TV: Doctor Who At Christmas

I don’t intend to be very topical in this return to blogging, but I wanted to get some thoughts down about the recent (and much-hyped) series finale/swan song for David Tenant while still fresh in my head.

I’m not a hardcore Doctor Who fan, but I watched it growing up (my favourite Doctor is Tom Baker, to give you an idea of my age) and I’m a genre fan, so I’m really happy that Doctor Who is an important part of the Christmas schedule and a big event in its own right. What Russell T Davies has done – making Doctor Who a vibrant piece of sci-fi entertainment that is loved by everybody – is amazing and he deserves every recognition for this wonderful achievement. However, the last 10 minutes of the final David Tenant episode was the most self-indulgent television I’ve seen in a while, and got really tiresome.

Davies is great with character, dialogue and the broad strokes of the mythology, and the four series in which he has been in charge have been a lot of fun, but he’s not a good sci-fi writer – his default story is a disaster movie (throw the Doctor in the middle of a bunch of people in trouble with a ticking clock, killing them off until somebody sacrifices themselves to save the day) and anything that involves sci-fi doesn’t make any sense and falls apart on closer examination. This may be a minor niggle, but Doctor Who is based in sci-fi and should be able to withstand some scrutiny of plot; I think Davies uses wave-wanding pseudo-science to explain everything just so he can create whatever story he wants to put the character in. For example, in the two-parter that was the finale for both Tenant and Davis, the entire point of the Master turning everyone on Earth into him (I loved that people were changing their Twitter picture to one of John Simms as the Master) was a pun: the Master Race. That’s not the basis for an action adventure.

The rest of the Christmas special had some nice character bits (Bernard Cribbins was the best thing in the whole two-parter, and it was nice to see Timothy Dalton as Lord President of the Time Lords, even though he turned out to be a non-starter once he turned up in our reality) but I was losing interest in the actual plot very early on in the programme, and was embarrassed by the Star Wars reference. I think Tenant has been very good in the role, with his mix of humour and intelligence and compassion and joie de vivre, and there have been some great episodes in the Davies-run series, but I’m looking forward to Steve Moffat taking over the reins. As to Matt Smith – well, the little bit I saw I didn’t hate, which is a start. He still looks a little young, but perhaps that will allow for a justifiable Action Doctor. We shall see; I’m optimistic.

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