Saturday, 23 August 2014


Apparently, back in the 1950s & '60s, DC COMICS produced their tales by coming up with what editors thought were intriguing or compelling cover images and then having their writers create stories around them.  Having just watched the latest episode of DOCTOR WHO, I'm more than ever convinced that STEVEN MOFFAT comes up with his storylines the same way.  "H'mm, a dinosaur in Victorian London would be a great visual..." I can imagine him saying - and then sitting down and working a story around that and other 'striking' images.

So what's new in the world of Doctor Who?  What difference does PETER CAPALDI make in the role?  Not much to both questions it has to be said.  The plot was still a pile of outrageous sci-fi sh*te written for geeks by a geek, and the Doctor still talks to himself far too much, and veers between looking mean and moody and being a stand-up comedian who dispenses humorous one-liners right, left and centre.  And there was the now obligatory same sex (but different species) kiss (masquerading under 'first aid'), in the usual 'gay mafia' strategy to brainwash us into accepting such scenes as a matter of course on all TV shows.

The first four episodes of the programme, broadcast in 1963, used the sci-fi concept of the TARDIS to cast the four main protagonists in an adventure set in the past.  However, everything else about the situation was straightforward, realistic drama.  I've said before that I'd love to see the Doc materialise in, let's say Edwardian London, and solve a murder mystery that has absolutely no sci-fi connotations whatsoever.

However, I'm aware that Peter Capaldi's Doctor was still finding his feet in this introductory episode.  Let's hope we can now look forward to the enigmatic 'stranger with a hint of danger' that the Doctor should be, as opposed to the babbling idiot we've had to suffer in far too many previous episodes in the past.

Agree?  Disagree?  Make your feelings known. 


gummboote said...

You're right about Moffat's stories. They string together Bits rather than constructing a narrative. What's more, they seem to become more about the Bit the bigger an episode is in the series' progress - which is why almost every big climactic episode in the last three years has been a stinker.

Re Madame Vastra, if a male character was written in the same way he would quite clearly be a sexual predator.

Kid said...

I found myself nodding off after about 15 minutes and had to force myself to stay awake. There were some nice bits, but I'm beginning to think that Moffat just isn't the ideal man at the programme's helm. Let's hope episode 2 is an improvement.

Colin Jones said...

I didn't see tonight's episode and I've only seen a handful of modern Who episodes but they all rather bland to me - I'm not sure about your idea of the Doctor turning up in olde London town and solving a mystery with no sci-fi element at all though. That's just Sherlock Holmes isn't it ? There's no point having Doctor Who if there's no sci-fi involved, surely. What I want to know is why there are no more multi-episode stories with cliffhanger endings - I can only assume it's because today's kids have such short attention spans that they get bored if the story is longer than one episode...?

Kid said...

There's no point having Doctor Who if there's no sci-fi involved? Says who, CJ? Apart from time travel itself, where was the sci-fi element in the first four episodes? Drama, excitement, action and adventure can come from different scenarios without every single episode being overtly sci-fi orientated. Doctor Who solving a murder mystery in the past would be a nice (and welcome) change-of-pace and could widen the programme's appeal (and therefore its audience). It would also be closer to its roots, and also the original concept of the show as envisioned by its creator. Ever watch Time Tunnel? Most (if not all) episodes set in the past didn't have a sci-fi element beyond the actual means of getting the main characters into an interesting situation.

Colin Jones said...

Yes Kid, I have seen Time Tunnel but I haven't seen any Dr. Who from before about 1970 and those early ones where they travel to ancient mexico or China or the French Revolution don't sound very appealing and they are also a bit silly as everyone can speak English (as in Time Tunnel). I understand that Who started off with an educational agenda but it was the Daleks and such-like that made the show take off not visits to Kublai Khan's court. Don't forget it's actually a kids show and it's the sci-fi elements that keep them watching.

baab said...

I think you guys have hit the nail on the head.

Capaldi would have been the next Sherlock Holmes if the success of the current version was not overwhelming.

This Doctor Who will reek of Conan Doyle.

I also remember the introductions of the previous two Doctors episodes as being dull.

I think there is a formula and they follow it.
The first rule may be to not overdo it and have to compete with themselves.

I thought tonight's episode was SHITE.
I did laugh at the jokes because my young son is enjoying comedy and I encourage him.
But it was really bad.

The fight scene.
The editing.
The plot.
The acting.
The dialogue,
The Special FX.

All rubbish.

I also agree with everything in your post Kid.

Other than that I had a great day .

baab said...

Colin is right ,Its a kids show.
One of my kids laughed and lamented The Matt Smith version and then dressed up for the evening in a long coat hat and bowtie.
The other just sat quietly through the episode and made no comment,I think he was waiting on me and I said nothing.
He plugged into a computer game and zoned out/in.
Oh and one was overjoyed at the Daleks appearance and the other was ,

The trailer for next weeks did look promising.

Kid said...

Strictly speaking, Doctor Who isn't a kids' show - it's produced by the BBC Drama Department, not the Children's dept, and it was originally meant as a family show for all ages. Yes, the Daleks secured the show's success and longevity, but that doesn't mean that every episode has to be the same. As for everyone speaking English, your point is redundant because so too do all the alien races. Besides, that's all been retroactively resolved by the Tardis having a translator facility which allows people and aliens to understand one another - even at some distance from the Tardis itself. I have to say, CJ, that it's hardly a sound foundation to dismiss programmes as silly or unappealing that you haven't actually seen. And who says it's the sci-fi elements that keep kids watching? I'd say it's the action and adventure which keeps them watching, sci-fi or not. I still maintain that it would be possible to do an interesting tale that wasn't OVERTLY sci-fi orientated - and, as I said, it would be a nice change of pace on occasion.


Baab, the show is certainly aimed at kids as much as adults because of the merchandise the programme generates, but you see more adults than kids dressed as the Doc and chums at sci-fi conventions.

DeadSpiderEye said...

Haven't seen it, the reason? I gave up the telly a while ago and Doctor Who was a key factor in that decision. I found myself sitting down in front of the box thinking: "I remember I used to enjoy this". I switched off halfway through a denouement, that probably saw David Tennant save everything, 15 seconds before the titles, with a toffee wrapper or more likely his sonic screwdriver.

Once you give it up, it's almost impossible to go back, you lose the patience that allows you to sit through the tedium. You can however make some selective viewing choices, I have seen some of the Matt Smith stuff. I have to say, I was a little shocked, things like acting, effective blocking and mood were present. There were a couple of episodes that fell flat for me but nothing as offensive as over the previous few series and I've re-watched one 'em recently, Victory of the Daleks, and since changed my mind about it.

I don't want to stick the boot into the Tennent/Eccleston era, although I'm sorely tempted... let's just say it wasn't for me, I'm sure the fans, who seem to be numerous, enjoyed it. I'll probably give the newer ones a spin once they're available through the vicarious routes but I've given up on being a fan.

Thinking back to the original Doctor Who, it seems to me that a lot of the new Doctors right up Colin Baker jumped into the role as the series was on high. The exceptions being Tom Baker who took over when the show was quite troubled and Peter Davidson after a Baker's final series, which had been a bit rubbish.

I don't think there's much chance you'll have your non sf orientated plot: Doctor Who goes to ancient Egypt and solves a murder mystery or fixes the plumbing, that kind of thing. Unless the antagonists turn out to me malevolent aliens of some description. Not only is it too prosaic, it offends one of the basic founding themes of the show, that of externalising evil, for want of a better word. Human antagonists are almost always secondary dupes or pawns, one exception that does spring to mind is Lumic but he was a crippled caricature from an alternate universe.

Kid said...

I think the sky's the limit as far as possibilities go with a non-sci-fi plot - all it takes is a little imagination. The Doctor landing in the past and being suspected of being a murderer or a warlock. He's arrested, escapes, and has to stay one step ahead of the police until he can get back to the Tardis - while trying to find the real killer and prove his innocence. I simply don't buy that an exciting adventure couldn't be constructed out of that idea, or the Doctor landing in the time of Robin Hood or King Arthur. There are all sorts of story possibilities that could be mined without resorting to alien invasions, running through corridors, or pressing a button (or throwing a switch) in order to solve everything in the last five minutes. As you say, it'll probably never happen, but only because the show is being geared towards sci-fi geeks by sci-fi geeks. A few flashing lights and some techno-babble seems to be all that it takes to please some people. All I'm saying is that a nice mix would make a nice change - and make 'special events' (like the return of the Daleks) more special.

DeadSpiderEye said...

That's a good point, the sf element, once it becomes a consistent, loses a lot of appeal and is reduced to window dressing, the flashing lights you mention. I've got strong reservations about delving into legends: King Arthur, Robin Hood, if the intention is present drama remote from fantasy elements. because, essentially it's exchanging one fantasy, the flashing lights, for another fantasy backdrop. I think incorporating those mythologies into the Doctor Who one, would also represent wider problems for the show.

Certainly there is potential to incorporate stronger historical themes, if you look at The Talons of Weng Chiang, that's probably the closest of the classic DW era to that. It's also one of my favourite stories, partly because the absence of tinsel, glitter and, wait for it--flashing lights. It does however, have a prominent sf component, which, let's face it, is not essential to the basic narrative, it's just the McGuffin. Those women having their bodies' life force extracted, could easily be captives for some more prosaic nefarious purpose. It's just that it's Doctor Who, so it's made all science fictiony, that's what the fans are watching for.

Putting The Doctor into a purely factually based historical context represents further problems, it's hard to do, you'd have to research the context. SF gives you enormous licence to get things wrong or change them to the way you like. It's more difficult to get away with misrepresenting history unless there's a fantasy element involved. Yeah, I know that statement contradicts almost every war film that's been made but I can't see Doctor Who monkeying with events in quite the same way as say: Zulu or Braveheart without the, get out of jail free card that the fantasy context provides.

karl said...

omg don't get me started...hers what I disliked..
difficult to hear dialogue - no one could understand or hear half of what was being mumbled. The internet forums were ablaze with the same complaints, when EVERYONE in the Who fandom agrees on one thing then you got a problem.
A dinosaur stalks Edwardian London and no-one notices or goes screaming in feat and terror? I mean I know Londoners are a bit stand-offish as ive lived there for years but come on...
the anti-men comments. I remarked to my mate on how long it would be before the first one cropped up and lo and behols we even predicted the ACTUAL SCENE. When MAdame Vastra said people were animals but men were beasts yep that was it.
Gay all for lesbians [who isn't LOL] but not forced in our faces in Dr Who, a family programme. Since its return I 2004 the show has been steeped scarf-deep in gay references and propaganda.
Incomphenisble plot - did anyone understand what it was all about? Fifty minutes of talk talk and yes talk before ANYTHING ACTUALLY HAPPENED [the scene in the restaurant with the clockwork people].
Jenna Coleman, Michele 'thingy' [sorry don't know her name] and the one who played Vastra were the only saving graces.
At least we got Daleks next week.

Kid said...

Well, I suggested the legends aspect more for the historical settings than the characters involved, but every fictional story is 'fantasy' regardless of it's setting, so I'm not against fantasy. Fantasy, however, doesn't have to mean sci-fi. Also, there have been enough historical dramas on TV and in films to reduce the risk of historical errors, as most of the 'research' has already been done. Also, while it's true that a certain type of fan watches Doctor Who because of what it is, I don't believe that everyone who watches the show is that particular type of fan - or at least, not exclusively so. Widen the programme's reach and you could widen its grasp, audience-wise. It's just a bit too 'samey-wamey' for me - something different now and again would be nice.


Karl, the one redeeming feature about Doctor Who is usually always the Daleks. See? I'm not totally against sci-fi. And regarding that dinosaur, it was only thrown in for the visual impact, it really wasn't necessary for the plot - regardless of the feeble attempt to justify it.

DeadSpiderEye said...

Are there any particular stories from the classic series that represent the kind of action you'd like to see represented? I'm kinda fond of Mind of Evil myself, other stories from that era too The Daemons and even the slightly overwritten Inferno.

Kid said...

Mentioned them twice already, DSE - the first ever four episodes are the ones that immediately spring to mind. Good, solid drama, where we see the Doctor about to murder a caveman and being stopped by Chesterton. They're of their time, of course, but I'm sure something could be done of a similar nature nowadays.

Dunsade Dave said...

I was underwhelmed by Deep Breath.

Steven Moffat, on his day, is a fantastic writer - his contributions to the show during the Russell T Davies era were, in my opinion almost as good as the great Robert Holmes's best stories, but as a showrunner I feel his writing is self-indulgent, in love with its own cleverness and in desperate need of a strong script-editor.

Maybe he's spreading himself too thin and needs to abdicate some responsibility for the production of the show and just concentrate on writing? I don't know, but I do feel that Matt Smith never had the out-and-out classic story that he deserved, and fear that although Peter Capaldi is a brilliant bit of casting, he's going to be lumbered with the same stuff as Matt Smith got- some good episodes, some terrible ones, but with nothing really standing out as an all-time classic.

Russell T Davies wrote a Doctor Who show that was welcoming, inclusive and accessible to almost every viewer, young or old, Who-fan or not. Steven Moffat has given us an insular programme that shows scant regard or respect to viewers unable or unwilling to remember details of past adventures or to watch the episodes repeatedly to fully-understand the often-impenetrable stories.

Rant over. Until the next episode, probably.

Kid said...

I agree with just about everything you say, DD. Under RTD, Moffat wrote some of the best episodes of the series, but under himself (so to speak), his stories are far too underwhelming, to say nothing of uninteresting. To try and establish (or so he claims) the Doctor as a more serious character, but then show him dressed like Wee Willie Winkie is just plain ridiculous.

TC said...

As I recall, The Time Tunnel started out with the premise of Drs. Newman and Phillips traveling to historical events, often with no science fiction involved apart from the device of the Tunnel transporting them there in the first place. In the later episodes, though, there was more science fiction, usually involving aliens ("Raiders From Outer Space," "Visitors From Beyond the Stars," "The Kidnappers," "Chase Through Time"), and out-and-out fantasy ("The Ghost of Nero," "Merlin the Magician"). The ABC TV network may have asked Irwin Allen to jazz up the show with bug-eyed monsters to appeal to the kids.

When I was eight, I never worried about the characters all speaking English at the Battle of Jericho or the Trojan War. If I watched it now, it would probably be distracting.

I seem to remember a Doctor Who episode with Pertwee where he explained to Jo Grant that Time Lords have the ability, which they can share with their companions, of being able to understand, and be understood in, any language. I don't recall if it was a translator facility in the Tardis, or a natural ability.

IIUC (and I could be misinformed), Doctor Who was originally intended as an educational series (although maybe not strictly a children's show), with the protagonists traveling back in time and observing historical events. Then, later, it became more of a sci-fi adventure show, with the Daleks, Cyber Men, and other alien menaces.

Kid said...

I enjoyed The Time Tunnel back in the '60s and have every episode on DVD, though I haven't watched them all yet. It allowed Irwin Allen to use clips from bigger budget movies throughout the series. As for Dr. Who, nowadays the TARDIS gets the credit for translation of alien languages, TC, but it may well have been ascribed to the Time Lords themselves in an earlier series. Sydney Newman, who created Dr. Who (and The Avengers) didn't want any BEMs in the programme, which, as you say, was originally meant to be educational (to a degree, but not at the expense of entertainment value), but apparently the next intended script was overdue and Terry Nation's Daleks script was moved up in the schedule. (Or some situation resembling that scenario.) The success of The Daleks set the theme of many future episodes, though there were still historical adventures during Hartnell's reign.

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