Probic Vent Ood For Thought

4Oct/110

Caves and Twins: Season Six

Season Six - doesn't time fly? Doesn't seem long since Eccleston was running through a tunnel and enquiring as to whether we'd like to join him.

Blink and you skip forward over six years to the brilliant Matt Smith's sophomore series - and that of show-runner Stephen Moffat too.

Portents are frequently poor. High-level fan gossip suggested that Series Fnarg would be a disaster and it was brilliant. But there were lots more unpleasant rumours this time around about the allegedly shambolic production office; Moffat distracted by his other series and various production commitments; an unloved and over-promoted production staff; the BBC at odds with the show's show-runner; and a fickle press that's apparently forgotten its love affair with out series.

Ratings do seem to be down this series too. Oh there's timeshifting and there's definitely poor scheduling but there does seem to be a drop-off in the public's interest in the show. All of a sudden 'do you wanna come with me?' seems like a long time ago. So it's a good time to take stock.

In the classic 'what was good; what was bad?' format of Caves and Twins I've turned my eye stalk on the whole series to figure out which stories worked and which didn't.

Caves

The Doctor's Wife - An all-time classic. Funny, scary, weird. And a Timelord called The Corsair. A manifesto for how NuWho can succeed.

Deaths: Rory

A Good Man Goes To War

A classic NuWho clusterfuck but on reflection I liked all of the elements and I loved the last 15 minutes. Matt Smith, especially, was fantastic.

The Girl Who Waited

A genuine hard sci-fi set-up that led into one of the best-observed emotional stories of the new run. Brilliant work from the regulars and another episode that could really show how Doctor Who can work shorn of its tiresome story arc trappings.

Deaths: Amy

Twins

The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon - I just didn't care, probably because anyone who had any sense knew that the stand-out scene, and the peg the whole thing hung from, was a lie from the outset.

Deaths: The Doctor, Rory, Amy

Curse of the Black Spot - Classic NuWho shit episode. Not because of the odd swerve, which didn't work anyway, but because of how utterly trite and dull the whole thing was.

Deaths: Rory

The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People - There was a lot on these episodes I liked but I didn't really feel it had the courage of its convictions. The Doctor doppelganger didn't really go anywhere or make much sense; the moral ramifications of the gangers were wrapped up in noble self-sacrifices and/or a big explosion and I didn't feel any of the characters were well-drawn.

Deaths: Amy

Let's Kill Hitler - Impossible to like something so in love with itself. A sprawling mess that tried the patience and had another death swerve.

Deaths: The Doctor

Night Terrors - Utterly awful. I hated this.

Deaths: Amy

The God Complex - I feel harsh putting this one here too as there were lots of bits that I liked but the ending was drivel and, given the promising set-up, it didn't deliver.

Closing Time - I've seen this twice and can recall virtually nothing

The Wedding of River Song - Carried the sins of the season as a whole on its shoulders and, as such, couldn't be rated as good. The whole season comes to a messy, shagged-out end in an episode that sparkles with lovely moments but ultimately collapses under the weight of how daft the whole season has been.

Deaths: The Doctor

23Sep/110

Caves and Twins: The God Complex (or Why Matt Smith Is Now My Favourite Doctor)

Apparently Being Human is the most amazing thing in the world ever, but I've never seen it so all I have to go on is School Reunion and Vampires of Venice when it comes to Toby Whithouse.

This, for me, is not an especially encouraging sign. The former is a fun runaround, the latter perhaps the most forgettable story in the NuWho run. So would The God Complex be Being Human or would it be his Doctor Who stuff (I'm taking it on trust Being Human is any good - it might be shit for all I know).

Caves

Good monster

Good premise

Good acting

Good epilogue

A couple of really nice directorial flourishes

Twins

The Complex of Fenric - The whole faith thing was a horrible fudge that just didn't seem work for me - plus it was a rip-off of Fenric

The fan guy - Can't remember his name. Is it just me or does Doctor Who tend to delight in lampooning geeks and losers of late? A bit rich, surely?


The first time I watched The God Complex I didn't like it. I just didn't think it went anywhere and thought the ending all to cock. For all it's 'terror in every room' premise I didn't think it was frightening; its set-up pastiched a number of sci-fi sources and while the back-story to what was going on was novel it felt like a weird swerve for the sake of it and didn't come across properly.

On a second viewing I found more to like - the potential new companion character was good (can't remember her name) and I like David Walliams' character.

Matt Smith was excellent, as usual, and the scenes where he dropped Rory and Amy off and flew off, alone, in the TARDIS were very strong.

But I still can't shake off the feeling that this series has never got out of the blocks. Splitting the series now feels like a mistake as it's been hard for it to gain momentum and the River Song saga seems to have overwhelmed the season.

Like The God Complex, I'd be hard pushed to say what wasn't/isn't working here, but I'm sensing more and more that people are becoming a lot less bothered about Doctor Who. Friends of mine have stopped watching it; I've stopped discussing it; out of the Geek Clique (a shadowy cabal of a dozen or so fans I'm mates with) only one is really enjoying this series; ratings appear to be heading downwards; and, as we fans always knew they would, the knives are coming out for Who in the media.

What does this have to do with Matt Smith being my favourite Doctor? Not a lot to be honest, I'm just disappointed that at the point that we have a TARDIS crew, and particularly Doctor - actor and character - Doctor Who doesn't seem to be working. Is it Moffat? Is he too busy? Is it lack of cash or time? Is it the much-discussed production problems?

This latter one, for me, is most worrying. Stuff leaks out. It did 30 years ago from JN-T's production office and is especially does these days, when the higher echelons of Doctor Who are staffed by people who are fans and professionals. That's a dangerous mix in the internet era and a lot of very sensitive stuff is doing the rounds of fandom chatrooms, emails and Facebook DMs.

Moffat pooh-poohs any suggestion that things aren't hunky-dory but if a fraction of what is circulated is to be believed then the production office has been quite the war-zone over the last year. It's impossible to believe that behind-the-scenes strife - and the likes of those rather odd public spats between Moff and BBC newsreaders and managers who seem keen to blurb out any old nonsense at the drop of a hat - can't have some effect on the finished product.

For now I retain my faith in Moffat - and he has the best Doctor ever available to him and Amy and Rory are excellent, believable characters who are played well. Season Five was the best in the new series for my money. So I'm keeping things crossed for next year and a good run into 2013.

Doctor Who matters to me; it does for most of us. I find it impossible to walk away; to not tune in every week and not to be irked by tabloids having a pop at my - our - show. So I'll keep watching and keep hoping. I hope Moffat and Smith keep the faith too, because next year needs to to be better than this year.

   

Hush child stop addlepating me!

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