As people probably already know, I'm a massive doctor who fan, I collect the big finish audios (or at least some of them), and can give you chapter and verse on most aspects of the whoniverse.
Its been odd therefore that for the last few years, TV Doctor who has just not registered with me. I can some up the reason in two words, Steven Moffat! the previous show runner, with his stupidly convoluted plots, lack of pacing, irritating characters, Amy Pond, Clara Oswald, egotystical rewrites of basic lore of the universe and general crappiness!
The last who I watched was season 8 (there's a topic still kicking around with my thoughts), two episodes into season 9 my dad's digital tv lost its archive, and I just didn't care enough to find the episodes from another source, much less actually pay some money to watch them. Indeed, the last who I bothered to actually buy on DVD were the season 4 specials up to the death of the tenth Doctor, as the Eleventh and Twealth doctor's eras were so bloody disappointing.
I was however interested to see season 11, not actually for the reason most people wanted to see season 11, that the Doctor now happens to be female, but because the series was changing show runners, meaning the over all tone, style, characterisation and plot would go through a radical change (I dread to think what the terrible Moff might have done with a female doctor).
I admit I've been reluctant, which is why I missed the season on initial broadcast, that and the fact that I generally need to hijack my parents' tv to watch it.
I'll also admit that with the current climate, and some comments I've seen about Doctor who elsewhere, i was rather worried that things would get too preachy, misandric and inclined to play to the hardline sjws, as unfortunately has already happened in a few of the more recent audios (riversong series five, the torchwood story night of the Fendhal for example).
So, I've now started watching through season eleven, and my verdict is that it is bloody! frigging! seriously! awesome!
Yes, I just said it awesome!
Certainly the best doctor who since David Tenant, and possibly more like classic doctor who than we've up to now.
So, I've watched up to episode 3 so far and in this topic I'll leave some of my thoughts on each episode as I watch them.
People are free to chime in, but no spoilers please.
Episode 1: The woman who fell to earth
He who moans, one of my favourite youtube commentators on all things Dr. Who Find his channel here called this a typical doctor who start of series story and was most unimpressed because of it.
Oddly enough though, that was what impressed me.
No big speeches, no glitz, no universe destroying biggest aliens ever, just the doctor, some normal everyday characters, and an alien killing people. I’m going to repeat that so people get it Killing! People! This might seem odd for a show one of whose principle monsters yells “exterminate” all the time, however one other thing that really got up my nose with Moff is that there was never any bloody death! If anyone died, the doctor went back in time (blinavich limitation effect or not), and reversed it, or pulled out some flashy flangy doomy device of magical plotsolvingness.
Not here. People die, bad things happen, and wonder of wonders the doctor even solves the hole mess with something actually logical for once.
The alien predator wasn’t that interesting, but this first episode didn’t’ need interesting! Heck, the first ever episode from the sixties had no aliens at all, just the doctor and his time machine and how ordinary characters react to them.
And lets get to characters, we have actual people we care about, including the guy who gets killed! We get enough backstory to know who these people are, and for them to be ordinary enough, without the script either making them so dysfunctional we want to kick them, or praising them so effusively we want to punch them, indeed actually having speak like real human beings once rather than in constant soundbites definitely a good thing to see.
As I said above, I didn’t care that the Doctor was a woman. What I did worry about is that the script would! Care about the doctor being a woman and turn her into an over flirty sexually creepy confidence machine like pretty much every female character moffat has written ever. What I was pleased about, is that didn’t happen.
What did happen, is that she was wonderfully weird, very scatty and lots of fun in a completely random way, indeed she reminded me of both David tenant and tom baker at different points, oh, and also thank god no romance!
Its not that I don’t like romance in doctor who, however after a gripping success with rose, the subject just got ran into the ground, and hoary old convention though it is, I worried that just because the Doctor now has a uterus, we would be seeing love stories everywhere! Thankfully that’s one trap the writers haven’t fallen into (I wonder if Chidnal was just as sick of the moff’s flirt machines as I was).
My only miner criticism, is I do wish the Doctor hadn’t given a self aware speech about “things move on and evolve but stay the same”
In general I’m pleased that this Doctor is holding back on big grand speeches (particularly since in the moff era often the big grand speeches were a substitute for actual resolving of plot), and the doctor had already convinced me she was the doctor by, well acting like the doctor, being awesome, building sonic screw drivers, looking at the world in a slightly offbeat way. Don’t tell me what to think? Just show me you’re the Doctor and I’ll be behind you, and likely every other hard core whovian who isn’t a complete moron.
Fortunately this was only a brief moment, and was undercut by the alien basically turning around and saying “Well see if I care I’m going to be evil anyway!”
So a cracking start. Indeed I while I agree with he who moans this was the standard doctor who opener for a new doctor, at the same time, that was what I wanted, a concentration on character and plot and establishing the setting, and freedom from all the hyper vivid crap we’d seen before, so thumbs up from me on this one.
Episode 2, The ghost monument
Okay, nothing I love more than a big scifi journey story with lots of dangers along the way, and that is what this had. Its also nice to know pacing is still there with this one, indeed the stories feel far longer than the moff’s efforts mostly because they concentrate on smaller scale events, and nothing personally grabs my attention like a good old quest across a dangerous planet for a mysterious goal.
I loved the dangers, and the build up of last week’s alien of the week to be something really threatening. I do wish a bit more time had been spent on the journey, since in trying to get in character moments, the backstory of two secondary characters and! Find the tardis, it was all a bit of a rush towards the end, but on the other hand, it was nice to see the Doctor actually using her brain to solve problems, rather than just yelling “by the power of almighty technobabble, demon begone!”
I do agree with he who moans that having characters just tell us their backstory was a bit clunky, particularly since one was so transparently a selfish bastard and the other one was so transparently not, on the other hand, it was good use of the time allotted, and in other hands this one could’ve just been a pointless run around.
I also did a bit of a facepalm about the “timelss child” mystery box reference, but hay I’m willing to give Chidnal at least a bit of leeway with constructing a full series plot here.
While part of me does sort of wish they hadn’t found the tardis that quickly and we could’ve had a sort of divergent universe situation with the Doctor chasing the tardis being flung through time, at the same time, its nice to see things back on form, and the new tardis interior is indeed awesome.
So, another thumbs up from me, but then again, this is just the sort of episode I like by default.
Episode 3 Rosa
Back when Martha Jones was the companion, I was wondering why exactly more wasn’t made of the fact she’s dark skinned. Surely, in the time of Shakespeare, much less 1913 England, let alone 1930’s New York, people wouldn’t have just ignored her skin colour? I even wrote an essay (sadly edited by a site I no longer write for), on how new Who should be using its companions in historical settings to be interesting, rather than just giving us a series of rose Tyler clones.
Interestingly enough, that essay was censored because I dared to suggest that in history someone might use the “n” word, and suggest that Doctor who, being able time travel, should actually do exactly what the first Doctor did in the Aztecs, the Crusades and the Highlanders, and tackle less pleasant aspects of history, heck the audios have done so in audios like son of the dragon, the Marian conspiracy and most recently (also featuring black slavery), in the behemoth.
However, now we have a story that actually uses the race of its companions to show us something interesting about history, and do so in a way which isn’t in your face or preachy, or worse, hating of everyone who isn’t that given minority. Yes, the arseholes in the story are white, but the white characters (the doctor included), are not arseholes!
Indeed, a friend of mine said that watching this episode “made him almost ashamed to be a white person”, however personally I just admired Martin Luther King etc rather more, as well as got to learn about a historical figure, Rosa Parks, who’s only vaguely known about in Britain, which is just the sort of experience I value in a doctor who story, and the sort of thing well written historicals, like the audios the Peterloo massacre and the angel of scootari have given me in the past. I’m! not ashamed myself, (after all I’ve never treated people that way), but that doesn’t stop me appreciating knowing the history of people who stand up against oppressive systems irrespective of their race.
Okay, social message aside, the story was still a good one. Changing history is always an interesting theme to play with, and I loved some of the Doctor’s humour here. I also liked the fact that Rosa, Martin Luther King and other people, even down to the arsehole buss driver were shown to be actual characters, indeed character seems a strong point of this series, which is all to the good, especially after mister “We can’t do character development off earth” Moffat.
My only issue here was with the villain.
Firstly, the idea of a 79th century white supremacist goes pretty much against everything we’ve seen in Doctor who of the future so far, and it might have been nice if there was at least something more to his motivation, EG some specific group or cult, rather than “oooh look he’s a racist”
Secondly and more seriously, if he couldn’t actually do any violence, hence why he was going around with the changing of history and why he had a gun that just transported people through time (though why he didn’t just zap Rosa with this gun and get her out of the way without killing her I don’t know), why exactly was there a huge plot going on to change history back and stop him?
Why couldn’t the doctor, who we know is adept at Venusian Aikido just knock him out and lock him in a cupboard while Rosa made her protest, or even use his own time gun on him to just zap him somewhere else.
There really should’ve been more of a reason for the plot here, since while the changing history back plot was lots of fun, it did seem the most complicated way to solve things, and unfortunately my brain kept going “why the hell don’t you just get rid of this guy!” which eventually Ryan did, rather than being able to just sit back and enjoy the history changing.
Other than that though, thumbs up again!
It’s great, thus far we’ve seen an origin story, a space adventure, and a historical set around a notable historical figure, and the series is going pretty damn well. I also am really liking both the thirteenth doctor with her scatty humour, clever way of solving problems and definitely off hand manner, and her companions, though I do slightly wish the pot would get stirred up a bit there as thus far it’s a bit too happy families, still its early days, and I definitely know Chidnal can write good emotional conflicts, I also suspect one companion or other might be up for the chop, which is great! I love watching a series where nobody is safe.
So, hurrah for new who once again! Its really nice to be excited to watch Tv doctor who again, and assuming something doesn’t go disastrously wrong in the next few stories, I’ll probably be continuing through the rest of the thirteenth doctor’s run.
Our souls with high music ringing; O men! It must ever be
That we dwell in our dreaming and singing, A little apart from ye. (Arthur O'Shaughnessy 1873.)