Thursday, August 9, 2012
Kalpar's Thoughts on Series Six of New Doctor Who
Oh, and as a warning, I'm probably going to have to mention spoilers to really get to my problems with the series so if you haven't watched it already go ahead and do that.
So, for me, this series started off really well with the episodes The Impossible Astronaut and Day of the Moon. Those episodes introduced a new villain for the Doctor, the Silence, and set up this series's story arc so I was pretty excited. The problem I had, though, was that I felt like the story arc was not particularly well done and in hindsight this is kind of a problem with other seasons of the new series as well. Basically what I'm noticing is that the creative team of Doctor Who will leave little hints throughout the season and give some foreshadowing, but generally most of the huge story arc will be revealed in the last two episodes of the season in a big finale. (And based on the past seasons there's about a 60% chance of Daleks being involved.) And, to be honest, I was kind of okay with that but this latest series was significantly different because we kept returning to the overall story arc in a majority of the episodes and it became more central as a driving engine for the plot. Unfortunately there were still a couple of episodes that stood on their own and didn't really connect with the story arc. Even then I'm being generous with the episodes that are related to the overall plot but in a sort of indirect way. I really felt this series would have been better served by having all of the episodes build upon the story arc, even if it meant losing one of my favorite episodes The Doctor's Wife.
I also had some issues with the decisions for the character arc of the Doctor during this season. I guess my first major issue is that people, in this case the Silence, are once again trying to defeat the Doctor because they consider him their enemy. For the Doctor this is kind of a big deal because he doesn't like being seen as this evil enemy that destroys everything in its path but that's really unfair. If you think about the enemies that the Doctor fights, they're...well, usually evil. Daleks, Cybermen, Sontarans, they're all obsessed with conquering the universe and making everyone like them. The Doctor fighting against such foes isn't an evil act, it's heroic. He remains a champion for freedom against forces of tyranny. Yeah, fighting all of those battles can be tough and really wear on the Doctor, but the universe is much better off with him than without. Fortunately the writers kind of addressed this in The Wedding of River Song so hopefully it won't be an issue in the future.
Another problem was that the Doctor kept getting really upset because he couldn't save everyone and felt like a failure as a result. And yes, I can at least understand why the Doctor personally would be upset over every person he's incapable of saving when there are so many that die. However, from a storytelling point it makes a lot of sense. Seeing people die, despite the Doctor's best efforts to save everyone, makes the danger feel far more real and makes the viewing experience more emotional for us, the audience. As terrible as it sounds, we have to see people get killed by Weeping Angels and clockwork robots to raise the stakes of the conflict and make the Doctor's actions that much more critical. In addition, on those rare instances when the Doctor can save everyone it becomes a poignant and cherished moment. If the Doctor saved everyone all the time then his victories would become meaningless for the audience. It is because such victories are rare that they are valuable not only to us but also the Doctor.
A final point was that in A Good Man Goes to War the Doctor summons allies who owe him a debt from across time and space to help him in the Battle of Demons Run. This is all well and fine and made a really epic episode. The problem I had, however, was that some of these characters, specifically Madame Vastra, Jenny, and Commander Strax, we had not met before. From what little we learned about those characters in the episode they seemed really interesting and I wanted to know more about their stories but this was the first, and perhaps only, time that we get to see them. Listen, I'm all for introducing new characters to the Doctor Who universe and considering the Doctor's a time traveler they might meet out of order but there's a right way and a wrong way of doing it. The right way is how they introduced River Song in Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead where the Doctor is just as surprised as the audience and has to be introduced. Even though River died in Forest of the Dead because both she and the Doctor are time travelers we are left with the expectation that we'll meet her again in the Doctor's future travels. An improper way is just throwing in characters we've never met before and flat out stating that they owe the Doctor a debt. I would have strongly preferred that they had stuck to characters we had met before, such as Danny Boy and the other Spitfire pilots, for the Doctor's army, rather than introducing one-shot characters who have an implied history with the Doctor that we never get to see.
So, yes, this series has some issues as far as I'm concerned. Some of my other friends had less of a problem so I guess it really comes down to a matter of opinion. I would definitely recommend still watching this season because there are some ridiculously awesome episodes in there. (The Doctor's Wife made my list of favorites very easily, but it was written by Neil Gaiman so are you surprised?) I really hope that the next series, coming out later this year, will build upon the previous plotlines and reach greater heights.