As I've already discussed at some length, the 50th Anniversary special "The Day of the Doctor," which aired just a few short weeks ago, was the culmination of everything executive producer Steven Moffat had set out to do in his first three series of Doctor Who. That episode was not perfect, but it was a triumph: a satisfying fulfillment of what I've called the "Moffat Masterplan," and a bold reinvention—or restoration?—of the series as a whole. Without disrespecting everything that previous showrunner Russell T. Davies had done to not only resurrect Doctor Who but to turn it into a massively successful worldwide phenomenon, Moffat had spent three years carefully addressing some of the more problematic aspects of Davies' legacy. "The Day of the Doctor" was the final bit of major rejiggering, and it succeeded in undoing the darkest moment in the Doctor's personal character arc, rescuing some key elements of the classic series that Davies had jettisoned, and bringing all 50 years of Doctor Who into glorious agreement. History, I believe, will remember Davies as the man who salvaged Doctor Who from the scrapyard of television history, and it may well remember Moffat as the man who lovingly restored the show's engines to their original specifications. Continue reading
It seemed almost inconceivable that "The Day of the Doctor," the long-awaited 50th anniversary episode of Doctor Who, could possibly live up to the hype and expectations it had generated: it simply had to do too much. There were too many elements to interweave, too many themes to address, too many audiences and interests to satisfy in order to pay proper homage to the five-decade history of this insane, beloved institution. How could it be anything other than a disappointment? Continue reading
Welcome back, Mr. Moffat. My, how I've missed you.
I've made no secret of the fact that I've been disappointed with Series 7 of Doctor Who. By my count, it's given us a couple of very good episodes ("The Snowmen" and "Hide"), far too many fairly terrible ones ("Dinosaurs on a Spaceship," "The Power of Three," "The Bells of Saint John," "Cold War," and "The Crimson Horror"), with the rest falling comfortably in the middle. Opinions vary, of course, but by my arbitrary reckoning this makes this arguably the weakest season since the show returned in 2005. Continue reading
Okay, let me say at the start: this isn't going to be pleasant for any of us. I really don't enjoy being this guy: just as there's nothing I love more than analyzing and raving about (at obscene length) an episode of Doctor Who that rises to the considerable heights of which this show is capable, there is nothing I hate more than trying to squeeze out even a few hundred words about the infrequent and unfortunate lows. Continue reading
Somewhere within the wreckage of "Journey to the Center of the TARDIS" there was a great episode of Doctor Who to be found, but writer Steve Thompson didn't quite find it. Like the Doctor (Matt Smith) himself, Thompson kept journeying further and further into the legendary, infinite recesses of the famous craft, searching for the salvage of a lifetime: there were many pleasures and wonders to be discovered along the way, but, ultimately, what they both found was just a big old mess in desperate need of a do-over.
Wibbly wobbly, timey-wimey: is it too late to go back to the beginning, and try this hour again?
Perhaps you haven’t noticed, but I really do very little reviewing in my “TV reviews”—at least of the shows I cover regularly. I’m not interested in assigning grades, and I presume that if you’re reading these posts you’ve already seen the episode in question, so you don’t need me to recommend it. I wouldn’t watch these shows—let alone spend hours writing about them—if I didn’t assume a basic, baseline level of quality that can usually go unremarked. So, in general, I’m much more interested in discussing the episodes than reviewing them. If I find myself reviewing an episode, it usually means something has gone terribly, terribly wrong.
So, with apologies to all concerned, welcome to my review of “Cold War.” Continue reading
New and casual fans of Doctor Who may not know that the showwas originally conceived largely as an educational program, one commissioned by BBC executives who had a fair amount of disdain for science fiction. An internal BBC memo from May 1963 contains a mandate that the show be "neither fantasy nor space travel nor science fiction:"
"The only unusual science fiction 'angle' is that four characters of today are projected into real environments based on the best factual information of situations in time, in space, and in any material state we can realise in practical terms…
"Using unusual exciting backgrounds, or ordinary backgrounds seen unusually, each story will have a strong informational core based in fact…" Continue reading
Last year, Doctor Who executive producer Steven Moffat famously (and controversially) quit Twitter, amidst much speculation that he had tired of the steady stream of abuse from his alleged fans. This year, we get an episodededicated to the proposition that the internet is going to suck up our souls, one in which the villains are ultimately brought down because they foolishly expose themselves on social media sites. I don't blame Moffat a bit for escaping the online pecking party, but I'm afraid his antipathy towards the internet feels like a fairly thin metaphor on which to hang a story. We get it: the internet is the enemy. What's next? Are animated GIFs really miniature time loops? Does a Pinterest page of an angel become an angel? Shall we brace for the Attack of the Cybermemes? Continue reading
Just today, it happened again: this time it was during a phone call with my mother. She mentioned that—thanks to my bad influence—my youngest niece is now an obsessive fan of Doctor Who. For Christmas, my brother's teen-age daughter had hung a string of TARDIS lights in her bedroom—the strand draped so that it cast a smile-shaped shadow like a crack on the wall—and last week she spent an entire afternoon making Weeping Angel cookies.
Needless to say, I couldn't be prouder. But my mother—her grandmother—doesn't get it: she's watched a couple of episodes, and doesn't see the appeal. "I get why she would like it," my mother said to me. "I just don't get why you do."
It was bafflement, not judgement, but the implication was clear: Doctor Who is not a show for grown-ups.