Having recently subjected myself to the Smallville finale, a cathartic exercise to ensure that it was actually finishing, it struck me that despite the overwhelming influx of American TV to these shores we need not feel that British television is automatically inferior.
GeekDad, a column on the widely-read Wired.com, recently addressed this very point with regard to sci-fi. They saw daylight between the two offerings, with the big budget glitz of the Yanks taking on the indie-vibe sophistication of the Brits.
Doctor Who was, of course, the given. And with the form of the current series, perhaps minus the recent Pirates of the Caribbean episode, it has every right to be taken for granted as the unwavering flagship British offering.
The juxtaposition struck a particularly fresh chord for me as I eagerly sat down to The Doctor’s Wife, having earlier stoically braved the Smallville finale. Which for me can be summarised as the following:
“I’ve been pushing those away that believe in me…so how can I bring myself to believe in myself?
“But if you believe in me, then perhaps I can believe in myself too, especially if I believe that you believe in me.
“In fact, if you believe that I believe that you believe in me, and I believe that you actually believe it, then perhaps I CAN believe that I have belief in myself!
Yes! I can’t believe it!”
It was 90% build-up. Bad build up. Guff, in fact. The insecurities of the most sensationally-powerful person on Earth were being played out over and over. Then over again from another angle. Then one last time because there were still a few minutes left to fill.
Allow me to summarise the strength of the writing; the bad guy was brought back from the dead (again) at the last minute and – oh – was randomly administered a nerve-agent that in seconds gave him…complete amnesia.
Just ready in time to start duelling the freshly-minted Man of Steel. Able to leap tall buildings in a single frown.
It’s an outright testament to Batman’s cunning that he didn’t appear in one episode of Smallville.
One could argue that after ten seasons it’s hard to keep the writing fresh. But then one considers that Doctor Who has been on the go, on and off, since 1963.
Oh sure, it was never immune to bad writing. Frankly RTD made me cringe with his cheerful mangling of sci-fi tenants, free-wheeling arcs (“bad wolf” – he seriously knew what he was doing there?) and shameless deus ex machinas like firestones and Donna abruptly turning into a Time Lord. (The bandwagon for More Ginger Time Lords starts here by the way).
But Davies isn’t running things now, instead the show is written by someone with a grasp of the genre. And, particularly now that Stargate Universe was senselessly cancelled, Doctor Who, Blighty’s Finest, is surely right up there with the best of sci-fi?