Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Change And Not A Moment Too Soon

I haven't written anything about Doctor Who since I accused Moffat's showrunning of being like Improv Jazz. I have been on self imposed hyatus but now I'm back and I have a few things to say before Christmas Day. What follows are my opinions on Moffat's tenure as showrunner and the future of a Sci Fi series that I have been watching all of my life. There are other opinions and they are just as valid as mine. What you wont read is an article that pokes holes in Moffat's reign, I am going to be critical but there were moments of sheer brilliance. Had Moffat left with Matt Smith we would have had a very different view looking back, but then I dont think he ever intended to write for Capaldi. Peter Capaldi portrayed The Doctor or, as I have come to know him, the Doctor that never should have been. 

There are so many rules in Doctor Who and, so legend has it, there is an actual written log book on how you have to fly the Tardis and what order the levers and buttons have to be pressed in. It's a serious business and us fans notice all and if something is wrong we say so, we say so a lot. Even if you don't subscribe to the Doctor Who Canon view point (and I certainly don't) which states that all that happens in the TV series is law. If that were true we are left with a Timelord who is/isn't half human and may have had (stupid TV Movie silliness) a human mother. I tend to follow the line of continuity and you cannot go around ignoring whats gone before just because it suits you to do so. This moves into my problems with Moffat and his bizarre fascination with the 'Bobby in the shower' retcon story arcs, but more with this later. Cyberman had an allergy to gold dust because it interfered with their respiratory systems and not (as Silver Nemesis writer) Kevin Clarke would have you believe. Ace shot a gold medallion at the Cyber Leader and caused a lot of damage (if you don't know who Ace is do your Who research!) To be fair to Kevin, he did ask several Who aficionado's and they couldn't remember so he did the best he could. Continuity is important and the longer a series has run for the more problematic keeping up becomes. I was, quite frankly, rather surprised at the prolonged fuss over the announcement that Jodie Whitaker was to portray The Doctor. Has no one been paying attention to Moffat writing? The seeds for this final legacy were sown with the very first words Matt Smith uttered as the 10th Doctor.

"I'm not a girl" by implication it was a possibility then? This is the first time that it had ever been vocalised that a Timelord can transcend the boundaries of gender (even if it had been suggested by Doctor Who staff for decades) Moffat's plan from day one was to introduce into the continuity of the show that it was possible for Timelords to change sex. We see this again in The Doctors Wife with the reference to the Corsair being a Timelady on more than one occasion. Season 8 sees The Master regenerating into Missy and Moffat is crystallising his idea into High Definition with Season 9's finale showing a Timelord regenerating onscreen and changing gender. Logically it makes sense that if a Timelord has control over his form then he can also choose whether he is a he or a she. I have always been confused as to the arbitary nature of regeneration and especially after Romana chose her body in Destiny Of The Daleks. Are we to assume that The Doctor has forgotten he can control his regenerations or is there a more sinister reason behind the lack of control. You cant even argue that Timelord regenerative control only exists on Karn (the sisterhood use an Elixir to assist The Doctor's regeneration from Eight to War Doctor) because Romana was on board the Tardis and in flight. More than likely this is a continuity error due to a TV series that has run for over 50 years. Is it possible that Moffat had planned to regenderate the 11th Doctor into a lady but for some reason (actor unavailability or a BBC veto are two possible reasons) had to postpone his exit. I believe that the reason for Moffat's lack lustre writing and pitiful story arcs can be explained by one fact. Moffat had never intended to write for Capaldi.

As is the case with the most avid of Doctor Who fans I can sum up each regeneration with a few words. But I struggle with Capaldi's regeneration and it wasn't because I refused to watch him. I am a huge Capaldi fan and I was excited when it was announced he was to play The Doctor, but there was something about his performance that never worked for me. It's almost as if the writers didn't know who he was and, by extension, neither did Capaldi. One minute he is crying tears of loss and the next he is a cold and heartless killer. There was little character continuity and I find myself unmoved at his departure. This has never happened before and I am not ashamed to admit that I cried at both Tennant's and Smith's departures. Moffat lost interest in writing for Doctor Who when Matt left the TARDIS and the nonsensical and boring stories that pepper Seasons 8 and 9 evidence this. Capaldi did his best with the material he was given and there were a few stories that retain interest but none of them reach the levels of what had gone before. Moffat relies to heavily on ret con and on the obvious for his finale's and this became all to tedious for Season 10. We all knew that it was Missy in the Vault and yet Moffat trumpets her reveal as if it was the cleverest piece of writing ever conceived.  Even the finale to Season 9 was horrendous with Meh and Clara galavanting around the universe in a restaurant (Douglas Adams rip off)

Season 10's finale reintroduces the Mondassian Cyberman and even though they are significantly more forboding than their Tonka Toy Earth brothers they are easily defeated by Bill. No one gets to turn a Mondassian Cyberman's emotions back on, you cant break their programming and yet Moffat would have us believe that one human being can achieve so much. We are told that the Master can never kill himself but, watch out, because here comes Moffat and adios The Master. So desperate is Moffat to get to the end and to finally regenerate The Doctor in female form that he forgets to write sensibly and in an entertaining manner. Moffat's actions and writing reveal his ego and opinion that his legacy matters more than the show that he serves. With his departure on Christmas Day we shall see a new era for a show that has become tired and disjointed and a show that is losing fans with every tortuous episode. We say goodbye to Moffat and his McGuffin companions and hello to Jody Whitaker and  Chris Chibnall. It is not a female Doctor you should be worried about it is Chibnall, because he has written some of the laziest and disappointing Who stories of the shows tenure. If Moffat was a great writer but a lousy Showrunner let us hope the reverse is proven to be true for Chibnall. Neither should you show any concern for Chibnall's choice of companions (Bradley Walsh, Mandip Gill and Tosin Gull) soap stars they may be. Who knew anything about Billie Piper, other than her embarrassingly short pop career, and Catherine Tate was known only for her comedy and not her acting prowess. Whitaker herself, is a fine and experienced actress who impressed me with her performance in Attack The Block and who also has enough stage experience to easily to convince as The Doctor. The weak link in the future of the show was always Chibnall and the show stands or falls with the writing team he assembles.

Blame It On Chibnall?
Chris Chibnall is a lazy writer, and previous experience would indicate he has an issue with developing his ideas to the level that a Doctor Who story requires. Take 'Dinosaurs on a Spaceship' as an example with the sole premise being there are 'dinosaurs.... on a spaceship' the story was tired and the script so cringe worthy as to make it virtually unwatchable. If you are about to throw Broadchurch at me, don't bother because I will just throw it back at you. Broadchurch (or People Like Tennant So Lets Build A Show Around Him) did not appeal to the broad church Chibnall believes it to. The writing was pedestrian, the characters malformed and why oh why oh why did we need a second series. Popularity is no sensible gauge as to how good something is and you only have to look at the prevalence of reality shows to see my point. Doctor Who is going through somewhat of a reboot with the BBC concerned about the fall in revenue and viewer numbers. If Chibnall Showruns and leaves the writing in the hands of a competent team we have a hope of the show regaining momentum. But my fear is that Chibnall wont leave it alone and will be anxious to prove he can write story arcs as well as have gone before. He cant! and we will end up with a show that is held together with the thinnest of strands and they will break. If Chibnall doesn't turn the viewing numbers around you can expect two seasons and then Doctor Who will rest and this time it will be for good. Blame Chibnall if you want but I blame Moffat for not leaving when he should of, he has now left Chibnall with an impossible mountain to climb. Chibnall believes his own press and he is going to fall and fall hard.

A lot has been said on the new outfit, both good and bad. Whilst it is true that  The Doctor has always been more than what he or she wears and that outfits do alter over time. I feel that this is a very bold step when you consider that a lot is riding on this reboot and with a new show runner, new writing team and new TARDIS crew I think a safer option would have worked better. We have nearly a year until a new series starts and this will not do much to calm nerves. From a fashion point of view it just doesn't work, in my view, it feels like it is trying to much to be different and ground breaking. If this is the sort of direction Chibnall's writing will take (IE it always has to be new and untried) then this series will risk failing both fans and sci fi newbies. We all know what happened last time that was inflicted on the show and this time the hiatus will be permanent expulsion to the void. 

Mark Shepherd said of Doctor Who that "There isn't one person that is more important, the show is the star with the actors and crew that work for it, the servants" Moffat forgot his place, Chris Chibnall needs to learn from his mistakes and remember that we are fans of Doctor Who and not his brilliance. 

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