Most definitely spoilers ahead… and yes, feedback and "nonono, Mel… you’ve missed something…" is definitely appreciated here.
So, while not an obsession, I’ve been wondering every week why I’m leaving each Doctor Who episode feeling “meh” about it all. It’s not that I’m completely disliking – and definitely not hating – what I’m seeing. I’ve only had one reaction of that this year (to the Doctor’s attitude toward Amy on Spaceship UK). I just feel… underwhelmed. And to be honest, I don’t think I set the bar too high. Yes, I was looking forward to Moffat’s tenure. I did not, however, have an expectation that he would astound everyone with “the most amazing Doctor Who ever and OMG suck it haters!!!” result.
It’s been a bit disappointing, though, and I couldn’t figure out exactly why. And then yesterday I read a review of “Cold Blood” and the responses to it, and one person’s response just made me say “Yes, that’s exactly how I’m feeling.”
(cue Ten’s voice here) Well, not exactly… but mostly… anyway… (/end Ten)
First… I never get the sense that the Doctor’s going to come in and take control or sort out the problem. He just seems passive and aloof and dull to me. It seems like the companions or the monsters themselves are sorting out the majority of the problems this year – Amy’s decision to pick Rory; her understanding about the Star Whale, for example. Or there’s just the complete “what the hell… nothing happened there” ending like in Cold Blood where oh, okay… monsters just to sleep for 1,000 years… let’s just bury this under the rug and move on. I’m just not feeling any sense of superiority/control/masterfulness in the Doctor this season. Maybe I read too much of it in Nine and Ten? But at the same time, I recall from Tennant’s Confidential from one of his interviewees how the show would look like the monster would win, but then the Doctor would arrive and sort everything out – that as soon as you saw the Doctor on screen, you knew everything was going to be all right. I’m absolutely not getting that from the Doctor this year. And that leads me into my second problem…
I feel no sense of companionship between the Doctor and Amy. I’m not looking for shipper stuff here, mind you. I was excited to see Rory join – to hopefully add the banter and joking that I was desperately missing in the TARDIS. But there just seems to be none of that. The Doctor is stand-offish to me. He barely seems to want to interact with his companions at all. It’s almost as if he’s just the nameless TARDIS taxi driver, standing in the wings, pressing a couple buttons, and that’s all. I mean – the only real banter-ey moment I’ve seen all season was when River Song was teasing him about leaving the brake on in the TARDIS that caused the wheezing. I just feel nothing watching this small group travel, you know? I want to see that image of the Doctor and his companions wandering some strange alien market together and laughing over discoveries (like the Doctor and Donna), or the prattle and teasing that I’d see between Nine and Rose (and later including Jack). I’d even take some wistfulness like the Doctor commenting to Martha as they lie in a bed in Shakespeare’s time. But I feel like there’s just no connection at all. The characters are flat and barely two-dimensional (except for River Song, who continues to evolve deliciously, IMHO).
I don’t think it’s the acting at all, either. I think Matt Smith and Karen Gillan are doing a great job with what they’re being given. It’s exactly what they’re being given to play with that’s the problem – the dialogue has been just… meh.
I’m wondering if a big part of the problem is this story arc with the crack. Everything just seems rushed – story and character development are being sacrificed so we can see that big looming, ominous crack somewhere in the episode. I feel like there’s just no dimension – it’s all straight forward, point A to point B to point C, with no real diversion or problem thrown in that makes the story veer into a slightly unexpected direction for the zany adventures I recognized with Nine and Ten. I don’t feel any nuance. The plot just seems unbending, almost harsh to me. And basically, they’re summed up by “the Doctor and Amy run into a problem. It’s resolved somehow, so we can SEE THE BIG SCARY CRACK IN THE WALL.”
Even the Weeping Angels, those glorious, sadistic, quite possibly the best monster I’ve ever seen on TV angels – the second half was just lackluster. I think the problem started when we actually see the angel’s head move. That fourth wall deliciousness of Blink, where you realize at times the only thing keeping the Angels from moving was the TV viewers themselves, was obliterated. Ultimately, it’s not even the Doctor that saves the day on that one – it’s the gravity failing, and the crack eating the Angels.
All just… flat.
I guess I just expected more, particularly from Moffat, who has written such wonderful tangent-driven episodes in the past where you’re confused as hell, but know that somehow, he’s going to tie it up in a big bow of “okay, now THAT’s cool!” plot-related niftiness at the end.
I seriously hope that that crack is said bow of niftiness. Really, really do.
Not that I’m going to stop watching – but I think the fact that I haven’t gone back to watch a single episode this season twice says something. Not a single “oh god, I need to go back and watch that one again!” inkling. None. I don’t care about spoilers whatsoever. Haven’t looked on the Gallifrey boards, haven’t gone seeking them out, wondering what’s next. Not even titles of episodes. Literally just looking them up on Saturday mornings for other board "things" and stuff. I mean, my god – I don’t even remember most of the titles this year. They’re just that non-memorable to me.
At this point, I’m not gearing myself to get excited about this crack storyline – if I do, I have a strong suspicion I’ll be vastly disappointed. Hopefully I’m pleasantly surprised by the finale. Or hopefully things get adjusted and improve next year.
I guess I’ll just chalk it up as a growing pains season. (shrug)