Sunday, September 18, 2011

Complex – Many Different and Connected Parts.

After Let’s Kill Hitler I decided not to blog every week about Doctor Who.  It is, after all, a show aimed at kids (although not only at kids) so analyzing it too much takes the fun out of it, in my opinion. 

But as we go into the home stretch on this season I find that I want to go on record about a few things.  With two more episodes to go, I don’t have any compulsion to make a definitive judgment about the season yet.  That would be like judging a 1300 page novel after finishing 1100 pages.  So I fully intend to wait to see how Steven Moffat winds up the story arc before judging it.

I just want to record my own temperature at this point to see where I am now versus where I was a few weeks ago. 

  • I complained about direction in previous posts.  The last two episodes (The Girl Who Waited and The God Complex) were both beautifully directed by Nick Hurran who seemed to get that little extra something out of his actors that has sometimes been lacking this season.  Or at least he managed to capture their very good acting and see that it showed up on the edited final product.  I really felt involved with each character and understood what each character was thinking.   I really hope they use him again.
  • The stories for the last two episodes have been very good. The Girl who Waited was written by Tom MacRae.  His previous effort was a two part story for the Tenth Doctor and although I know that critics didn’t really like The Rise of the Cybermen and The Age of Steel I remember liking them very much.  The God Complex was written by Toby Whithouse who also wrote one of my favorite episodes for the Tenth Doctor – School Reunion which saw the return of Sarah Jane Smith. (His other episode was Vampires of Venice which, while not a favorite, I did enjoy.)  When Moffat decides to leave Who they might want to consider Whithouse as the next head writer.
  • I enjoyed Night Terrors enough but thought it was weird to have a story about a terrified little boy and never have Amy or Rory mention their own daughter (although it was also weird that Old Amy in The Girl Who Waited never mentioned that failure of the Doctor either).  Then I read that Night Terrors was originally intended for the first half of the season and was switched with The Curse of the Black Spot.  That’s a shame.  It would have made much more sense in the first half and The Curse of the Black Spot, with its very fallible Doctor constantly guessing wrong and the alien medic who harmed through kindness, would have fit much better in the second half.  I hope there was a production reason why it had to be switched and not simply a realization that they needed the Pirates to already exist before A Good Man Goes to War for that brief second where they stop Madame Kovarian from getting on her spaceship.
  • Unfortunately, despite the ending of The God Complex I don’t for a moment believe that we’ve seen the end of the Pond-Williams duo (and it really annoyed me that the Doctor tried to change her name to Williams at the end).  At a minimum, if the action goes back to Utah and the death of the Doctor, which is where the season began, they have to be there because, well, they were there. But I really really hope that this is the end of them as regular Companions.  I feel very much about Amy Pond as I felt about Rose Tyler – in fact I’ve gone through almost the exact same arc.   I really liked both characters a lot at the beginning and thought the story arc that brought each character to the end of her first season was brilliant.  By the middle of each character’s second season I disliked what had been done to each of the characters and by the end I was more than ready for both to go.  It isn’t necessary to suck Amy into an alternate universe since there isn’t any silly love story that can’t go anywhere.  But she needs to leave the TARDIS permanently and the Doctor needs to move on.   I wouldn’t mind seeing River visit them occasionally.
  • After this story arc is finished, I’d like to see the Doctor begin to travel more to other planets that are not either places made to fool people into thinking they are on Earth or terra-formed planets filled with earthlings who have migrated at some point in the future.  I miss alien planets like we used to get in the old Classic Who.  There hasn’t been enough of that in New Who.  Maybe being in an alien culture could mean that the companion could act more independently and help those people from other planets who will (inevitably) be in distress. I’m really getting tired of the companion as “Damsel in Distress saved by the Doctor” meme, both of which were present in the last three episodes.
  • I previously complained about the lack of emotion this season.  The Girl Who Waited made up for that in spades.  Lots of emotion and handled almost flawlessly (except for the failure to mention Melody being stolen).   Lots of emotion in The God Complex too, although I find it hard to believe that Amy could give up her faith in the Doctor just like that when he told her to.  I would have liked to have seen a gradual failure in faith through this entire season with this episode being the final straw that finally puts him in perspective for her.  I liked Whithouse’s story but he was called upon to find a way to get that entire complicated concept into one episode.  They spent 13 episodes in the first season building Amy’s faith and not nearly enough time in the second season destroying it.  Truthfully, a part of me really wished it had been Old Amy who had survived in The Girl Who Waited.  Or at least that more was made of Young Amy realizing that Old Amy kind of had a point about the Doctor – that would have made The God Complex episode a bit more believable.
  • And that leads me to the whole concept of pacing.  I’ve felt from the beginning of the Moffat seasons that part of his plan was to deconstruct the Davies years and take the Doctor back to a place that is closer to the Doctors of old:  A brilliant, arrogant alien who travels through time and space observing the wonders of the universe but, while he fights bad guys along the way, someone who is still a fairly irresponsible being. The Eccleston/Tennant years saw the Doctor evolve from a war damaged alien who still basically thought the way the old Doctors thought, to a godlike being who was responsible for all of humankind.  The Lonely God was very effective, although a bit exhausting. 

    But it leaves you nowhere to go with the character except to start bringing him down a few pegs.  Davies destroyed all the other Time Lords so the journey down can’t be inflicted on him, it has to be a slow realization of his own.  (I admit that I wondered if Moffat would bring back the Time Lords since Time Lord atoms were in the TARDIS when Big Bang 2 occurred.)  So Moffat is slowly breaking the Doctor down with a long slow process where he realizes how he is thought of and what effect he can have on people – completely unbalanced of course the way people in a depression are unbalanced.   All the emphasis is on the “dark” Doctor and not remembering all the years of the good, heroic Doctor.  But while the set up for the descent has been long and slow, I fear that the descent is going to be brief and fast and over too soon.   It took Davies and Eccleston/Tennant five years and a whole lot of emotion over all of those five years to bring the Tenth Doctor to the point where we believed that he was, or at least thought he was, The Lonely God.  To have the emotional part of his descent back to ordinary Time Lord crammed into a few episodes at the end of this season seems way too fast.
  • Finally, even though I have so many good things to say about The God Complex I still find myself relatively cold on the season. In general, I find myself less satisfied at this point in the season than I have with any other season.  Although it probably doesn’t help that I’m watching this season in real time and not straight through as I did for the other seasons.  

And so we’re off to the end of the season.  Throughout this past year Moffat has seeded his stories with allusion upon allusion to past episodes in the Doctor’s life.  It has been clever and fun.  It remains to be seen how many of those allusions are clues to what is going to happen and which (the vast majority) are just red herrings and there for fun. 

But at least the Cybermen will be back next week.