Tuesday, 31 December 2013

End of year Doctor Who review.

Alright. The year ends and I’ve got a job to finish. Now I’ve tried reviewing recent Doctor Who adventures all year but life, being what it is these days I’ve never had the chance. Now I do.

So what am I gong to review here. In short; Matt Smith’s last two adventures and whatever I can tag on…

So to begin the 50th anniversary special, Day of the Doctor. I loved this episode, great fun to watch and well written. Tenant slipped back into the role like he was riding a bike, he even still fit the old brown suit (something he and Piper joked about behind the scenes). Smith bounced off both him and Hurt expertly, having buckets of fun along the way laughing at himself. Hurt was going to be my big sticking point, I couldn’t be sure he would be the Doctor or a parody. No disrespect to his acting (he is good) but you need time to create and settle into a role. Coming in for a one off special doesn’t give you that time. I forgot about Moffat’s writing, Hurt hit all the right notes to be one of the best Doctors we never had.

Supporting cast had to pull up their game to match these three and they did. Piper came back, but not as Rose. Big point that. As I’ve said before I hate Rose, she was badly written to start with. While we were told she was kind, and cared all we saw was a silly girl more than willing to sacrifice the whole world for a sleeting selfish moment. Instead of the badly written Rose Piper came back as the Bad Wolf / interface of The Moment. Proving that while I might not like the roles she played Piper is actually a good actress.

Jenna Coleman (Clara), Joanna Page (Elizabeth I), Jemma Redgrave (Kate Stewart) and Ingrid Oliver (Osgood) all proved themselves as well and I won’t hear a thing against them. Coleman’s Clara might be an every companion (in other words fairly generic), but that’s exactly what we need here. A proxy for all the companions there has ever been. I’ve also heard complaints about Redgrave’s Kate as a cut price Brigadier to those people I tell them to politely fuck off and never pollute my existence with their fowl babble ever again (seriously one person said that and it’s disgusted me) Nick Courtney, the Brigadier, couldn’t reprise his role in new who because he was too ill! He wanted to return and the writers wanted him there, but his ailment meant he couldn’t. One of the most touching scenes Smith has ever performed, in my opinion, was in the Wedding of River Song. Where he learns of the Brig’s death. One of his longest friends and it’s that moment that leads to the catalyst of him willing to sacrifice himself. 

That’s the Actors and Rant over with, let’s look at the plot. Its no secret that one of the big inspirations for new Who was Lois and Clark:- the New adventures of superman. Bringing romance into Doctor Who and portraying The Doctor as a British equivalent of Superman. No argument’s there, but one of the things RTD did was to kill off the Time Lords. He wanted to repeat and explore the emotional impact of losing everything. All power too him on that, but a lot of fans like myself felt it was too close to mirroring Superman. It was an open secret that Moffat in particular didn’t like the idea of all the Time Lords being dead or the explanation given as to how.

So Day of the Doctor was his reset button. A big red shiny reset button shouting out to the world that Doctor is and alway will be original and unique. Moffat hammered that reset with flair, with relish and with great joy! I read an article where he claimed to be nervous on the broadcast day (the biggest broadcast in history, being shown online, in cinemas and on more than a 100 channels simultaneously across the planet!) but he didn’t need to be.

Was Day of the Doctor perfect, hell no, of course not. Nothing ever is, but it was good, enjoyable and still exiting even after seeing it over and over again. So what complaints can I, or others, legitimately raise? 

How about how the time war was depicted? We’ve been told for years the Time war was this unimaginable hell. With Nightmare Childs, equations being used as weapons of mass destruction, time locks and the whole universe burning. But when it came down to it all we saw was a laser war and a city under siege. None of the Epic hell we were promised. Well… There was an explanation given in a throwaway line. The Time Lord General claims that they have used every weapon in the Omega Vault, all the forbidden weapons. Remembering the 4th Doctor Adventure Genesis of the Daleks early on there is a point were we see a solder with both a Ray Gun and a flint lock rifle. The 4th Doctor suggests that the War had been raging for so long that resources and attrition meant that they started with high technology and fell back on more primitive weapons as they began to run out. The Time War is in the final few days and resources would be stretched.

What about no Chris Eccleston? Well remember what I said about a Doctor having to settle into a role? Eccleston never really did from my perspective. I think that’s why he only lasted a year and left the way he did. He only ever took the role because of his friendship with RTD and other than a couple of interviews he has always kept clear of the Who fandom. Now there are some rumours that he was open to guest staring but didn’t like the limitations Moffat had on the role. Personally I think if he did come back the episode wouldn’t have worked as well as it did. Eccleston, you’re a nice guy and a good actor, but I don’t think you were ever Doctor material.

Finally the idea that it doesn’t really celebrate 5o years of Dr Who, more just the eight or nine years we’ve had new Who. Well, from a certain point of view yes. There was a lean to the more recent stories opposed to the older, classic, adventures and yes Light at the End (Big Finish’s audio drama celebration) is more a celebration of the classic. Thing is that’s the point! Day of the Doctor is tied up with connecting new Who with Classic. Day of the Doctor’s aim is to show it’s all one, that it’s the same Doctor, the same man even with the new face’s new effects and all the changes everything is connected. The Classic show, the books, the comics, Big finish’s audio and New Who are all one. That was the celebration. Big Finish had the honour of celebrating the Classic show while TV had it’s hands busy.

Every complaint bar one can be answered with a little thought. that one complaint. Death of the Doctor, the last real episode from season seven. We ended with the Doctor entering his own time stream to save Clara, the last shot being an echo of Hurt’s Doctor and Smith carrying Clara away. How, in the name of Rassilon, did they get out of the Doctors time stream? No one I’ve seen heard or read has ever been able to explain that one point. Even in The Time of the Doctor, where Moffat answered just about everything that wasn’t even touched upon.

The score I’d give Day Of the Doctor is nine out of ten (rounding down) that one niggle isn’t enough to warrant disliking or rejecting the mountain of effort from everyone involved.

Before I move on to Time of the Doctor one last point. If you haven’t already get over to the Dr Who Website and watch 5(ish) Doctors reboot. Peter Davidson’s half hour celebration/comedy from him (5th Doctor), Colin Baker (6th Doctor) and Sylvester McCoy (7th) with cameo’s from all over the shop, including Sir Ian McKellen and Peter Jackson! Watch it

So part 2, Time of the Doctor. I still have a tear in my eye from this one. Matt Smith, you have proven those neigh sayer’s wrong and then some. He proves once and for all that he is one of the best actors to ever don the mantle of the Doctor. Moffat tacked head on every question, every plot hole and apparent wrong turn he could. Again cementing himself as a good writer, but at what cost?

I have nothing against Moffat, but he isn’t perfect. The main complaints people have again him is that he’s repetitive, he is too overly emotional at times, he relies on speeches too much, that a lot of his work is confusing, the resolutions feel rushed and is often full of holes. To all of that all I can add is yes. He is getting repetitive, as if he’s only had one or two good ideas and is trying to recycle them over and over again. That’s not what we had here, what we had a celebration of Smith’s era as the Doctor. The idea that it had all been building to this, the siege of Trenzalore, and the Doctor living out nearly a thousand years protecting a small town from all the monsters in the universe.

Not that repetitive there. No, Moffat’s biggest problem is that his writing is too clever. People don’t want to have to think about a story, don’t want to have to create fan theories. That’s what his fairy tale like stories are, at times too clever for their own good. There is a perfect example in Time of the Doctor. Early on in the episode The Doctor has to decode a message, he uses the Seal of the Time Lord High Council to do so. He says he took it off the Master in the Death Zone. First of all that references the Five Doctors, the 25th anniversary special, in the 50th anniversary year and next is the Master. In that adventure The Master is on his own last regeneration and is offered a whole new Regeneration Cycle by the Time Lords as a reward for an errand. The same thing the Doctor gets at the end of the episode! 

See that was something for the fans, something a lot of the critics seem to miss and that’s happened several times. Moffat drops these jewels into their laps and they just seem to slip through the casual viewers fingers. Like any good novel or story it’s the second or third time through you notice things.

No the problem is parts that are integral to the plot are only noticeable second or third time around. There was far too much focus on Smith’s freshly shaved head, too much focus on the whole holographic clothes gag and not enough explanation of the deus ex Moffat ending 

So in summary and with surprisingly very few spoilers the last two adventures were fantastic. Maybe not perfect, but fantastic.

So happy new year everyone, hopefully a new year with new prospects and more articles up here!

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