It takes a lot for me, who soldiered through the entirety of Colin Baker's run on the show (as recounted in this series) on multiple occasions and various other lowlights in the nearly fifty-year run of this show, to piss me off with regards to Doctor Who.
This year, the minds behind Doctor Who currently have managed to do in seven episodes. I honestly think that this series of Who so far has been one of the most dire viewing experiences I have made my way through, shot through as it is with various problematic elements that have conspired to make my feelings about the show fall from "Oh wow! I can't wait for Saturday" to "Just get it the fuck over with already." And as no major Who anoraks read the Prattle save for the schmuck who writes it, I am free to detail exactly why this isn't doing it for me.
Those of you who couldn't care less are advised to sit today out--we'll be back to the Iron Man reviews tomorrow, I promise.
So we started this season with "The Impossible Astronaut" and "Day of the Moon," which existed less as a story on its own merits than a two-hour teaser for the rest of the season, shot through with Steven Moffat's signature trick--lots of stuff that won't make sense now, but only makes sense later. Well, that and his other signature trick--shoving the utterly loathsome River Song down everyone's fucking throats.
I think I've figured out something regarding River Song: She's Captain Jack for everyone who always felt really awkward about the notion that Captain Jack and the Doctor might fuck. So here's the same character and she's female so it's not icky anymore and oh she's so good at everything, in fact we will tell you she's so awesome at everything until you can't stand to hear it, and then we will tell you even more until you don't care about her mysterious link to the Doctor or her futzed-up timeline or anything: you'll just want her to go away and never fucking come back.
[Additional aside: Now that we know, apparently the answer to that question is that the Doctor is her creepy uncle, and frankly--fucking ick. Also, when your Big Reveal is a knockoff of fucking Cable's origin, double ick.]
OK, that digression is over, let's tackle the central mystery of the two-parter and the series: The Doctor is killed ten minutes in. Who did it, why, and why did the Doctor let it happen? A better question is--really? Really?
Did the TV movie not teach us the lesson that killing your main character early on in the story isn't clever at all? I'm sure we did--I've seen people who know better discussing why it was a terribly silly thing to do: It devalues your main character and distances the audience from them completely because on a gut level a viewer's like "well, so much for them." or "Well, since it's the title character they're gonna walk it back somehow, so if we just sit tight I'm sure it'll all be worked out."
And yet this has been teased out for this half-season as a very boring and obvious mystery for the ming-mongs to chew over. And while the remaining five episodes have been running, the Doctor has been pushed into the background and been generally marginalised, we've been busy with other allegedly interesting mysteries.
Namely, Amy Pond (who, if you watch the American version of the show, seems to be all but the title character, now, which is something even Rose Tyler never fucking managed) and her quantum pregnancy. That's all been sorted, kinda, but at what a cost--Amy Pond, who during the last series had a functional character arc where she grew as a person has now been rolled back to being slightly bratty/bitchy girl whom the entire universe revolves around. Yes, fucking well again. While I commend Doctor Who's commitment to recycling, I sorta feel like I'm getting fed leftovers from Season 5 over and over again here, and like the fifth day after Thanksgiving, one can't help but wonder "Do we have to eat this shit again?!"
So, we've negated the Doctor (mostly) in his own show, and Amy's suffering (somewhat passively, and in a rather Avengers #200 way, rather creepily now that I think about it) who's left? Rory? Well, kill him off every episode and fake out the audience because that never gets old. Oh, and have him angst about whether Amy loves him or the Doctor even though we settled all that last series and definitively answered that question once and for all so why are we doing this again? No, seriously, that isn't a rhetorical question, I want to know why it's so damn important we beat this dead horse again and again?
Because there wasn't much else to sink my teeth into as the season ground on. The pirate episode was dull and lifeless and features several bits recycled from the old bag of tricks, Neil Gaiman's episode was . . .pretty good, but troubling for reasons I'll get to in the next paragraph, and the two parter with the Flesh was . . .basically the two-parter with the Silurians from last season with the serial numbers filed off. Was there no way to tease the larger plot and still give us worthwhile weekly stories that stood on their own even with the larger points running through them. I mean, that's what they did last series, and the same people are fucking well in charge now as were then.
I guess it's because of all the recycled content that I begin to feel that Doctor Who has now primarily decided to occupy itself with writing stories about Doctor Who. You may remember that the last time this became a systemic problem 22 years ago, the programme was canceled. That we're doing this again, and it's being done by people who should know better, is kind of disappointing and certainly troubling.
In fact, it makes me think of the other big bit of news lately--the DC reboot (has anyone heard about their offer of free tacos with it? I could give less than a fuck about discounted digital prices--god dammit, free tacos make everything better) For at least the past 10 years (longer sure, but the problem became acute in the last decade) The big two have been positively obsessed with the notion of re-examining and regurgitating their older stories over and over again it verges on a self-cannibalism, and one of them decided that the only way out of this Ouroboros was to just try to restart everything (sorta-kinda)
I begin to wonder if this is the fate of everything--that there a set number of good stories and everything else is just contemplating one's own navel, and really, that's a rather bleak thought.
For now, though, I think that I was so positive on Doctor Who after last season, which had avoided all the pitfalls of the Russell T. Davies years and ended on an upbeat, positive, note, managed to piss on all that accumulated goodwill in seven weeks. And I'm not even really angry so much as really, really, disappointed. When the kind of creeping malaise that pretty much suffocated my enjoyment of comics has now infiltrated other things, this to me is a bad sign.