Saturday, June 28, 2014

Doctor Who: Gone Off The Boil

Apparently the new series of Doctor Who starts in a couple of months time.

I say "apparently" deliberately. And also accurately.

No date has been confirmed. Or titles. Or writers. Or indeed, most of the cast. The official announcements about this new season could be crammed into a postage stamp, and with plenty of space to fill all the unconfirmed reports. Apart from a few vague mentions that this new season is going to be different, we know as much about Capaldi's debut year as we did back in 2005. Hell, I knew more about the plot of Paul McGann's TV movie before it was screened back in 1996 than I do about anything coming up.

Now, this is arguably a good thing. Moffat detests spoilers, of course, and the last time he tried to actually engage with the media ala RTD, he came up with a story arc that satisfied absolutely no one (even his own children were apparently underwhelmed by the same plot twists adult TV reviewers hemmoraged trying to understand). So many this complete silence hides lots of surprises and awesomeness. Or maybe there's just nothing worth talking about, as he has organised a world tour of Capaldi and Coleman prior to the first episode which will no doubt be the most awkward Q&A ever.

"So, Pete, what's your favorite episode so far?"
"Can't tell you."
"OK. Any monsters you want to fight?"
"Can't tell you."
"Any hopes to do another spin-off?"
"Can't tell you."
"What can you tell us?"
"Fuck all. This over yet?"

As is often the case, I tend to go from "panting bitch-crazed eagerness to see the new show" to "total brain-destroyed apathy bordering on contempt" in the run up to a new season. It's peversely hilarious to read my "oh, god, what is this point of this?!?!" about Partners in Time - until the bit where the Doctor and Donna meet and Season 4 immediately changed from sub-average mediorcity to one of the best seasons ever.

My rejection of Seasons 6a and 6b were something of a different matter. After a two episode skit show that had wasted most of its budget and plot on two pre-credit sequences simply to make trailers for more interesting stories (Cavaliers! Nazis! Area 51!), the clear statement that we were getting a DVD boxset season that demanded total commitment for stuff that really wasn't worth it put off not only me but so many others Moff quite rightly realized his hubris was being punished and pulled his freaking finger out.

But this is different.

You remember that truly deranged, drug-fueled, seemingly-designed-to-put-any-viewer-off-DW 3D trailer where the Doctor and Amy get sucked under a hillside and the Doctor grabs Amy's boobs before tearing a Weeping Angel apart with his bare hands before this all turns out to be a dream?

Yeah, wierd, wasn't it? You can imagine Moff deciding never to do an RTD-style 'mini-episode trailer' ever again, which is presumably why any trailers are just standard clipshows of upcoming eps rather than anything deeper (ironically, the BBCAmerica trailer for The Impossible Astronaut managed to be better both than this trailer and the episode itself, with Matt Smith striding through the wastes of Utah telling the audience he had found his way to pre-revolutionary Paris and Amy trying to break the news to him gently...)

What is the media bustle we've got for the Capaldi season?

Three seconds of flickering Capaldi-in-silhouette-against-a-TARDIS-console-exploding.

And that's it.

DeviantArt would not accept something that thin and conceptually empty. I mean, "Capaldi in silhouette"? What the fuck is that about? Why can't we see his face? Or do anything? 'Old man stands still and does fuck all as things catch fire' does not really grab anyone's imagination, does it?

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not fussed about an older Doctor. I don't think Capaldi's a bad actor (did anyone ever sit down before Fires of Pompeii and Children of Earth and think "Oh, no, that Scottish twit is in this! It is going to be crap!"?) but I've seen him do too many things. I've seen him as the drunken time traveler in Alexei Sayle's All New Alexei Sayle 2, or the punching-below-his-weight love interest in the Vicar of Dibley, and a whole range of poor, blood-drained emotional wrecks from The Hour to Accused. And, of course, Malcolm "the Fucker" Tucker.

In fact, I've seen so many of his characters I have the uneasy idea he won't surprise me in the role. In fact, none of what I've seen of the Twelfth... er, Thirteenth, er, Fourteenth-and-a-Half... no, wait, the First Two Point Oh Doctor does not impress me. Dressed in an uncomfortably-tight-looking tuxedo and fixed in a variety of rigid poses suggesting he's in the opening credits of either The Avengers or Charlie's Angels.

This, coupled with the IDW's logo choices suggests we're getting Pertwee all over again.

And this does not work for me.

I mean, yes, I love the Third Doctor, but he's the one I love least bar perhaps TV Colin Baker. He's a patronising jerk who's not much fun to be around (though clearly this was not true on Jon Pertwee himself) and he's somehow able to be so infantile and immature that even when he's heckling a scientist suggesting all criminals be lobotomized and turned into human slaves, it's poor Kettering you feel sorry for when this bully starts screaming at him. (Also, sparacus' fetishism has destroyed my tolerance for him, along with Adam Rickitt who really IS a decent actor and David Bowie who, er, might have redeeming features.)

Yet the more I think about it, the tiny scraps there are of what CapaldiDoc is up to seem to be a completely different show. There's the TARDIS, Clara, the Pasternoster Row Gang and maybe the old Sanctuary Base 6 spacesuit, but there doesn't seem to be anything really to link it to the last series. It's being made as a completely new show, one we're being kept in the dark about it, and Moffat's hinting that the thousand years protecting Christmas on Trenzalore mean the Doctor is a completely different individual - Barnable and Handles were his companions longer than anyone in the classic series, and he saw them all grow old and die over and over again. This is about as close as Moffat will go to rebooting the character.

At the same time, I find myself thinking that The Time of the Doctor was as much a finale to Doctor Who as it was to Matt Smith. What stories are there left that need to be told? The Time Lords finally reward their prodigal son, and deliberately choose to take "non-intervention" to the next level, finally choosing others' interests above their own. The Doctor blows up the last of the Daleks simply by being alive, and then wanders off amnesiac in a time machine he can't control with a Coal Hill School teacher.

People, this is a better way to end the show than Eric Saward or Robert Holmes ever tried to.

Had the show ended last Christmas, it would have ended with more closure than either Torchwood, Robin Hood or even The Sarah Jane Adventures. Do I consider Robin Hood a DW-spin-off? A clue: yes. Now, I hate to sound all Tom Cookson. I'm not saying I wish TOTD was the last story ever, or that everything beyond it never will have existed. Just that it FEELS like it does.

So, there we are.

There's a new show by Steven Moffat, a sci-fi gig with Peter Capaldi that will probably be up there with Jekyll and Sherlock or Spooks or Jonathan Creek. I'm sure it'll be a satisfying stand-in for Doctor Who, but we all know it'll never truly be the same...

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