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Enjoying Doctor Who

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I like Doctor Who. I enjoy watching it. I mean,  I really look forward to watching it. I go into each episode hopeful that it’s going to be a good one. Thinking about the show brings a little joy to my tired, battered little heart. It may not always be the ‘best’ show on TV, but it’s always my favourite. I watch because I love it. All of it. Oh sure, there are some eras I prefer over others, and I’m not blind to faults, but every season has good stuff in it. Even season 24.

I just fucking love Doctor Who.

I know, to some sections of Who ‘fandom’, those opening few sentences WILL NOT COMPUTE. Doctor Who is something they love part of. A show that they now endure because…. because…? Because there is that part of it they used to love. And they hope it’ll be just like it was again for that specially selected period of time. But a little heads up: it probably won’t be like that again. Not quite. It can’t be. It’s not just one thing this show, it’s been made by too many different people, people who must bring themselves to it. Who must steer the ship in a slightly different direction.

So some fans claim it as their favourite show, but because it won’t conform to their specific taste anymore, they feel like they are justified in ‘hate watching’. In identifying themselves as a fan, but then putting nothing but negative thoughts about the show out into the world. Retweeting others who share their opinion in an attempt to show they very rightness of their opinion. “Look! Look! Someone else on Twitter didn’t like it, therefore I am right and justified!”

I popped onto the festering boil that is Gallifrey Base (I know, daft of me) just to check something I already assumed would be true. For each of the two recent episodes, there are threads titled ‘General Praise’ and ‘General Disdain’; two guesses for with thread gets the most action? People want to moan. Pick at. Belittle. Pretend what they just saw was the worst abomination ever created. Nothing bad, or illogical, or underwhelming, or just plain shit ever went down on their show for the period they deign praiseworthy. But NOW? Fuck me, the show can do no right. It’s an end to end crap-heap.

What happened to the pure joy of sitting down to watch this daft, fun show?

Let’s be clear, just like in the 80s, there are people who consider themselves fans who would dance a delighted jig and laugh in the faces of people who watch if the show were to be cancelled. Because then that would somehow be proof that they were ‘right’. Not that Who doesn’t work for them anymore, but that it was objectively terrible. They point at the ratings joyfully each week and make claims of the audience deserting the show. They WANT the audience to desert the show. They’d rather the show died than carry on as something that has stepped outside of their own personal tastes. Selfish? Entitled? You betcha. They don’t enjoy the game anymore so want to take the ball home. Doesn’t matter that it’s not their ball and plenty of others are happily kicking it around.

Doctor Who fans can just be THE WORST.

I’d like to think if I ever became so curdled, I’d step away from the show, because why put myself through it? ‘Oh, the old if you don’t like it you shouldn’t watch it anymore argument. How shallow, how silly, how…’ SHUT UP. Watch it if you want. Complain and complain if you have to. But by gosh, it’s a strange way to want to carry on.

In our bid to poke at, critique, bash, highlight ‘problems’, and declare it imperfect, many of us forget to simply revel in the sheer joy of this daft, scary, goofy, bold, unique show. We think it’s more important to scold its imperfections, or decry it for failing to squeeze into the tiny mold we decide it best fits in. In our rush towards the disdain, we give short shrift to the praise. Too much ‘I want it to do this and it won’t’, and not enough taking the show as presented.

No, jerk, I’m not saying we should not critique the show. Just realise that Who not being exactly like you want it to be does not automatically mean it is terrible.

Now maybe I’m easy. There is no era of the show that I would ever put the word ‘Hate’ close to. All of it has moments to treasure. Stories to cheer for. Yeah, I even like BOTH the RTD era and the Moffat era. I KNOW! Incredible. I am a special and unique flower.

Watching Doctor Who should be fun. If it isn’t for you, then that sucks, but it can’t always be what you demand of it.

‘I just want my show back!’ Some of the slack-jawed miseries screech as they stamp their feet. Sorry, bub, but it’s not your show.

Oh, one more thing: I fucking LOVE Doctor Who! It’s often silly, often scary, sometimes it’s even brilliant. I hope I always have more joy than misery for it.

@doctorwhothing

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5 Underrated Matt Smith Era Stories

ElevenInShadowsTDODT

Matt Smith leaves behind him three series (and a bit) worth of televised adventures. There are several justly celebrated stories nestled in his era: people love ‘The Doctor’s Wife’, they foam at the mouth over ‘The Eleventh Hour’, and they positively fall down and have a joy-fit when ‘The Day of the Doctor’ is mentioned; but what about some of his other stories? The stragglers? The forgotten? Or even the downright despised? Here’s my little list of 5 underrated Matt Smith stories:

Beast Below

The Beast Below

It came hot on the heels of ‘The Eleventh Hour’, perhaps the greatest first episode for a new Doctor ever and, for me, an all time classic.  Beast is seen by many, Moffat himself included, as something of a stumble. Now look, I’m not saying it’s perfect, I know there are several things that just don’t seem to make any sort of sense, but there’s something about this story that just does ‘it’ for me. And it’s also completely INSANE. A whole city, riding on the back of a giant space whale? That is proper bonkers, but it works.

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Victory of the Daleks

Hey, stop throwing that garbage at me and hear me out, damn it!

And so the stumble continued. Apparently. Episode three of the Moffat era, and we get to ‘Victory of the Daleks’, an episode that has had the vitriol of many a fan spewed its way. I think that’s very unfair, and a great deal of it can be boiled down to ‘Don’t like new Power Ranger Daleks, WAH!’. Personally, I don’t mind the bright colours; they’re bold and visually interesting; it’s the hunchback that riles me. ANYWAY. This has a lot to enjoy; Daleks serving tea – the Doctors rage as he beats one of the Ironsides with a massive spanner thingy –  Spitfires! In Space! Attacking a flying saucer! – The Doctor facing down his deadliest foes with a Jammy bloomin’ Dodger!

It’s not perfect. There are things wrong with it. It really feels like it should have been a two parter. But come on, there’s plenty to love in there.

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Night Terrors

Another Gatiss episode. This is one of those stories that just seems to slip people’s minds completely. I remember at the time it received flak for not addressing the whole River-is-Amy’s-daughter hub-bub that just immediately preceded it, but I think it’s unfair to judge this episode solely on that. For one thing, it wasn’t even supposed to be at this point in the series, it swapped places with ‘Curse of the Black Spot’. I think if it had gone out in its originally intended slot, it would be looked upon much more fondly. That aside, it’s a wonderfully small and atmospheric tale; with Smith’s way with children at the forefront not for the first, or last, time. And those Dolls, they’re just damn freaky, okay? Time for a reappraisal, yes?

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Let’s Kill Hitler

FUN. Come on, grouch; this one is a riot, with River Song, BOTH River Song’s, just ripping up the screen. I can understand why this annoyed some, it’s a case of foiled expectations. After the epic ‘A Good Man Goes To War’  and its revelations about the Pond baby, I think the last thing most of us expected was for it to be followed up by such a bizarre, funny episode. This is Moffat all over, zigging in the second part when you expect him to zag. Or something. And it’s why it’s so often looked down upon; a fan with expectations unmet is an arsey son-of-a-sod.

‘Let’s Kill Hitler’ is Moffat just pressing the joy button again and again. AND RORY PUNCHES HITLER.

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The Time of the Doctor

YEAH. THAT’S RIGHT. This one received a lot of noisy hate when it aired, and it’s easy to see why. The expectation was sky-high, not only was it arriving hot on the heels of the hugely successful ‘The Day of the Doctor’, but it was Matt Smith’s finale. Moffat being Moffat, he didn’t write a straight-forward regeneration ep, but something a little more left-field, giving us something a bit unexpected. Even I wasn’t entirely sure on first watch, I came away a little dissatisfied, but on subsequent re-watches I discovered something wonderful: IT’S AMAZING. Yes, it needed to be longer to have more time to breathe, Moffat really did try to cram as much in as possible, but for large stretches it’s a simply magical journey and a beautiful send-off for one of my favourite Doctor’s; and since when does an episode have to be perfect to be awesome? Watch it again, maybe you’ll see it too.

So what do you think? And have I missed any that deserve a place on the list?

@DoctorWhoThing

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Deep Breath

DeepWell then. Well, well, well. Wellity-wellity-well. And so on.

I wasn’t going to do regular reviews, and perhaps I still won’t, but I thought I’d chuck up a few random, ill-thought out, poorly expressed thoughts on ‘Deep Breath’, the first episode of the Capaldi era.

WARNING: This isn’t a proper review, it’s a stream of blather. As I write this, I’ve only seen the thing once, so don’t come here looking for a deep, nuanced reading of the text. You are welcome.

Clara

CLARA EyesThere have been many complaints, some of it certainly justified, that Clara as a character was a bit thin. She was a character defined by her mystery, the whole Impossible Girl jazz. The focus on that perhaps got in the way of exploring her fully as a character, as to some degree to really be a mystery, she had to remain as such. Well now that’s done and dusted and the fully formed Clara can step into the spotlight and we can really get to know her. Not that, despite what some people might insist, there weren’t unique character traits there already. Much is made of her being a control freak in this episode, an ego maniac, but this is no character retcon, it’s always been there. Clara is the character that refused to take up with Eleven full-time; she remained at home and made him come to her, on days of her choosing. She was in control. All they’ve done here is tease that out more, made it more explicit.

I have seen some chatter about the fact it’s absurd for her to have a problem with regeneration. Has she forgotten she’s met ALL of the Doctors?!? It makes NO SENSE! Well, no. If that’s how you read this episode, then you’re reading it wrong. It’s not regeneration as such that she has a problem with, or that she suddenly doesn’t even know regeneration is a ‘thing’. She knows the Doctor changes, her problem is that she’s lost HER Doctor. Those other Doctor’s being out there is fine, but Eleven was her friend, not those other ones. Her silly, goofy, boyish, brave, sad friend. It’s like she said in ‘The Day of The Doctor’, she knew the Doctor pressed the button, destroyed Gallifrey, but she never saw HER Doctor doing it. This is what she is having trouble with, the Doctor is still there, but her friend, as far as she’s concerned, has gone. It takes a call from Eleven himself, a plea from her best friend, for her to decide to give him a chance.

ANYHOO. Clara was bloody marvelous in this, I’m so glad it looks like they’re now going to dig into her character more deeply, and massive ‘YAYS’ for when she gives Vastra and the Half-Face Man hell..! She may be scared, but she ain’t gonna take your shit, buster.

Length & Tone

I like my Who fast paced, a pre-credits sequence like we had for ‘The Pandorica Opens’, a dizzying thrill ride, really gets me going, but how nice it was to have a bit of room for once! We could actually stop and have people chat for a bit. This lead to some of the episodes very best scenes; the Doctor & Clara scene in the restaurant, Clara out-foxing the Half-Faced Man as he tried to threaten her, Vastra attempting to judge Clara. We stayed with it, we had time to dig deep. It’s a shame really that we now have to squeeze everything back into the straight-jacket of 45 mins again. Even an hour would do the job! But I understand, despite the shorter run times, that this willingness to stop and breath every now and again is something that we will be seeing more of throughout series eight, which I think is a really good call.

half faceThe Monsters

The return of the clockwork droids from ‘The Girl in The Fireplace’! Not that the Doctor remembered them. In many ways the monster threat was the B story to Capaldi rebuilding himself, but it did enough for me to grab my interest. All the scenes from the restaurant on were very effective. And it was a nice choice to feature a Robot that constantly rebuilds itself in a post-regeneration story, a mirror for the Doctor himself. It looked bloody good too, didn’t it? All those close-ups on the see-through head. Clara trying to hold her breath as she made her slow escape was incredibly tense. How many of you held your breath too..?

Poor Mr Half-Face only wants to get to the ‘promised land’ *ARC KLAXON ALERT..!*

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Capaldi

We’ve heard a lot of publicity about how Capaldi will be ‘dark’ and ‘fierce’ and ‘unfriendly’, and whilst he certainly does exhibit those things, they ignored something very important: he’s really funny. Oh sure he’s unpredictable (When he leaves Clara trapped and seems to have saved himself, Lordy!) and he’s less friendly, but it was all delivered with a humorous edge. That was only really dropped when he had his final confrontation with the Half-Faced Man. There was no one there to hear his jokes. He dropped the facade and played it straight. And yes, it really was quite chilling to watch. Wonderfully so. I was always quite sad they never really followed through on Tennant’s ‘No second chances, that’s the kind of man I am’ line, it seems they’re going to explore this vein a bit more with Capaldi.

I don’t think we know or feel as comfortable with this Doctor at this point as we did with Smith, or Tennant. In one way this means I don’t see him as fully formed yet, but that’s not exactly a criticism. We’re not meant to quite know this Doctor yet, he’s supposed to be a little bit more of a closed book, we need to travel with him to learn more. But thumbs up, I like what I’ve seen. That scene with the tramp, superb stuff.

RANDOM STUFF:

-When Clara reached back her hand in her scene with the Half-Faced Man, hoping the Doctor would have her back, and they waited…. and waited…. and then a hand finally grabbed hers, but it was one of the robots! Well, only then it wasn’t, but boy, that had me worried!

-For me, there were some directing, or editing issues. I wasn’t always sure where the characters were specially. When the Doctor abandons Clara, I initially though it was HE who was trapped with the robots. I may well just have been dumb, have looked away, but there were one or two moments like that.

-The Doctor, asleep, translating the dinosaur, lovely.

-Doesn’t Capaldi have a very ‘Doctor-ish’ way of moving? All weird run and awkward arms.

-When Eleven makes a call. OH BOY….. Lovely.

-‘I don’t like her, I love her.’

-This is the first time since Pertwee that we’ve not seen the Doctor choose his clothes post-regeneration (Nine doesn’t count, we didn’t see his post-regen scenes!)

-I wonder what the Doctor got up to between abandoning Clara at the end and coming back for her..? It feels like time may have passed, the TARDIS looks different, he has his new clothes; will it be in any way significant..?

-Michelle Gomez. Her performance was certainly… arch..? Is she a full on baddie? It appears so. In which case I’d like a straighter seam of nasty, not just a riff on her very funny Green Wing character. Make me SCARED God damn it!

-Have I mentioned how ace Clara was???

Cap Promo

The Bottom Line:

I liked it. I liked it A LOT. I’m not sure if on first watch I loved it, not to same degree as the perfectly perfect and wonderfully magical ‘The Eleventh Hour’, but it was a blooming good start to a new Doctor’s reign and continues modern Who’s unbroken run of good-to-great debut Doctor stories.

I recently posted a Top 3 Debut Stories for a Doctor article, would ‘Deep Breath’ make it onto that list now? I’m not sure that at this point it would. It’s still too fresh, I’d need to give it another few watches. But! BUT BUT BUT, it was definitely an enjoyable first step for Capaldi’s Doctor.

Okay. ‘Into The Dalek’. COME AT ME.

@DoctorWhoThing