The DePaul Thing

(145 comments)

Right, I promised you all some notes on how the DePaul colloquium went last weekend.

I sadly only ended up catching half of the panels due to being behind on work, the lack of a scheduled lunch hour, and the fact that during one I got to make a choice between going to the panel or chatting to Rob Shearman, and I picked the latter. But some broad observations based on three panels (two of which I was on).

  • I've never wanted to end the blog with The End of Time before this weekend. I'm not going to, but my God, the level of fan hatred directed at the series as it stands right now is sickening. And overstated. The number of people who blithely declare that "forty-five minute episodes don't work" is just bewildering to me. I mean, I'm not going to pretend that Moffat is flawless, but to hear people talk you'd think he was producing Timelash week in and week out. It's really kind of depressing.
  • The fan/academic divide remains irritatingly persistent. There were a lot of unabashed fan presenters who just wanted to geek out about Doctor Who, and there were a lot of people who held to the traditional academic conference model of "I will read a paper out loud that is twice the length of the speaking slot I was told to fit a paper into." The two did not always communicate edifyingly. 
  • Despite these complaints there remains a lot of really wonderful work going on regarding Doctor Who. Ashley Hinck is doing some marvelously interesting stuff with the intersections of fandom and social justice work. Derek Kompare does some lovely gritty technical analysis of Doctor Who. And people like Lynne M. Thomas and the rest of the people who created the (quite rightly) Hugo-winning Chicks Dig Time Lords anthology or the frabjous folks behind the Verity! podcast bring fresh perspectives to things. (I was absolutely thrilled to hear an extended analysis of Romana's footwear - one that implied that there was an entire iceberg of further analysis on this point to come.) One of the things I'm going to really enjoy in a year or so when I'm done with TARDIS Eruditorum is being in a position to soak in more Doctor Who fandom.
  • Rob Shearman is a wonderfully gracious and funny man. If you've not looked at the fiction collections Big Finish have put out of his stuff, I really recommend them. I snagged Love Songs For The Shy and Cynical at the conference, but seriously, if you're only familiar with his Doctor Who work, you owe it to yourself to check out his wider body of material.
  • I also need to thank Rob for the once-in-a-lifetime experience of walking into a restaurant and having someone whose work you've admired for nearly a decade bound up to you and tell you that he's a huge fan. I, of course, repaid him by torturing him with the knowledge that I was in the midst of writing up Dalek.
There are some other tidbits I picked up in the course of things, much of which will go into the Dalek entry, which is now chock-full of obscure facts. So thanks very much to Paul Booth for organizing the event and for inviting me. It was a right and proper hoot. And thanks to all of you who came up to say hi or that you were fans of the blog. 

Also, the rillettes were fantastic. And I even managed to get guidance on how to do some of the bits I wasn't as good at, so next time I make them they'll be better. Perhaps I should have gone with a Kickstarter stretch goal like "if we reach $12k I won't make a photo-filled blogpost on how to prepare duck rillettes." 

Comments

T. Hartwell 4 years, 3 months ago

I have to agree with being a bit depressed about the amount of hatred given to the series as of now. It's almost bewildering- all my friends who watch the show seem to have given up on it and my sister says she's "done with Moffat".

Which is odd, 'cause I was in the camp of detractors towards Series 6, but I've loved 7 so far- especially the second half. Bells of St. John made me truly excited in way the show hadn't since Series 5 and even when the episodes have a lot of flaws I've found a lot to love (Rings of Akhaten probably being the best example).

I just feel like the episodes have really taken a turn for the better as of late, which is why it's depressing to see them taken to task so often.

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bbqplatypus318 4 years, 3 months ago

My feeling on Moffat is basically that Series 5 was fairly strong, and was the full presentation of his vision for the show. The second half of Series 6 was a disaster which retroactively ruined much of the first half. If I didn't know better I'd swear that Series 7 is the show realizing this and licking its wounds - my feeling for most of it has been "It's alright, but it lacks ambition." Things have picked up in recent weeks, though. "The Crimson Horror" is the first Mark Gatiss episode I actually enjoyed - I was quite surprised by it.

There are, of course, a number of broad underlying complaints that can be and have been made about Moffat by people who are a lot smarter than me, and who can state these arguments far more eloquently than me. By the end of the day I imagine all you'll need to do is scroll down to see some of them.

Pity about those other bullet points. I imagine they're going to go woefully under-commented upon.

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bbqplatypus318 4 years, 3 months ago

"Cold War" was a wet fart of an episode, though.

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Simon Cooper 4 years, 3 months ago

When episodes are continually full of things that make no sense (like the sailor thawing out the Ice Warrior for no reason at all) and rushed resolutions are stuffed into the last minute or two, then it's perfectly fair to say that 45 minute episodes don't work a lot of the time. Not all the time; 'Hide' was a perfect fit but unfortunately was soured by the return of several of the worst tropes from the Moffat Era at the end.

Moffat Who has far bigger problems then that though. Matt Smith is a potentially fabulous Doctor whose performance is being crippled by asking him to do the same couple of things over and over again. Jenna Louise Coleman is a charming actor who has been stuck playing a virtual blank slate Plot Point. I was never a big fan of Amy but, my god, the gulf in the level of character development between the two is vast.

Then there are those Tropes. The same few ideas being slightly redressed and rehashed over and over again. If I drank and turned them into a Driking Game I'd be smashed out of my skull every week.

And then there's Mr. Moffat. A man with serious problems when it comes to women (including those who he manages to "erase" from the series), blatant Daddy Issues that he never tires of trying to work through and an inability to actually do the job he's been employed for in a reasonable amount of time.

I would hope that you will be subjecting him to the same level of scrutiny that you have the other people involved in running the series but judging by your comments here and elsewhere I don't really expect it, to be honest.

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Lewis Christian 4 years, 3 months ago

To be fair, RTD got all this kind of hatred towards the end too. Had you been writing this in the RTD era (ie. it still broadcasting), it wouldn't be too much different.

I will say, mind, I'm ready for new life to be breathed in. By a new Doctor, new showrunner and new writers.

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Sean Daugherty 4 years, 3 months ago

The problem is that, from the perspective of a long-time fan, it increasingly seems like Moffat is being taken to task for problems that people were all too willing to forgive (or, even worse, ignore) in previous showrunners as recent as RTD. The default attitude towards Moffat has been, pretty much since day one, one of outright hostility. It seems he's expected to prove himself perfect just to be treated with the same respect as someone like RTD or Graham Williams or Barry Letts.

Which is just so depressingly familiar. Since I joined DW fandom in the mid-1980s, the default attitude among fans towards the franchise has pretty much been blinding rage. There have been, as far as I can recall, only two exceptions to that: the months leading up to and immediately following the TV movie, and the first two years or so of RTD's relaunch. And those were hardly a golden age for thoughtful fandom, either, since they pretty much just replaced constant denigration with defensive cheerleading.

Which is exactly why the Eruditorum has been such a breath of fresh air. It's one of the first places (online, at least) I've found where there's been actual thoughtful discussion, informed both by a legitimate appreciation of the show, and a recognition that it's not perfect.

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Sean Daugherty 4 years, 3 months ago

I understand what you're saying, but I sort of wince at the idea that Doctor Who should be rotating out the entire cast and production crew every three years. Being flexible enough to do just that is part of why the show has endured for five decades, but just because you can do it, I don't know that you should.

But, then again, I really like Moffat's tenure thus far, having had a somewhat mixed reaction to RTD's tenure (I certainly didn't hate it, though). So that probably influences me, too. :-)

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Sean Daugherty 4 years, 3 months ago

I agree about "Cold War," though based on what I've seen online, it's been one of the best received of the season by fans (though it looks like "The Crimson Horror" has been getting some decent reviews). Which just about makes me want to cry. I didn't *hate* "Cold War," per se: I could sit through it and I found some things to like, ultimately. But the idea that this is what fans want, when the episodes around it are so much (IMO, naturally) better, is enough to make me despair.

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Simon Cooper 4 years, 3 months ago

"The problem is that, from the perspective of a long-time fan, it increasingly seems like Moffat is being taken to task for problems that people were all too willing to forgive (or, even worse, ignore) in previous showrunners as recent as RTD. The default attitude towards Moffat has been, pretty much since day one, one of outright hostility."

RTD was torn to shreds week-in-week out for five years, ironically often by the same people who now get worked up by any criticism of Moffat. He also had the added bonus of non-stop homophobic attacks in addition to criticism of his actual work.

When Moffat arrived he was fated as the man who was going to fix all of the things RTD had done wrong with the series; bringing back the real Theme Music, no more single parters, lots more Alien Planets, no more Hanky Panky in the TARDIS etc.

As far as Series 5 went any criticism there was drowned out by the level of praise. The balance started to shift slightly with Series 6 and with the passage of time the criticisms towards it have definitely increased. It's only with Series 7 (and let's face it Series 8, since that's what's really airing at the moment) that a tipping point seems to have been reached. The "Movie Poster" concept and strict no two-parter policy doesn't leave much room for depth and the repetition of ideas and concepts has become more starkly obvious.

I suspect the current backlash is also being exacerbated by people coming to accept that we really have ended up with only one series in two years and that Moffat’s pronouncements on what the Anniversary Year would look like were little more than wishful thinking, as well as a general wearing with his style of promoting the series. (Does anyone really think we’ll hear the Doctor’s name in 11 days time or that the episode will change the series “forever”?)

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Carey 4 years, 3 months ago

In my opinion, the reason people are complaining is the same reason they always have been: the current vision of Doctor Who doesn't resemble their default vision. The advantage Russell T Davies had over Steven Moffat is that the default vision he was seen as not delivering was either at least sixteen to thirty years old (depending whether you wanted Cartmel or Hinchcliffe's version); or based upon the Virgin/Big Finish/BBC novels and therefore aimed at a cult audience. Added to this is the level of expectation that this is the fiftieth anniversary and the show should be screaming that from the top of its lungs (despite the date of the anniversary not being for another six months and anyway, this series has been full of shout outs to the old series, just done in a subtle enough way so as not to alienate the general public).

But the killer problem fuelling the default fan critique mode is the belief that Doctor Who isn't as successful as it was. The overnights are down, the timeshifts have stabilised and the AI figures have gone from excellent to, er, excellent (but a couple of percentage points below the excellent they were a couple of years ago). The last part could be explained by the new companion (despite fandom disliking her, Amy Pond does seem to have been popular with the general audience); and the first two can be explained by it being eight years since Rose launched. A hell of a long time in tv terms, and Doctor Who has gone from having a combination of excellent to good ratings to simply good ratings. But despite the (supposed) fall in the ratings department, Doctor Who is still where it's been in the last eight years: in the top twenty most watched programmes. So a strange sort of failure.

But on the whole I can see your point of view, and half want to turn my back on the venom currently being spewed by fandom at present. Doctor Who has probably been at it's most continually consistent, quality wise, since the mid seventies. But I no longer think consistency is enough: each story needs to be an instant classic, and if it isn't, then it's an instant failure.

Me? I still like it: if I have a criticism it's that there seems to be a lack of emotionally moving stories such as Girl In The Fireplace, Human Nature or Vincent and the Doctor, but they have been replaced by more meta-textual material that rewards rewatching. To say that '"Cold War" was a wet fart of an episode' is fascinating to me: for all that I enjoyed it, I do feel it may be the least rewarding story from series 7. Yet it was still competently written and well directed and something the programme would have killed for in the mid-eighties.

And as Steve Gerber once said, not every story can be a classic.

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Forrest Leeson 4 years, 3 months ago

44 minutes was never enough for an "everything new every story" format. Everything else on television can fall back to the ready room/squad room or sick bay/coroner's office for a lot of standing around and talking -- they're really half-hour standing-set shows with 15 minutes of novelty -- but not DW.

RTD's style (Klatchian Hots with Everything, Triple Cheese, Extra Sauce, fling at viewer) was more effective at distracting the audience from this. SM's unique problem is that his focus on repeated symbology is leading people to expect a Big Reveal (they've got to be clues!) -- but it's been three years. About time we got out of this bath, it's getting cold.

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Forrest Leeson 4 years, 3 months ago

This comment has been removed by the author.

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Darren K. 4 years, 3 months ago

It has reached the point, for myself, that I won't acknowledge* any criticism of the Moffat era simply because I can't even understand the reasoning behind the criticism; the reasoning seems blind and unconnected with the show, and the volume of blind criticism is so overwhelming that I can’t sort through it for any actual worthwhile criticism. The readings of much of the anti-Moffats are just so ... odd. They have reached the point of conspiracy theorists, where any bit of evidence of any sort will provide these critics with ammunition for their arguments, no matter how ridiculous or ill-conceived the connection. There are flaws, of course, like every television production has, but I am pretty sure I am not watching the same show they are.

*maybe not the best word. I acknowledge that it is there, but it isn’t worth reading. Like Oxfordians claiming Shakespeare didn’t write Shakespeare.

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Simon Cooper 4 years, 3 months ago

"Doctor Who has probably been at it's most continually consistent, quality wise, since the mid seventies. But I no longer think consistency is enough: each story needs to be an instant classic, and if it isn't, then it's an instant failure."

When the default reponses to episodes tend to largely be "That was OK", "It wasn't bad" of "It was much better than [Insert Episode Title Here]" then I would see a rethink of the stlye of stories being made as warranted.

The series has never looked better from a visual/directorial point of view but it's in service to stories that don't seem to have much ambition beyond a stream of one-liners and effects sequences. There certainly wouldn't be room for a "Midnight" or even a "Turn Left" in the current Movie Poster era.

To simply go "The Ratings*/AI are almost as good as they were in the past" doesn't really get us naywhere.


*Though it does look like S7 will end up with the second-lowest average since it returned and will be the third straight drop in a row.

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Simon Cooper 4 years, 3 months ago

If one wanted to be childish about it they could label your response as being typical of the Pro-Moffatites, unwilling to accept any criticism as being valid and burying their heads in the sand.

But the whole idea of being Pro- or Anti- any particular showrunner is ridiculous and the same critical standards should be applied to everyone.

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Darren K. 4 years, 3 months ago

I certainly can see the childishness of it, and I am interested in criticism of Moffat. But I don't see it. I see whinging and complaining and tantrums, but I have never seen a coherent criticism of Moffat's Who work that wasn't biased or stilted in a way as to undermine the whole notion of it being actual "criticism" instead of "complaint".

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Simon Cooper 4 years, 3 months ago

And again one could argue that you are displaying your own bias towards Moffat and so reduce all criticism to "whinging and complaining and tantrums".

I'm technically supposed to be working at the moment so don't have time for an essay but I would say that things like, for example, the reduction of the depth of characterisation of previous series or the increase in "Everyone Lives!/Emotion Saves The Day" endings or the overhyping of series finales that actually lead to Reset Button endings are citicisms that can be backed-up with specific examples.

You mightn't agree with the conclusions but that's not necessary for them to be valid.

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jane 4 years, 3 months ago

I wonder how much of the conference was hindered by the panel structure. Each hour a new panel on a new subject, always six people per panel, and each panelist opening with their own particular slant on a subject. The opening hour was on the enduring legacy of the show, and we got six different and fairly divergent takes on that. The sessions on philosophy and aesthetics were even more scattershot.

After about a half-hour of presentations, there'd be about fifteen minutes of "conversation" between panelists, usually between the two or three most outspoken ones, as the moderation wasn't particularly skillful -- of course, a different panelist moderated each panel. After ten minutes of question and answer, it's time for another subject.

And so while the presenters on the whole were really very good (Phil is a dynamic and charming speaker) and obviously knew their stuff, it was all really tip-of-the-iceberg -- even the gripes of academics are ultimately familiar. We're really very lucky here at the Eruditorum to have the consistency of narration over a long period of time, where all the interesting bit get teased out in tremendous depth.

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jane 4 years, 3 months ago

Yeah, I'm not sure that constant churn is "the answer" to the ennui of fandom. It takes a good year just to figure out the new house style and establish one's conventions. (I wonder how disruptive it's been changing studios.)

But like Sean, I'm loving Moffat's work, so I'm not eager for an overhaul just yet.

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Pj 4 years, 3 months ago

Thought it worth mentioning that writing for fandom is what killed Doctor Who the first time.

Also, that the four episodes per adventure model allowed for an awful lot of padding. This worked fine in an era when television moved slower, or when you had Tom Baker available to chew every bit of available scenery, but neither of those things is going to fly now.

Everything new, every story may mean that it takes longer and is more expensive to produce, but it also guarantees that if you don't like what it is this moment, something else is coming just over the next rise. If you're not a fan of Moffatt - this too shall pass, in its own time. If you're constantly criticising Doctor Who for not being what you expect it to be, you're denying yourself the possibility of enjoying it for what it is.

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Wm Keith 4 years, 3 months ago

Whereas RTD concealed a love for intelligent scripting beneath a wealth of mind-numbing spectacle, Moffatt conceals a love for mind-numbing spectacle beneath a wealth of intelligent scripting. The only way to find out which way is the best is to cancel the show and let it simmer for ten years.

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jane 4 years, 3 months ago

Anyone who though Moffat was going to fix the sins of RTD wasn't really paying attention! Specifically if it was on this list: "Bringing back the real Theme Music, no more single parters, lots more Alien Planets, no more Hanky Panky in the TARDIS etc." All of which are calls for a return to the conventions of the Classic Series. Well, certain select (overrated) periods of the Classic Series.

"Then there are those Tropes. The same few ideas being slightly redressed and rehashed over and over again."

Each period has its own tropes, to be sure. The Hinchcliffe era was chock full of horror tropes, the Troughton era with bases-under-siege, and there's always an alien invasion to repel. The repetition of tropes isn't inherently problematic. In the Moffat era, there's one over-arching theme: personal apocalypse, all these different ways of visiting and exploring Death and "ascension" and there's a whole battery of alchemical tropes supporting that vision. It's really not like anything the show has done before.



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jane 4 years, 3 months ago

If you think the stories lack ambition, you're not reading them very closely, but reacting to the very gloss you find so superficial.

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jane 4 years, 3 months ago

Mary Robinette Kowal -- one of the Chicks Digging Time-Lords, and an author in her own right -- had a lot to say about the one-off structure, and the trade-offs involved.

Yes, trade-offs. On the one hand, there's less space for in-depth exploration, whether it's of character or setting or subplot. The format requires tying off the story at the requisite time, which means we get more resolutions and fewer cliffhangers.

On the other hand, it opens the door for a variety of techniques which accomplish the same objectives: the long arc, which provides the stitching between stories, is where plot depth is explored. Recurring characters become more important, too. Density at the level of the individual episode is achieved through an economy of storytelling, from the density of cinematic layers and repetition of certain symbols -- allowing greater compression that only emerges from repeat viewing.

But where the current format really shines is how it contributes to non-linear narrative. The overall effect of all these different stories mashed together in such a short space creates a "time-travel perspective" that's much more kin to a companion's experience. In the Classic series, we'd spend a month or so exploring the world of the story; in the same space today, we see four, a veritable roller-coaster.

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Simon Cooper 4 years, 3 months ago

I know the usual response is to claim that the episodes are simply too intelligent for most people to grasp but when you strip away the one-liners and the gloss there's not much left.

Last week's episode was the second most enjoyable of the current run but it was still basically "Carry On Doctor Who". I'm sure there are people who can probe the hidden depths of the Sonic getting an erection and the bizarre SatNav gag but only by reading things into the episode that weren't actually there.

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Darren K. 4 years, 3 months ago

I don't think I'm hiding my bias, I think I am just expressing my thoughts somewhat ham-fistedly. When I see criticisms of Moffat, most of them strike me as completely foreign to my viewing of the show. A good example - which addresses the new show in general, not just Moffat - from Dr Sandifer's post today is "forty-five minute episodes don't work", which is just ... I can't even begin to understand this criticism as something worth discussing. And much of the anti-Moffat criticism strikes me as much of the same, just so foreign to what makes the show - and television in general - work as to be incomprehensible.

Like in your brief summation of criticisms, which I relealise is brief by necessity not design, "the overhyping of series finales," I just can't see that as a criticism of the show, but a criticism of a television producer who wants people to watch his show. I would be disappointed in any producer who doesn't want you to watch their show, so I can't even figure out why that is worth commenting on. But I would like to read well thought out, well presented criticisms and explanations of these things.

I am not pulling out the example of "the overhyping of series finales," to argue and show that you are wrong, because you haven't even had a chance to explain what you are arguing, which isn't fair on my part, but instead of as an example of the sort of thing I see and just don't get. I see these sorts of criticisms thrown out without much explanation, often without consideration of how television is produced, as if they are law, and all I see is "forty-five minute episodes don't work".

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Anton B 4 years, 3 months ago

The only 'problem' with critiquing RTD or Moffat in this way is that really, to coin a phrase, Who Cares? As jane says the close readings are there in abundance if one cares to look. If not then you may like or hate the occasional episode or a story or a joke or a classic series call back or a returning monster or a bit of timey wimey palaver or (heaven help you) River Song but in the end it's a TV show. It may go on forever, it may get cancelled next year and you're never going to love every second of it without being totally brain-dead uncritical. I'm not saying it's unimportant, to me it and this blog are the highlight of my week. One can deconstruct the narrative, one can give a post-colonial reading or a meta post-modern one. You may of course say you don't like it. That's okay. But for the Gods' sake give it some perspective. That's what Dr. S and other contributors here do. Long may they continue.

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jane 4 years, 3 months ago

Last episode was a meditation on death and embodiment. Very much playing with the concept of "apocalypse" -- but in the Greek sense of the word, the unveiling of what's "real" and simple appearances. Ada, being blind, is able to see more of who a person is than her sighted mother, who only sees the surface of things. Only the Coroner is more honest -- he practically revels in the horror of the flesh, for which "the Crimson Horror" is a metaphor. There's also literary similarity to Nabokov's Ada -- invoked by the blind daughter's name.

Gillyflower's rhetoric is couched in a lot of Christian terms, invoking a desire for Heaven, but which comes across as a living death: the Doctor's monstering, where his red flesh is made stiff, and Clara's preservation under glass, both damning interpretations of immortality.

"Gillyflower" is an interesting name, having both an etymological similarity to Gallifrey (the Time Lords desiring escape from death via ascension) and evoking previous companions -- "gill" being in reference to a stream (River) and "flower" playing to Rose.

There's an incredible amount of fakery and the unveiling of such, and this produces a thick red gloss of irony. The mill isn't a mill, the chimney's not a chimney, and a false ascension offered therein. The monster's actually the Doctor. Fake science in the optogram. Vastra's the Veiled Detective; both Strax and Jenny are "unveiled" of their Victorian garb to reveal action-heroes; these heroes are monsters.

This plays into the Long Arc -- the Doctor's secrecy around Clara, and the fact she's not revealed to him yet, mirrored by Clara's attempted obfuscation with the children she nannies. And those images of Clara like a Barbie doll under glass -- the Bell Jar, and suffocating life described by Silvia Plath, but also a metaphor for how the Doctor has been seeing Clara, his fears.

So, um, no, not Carry On, not by a long shot.

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jane 4 years, 3 months ago

Or you can have your cake and eat it too. No reason to turn off the oven!

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Simon Cooper 4 years, 3 months ago

You've pretty much making my point for me. That's what you're reading into the episode. What it was actually giving out was cheap gags, Penny Dreadful thrills and Matt Smith doing his Frankenstien Monster impersonation.

And I had to pick this one out in particular:

"Gillyflower" is an interesting name, having both an etymological similarity to Gallifrey (the Time Lords desiring escape from death via ascension) and evoking previous companions -- "gill" being in reference to a stream (River) and "flower" playing to Rose.

No, it's just a 19th Century style name that fits in with the mock Gothic Horror setting. The rest is your invention.

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Aaron 4 years, 3 months ago

Do I have to be virulently pro or anti Moffat? I thought Season Five was strong but not perfect, I thought Season Six was one of the best we've had, and I'm finding the current season a bit boring, simply because my favourite episodes have always been the slower paced two parters. But I don't get real angry or overjoyed about the era either way- it's an era, with good or bad points.

Though I'm a bit sad every episode isn't as complicated as Impossible Astronaut or Christmas Carol...

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jane 4 years, 3 months ago

I'm still tickled pink with the last story's overt pandering to The Chair Agenda! Love a chair, especially when glass shatters and sparks fly.

But I think it's a disservice to fall on the "it's just a TV show" defense, because Doctor Who is more than an entertainment, it's a mythology -- and in a world where we've largely discarded the mythologies of yesteryear, for good reason, there's a void to fill. I think we need Myths, those stories that never happened but are always happening. It's scaffolding for constructing a life.

Phil made a great observation about the symposium: how striking it was that so many people were cosplaying at the event. And not just the audience, but the panelists! Long scarves, bowties, passing out jelly-babies -- it smacks of Ritual. Nascent and self-created, but Ritual nonetheless. This material is important beyond the level of just passing the time.

So I think there are very good reasons underlying the lines of invective the show receives -- "good" in the sense of being understandable, rooted in needs. For example, the objection to "timey wimey" reflects the need for order, for cause and effect; T-W stories break down causality and generally replace linear narratives with circular ones, which cuts against our "common sense" understanding of the Universe and the lives we lead. (Others love these stories for precisely the same features, but with different reason: the escape they offer from the constraints of such linear thinking -- "we all have prisons in our minds.")

The complaint against the short one-off form is likewise telling: it says we're getting stories that we want to explore more. This is actually a veiled compliment, that the imagination on display is fertile and vibrant, but also reflects how we want depth and intimacy in our lives. Of course we want *more*!

And any time sex is invoked it's going to get people riled up -- whether it's those who want it covered up because it's too gross/sacred to play with out in the open, or those who find it triggering out of personal trauma; it is, after all, one of those very important aspects of life that motivates so many of our choices and actions. (Not to mention the asexuals who were drawn to early Who for its lack of sexual references and characterizations.)

So, no, the people who come across making superficial knee-jerk criticisms really do have a point. It's just that our culture doesn't offer much experience in the kind of self-reflection necessary to identify what *really* matters underneath the strong emotions, and even less training in putting all that into a coherent written critique. Not that that means we're behooved to agree with those points -- I'm all for sexually charged non-linear narratives married to metaphors of death, afterlife, and ascension!

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Lewis Christian 4 years, 3 months ago

What I really want to see is a Doctor under two showrunners. Like if Tennant had done Series 5, with Moffat. Or Matt to get another series after Moffat leaves. It'd be interesting, I think, and help keep it fresh.

The main issue I have with the series is the fact they use the same writers - it's like a gentleman's working club. They all know each other and that's it. This year? Moffat 3, Chibnall 2, Gatiss 2, Cross 2. I'm glad new writers have appeared (Gaiman, Cross) but why are they handing two to each of 'em?

Is the budget really that low now?

It needs an injection of fresh blood *somewhere* and it's really not in the acting department.

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Theonlyspiral 4 years, 3 months ago

Simon you seem to be exhibiting the same behavior you're accusing others of displaying. Saying that "the increase in "Everyone Lives!/Emotion Saves The Day" endings" is problematic is...well confusing. Even forgetting for a second that this is a children's television program, we live in a world where the darkness and despair is constantly played up and put on display. Having a few more happy endings isn't a bad thing. We need more bright lights.

You also say you're supposed to be working so you can't churn out an essay, just short comments with complaints...but you're all over the comments page here. When someone brings forward an in depth reading of an episode you say "Well that's just you reading in to it". Which is of course how meaning is found.

Jane is right. Every era of Doctor who has it's tropes and idea's that get recycled and thought through. That's just part of having a showrunner. Lett's liked Buddhism, JNT wanted a Soap, Cartmel wanted things hidden from the beginning of time, and Moffat likes playing with time and time travel. It just means you don't like this set of tropes. Wait til the end of the 2014 season, we'll likely have a new Doctor (Fingers crossed for Idris Elba) and likely a new show.

You seem to have given this a lot of thought...but you also seem to be dedicated to disliking this version of the show. Which is fine...but calling people out when they're providing the depth you say are lacking seems hypocritical.

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Lewis Christian 4 years, 3 months ago

"But the killer problem fuelling the default fan critique mode is the belief that Doctor Who isn't as successful as it was. The overnights are down, the timeshifts have stabilised and the AI figures have gone from excellent to, er, excellent (but a couple of percentage points below the excellent they were a couple of years ago). The last part could be explained by the new companion (despite fandom disliking her, Amy Pond does seem to have been popular with the general audience); and the first two can be explained by it being eight years since Rose launched. A hell of a long time in tv terms, and Doctor Who has gone from having a combination of excellent to good ratings to simply good ratings. But despite the (supposed) fall in the ratings department, Doctor Who is still where it's been in the last eight years: in the top twenty most watched programmes. So a strange sort of failure."

People who think like that (oh, it's not as good, ratings are falling, etc.) are just wrong. TV is evolving. iPlayer didn't exist when RTD was on board so it was bums-on-seats-at-7. These days, more and more people just use catch-up services, hence overnights are down etc.

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Lewis Christian 4 years, 3 months ago

Sidenote for Phil:

I was wondering if a small widget could perhaps be added to the right sidebar of the blog. I comment a lot, and I know others do too. There's an option to subscribe to comments, I believe, but it can be a bit of a pain having to check emails for replies etc.

So a 'Recent Comments' widget could potentially be useful, so we can see who's commented recently and on which posts. It'd at least help a little in continuing discussion and tracking comments.

Just me though. I'd welcome anyone else's thoughts, and yours Phil. It's not a huge issue; just think it'd be handy.

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jane 4 years, 3 months ago

This gets at the point of reader interpretation -- there's no way to prove that my reading is not valid. It's quite possible to marry a sophisticated metaphor examining Victorian conceptions of afterlife with cheap gags and penny dreadful thrills; these aren't mutually exclusive. I'm more than willing to see both sides, but for some reason the "gloss" you object to prevents your seeing any depth to the story.

And sure, it's more than possible that Gatiss didn't do any research into naming conventions, but I find that unlikely given the kind of love he seems to have for historicity, punning, and literature. "Thomas Thomas" is particularly felicitous because "Thomas" means twin -- both the SatNav pun and the twinning pun apply, it's not one or the other. "Gillyflower" has multiple resonances -- the etymology really does derive from the Middle English and Old French "gilofre", and the individual roots do correspond to Companion names -- and there's been plenty of subtle reference to Companions this series, just this last episode has a poster calling back to the The Rose and Crown pub, where a "Dastardly Donna" is supposed to perform.

Having drawn my connections, you're now in the position of having to find those places where the metaphors I've described actually fail -- the most important being the examination of Death and the Victorian "afterlife" -- and yes, the Frankenstein's Monster trope only adds to that reading. Simply decrying the gloss and re-stating that that's "just this or that" won't suffice, unless you want to claim some kind of Master Narrative where every element to the story has one and only one meaning. I don't think that's going to fly.

Or do you think that every metaphor has to be spelled out by the narrative itself? Like the denouement to The End of The World? I admit such narrative evidence makes it a lot easier to see the metaphors in play and acknowledge their existence, but the flip side is that it's a bit of a contrivance, and supposes that the audience lacks the requisite intelligence to find them on their own.

I don't for one moment think it's a matter of intelligence, though. I think it's a matter of "faith" -- that looking for metaphor in the first place, without resort to "authority" is indeed an act of faith. And in a culture where science and proof are revered, a lot of people don't want to commit to a close reading.

The show, by the way, recognizes that -- hence the invocation of "Geronimo!" Because it takes a leap of faith to find the heart of the TARDIS, and the vision of death held therein.

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Lewis Christian 4 years, 3 months ago

"The series has never looked better from a visual/directorial point of view but it's in service to stories that don't seem to have much ambition beyond a stream of one-liners and effects sequences. There certainly wouldn't be room for a "Midnight" or even a "Turn Left" in the current Movie Poster era."

This, for me, is the issue. In three basic words:

Moffat Who (since mid-Series 6) is Style Over Substance.

There are some great stories, but there's a great lack of depth.

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Simon Cooper 4 years, 3 months ago

"This gets at the point of reader interpretation -- there's no way to prove that my reading is not valid."

And I'd never say that you (or anyone else) is not perfectly entitled to put whatever interpretation they want on an episode.

The problem comes when people's criticisms of the series get dismissed because they don't find anything there worthy of delving deeper into and in the implicit (and sometimes explicit) belief that they're just not intelligent enough to understand what they're watching.

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Philip Sandifer 4 years, 3 months ago

I just tried to, as it's a good idea - unfortunately the Blogger gadget that does that appears broken such that Google does not allow it to be added.

I have put my finest geek on the task.

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Lewis Christian 4 years, 3 months ago

Ah, okay. Glad something's in the works :)

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jane 4 years, 3 months ago

Lewis, every era of the show has also relied on a stable of writers -- look at Letts' five seasons, and you'll see the same names over and over again. It's not a matter of budget as far as paying the writers goes -- you've got to pay Gatiss twice for two scripts -- but being able to rely on someone delivering their scripts in a timely fashion without need of a massive rewrite, material that lends itself to a televisual translation in three weeks of production without breaking the bank.

JNT discovered the hard way that throwing the previous writers overboard to bring in "fresh" talent isn't an instant panacea -- there's value to be had in having people who know what they're doing, and who can improve on their craft as they acquire more knowledge and feedback.

Most of the objections to Moffat's run, I find, are primarily driven by aesthetics. But if there's any reason why his tenure will end, it'll be on the side of how he manages (or fails to manage) the production end of the job, from missing his deadlines (ding ding ding!) to his on-the-job people skills.

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Lewis Christian 4 years, 3 months ago

It's true that there's always a 'stable' of writers, but we're still using very old blood now. Gatiss has been around since Series 1. Whithouse since Series 2. Chibnall since Series 3.

I'm all for them returning and developing and evolving, but I'm not keen on them getting the job 'just because they're reliable and can deliver'. I'd rather them have a fantastic script appear late in need of a re-write by a new writer rather than a Who-by-numbers by Gatiss or Chibnall who will just write a bog-standard script.

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Lewis Christian 4 years, 3 months ago

Is there not a 'backup' system involved?

ie. Have regulars on standby. Draft new writers in. Give them a deadline. If they don't meet it, they can still work on it but it's pushed back a series whilst the backup gets their script in.

That way, production would be more reliable in terms of scheduling and broadcasting, rather than them having to start afresh each time.

Obviously I'm not in-the-know about how TV works, so I'm open to be educated in that field, but it just strikes me how there's a rather distinct lack of new talent in Who. (I should also add that the same happened with RTD, so it's not just the Moffat era at fault.)

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Ross 4 years, 3 months ago

One issue with fan-hate is that a sizeable percentage of Doctor Who fans, at least the fans from the old days, are people who are extremeely, shall we say "numerically minded*". It's just a plain fact that back in the 60s, when television was different, Doctor Who got numerically better ratings than it does now. And if you're the sort of person for whom numbers are the be-all and end-all, then Doctor Who today, which regularly gets 20% of all households in the UK, is a shocking failure compared to Doctor Who in the 60s which got closer to 50% of all households. If you point out that Doctor Who still out-performs everything else on TV except for the Wednesday episode of Eastenders, that just means that all TV sucks now. If you point out that in the 60s, people had their choice of sometimes as many as two programs to watch at any given time, that's considered irrelevant. If you consider that the audience share of last week's Doctor Who beats the audience share of all but the top 19 programs to ever air in the US, that's just evidence that the US sucks: the numbers are the numbers are the numbers so shut up

(* This mindset is also evidence in the anger they express at episodes where love saves the day, and at complaints which reveal that they have actually chosen to ignore things explicitly said on-screen because they weren't science-flavored enough. I've even had one angry old-school fan admit to me that he'd consider certain episodes entirely redeemed if the Doctor had simply told the companion that while it looks like magic, it's actually just advanced science (Not magic, Jo, the advanced science of the Daemons!))

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macrogers 4 years, 3 months ago

I realize I have a slightly odd way of evaluating seasons of Doctor Who that may not be the most sound. Taking my ideal as those three Hinchcliffe seasons (I'm obvious, but there it is), for me to think a season (and by extension a showrunner) is "good" I'm looking for at least one stone classic and everything else to be pretty good or not too bad. If a season has more than one classic, I decide that it's "great." I've been loving the new series because not only because I think the overall quality is roughly consistent, but also that - in my view - there's been at least one and usually two classics every year: 1) Dalek, Empty Child; 2) Girl In The Fireplace; 3) Human Nature, Blink; 4) Midnight, Turn Left; Specials Year: Waters of Mars; 5) Eleventh Hour, Vincent. In this sort of haphazard evaluation, Season 6 is one of my favorites, despite there being some deep flaws in the arc, because it gave me Doctor's Wife, Girl Who Waited, and God Complex.

Applying this to Season 7 has been disappointing. It's unfair because most episodes in 7 have been ambitious and interesting, and even the weakest have contained at least SOME good qualities. But none of them, in my view, belong on a list with the stories I've cited above. I'm not sure counting "classics" is the best way to appraise a season - probably better to look at the governing themes, motifs, integrity of the arc if there is one - but of the new series, only season 5 seems to even lend itself to that sort of analysis*. So that should make it my favorite, but for me season 6 wins on "classic" points.

*Though no doubt this blog is going to talk me out of that belief before long!

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Anton B 4 years, 3 months ago

Yeah, I was really trying not to say 'it's only a TV show'(it demonstrably isn't) but somehow the words just put themselves down in electronic print. It wasn't the point I was trying to make but having written them I wasn't about to edit them out. They must have slipped in for some reason and I'm a great one for 'Honour your mistake as a hidden intention' (Brian Eno). I was hoping someone would reply and give my badly worded point some kind of drop shadow meaning and, jane, thanks for rising to the challenge. In doing so you also demonstrated what I meant to describe. You gave a number of 'perspectives' to the Doctor Who, and specifically the symposium, experience. Perspective is the key. I'm looking at Doctor Who which is 'over there' as a book or a DVD or an action figure from 'over here' as an adult or at a fetish party or behind a sofa. Criticising without perspective is just complaining as much as praising without perspective is just mindless worship.

I agree about Doctor Who as myth and the need for that myth. I think to immerse oneself in that mythos through cosplay or discussion is to create a Morrisonian 'Fiction suit' and to meet others who 'believe' (as on this blog) is to participate in a very powerful ritual indeed. We live in the stories we tell eachother and Doctor Who stories may be created at the lowest level of pop culture ('it's only a TV show') but they speak to us of ambition and hubris, of experiment and death. They have given us the means to batter down the walls between reality and fiction. There's only one way to find out what happens next...

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Ross 4 years, 3 months ago

@Lewis Christian: You might want to look into using the comments RSS feed, which is great for making sure you don't miss comments on old posts.

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Archeology of the Future 4 years, 3 months ago

It's a bit of a mistake to position anyone as the Queen or King over The Water who will come and 'save' your programme. It's always struck me as a bit weird to assume Moffat would be a corrective to RTD rather than successor.

Criticism is, I suppose, trying to work how something does or doesn't work rather than say whether you like or dislike it (although the two mix).

There something in the argument that Moffat who tends to draw its texture from detail rather relationships. There is certainly more 'stuff' in his Doctor Who. For me it feel like many of the scripts in Moffat's run have all the right bits but haven't managed to connect them up in way that is explicable on first viewing.

It's interesting to me the extent to which Moffat who feels to privilege what is said over what is shown, despite the 'epic' eye candy. Sometimes I feel I am watching a Big Finish rather than a television programme.

There is a sense, for me at least, that Moffat Who is more conservative than RTD's Who. Not structurally, technically or aesthetically but in terms of political effect. Small 'c' conservative, but conservative nevertheless.

I need to think a bit more as to why I feel this.

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Philip Sandifer 4 years, 3 months ago

Ah, good. There is an RSS feed of that. I've made a very poor Recent Comments sidebar out of that, which is now up. I'll work towards a better one.

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Doctor Memory 4 years, 3 months ago

my God, the level of fan hatred directed at the series as it stands right now is sickening

Well yes. That happens when you produce bad television, consistently. People get annoyed.

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jane 4 years, 3 months ago

It's one thing to say that the depth isn't interesting -- an examination of Victorian values vis-a-vis death and afterlife may or may not float your boat -- and quite another to say that depth isn't there.

Likewise, it's also perfectly acceptable to say that certain elements of the gloss strike such discordant notes that one isn't willing to look any deeper. I'm not saying you lack the intelligence to read deeper into the story, but that you lack the desire, without which no amount of intelligence will help. It's called a "leap of faith" for a reason -- it's a Choice.

But this is about *you* -- not the show.

And just because one's chosen to see more underneath the surface doesn't mean those levels aren't problematic. As we just saw with The Unquiet Dead, and the fact that its immigration metaphor (which, I'll note, was explicitly referenced, and so gets the bulk of attention) has some particularly reactionary entailments given how the rest of the story plays out, regardless of authorial intent.

I actually have reservations about what The Crimson Horror has got to say about death and embodiment and "afterlife." It's a very... how to put this... cynical take. The "crimson horror" of the flesh is painted as horrific, death is painted as horrific, but there's no counterpoint regarding the very real joys and beauty of embodiment or letting go. Being enfleshed isn't just a horror! And I don't think dying is, in the end, a horror freak-show either.

Now it makes sense given the Victorian period of the piece, but this is modern mythology we've got here. With that in mind I much preferred last week's meditation, visiting a place of death as exemplified by holding hands in the frozen heart of the TARDIS, or even the Forest of Hide, where Love is revealed to be waiting at the end. I absolutely adored how the infinitude of Death/Love tree-token destroyed the Old God. Even the Bells of Saint John plays with afterlife imagery -- the people who are uploaded to The Cloud (a heaven symbol if there ever was one) are considered to have "died," or made puppets, and that experience of death is likened to an experience of being LOST with all those refrains of "I don't know where I am."

So, in *every* episode this season there's a metaphor of death/religion/afterlife that's being played with. It extends to The Snowmen, Angels, Po3, and Mercy, and many more stories before that. It is the primary focus of the Moffat era, and that's not just me.

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Josh Marsfelder 4 years, 3 months ago

Hate is such a very strong word. I can't speak for other people who don't like Moffatt's Doctor Who, but I freely submit in my case a lot of the problem is me. The show just isn't for me at the moment: I have obscenely high standards for things I get involved in, and Doctor Who isn't meeting them right now. To be fair, not a whole lot is, and I've just about given up following new scripted drama period. I do think the show still has serious, serious hetronormativity problems, but I know I'm pretty much the only one who feels that way and I can accept that. No judgement.

And I mean for what it's worth this isn't the only era of the show I strongly dislike and can't get in to: Upon reflection there's probably very little Doctor Who I actually *do* enjoy. I'm finding that quite a lot in regards to Soda Pop Art of late.

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jane 4 years, 3 months ago

You don't think Asylum's a "classic"? I think it's fantastic, especially with its Hinchcliffian flair. I also count "Snowmen" but I can see how it doesn't work for everyone. And I love "Dinosaurs" as a classic romp, a wonderful bit of popcorn. At least across Tumblr there's quiet a bit of reverence for the feels delivered by Angels in Manhattan; me, I found Nick Hurran's direction uncharacteristically lackluster.

From Bells on, though, I kind of agree -- all well above average as far as I'm concerned, but classics? It's kind of hard to say... the closest might be Journey, though I'm not sure the supporting characters are compelling enough for me, despite the delicious richness of the underlying metaphors.

But I disagree that any previous era of the show should be the lens through which we view the current era, whatever "current era" we happen to find ourselves in. It may be unavoidable -- after all, we love what we love -- but I think it's a disservice to the current work, because looking for a return to a bygone period can blind us to what's in the Here and Now.

Maybe this is just an objection to "idealism" though. I don't think any season or era of Doctor Who is "ideal" -- they are what they are, and I love some more than others, but I wouldn't ever want to delude myself into thinking that even the stuff I love best is without flaw.

That is, assuming a certain ontology to the concept of "flaw." I mean, a "flaw" only exists in relation to an ideal. But if there's no ideal, how can there possibly be any flaw? It's a paradox: by removing The Ideal, everything is Ideal... and everything is Flaw. Flaw and Ideal become married, wedded as they wink out of existence (like Amy and Rory) and this is the key to alchemy, this union of opposites.

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The Lord of Ábrocen Landmearca 4 years, 3 months ago

For myself, I thought Moffat's first two seasons were the best the series had ever done. I have hated almost every episode since that awful Christmas special with the trees, and every single episode since (and including) The Rings of Akhenaton. It leaves me in a foul mood.

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Christopher Haynes 4 years, 3 months ago

This comment has been removed by the author.

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Christopher Haynes 4 years, 3 months ago

Likewise I'm curious why there's presumably nothing sickening or overstated about the hatred Phil directed at the TV Movie, which was no worse than what we're getting now.

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Sean Daugherty 4 years, 3 months ago

So... what you're saying is "hour-long panels don't work," then? ;-)

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macrogers 4 years, 3 months ago

You know, I was trying to think through why Asylum and Snowmen didn't quite clear the bar for me, as I think they're both quite good, and I think it's actually not for a very sophisticated reason: I think for me a great episode has to create such a potent menace that it briefly tricks me into thinking the Doctor might lose. I remember first feeling that with Sutekh back in the day, there was a real sense of, "The Doctor may actually be in over his head here." In Genesis and Androzani there was a powerful feeling for me that the Doctor and his companions didn't amount to a hill of beans in those awful contexts, and could well be swallowed up by them. The one-two punch of Midnight/Turn Left pushed this idea probably as far as it should go, but I'm glad that thrilling outer reach exists. That's not the only ingredient in a "classic" for me, but if a story doesn't have that I need powerful compensation from one of the other ingredients. Like in Vincent, there's zero suspense that the Doctor will be able to deal with the turkey-alien, but the story's daring expansion of what Doctor Who can take on compensated for me. The other qualities of Snowmen and Asylum didn't quite make up for the snow nanny and the curiously defanged Daleks. I can't deny, though, that both eps have a lot going for them.

And I do agree with you that it's the wrong approach to want Moffat to be Hinchcliffe/Holmes, or whoever else from the past.

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Simon Cooper 4 years, 3 months ago

And speaking of Hatred have you seen the abuse being hurled at early reviewers of 'Nightmare In Silver' simply for doing their jobs and not claiming that the episode was a flawless masterpiece?

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Philip Sandifer 4 years, 3 months ago

They don't, though. That's the thing. Ratings are steady, AIs remain in the range of excellent. We mustn't confuse "there are some people on the Internet that hate the thing" with "the thing is widely viewed as bad in a way that is making lots of people upset." Outside of the hardcore of fandom, and more specifically the hardcore of fandom that recreationally writes about Doctor Who on the Internet there is no evidence of any major change in Doctor Who's reception.

Whereas the TV movie flopped, didn't go to series, and set Doctor Who's comeback back by years.

Television is a pragmatic medium. So are its aesthetics. I judged the Pertwee era as successful despite my distaste for large swaths of it for the simple reason that it was massive popular and influential. I was hard on the Davison era despite loving lots of it for the equally simple reason that ratings and cultural influence dwindled.

The Moffat era works. That's distinct from whether you (or I) personally enjoy it.

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Simon Cooper 4 years, 3 months ago

"You don't think Asylum's a "classic"?"

Once again looks amazing and is brilliantly directed and also has some rare for a recent Moffat script scenes that might actually frighten children. But it also has yet another example of Hype vs Reality with months of "Every! Dalek! Ever!" turning out to be "Every Dalek ever for five seconds if you squint". And the emotionally false Pond marriage problems, introduced and resolved in 45 minutes and treated as just another plot point to be ticked off.

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Sean Daugherty 4 years, 3 months ago

I've actually really enjoyed this back end of season 7 because of (for the lack of a better description) the number of one-off episodes that feel like two parters. Both "Hide" and "The Crimson Horror" pack a lot of story into their 45 minute run times, and I can actually see both episodes being extended to two-parters with minimal padding. Especially "The Crimson Horror," where we basically get an abbreviated recap of a non-existent episode with the Doctor's flashback.

I can actually see that being off-putting to some people, because the episodes strike me as extremely frenetic. But, on the other hand, I can't see disliking them for the "style over substance" complaint typically tossed at Moffat by fandom. They may not be your cup of tea, but they're some of the most densely written Doctor Who stories we've seen since "The Adventuress of Henrietta Street."

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Theonlyspiral 4 years, 3 months ago

I loved Cold War. I don't want it every week, but it was a fun adventure that did some neat things playing with audience expectation. I thought it was much better than "Rings of Akaten"

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HarlequiNQB 4 years, 3 months ago

Interesting that you felt that way about Journey, given that half way through I turned to my wife and said "Am I just in a foul mood, or is this as terrible as I think it is?" she informed me it was worse than I thought it was ;)

And this I think may be the problem (to a degree) with this series/season; No-body really agrees on what the excellent episodes are. as MacRogers says, everything up to and including series 6 have had easily identifiable classics, while this one hasn't. episodes I've really enjoyed others in my group have hated (and given that I live in the US I am very very fortunate to be literally surrounded by Whovians), and vice versa. I think the only one everyone I know has enjoyed was Asylumn. Clearly there are some lovely episodes this series, as there are in all of them, but this year it seems that no two people can agree on which ones they are ;)

One has to hope that Gaiman can recapture what he did with the Doctor's wife next week to give this series it's clear and solid classic.

I don't think the public's perception has been greatly aided by the "Film poster" approach to this series either. Every episode has been built up to be the greatest thing ever, yet none of them have quite delivered on that promise, while still being very good (and mostly family friendly) TV, and this is especially heightened given what year it is, because every episode *should* be the greatest thing ever this year, in most fans eyes. Comparing to that level of hype, nothing is going to come off looking as good as it otherwise could.

just remember, no matter how bad the 50th actually is, it could have just been Dimensions in Time part 2 ;)

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Sean Daugherty 4 years, 3 months ago

I don't think you're wrong about the show's problems with heteronormativity. And there are other issues that could be raised with the series under Moffat's reign. As Dr. Sandifer suggests, there's a difference between acknowledging the shortcomings of the show (whether you can appreciate it despite them or not), and, in effect, looking for reasons to justify hating it.

Which doesn't mean that you can't legitimately dislike something, of course. We all have different priorities, attitudes, and opinions. And you, frankly, present a much more reasonable argument for dislike the show in its current form than the majority of online criticism, so thanks for that.

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Simon Cooper 4 years, 3 months ago

The ratings aren't steady though, are they? The difference might be slight but series on series the average has dropped since Moffat took over and this series looks like comming second from last overall.

And we've also seen with Series 8/7B a slight but ongoing drop in the AIs too.

And non-Fan mainstream reviews are also demonstrating a level of disappoint with the series that we haven't previously seen.

The series isn't in any danger of going off our screens (not that its on them much these days) but to pretend that things aren't starting to change is to be wilfully ignorant.

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Christopher Haynes 4 years, 3 months ago

Years ago when I was getting a fine arts degree (before I wised up and changed my major) I knocked out an illustration of a dead tree that ended up in our school's gallery. I was told it needed a title, so I named it "5th Concerto For Harpsichord And Strings".

A few days later when I was checking out other additions tothe gallery I overheard two people doing their finest impersonation of Bron and Cleese in "City of Death". They were looking at my tree and going on at length about the meaning of the title, which to them was apparently something truly inspired.

I didn't have the heart to tell them I named it after the bit of music I was listening to the night I finished the damn thing. If I'd put another record on instead it could just as easily have been named "Do the Donkey Kong". ;)

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Philip Sandifer 4 years, 3 months ago

The series average ratings when last I saw them collected has Series Seven coming in ahead of Series Three and Series Six. So fifth of seven - a whopping increase of .09 million viewers would make it the median series.

And that's with a substantial share of viewers moving to iPlayer, which doesn't get factored into the ratings and which wasn't a major competitor to early seasons of the series.

Meanwhile, AIs still consistently put the series in the "excellent" tier.

I'm terribly skeptical of the idea that the empirical data supports an anti-Moffat argument.

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Adam B 4 years, 3 months ago

I really wish I could've made the symposium, Phil, at least to meet you and Mr Shearman (your description of the event overall sounds like it wouldn't've been much my cup of tea) and perhaps to spark/participate in some discussions on disability in Who. I live in the area, and had every intention to come. Sadly, illness prevented me.

I'd like to ask of you and any others who were there: Was there any talk of the use of disability in the show? Sadly, you all wouldn't have been able to comment on Ada in The Crimson Horror (a disabled character I feel was done largely right, which sadly makes her somewhat of a rarity), but there are plenty of examples especially among the villains in the classic series.

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T. Hartwell 4 years, 3 months ago

I would agree that the continued use of "old hand" writers can be inhibiting the show's freshness, but it's honestly an issue that just kinda has to be lived with, and has been with the series since Marks was writing for Pertwee.

Sometimes you get lucky and get a writer that's constantly improving with every script (Holmes, anyone?) but usually it's a stable writer who can be depended to turn out a decent script in a reliably timeframe- this would be the Baker & Martins, the Dicks, the Marks, the Gatiss's, and the Chibnalls of the series. A "backup" system seems like it'd be nice, but with the hurried nature of TV scripting & producing (to my knowledge it's not much better now than it was then) it's just not practical. In the old days, that sort of thing is what led to a Pip & Jane script getting commissioned.

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Simon Cooper 4 years, 3 months ago

The average will drop again after the final figures for last week's episode are in and probably twice more after that.

(And to frame pointing out a slight but notable downward trend as "anti-Moffat" speaks volumes, really.)

To be honest I actually wouldn't mind if you did finish up the The End Of Time after all, as I fear we're going to head out of Critical analysis and into Polemic defence once you do. You can't really discuss the Moffat era in total without facing his regressive ideas about women head on and without dealing with the behind-the-scenes issues that have plagued the series since he took over, up to and including the Caroline Skinner situation. A woman who, as vowed, does seem to be being erased from Doctor Who at least as far as DWM and GB are concerned.

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Theonlyspiral 4 years, 3 months ago

Do we have numbers from iTunes and Eplayer? I want to know if that might be leaching off significant numbers from the viewing figures. Also people who Torrent. Online piracy will continue to play a role for people.

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thingsiambotheredby 4 years, 3 months ago

Perhaps, but the scenes with the Dalek Prime Minister and Dalek Oswin make up for all of that. Not to mention the promise of some radically different Dalek stories to come.

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Philip Sandifer 4 years, 3 months ago

Returns of classic monsters and season finales have arrested or reversed season-long downward trends more often than they've failed to.

I'm perfectly happy to face Moffat's women head on, and have been laying the groundwork for it since the Virgin-era British comedy post that dealt briefly with Joking Apart. The behind the scenes stuff I'd be happy enough to deal with on general principle, but won't use gossip sources to do it.

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Matthew Celestis 4 years, 3 months ago

The analysis of Romana's footwear sounds really fascinating and enjoyable

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Adam B 4 years, 3 months ago

I am reasonably sure that Dr Sandifer will indeed highlight and grapple with the problematic aspects of the Moffat era (those you've identified, Simon, as well as others), as he has with every other era he's covered so far. That he may still also choose to highlight that which has worked in the Moffat era, again, as he has in every other era, leads you to believe somehow that he will be engaging in "Polemic defense" if and when he does.

To be completely charitable, I find that to be a very untenable position.

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elvwood 4 years, 3 months ago

I've stopped being depressed about it, because it seems to happen all the time. It's like the comments a short time ago about how unpleasant Gallifrey Base is - I find the only really unreadable forums are the ones covering the current era, whatever that era happens to be. I didn't, however, realise the vitriol extended to fans beyond the Internet too!

I'm one of those who thinks that Dr Sandifer should pause (not end) the Eruditorum at The End of Time until either Matt Smith or Steven Moffat move on, after which he can pick it up again with an entire era to think about.

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T. Hartwell 4 years, 3 months ago

I think Asylum's main issue keeping it from "classic" status is the aforementioned Pond subplot, but that's more due to the series itself than the actual episode (the fact that instead of building up the problem through the season they chose to do it in a webisode series totaling 5 minutes, only to be resolved entirely in the next immediate episode).

But no love for Bells of St. John? That'd be far and away my pick for "classic" this season along with The Snowmen. A danged solid episode with a wonderful premise & villain (one that felt almost Holmesian, with a terrifically anarchic solution) and an absolutely fantastic and sweet Doctor/companion dynamic. Only the 'snog box' jokes let it down, but those are so minor as to barely even be worth commenting on.

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Assad K 4 years, 3 months ago

Ah, Harlequin, we're still a long way off from 'Love And Monsters'.. :D

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BerserkRL 4 years, 3 months ago

I think Moffat has enormous virtues and enormous flaws. I'm perpetually puzzled that so many people seem to see only one or only the other.

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jane 4 years, 3 months ago

Furthermore, the suggestion that "new hands" will freshen things up is just a shorthand way of saying that one isn't too keen on the what the current run is doing, regardless of what era we happen to be in. Which is to say, having a stable of writers who can support your vision, as a showrunner, is all about executing your vision. Those who like the vision will like the writers who can play to it, and those who don't will want "fresh blood" -- as if that will somehow bend the current aesthetics and concerns in a new direction.

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HarlequiNQB 4 years, 3 months ago

Assad, believe it or not I know people that adore that episode. I don't understand it myself, but it does show that one persons poop is another's profiterole I guess - Rarely more so than concerning the adventures of the Doctor.

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jane 4 years, 3 months ago

Has anyone waxed eloquent about the titles you *did* intentionally construct?

But even your lack of intentionality speaks to a basic process of creation, that source of inspiration of the fertile mind, which often blends multiple senses and referents. The truth is, you *were* listening to Bach (?) when you finished the damn thing, and that plays a part in the piece you created.

So the metaphorical considerations of the title are apt, regardless of your intent, even if you don't see it yourself. (Were the "critics" familiar with that music? Yet another layer of interpretation avails itself.)

Then again, seeing as you've "wised up" and chose not to make this a profession in the first place, your experience might not be the most apt comparison to make when considering the artistry of someone who makes a living at the arts? If anything, the fact that people do look at titles as point of interpretation would surely behoove the conscientious artist to consider the ramifications of titling their own work.

It's much the same for naming conventions. Certain names carry certain meanings, whether intended or not. The conscientious writer will consider those meanings as the names are assigned. While as critics we don't know if a name is chosen with deliberation, we don't need to know authorial intention because that's not the game -- the game is read the work itself closely, to let the work speak.

(I think Gatiss is perceived as being less conscientious because of the infelicity of Unquiet Dead's immigration metaphor. But to reach that point in the first place, we still have to read closely -- because, as Unquiet Dead shows, the connotations of a metaphor can be there consciously or unconsciously.)

So I always examine names and titles and the details of a work. I have to understand what's there first and foremost; I'm much less interested in rendering a judgment of "worth," which unfortunately is the main interest of fandom.

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Theonlyspiral 4 years, 3 months ago

I for one, think it's a Master Piece. The only episode that season that comes close to "The Girl in the Fireplace".

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jane 4 years, 3 months ago

I think the hour-long panels would have worked better with three or four panelists per session, rather than six. Even five would have been better!

But I think that's true for most small groups -- at six people, the dynamics change in a way that's less conducive to building an in-depth conversation.

I also think having a consistent facilitator would have helped -- if Paul Booth, for example, moderated all the discussions, rather than (quite necessarily) getting a lot of leg-work done "back stage." He did a fantastic job, btw, of selecting a variety of people to speak, and making it into a big event, with several hundred in attendance. Plus he's very sweet.

Finally, I think we'd all have been well-served to have a scheduled lunch break in the schedule, to give the rest of in attendance more time to socialize and talk about the subjects that had just come up, without feeling like we were missing something. A chance to come up for air and breathe.

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Christopher Haynes 4 years, 3 months ago

"Has anyone waxed eloquent about the titles you *did* intentionally construct?"

Sadly, no! My next masterpiece was a lovely color portrait of a Thermo-Serv Gold and Black Serving Pitcher titled "Metaphysics" but nobody took the bait. Proof that you can't force these things, I suppose.

"(Were the "critics" familiar with that music? Yet another layer of interpretation avails itself.)"

I'm afraid my memory's not that good, but I wouldn't be surprised if were. By contrast I'd have been shocked if they were familiar with Buckner & Garcia!

"Then again, seeing as you've "wised up" and chose not to make this a profession in the first place, your experience might not be the most apt comparison to make when considering the artistry of someone who makes a living at the arts?"

Well, I may have changed my major but I still had a go at being a freelance artist. Then I discovered that's a profession for people who never tire of hearing the check's in the mail. Even more disturbing was the realization I earned far more from kill fees than actual published work. I hate to think what that says about my illustrations...

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Theonlyspiral 4 years, 3 months ago

A couple of quick things...You framed it as a Moffat issue Simon. Dr. Sandifier was just addressing your statements. He's never been shy about facing the problems with his own eras of preference. I don't think you need to worry about polemic defenses taking over the blog.

Is there anywhere I can go for a quick synopsis of this Caroline Skinner thing? I can't seem to find this scandal people are talking about.

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jane 4 years, 3 months ago

@Archeology: There's much less contemporary allegory in Moffat's Who, true. Much more interested in exploring familial relationships and near-death-experiences.

In part it's a function of the kind of stories being told. RTD gives us Gridlock, which works very well as a commentary on contemporary society, not to mention all those alien invasions and the modern media's take. We get stories that are actually about contemporary politics -- Downing Street for World War Three, the Christmas Invasion, the Last of the Time Lords.

By contrast, in Moffat's run we largely get contemporary stories that are about relationships, not current events. Eleventh Hour references scientists, not politicians; mostly it's about Amy herself. Amy's Choice focuses on domesticity, as does the Lodger; the Big Bang is set in a museum, not a UNIT briefing room.

Instead, the past is mined for political context -- and this is always problematic, as actual history is largely a matter of the unique specificity of the times, which is antithetical to a mythological perspective. So we get Churchill, Hitler, and Nixon as "myth" and this colors if not erases the political readings that are necessary for understanding what they actually did.

Not having stories that address current events is okay -- it's just a different focus. But stories that inadvertently erase key choices and persons in history is definitely problematic, and you're right, comes out as being "small-c conservative" if only because it obscures the problems of material social progress that justifies the practice of alchemy in the first place.

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Lewis Christian 4 years, 3 months ago

Jane,

That's a very fair point and I agree with it. But only to a point.

I'm not keen on the Moffat arcs, to be honest. However, if you gave me the option of watching 'Gatiss script in Moffat's overall vision' or watching 'new writer script in Moffat's vision', I'd go with the latter. The vision of Moffat's show would remain the same, but it could feel fresh and different with a new writer.

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jane 4 years, 3 months ago

Regarding Asylum, if there's one thing I really don't consider in my reading of any story, it's the hype preceding it. Hype, a form of advertising, is always serving the intention of getting people to watch a story who wouldn't otherwise. Rarely does hype align with the actual art itself. Don't mistake the showmanship for the show! But I'm going to watch them all anyways, and I don't like spoilers, so hype is pretty much wasted on me.

I agree the Ponds' marriage problems come out of nowhere -- this is the sort of thing we'd expect as the Long Game of so much serialization...

...on the other hand, it creates the sense that the Doctor really *has* been away for a while, that he (and *we*) have lost touch with the swath of their lives.

And this really describes what Moffat's been doing this whole season, which is setting up the Doctor as the focal character whose point of view mediates the stories, rather than giving that responsibility to the Companion. Such that Clara is now literally the subject of the Doctor's investigation, a Mystery. I think that's played no small part in how many people have yet to connect with her.

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jane 4 years, 3 months ago

@T.Hartwell,

I agree with your assessment of Bells, and I got a great kick out of it, but it's got a funny structure to it. The second act crowds into the third act, an act which is already compromised by having such a long denouement to exercise in service to the season as a whole.

(And yet again we see just how much the showmanship employs "unreliable narration." Because this season has just as much of an Arc running through it as any other, but it's billed as a bunch of stand-alone stories.)

Anyways, Bells ends up having a climax that's terribly compressed. There's no room for a "faux resolution" beat that creates the rhythm we expect in storytelling, that space to take a breath. And there really isn't the sort of emotional punch that compares to Oswin's reveal in Asylum, nor such acutely explored entailments of a healthy relationship to death that we get in Snowmen.

On the other hand, just the sheer weirdness of the Spoonhead imagery, and the kind of readings that it can elicit, makes Bells a pretty special episode in my book. The level of "mirroring" and metaphor at play was incredibly delightful.

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Darren K. 4 years, 3 months ago

(It's this kind of empty noise that I was talking about somewhat artlessly a few threads above. Sorry for interrupting.)

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Iain Coleman 4 years, 3 months ago

Haters gonna hate.

If you do anything that you believe in that achieves any kind of success or public notice, however small or fleeting, some people will hate it, and hate you for doing it. It's true of Steven Moffat. It was true of Russell T Davies - though in his case the peak hatred was from Torchwood fans, who decried him as a homophobe (!) because he killed off the character of Ianto Jones. Hell, it's true of our gracious host Dr Sandifer: just check out some of the people who slag him off on Gallifrey Base, mainly about his views on The Celestial Toymaker.

I don't think there's much point in trying to unpick the Moffat-hate any more than any other hate. You're not going to learn much from it. It's just the accretion that inevitably grows up around anyone who does something that they believe to be right, in direct proportion to their success.

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David Anderson 4 years, 3 months ago

That, and Gatiss hasn't showed much interest in Clara as a character.

I thought Angels is definitely a classic. Asylum probably, depending on how annoyed you are by the Ponds' relationship problems coming out of the blue. Journey definitely, in the Warrior's Gate/Ghost Light tradition.

Vincent is by Richard Curtis. Anyone who thinks the Moffat-era otherwise is misogynistic should sit through Love Actually. But Vincent seems to get a pass from the Davies-not-Moffat fans. I think it doesn't care about Van Gogh; it cares about itself feeling noble and deep for caring about Van Gogh.
I don't like it.

I rather admire what Love and Monsters is trying to do; but I tend to not like body horror or Marc Warren, which makes the episode difficult to like. Also, I think the paving slab doesn't work in so many ways.

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jane 4 years, 3 months ago

I'd probably agree, Lewis, about wanting to see another writer besides Gatiss, if it weren't for Crimson Horror, my favorite Gatiss script to date. Cold War wasn't terribly original, but solid and self-aware of what it was trying to do, and even Night Terrors had much to commend, not the very least for its lack of cynicism. These aren't turkeys -- which is more than we can say for much of the fare of the 70s.

I was excited to see what we'd get from Cross -- and I have mixed feelings. I loved Rings and the exquisite marriage of Love and Death it presented, but it left fandom all over the place, didn't it? But while Hide was solid, I didn't think it was anything special, quite serviceable but not exactly daring in its conception -- not to mention problematic as far as the Bechdel-trouncing conversations were concerned.

Last week we got only the second story from Thompson, which was very different from his first go, and next week we get Gaiman's sophomore effort. I found Chibnall's stories effective, and Whithouse's not so much; all very much at odds with what I expected (especially the latter, given my love of Sergio Leone.)

All this to say, I think there's more consistency within an era than across the body of work of any particular staff writer. (Showrunners' stories are a different story, so to speak.)

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Theonlyspiral 4 years, 3 months ago

Before this past series I would have agreed with you. But from Night Terror's forward he's been consistently awesome. I know he's mostly being used as an example here but still, the point stands.

Further I'm just fine with scripts being given to Old Hands with a few being brought in over time. I mean I'd rather Cold War than The Poison Sky.

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Archeology of the Future 4 years, 3 months ago

I think there's something conservative about Moffat's idea of how relationships work that doesn't sit so well with me. For me, the Moffat era has treated people as functions rather than people. Note how most of the major characters have a descriptor for their role 'The girl who waited' 'The madman in the box' 'The Twice dead girl' etc.

I don't feel as if, say The Lodger is 'about' relationships, I feel more that it's about the idea of relationships. Most of Moffat's stories have left me absolutely cold (I liked Time of Angels 2 parter, The Impossible Astronaut 2 parter, can take or leave the rest), perhaps because of their 'big ideas' or reliance on information or context from outside of the frame for some of their impact.

For all that the ideas of Moffat's Who are expansive, I think there's something reductive about the show's overall view of people and of meaning which, for me at least, loses some of its transformative power.

I, unlike the rest of the world it seems really, really rate both of Neil Cross' scripts for this season but really didn't get anything out of bells of St John or Cold War. Must ponder this further.

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Theonlyspiral 4 years, 3 months ago

Darren I'm sorry I still don't know what you mean. What thing that we said is representational of this empty noise whining that you were talking about above?

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jane 4 years, 3 months ago

Well, The Lodger isn't even about "relationships" in the abstract, but a particular relationship, the relationship between Craig and Sophie, and how that relationship informs their choices... and even who they are, or could be. And while it hinges on a tried-and-true trope (Craig's discomfort with revealing his feelings and making himself vulnerable) it's rather bold for science-fiction in that their relationship isn't just a subplot to the larger story of the Silent TARDIS upstairs, it's the crux of the resolution. Their particular commitment to each other literally saves the day.

Granted, one might say that committed relationships are inherently conservative, but I'd have a hard time buying that this, in of itself, is in any way "bad."

Now, look at the last few "contemporary" stories from Davies' run -- there's commentary on the halls of power, of plutocracy and "master races," and before that the uncomfortable spaces that UNIT occupies -- the problems of a military. Many of Davies' stories in the future serve as allegories for current issues -- the Ood Planet, the traffic on New Earth, or the problem of mass media and "reality" shows.

Not that Moffat's completely unconcerned with social commentary, but most of it's pretty focused on Religion -- the Headless Monks, the Silence, the Angels; even his military is part of the Anglican Church. And this is also part of the context of the show's self-reflexivity, and its concern for the fetishization and worship of the Doctor himself.

I think you hit the nail on the head with how Moffat's era mythologizes people. "The Boy/Girl Who Waited" -- it applies to both Amy *and* Rory -- is a mythic take, it's fetishizing the Heroic Act and makes it what the characters have to live up to. Sometimes it's subversive: Amy waiting at Demon's Run and being juxtaposed with Manton's speech right when he says "the Papal Mainframe Herself."

Clara's even more extreme -- she's The Woman Twice Dead, and so often her story arc has her "dying" in some metaphorical way, whether it's near-drowning in the Submarine (which is called The Firebird, a phoenix reference, natch) or getting uploaded multiple times to the Spoonhead Cloud. She "dies twice" in Journey, she experiences a living death in Crimson Horror, and even sees a "ghost" of herself in Hide, after ruminating on already being dead from the Doctor's perspective.

So you're right, this gets in the way of genuine characterization, putting the characters through archetypal situations rather than intensely personal ones. It's a very fair description of an approach quite distinct from Davies' tendencies. I'm most reminded of Williams' era, with the archetypal Huntress Leela and Ice Queen Romana who eventually becomes a Doctor-protegé.

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Pen Name Pending 4 years, 3 months ago

I have a theory behind this "Name of the Doctor" thing...it's a name Clara recognized so we will to. So...God? Not any specific god, not a real god, but someone who worked on creating this Earth. Think about it. Why would the Doctor get exiled to Earth, at the time of an Auton invasion and the arrival of the Master? Why were the Time Lords so protective of Earth? Why has history on Earth never changed? Why does the Doctor love humans? Why did he get fed up with his own planets and set up home in a place of social development (the 60s)?

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Spacewarp 4 years, 3 months ago

I've been keeping a spread-sheet of Doctor Who ratings for about the past five years. I add to it every week. It helps me keep things in perspective. Here's the Average Ratings for the whole of the run of "New Who" since 2005, as of today. So we've got the Finals up to "Hide" and the Overnights up to "Journey" and "Crimson". The average final ratings aren't dipping. They aren't dropping. The overnights are dropping, but that's timeshifting. This isn't spin. This is fact. Why can't fandom see this?

http://www.spacewarp.co.uk/AvgRatings.jpg

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Spacewarp 4 years, 3 months ago

I stand corrected. The finals for Journey are in, so the graph has now been corrected...but doesn't make much difference tbh.

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Iain Coleman 4 years, 3 months ago

So... his name's Brian?

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Pen Name Pending 4 years, 3 months ago

This era of Doctor Who is woven into my life, so much that I just don't care what anyone says, but it always makes me terribly upset and hasn't helped my current state of mind. I can understand objections based on principle; I couldn't stand some of the themes Davies built around Tennant's Doctor, but I haven't said anything. It's when things veer toward the "it's just for stupid Americans" that I want to cover my ears and scream. I don't talk about Doctor Who, but it's always in my head. I hold it close to me and I know no one else sees it as I do. For me, most of the complaints are down to nonstalgia, and the fact that we're more critical when things are airing currently and the future is open.

I think the series has struggled to find a new voice after the Ponds left, and Mark Gatiss and Stephen Thompson just aren't as good as Toby Whithouse and Neil Cross at transforming a brief into something really special. But the fact that the stories are enjoyable and standard forms with a twist, as well as whole thing about struggling...it almost mirrors my life right now. I've been through "I need to escape", "I don't want to grow up", "I've lost all my friends", "It's all my fault", "I feel like I'm being controlled by the block universe" (that's Amy x2, the Doctor x2, and River). Now I want to move on, but I've struggled. I don't quite know what I want out of life. Nothing seems to end up as I expect it.

Oh, and "The Rings of Akhaten" just made me so happy. For mostly personal reasons, I'm aware, but the themes really resonated with me. And the singing. That made me cry.

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jane 4 years, 3 months ago

The tropes around disability didn't come up in the panel discussions, unfortunately.

BTW, I really liked Ada, especially the uncorking of her rage at all the injustice meted out to her over her life -- and which is set up by her startling tenderness towards "her monster." Stirling's performance was absolutely stellar.

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Corpus Christi Music Scene 4 years, 3 months ago

I dont find the 45 minute format too problematic but I wonder if the show wouldnt better be served as a full hour , the length afforded to the specials and other BBC dramas such as Luther , Ripper St, Good Cop, etc. Of course those dramas probably cost less overall , so if DW went to an hour there would probably be a reduction in episodes.

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Bennett 4 years, 3 months ago

Spacewarp - it's great to see someone tracking the widening gap between Overnights and Finals, rather than leaping on initial figures as 'validation'.

However, as a dyed-in-the-wool Maths pedant I have to add that by not starting your vertical axis at 0 your graph actually exaggerates the proportional difference between successive series. Which has been surprisingly minor considering the revived series is now into its 9th year, and the continuing emergence of alternate sources of entertainment.

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Froborr 4 years, 3 months ago

I completely agree with bbqplatypus on this, except about "Cold War." I read the whole back half of Series 7 as being about past Doctors, one Doctor per episode in sequence starting with the First Doctor and "Rings of Akhaten." Read that way, "Cold War" is BY FAR the most successful at capturing the essence of an era; it's pure Troughton. ("The Crimson Horror," on the other hand, manages to both be a solid Davison call-back and a great Smith episode in its own right.)

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Froborr 4 years, 3 months ago

I haven't been reading others' comments, so some of this may repeat what others have said...

I want to love the Moffat era. Series 5 was brilliant, as was the first half of Series 6, in my opinion. But it's getting harder and harder to overlook his sexism, and what's worse is he's turning the Doctor into a sexist, not to mention a 12-year-old boy who oscillates rapidly between being scared of girl cooties and wanting to snog anything with tits. (It could also be read as him liking to kiss women but hating when they kiss him, which is if anything worse.)

Structurally speaking, he's got a serious problem sticking his landings, too. The problem with The Wedding of River Song isn't that it's a shaggy dog story, it's that it turned the entirety of Season 6 into a shaggy dog story (though admittedly Let's Kill Hitler had already partially accomplished that.)

Now he's building up a mystery ("Doctor who?) that even the audience doesn't want answered, and there's no way to NOT make it a shaggy dog story.

A short shaggy dog story is mildly annoying but can still be entertaining if well done. A shaggy dog story that spans two seasons? Yeah, I can understand why he gets hate.

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Theonlyspiral 4 years, 3 months ago

It's Troughten with a key difference: the Monster survives at the end.

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Froborr 4 years, 3 months ago

Also, that would make it unsellable in the U.S. market, which it's been courting so aggressively the last couple of years. For whatever reason, unlike the rest of the world, U.S. programming DOES NOT EVER start at any time other than the hour or half hour, so with 16 minutes of commercials an hour, the amount of cutting necessary appalling.

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Froborr 4 years, 3 months ago

I should say, most of the actual episodes in Season 7 have been decent to good, it's just the "arc" elements and the near-certainty that the payoff will be a letdown that have been hurting it. In terms of actual quality of individual episodes, Season 6B seems to have been the nadir, and even that had some good episodes.

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Bennett 4 years, 3 months ago

In the abstract, I have no problem with people feeling the need to vent the bile building up within them (hell, I'm doing it right now). And it's easy enough to avoid the dark corners of the Internet that breed these terrible things.

But I am concerned with how this continued hypercriticism of the show affects....

1) the not-we whose Facebook and Twitter accounts get bombarded by vicious criticism every time Doctor Who airs.

2) the people behind-the-scenes, who seem to genuinely put their heart and soul into making their work the best it can possibly be...only to have it ruthlessly picked apart by its 'fans'.


And what irks me the most is when people defend their targeted abuse of Moffat along the lines of "Well, it happened to RTD".

Yes it did. And it was wrong. It was wrong then, it's wrong now, and it will be wrong when the next showrunner comes along.

Fandom needs to admit that it's made a terrible mistake. The enemy isn't sitting in a Cardiff office, it's locked in here with us.

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Theonlyspiral 4 years, 3 months ago

If Wedding of River Song is enough to wreck "The Girl Who Waited", "The God Complex", "Closing Time" and "The Doctor's Wife" then you must have a great deal invested in it...

And while his politics might not be perfect...he's better than most writers in Television. I've mentioned this before the Moff's politics have come up but he's trying hard. For a dude with significant privilege he's trying his best. I would never describe the 11th Doctor as wanting to snog anything that moves. He's an alien, and has a very alien way of looking at things. His relationship with River shifts because he finds out more about her and him and how they interact.

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Theonlyspiral 4 years, 3 months ago

We were the monsters all along...

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BatmanAoD 4 years, 3 months ago

You hated Hide? What ever for? I mean, it did set up a fantastic opportunity to pass the Bechdel Criterion and then fail spectacularly, but overall I think I'd say it's one of my favorite episodes from the last two seasons.

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Corpus Christi Music Scene 4 years, 3 months ago

Well they pulled it off throughout the gap year and all of the Xmas specials so it doesnt seem impossible. It could be a remedy to those who hate 45ers and those who feel that 2 parters are too long. In fact they could put it into an hour and a half block which would give them 30 minutes for commercials annoying as that would be.

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Corpus Christi Music Scene 4 years, 3 months ago

Not implying that they should listen to fan gripes in anyway tho.

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Froborr 4 years, 3 months ago

I am one of those people who believes an ending recontextualizes everything that came before it, yes. Addressed in isolation, all four of the episodes you note are excellent, and I'd add the Day of the Moon two-parter and A Good Man Goes to War to the list of Good Season 6 episodes as well. But that's in isolation; addressed as an organic whole, Season 6 is a hot mess, and the damage is done entirely by Let's Kill Hitler and The Wedding of River Song.

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Corpus Christi Music Scene 4 years, 3 months ago

Well said

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Theonlyspiral 4 years, 3 months ago

Even had "The Wedding of River Song" been completely unwatchable, Timelash/Fear Her/Celestial Toymaker bad...it doesn't take away from the pile of good things in the slightest. I still cry when Idris dies, I still cheer when Craig kills of the Cybermen (in their best appearance since the Tenth Planet). While I don't deny that there is a reading where the entire season is a Shaggy Dog story, there is another where it consistently achieves excellence and surpasses many previous series in terms of quality. I'll be honest, I think season 7 has been the best season of Doctor Who ever. There is one episode I don't consider tip top (Snowmen) and even if Nightmare in Silver and The Name of the Doctor turn it into another shaggy dog story, it won't make what I've gotten so far any less awesome.

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Darren K. 4 years, 3 months ago

Theonlyspiral - "Well yes. That happens when you produce bad television, consistently. People get annoyed." That's the noise. Empty. A strange babbling with nothing behind it. No content to the criticism. Presented as if fact with no attempt to justify the statement.

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Froborr 4 years, 3 months ago

Hmm, we clearly have very different views on the quality of Season 7B, I found The Snowmen passable, Akhenaton sub-par, Cold War and Hide solid, and Journey to the Center of the TARDIS was everything I don't like about the Moffat era in a tidy package and wrapped up in a literal-reset-button-flavored bow. The Crimson Horror was quite good, though. I have high hopes for next week, and none whatsoever for the finale.

Now that I think about it, though, I don't think it's anything as sophisticated as whether I treat seasons as sets of episodes or coherent structures or what have you. It's more purely emotional than that, because now that you lay it out I can see that Season 6B had, out of 6 episodes, 2 bad, 2 excellent, and 2 pretty good.

The problem is *which* two were bad. Specifically, it was the two which were built up to, the two regarding which promises were made, and which failed to live up to those promises, namely Let's Kill Hitler and Wedding of River Song.

So I ended Season 6 wary and distrustful--but then I thought, hey, Christmas special. Moffat nailed his first one with the only actually good Christmas special Doctor Who has ever had, so he has a chance to regain my trust with--wait, no, The Doctor, The Widow, and the Wardrobe. Never mind.

And then the first half of season 7 wasn't bad at all, and I think, okay, the Moff's still got it... but another extremely lackluster Christmas special, and another pair of teasing mysteries that I know won't go anywhere interesting, and now we're five episodes into 7B and there's been one genuinely good (but not great) ep and two that I can kind of squint and find a read that makes me like them...

Quite simply, I don't hate Moffat. I don't even hate most of the episodes of his run. But I don't trust him. With Davies I went in expecting the episode to be good, and was occasionally disappointed. With Moffat, I no longer have that expectation.

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BerserkRL 4 years, 3 months ago

The phone call is coming from inside the house!

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T. Hartwell 4 years, 3 months ago

I'll be honest, as much as I'm a proponent of the "Series 7b is about past eras" theory, I didn't quite see how Crimson Horror resembled a Davison-era story. Anyone care to elaborate on that point?

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T. Hartwell 4 years, 3 months ago

"These aren't turkeys -- which is more than we can say for much of the fare of the 70s."

I'm all for not fetishizing the past, but I think this is a bit unfair. At least 5 of the seasons in the 70s are brilliant, IMO, and another 3 are solidly competent. There were certainly some turkeys (and three seasons that didn't really have a lot to offer despite some gems) but I think the good did outweigh a lot of the bad at that point in the show.

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Spacewarp 4 years, 3 months ago

@Bennett

At the risk of turning this into the GB Ratings Thread!

Re: Axis crossing at 5M rather than zero. There didn't seem much point including 0-5 on the graph since no Who story had ever dropped below that, so it was esssentially "dead" space (although I've had to revise it down to 4.5 for the past couple of stories!).

I take your point though, so here's the graph crossing at zero. It does flatten things out a bit, though not really by much, and it essentially shows that fan perspective ("ratings are plummetting! Moffat Must Go!") is highly subjective and not really borne out by the fact that the UK public still likes Dr Who as much as it did almost 10 years ago.

www.spacewarp.co.uk/RatingsZero.jpg

And regarding Timeshifts since 2005, I think this shows that we live in interesting times:

www.spacewarp.co.uk/Timeshift.jpg

These are very simple calculations, I only use the Finals and Overnights, I don't touch or iPlayer or BBC3 Repeats, as the point of the exercise is to compare Who to itself since 2005 and I don't want to muddy the water.

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bbqplatypus318 4 years, 3 months ago

If anything, "The Crimson Horror" is an obvious riff on "Talons of Weng-Chiang." Which is right in Gatiss's wheelhouse.

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Spacewarp 4 years, 3 months ago

One of the newer aspects of the series since 2005 is the increased investment in the companion's backstory. Rather than picking her up out of her time and effectively snipping off her past, RTD kept Rose (and the series) grounded in her relationship to her family and her home. He continued this to a lesser extent with Martha and her warring parents, and then with Donna and her mum and grandad. This of course was an element of the series that some fans complained about and labelled "Soap".

Moffat appeared to continue with this tradition with Amy and her ties to Leadworth and her long-standing boyfriend Rory. However by Series 7 you realise that now they're both travelling with the Doctor, their connections to their past are far less influential than Rose's. After bringing back Amy's parents in "Big Bang", we've never seen or hear of them again, and even Rory's Dad is more a comedy sidekick than a reality-grounding.

Clara appears to be even more in the "companion default" mode. We've seen her parents in establishing flashback, but again unlike Rose or Martha she does not interact with them now, and their presence (or lack of it) doesn't inform her emotional choices while travelling with the Doctor.

Ironically now that we've moved away from the "soap" elements of RTD Who, there are complaints that the series has less "heart" than previously, and that Clara is a cypher overshadowed by her Plot.

Fans, eh?

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Daru 4 years, 3 months ago

Hi jane - I always enjoy and read your take on things. i have SUCH a busy life (I am a Forest Schools Practitioner, Professional Storyteller & Support Worker) that I just cannot comment as much as I intend. I dip in when I can though.

But yes - I am really loving the visual, visceral and emotional exploration of death and ascension in this current run too.

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Daru 4 years, 3 months ago

Yeah Bennet ! Well said. We are the lunatics in the asylum...

I have skipped much of the comments around the hate-Vs-non-hate debate, and yeah sadly a lot of the other interesting points that Philip made have been ignored. I do not have the skills to work in TV and take my hat off to all of the folk pouring out the creativity into a show such as this. i am sure that I barely grasp how much work it is.

Rob - if you are reading. Never met you but you are indeed one of the most gracious and funny chaps I have heard. Always enjoy hearing your interviews. I live up in Scotland and heard that you became the writer in residence for Napier University - used to work there for 2 years assisting a blind student who as well as becoming a great friend was a great outlet for a bit of Who-Geekery. have considered taking up some study of my own there.

And everyone - yes do listen to VERITY! This podcast is wonderful and offers a much wider fan perspective than normal (and one of them is Scottish like me!). Listen to it, oh do listen as these women are very erudite and fun too.

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Lewis Christian 4 years, 3 months ago

Just throwing this into the mix:

As well as the Pond Problem, there's also the Dalek Forget Problem at the end of Asylum which, for me reduces the episode a lot.

I get it's to do with the 'Doctor who?' arc but, c'mon, they won't be forgetting for long. The Doctor can now stroll around and they won't have a clue who he is, drama lost.

Surely, and I've said this since day one - surely it'd be more dramatic to have the Doctor forget the Daleks. Go right back to square one. And he's always in danger, even when he doesn't know it.

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Prole Hole 4 years, 3 months ago

Late to the discussion here, as ever it was, and going back up the thread a bit to the point which was made about " non-Fan mainstream reviews are also demonstrating a level of disappoint with the series that we haven't previously seen", but for those interested in Doctor Who reviews which are as balanced, fair and non-fan-politics as one could hope for, can I suggest checking out the AV Club Doctor Who write-ups for the current season? Not much sign of growing dissatisfaction there (as well as the fact that they are excellent reviews, I must admit full disclosure that I'm a very regular regular over there, and indeed found my way here from there). Worth checking out, if you're interested in such things.

http://www.avclub.com/tvclub/tvshow/doctor-who,41/

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Lewis Christian 4 years, 3 months ago

The damage in Series 6 begins at the end of 'Day of the Moon'.

Summary:

There's a child, lost, wandering the streets of New York. The Doctor? "Nah, ignore her for a bit, let's go on adventures!" (The last four words are actually his.) What a d*ck.

Then we have A Good Man which tries *so hard* to be epic whilst failing. "This is the Doctor's darkest hour. He'll rise so high and fall the furthest he's ever fallen." Really, River? The Time War, for a start? Wiping out Skaro? Not to mention the 'Doctor as a soldier/weapon' was already done in Series 4, however good or bad you think it was handled.

Let's Kill Hitler. The slippery slide started here for me, primarily. Mels, a character we've never even heard about before, pops up and we're expected to care about her life story in a five minute montage. Then at the end, River redeems herself and changes her mind about the Doctor in literally less than 10 minutes. It's just far too much too fast. That could've easily been a two-parter.

Throw in the fact that, following this, Amy and Rory never really give a toss about baby Melody. "Oh, we've seen River. She's grown up, obviously was fine as a kid, let's not even *ask* the Doctor if it'd be possible to find her as a child to keep an eye on her."

They couldn't alter time, naturally, but they'd at least ask. Or beg. It's their little child! What's worse is Night Terrors - an okay story but one revolving around a small child and parenthood. Amy and Rory don't even flinch. It's *so* badly handled. If you're going to do a 'baby kidnap' plot, at least mention it a few times. It's almost as if Moffat thought it'd be good drama, to then ignore the aftermath.

Series 6 then finishes with another rushed story, and just isn't too satisfying. The arc is wrapped up decently, but half of us guessed the outcome. (Flesh or Teselecta. You decide.) And then there's the frankly tedious Christmas special.

Series 7... the divorce which comes from nowhere (even in the Pond Life prequel), the inclusion of Rory's dad for two episodes before he's just abandoned (speaking of parents, there isn't even a nod towards Amy's parents in Series 7. Y'know, the ones which were sort've pivotal to her main character arc in Series 5.)

I know I've been highly negative here. But they're my main flaws and faults with the era (specifically the River/Pond arc) since Series 6. I should point out that I adore the opening of Series 6, I love The Doctor's Wife, A Good Man is at least visually striking and fun, The Girl Who Waited is a masterpiece, The God Complex is good, and Closing Time is excellent.

Hence my point - stories good, arc not so.

Yeah. I've rambled.

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Sabrina 4 years, 3 months ago

I wish more ebook versions of Robert Shearman's books were available. It seems Love Songs for the Shy and Cynical, Tiny Deaths and Everyone's Just So So Special are beyond my reach, but I can get Remember Why You Fear Me.

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jane 4 years, 3 months ago

Sure, there's plenty of brilliant stuff in the 70's, but...

...but the thing is, if we're going to say the likes of Night Terrors, Cold War, and Crimson Horror is the weakest in Moffat's run (debatable in itself) it just goes to show how strong this era is. There's no Monster of Peladon here, no Android Invasion, no Invisible Enemy or Revenge of the Cybermen or Armageddon Factor. Nothing so inconsistent like Time Monster, or as flat as Sea Devils. No flat-out dogs like Underworld, no endless series of capture/escape like Frontier in Space, no ghastly camp disaster like Horns of Nimon.

Now, I'll have a hard time defending Victory of the Daleks, on many fronts, but since then Gatiss's work has consistently improved, even showing a receptivity to the kind of critique that matters to readers of the Eruditorum. Can we say the same about Baker and Martin, or even bloody Terry Nation?

It just boggles my mind -- the low points of the current run are still better than a good third (if not more) of the 70s. And the 70s were brilliant!

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Forrest Leeson 4 years, 3 months ago

"So... his name's Brian?"

JoHn W.H. Smith

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Froborr 4 years, 3 months ago

Other than the obvious Tegan references, mostly I see it as Davison-esque because of the fact that the Doctor spends the first half of the story incapacitated, and then violence solves everything.

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brownstudy 4 years, 3 months ago

Jane -- THANK YOU so much for expressing so well how I feel about the series. I'm simply grateful that we have so many good *new* shows to watch, re-watch, and enjoy. By the next time Doctor Who goes off the air for a span of years, we'll look back on this era as a golden age.

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brownstudy 4 years, 3 months ago

"You mightn't agree with the conclusions but that's not necessary for them to be valid."

Are the conclusions valid? That would be the first question to ask.

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T. Hartwell 4 years, 3 months ago

Okay, yeah, that makes much more sense.




Though I'm increasingly depressed by the fact I'm the only one that seems to be willing to defend Armageddon Factor...

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inkdestroyedmybrush 4 years, 3 months ago

Thankfully Jane is here to say all the things that i didn't get to say from yesterday.

There is a simply stunning amount of vitrol directed at the series right now, and while there are certain legitimate complaints, it mainly comes down to, "this isn't how I like my Doctor Who." And you're right, this is Doctor who for 2013, and in 2011 when everyone complained that the character arcs are too long and continuted, they are likely the same ones not liking the 13 stand alone episodes format either. And i want to scream at these fans and let them know that Lambert/Letts/Hinchcliffe/JNT/RTD aren't coming back. Years from now, we will look back at this era with its distinct style of storytelling and see it very clearly for both its strengths and weaknesses, but it will involve a lot less apologizing and hand wringing than trying to defend The invisible Enemy or Arc of Infinity.

Re: the 45 minute format. I've said before that instead of invoking episode numbers, i prefer to see it as minutes on screen, minutes to develop a certain amount of characters, ideas, action sequences, and resolutions. This is the same amount as the sontaran experiment and Black orchid. The angel two parter in Smith's first season was, essentially, The ARk in Space. Similar number of plot beats. The essential weakness in the four parters, most people would point out, was the run around in episode three, before they solve things in episode 4. Which accounted for the same "treading water" feeling at the beginning of part 2 of the Flesh two parter. In today's compressed storytelling world, more is getting done with the 45 minutes, but not the level of depth that you would get from 90.

Seriously, the hate has to go. Smith is brilliant, and just kicking everyone out after 3 years really doesn't give us enough time to dig deeper and enjoy the Doctors that we've been fortunate enough to cast. I do so hope that we get a 4th season from Matt.

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Ununnilium 4 years, 3 months ago

I'm gonna throw in with Jane on this one. <3

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William Silvia 4 years, 1 month ago

Guess that idea died before it had the chance to get off the ground. Can't say Matt didn't have his run, though.

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