Arthur Darvill proves himself more capable than Gillan at making the best of the woefully insubstantial material heâ€™s given, but itâ€™s never enough to sell the idea of Amy and Rory as a couple, an idea that becomes increasingly important as the series goes on. The promo material for The Pandorica Opens talks of â€œa love story that spans the millenniaâ€, but as with the Tenth Doctor and Madame De Pompadour, Moffat simply asks us to accept theyâ€™re in love rather than offering us any evidence to suggest this is the case. This will of course appeal to the type of fan that thinks Doctor Who should be all about the finer details of temporal paradoxes rather than all that relationship stuff; but to make a love story so central to the ongoing plot and then to leave it so ruinously underdeveloped isnâ€™t an aesthetic choice – itâ€™s just lousy storytelling.
Where Are the Villains?
Moffatâ€™s aversion to character is reflected across the series as a whole – itâ€™s notable that in the whole series, thereâ€™s only two episodes that feature proper character villains: the vampires in episode 6 (who were great) and Toby Jonesâ€™ brilliant Dream Lord in Amyâ€™s Choice, by far and away the best adversary of the series and one who should make a priority return. But for a series that week in week out used to give us Morbiuses, Magnus Greels, Meddling Monks, Stahlmanns and so on, this is a sorry state of affairs. Too often this year weâ€™ve seen the Doctor fighting off intangible sci-fi concepts rather than people, which has the surface air of cleverness but is sterile and reduces the Doctor to a mere problem solver rather than a hero.
Online fandom seems to have a tendency to crudely factionalise into â€œanti-Moffatâ€ or â€œanti-RTDâ€ camps. This is reductive. Much as I hugely enjoyed Russell T Daviesâ€™ tenure at the helm, his take on Doctor Who had run its course; by the 2009 specials, heâ€™d run out of new things to say about his once-intriguing â€œDoctor as a lonely godâ€ concept and was resorting to increasingly ludicrous spectacle and erratic plotting.
Fans quite rightly praise Moffat for his stronger grasp of pace and classical structure (although terms like â€œintelligenceâ€ are bandied around rather too readily: for me, The Big Bang isÂ surely just â€œthings happening in a jumbled up orderâ€ than any great work of plotting genius, and the â€œbelieve in me and Iâ€™ll returnâ€ conclusion is as much of a nonsense as the â€œpray for the Doctor and heâ€™ll save youâ€ resolution to Last of the Time Lords). But in correcting some of the deficiencies of the Davies era, heâ€™s thrown the baby out with the bathwater; Doctor Who may now be plotted in a way thatâ€™s superficially smarter, but it lacks the heart and soul of previous years.
So whilst The Big Bang doesnâ€™t contain anything as maddeningly idiotic as the TARDIS towing a planet in Journeyâ€™s End, neither does it contain any moments such as the Doctorâ€™s quiet conversation with Wilf and Sylvia whilst Donna sleeps that Iâ€™ll want to rewatch again and again.