Alien cutting across social convention with a curiosity and adeptness for almost everything. It was a few seconds, tops, just a brief opener.
I doubt it would make anyone walk out, as my wife, hardened viewer,( if not quite ‘enjoyer’), of the programme for the last decade, did during episode one of series 9.  And she’s not coming back.
Of course it makes me a bit sad, but I really couldn’t blame her either.

As it turned out, the ‘return of Davros’ story was fine, Michelle Gomez was as terrific as ever, the opening scenes on Skaro were lovely.  
It was fine.  
The following story was also fine, maybe slightly less so.  The next one a little bit less fine, the one after that I can’t really remember much of.  I hear it had brocading in it and I’m sure it was fine too.

For various reasons I had to miss the first part of the Zygon story.  I gathered all I needed from the recap at the start of the second part, and really enjoyed this one.  I saw only half the story and it was my favourite so far!  Hmmm… what does that say about the two-parters?
Most agree the next one wasn’t fine, except for the Doctor Who Magazine reviewer who tries to be as clever as Steven Moffat in his reviews, and sometimes succeeds.

Clara dies in the next one and I really did sit up and pay attention.  Because, although this series has been fine, Jenna Coleman has been bloody amazing this year and I’m really going to miss her.  I realise this right at the end.  Sigh, you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.  It also had a flying TARDIS scene and I’m a sucker for those.

The next one was also very self indulgent.  But Fans are still singing it’s praises so I’m obviously wrong.  And that’s fine.

Like the Zygon story. I loved half of the series finale, but this time it was the first half.  The Gallifrey stuff was wonderful - I never realised a Western in Who could work so well! (and the Ennio Morricone-style take on ‘The Doctor’s theme’ - sublime!)  Right up until the stolen retro-TARDIS I’m having fun, and then it becomes a talk fest until they finally stop talking.  I don’t think I’m an idiot (not ALL the time).  I don’t need explosions and monsters in every scene. I like a bit of talk.  
A … bit… of talk.  
But it was fine. Apparently the story is very pro-feminist and that is more than fine.  It is also exquisitely directed by Rachel Talalay and has a character played brilliantly by both a man AND a very beautiful black woman.

The renegade returns to bring Law and Order to his hometown...
We have the best Doctor in a very, very long time and have just said goodbye to an equally good companion. 
However, this might also just be me, but I think the programme itself needs an overhaul, or even a rest.  

Or maybe I need the rest. Because I’m tired of stories which disappear up their own bottoms like some smirking Ouroboros, bringing deceased characters back to life every other week and steadfastly refusing to tell a story with a beginning, middle and end in the usual order.
Instead of entertained, I am more often tricked, huckstered, disorientated and maybe made to feel a little less bright than I did at the start.  Instead of being educated by what I’m watching, I’m more often baffled.

I’m tired of ‘clever’, I’m not that clever. I just want a story anyone can follow, which makes ‘sense’ within the generally accepted parameters of the word.  A tale which satisfies the viewer whether they be seven or seventy, and leaves us believing we’ve just spent 45 minutes well.

The current programme makers might argue Doctor Who has to be more than that now.  If that’s true I’d have to conclude that I have a new understanding of the programme’s title.  It’s ‘Doctor Who’(?) because sometimes I don’t recognise it any more.

But this isn’t new.  And it’s not the first time I’ve walked away for a little while, either, (sorry, Colin Baker).

However, I re-watched an episode last weekend, and despite it being rudely cut short by a dog attack, (it’s OK, we got there in time and the chickens are all fine), I really enjoyed it.  So perhaps that’s the answer. 
It’s the season of peace and goodwill so, although it will be of absolutely no consequence to anyone but myself, I’m going to give Doctor Who: Series 9 another chance. (And if it doesn’t work, there’s always 50 years of better stories to revisit).

Charting a course for the past might be the best direction for the next series to head?

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