Viewing posts tagged doctors revisited
You can tell that we've reached the present day quite early on, not least because Matt Smith suddenly shows up to have opinions on the show, having not been interviewed about any of his predecessors. But the real giveaway is the choices of episodes in the first segment, when introducing the character of the Eleventh Doctor. Every previous episode displayed a strong bias towards the earliest episodes for a Doctor. Whereas this pulls almost entirely from Season 7B, unabashedly positioning this as the present day of Doctor Who.
Yes, we eventually look back a few years and do the Ponds, which is somewhat historicized, but there's no added insight to be had. These are the same talking points from Doctor Who Confidential
and endless publicity interviews, dutifully trotted out again. Their context is only altered by the preceding ten episodes of this, which serve to make all of this look like the telos of Doctor Who itself.
With the historical perspective that a year allows us, this is not quite
true. The focus on how Matt Smith, while the youngest actor ever to play the part, makes the Doctor seem old is a common talking point, and indeed ...
At last, we reach the end of history, with an episode that is set up to, basically, repeat the same talking points about the Tenth Doctor that were being used when he was still on screen. This is as straightforward as it is possible to be - an unabashed display case for an era of Doctor Who that everybody knows is a classic.
Which, fair enough. There's really no getting around the fact that the Tennant era was wildly popular, and that Tennant is always going to be one of the iconic portrayals of the Doctor. There are no apologias to make, and as of 2013, at least, the Tennant era hadn't slipped into history, not least because Tennant was going to be making a return in less than a month anyway, with no explanation of why he looked older or anything like that necessary. There was, really, no other way to do this.
That said, the selection of what to focus on is interesting. Noticeably absent is any standing in the rain. There's a little bit of the Bad Wolf Bay scene from Doomsday
, but for the most part the two iconic emotional scenes from Tennant's ...
It's surprising how easily this era slips into history. On the one hand, there is nothing being said here that was not said in DVD commentaries and Doctor Who Confidential
ten years ago, often by the same people. And yet there is none of the breathless self-promotion of Confidential
, which is what this most obviously resembles. The imminent, thrilling need to celebrate the basic existence of Doctor Who
is absent. Just as the tail end of the classic series was drained of all its conflict, this is drained of all its triumph.
For those who remember what the Eccleston series actually felt like as it happened - that is, classic series fans - this is slightly disorienting. Eccleston is basically explained as "he was a Doctor for the 21st century and not quite what anyone expected." And yet the scenes shown are exactly the ones you'd expect, with no real oddities among them. In marked contrast to the McCoy era, where we spent bizarre amounts of time on Time and the Rani
, here we get Eccleston's Emmy reel.
The issue, one quickly realizes, is that this is essentially the first time these set pieces of the "Doctor Who
As a piece of television - as a historical artifact, say, to be observed at some future date, - this is bizarre. It can only be described as a nineteen-minute DVD featurette for the TV Movie. To some extent all of The Doctors Revisited
are DVD extras, and this one is one of those ones in the rather weird tradition of trailers for a thing you've already decided to spend money on. "Here's the interesting bits of what you just watched," essentially. Except actually put before the TV Movie.
As a result, it inevitably comes off as an apologia, which, to be fair, it basically is. Moffat's intro feels more selectively edited than usual. They have Marcus Wilson, who for a couple episodes now has seemed to be taking over for Caro Skinner in the job of being asked nicely to say something by the producer and then having the camera be turned on (I will be honest, I have no actual idea whether Skinner or Wilson were actually big Doctor Who fans who were expressing their genuine memories of the time or whether they are, like John Barrowman blatantly is, being briefed on Doctor Who lore and then ...
It's one of those days where, as I'm going to bed, I say "crap, I forgot to format and queue Last War in Albion, I'd better run a TARDIS Eruditorum in its place." Whatever am I going to do in a month when I don't have TARDIS Eruditorum for that? In any case, Last War in Albion is Friday this week.
I noted on Monday that it was an obvious mistake to ignore the fact that Moffat's ex cathedra statements on the history of Doctor Who have always been performative, both in his cranky Internet fan days and in his "not allowed to have opinions anymore" days. Which makes the introduction to Remembrance of the Daleks
at the end of this episode something to behold, in that Moffat both admits that he thought Season Twenty-Four was a disaster (which I disagree with, but recognize that Moffat is exactly the sort of Doctor Who fan for whom the panto aspects of Paradise Towers
, for instance, are going to be disqualifying in considering any other merits it may have), and then frames his reaction to Remembrance of the Daleks
in terms of the fact that his own television career ...
There are two observations about this special that strike me as getting to the heart of it. The first is that, more than ever, Steven Moffat is the most interesting thing on display here. I've been making snarky jokes here and there about it nearing the 20th anniversary of his great "slag off most of Doctor Who" drunken performance piece at a con, but it's here we have to admit that Steven Moffat has, at the very least, played two different characters in his life when it comes to commenting on the classic series. Which one is the authentic Steven Moffat is of course a matter for debate, and if you think the answer is either of them you're a fool, but nevertheless, we all know he's capable of a devastating and scathing review of this era that outdoes any other.
So it's fundamentally interesting to see him relied upon so heavily to offer a defense of this era. It is, to be sure, not hard to reconcile the positions. His praise is based on the daringness of the ideas in the Baker era, which has always been the thing you can praise about it ...
The entire Doctors Revisited
series takes a fundamental turn here, and largely not for the better. Where the Tom Baker episode merely brought in the actor who played the Doctor as one of its primary talking heads, here the show has access to essentially all of the major stars of the era. Where the first four episodes were basically anchored by two Scottish fanboys, here Davison, Strickson, Fielding, Sutton, and Waterhouse are the stars, with Tennant and Moffat contributing only choice insights.
For this specific instance, at least, it is to the program's detriment. The thing is, of course, that we know both Moffat and Tennant's opinions of the Davison era, since they each, in their own ways, expressed it in "Time Crash." Moffat, in particular, has been an outspoken defender of the Davison era for nearly twenty years now. There are hints of their impassioned defense of Davison throughout, but it's easy to wish they'd spent a little less time spoiling all the twists of Earthshock right before they showed it and a little more time fleshing out the initial claim that Davison brought "believability" to the part.
And yet it's equally worth noting ...
That this should prove so difficult is in many ways revealing. First, we should start with what this isn't, which is an account of Tom Baker as the definitive Doctor. Satisfyingly, this isn't accomplished with some deconstruction. This is unabashed hagiography - just not to the exclusion of other eras. The result is on a basic level satisfying: the joy that is Tom Baker's Doctor is celebrated, but without the distorting effect that the era sometimes has.
But it's curious that there's no real attention given to the sheer span of Baker's tenure. Indeed, what really jumps out about this is that Baker's tenure is reduced almost entirely to its first half. There's some clips from City of Death
, and K-9 makes the companion list, but for the most part there's not a breath of acknowledgment of anything that wasn't part of the Hinchcliffe era. Romana isn't mentioned outside of the City of Death
clips. Davros is talked about entirely in terms of Genesis of the Daleks
. The other stories to get decent clips are Terror of the Zygons
, Talons of Weng-Chiang
, and The Ark in Space