In response to ‘Day of the Moon’
So… the Doctor is now turned on by talking about shooting people and is happy to shake hands with a genocidal mass murderer. Meanwhile, he hypnotises the entire human race into becoming unthinking, automatic killers in order to wipe out a race who stand around in corners doing nothing.
Of course, we know they’re evil (and thus deserve it) because they’re ugly. And say generic evil things. And killed a lady in a toilet once for no reason at all.
I can handle the Doctor having a different morality. Shaking hands with Nixon (who was, by the way, as fascinating and complex as he was despicable… not that you’d know it from watching this) and utilising him as an ally…. yeah, okay. The Doc’s an alien. He’s not Noam Chomsky (not that one should need to be).
The trouble is that Moffat evidently has no awareness of any kind of the queasiness (to put it mildly) inherent in a largely neutral portrayal (some digs about tapes and being “tricky” aside) of a man who conspired to sabotage peace talks in order to get elected and dropped tonnes of bombs (not to mention flaming glue) on a nation of poor peasants.
I mean, Moffat gets that Nixon was a bit right-wing… but this is expressed in a scene where his eyes boggle at the idea of an FBI officer having a boyfriend. In other words, it’s a cultural problem. The mass murder is not on the radar.
“There are no monsters in the Oval office” said Nixon in that prologue thing. Even I thought that just HAD to be intended as ironic or double edged in some way. That it just HAD to be leading to some kind of criticism of the man. What a fool I was.
I’m not going to launch a rant about US Imperialism… but America is, and was then, an empire.
Moffat fails to notice this. Okay, maybe that’s not what the story is about… except that the story isn’t just about ‘America’ as a culture or a nation of people. (In fact, the American people barely figure at all.) It’s focused on the American President. The American Government. The American military-industrial complex. The American federal law-enforcement service. And so on. They all feature. Much more than ANY other aspect of America.
Moffat even mentions Rome. An empire. Is a parallel drawn? Even obliquely? Nope. It ain’t even on the radar. In a story in which the Doctor explicitly (and fatuously) talks about “leading a revolution” against “the Romans”, the Doctor ends up shaking hands with Nixon.
Do I want Doctor Who to be left-wing propaganda for kids? No, of course not. That isn’t what I’m saying. But pardon me if I can’t resist remarking on the sheer mindless complacency of what I just saw. The writer’s sheer unawareness of even the vaguest of issues raised by the semiotics that he’s playing with.
To move beyond the more predictable (for me) political whinges…
It’s quite an achievement… to fill 45 minutes with the breezy, showoffish, tricksy manipulation of plot images and motifs, and to:
a) create not one of them… that’s NOT ONE… that was vaguely original, that hadn’t been seen or done somewhere else before,
b) to include not one… that’s NOT ONE… actual, distinct, discernible IDEA.
Remember how The X Files was only any bloody good when it was a “monster of the week” episode? When it was telling self-contained little gothic tales (which, if you were very lucky, were based on one-off notions and concepts)? When it wasn’t serving up yet another dose of tedious, drawn-out, obviously-made-up-on-the-fly, cryptic, overcomplicated story-arc, designed to raise unresolved plot points that would dribble on for ages and drag the audience all the way through the season because they wanted to find out about Scully’s baby/cancer/memory/whatever?
Well, ‘Day of the Moon’ isn’t just very, very, VERY much like The X Files because it is composed almost entirely of old hat, deeply 90s, reheated alien abduction/government conspiracy kitsch (garnished with tiresome quips). It’s also like The X Files in conspiracy-arc mode (and Babylon 5 and all that pompous, overblown, cult shite that RTD snubbed so deliciously and tragically briefly in 2005) because it contains no ideas… and yet still has the audacity to announce that you must watch the rest of the series in order to understand it. It isn’t just that there are dangling threads or curious lingering questions. It’s not that there’s another segment of the Key to Time still to find, or that you’re beginning to wonder what all this “Bad Wolf” stuff means. In ‘Day of the Moon’, you’re actually not given anything like a self-contained story. You MUST watch more episodes before you will be allowed any kind of explanation for major plot elements of the two-parter you’ve just completed!
Of course, we’re still going to get “monster of the week” weeks. We may even get some decent ones. But they will be diversions from the big, continuing, bloated, constantly self-deferring, idealess story-arc.
The really bleak irony here is that Moffat so obviously imagines that his stories are packed with ideas. He’s that blind. To the point where he’s actually prepared to insert a reference to “dwarf star alloy”.
He inserts this reference – to one of the most idea-packed, conceptually adventurous, pointed, thoughtful and visually arresting stories of the classic series… a story that was actually part of a mini story-arc comprised of three self-contained and individually satisfying narratives! – into a scene in which the Doctor is being held captive by the American government at Area 51.
I mean… Area 51? Area 51???
I fucking ask you.