Hell of a step down. This is why:
Death. Death no longer has any meaning. In this kind of genre show, we know that most of the time, the characters are in no real danger: theyâ€™ll come through at the end of the episode. So to maintain fear, when someone dies, they need to stay dead. We need to not see them again. This has been undermined, first by being coy about what dead is (alternate universe, amnesia), secondly be backtracking (but theyâ€™re here and still themselves, so thatâ€™s alright) and most recently by undermining the back-up (heâ€™s erased from all of time and space forever, so we really mean it this time. Unless theyâ€™re still in a photo, you can remember them after all, and they turn out to be an Auton).
Character. As fellow Kasterborous contributor Elton Townend Jones has already argued (Whatever Happened to Amy Pond?), Amy Pond disappeared. Her first couple of episodes established her potential: a back-story revolving around time travel and the Doctor. In every episode since (with the notable exception of Amyâ€™s Choice), there has been no development of this and weâ€™ve learned nothing more about her. Worse, sheâ€™s barely had a line of dialogue that doesnâ€™t fit squarely in the generic â€˜feisty heroineâ€™ peg.
Ethos. For me, the whole thing felt cynical. Iâ€™d cite the Van Gogh episode as a low. It was deferential to â€˜great artâ€™, in a way that felt out of place in the show. Why was Van Gogh so great, Bill Nighy? â€œOh… his use of colour… er… beauty from depression…â€ So how did you get this curator post? The Shakespeare Code had the decency to present a â€˜great artistâ€™ as a Liam Gallagher-loudmouth. City of Death suggested itâ€™s your appreciation of the art that matters, not the canonical â€˜greatnessâ€™ of the thing. Vincent and the Doctor says â€˜art is for everyoneâ€™, whilst placing â€˜great artâ€™ on a pedestal for you to unquestioningly conform your intellect to.
And if the Doctor defeats one more alien threat by shrieking words to the effect of â€˜donâ€™t you know who I am?â€™…
Comment box below. Enjoy yourselves.
Jonathan reviewed The Beast Below.
Itâ€™s perhaps inevitable that Steven Moffatâ€™s first season, though effective, wasnâ€™t the ground-up reboot some people may have wished for. Instead, rather than reinventing the wheel, Moffat successfully added the much-vaunted fairytale veneer to the general format developed by Russell T Davies.
Despite its overall success, it is telling that the stories this series did fumble were its most traditional. Itâ€™s not unreasonable to hope this might give the new production team the confidence to further develop their own take on the program. This would be particularly gratifying not least because after the near-perfect pilot of The Eleventh Hour, the series didnâ€™t follow up the elements it put in place. Veering away from what seemed like the inevitable use of Leadworth and the inhabitants we encounter in that story as a Stockbridge or Allen Road-like home from home, it feels like thereâ€™s an alternate version of this series where those elements were more central.
An alternate version, it must be said, where perhaps certain problems with Amy may have been better dealt with, by giving her more of a grounding in domesticity and the opportunity to respond to her experiences. There’s been a slightly disappointing old series-style assumption that her thoughts should be implicit with the audience, so at least some level of self-awareness would be welcome.
That aside, where the series most comes into its own is in its treatment of the kind of â€˜magicalâ€™ elements which have previously proved so contentious in previous end-of-season stories. By comparison to the Doctorâ€™s I-do-believe-in-fairies moment in Last of the Time Lords, similar moments in The Big Bang seem much more sympathetic to the storybook tone of the season at large.
The underlying tenets of this approach to Doctor Who are supremely beguiling and largely effective, seeming both novel and entirely apposite. As a result, I am looking forward to Christmas and series six with excitement rather than apprehension.