I liked Hide. Like last week's Cold War, it wore its influences on its sleeve but, unlike Gatiss' effort, I thought it added to them and was more satisfying.
Another similarity to last week was an elevated level of fear and threat. Only on very rare occasions – usually in Moffat's early episodes – has Doctor Who been scary in its new iteration. Off the top of my head I'd nominate The Empty Child, The Girl In The Fireplace, Blink, Midnight and The Time Of Angels as really trying to be unsettling.
There have been many CGI monsters in the new series, shot unimaginatively and looking never less than convincing while, of late, Doctor Who hasn't really seemed to try very hard to be scary – or has seemed to deliberately undercut any drama or uncanny with Matt Smith waltzing around being a dork.
I'm not sure if this has actually been deliberate or not, but the outcome has been much the same. Doctor Who has never less seemed less in touch with that old behind-the-sofa chestnut since Season 24, when it was barely in touch with its senses, nevermind anything else.
In Hide there was a definite attempt to shit the kids up, if you'll pardon the split infinitive, in a couple of different ways. First off the ghost – a clear red herring and quite obviously a riff on The Stone Tape. I say 'riff', what I mean is 'direct lift'. But all that haunted-house mise en scene was pleasant enough and played with conviction by Jessica Raine and Dougray Scott.
But there was something else lurking in the house, shot in a jerky stop-motion kind of style that reminded me of the SIlent Hill and Resident Evil series of video games, with their twitching horrors. The pocket universe side-step was interesting, creepy and extremely good-looking – the sense of threat ramped up and a creeping horror emerging.
It was a bit disappointing that the TARDIS came to the Doctor's rescue, despite the cuteness of the TARDIS sniping at Clara. But really that resolution was as weak as the TARDIS switching off the plot in The Parting Of The Ways – and the time-travelling side-steps felt exactly like what it actually was; padding.
The coda to it all was, inevitably, that love saved the day – with the two women's blood ties enabling the link and the two creatures merely wanting to entwine their twisted forms around one another. I'm quite ambivalent about this, as the series seems to be doing this to death. On the other hand I liked the fact that the two monsters were genuinely hideous, voiceless and – largely – not CGI. It harked back to an old trope of the series, that horrible creatures weren't necessarily horrible.
However, it was another run-out for another Moffat stand-by, namely an apparently-straightforward story performing a 90-degree turn at the end, subverting the initial narrative. The Curse of the Black Spot – a tiresome pirate runaround – became an incoherent mess when it detoured into Michael Crichton territory at the end and became about a malfunctioning robot nurse, or something. Similarly the promising God Complex went from a surreal nightmare-in-every-room pysch-out to a dreary comment on the nature of Gods.
In the first case it at least turned the most predictable television in some decades into something marginally more interesting; in the latter case it almost ruined an enjoyable story. In Hide the pocket universe swerve injected some life into a familiar tale; in the case of the latter revelation it felt like much of Moffat's proselytizing – the sort that only be written by a sentimental middle-aged man with a young family, dribbling at the wonder of it all.
No doubt I'm saying this because I'm a ming-mong, but I can't empathise with this 'love is a many-splendoured thing' mode of storytelling; not because I can't appreciate what a wonderful emotion it is, but because I don't buy it. It's corny, phony and smacks more of trying to paper over the cracks in the plot than anything earnest.
I'll give Hide a pass on that score, because it was a superior pastiche and because the plot-swerve added something to the overall story. WIth Clara's identity just-about retaining the interest, JLC's strong performance and two excellent guest stars – particularly Raine – Hide represents the most successful of Season 7's episodes thus far. The characterisation of the Eleventh Doctor continues its slide into Tennant-style self-parody however; let's hope someone notices soon and sets Matt Smith back on the right track.
I used to write games reviews for a magazine that had a disc of 101 games and playable demos on a disc mounted on the front. Because the appeal of the mag was the opportunity to play the games you were reading about, you weren't allowed to criticise any of the games.
I had to find all sort of ways to intimate that, perhaps, this wasn't the best game you would ever play; perhaps the graphics were a little basic, game play might be straightforward and none too taxing and maybe it's "one for the kids" - but it's still really good, yeah?
I was reminded of these reviews I used to write when DWM started printing reviews by Rebecca Levine a few years ago, where it was frequently painful to see her trying not to give the early duffer episodes a slagging. DWM seems to have given up offering any meaningful critiques of new episodes these days, plumping for an 'everything is great' position on the new series, though Graham Kibble-White's stuff is generally worth reading regardless.
However, if the Radio Times gives your new episode of Doctor Who a less-than-resounding write-up you know you're in trouble. The RT - essentially the Beeb's print mouthpiece when it comes to programming - criticised Matt Smith's acting as unconvincing and Murray Gold's lullabies as 'thin'. Coming from one of Doctor Who's oldest friends - and one hardly known for its stinging criticism - that amounts to a demolition; the equivalent of me putting the boot into one of those awful PC games years ago.
The lullabies were indeed 'thin' - if you take thin to mean 'mawkish, empty, soulless rot that couldn't sustain a quivering lip, nevermind resolve a baffling plot point', though I have no doubt that some idiot is trying to organise Doctor Who fans to buy the bloody tunes en masse in an effort to propel it to number 33 in the charts.
And Matt Smith did have a shocker. This is only partly his fault, though, as the dreadful script would have given any actor a hard time. That this was pointed out in what is still essentially a BBC organ tells its own story - as does the fact that the '10 our of 10! Brilliant! brigade on Outpost Gallifrey have given it a pretty terrible review by their low standards.
It's eight years since Doctor Who was back on our screens and, curiously, this season - 7B or whatever it's called due to Moffat's inability to produce episodes on time - has aped the brought structure that RTD adopted or his first few years. If The Bells of St John was Matt Smith's Rose and next week's Cold War the quasi-historical (also written by Gatiss) The Unquiet Dead, then Rings Of Akhaten was 2013's The End of the World.
That comparison does not flatter Neil Cross's first effort as End of the World is one of the best new series stories - an effort that introduces the audience to the thrilling possibilities of space and time travel, with the first of what would turn out to a depressingly familiar climax, namely one that made little logical sense whatsoever and tried to make you cry. Still, at the time it was all very new and thrilling.
Rings of Akhaten was neither new nor thrilling. It was tired, uninspired and boring. As a check on the series' general health it was not reassuring. That Moffat could have commissioned a story where The Doctor and his companion talk a monster to death with some vague hand-waving at love and memories is depressing, though perhaps not surprising given Moff's habit of having ersatz, unearned emotion switching off plots.
What, exactly, is the motivation here? Without the context of this familiar trope (by my reckoning love has saved the day in every Christmas special under Moffat thus far, The Big Bang and Let's Kill Hitler at the very least) it would at least look sloppy. But this meme seems to be the default position for how stories end now - and we've head three years of it. Apart from my mates who are fans, no-one I know watches Doctor Who any more - the series has shed casual viewers like maple leaves these last couple of years.
The fairytale aspect to Moffat's series initially seemed charming, but the lack of threat, suspense, danger, terror or agency that such an approach entails - when no-one dies and the slate can be wiped clean and the goodies win simply because they believe they will - means that we can't invest anything in it. Who cares if the Doctor dies - he'll come back to life. Who cares how they're going to get out of this one - the monster will be defeated because the Doctor loves his companion, or vice versa - heck, someone will love someone and that's what counts. Who cares if the Doctor and Clara are being menaced by monsters or facing an unopenable door when you can wave a sonic about like it's a magic gun?
There are no consequences any more in Who. Explanations don't matter. Logic is for losers. We're all Captain Emo now. In online discussion fora it's popular for fans who like an episode to question why those who don't keep watching. It's a truly witless question, but tonight I found myself asking it - of myself.
Not since 2010 have I regularly enjoyed Doctor Who and the thing that really worries me is that I don't viscerally dislike it, like with some of RTD's efforts or anything by Helen Raynor or Chri Chibnall, I just don't care. That's down to bad writing, bad script editing and Moffat's lack of vision.
Considering that tonight's episode was about telling tales, the current series' inability to craft coherent stories should strike me as ironic. Alas tonight I didn't dwell on that irony. I simply turned over to You've Been Framed 15 minutes before the end.
Caves and Twins? What are you dribbling on about? GO HERE
It was called something like that, wasn't it? I can't be bothered to look it up I'm afraid. Was the world really crying out for a pastiche of an RTD season opener? A modern-day invasion-y thing, some London landmarks, a shouty Doctor who can't be heard over the terrible music during action scenes, a smart-arse "sassy" female companion and some technology references. It was only a surprise that Trinity Fucking Wells wasn't in it.
- I liked seeing The Great Intelligence as the baddie. Was this a modern-day Web of Fear? A London Invasion, the Intelligence, the, er, web? Only not very good, obviously.
- I still, just about, like Clara. But if she's going to turn into another wisecracking, eyebrows-raised, lip-licking, down-boy Moffat Female Character that won't last much longer.
- I quite enjoy Matt Smith. But I wish his Doctor could be turned down a bit.
Hard to divorce any elements from the whole, really. But it was so lacking in ambition, so workmanlike that you could imagine boxes being ticked - a crashing plane, a flying motorbike racing through London, the Shard, the internet. Whispers of Moffatt's writer's block, lack of energy, his divided time, his dodgy priorities and diminishing interest in the series seem validated by such lacklustre stuff as Bells of St Wotsits.
Clara. We're clearly supposed to be on the edge of our seats about who Clara is. I'm not. I'm not really bothered. I think this Companion Arc template is past its sell-by-date, frankly. Jenna-Louise Coleman is playing the part well, but I'm not convinced she's very interesting - and this fractured identity macguffin isn't working for me.
Murray Gold's music. It seemed to me that Gold was a lot better of late. But the guy cannot score action scenes. He simply can't do it. All of his music when there's fighting, running, driving or battle is laughably bad. The score during the scene tonight when the Doctor and Clara were biking to the Shard was so terrible I almost turned off the television.
• Overall, forgettable. Though not actually as bad as any of RTD's season openers, this one had all of the ingredients. It was like seeing Horns of Nimon during Season 26. We keep hearing about how Doctor Who needs to move on from the past but watching the Bells of St Thingy - and knowing that Tennant and Piper are coming back - it seemed like someone had turned back the clock. I suppose that having a time machine makes such things academic.
"He's done it again," said my brother, when The Power Of Love provided a neat conclusion to another Christmas Doctor Who episode. And, indeed, he had. How many times has an enemy been defeated in new Doctor Who because someone loves someone else?
I must say, the latest appearance of this hogwash irritated me somewhat but, thankfully, the rest of this episode was mercifully free of the seasonal artifice of the last few years, which have almost created a new genre in fiction: Xmas Doctor Who has been in serious danger of disappearing up its own backside - the equivalent of Matt Smith eating turkey and pulling crackers for an hour.
But there was a lot to enjoy in this latest episode. After 18 months when Doctor Who seemed dangerously close to falling in love with its own timey-wimey reflection, this was - largely - refreshingly straightforward and, yes, fun.
The appearance of Strax particularly, and the fearless lesbian detectives, was rather lovely. I think there's some consternation if fandom that this sort of 'broad universe' thing in Doctor Who is veering dangerously close to New Adventures-style gimmickry.
It reminds me of the colourful world of the DWM comic strips - around the Abslom Daak era. I don't mind either way, I think Doctor Who is a lot more interesting when races aren't simply one-note goodies or baddies. If that means a sociopathic potato head or a muff-diving Silurian then I'm all for it, frankly.
Something else I suspect will irritate some sections of fandom is the little fannish nod towards the show's past. The inclusion of The Great Intelligence was fairly casual-viewer-proofed in that it didn't really make any difference whether you'd heard of Padmasambhava or Sergeant Patterson, but if functioned as a lovely little reference for long-term fans - and there's a suggestion doing the rounds in fandom that there might be another reason why the Great Intelligence was included here.
Clara Oswin Oswald is another curious element. I'm keeping my counsel thus far - because if the next year turns into another protrated, interminable and bewildering companion arc I'll be dismayed - but I like the sparky repartee with the Doctor and find Jenna Louise-Coleman a winning performer. And she's very fanciable, obviously. I hope Moffatt can keep on a lid on Clara's more precocious outbursts, however, as that shtick could get annoying fairly quickly.
As with previous years, there's was lots of Christmassy stuff here, but it wasn't the overriding thing here, like it has been in previous years. Just some nice visuals and a seasonal central concept. Pity about tears saving the day, but nevermind.
It all combined to create something rather nice. Already there are numerous questions forming as to what we can expect over 2012. So far I'm not feeling weary about it, like I did with the Ponds and River Song sagas, I'm feeling excited. And I haven't felt excited about Doctor Who for a good couple of years.
The title sequence - That Moffatt cares enough to throw fans little bones - like a title sequence that references the past - to fandom is something I'm grateful for. This is easily the best of the new series.
The Doctor and his gang - I enjoyed the dynamic; even though the Doctor was in a huff it was all playful and enjoyable.
Clara - For now I really like Clara and think she's played really well by Jenna Louise Coleman. I do hope we don't get another amazing companion that's at the centre of everything that goes on, however.
The plot - Slight enough to hang a story that had a lot of elements upon - but with enough about it. No convoluted timey-wimey-ness or nonsensical Christmas macguffins.
REG - I generally think that E Grant is simply E Grant in most things he's in, but he really looked and acted the part here.
The Sherlock bit - The Doctor was quite amusing in this one - and without any of the patented New Series wackiness or stupidity.
The ending was wrapped up neatly with a classic bit of Moffat Christmas nonsense. I really hope we can dispense with the death cheats, the power of love and fake endings this year.
New TARDIS interior - Nice to have a clear nod to the past but not sure about the new console room.
This kiss - Rather tiresome, but stuff like this - where it's basically a necessity for some snogging and the DOctor looking weepy - are entirely the fault of the productions teams who have, rather cynically, woven them into the fabric of the show.
5.15 - Is this another nod to the past? Either way it seemed very early.
All told, The Snowmen did what it had to very efficiently, was charming and fun and set up a lot of intriguing stuff for the anniversary year. Why doesn't the Doctor remember the Great Intelligence? Why does Clara die every week? Are we going to see a year of Old Monsters?
I personally hope for some old Doctors and companions, classic monsters, an adaptation of Mark Gatiss's Nightshade and NO FUCKING RIVER SONG.
So, for the 433rd time in the new series of Doctor Who, someone was definitely going to die. They didn't, of course, just as they never have; just as we never believed they would.
I've complained before that the habit of Moffatt and RTD of teasing deaths, then backing out of it with a big emotional pay-off in the hope that no-one would notice, was drawing diminishing returns and weakening the satisfaction that these stories deliver.
That's perhaps why the departure of the Ponds – two companions I'll genuinely miss, played by two actors who really seemed to get their roles – didn't have the emotional impact that it should have.
Because we've been cheated, misdirected, swerved and conned so often over the last few years that there's no faith in the production team – Moffatt is most guilty of this as a writer – not to simply defy the internal logic of the show.
People will argue that complaining about a show like Doctor Who not making sense is willfully obtuse. "It's a show about a time traveller in a police box – of course it doesn't make sense!," they cry.
Needless to say, this is either a disingenuous or a genuinely stupid line of reasoning. Of course Doctor Who is a show that has departed quite significantly from reality; we shouldn't hold its observation of reality to the same standards as those for Holby City, but when programmes stop making sense according to their own established rules they lose their impact, their agency, their reason to exist.
The new series of Doctor Who has been predicated on emotion, by both Davies and Moffatt. I've no real complaint about that either, though I think it's been rather over-egged. My chief problem is that the narratives that spawn the emotion are overthrown, ignored or cancelled out again and again.
The result is the boy who cried bad wolf. You simply don't believe what you're told; what you're shown. Even when apparently final something happens – a companion dies, leaves or is lost to a dimensional macguffin – we don't really believe it.
When Doctors and companions die again and again and again we simply don't buy it, so there's no meaningful emotional pay-off when it happens. We're inured to it and have been taught to disbelieve what we're told by the successive show-runners.
I guess that's why I didn't really feel especially sad when the Ponds departed, even though I think they were easily the best-drawn characters of the new series. I'm conditioned to expect a swerve, to suspect a cheat, to feel like I'm being fooled.
The fact that the Ponds' consignment to history and a life without the Doctor didn't really stand up to scrutiny either didn't make help. Couldn't the Doctor just go back to Boston and get a train? Why does seeing a grave or reading a book mean that time can't be changed? Within the confines of The Angels Take Manhattan it may be established that time can't be changed, but narrative rules have been chucked in the bin so often over the last seven years that these arbitrary rules don't seem to mean much anyway.
Time can be rewritten. Death has no sting. The irrevocable becomes... revocable. It's possible to overlook this from time to time, but when it comes to default setting for a series it's hard to invest much emotion in it.
So, while I enjoyed The Angels Take Manhattan, with its spooky cherubs and dashes of timey-wimey-ness (although thoroughly nonsensical, as it seemed to me), the Moff's sparkling dialogue and the performances of all concerned - it simply didn't amount to that much by me.
Doctor Who has become something that's gratifying in a fairly shallow, instantaneous way. Not because of the dearth of strong characterisation, performances or (occasionally) some clever scripts.
Because the rules of Doctor Who, the rules of honest narrative and internal logic, have been stripped away to the point where it becomes impossible to invest anything more than the most scant care over what is happening and to whom.
As a result, what should have been a devastating climax to the episode felt like the latest in a long line of false endings. That, for me, is the inevitable result of the deliberately tricky, breakneck, crash-bang, watch-the-birdie style of storytelling that RTD and Moffatt adopted by relentlessly upping the ante and relying on ersatz emotion to paper over the cracks.
Doctor Who works when viewers can suspend their disbelief; where River's confusing timeline, the apparently arbitrary nature of what can and can't be done within the laws of time and causality and the difficulty in believing that the Ponds have actually gone for good can be ignored in favour of the whole. I think the series is now reaping the whirlwind; as a result I'm finding it hard to believe in Doctor Who, or care about it.
The Angels Take Manhattan fails, not because of the story itself, but because of the previous seven years.
The setting - Manhattan looked great and Moffatt made better use of it than previous foreign excursions had.
The tone - The noirish/gothic atmosphere and devices were a nice tic that worked well in relation to the story.
Performances and characterisation - Even River was less smug in this one. As ever, Arthur Darvill imbues Rory with genuine character, believable emotion and makes him perhaps the best companion of the new series.
Fear factor - The Angels are clearly far and away the best monsters to come from the new series; they're novel, imaginative and very frightening. The addition of the giggling, cherubic Angels was another sinister aspect to these monsters.
Big screen moments - I'm fairly non-plussed by the 'film poster' idea as it's turned out mostly underwhelming episodes in this odd series. But moments like the Statue Of Liberty as an Angel, even though it doesn't hold up the slightest scrutiny, and the baby Angel blowing out Rory's match worked well as iconic moments.
Angel food - I liked the conceit of the Angels farming humans, with Battery Park as a kind of rest home for zapped victims.
Timey-wimey, wibbly-wobbly - Previoulsy I thought Moffatt's time-travel tricksiness was well worked out, but this time there was too much that didn't seem to make any sense to me. Moff's stories always seemed to have more care lavished on them when RTD was show-runner; nowadays he seems to be employing some of RTD's less desirable tricks to bring confusing stories to a conclusion; here the timey-wimey stuff just seemed to serve to create a dramatic conclusion – and it didn't really stand up for me.
River - River's timeline doesn't seem to make the slightest sense to me any more. Beyond that I don't really like the character. She was written as much less smug this time around, but I'm not sure this character has ever been likable, sympathetic or especially interesting.
Won't Get Fooled Again - As mentioned above at length, the cumulative impact of several years of dishonest writing and media chuntering robbed the Ponds of their deserved exit.
The Ponds' exit - In many ways this was a nice conclusion to their story but, aside from all the dubious logic of it I thought there was a stronger ending that had been teased in previous weeks, with its origins in The Time Of Angels. The suggestion was that Amy would turn into an Angel in this episode and, while that was perhaps never a realistic alternative, I think it a much stronger one.
Direction - Some great moments here, but somehow the way Rory and Amy eventually departed didn't seem quite right; like an amusing punch-line delivered with timing that's slightly off.
• Caves and Twins? What are you dribbling on about?
Go here: Caves and Twins
I was genuinely dreading this. I wasn't even bothered about watching it, eventually catching up with it on the iPlayer on Sunday. That's the first time I haven't watched a new Doctor Who episode as soon as I realistically could have.
What does that say for the current series? I honestly don't know. I really like Matt Smith and the other regulars but something isn't working for me. Ho hum. It's Colin Baker all over again - nothing personal to Colin, I just ducked out when Davison (my Doctor, as we're obliged to say these days) bowed out.
Suffice to say, I have very little faith in Chibnall. His Torchwood episodes are genuinely beyond belief in some cases. His previous Doctor Who efforts were rubbish. No-one seems to like Chris Chibnall's work, except Stephen Moffat, rather crucially.
I really couldn't bear that title. I could barely utter it. There's so much smugness, self-referential toss bound up in it. It's so arch it would be a circle if it were any more pleased with itself. It's the work of a group of people who are so very amused by themselves, they're not bothered by how stupid it might appear.
Oh well. There you go. I hate it. Some little 'uns probably love it. I'm beginning to perceive some sort of new demographic that these 'motion picture episodes' seem to be aimed at. They seem, to me, simultaneously, exceedingly childish and child-like yet rather grim and disturbing. Perhaps the youngsters don't really get the nasty stuff and the adults can ignore the daft stuff (or indulge it as something so ridiculous it can be enjoyed on the same level one might enjoy Total Wipeout).
Again, I dunno. But I find these recent episodes - Dinosaurs On A Spaceship and Asylum Of The Daleks - to be tonally baffling. They make something like Rose or New Earth - episodes that are the equivalent of shoving Cream Soda e-Numbers down the maws of stupefied kids - look like I Claudius.
Perhaps The Moff has decided that Doctor Who needs to have a 'thing' every few years. RTD's first iteration was Buffy Meets Eastenders - the prevailing consensus at the time that you couldn't make sci-fi that didn't follow the law laid down by Joss Whedon. It looks rather horribly dated these days.
Davies' Who morphed into some awful cypher of those vampire things. All of a sudden our hero had to be tragic, unrequited, lonely and a horrid self-absorbed dickwad. Let's call him Captain Emo.
Moffatt's series felt, at first, like a new broom. There was something magical about it, a refreshing lack of side and offering straightforward storytelling. All of a sudden the weight of the self-referential RTD years was gone.
And then, suddenly and terribly (spot the reference there) Doctor Who was almost collapsing under the weight of its own mythos again. I genuinely couldn't be bothered with Series Six. Again, the series was in love with itself, making up its own rules as it went along in such a way that it was not remotely satisfying or fulfilling - like a dose of empty calories wrapped up in incomprehensible riddles and repeated cheats and swerves.
Again, the end of that series seemed to offer light at the end of the tunnel. The Doctor's past was wiped clean. No more story arcs, no more Timey Wimey? No more River Song? I would dearly hope not but I doubt Moff can resist - in much the same way that RTD couldn't resist bringing his companions back again and again.
Well, this series certainly feels different. In terms of time, Dinosaurs In A Spaceship is NuWho's Silurians to Rose's Unearthly Child. They're two absolute yawning chasms in terms of how those series were, where they were and what they were. So, perhaps we should not be surprised that we watch on Saturday evenings and are puzzled by what we see. What must people have thought when faced with the day-glo comic-book style of Terror Of The Autons, when it seemed only a short time previously that Hartnell was fuzzily appearing on a monochrome screen?
Before my time. Doctor Who has always felt like Doctor Who to me, even during the times when it wasn't at its best (barring, obviously, the McGann effort). But I'm finding DW very hard to get to grips with these days. Funnily enough I thought the last two episodes were decent, in the sense that they're enjoyable and different from last year's portentous stuff.
But I do find them unfathomable. Breakneck. Incoherent. Overflowing. Doctor Who has changed again. For the better? We'll have to wait and see. Perhaps that's why we're coming back; why I couldn't resist watching Dinosaurs.
Change, my dear, is Doctor Who's one great inevitability. And its greatest asset.
Rory's Dad - Nothing big or clever to this, but Mark Williams made what could have been a rather cartoonish invention rather lovely
The Doctor - Funnily enough I thought Chibnall wrote the Eleventh Doctor well. There was some token wackiness but a lot of quieter moments where you could actually believe that this Doctor was wise, warm, witty. And not just a jabbering bell-end.
Dinosaurs - Excellent CGI, for once.
Solomon - Nice to just have a straightforward bastard in the series again, though Chibnall and the director seemed unsure how to use him. Which brings me to...
The robots - They did not work. At all. Tossing ingredients together like this reminds me of the bit in Midnight when half a dozen different forms of entertainment assault the passengers all at the same time. It's indigestible and jarring and confuses everything. This seems to be Moffatt's modus operandi of late - and I hate it.
Nefertiti and the hunter - I thought they added absolutely nothing and really made the shopping list episodes pitches horribly obvious. And the Doctor shagging figures from history was never - at any point whatsoever - funny. Though I guess I'm only saying that because I'm a stupid, ugly virgin.
The title - Taking the piss out of viewers? Or out of itself? Either way it sticks in my craw. What next? Doctor Who In An Exciting Adventure With A Robot Cowboy? It's neither funny nor clever. Stop it.
A spot-on pastiche of 90s gaming and a pretty neat skit on Moffatt's incomprehensible 'who-cares-if-no-one-gets-this' story arcs.
It also reminded me of Dalek Attack! - which has actually a pretty decent platformer that I completed back in the day.
I have a theory with Doctor Who. You can break down Doctor Who series fairly evenly into a 30:30:30 split by my reckoning: 30 per cent great; 30 per cent mediocre; 30 per cent utterly awful.
This is something I've come to believe particularly since the advent of the new series, which can send me in raptures, fury or a doze over three consecutive weeks.
Distance and nostalgia lends the classic series a different aura. It's more difficult to critically assess because it's more familiar, but you also need to bear in mind that some of it was intended to be broadcast exactly once.
There are periods of the series where lack of cash or instability among the production team clearly show and there are certain peculiarities of the era that you need to bear in mind.
With the new series, by which I mean since 2005, there are a whole new set of considerations, but budget isn't really one of them. Nor can it be argued that these new episodes have not been made in a DVD, Youtube and Sky+ era.
Certain rumours suggest that, once again (as of 2011), Doctor Who is again beset by production difficulties. But let's forget about that. For now this is all about season one.
I bring my own prejudices and preferences to the new series, so I thought I'd ask a gang of friends to bring their own set of prejudices to the news series. There's a good mix of people. People who dislike much of the news series. People ambivalent to much of it. People who love it pretty much unreservedly. People who enjoyed Russell T Davies' take on the series, but not Moffatt's and vice versa.
Some watch with their other half; some with the kids. Some love the old series and will always be loyal to it; some are unimpressed by it/ambivalent to it or believe the new iteration vastly superior to the new.
There is one common strand: We were all Doctor Who fans prior to the new series starting.
I asked them which new episodes they actually liked. No ratings, no reviews, no caveats. Just which ones they liked.
We're starting with season one (or season 27 if you prefer); something that seems like a long time ago now. Eccleston, Billie, RTD, Slitheen, Daleks, Autons, Reapers, Keith Boak.
Are you my mummy? Run for your life! Do you wanna come with me?
Oh yes, we were willin'.
Season one - results
NB. The ones in bold are my selections
An unsurprising winner is The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances, by far the stand-out story of the first year for me - and the start of fandom's erstwhile love affair with the Moff. Be careful what you wish for, eh?
Second is Dalek, an oddity in the new series for me. Rob Shearman really does inject something back into the Daleks though, with a number of iconic scenes and a lovely prologue where the DOctor comes face-to-face with an Invasion-era Cyberman head. Why Shearman has not written again for the series is a mystery to me.
Third is The Unquiet Dead, Mark Gatiss' only decent story by my reckoning. It was a clear nod to the glory days of Holmes and Hinchcliffe, the kind of story that has disappeared from the new series for some reason, and a good effort at that. Who's first effort of the new series of doing frightening - surely the very raison d'etre of Who - does a very good job indeed.
Fourth was the end of season two-parter, Bad Wolf and Parting of the Ways. Watching Bad Wolf recently I thought it very good, but the second part has so many elements that became emblematic of everything I disliked about the new series. It's 'chips and work' mise-en-scene, its 'love saves the day' conclusion and its deification of Rose, a character I never really cared for, even though Billie Piper was great.
Rose, The End of the World and Father's Day got six votes each. The first two are interesting for me, as they're both very clearly RTD scripts. I hated the former - and I don't believe it would have received many votes at all if not the first of the new series - but I thought End of the World witty, touching and exciting.
Father's Day is another first series oddity - one not without its problems but one that brought a bit of a New Adventures tone to the new series, something I was bound to enjoy.
Boom Town is next, an episode that is fun and then fascinating and then utterly fucking awful in its three acts, for me. Aliens of London/World War Three - a spiritual cousin to Rose - and The Long Game, a story I'd charitably refer to as filler get one vote each.
As for my 30-30-30 (good; forgettable; shit) notion, I can split them as follows:
Here's what the Geek Clique had to say about some of the episodes and the reboot on the whole:
[Rose] changed everything about the show while keeping it all just the same, reached parts of the world, and myself, that it never had before, thus making this discussion even possible, had numerous excellent set pieces and passages of dialogue, introduced numerous inspired ideas and likeable characters, all of which hit the ground running, not least of which were the Ninth Doctor and Rose themselves, who were absolutely fucking great. IMO. And it had an utterly brilliant scene with a wheely bin.
[Rose] may not be best suited to repeat viewing or the kind of close reading fans like ourselves bring to it but by the end of Rose anyone who had tuned in would know what the show was and wasn't about and most of them would be coming back next week and be asking for a Christopher Eccleston action figure for Christmas. I'll forgive a ropey CGI wheely bin and Noel Clarke thinking he's in the Chuckle Brothers for that.
[Rose is] a bit panto but that's partly down to Keith Boak and partly because - at least according to Shearman - there was a genuine fear at the time that the BBC would not allow onscreen deaths in that timeslot, so they had to do a massacre scene in which nobody was seen to die. Nevertheless it does a far better job of setting out the show's stall than the TVM did, and for all its flaws I remain very fond of it because it managed the impossible task of bringing back a series which most people had come to despise in such a way as to make it credible again and yet still feel like "Doctor Who". That's one heck of an achievement.
The problem I have with Rose is that it goes so all out to be loved it's waaaay out there. It's really, really stupid. It's like the aggressively pink fizzy pop we all used to drink full of e-numbers that sent us loopy. It laid down a marker for how Doctor Who was made for the next five years and it's visible in most of the worst bits of the next five years. It didn't have to be anywhere near as dumb as it was.
[Aliens of London/World War Three is] so damn leaden! I really struggled to get through the first episode.
The last third of Aliens of London was the cliffhanger, wasn't it? Dear God, that was the most drawn-out cliffhanger in the show's history.
First third involves Jackie being upset that her daughter has been away for a year - only she hasn't, from her perspective and from the viewers' perspective. SO the emotion is all pretty meaningless. Second third involved the spaceship crashing, and the Doctor watching it on telly. The Doctor gets upset that they killed a pig. Last third involves large farty people about to do something a bit wicked. World war three involves them still being about to do something a bit bad, whilst the Doctor is fretting that Rose might get hurt.
I actually think AoL/WW3 might be quite good if Keith Boak wasn't directing it. I really like Aliens of London.
Eccleston doing funny was dire. (On Aliens/World)
Good writers edit for brevity, and brevity was painfully unapparent in either Aliens of London or the much worse Boom Town. Doctor Who isn't a place for experiments into character. It's a place where narrative drive dictates and personalities have to be cleverly and concisely fitted in between the plot.
Badland's great throughout, and her and Eccleston's restaurant scene is a step above. [I] share the ennui with the Mickey / Rose situation, the time rift stuff looks tacked on for the sake of some supposed excitement and the way the TARDIS sorts everything out fails to convince. (on Boomtown)
[Boom Town] was shit. False moral dilemma. Rubbish Slitheen. Unbelievable premise. And Captain Jack has an unflattering outfit.
...if I'm being totally honest I will enjoy a Doctor Who episode with a good Doctor far more than a Doctor Who episode with a shite Doctor regardless of the relative merits of the stories - and Eccleston was a great Doctor.
The thing this whole 'which do you actually like?' thing has really brought home to me is just much 'mission creep' there was in the RTD years. I think his great strength was realising that continuity was bad. Then he became part of continuity and he didn't realise that was problematic.
I would suggest that RTD requires the larger apologia for what happened after Season 1. He had no idea how to react to the hit he had on his hands and no long term plan. He panicked and started writing by the seat of his pants, leading to a very shallow series of episodes and seasons that relied too heavily on set-pieces strung together with no internal consistency, merely gooey clumps of pathos. What's worse is that, as a writer, RTD was so much better than that: look at Midnight. He'd have been much better off if he hadn't been showrunner. He needed someone standing over him (possibly with a two by four) and acting as a moderating influence on him.
RTD's target audience was 13 year-old girls rather than 8 year-old boys.
Brilliant showrunner, great dialogue, excellent characters, but tended to push the limits until they broke. Without checking, I suspect if you look at how we have all voted, RTDs episodes will get a lower average than the majority.
As a side note, the Geek Clique tends to hold the first season in high regard. 58 votes were cast, giving the series an average score of 5.8. That figure reflects the number of votes cast, so without knowing how many people participated it's hardly a scientific rating, nor one that makes much sense in isolation.
On the assumption that ten people voted on each season, however, season one received the second-most votes of all six NuWho seasons.
Tune in at a later date to see which one has the current highest score - and vote for your favourites below.
It's Christmas, it's BBC1, it's that time between the afternoon snooze and the turkey sandwich. It can only be another Doctor Who special.
Not one of the Christmas specials has been much good by my reckoning, the first one and the one with Gambon in were OK; most have been utterly awful.
I did not really look forward to the Doctor Who Christmas special this year; mainly because I never think they're up to much but partly because I found myself tiring of Who over the year. All of a sudden fatigue set in and I wasn't really bothered any more. But, because it's Doctor Who and I'll never truly dislike it, I tuned it.
So did I find a succulent turkey - or was it overcooked sprouts all the way.
It was nice to see Matt Smith again
The reproducing, sentient trees were a nice idea.
The sets and all the period detail were impeccable.
Like most fans I appreciate the nods to the past – something that seems increasingly nice when faced with the possibility of a reboot film series.
Nice to see Amy and Rory again.
Like the tree monsters.
I know it's Christmas and I know expectations are low and I know these specials are kind of duty bound to be stupidly Christmassy, but for fuck's sake.
I just didn't care and I didn't believe it and I didn't like it. About half an hour before it actually happened I'd guessed, no, feared, that the Power of Motherhood was going to save the day. Just like a kiss saved the day and love saved day and hope saved the day again and again and again over the last couple of years.
RTD shrugged, made Tennant cry and just fell back on some MacGuffin when he'd written himself into a corner; Moffat just relies on schmaltz. It's usually done in a clever way – and in a way that's possible to overlook for a while.
But it happens so frequently that it's impossible to ignore - and deeply tiresome. And predictable. And rather cheap and cynical.
Because at Christmas Moffat gets a bit of a bye. Perhaps he should be allowed his indulgence once a year, like we are when we stuff our face for a day. God knows the man is busy enough, what with his 15 series that he showruns.
But what I'm left with is a story that almost feels like a waste of my time. I'm sure lots of people enjoy it and would shout humbug at me. But judging these Xmas specials on the same basis we judge the usual episodes show them up badly.
Something else that creeps into these recent Xmas episodes is a Moffat-patented wackiness; last year a shark-drawn sleigh, this year a forest-possesed Edwardian mother piloting a golf ball through the time vortex.
What can we expect next year, I wonder? A TARDIS disguised as a polar bear running trough Albert Square? A Timelord that's regenerated into a reindeer with a nose made of strange matter? A flying penguin powered by faith and ridden by John Masefield?
I suppose I should mention Bill Bailey and Claire Skinner and Alexander Armstrong and Arabella Weir. I didn't care. Neither did I care for the emotional manipulation that struck a rather dubious tone, in my opinion. Once again, death has no sting. What does this say to kids about their nature of life and death? Either way it's damn lazy and cynical.
It's incredible how quickly Moffat's take on Doctor Who seems staid, overfamiliar and out of ideas. And I don't take ay pleasure from saying it. Just as I don't take any pleasure from watching it, much as it pains me to admit.