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

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I completely agree and don't think you're at all unfair but in fact you raise your points well and without the malice seen on some fan sites. I feel I'm swimming against the stream of conventional opinion in thinking RTD a sloppy writer and find the constant return of elements that worked first time round - hey, so good, let's do it again! - to be tedious. God save us from Daleks and Cybermen in series three (I have it on good authority though I cannot name my source that the Sea Devils will be back in 2007). As for your comments about melodrama, spot on - elements of series two were what I'd call junkie TV, all big hit and comedown afterwards when you actually engage your mind in thought rather than just going with the adrenalin rush. x

Posted by: Andy at July 21, 2006 7:14 PM

You contacted me, by the way, via my feedback page about your site changes. I think it looks great but I would respectfully suggest comments are better incorporated into pages rather than as pop-up windows; the design of your comments is great but the box doesn't show them off well. Pop-up comments can also cause problems for users of social bookmarking systems such as coComment (which I use, and is great) and others. I do hope this is the kind of feedback you were after; it is honest and I do like your site. x

Posted by: Andy at July 21, 2006 7:16 PM

I thought you might be interested in seeing some examples of Doctor Who comic art that never made it into the magazine - produced from a six-part Cybermen script I wrote, which was commissioned by John Freeman, then editor, but dropped when he left and a new editor came in. I've posted four images so far on my blog. They provide an interesting insight into how artwork is produced for the comic strips in the magazine. Now I just need to dig out who did the lettering and the artwork... And decide if I want to repurpose the story as something else... x

Posted by: Andy at July 22, 2006 11:23 AM

So, conclusion: I still think RTD is out of his depth.

Who are you to say this?

Posted by: RTD at July 22, 2006 2:08 PM

Hi there,

While I agree that the new series is not perfect, there are afew points that I feel should be said.

Firstly: RTD has created a series that people watch. My partner and child leave the room when I stick on a DVD from the classic series in the DVD player but sit down and actually get excited about seeing the next episode in new Who. This might not seem important but we are dealing with a commercial property here and whatever anyone may think of RTD as a writer, the broader public seem to like it - new Who is a success (outrating Stargate, Smallville, Battlestar etc here in Oz).

Secondly: the 'gun' in Girl in the Fireplace is a fire-extinguisher and explicitly stated as being so. There are plenty of examples from the classic series of the Doctor using a gun and I think the new series has been more careful than some of the Colin Baker episodes for example (Varos, Attack of the Cybermen etc) :) Guns appear in the new series but it is rarely the Doctor toting them.

The best thing is that we have a successful show that people can (and are) spending time talking about.

Posted by: Damon at August 5, 2006 3:57 PM