Category: Hatin’ on Who


Humans, let me tell you a story. When the trailers for the second half of Doctor Who’s sixth season were just airing, I’d watch them obsessively, trying to formulate plot details and basically just amping myself up over a show I’d been looking forward to. I know I might be hard on it at times, but I really do love Doctor Who; it’s one of my favorite television shows, and really the only thing my parents and I bonded over for the longest time.

Anyway, do we all remember that there were shots of the Older Amy from Girl Who Waited in those trailers? When I first saw that- Amy bedecked in cool looking armor and wielding a sword- I thought “Oh, cool! We’re going to meet a future version of Amy who’s a badass! She must have spent quite a while fighting against the Silence to get her daughter back! Wow, Rory must be a total stone cold killer, then.”

Maybe that’s silly or idealistic, but that’s genuinely what I believed would happen. Amy and Rory had just had their child taken from them, so naturally I assumed the next half of the season would be a longer, more narrative driven arc concerned solely with reclaiming the baby Melody. For many reasons, this just seemed right to me; at the time Good Man Goes to War aired, my wife was pregnant with our own daughters, and so I was becoming familiar with the love a parent has for their children.

Imagine how perplexed I was when Let’s Kill Hitler landed on our screens, and… What? Are you fucking kidding me?

Humans, I’m a father now. Very recently, in fact; my baby girls were born only a month ago. I love them with all of my heart, and the simple idea that anyone would dare try to take them from me makes me sick to my stomach. So, my question is this: why doesn’t Amy feel the same?

Parental love isn’t cumulative, and it doesn’t take time to form. It shocked me too, but the moment I held my daughter, I got the most intense, permanent rush of true love. What I’m saying- and I really shouldn’t have to- is that there is no way that Melody didn’t mean the world to her parents, no matter how much time they got to spend together before Kovarian fucked it up. But let’s itemize what Amy and Rory do, after Demon’s Run:

The Doctor isn't so special: apparently, being willing to wait years for people is just an Amy thing.

They get home, and all we know from there is that they call the Doctor one time, and then make a crop circle. It is based on these facts alone that I am going to make a broad, sweeping statement: Amy and Rory Pond are the worst parents in modern science fiction.

I want to preface this by saying that season five Amy and Rory were genuinely interesting people that I was looking forward to seeing more of. Something happened to them between seasons, but that’s a discussion for later. By season six they begin exhibiting some emotionally false and truly unsettling decisions that make me really doubt the writer’s competence.

Let’s start at the beginning, shall we? So, River drops Amy and Rory off at home (which I’m sure was an awkward road trip) and then what? They start trying to contact the Doctor. Which is fine, it really is, given that the Doctor is the man with the time machine, and he seemed to know what he was doing… But, something doesn’t ring true. I think it’s the way Amy and Rory conduct themselves. It’s not long before they’re joking around with the Doctor, they’re happy to see him, and they’re… Well, I’m sorry, but what? Why aren’t they angry at the Doctor for leaving them out of the loop for as long as he did, while still coming back empty handed? Why do anything other than immediately leave together to go find the damn baby? Why is Amy’s first reaction not to grab the goddamn Time Lord by that bow tie of his, drag him back into the TARDIS, and go?

But it’s fairly easy to skip over that. Once. But the problem is… After Let’s Kill Hitler, Melody is never brought up again until the finale. At all. The Ponds are perfectly content to go off and have adventures again, like nothing has happened. As a father, this rings false to me.

Seriously. The very next episode is Night Terrors, a pretty standard Doctor Who adventure with creepy dolls, and there’s no mention that Amy and Rory are parents at all. Which is so totally unrealistic it’s almost childish in itself. I don’t understand why this is, at all.

Seriously? THIS GUY is just going to give up on this?

Well actually, yes I do: it’s because it would get annoying for the companions to be bringing up a missing baby constantly in the standard Doctor Who monster-of-the-week formula. Which I can understand; it would get damned annoying if this were the case. So here’s the thing: the writers were under no obligations to write this story. If your standard episode formula isn’t set up to deal with a child abduction, then don’t write a child abduction. Find some other way of dealing with the plotline. Leaving it hanging like it was is just creepy.

"Hey River! Would you rather be raised as a weapon by a cult, or as a person by your parents? I assume the former!"

They way they justify Amy and Rory’s- and the Doctor’s, for that matter- acceptance of the loss of their first born child is truly the most horrifying thing this series has ever produced, to me. It’s destiny, the characters opine. Melody grows up to be River, so there’s nothing we can do without upsetting time (and besides, there are worse things to be than River.) This from a show that just got done with a season with the arc words “time can be rewritten.” This from a show that just reset the entire universe from scratch.

Also, and let me be very, very clear on this: Predetermination means nothing here. Fuck causality. Fuck it right in the ass. If it were my daughter, I would be tearing down the space time continuum piece by piece until I got her back. Even if it were- understandably- impossible for me, do you think I’d stop trying? Fuck no, that’s my little girl! Besides which, didn’t Girl Who Waited have two instances of a character floating around, mere episodes after this petty justification was used?

If there's one thing the Doctor is known for, it's giving up on things.

The other emotional softener- namely that Amy and Rory got to raise Melody in the form of Mels- is even more insulting. Anybody with a functioning brain knows that there is a marked difference between the relationship between childhood friends, and the one between parents and child. This is a fundamental fact of personhood that seems to have completely flown over the heads of the writing staff. Additionally, the situation as it stands becomes kind of nightmarish: Amy and Rory got to watch as their daughter grew up into a delinquent. Also, how many regenerations had Mels gone through before reaching that form? Did she remember all of them? Was she still focused on her mission the entire time she grew up in that body? Is that why she was so fixated on the Doctor as a child? If so, then Amy and Rory didn’t really raise Mels at all: they were merely the cover for a lifetimes old psychotic assassin wearing the skin of a child. Jesus Christ…

Let’s interpret this a little more: At no point during this years long relationship were Amy and Rory ever aware that Mels was their daughter. Rory is a male, and at one point he was a teenager. You can see where I am going with this, and yes, it is just as squicky for you as it is for me. In all possible interpretations. I’ll stop there.

To me, that whole justification smacks of an excuse; a little way to soften the blow for those viewers with a working mind that could see the huge, canyon sized flaws in this logic. Which would mean that, yes, the writers did know that there were issues here, but that they wouldn’t, or couldn’t, rectify them. Was the plot already written and in the middle of filming before someone figured it out? Was Moffat so dead set on it that it would be hard to pull him out of it? What the fuck happened?

Scarier still is that Moffat has kids, so there’s no excuse. He must have known how fucking devastating the plot he was writing would be to parents. Why not change it? As I mentioned earlier, the Silence themselves would work so much better by removing one of the three twist elements of this series- go and read my post “The Silence are a Bunch of Idiots” for more.

It’s so odd, too: series six in particular has such a focus on themes of parenthood. Ask yourselves: how many episodes of this series have parents and children in them? Curse of the Black Spot has them. The Rebel Flesh has them. Good Man Goes to War definitely has them, as does Let’s Kill Hitler. Night Terrors has them. Closing Time has them. Even the latest Christmas special has them. Of the past fourteen episodes, seven or eight of them have themes of parenthood in them, with three -debatably four- of them having this theme as the central component.

Why is this? Is it to reinforce and foreshadow River’s plot arc? Why is it, then, that the main thrust of this arc was written in such a downbeat, horrifying way? I get the feeling that, once it had gotten that dark, the series didn’t know what to do with it, and so just swept it all under the rug and hoped nobody noticed.

Well, I did. And it renders me more than a little quizzical.

I um... I... Uh, sorry. Got distracted by the sexy, for a minute there...

Consider this part one of my first two-part blog post: next time, I shall be discussing Amy and Rory as characters, delving into what makes them interesting, what makes them boring, where they succeed and fail, and what they mean for the franchise. Take it as a little farewell vivisection for my two favorite companions.

Kurokami, signing off!

Humans, let’s play a little game. Imagine that I appear in your home; there’s no reason for me to be there, you don’t know who I am, and I’ve no visible means of entry. Without explaining a single thing to you, I and my friends that I happen to have brought with me start poking around your house while spouting non-sequitur lines at each other, almost completely ignoring your presence. That is, until I find something there that I disapprove of. From there, I give you an ultimatum: stop it forever, or I’ll punish you. As I stand over you, I appear to be holding a weapon. How would you respond?

You probably would run, right? If you’re brave, you might tell me off. Of course, now you’re probably wondering what the point of all this speculation is. Well, I’ll tell you:

We have just described every episode of Doctor Who.

I’m serious, look it over: Doctor Who stories fall into a steady rhythm. Arrive in a strange place, poke around without being invited, find something objectionable, threaten those responsible, lay down some smackdown on whatever their plan happens to be, leave. The circumstances may change, but the framework is generally the same episode to episode. Which, when you think about it, makes the Doctor kind of a universal scale nuisance, right?

See, to me, the Doctor is an utterly terrifying character. He’s an almighty, near godlike figure that has, without consultation or right of appeal, appointed himself the guardian of the entire universe. He’s the ultimate evil overlord; taking what he wants, changing societies, groups and individuals to fit his designs, often by force, and generally acts as a space travelling prankster. Worse still, he pulls it off so well that he generally considered heroic for it.

Do I think this makes the Doctor a poorly constructed character? No! I think it makes him a great character! It’s a level of moral complexity that I really enjoy, and it makes thinking about the series in depth rather a joy. Amy, Captured and Panic Moon wouldn’t exist if I hadn’t found something to think about there. But I do think that this complexity isn’t something that’s being consciously written into the show, I think it’s a byproduct. And I think it’s emblematic of a larger simplicity present in Doctor Who scripts that could easily be turned to the show’s advantage, if only the writers would realize it was there.

Granted, there has been a push in recent seasons to darken up the Doctor some, which would be fine except that each and every script still writes him as the hero. At no point does the Doctor come across as anything other than the morally superior party in any confrontation he’s a part of, despite some truly amoral behavior at times. In essence, he’s still being written as a classical hero protagonist, despite the effort that’s being expended to make the stories darker.

There are plenty of ways that the Doctor does fit into the archetypal hero structure; he’s got a steed (the TARDIS), a magic sword (sonic screwdriver), and god given authority (he’s a Time Lord). He’s also the last of his kind, which goes a long way to conferring “destined hero,” status, and he acquires travelling companions, most of whom come to idolize him, if not fall in love with him. In many ways, he’s quite similar to a knight, with his strict ethical code and sworn mission to root out evil and corruption wherever he discovers it.

This isn’t a bad thing by any means; many stories successfully deploy this kind of character to no detriment. The problem is that the Doctor is not in that kind of story. Placing a straight laced hero protagonist in a more morally complex story can also work to good effect, but it requires the story to deconstruct the hero protagonist trope, at least in part… Which Doctor Who doesn’t really do either (No, it doesn’t. It deconstructs the Doctor’s character, but not the trope he represents. This is different.) In fact, I get the feeling that the writers haven’t really noticed how questionable the Doctor really is.

The last child of Gallifrey varies from writer to writer, which means that he doesn’t have a coherent moral viewpoint or motivation. Things that one writer characterizes as evil, another will characterize as good. Generally when I think of this, my prime example is the Doctor’s stance on killing; occasionally he’s into it, occasionally he isn’t. Remember the Christmas Invasion? When Harriet Jones guns down the Sycorax ship, and the Doctor in turn sows the seeds of her political ruin? I do.

There are actually two scary things about that moment; one, which I’ll explore more in a moment, is that the Doctor directly interferes with Britain on a national level by deposing Harriet, all because he had a personal disagreement with her methods in a life or death situation. The second is that… Well, the very next Christmas the Doctor is killing every last one of the Racnoss. And remember, the latter example is genocide, whereas there were plenty of Sycorax out there. Which is in itself an argument for the steps Harriet took against them.

Let us remember, humans: This guy has a higher body count than, well...

This guy.

I’ve heard it argued that while the Sycorax were leaving, the Racnoss were about to launch a major invasion on the world, and the Doctor was out of options. This is hard to argue against, but consider this: of the hundreds or thousands of (angry, vengeful) Sycorax on board, it only takes one of them to organize a larger fleet to return to Earth. And for a guy with a strict “no violence,” code… the Doctor still went ahead and did it. His moralizing stance sure seems substantial after that…

Consider also that, from the ninth Doctor onward, one of his defining past events was an act of genocide against his own people and the Daleks. Again, it could easily be argued that the Doctor was backed into a corner and he did what he had to do to safeguard the rest of the universe. But that kind of “I did what I had to,” attitude is an amoral stance, as opposed to the morally good viewpoint the Doctor is attributed.

Besides which, there are instances in which this “kill a few to save countless others,” motto is subverted by the Doctor himself. In Beast Below, for example, the Doctor moralizes at Amy and is about to kick her off of the TARDIS because she hides the truth about the Starship UK from him in order to save the many thousands of people on board (from him, but that’s beside the point for now). She’s only doing what he himself would do (attempts to do, but that’s beside the point for now.) That the Doctor isn’t above contradicting himself, and then still counts himself as morally superior is unsettling enough, but there’s more:

The Doctor has no fucking right to appoint himself the protector of the universe.

Yes, it might seem like an altruistic thing to do, but there’s one problem; the Doctor doesn’t seem to understand the meaning of the word ‘protector.’ He’s confused it with the word ‘arbitrator.’ And that’s a problem, because excepting a small number of cases, the Doctor is never invited to perform this duty.

Like the scenario I posed at the beginning of this post, the Doctor really does just show up and starts imposing his moral code on each and every thing around him. Even ignoring the fact that his method is more likely to induce anxiety and anger in those he judges, there’s no authority behind the Doctor’s judgment. He mentions on numerous occasions that he’s a Time Lord, and that this imparts upon him a duty to ensure things happen in the correct way… Excuse me while I laugh.

I’m not an expert on Time Lord history, but from what I can remember, there’s no grand authority that gave them this duty, or even the power to enforce it. The only reason they’re called the Time Lords is that they came up with the theories and methodology of time travel before anyone else. And it’s a title they gave themselves. Which basically makes them a race of Doctors, the presumptuous prick that he is (I’m sorry, I don’t really mean that.)

I think this is really an issue that deserves some more thought, especially considering the interstellar nature of the Doctor’s travels. What I mean is that the Doctor sticks quite closely to human morality, even though he has no reason to do this. Yes, I know Earth is the Doctor’s favorite planet, and humanity his favorite species, but that… hey, that actually makes it worse! The Doctor adopts the morality of a species he takes a liking to, adapts it into its most stringent form, and then applies it to every other species ever. Regardless of how very different that species might be. Morally, culturally, physically… each species might very well be completely different than humanity for so many different reasons, and yet the Doctor slams down on them if they differ from a moral code that might be completely nonsensical to them. That’s not very fair.

Now, this might be mitigated somewhat, assuming the Doctor applied his moral code uniformly, across every species and situation that he finds himself in. But he doesn’t. He routinely favors humans over whatever else they happen to run into. Again, the Racnoss: what makes their species inherently less worthy than humanity? Why shouldn’t they get to fight for survival on Earth? I don’t see the Doctor slapping down farmers for slaughtering cows for food, yet he’ll commit genocide on the space-spiders for the same thing?

It might sound odd for me to be speaking like that, but we have to remember something: I am human (mostly human… I live on Earth, at any rate) while the Doctor is not. In fact, given the Doctor’s enthusiasm for the other species he encounters, it’s very odd that he does this. The Doctor is the last of his kind, but he’s also a citizen of the universe, and he’s been travelling for god knows how long; there’s no logical reason for him to favor humanity over any and every other species. Well, except for that all the writers are human. And if the Doctor has a favorite, it means he’s lost objectivity, and he can’t be trusted as a universal protector, despite his continual insistence about that.

When the Doctor makes the proclamation that Earth is defended to the Sycorax, that’s frightening to me. Who asked him to be? What right does he have to do it, and most importantly, what happens when he gets bored? And he does get bored, it’s basically the reason he travels. Through no fault of his own, the Doctor is occasionally not around when he’s needed. Hell, that’s kind of the point of Torchwood. But here’s the thing that is the Doctor’s fault: his stewardship over the Earth robs humanity of its autonomy. Leaving aside the fact that his constant interference impedes human governments from developing the strategies and mechanisms necessary to stand up for themselves the next time it happens, the bloody Time Lord actually punishes the people who do fight back. Not only does he stop humanity from solving its own problems, he actively discourages us from fighting back at all. It’s him or nothing, and once again… He’s sometimes not there to help.

The Doctor has no stable moral role within the Whoniverse. Usually he’s a hero protagonist with writers who don’t think that through all the way, but lately the show’s been taking steps to make him an dark hero… It’s just kind of awkwardly implemented. “Rule One: the Doctor lies.” What? When has that ever been the case? Really, I intend to go over the way Eleven is written in greater detail in a later post, but I just thought I’d bring it up as fuel for thought: so what, now the Doctor isn’t even our protector, and he gets to run around like he does? That’s awesome for him, I guess…

Like I’ve already said, I don’t think this kind of contradictory behavior is necessarily bad. I really enjoy having to think about it with this level of depth, and a lot of my writing within this canon wouldn’t exist without the show having the breadth to allow me to think up alternate interpretations the way it does. I just think it would be cool if this was explored within the show itself, or at least a reference to it. It was kind of nice when Davros called out Ten on this during the season four finale, why couldn’t they do more like that? Lately, all the introspection seems to have drained out of Doctor Who… But that’s for another post.

Kurokami, signing off!

Humans, there are two elements you need, if you want to create a story: character, and plot. At its very base, this is what narrative comes down to; the events that occur, and the people that they happen to. In good stories, these two elements are intermingled to the point where they become inseparable, and you couldn’t have one without the other. Bad stories, on the other hand, have a disconnect between plot and character; the story is about things happening to the characters, not what happens because of, or about the characters. Now, I know I seemed pretty down on Doctor Who in that last post, but I really do love that show, and I’ll happily admit that it’s a show that can produce some great characters- the Doctor himself is one of my favorite fictional characters ever- and some truly excellent plots- Midnight was amazing, and more recently the Doctor’s Wife and the Girl Who Waited were shockingly good, too. Where it falls down is in connecting these elements in any meaningful way.

No, I don’t really think I should be writing for Doctor Who. In spite of all my vitriol, I am a diehard fan, and I’d be afraid of ruining the show if I ever did end up in a position of power over it. But I do get the feeling, especially in these last few seasons, that there’s been some seriously missed opportunities here. That the show could be something amazing, when now it’s content with just being good.

The key to any good story is the base; a coherent and consistent world for the characters to inhabit, and for the plot to happen in. Lately, and I speak of seasons five and six in particular, Doctor Who has no world to speak of, in fact it really lacks any kind of context at all. Each episode- or arc, pedants- is entirely self contained and very rarely references the larger plot or character arcs for the season. It’s gotten to the point where my internal map of Doctor Who goes like this: entertaining, suitably epic opening episode to establish what’s changed in this season (either a new Doctor, new companion, or new overarching villain, who will only be hinted at) then three to five episodes that are self contained adventures, followed by a two parter which may or may not contain some hint at the overarching plot. As we get to the final three episodes, one will be self contained up until a cliffhanger at the end, setting up for an epic two part finale that both reveals and defeats the series villain. Granted, the Wedding of River Song was one part, but I still maintain it’d be better as two.

That’s just how Doctor Who goes, for me; the plot such as it is, and the character development, only happens in the first and last two episodes. Mostly I’m fine with that, because it might be light, but it’s damn entertaining. But the more I think about it, the more I come to realize that it didn’t always used to be this way.

See, in the ninth and tenth Doctor’s eras, there was a sense that 21st century London represented a kind of home base, in a way. Whenever a story was set there, we’d have Mickey and Rose’s mum, and Harriet Jones if the story was big enough… series three gave us Captain Jack, too. There were a set of characters, outside the core Doctor/companion cast that were nevertheless recurring, and gave the show a kind of origin point to return to as needed. Now, it wasn’t ideal- three or four recurring characters do not a world make- but it gave a sense that there was something else out there, that life in this universe was bigger than just wherever the TARDIS happened to land at the time. Lately, there’s been none of that; Amy’s parents have appeared once, Rory doesn’t seem to have any, and the only time we’ve seen any friends, or even acquaintances of theirs is one instance of Jeff, and a hastily cobbled together Mels montage (which, admittedly, gave me a lot of cause to like and sympathize with Rory, poor adorkable bastard). There’s no sense of an outer world, no sense that Amy, Rory or the Doctor ever existed outside of the TARDIS. They might as well just have been born in there, sprung fully formed from the walls to have adventures for our amusement. It almost makes them more performing monkeys that actual characters.

Don’t get me wrong, Doctor Who is hugely successful at parlaying this style of self contained stories into something that’s generally interesting and fun to watch, but imagine how much more fun it would be if the world these characters were playing in was three dimensional. Those episodes I mentioned earlier? Midnight, Girl Who Waited and Doctor’s Wife? Those were all self contained stories, but they worked so well because they presented the characters we know in a manner we haven’t seen them before. Midnight does a great job of stripping away and deconstructing the tools the Doctor has that make him powerful, Girl Who Waited depicts Amy’s abandonment problems in interesting new ways (and shows that Karen Gillan makes a fine dramatic performer) and Doctor’s Wife… Well, that episode was awesome for too many reasons, really. It’s probably one of my favorites.

And I’ll tell you why that is, and why Doctor Who is unsettlingly one dimensional at times: the story actually remembered elements of the characters. Amy’s guilt over abandoning Rory in favor of the Doctor is on full display during their scenes with House in the TARDIS, the Doctor’s relationship with the TARDIS itself takes center stage, and we get a sense that, if not within a world, these characters at least exist continuously. That one adventure follows on to the next, and that they remember what happened last week. That’s rare, especially in these last two seasons, where there was so much potential for character development that went down the rain.

See, I never get the sense that anything these characters do is internalized and made into character growth. There are plenty of callbacks to prior episodes in Doctor Who, but none of them seem to be anything other than surface level references. And mostly those references aren’t ones that the characters are making, they’re not in universe at all; it’s something that the writers have thrown in for the fans. See, River calling back to being called Mrs Robinson in Impossible Astronaut (“Hello Benjamin”) is funny and all, but River herself can’t possibly have remembered that, she hadn’t done it yet. It’s just coincidental, and we’re never given any indication that the Doctor gets the reference either. It’s for the viewer, not the characters, and thus it doesn’t count as continuity.

When I sat down to think about it, there are very few actual in character references to prior events in Eleven’s run at all, and even the ones that do exist are very surface level. The extent of it seems to be occasionally referencing Vampires in Venice by name, and that’s only because the title is suitably kooky. I understand the need to make jokes in a show like this, but please don’t make that the only one. Especially in season six, there are immense, enormous, scarring events that take place, yet every single character gets over it really, really easily, and then never mentions them again.

I intend to go through this in far greater detail later, but what was up with Amy this season? She gets kidnapped– and let’s be really clear, for a real person that would be a traumatic event normally, to say nothing of being space kidnapped by an army of gun toting thugs and headless aliens- and… Really, this is the worst thing I’ve ever seen this show do, she has her daughter taken from her. I’m in the process of writing a much larger piece about this issue, but ask yourselves, how long after Melody was taken did it take for Amy to return to normal? Not even a single episode; there were parts of Let’s Kill Hitler where her lack of emotional response was truly disturbing. I’m a dad, humans, and very recently one too, and the idea of losing my little girls is utterly horrifying to me. No parent would get over it that fast, and the half hearted mitigation that’s offered to the audience (“Oh, Melody grows up to be River, oh, Amy and Rory got to raise her anyway in the form of Mels”) is not only insulting to the connection a parent shares with their children, but actually makes the situation far, far worse. It plays on an Adult Fear very effectively without even realizing it, and really becomes High Octane Nightmare Fuel for me, even worse than any monster the show could dream up.

Yet Amy completely recovers in the time it takes for the show to come back after its mid-season hiatus (I hated that, too. Remind me to discuss it later) and is back to her old self just in time for another set of adventures. Which is a problem, because she’s not the only one doing it, and it’s not the only instance of this happening. In this case, I think her character was handicapped by the “monster of the week,” format that Doctor Who sticks to. Amy being an actual mother and insisting that they find her baby- constantly- would drag down a self contained set of episodes, and Doctor Who isn’t really set up for a continuous, serial storyline. It’s just… forgetting about it like that is so lazy.

But it’s like I said earlier, all of these characters are stuck in their ruts; upon realizing that the TARDIS is fully cognizant and cares for him, the Doctor doesn’t change at all, despite the fact that this relationship is central to his character, to say nothing of being the longest running one that he has. Rory gets over his jealousy of the Doctor extremely quickly, and the fact that he’s now a two thousand year old roman soldier badass is neatly swept under the rug, despite confirming that he remembers everything. I’ve already discussed Amy, but there’s other elements to her, too; like her Peter Pan-esque flight from responsibility and guilt over leaving Rory, that’s just never mentioned again. Why is this?

The only reason I can think of that makes sense is that the format sells. The sad thing is that it might not even be the writing staff’s fault; they’re beholden to the BBC’s wishes as much as anything else. And it’s a family show; perhaps the network believes that the younger demographics won’t react well too longer, narrative driven stories or in depth character development? Hell, now that I think about it, the monster of the week format must be a godsend for their merchandising prospects, huh?

The more I think about it, the more this makes sense; the show really does seem to be in two minds about what it wants, on occasion. On one side, you’ve got some really very dark, deconstructive elements- latterly I’m thinking of the Doctor’s death (Before it was a cop out) and Melody’s entire character arc- alongside some really very interesting episode choices like I’ve already mentioned. But on the other are a lot of nicely commercial decisions that I don’t really think the writers had much to do with (why were the Silence involved with the moon landing really? I mean, I understand it was to get a working space suit, but if they didn’t want to be discovered and stopped, why go to the Doctor’s favorite planet? Seems like an excuse to go to America, to me).

Thing is, I’m not even asking that the show become a narrative heavy, serialized thing. Nor would I dare dream of it; Doctor Who creates some timeless, classic monsters and stories that are entirely self contained and are just perfect that way. I like the format, but the insistence on constantly sticking to it is doing the series a disservice; these characters and the world they inhabit could be so much more than they are now, and in doing so the risk of the audience- or even a segment therein- rejecting it all could be mitigated.

Let you never say that I just bitch without providing suggestions, humans. Here’s some ideas, just off the top of my head, that would be fun episodes in keeping with the general atmosphere of the show which could nevertheless be character developing pieces; send the TARDIS back to Rome at the height of the Empire. Our trio is walking the streets when, suddenly, a woman catches sight of Rory, and recognizes him. Oh snap, he was here before, right? And yes, new universe and all, but Amy’s memory was strong enough to revive the Doctor, right? Who’s to say she, or even Rory, he’s been around the cracks in time too, couldn’t also bring back certain other elements? This woman could even be Rory the Roman’s wife, a part of his cover while waiting for the Doctor (or even just a surviving Auton made to look that way, if you wanted to make the argument that all his Roman memories were just implanted and he hadn’t been there that long.) See? Suddenly we’ve called back to Rory’s long, long life, we’ve ironically reversed the standard of Rory chasing after Amy, and we’ve given her a reason to be jealous. Hey, it’s something we’ve never seen before (I think the two parter with the Gangers was too awkwardly done to count.)

Or hey, let’s talk about that silly pirate episode from the first half of season six. Why is it that Rory didn’t use his Roman fighting skills then? Why did he let Amy take on all those pirates by herself? That’s… less that chivalrous, Rory. In fact, why only bring up that piece of his backstory, which should be crucial, only twice in the entire series? And only let it be applied once? Day of the Moon, Curse of the Black Spot, Girl Who Waited: that’s three examples of when those skills could have come in handy. What, did they not think Roman Rory action figures would sell so well?

Speaking of the Girl Who Waited… what was up with the ending, there? Shouldn’t Amy and Rory be angry, given what happened there? I mean, not only did the Doctor lie in such a horrible way, just to get what he wanted… but he also demonstrated a startling willingness to kill Amy (and let’s not bullshit around here. The show treats what happened to Older Amy as a death, and so they should have.). But there’s no conversation about it, no lingering distrust over this shockingly amoral act. Wouldn’t have taken much to convey, just a few added lines here or there, but no. It just didn’t happen.

Going along like this, there can be no union between character and plot. Everything that happens just happens to the characters, there’s no context or direct connection to our central cast at any point. Outside forces are conveniently written in to provide the adventure fodder for this week, and even what character development that can be gleaned from this is swept under the rug, half the time. Not all of the time; Amy’s issues with abandonment are occasionally brought back in for good effect, and I did like the Doctor’s lingering guilt over what happened to his prior companions in Let’s Kill Hitler’s voice interface scene, but it’s not enough. This idea that kids won’t react to complex characters- if indeed that’s what the issue is- is a ridiculous one because, by and large, kids aren’t into Doctor Who for Amy and Rory. No, they’re in it for the Doctor and the monsters. Besides which, even what I just said is giving them too little credit; can anyone say that Pixar movies aren’t complex? And yet, they do sell to kids. Even Up sold to kids.

Look, I find myself of two minds about all this because, by and large, Doctor Who is still fun and entertaining, and presents some ideas I don’t often see in family shows. It can be complex when it wants, I just don’t know why it feels the need to ignore potentially interesting ideas in order to write bloody God Complex, whose main plot objective- breaking Amy’s faith in the Doctor- could have been achieved far more effectively with even a little bit of continuity.

Listen, I love this show, I do. Just… it could be so, so much better than it is. Why it refuses to scale the lofty heights that the production crew is so very capable of, or even acknowledging that those lofty heights are there, completely baffles me. I’m not going to lie to myself and say that Doctor Who hasn’t always had cheap copout endings, because it has (admit it, most episodes end with the Doctor using a long string of sciency words, then waving his sonic screwdriver around, pressing some buttons, and running down a corridor) but that doesn’t mean the characters have to cop out too.

The writers have proven talent, the three central actors are really quite good, and the production staff can do fine as hell work, that’s beyond dispute…

I just think the Doctor deserves more than he’s getting, okay?

Kurokami, signing off!

 

For Doctor Who’s sixth series, the Silence are finally revealed as recurring villains. And boy, were they cool. There was a lot to like about these Slenderman-esque aliens when we first got to meet them in the Impossible Astronaut; they look cool, the memory editing concept behind them is pretty neat, and the way it was implemented- and how it seems to affect the audience as well as the characters- was well done.

Well, those are the things I like about the Silence. As their debut two-parter went on, the façade began to crack and some really poor design decisions began to leak through. Here’s what I hate about the Silence: One, that weird mouth of theirs. Seriously, why is that thing even there? The Silence shouldn’t have mouths; I imagined that their voices were telepathic and would echo through your skull after they’d spoken. The mouth looks silly. While we’re on that, the fact that they fucking roost in groups, upside down from the ceiling? Also silly, and I shouldn’t have to explain why. And finally, this might be controversial, but I don’t really care: The Silence are a bunch of stupid, dumb, dumby dumb dumbass idiots, and their plan to kill the Doctor makes no fucking sense.

I mean that genuinely; nothing in series six’s overarching story makes even a lick of sense, and mostly that’s down to how fucking stupid and shortsighted the primary villains are. They’re the victims of weak writing, that much is sure. In fact, this whole latest series gives me the feeling that Moffat had his ideas for River’s past and built a story around that, without really paying any attention to whether it made sense. Seems like he was too wrapped up in how clever he could make all his time travel shenanigans. So, let’s examine the Silence and their plan a little more closely.

One thing we know about the Silence, which right away makes their stupid assassination plot fall apart, is that they have a method of time travel. They’d have to; they know which points in time are fixed (and I really must write a post about that, while I remember it) and they had the ability to send River back to Utah in that astronaut suit. In fact, we see their timeship early on in the season. Normally a villain that can travel through time is fine in a Doctor Who story, except that the Silence haven’t been written with any degree of foresight or foreknowledge.

At the end of the finale we learn that the Doctor has faked his own death in an attempt to fool the Silence, so they stop coming after him. The way he does this is ridiculously cheap, and really it ruins any tension the rest of the series may have had, but that’s beside the point. See, this entire concept only works if the Doctor is a dramatically different character. The fact that there’s a series seven indicates that this is not the case. Are we to believe that the Doctor is going to lay low for the rest of his life? Honestly, I doubt it. I’m sure that, from the very next episode, the last child of Gallifrey will be right back to his old, world saving ways. And the Silence aren’t going to notice that? It only takes one to do that, and then the Doctor’s little scheme goes right down the fucking drain.

But here’s the thing: for a time traveler, everything happens at once. Say the Silence does find out that the Doctor survived: what the fuck? It’d be the work of but a moment to return to Utah, find out how the target survived, and then take him out properly after everyone else left. In fact, why wasn’t there a fucking army of Silence there at the lake? Aside from that one guy, why wasn’t there a whole group of them watching? In fact, why leave anyone else alive at all? The Doctor doesn’t carry a weapon, River- in either of her incarnations- doesn’t have enough firepower on her to do that much damage, and Amy and Rory? Forget about it. Why go through this ridiculous, convoluted time travel plot when you could just send a group of effectively undetectable, lightning-fingered badasses rolling up the beach to kill them properly? God knows, a direct attack from these guys would have taken a few seconds, especially since they always have the element of surprise.

LIGHTNING HANDS!

Like this! Attack him like this!

So essentially, nobody wins; the Silence failed, and the Doctor’s inability to ever remain quiet in the face of adventure means that he’ll continue to be chased by what, really, is only a middling set of enemies. But there’s worse than that here, and I can sum it up in a single sentence:

River Song has no place being the lynchpin of this fucking plan.

Every last element of the Silence’s colossal failure to complete their one objective can be traced directly back to River fucking Song. I know I might sound a little bitter about this, but I honestly believe that River had a lot of potential as a character, and that this latest series set about squandering all of it.

My first issue with River being a part of this should have been the most glaringly obvious: what was it that ended up saving the Doctor’s life? If you answered that it was River, you’re wrong. What saved the Doctor was foreknowledge: he knew the date of his death, and had plenty of time to brood, think it over, and come up with the (bullshit, terrible) escape plan he used in the finale. How did the Doctor acquire this knowledge of his own death ahead of schedule? Well, he downloaded it from the Tesselecter during the events of Let’s Kill Hitler. Why was he there? Heh, he was there because River fucking forced him to go there! He wouldn’t have even known the Tesselecter existed if Mels hadn’t carjacked the TARDIS and forced them all back in time. River Song is the whole reason the Doctor has the date, time and location of his death; what did they think he was going to do with that information? For that matter, why was it that Mels wanted the Doctor back in WW2 in the first place? There’s literally no reason I can produce for why she decided this was a good idea.

But let’s move on. Another big issue that maybe the Silence should have thought of is that, at the time River is called upon to put on the spacesuit and kill the Doctor, she doesn’t want to do it. She says it herself in the finale; she’s being forced. She can’t control it, the suit is moving on its own. Okay, I’m willing to accept that’s true, but… Why even put River in the suit if it’s just going to move against her will? She’s clearly not necessary for the assassination to take place. Why not just send the suit? Or a robot? Or literally anything other than one of the Doctor’s ostensibly closest allies? For that matter, we’ve been told River’s entire childhood has been spent in training to kill the Doctor, and that the Silence has spent a little time messing around in her head, too. Would it have been so hard to add in a mental trigger or control that would turn River from a lovestruck moron into a hardened killer? Even temporarily?

When I first started thinking about it, I thought that River might have been used for psychological effect, rather than physical deadliness. That she’s there to be a face the Doctor would be hesitant about resisting; that he’d be afraid of hurting her in stopping his own death, or that the Silence would hunt her down if she failed, and so he’d accept death over risking that. Fine, but remember the question I asked at the end of the last paragraph? Seriously. Or, hell, River doesn’t have to physically be there! Just put a hologram in the suit! Or build a ganger! Yes, do that. Build a ganger and put it in the suit; then you’d have River’s physical body, comatose and vulnerable, within your control at all times. If she doesn’t go through with it, how about using those thunderfingers of yours to kill her, Silence? Or fuck, just hold River hostage and tell the Doctor, or Amy, or anyone else that if the Time Lord isn’t dead in a set amount of time, River will be killed. And remember, this is an organization that has an army of powerful, effectively invisible alien soldiers.

No, but instead we get...

"... Want to help me kill the Doctor?"

The whole plan seems to be built up around this premise that River, being part Time Lord, is the only one capable of killing the Doctor. This is patently untrue: the Doctor is currently on his eleventh regeneration, so we know for a fact that there are at least ten distinct ways to murder the Doctor. River isn’t necessary, if fucking up a Time Lord is your only goal. We all know how many enemies the Doctor has accumulated over the years; how hard would it have been it go find the Daleks and tell them, “Hey, Daleks! We’re the Silence, nice to meet you. Hey, you still wanna kill that prick the Doctor? Well, we can get him to a specific location at a specific time, so why don’t you go and murder him there? It’s a win for both of us!”

In fact, River is the seed of failure for the Silence’s plan. That’s right: in a plot where River is the central element, she’s also the reason it fails. And I don’t even mean that she resists the suit and causes time to break, I mean intrinsically. The Doctor wouldn’t have even been aware that the Silence was bigger that my favorite Slendy Expys, or that there was a large, orchestrated war being waged against him personally, if River had never gotten involved. Kovarian kidnapping Amy to get at Melody was the sole reason the Doctor even knew she existed, and worse, it made it personal. Trying to get at the Doctor through his friends is generally a bad idea because it makes a godlike, committed pacifist angry enough to break that code. Admittedly, it could have worked out so much worse at Demon’s Run, but I still don’t understand why Melody was so important here. It wasn’t like River was that great a weapon for their cause, the only thing Kovarian achieved by kidnapping her in the first place was putting her entire organization on the Doctor’s internal threat map. Just use the money you would have used training Melody into a Doctor-killer to buy some new equipment for all the clergy-soldiers that were inexplicably allied with you, and send them after the target, Kovarian! Doctor’s not immune to bullets, and you would have retained the all important element of surprise! Or, you know… SEND THE FUCKING SILENCE!

... God damn it...

USE THOSE GUNS TO SHOOT HIM IN THE FACE! DO NOT RELY ON CHILDREN!

Every part of this plan is short sighted and poorly thought out. And since we’re never once shown the thought processes of Kovarian or the Silence aside from some vague “we hate the Doctor because he’s powerful,” sentiment, it seems to me that this is a problem with the writing rather than a narrative thing. I think that Moffat, for all his talent in creating nightmare fuel, had three potentially interesting ideas- River as the Doctor’s murderer, River as Amy’s daughter, and the Silence as a religious order out to kill the Doctor- that he then combined because he was unwilling to lose any of them in order to focus on any one. The end result is a logical muddle that goes nowhere and makes no sense.

Now, let’s be clear: any two of those ideas combined would have removed a lot of the contradictions that series six had come to contain. River being the Doctor’s murderer and Amy’s daughter would have worked fine, and in fact writing new motivation for River to explain that would have made her far more interesting. River being the Doctor’s murderer and working for the Silence would also work, assuming it makes her a double agent who falls in love with her target (though I’ll discuss the “romance plot,” here in more detail in another post). River being Amy’s daughter and the existence of the Silence would be fine, though any connection between the two would have to be lost, making them two distinct twists rather than one large, interconnected one. But putting all three together, and it starts becoming too chaotic and stupid. It becomes too easy to find escape routes and logical issues; I mean, it’s what I’ve spent a few thousand words doing right here.

The unfortunate implication here is that Moffat crafted the plot around his clever ideas, with no care for what the characters require to be effective. That’s not how any story should be written; the characters need to have ideas of their own, not have the ideas of the writer forced willy nilly into their heads. The Silence is supposed to be an order of devastatingly intelligent individuals, a shadowy Illuminati committed to a single goal. This plan is not the best they could have come up with. In fact, it’s so convoluted and circuitous, there’s no way they would have thought it up at all, if Moffat hadn’t been there. I think that they would have stopped at “acquire gun, locate Doctor, shoot Doctor,” if Stephen bloody Moffat hadn’t had three individually cool ideas that wouldn’t all fit in the story. In fact, River herself thought of that incredibly simple plan just after regenerating in Let’s Kill Hitler; if the Doctor hadn’t been expecting that she’d try to kill him, she would have succeeded.

… And that’s leaving aside the glaring question of why Mels didn’t just immediately kill him moments after meeting him, when he didn’t recognize her.

REALLY INEFFECTIVELY

Congratulations, Moffat: you’ve turned an entire religious order, a potentially awesome time travelling, femme fatale Indiana Jones-esque recurring character, and my favorite companion into bumbling idiots, all just to ruin three nice ideas. Amazing.

Kurokami, signing off!

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