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Doctor Who: Things That Need To Be Fixed

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I have up and down feelings about Doctor Who. More so, especially with Series 5 of the new series, I’ve been mostly feeling as if the show is becoming tired. It’s got nothing to do with David Tennant and Russell T. Davies (RTD) leaving, but more of Matt Smith and Steven Moffat appearing unsure with what to do with the series.

When Moffat was announced as the next executive producer of the series, I was at first excited. Right next to Paul Cornell and Gareth Roberts, Moffat wrote some of the best episodes of the show (Girl In The Fireplace, Blink). If Russell T. Davies often seemed bi-polar about how he handled being the showrunner of Doctor Who, Moffat’s output seems to suggest the same problem.

One of the issues that bothers me about Moffat’s Doctor Who is how murky the episodes look. To Russell’s credit, every scene and every moment (for better or worse) was bright and interesting. Take the scene with Timothy Dalton in “The End Of Time, Part One” where he exclaims “Gallifrey Rises!”. It’s not only a great cliffhanger to the second part, but it’s also set-up in such a manner that decreases the camp that would have deflated the drama of the scene.

There’s just something about proper lighting even when the start of a scene is meant to be in complete shadow.

Another problem, one that even was an issue with RTD’s era (and perhaps before that) and continues onward into Moffat’s era is that of companion management. Back in the classic series in it’s inital years in the 1960s, Doctor Who had three companions. This was brought down to at least two by the end of the 1960s, and then one by the early 1970s. 

Although there were brief attempts to return the show to it’s ’60s structure by adding more companions to the mix, the show largely stayed with one companion. I always felt, no matter how good the actor/actress was as the respective companion, that there had to be room in the story for them to be actively involved. Adding one more, especially in the current series format, might weigh a story down. Adding three can mean that not everyone carries a useful purpose.

RTD’s era showcased the problem with this style with Series 4’s “The Doctor’s Daughter”. In Moffat’s era, it would be Series 5’s “The Vampires Of Venice” and the two-parter “The Hungry Earth”/”Cold Blood”. Although the intention of the upcoming sixth series so far is to have Matt Smith’s 11th Doctor carry two passengers, I feel eventually it will occur to Moffat to have one companion.

Another, perhaps final issue that I have is how stiff Murray Gold’s compositions feel under Moffat’s reign. I don’t know if that has anything to do with Moffat himself, but I feel that Gold doesn’t feel as inspired to write the epic sounding scores he did in RTD’s era. As uneven as they were at times during seasons past, nothing like “Vale Decem” has really been heard in Moffat’s era.

One showcase of change that Gold did give was during a final scene in “The End Of Time” where David Tennant’s 10th Doctor struggles to reach the TARDIS after being poisoned by radiation while saving Wilf (Bernard Cribbins). The music, before what would be known as “Vale Decem”, had a strange electronic sound that harkened back to the days of the classic series. Although I enjoyed Gold’s John Williams-like take on Doctor Who, mixing up the sounds would keep it from sounding the same every season.

There are other criticisms that I could level at the series, but these seem to be the least obvious (with the exception of the companion complaint). Perhaps Mr. Moffat won’t listen, but I like to think some of these concerns are on his mind. Doctor Who always needs fixing, if it didn’t, I wouldn’t have any reason to write this. 

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About Matthew Milam

  • Alex

    Am I the only person on the planet who watches Doctor Who for the sheer joy of watching Doctor Who, without spending my entire time griping about “so and so did this better” or “boy, there are so many things wrong with this show”? I think that’s why it is – and remains – so popular with children. They don’t care. Nor should we, frankly. Doctor Who is not Mad Men, nor Battlestar Galactica, for that matter, nor has it ever aspired to be and that’s why I love it. And, frankly, why we’re able to talk about a 31st season when all other shows (except soap operas) are fortunate if they make it to 5.

    I see nothing “tired” about the show under Moffat. I saw nothing wrong with how RTD handled the show either – he made people care about it again and he allowed the show to grow up a little bit by, among other things, doing what all previous producers FAILED to do, and that was properly express that there is such a thing as a “Whoniverse” – that, say, Rose Tyler didn’t just fade into oblivion when she left (unlike, say, Zoe or Leela or Tegan) and that these were people who actually have families and who actually might feel more for the Doctor than just “buddy buddy” (Big Finish Productions has allowed this to creep into its classic-series audios, too; Peri and the Piscon Paradox contains some remarkably candid discussion of the relationship between the Sixth Doctor and Peri and she outright states that she found the Fifth Doctor hot at one point. Gold’s music is some of the only television soundtrack music (and certainly the first for Doctor Who) that I can actually listen to and appreciate on its own (I have tried to listen to soundtracks from the classic series and, except for the theme, most of it may as well be elevator music). Did every episode of RTD’s era knock it out of the park? Of course not. Moffat, likewise, has had – and will have – duds. No show of any length has a 100% batting average. But I still consider DW one of the best shows, pound for pound, on TV right now.

  • The Professor Dalen Rune

    5736.4 Rassilon Era (160)
    Saturday, 1st of April, 6027 Anno Mundi Vulgaris
    Dies Saturni, 13th of Martius, 2764 Ab Urbe Condita
    Saturday, 26th of March, 2011 Common Era
    @ 23:40 Universal Time Coordinated.

    Greetings Fellow Gallifreyans!!

    In Classic Doctor Who there was not a proper transition between the smaller outside doors and the larger inside doors!! Several times we had looked out through the large inside doors and the smaller inside doors were not there!!

    S 2005-2010 had a decent transition from the outside to the inside
    But no accesss to the rest of The T.A.R.D.I.S. and the console was made of garbage!!

    S 2010 – saw the creation of doorways to other parts of The T.A.R.D.I.S. But The Console is STILL MADE FROM TRASH!!

    Take The Console (or a replica) from “The Five Doctors” and the make the ceiling one large monitor and then we will have a decent Console Room!!

    Thank you and Allons-y!!

  • Rusty

    I’ve been a fan since I first discovered the show in 1982 Honestly, I got BORED with Davies schtick – he has this nasty habit of coming up with these EPICS that fizzled at the end. (I have my concerns about the new Torchwood season as well for exactly that reason) And, while I liked Rose during her time, this business of bringing her back time and again after he CLAIMED he couldn’t made her constant reappearances into bad fan fiction – my friends and I refer to her as “the boomerang blonde” – I was GLAD to see Davies go. Moffat’s got a different take on things, but his two parters are solid. Doctor Who is all about changes and too many fans are stuck in “it’s Tennant and Davies or nothing” mentality.

  • Priyank Chandra

    Matthew, I personally liked the Moffatt season. Though I must say that he uses the wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey thing far too often as a deux-ex-machina.

    I point to the Christmas Special, which I thought was brilliantly done. RTD’s Christmas Specials could never match up to that.

    And I think parts of the Murray Gold theme are still great, for example the Doctor’s theme this time around is far more epic and spectacular. (Recall ‘I am the Doctor’) The music is less haunting, certainly. But that is because the Doctor has less melancholy about him too.