New Series

Dark Water: Don’t Fuck This Up

capaldi gomez

Buck up, and give me some attitude

All season I have cried out for this. Do something different. Change the record. Rewrite the rules. And I don’t mean create female Doctor. That’s the most boring thing you could do, in desperate search of something interesting. Do something new: don’t bring someone back to life; don’t have love save the day; don’t rely on a tired revelation.

I’ll overlook the female Master thing because, frankly, that isn’t very interesting. In fact it’s the most obvious thing you could have done. Do something people didn’t expect and can’t figure out. Do The Power of the Daleks; Spearhead From Space; Genesis of the Daleks; City of Death; Warrior’s Gate; Enlightenment; Revelation of the Daleks; The Happiness Patrol; Ghost Light; The End of the World; Waters of Mars; The Eleventh Hour; Deep Breath. The New Adventures.

Something different.

Right now, I don’t know what’s going on. Neither does the Doctor; neither does Clara. That’s how I want things to stay. I don’t want a reset button that sets up a cosy Christmas special. I want ramifications; causality. I want this to mean something. No death cheats. No bait-and-switch. No tricksiness. None of that Sherlock bullshit. Dark Water has to be the moment that everything changes. A break from RTD and Moffat when people die and come back to life, the universe is rebooted, the baddies consigned to some ethereal netherworld that didn’t previously exist.

Don’t cheat me. Don’t lie to me.

In the same way that Clara is frustrated with the Doctor, I’m frustrated with the Doctor. He has lied to me again and again – and tried to pass it off with a cheeky line, a self-reflexive remark.

Dark Water has promised me all of these things. A great Doctor in Capaldi. An intriguing set-up in Heaven and Hell. Cybermen. The Master. Death and the lack of it. Frankly, I’m not sure whether this is suitable for Doctor Who’s viewership, but I asked for it, so I can’t complain that I’m getting it.

An interlude. Here are the things that are boring, predictable and crap about Dark Water:

• Missy being The Master. This was the least interesting and most predictable of the ‘who is Missy?’ options.

• Missy kissing the Doctor and being flirtatious. Like every Timelord thing since the reboot. To not have a Timelord behave in this manner would frankly be much more interesting.

• The Cybermen. They haven’t been any good since The Tenth Planet. 48 years ago. Nothing about Dark Water thus far suggests that will change.

• The Cybermen stomping around. This has never been good and the prospect of the Cybermen stepping noiselessly from their tanks is the most interesting thing Moffat could have done with them. Not recognising that is frankly embarrassing.

• Murray Gold’s Cyberman leitmotif. Appalling for fully eight years. Using it here is as insane as using Space Adventure from Tomb of the Cybermen in Revenge of the Cybermen or the Dudley Simpson’s wobbly synthesiser Master motif in Keeper of Traken. Stop it, for God’s sake. Boring, unimaginative, idiotic and not any good whatsoever.

• I suspect Moffat is buying time on the ‘female Doctor’ debate with this move. I find it instructive that Moffat is making all the right noises on this without actually doing anything about it. And the fact that we now have Capaldi as a Doctor and a definite shift in the character’s, well, character without the series changing one whit suggests to me that changing the Doctor’s gender would be as meaningless in terms of what it did for the series as I always suspected. I’ve seen RTD putting a tick next to the female Doctor thing recently. Again, I’d note that not only did he not do it, he dismissed the idea when he was in charge. The actions of both showrunners indicate that they can’t square the idea themselves but don’t have the courage to elucidate why. My suggestion is that they recognise as a fundamentally naff idea; not only is it superficially popular but it’s an idea that’s been around for decades. Doctor Who needs a tonal shift, not a reskin.

• Danny Pink. I still don’t care. And if he comes back to life – regardless of what is explained in this episode – it’s an automatic five points off in whatever mark I give it on Gallifrey Base.

Virtually every series of Doctor Who has promised change in this way since it returned. It’s OK Corral time; the series’ very own Trenzalore. It cannot bear any more dishonesty. If this is where we’re going, this is where we’re going.

Moffat has dangled the biggest bait we’ve ever seen in Doctor Who. And I’m not sure I like the direction it appears to be going. But it’s too late to have regrets. A bold new future, an afterlife, a path we’d never considered has been opened up. It’s frightening, new, possibly inappropriate.

But it’s new. And new is what Doctor Who needs. Seize the day, Steven.

New Series

Caves and Twins: Series Fnarg

So that was Series Five. Or Series 31. Or Series One. Or Series Chin, whatever you want to call it.

The stakes were high, with news that filming was overrunning horribly, Matt Smith was crap and kept forgetting his lines, Karen Gillan was ‘wooden’ and Phil Collinson had been called back in to sort the whole mess out.

We won’t reveal our sources, although it seems entirely likely that pretty much everyone in fandom knows where they came from, but let’s just say there was an element of fear going into Series Fnarg.

And how wrong we all were eh? Chief among this wrongness were the rumours that Smith was crap. In fact, it’s hard to imagine this being any further off the mark.

Matt Smith is wonderful, and his gentler, more alien, Doctor is perfect for Moffatt’s ‘fairytale’ Doctor Who. The whole tone of this series feels a more comfortable place for Doctor Who, and the Doctor, to be than Russell T Davies’ iteration – which was a series of ever-decreasing circles by the time the excellent David Tennant went, though his Doctor was not highly-liked in these parts.

It seemed almost unthinkable that the series, and Smith, could carry on where RTD and Tennant left off, but a fairly hefty shift in tone and pace and lead character has made it all look rather effortless.

For the first time in quite a while, the series felt much more Who than it had in a long time. Smith may just be the best Doctor… ever.

But while all the big things got sorted out, the parts that made up the whole didn’t always feel right. Murray Gold’s presence dragged the series back to a RTD vibe, and his syrupy/BOMBASTIC! style took away a lot of the nuances of the new series.

More bizarre still were some of the author/story choices. Toby Whithouse and Chris Chibnall delivered exactly what their previous stories suggested they’d deliver – utterly underwhelming stories that felt like a throwback to a couple of years ago.

Against rather lovely oddities like Amy’s Choice, Vincent and the Doctor and The Lodger, they felt jarring in their straight-forward simplicity.

Mark Gatiss’ Victory of the Daleks was, by all accounts, rather hacked to death in the editing suites and the end result was, frankly, a mess.

And stepping up to show-runner certainly sapped Moffatt’s brilliance, with the slapdash The Beast Below and breakneck incoherence of The Big Bang.

There were no new, interesting monsters. In fact, the closest thing we got were the rubbish new Daleks. We had to put up with CGI thing hiding inside humans on at least three occasions, and the limits of the budget were evident in The Pandorica Opens when it turned out the Fucking Sycorax and the Fucking Weevils were in on the intergalactic plan to put the Doc away for good.

Still, Moffat handled the Autons and the Cybermen ten times better than RTD ever did – another subtle difference to the approach the two brought to the series.

And yet, funnily enough, it didn’t really matter to me. The series felt fresh and fun. The Doctor seemed like, well, The Doctor. And Amy was breath of fresh air; a believable, volatile girl who didn’t love her favourite Time Lord.

She may have had a slightly less healthy obsession with him, but inter-personal angst was banished from the TARDIS forever – ‘I’m not that clingy!’ seemed like a great riposte to the years of Marf and Wose.

Arthur Darvill’s Rory eventually eclipsed the ’emasculated male’ cipher that’s been the default setting for most recurring male characters in the new series to become a rounded companion in his own right.

And, always at the centre of it, was Matt Smith. It’s interesting to note that most new Doctors come into the role praising Patrick Troughton, and Smith took it a step further.

Watch him running – it’s a straight lift from the Second Doctor. And he’s always doing something with his hands – First Doctor? There’s a bit of Four, Five and Eight in there too by our reckoning.

Not that The Eleventh Doctor is a pastiche; Smith has brought something new to the role again, and emphatically made it his own. He’s a perfect choice.

So, series thingummy. A hearty slap on the back from us, and the best TARDIS crew in ages. No doubt tweaks will be made for next season.

Probic Vent demands Zygons and Yeti and the Dream Lord and a past Doctor and The Brigadier. And a remake of The Horror of Fang Rock. Simple enough eh? Oh yeah, and STOP RUINING OLD MONSTERS!

• Here’s an end-of-season C&T for the series.



The Eleventh Hour – Fresh, fun and firmly established Smith as something new and interesting

Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone – A home run from Moffat, with plenty of twists and turns and great monstering

Amy’s Choice – Offbeat and enjoyable – an episode that seems unthinkable under RTD.

Vincent and the Doctor – Intriguing, if cloying

The Lodger – Would have been horrible with Tennant. Good with Smith.

The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang – Absolute gibberish, but wins points for not having thousands of cloned Sontarans invading the Taj Mahal and Eiffel Tower. Magic Light and Power of Love notwithstanding.


The Beast Below – Too many elements that didn’t seem to add up.

Victory of the Daleks – A horrible mess, and shit new Daleks. Almost saved by performances, but not quite.

Vampires of Venice – Dull filler

Hungry Earth/Cold Blood – Dull Chibnall filler that fluffed one of the most interesting premises in Who mythology.

• Caves and Twins? What are you dribbling on about?

Go here: Caves and Twins