Saturday, 27 August 2011

On Doctor Who, Let's Kill Hitler

I enjoyed it. But then I'm the sort of person who reads Gallifrey Base.

However if you wanted to alienate, confuse and shake off a couple more million viewers for the rest of the series, starting with something as continuity-bound and self-referential as that was the best way of doing it.

As I say I like the Moff's writing. It's designed for someone like me, a forty-something obsessive Doctor Who fan and comedy lover who gets all the in-jokes and enjoys solving a puzzle, and following twisty turny plots with snappy witty dialogue. But I'm not the general public. That contains children, boys and girls, and families watching together, and my Mum. This show was so not for them it's hard to believe anyone could think it was.

Russell T Davies's writing (and stewardship of the show) was all about drawing viewers in, making them love the characters, making them care what happened to those characters, than making amazing shit happen to them that made the viewer worried for the characters they loved. What was important was the characters. The shit that happened came second.

Moffat's writing is all about the shit that happens. He builds mazes, big tangly knotted snares, rollercoaster rides, big story-sized Mousetrap games, and you are dragged along at speed deciphering and decoding what's happened. Which is fun. Then when you've got to the end of the ride, escaped the trap, untangled the knots - supposing you're among the game-playing minority - you go "that was fun". Then you look around at the characters and say "oh yeah, there were some other people on this ride. Wonder who they were." But they're only part of the game and once it's over they have no purpose or meaning.

I love Rory & Amy's acting. I think Arthur Darvill and Matt Smith are two of the funniest comedy actors ever to have been in Doctor Who. And I know I - and other normal people - could be made to care for all three (or four) of the central characters in these stories. But right now we're getting all game and no players. All performance on the big stage, and nothing going on at home.

I love Steven Moffat's writing, have done ever since Press Gang. And I have Joking Apart on VHS. But I keep going back and watching his Doctor Who episodes from when RTD was in charge and spotting the bits that RTD clearly either wrote or asked for (I'm getting back in practice by doing the same with this season's Torchwood - if it's good it's either RTD or Jane Espenson off of Buffy, but I digress...).

Ironically it was Russell T Davies who had Christopher Eccleston's Doctor say "don't make this place domestic" when Rose & Mickey were in the Tardis. Right now that's what is so missing from Doctor Who, a little bit of domesticity which would make my 8 year old niece want to watch it next week. A dramatic scene about how River was programmed by the Silence who are a Religious Order who have also just sent The Numbskulls to Kill Hitler and now she's given up all the regenerations that none of us is quite sure how she got in the first place and now we have to forget all those things even happened and move on, while simultaneously remembering what happened in the first episode of the series which was five months ago - isn't.

Kev F

The Facebook copy of this blog posting has spawned an interesting conversation with lots of comments. Sadly not a single dissenting voice, which doesn't bode well.

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