It’s taken me a bit of time to adjust back to real life after the 17-day holiday in Britain. I have to admit that after a week of work, I’m still not quite sure where the project is at or what my role in it is, but I’m sure that’ll get ironed out really soon. Meanwhile, at home, a large fraction of the items I brought home with me are still in a pile, waiting to be put away. And there’s a huge pile of laundry that’s just screaming to be done. All in good time.
One of the highlights of the trip for me was having the opportunity to watch the new episodes of Doctor Who on BBC One, right when they were broadcast for the first time; I was in Britain for “Listen” and “Time Heist.” I had been afraid that wanting to catch the show at 7:30 p.m. on Saturdays would cut into our holiday time, but it turned out that we were usually back in the hotel room by then, so it didn’t affect anything at all. The only two times we were out at night (attending the London Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican Theatre and “A Comedy of Errors” at the Globe) had been carefully scheduled to not be on Saturday nights. I have to say that it was rather exciting to experience my favorite show along with everyone else.
The shows themselves, though, were disappointing. “Listen” tried so hard to be spooky but fell flat, possibly because so much of the recent creepiness – the Weeping Angels, the Silence, the robots in “Deep Breath”, to name a few – have relied so much on the victims standing still and long periods of nervous, paralyzed fear that it’s just the same old thing now. Then we went through the tired trope of “person A teaches person B something, then B goes back in time and teaches person A that thing.” I do have to say that it was exciting to go back to the Doctor as a child (and as soon as Clara stepped out of the TARDIS, I literally leapt out of my seat screaming, “That’s the shack the Doctor fired the Moment in!”), but then it ended with Clara pretty much being the reason for the Doctor’s genesis. Way to deflate the legend! Then there was “Time Heist”, which should have been an action-packed Mission: Impossible-type thriller, but decided instead to slow everything down with long scenes of the monster creeping through hallways and freezing its victims in place (oh, wait, I already addressed that earlier this paragraph; funny that). All that extra time could have been used to give Saibra and Psi more to do, rather than have them do their one designated thing and get “killed” immediately. (Not to mention, once again, characters get good deaths, both for them and for drawing the audience further into the story, and then they’re not dead. Doesn’t Moffat ever kill anyone for real?) And then the ending, a repeat they did only eleven episodes before in “Hide.” Couldn’t they have found any other reason for what the Teller was doing? I did watch both episodes again when I returned home, and, like I’ve found with Doctor Who in general, they improve on re-watch, but they’re still pretty average.
And then there was “The Caretaker.” This episode was all about Clara and Danny’s relationship, and since I can’t stand either character or their relationship, there’s no way I could come out of this with a positive opinion. We’ve got Clara the sexual predator on the one hand (no, really: she asks Danny out the moment they meet, re-asks multiple times after he says no, follows him and peeps while he has a personal moment then immediately barges in and demands he go out with her, returns after the date goes pear-shaped and blurts out his personal secrets [why he doesn’t consider her a stalker at this point, I don’t know], then returns once more to his apartment and kisses him – if the genders were reversed, this show would be pushed past the watershed) and Danny the “sensitive” ex-soldier who’s really an insult to all real soldiers suffering PTSD. Granted, the Doctor really didn’t treat him very well in “The Caretaker”, but Clara’s inability to take Danny and the alien situation seriously and talk to him about it like an adult, telling him what he needs to know about her, just destroys any illusion that these characters are realistic.
Now, the more I watch, the more I like the Twelfth Doctor, but the Doctor alone doesn’t make the show. I have “Kill the Moon” downloaded and ready to play, and yet I’ve spent the evening messing around playing puzzle games: I don’t feel like watching Doctor Who. Similarly, while I was gone, my husband didn’t even bother watching “Listen” and “Time Heist,” having no interest in them at all. Carl and Sandy made it through Series 7.1 about two weeks before we left for vacation, but have felt no impulse to continue watching; they want to watch Series 7.2 so that they can see “The Day of the Doctor” (which I’ve told them is fantastic), but I expect it will take them months to watch those eight episodes.
What happened? We are four people who started with “Rose” and couldn’t get enough, blasting our way through Series 1-5. We all love all of the Doctors, Nine through Twelve (Nine through Eleven for Carl and Sandy), but the love of the Doctors isn’t enough to make us love the current show. The plots are weak, overly complicated, and uninspiring, the characters are poorly developed, and the episodes seem to be going for spectacle and heavy emotional payout, but they’re missing the mark and are instead coming out maudlin. And through it all, they seem to be missing the basic idea that Doctor Who has been running on for fifty years, that it’s an adventure show that’s meant to simply be entertaining, to tell a fun story by taking us to new places and introducing us to interesting people. I made a quip the other day that Doctor Who has basically become Sherlock in Space. Not to diss on Sherlock, though; it’s a great show. The thing is, Doctor Who is a very different beastie from Sherlock, but it feels the same, and honestly, the change in show dynamic is not working for Doctor Who.
So, the new season has been very disappointing for me, and yet, the show is still my life. Why is that? Normally, when a show doesn’t interest me, I just drop it and move on. That happened with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: when the first four episodes failed to be interesting and the characters grated on my nerves, I stopped watching. (I’ve heard it’s much better now, and I might give it a chance again sometime.) But Doctor Who is still my obsession, and after I thought about it over the past week, I realized why: there is so much more to the show than just the current season. I still have at least 75% of the classic show to watch, seven Doctors and dozens of companions to get to know. There are over two hundred audios to listen to, and that’s just in the main range; my current goal is to get the Gallifrey series and finally meet Narvin and Braxiatel. The novels and comic books, I’m less interested in, but I’m still working on those, too. And, of course, I can always return to Series 1 through 5.
You see, there’s a lot more to Doctor Who than just the episodes being shown on BBC One. The universe is huge, and if one part of it isn’t interesting, I’ll just go play in another part. I’ll keep watching the new episodes, of course – you couldn’t keep me away from them. But I’m content with being a classic/audio/RTD fan.