Doctor Who: Series Two Discussion
Doomsday aired some time ago now, and the discussion about it is winding down. Opinion, as with most of season two, has been split - some people thought it was brilliant, a fitting finale for a strong season, and others see it as a weak ending for a season that varied wildly. I'm still in the latter camp. However, I'd like to talk about a few of the elements that have been mulled over in the comments here and on other sites.
First and foremost, there's the notion that since Russell Davies brought Doctor Who back to our screens, and made it into a roaring success, and has won BAFTA awards in the past, we should all bow down, be grateful, and not criticise. I don't think so. Davies is far from perfect, and even as a newcomer to the whole setting, I'm less than keen on some of the directions he took in this season. Until such time as he produces material good enough that I can't pick holes in it, I'm going to continue to do so.
What directions didn't I like, then? Well, first, there was the whole romance element. Unlike many older or better-established Who fans, I'm not bothered by its existence. If two people are going to go through a series of intense situations, things are going to happen if there's any chemistry at all. And if there wasn't, the story would be very hard to hold together. No, what I object to is the saccharine sweetness and melodrama with which it was portrayed. The Doctor is a 900-year-old alien with penchant for causing trouble and a fondness for humans. Rose is a tough shop-girl from a London estate. The Ninth Doctor's habit of taking Rose's hand made sense in that context, but the Tenth's slightly forwning puppy-dog looks, despite being pulled off brilliantly by Tennant, didn't seem right. The beach scene is something I'm never going to forgive Davies for; minute after minute of slow, Dickensian melodrama. In my mildly arrogant opinion, if you have to resort to melodrama, then you've failed as a writer.
Next: The Doctor with a gun. This happened a couple of times, most notably in Girl in the Fireplace. One of the longest established ideas of the Doctor is that he doesn't like guns (or bombs, explosives, or anything of that sort). His careful disarming of previous companions has been a running joke. Again, I'm not a Doctor Who purist, but if RTD is going to change - or allow changes in - such a notable characteristic, then I'd like to see it acknowledged in some way. Even him muttering, "I used not to like these things, I wonder why?" would cover it.
And then: RTD can't leave a plotline or theme or character alone. It worked the first time, he seems to reason, let's do it again! The major offense here is Pete Tyler. Father's Day was brilliant, probably the best episode of the first season. Seeing Pete again takes away from that; it was supposed to be Rose's one chance to see her father.
One commenter pointed out that all the recurring things I was criticising before are possible in science fiction. That's fine in theory, but a narrative has to have constraints. "Anything is possible" is actually really boring; there are no edges to work from, no walls to work within, no guidelines. What' the point in struggling against the Daleks if every time you think they're all gone, there're more around some odd corner of spacetime? And if they're not all gone, then make something of it, don't keep telling the story of the defeat of the Last Dalek, No Really This Time - tell instead a multi-episode arc about how they keep coming back, and make it an actual arc.
So, conclusion: I still think RTD is out of his depth. He's a good writer at the heart of it, though, and with any luck he'll find his feet again for Season Three.
Posted by Drew Shiel at July 21, 2006 10:52 AM