Beds and Wardrobes (1/2) Meta (contains spoilers up to TBB)

In which I discourse at length (and in two parts) about Disney movies of my childhood, Eleven and Amy, RTD vs Moff (love them both) and anything else that comes into my head. But mostly, Disney movies and Amy.

I had a strange reaction to TBB – well, I had more than one, but the one I’ve been thinking the most about was the feeling of surprise, “Hey, Moffat did emotion – and it wasn’t that bad!”

And I thought it would be interesting to unpack that a little bit…


I had a strange reaction to TBB – well, I had more than one, but the one I’ve been thinking the most about was the feeling of surprise, “Hey, Moffat did emotion – and it wasn’t that bad!”

 

And I thought it would be interesting to unpack that a little bit and ask myself when I got the idea that Moffat doesn’t do emotion – after all, he wrote, “Everybody lives!” and all the Reinette stuff and River Song was emoting all over the place in her two-parter. Even Blink, that pinnacle of cerebral Who, had a quiet but deeply moving scene where Billy died in the hospital, and Sally just went to the window and looked out at the rain for a minute. Well, it moved me.

But people have been saying, “I just don’t feel the emotional connection with Eleven/Amy that I did with Ten/insert companion of choice,” – and I know exactly what they mean. I feel bereft in exactly the same way, so much so that last night I stayed up late wallowing (there’s no other word for it, really) in lovely Rose/Ten fanart on DA, and got myself quite depressed. It might be early days, but I share that sadness. Really, I do. I was head-over-heels in love with RTD’s show and even when the first gloss of that love began to fade, I didn’t want to let it go. I still think back to the times it left me walking on air, like the end of TIP (oh God, that hug!) and, strangely, walking back from seeing Hamlet at the Courtyard Theatre in August 2008 (by then the distinction between David Tennant and Who was more than a little blurry in my mind).

RTD’s Who was an emotional wringer – I remember the extremes now, both good and bad and, you know what, I actually feel kind of relieved to be just enjoying Doctor Who again.

I want to stop a minute and compare RTD and SM – their visions, their techniques and their style. Please, let’s not start mud-slinging. I can see good – and bad – in both – and I salute both of them for the extraordinarily difficult job they’ve done/are doing, much better than any of us could.

It’s a bit like this – you’re on a diet and you make yourself a lovely healthy salad for lunch with loving care – something like spinach fresh from the garden and roast sweet potato with balsamic vinaigrette (it’s only your first day and you’re still motivated). You eat it slowly, savouring every mouthful and at the end, a tad self-righteously, you think eating good, healthy stuff is actually okay – you won’t miss the chocolate brownies at all if you make that sort of effort with every meal, and it seems like a no-brainer.

That’s Moffat’s Who. RTD’s is when you order the most decadent Death by Chocolate concoction on the menu and wolf it down and you can already feel the headache forming behind your eyebrows and you know you’ll feel shit tomorrow but boy, was it good, and it’s not as if you eat like that every meal, is it? If you did, you’d have a problem.

Okay, that’s an over-simplification, but you get the idea. RTD is a visceral writer. He revels in appetite and excess. His Master eats a whole turkey. His aliens are farting Slitheen or bouncy trampolines. He’s an adult who refuses to act his age a lot of the time and a tiny bit of us (the sort that relates to Homer Simpson or Peter Griffin) wants to be that warm and gross and uninhibited, or at least watch someone else being it. He does what he wants to do, the minute he wants to do it, just because he can. Ooh look, the TARDIS in a stained glass window! Doctor Dobby Jesus! Why? ‘Cos I felt like it. I wanted to.

He’s a child of the baby boomer generation – I want it all and I want it now. Deferred gratification? This is the man who’s still writing scripts the night before the first Tone Meeting and needed sixty cigarettes to get through editing The Poison Sky. He writes a beautiful, perfectly-pitched gut-puncher finale like Doomsday and then he can’t leave it there – his Doctor’s an emotional basket case for the next two seasons and then, just because it’s such fun to write, we get the ecstatic reunion scene and then more sledgehammer tragedy. It doesn’t have to hang together emotionally. It’s just what RTD loves to do.

I know this sounds like having a go but it’s not. I couldn’t hate the man who gave us the Doctor and Rose in love and all the joy that brought to me and many others. RTD is one of these people who makes all the colours brighter, the music louder, life more fun – watching his stuff is like being in the first mad throes of love, and it’s no wonder he wrote about Casanova and then got him to play the Doctor. Who wouldn’t want to eat Death By Chocolate or be head over heels in love? Even the bad bits afterwards are a perverse part of the joy of being involved in something so head-on.

Tennant and RTD are a perfect fit. Though Ten doesn’t verbalise deep emotion (unlike everything else that happens to him), David Tennant is emotionally transparent. In fact there are usually so many emotions flying about on that ultra-sensitive face of his, you don’t know where to start. He doesn’t just show his feelings, he transmits them the way a nuclear bomb gives off radiation. You’ll burn up if you stand too close. His Doctor is Mister Farenheit burning at the speed of light and telling us all about it. Though he denies himself his hearts’ desire, there are many other occasions when he just leaps in and grabs what he wants and to hell with the consequences.  Reaming out Harriet Jones, breaking the Laws of Time on Bowie Base, running off with Reinette and thinking he can bring her back for a TARDIS houseparty, viciously punishing the Family…impulsive, what? He steamrollers through life leaving horrible messes behind him for other people to clear away (Jack, for instance) – he can’t just regenerate, he has to blow up the whole bloody TARDIS. He’s a Doctor for the now generation, the first one to grow up believing they were entitled to a higher living standard and a longer retirement than their kids, the Silver Surfer’s who blow their kids’ inheritance, or more accurately, the Silver Surfer wannabees. He’s outrageous, extravagant in both his happiness and his anguish, and terribly high-maintenance but Gawd, how we love him.

And finally he’s gone, and we’re gutted and exhausted and perhaps a little relieved, and along comes Matt Smith and a very different Doctor – one that references the command-and-control generation with his tweedy elbow-patched jacket and his terribly British way of saying, “It was a bad day. I’d rather not talk about it.” And people cry, “But that’s the Time War he’s talking about – he can’t act! Moffat can’t write!” –  forgetting that if the Doctor had ever told the Brigadier how he’d blown up Gallifrey, the Brig would have said, “Good Lord. Bad show all round, by the sound of things, old chap,” and that would not have meant the Brig wasn’t appalled and didn’t care.

I mentioned childhood. It’s hugely important to both RTD and SM and the way they envision the show’s appeal, but I think they approach it in very different ways. For RTD, the pleasure is that of being the kid in the toyshop, running around going “Ooh, shiny, let’s press that big red button!” It’s being grown up but retaining the appetite and the immediacy of a child – living in the moment, which leads to contradictory statements like “Basically, it’s a show about a man who just loves his life,” when we’ve all seen Ten seriously contemplate offing himself in six consecutive episodes. If you’re a big kid, both statements can be true, sometimes simultaneously.

Moff’s vision of childhood, however, is from the outside. It’s all about nostalgia and that fey, slightly creepy wistfulness that British fantasy excels at. Look at Amy’s world. Can you imagine Amelia (the very name’s old-fashioned) on a Play Station or even with a TV in her bedroom? No, she’s the introverted only child surrounded by books and make-believe, making her paper Doctors and dressing up. When Eleven re-encounters her, she really is dressed up, but in a slightly pervy way. She’s reached the Age of Not Believing, trying to affect an adult cynicism that doesn’t quite convince.

This little number from “Bedknobs and Broomsticks” is the perfect song for Amy:

 

When you rush around in hopeless circles

Searching ev’rywhere for something true

You’re at the age of not believing

When all the “make believe” is through

 

When you set aside your childhood heroes

And your dreams are lost up on a shelf

You’re at the age of not believing

And worst of all you doubt yourself

You’re a castaway where no one hears you

On a barren isle in a lonely sea

Where did all the happy endings go?

Where can all the good times be?

 

You must face the age of not believing

Doubting ev’rything you ever knew

Until at last you start believing

There’s something wonderful…

Truly wonderful in you….

 

(R Sherman)

 

See what I mean?  But the Doctor will soon fix that. He’s grown-up enough for them both, and off they go:

Up you go with a high and ho to the stars

Beyond the blue!

There’s a Never land waiting for you

Where all your happy dreams come true

Every dream that you wish will come true

 

When there’s a smile in your heart

There’s no better time to start

Think of all the joy you’ll find

When you leave the world behind and bid your cares goodbye!

You can fly! You can fly! You can fly!

 

(Lyrics by Sammy Cahn)

 

And there we’ll leave Amy for now, whizzing through the stars in her nightie evoking more childhood memories than I can count…until tomorrow, when I’ll say a bit more about her and her Doctor.

Part Two – My Friend the Doctor

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54 thoughts on “Beds and Wardrobes (1/2) Meta (contains spoilers up to TBB)

  1. Excellent post
    I’ve been reading your blog for, like, 8 months. Excellent, EXCELLENT, blog; intelligent, insightful and beautifully written. From the day I saw The Christmas Invasion and was blown away by it, I knew Doctor Who was something special which sooner or later would inspire exceptional writers to write exceptional stuff. Like yours.

  2. This? Is perfect. The difference between RTD’s and Moffat’s styles is something I’ve been mulling over and planning to write about, too, but you’ve just saved me the bother, because I think you’ve hit the nail on the head.
    I know that we’re only two episodes into the new regime, but I was watching a repeat from S3 last night on TV – it was bloody Daleks in Manhattan for Gawd’s sake, so not a great episode by any standards – but you know what really hit me? (More than that, really, I felt it like a punch to the gut). The sheer energy that’s on that damn screen from the moment Ten steps out of the TARDIS. He’s a force of nature – and how much of that is David Tennant and how much is down to his ability as an actor, I have no idea (although having seen him on stage, I suspect the former!)
    I’ve already begun to think that, while I wasn’t keen on the emotional mangle that Ten was continually put through, I’m rather more in tune with RTD’s style overall. You used a food analogy – I’ll use a musical one (because that’s my thing) – it’s like the difference between Mozart and Beethoven. Their music is beautiful and can move me to tears – but Mozars is cerebral and elegant, whereas Beethoven is like a freak storm, bashing the life out of pianos, wringing every last drop of emotion out of the listener.
    They’re both wonderful. But different, and there’s absolutely no mistaking one for the other (in their mature works).
    On the one hand, like you, I’m sort of relieved not to be worrying about what horrors are going to be thrown at my poor Doctor next week. But on the other – I miss him like hell.

  3. I think I love you, this is the best analysis of the different styles I’ve read. And that song is…perfect. Stunningly perfect actually, it could have been written about Amy/Amelia
    Of course, understanding the difference in styles doesn’t necessarily help that much to work your way through them to find a way to be happy with both. The trouble for me is, whilst I adore Moffat and Smith, having wallowed in the emotional fury of RTD’s Doctor Who for so many years, along with the wild madness of Tennant, it’s rather hard to adapt to the more reserved series that comes with Moffat. It’s still fantastic and wonderful and beautifully written and acted, but it’s such a contrast to everything that I’m used to in Doctor Who it’s hard to adjust to the change.
    But I am absolutely going to do my best to get used to it because once I have, I’m sure I’m going to love it. Possibly more than I ever have before.

  4. This is definitely the best description of both RTD’s and Moffat’s that I have read. I particularly like the descriptions of Ten as fun but high-maintenance; I hadn’t though of it like that, but now I can see that as one of the reasons I’m happy to welcome a Doctor that spends less time angst-sploding all over the screen every week!

  5. This, somehow, managed to make me see what it is really that I’m feeling. I know that doesn’t make sense, but that’s why, although I’m already loving the new series, I feel that little bit empty about it all, as its the same show, but its not, its so different, and while I think its a good thing (I know it is) at the back of my mind there’s something hollow, something missing. And you put it into words. So thank you. I think the others who commented really said it for me. 🙂

  6. This is a great analysis of RTD and Moffat. RTD is an indulgent person, and that really comes through in his writing. I remember him talking about a scene he wrote – unfortunately, I can’t remember exactly which one it was – but he said, ‘I thought, can’t I allow myself that one bit of indulgence? Can’t I?’ and I thought, that’s probably the exact same thing he says to himself while eating chocolate cake.
    Moffat on the other hand, I think, thinks more about his audience than himself. He wants a specific kind of reaction from the audience [fear, surprise, revelation], and crafts his episodes around that. when he does that well, it’s awesome, and when he does that not so well, it’s a bit of a mess.

  7. This was incredible, thank you. What a beautiful analysis of both writers, as well as the character of the Doctor. The combination between Russell and David was beautiful in the sheer emotional roller coaster that’s enough to give whiplash and leave (at least me) crying from laughter at one minute and sobbing by the end of the episode. And, thank you for letting me know exactly what it is about Ten that we all are missing so much.

  8. Silver Surfer–will have to think about that, because I usually think of the Silver Surfer as a fey creature rather in the Moffat style.
    I think you’re a bit hard on Moffat. That is, not if we only look at his 2 season 5 episodes, which don’t exactly pull out all the stops. But it’s still early days, and we are still having a bit of Ten withdrawal.
    I didn’t warm to Tennant fast–it took me a while to get over Eccleston, who was such a towering, authoritative Doctor. So I am taking my time with Eleven. He’s a bit young, a bit preppie, but I suspect a deep and abiding anger in him that should be interesting. It won’t be Tennant, and it probably won’t be the angstfest I’d like, but I look forward to a long, slow arc of revelation about this young, confident, and impatient fellow.
    I’m intrigued by what Moffat is doing with his interest in childhood. Yes, it is expressed in fairytales and a shift of focus to the younger audience. But it doesn’t feel to me at arm’s length; rather, I think Moffat is taking his time with Eleven, and filling in with incident in the meantime. Also, the adult anger is somewhat masked by what Amy calls Eleven’s kindness–which is directed exclusively to children. I think if Eleven could have taken 7-year-old Amelia into space as his Companion, he’d have preferred her to Amy. But he’s been warned: he needs a Companion adult enough to intervene with him; it’s dangerous for him to go without one. Yet I get the sense that he resents Amy–or his need of her–in a way that Ten never did; he’s closer to Nine that way.

  9. Dammit, posting glitches. The first half of my message got deleted, which was: Thank you for this lovely post. I really look forward to reading what you’ve written about Hamlet. I liked the link of Ten to the Silver Surfer…

  10. This is just wonderful. I have been feeling EXACTLY this – and to be honest, trying to batten it down. I know exactly what you mean about Tennant’s emotional transparency. You got all that warmth and decency and pain and grieving and joy and curiousity just.. showered over you. I even miss RTD’s primary colours and over the top music. I am a bit of an over the top person myself, I guess, and though I have always loved Moffatt’s technical brilliance and precision and structure and incredibly well thought out one liners .. he does not have the heart of RTD’s Who. I miss it. Tonight I watched a bit of the worst Dalek ep ever made (the one wirh Martha in NY cos it was on Watch).. and.. even though it is utter pants I was still revelling in DT’s absolute out there, give it your all, emotionality.
    God this is like true confessions : I really do like Matt and Amy and Moffat’s writing, honest. This is a show i’d watch even if it wasn’t Dr Who. But that’s it. I’m not in love with it. It’s like the sensible, decent realtionship you have, after the madly exciting one that maddened you but thrilled you. And I miss that 😦

  11. The most interesting bit of Eleven’s character so far has certainly been that sudden anger against humans, and against Amy. The ides that he resents the need for a companion is intersting. It seemed so obvious with Ten that he just didn’t like being all alone, that the idea of resenting it..is strange and intriguing..
    I think Moffat is probably going for a long intellectual pay off to various puzzles, plotwise and character, he’s already seeded.. but i do worry slightly what will happen to the viewing figs. When you read The Writer’s tale you see how much RTD worked cosntantly o getting a visceral reaction, getting people emotionally hooked. Populism really.I just don’t think Moff thinks that way.

  12. This is gorgeous, and wonderfully objective ♥ I’ve been feeling exactly the same way about RTD & Moffat but haven’t posted about it because I don’t think I could have been as kind to both 😉
    I adore Russell’s writing so much because all those things you described make it so alive. Its actually visceral, when you actually read it on the page (some of his scripts are on the Writer’s Tale website). He generally doesn’t devote time to flowery descriptions or other things that make many scripts read more like literature. Every word is there solely to bring stories, characters and worlds to life. And I think that was his greatest achievement on Who… that he infused it with such incredible heart. Yes, sometimes he did things that didn’t quite work, but I forgive him completely, because everything he threw at us made us feel so, so deeply and at the end of the day that’s a hell of a lot more memorable and affecting than perfectly crafted but emotionless science fiction.
    Moffat might be better at structure and creating a consistent tone of the fantastical which evokes nostalgia and childhood experience. But I cant tell you how many times i’ve read or heard young people – even young adults, who society says should be cynical and angsty – saying that Doctor Who makes them so profoundly happy to just be alive. That’s what Doctor Who is to me. And now there are people puzzling over the fact that these first two Moffat eps have left them feeling a little empty? I find that devastating because it goes against the very core of what made the first few season so magical. Obviously, it just comes down to personal preference and you can’t say one writer is better than the other. But you can surely have a favourite, and personally, i’ve always loved Who for its heart. For that magical quality that came not from the premeditated creation of a fairytale tone, but from writing that was simply exploding with idealism, excitement, shameless sentimentality and just… heart, then delivered by a man who was quite simply a force of nature, on screen and off.
    Moffat is a fantastic writer. But give me RTD any day. Because you’ve oversimplified slightly and the truth is, for every cannibal Master and farting Slitheen, there’s that little scene between newly reunited Pete and Jackie Tyler exchanging some of the sparesest, simplest dialogue i’ve ever heard in one of the most beautiful scenes i’ve ever seen. Bottom line, RTD’s writing lived entirely at both ends of the spectrum, complete silliness one moment, gut wrenching high emotion the next. And I don’t just mean tragedy, I also mean the sheer joy. Moffat sits neatly and safely at the very center of the pendulum and tentatively reaches out in either direction when he needs to. That means his episodes will generally be neater, more mature and probably won’t give us that chocolate headache you mentioned. But honestly, that’s what worries me the most, because there’s no shortage of people who on their deathbeds say, “I wish i’d eaten more chocolate”.
    Thanks so much for your post! ♥

  13. I feel that little bit empty about it all
    Yes – same here! I really really want to like “new-new-Who”, because I grew up with it and while I accept it had its problems, it’s still one of the best things on TV and is the only show I make an appointment with each week. I’m also trying very hard not to be a “Ten’s gone, it’ll never be the same” type, because I know there are plenty of those out there as well.
    I thought Matt Smith did a great job in TEH, and in certain scenes in TBB and I’m sure he’ll go from strength to strength, but like I said in my earlier comment, Ten(nant) was a force of nature and I’m just starting to realise that he’s left a bigger hole than I’d imagined.

  14. I’m sorry that I seem to be spamming with comments here, but can I just say that I’m with you completely? What made Rusty’s Who so special for me were those “moments” – Wilf and Ten in the cafe or on the Vinvocci ship, the conversation with Jack through the door to the radiation chamber in Utopia, the scene in Runaway Bride after Donna finds out her fiance has set her up and the Doctor takes her to see the creation of the Earth – and so many more. Moffat has done those, too but his seem more… measured somehow, more controlled. He’s a fabulous writer and has already given us a lot to think about just in two episodes – I just hope it’s all going somewhere!
    I rewatched all of S2-4 recently and admitted, here on LJ, that I didn’t understand why Girl in the Fireplace made so many people’s “top ten” lists. Or rather, admitted that I could understand it – good writing, good story, lovely music, timey-wimey etc. – but that I didn’t feel it. And perhaps that’s what it comes down to. I shouldn’t have to analyse a show or a script to work out why it’s good, I should just know that it is once I’ve read/seen it. It’s the same with a piece of music – there are pieces that I know I should like, but which don’t speak to me in the way that others do. I can analyse them to death and see how and why they work, but that’s not what music is for, ultimately.
    And now I’m going off at a complete tangent so I’ll STFU and just nod approvingly at your comment 😉

  15. What made Rusty’s Who so special for me were those “moments” – Wilf and Ten in the cafe or on the Vinvocci ship, the conversation with Jack through the door to the radiation chamber in Utopia…
    Moffat has done those, too but his seem more… measured somehow, more controlled.

    Absolutely. I’ve always said RTD is a “moments” writer, even in his other work – some of the ‘moments’ in QAF are among the most breathtaking i’ve ever seen on screen. Not to mention the climax of The Second Coming. RTD can stick two characters in a room together and somehow create pure magic from a tiny, dialogue scene. With Moffat, i’d almost go further than “measured & controlled” and say those moments from him can sometimes be contrived. It seems like he has to really work at them, therefore they don’t feel spontaneous or real and there’s no magic to them. Whereas with RTD they seemed effortless. (“I’m in my nightie” verses “I thought it would be cleaner!”… the latter of which is completely bonkers and hilarious and perfect, and the former which fell completely flat and didn’t work.) I know i’m being harsh, and I do wonder if given more time to get used to writing those kinds of scenes he might improve, which is why i’m trying not to be too harsh on him.
    I kinda loved GitF, probably because Tennant and Sophia were both so heart breakingly good. But none of Moffat’s other eps rank anywhere near my favourites. Not even Blink, which I know is utterly brilliant, but in 20 years time i’m not going to remember it. I realise there is something to be said for episodes as technically proficient as Blink, but there is a reason Doctor Who has exploded over the past 5 years into something that has captured the hearts of millions, particularly children. And I seriously doubt it has anything to do with episodes like Blink 😉

  16. What made Rusty’s Who so special for me were those “moments” – Wilf and Ten in the cafe or on the Vinvocci ship, the conversation with Jack through the door to the radiation chamber in Utopia, the scene in Runaway Bride after Donna finds out her fiance has set her up and the Doctor takes her to see the creation of the Earth – and so many more.
    Yes, exactly – and yes to ‘s overall post, also.
    I watch entirely for those moments. I’ve had discussions with people who love Moffat’s writing and couldn’t wait for RTD to be gone, and their justification lies in episodes such as AOL/WWIII with farting Slitheen – whereas I think of those episodes and I remember Jackie’s and Nine’s agonised conversation over the phone when Jackie’s afraid that the Doctor’s going to get Rose killed, and of course Jackie’s grief and fury when Rose reappears after twelve months. That’s what makes those episodes special to me. Even Love and Monsters, which overall I don’t care for, has a couple of gorgeous Jackie moments. And then there’s the Wilf scenes in EOT, and the scenes with Jack in the radiation room in Utopia… all of those are the reasons why I watch, and love, DW.
    With Moffat’s episodes, you get structure, you get convoluted plot, you get scary monsters… but for the most part you don’t get those moments. RTD has such amazing instincts about human nature, which may in part come from his past as a soap writer, but has probably got far more to do with his personality in general. He writes the adventures and the monsters, yes; but he does those moments, and characterisation in general, so much better. His characters are flawed, they make mistakes, sometimes they’re downright badly behaved – and that makes them human. If you like character interaction, emotions, relationships and so on, of course you’re going to love that. If your interest is in the sci-fi, the aliens and classic DW story structure, you’re not.
    And, yes, I’m one of those who’s been feeling disappointed and empty so far, as a result of both scripts and acting 😦 Ah well; this is early days and it’s quite possible things could change 🙂

  17. He writes the adventures and the monsters, yes; but he does those moments, and characterisation in general, so much better.
    I’m completely with you on most of your comment, but I take objection to the word “better”. For me, I quite often got the feeling that I was, to use the OP’s metaphor, being force-fed Meringue Suisse. (Don’t get me wrong, I love Meringue Suisse, just not every day.) There are emotional scenes scripted by RTD that I absolutely love, and others that just make me go “…oh, enough already.”
    But then, I’m a rare fan in that I started watching DW because I heard Moffat would write for it, because I loved him from Press Gang. He does do emotions (Jack’s impending death in TDD, Reinette’s actual death in GitF, as well as many scenes in his previous shows), but he does them smaller. Which is a question of personal preference, not of skill.
    Ironically, I think even the Moff is hugely melodramatic compared to a lot of old school Who, which was very off-putting for me at first for its lack of emotional resonance. If RTD cries and the Moff speaks softly, old Who’s emotional core is often a mere whisper. (But it’s there.)

  18. Well, that’s a beautiful analysis of RTD’s appeal – indeed, he was all heart and I think you’re right to suggest that SM will rely more on established conventions and archetypes. The little scene between Pete and Jackie in Doomsday is an excellent example of what he does best, and watching TBB do it all far less subtly was painful if you remembered that. The Runaway Bride is my favourite episode because it’s stuffed with such intimate moments, and they needn’t be showy (I’m thinking of the quiet way Ten says, “Oh, I’m sort of homeless.” Gah).

  19. One of the things I’ll be exploring in my second part of this will be some of the strategies SM uses to suggest emotion – I think that’s the right phrase, because you’re right (and not necessarily unkind) to use the word “contrived” – it’s like he feels he’s got to put them in there but he’d really rather not.
    What will be intriguing will be whether SM lets other people teach him things in his new role as showrunner. Richard Curtis, for example, is a very emotional and “cheesy” writer in the RTD mould and makes no apology for it. I think RTD found that kind of learning process very difficult, and the show suffered for it. OTOH, writing by committee (and you do sometimes get that in American TV shows) will never grab and wrench you the way RTD’s does.

  20. I don’t intend to be hard on Moffat – this is more a compare and contrast exercise. More of that anon, when I dig a little deeper into some of the inflences shaping Moffat’s Who. However, I don’t really see Eleven, so far, as “young, impatient and confident.” On the contrary, he seems aged, authoritarian and rather restrained. I do think you’re right about it building up to a long, slow arc, hopefully a bit better plotted than some of RTD’s, and that will be satisfying to watch.
    Your point about him resenting Amy is one I hadn’t thought of and it’s intriguing. I’m still not sure whether events such as WoM will feed into this incarnation or whether we’re starting with a clean slate – I do suspect that, whatever he says, he’s lied to Amy and he senses some threat which means he’s adopted her to keep her safe. That in itself is a striking contrast to the idea of him needing someone to stop him.

  21. Yes. It’s the strategic, planning temperament against the impulsive one. Chalk and cheese. You only have to compare the two of them being interviewed – with Rusty it’s all larger than life gestures but Moff is much more impassive.

  22. Actually what I really liked at the ed of the Beast Below was how un-confident he seemed – that huge hug of relief at the edn, him that he hadn’t made a soul destroying mistake, her that she’d convinced him to keep her. That ws so different from Ten’s incredily omniscient, slightly smug Doctor. (I think I’m collectig ways Eleven is notably differet from Ten, not better or worse.)

  23. Yeh this is true – we’re judging the whole of new-new-Who on Moff and of course there will be other writers. So just as Moff’s precisio ad brilliant plottig shone agaist RTD’s high but essy enotionalism, so other writers may shie against SM. That’ll be interesting actually. Just wish first wasn’t gatiss! Why do the Who crew like him so much? I thik he’sbee consistently poor..

  24. He does do emotions (Jack’s impending death in TDD, Reinette’s actual death in GitF, as well as many scenes in his previous shows), but he does them smaller.
    This is exactly right. I fact do you know what? RTD wants everything larger tha life. His plots are about the end of the universe, his characters either tragic or in love, his Doctor a gigantic hero or an out of control bastard. SM is a miniaturist; even his sets revel in tiny pointless details, his Dr is to be an “ordinary bloke”, his farce in Coupling depended on insanely detailed minute by minute plot control. But you never thought the characters were more than clothes deep. SM likes mannequins ad automata ad masks because his characters are that to him; intriguing robots he can move aroud. Hmm.
    Re emotions RTD was all for the huge classical universalist emotions, love, tragedy, farce, near suicidal depression. Moff’s main interest in emotional range in both Coupling and Joking Apart was re blokeishness – sexual incompetence/frustration, inability to understand womenkind- and interestingly he has already said somewhere that one of the things he liked about Matt ws that as a professional footballer he had a kind of laddishness. One wonders what may come of this, esp given we have the infamous football ep coming up!

  25. SM likes mannequins ad automata ad masks because his characters are that to him; intriguing robots he can move aroud. Hmm.
    Ouch! I’ll grant you Coupling, which is a broad farce (I haven’t seen Joking Apart), but I think it’s unfair to consider this a general Moffat trait. As I said above, I started with Press Gang, and I take issue with the notion that Lynda’s not more than clothes deep in Monday/Tuesday with its sequel Shouldn’t I Be Taller, or Spike in The Rest of My Life. His Doctor Who work so far, to me, comes closer to that series (which was “a drama with funny bits”) than to the farce of Coupling or horror of Jekyll.

  26. Me too. And of course, therein lies the drama – the conflict between the competence presented to the world and the anxiety within. I’m sure he does know he needs someone around to stop him. I’ve already noticed another Ten vs Eleven contrast – Eleven is a delegator. He gives orders and expects them to be followed, whereas Ten generally acted as if everything was up to him and the companions wandered off and got into difficulties rather than being given their marching orders.

  27. I’m completely with you on most of your comment, but I take objection to the word “better”.
    The thing with ‘better’ is that it’s entirely a subjective judgement. I thought the rest of my post was clear on the fact that RTD’s ‘moments’-based writing was ‘better’ according to my personal preferences, but in any case that’s certainly what I meant. Because I prefer that to the sci-fi and scary monsters, it feels better to me, but of course I’m well aware that it’s not ‘better’ to everyone 🙂
    ETA: and, in fact, reading the context of that quote again, I realise that I actually meant that RTD did the ‘moments’ better than he did the monsters/aliens, so the contrast in that particular place wasn’t between RTD and Moffat, but between RTD and RTD *g*

  28. Because I prefer that to the sci-fi and scary monsters, it feels better to me, but of course I’m well aware that it’s not ‘better’ to everyone 🙂
    I prefer emotional content to sci-fi and scary monsters too, though, so what I objected to was the notion that because RTD does emotional content differently than Moff does, it wouldn’t be possible to be emotionally satisfied by Moff. Which I am. So it is. 🙂
    But then, the most emotionally satisfying for all Who, to me, is the end of Earthshock, and I’ve already talked about how immensely understated old Who is on an emotional level.

  29. Re to your ETA: Ahhhh, okay, then. I’m with you on that. After all, the best plots for RTD are stories like “Midnight” in which the emotions ARE the monster.

  30. Not even Blink, which I know is utterly brilliant
    That’s it exactly – we KNOW it’s brilliant, but given the choice between that and Midnight, I’d go for the latter every time. It has an amazing raw power about it which is more to my personal taste.

  31. I watch entirely for those moments.
    Yes, me too. I have high hopes for Matt Smith’s Doctor because I have to believe that they’ve chosen someone who’s able to step into the hole left by DT and I do think he’s already shown some flashes of what what’s to come. Given where Ten ended up emotionally, there’s nowhere else to go along that road so it makes sense that Eleven is more restrained – although I think it could be because he’s more adept at repression. The OP’s assessment of Ten and Tennant’s emotional range is spot on – if Ten was pissed or scared or amused, you knew about it because he wore his heart(s) on his sleeve (and his face).
    I’m certainly not averse to good plotting and good storytelling – but I’ve gotten used to the emotional punch that we got with Rusty’s DW and I miss it.
    But as you say, it’s early days.

  32. Rusty has a way of picking tiny details that utterly define a character. Example – Harriet Jones, even when she’s PM, feels she has to show her ID when she introduces herself. He’s a great noticer of people and totally lacks intellectual snobbery – Pringles or Proust, it all matters to him.
    Maybe TBB caused such strong reactions because it was the first time we saw SM trying to give us the things we’d missed?

  33. My tastes run the other way, I find Moffat/Smith far more satisfying than RTD/Tennant. RTD left me with that empty feeling. I felt that there were a lot of bright colours, fast movement, shouting, crying and emotive music, but a lot of the time it didn’t really amount to much. To me it was like a display of emotion, but not real emotion.

  34. Yes – I felt the same about the last few Specials – pretty much everything after JE, in fact. But I think there were flashes of real emotion even then, which was worth sitting through a lot of sound and fury. Also, the last 15 minutes of WoM were a showcase of good writing, plotting and acting – though that wasn’t all the work of RTD.

  35. This is really, really fascinating! Most people seem to be saying that they liked RTD’s DW more because of this, but I have to say that the same reasons they’re citing as liking Moffat’s less are the reasons I like it much, much more.
    I can never truly hate RTD because he gave me Season 1 (NINE! with Rose and Jack!) but whenever I feel like people are trying to manipulate me emotionally, I start closing up, and while I might cry over it and be sad, I remain much more untouched in the long run. I gave RTD some allowance early on because, well, Season 1 OMG. But by mid-season 2, while I still enjoyed the episodes and probably always will, I really wasn’t getting as much emotional impact out of it. I guess I have a quota and he used it up? It’s very much a matter of restraint, for me. I don’t show my feelings very openly, I greatly prefer to pretend they don’t exist. I batten down. As a result, I felt an immediate connection and emotional reaction to “gotcha” that I haven’t been able to feel for Doctor Who since really the end of Season 1, and Smith’s delivery of the “just me now” lines really got to me more than any of Ten’s emoting ever did.
    Part of it is also my deep, deep love for story-telling. I can overlook plot holes, but when characterization gets thrown out of the window too, I’m out. I know it’s very very delicate ground (fandom scares me sometimes O.o), but my objection to Ianto’s death in Torchwood have nothing to do with his actual death, just the extremely contrived means used to obtain it, which practically tossed all common sense out the window, and the statement that it was done specifically to torment Jack further. That left me completely cold. I can’t even really get that affected over the scene anymore, which I think is just sad.
    I think what I’m saying here is, I dislike childishness when it feels selfish and a little spoiled, and I think that’s the feeling I get from RTD and Tennant’s run. So while many of the episodes are great fun to watch and I ❤ Martha and Donna and Rose and Mickey and frequently Ten, I really didn't have the emotional connection with RTD's run that I do with Moffat's (so far).

  36. Somewhat related to this, and Moffat’s idea of what a romance is, you may or may not be familiar with Grant Morrison and his “Animal Man” comic book run. Morrison puts the character through a true ordeal where he loses his entire family, only to end the story with a conversation between character and author, and the author realizing even though he had written all that stuff to make the story more life-like, he was wrong, and that such beloved characters deserved a happy ending. The author, coming out wiser from his conversation with the character, decides to end the story with magically restoring Animal Man’s family. Now think of “The Doctor Dances” and remember that after the Time War, the End of the World, Dalek, The Long Game, Father’s Day…Nine was a Doctor that had never been able to achieve a victory that was not bitter. Having gone through so much trauma, the ending of “The Doctor Dances” was, first and foremost, a gift from Moffat to the character. Seeing such wisdom and generosity at work is moving, at least to me.
    Regarding “The Girl in the Fireplace”, everybody seems to agree it’s heartbreaking. But there’s also “Forest of the Dead”, and the moment where Tennant realizes there’s a slight chance for River Song to be alive, and his frantic run to save her; not very different from the way Ten run at the end of “The Stolen Earth” when he saw Rose. And then, again in “Forest of the Dead”, there’s scene where he opens the Tardis with a snap of his fingers, and you know his smile means so much more than just having learned a cool way to open the TARDIS: it also means the River Song love story IS still there, alive, waiting for the Doctor in his future. The situation is totally sci-fi, but the feeling is not: just stop for a second and think how you would feel if you realised the greatest love story of your life was still ahead, waiting for you.
    There is one big difference between RTD and SM in how they approach Doctor Who: to RTD it’s a soap opera, to Moffat it’s an epic space opera. But never forget both Moffat and RTD come from comedy: human emotions are at the very core of their writing. To RTD, humanity in Doctor Who is having the Doctor chat with Wilf at a cafe; to Moffat is to have Amy waiting through all her childhood for the Doctor to come back. And you know what? Both of them are right.

  37. I hear what you’re saying. I don’t like being manipulated either and I felt very hostile to all the hype around End of Time 2, and absolutely determined not to cry. Damn it, I will not cry to order! I think I remained a true believer a bit longer than you, and I adored Donna and Ten together, but I lost patience with the lack of emotional coherence in Journey’s End – in particular the Bad Wolf Bay scene felt very contrived to me, with Rose being pushed into behaviour that contradicted everything we’d seen in her character so far. I don’t insist on happy endings but I do like plot to flow directly from character, and even RTD (in The Writer’s Tale) admitted he’d got that one wrong.

  38. Absolutely – there is more than one way to write Doctor Who! Thank you for your interpretation of the end of “Forest”. It’s a generous and beautiful one.
    Something about GITF occurred to me the other day – it might well have been written when they thought Billie was going to leave mid-S2, and that would have made perfect sense – if she’d had the wake-up call from Sarah Jane, travelled with Mickey on the TARDIS and had his shoulder to cry on when the Doctor went off to Reinette…the sequence of events could well have led to her deciding to start afresh with Mickey. The original ending of the Cybermen two-parter had the Doctor return home, tell Jackie about alt!Pete and take her over to the AU – thus recreating precisely the situation at the end of S2.
    But I digress. You’re also right about the glorious “Everybody Lives!” moment – I will always hold it against RTD that he denied the Doctor that. Christopher Eccleston played that beautifully and how much pain is revealed in the throwaway line, “Just this once everybody lives!”
    That comic book you mention sounds interesting – I heard someone use the term “reconstructive art” in relation to “The Princess Bride”, which adopts some similar strategies to preserve a self-aware narrative closure.

  39. Hey, thank YOU for this blog; as I said earlier, this is the kind of superb stuff I’ve always hoped DW would inspire some day.
    Regarding “The Doctor Dances”, just re-watched that scene, and I had forgot just before taking off Jamie’s mask, he says “Oh, come on!Gimme a day like this!Gimme this one!Oh please, just gimme this one”. Nine was just begging for a happy ending.
    And regarding the end of Forest of the Dead, have you noticed Ten’s smile when he learns the snap is the same smile he gives Rose at the end of “The End of Time Part Two”, after telling her she was going to have a really great year? Not planned, maybe; but not a coincidence: both situations are two sides of the same coin.

  40. Coming late to this, I know. The diet analogy truly works for me as for how I’ve been feeling so far.
    When RTD and David Tennant both announced they were leaving the show, I put on a brave face. I was going to be so adult about it, but deep down I was feeling devastated, even more so with RTD’s departure, because he’s one of those rare writers in TV fiction that has been able to put me on a constant rollercoaster of emotions, make me cry one minute and laugh the next, then cry again and smile through my tears.
    Like says, it’s rarely ever one entire episode (I’ll deny ever admitting it out loud, but even the Dalek vs Cybermen plot in Doomsday had its limits for me), but RTD was so good at writing deeply emotional scenes where the characters’ true self was uncovered, little by little, in subtle notes sometimes (like Nine grabbing Rose’s hand in The Unquiet Dead as they’re about to die), and other times in full-blown drama that had the power to make me sob again and again and again (Rose slamming her hand against the wall in Doomsday and her anguised “Let me back!”). Also, both Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant did the scripts justice, bringing the writing to life, making the emotions so real that they had an even more gut-punching effect than RTD’s written lines.
    I’m feeling empty now, yes. I miss them beyond words. I rewatch old episodes and cry over the tiniest moment, because the RTD / David Tennant dynamics especially had the power to make me love and hate them both in the space of a few seconds. Because my expectations were so high that even RTD’s writing couldn’t match them, I was horribly venomous about The End of Time, whereas now I just focus on the Wilf/Ten scenes and start thinking they’re among the most powerful stuff I’ve ever watched, and they’re a testimony to RTD’s talent at its best.
    My point of view, though, has changed so much from the first time I watched Doctor Who, and more especially, the first time I saw him regenerate. I hated Ten with a passion at first, not because of him, not because of the way he was written, but because RTD and Christopher Eccleston had given me such high expectations that I knew I’d be disappointed. I *had* to be. That David Tennant bloke was going to ruin everything, and there was so much to lose. Hah. When I look back on how I felt then, I feel so amused. And a little bit ashamed, too.
    Hate. Love. Passion. Usual emotions when watching RTD’s era of the show.
    With Eleven and Moffat, my stance is very different. I didn’t want to start watching because it felt like it would force me to accept that RTD / Ten were gone, but once I did watch, I had no expectations. Well, I did. I expected to be disappointed. I expected to hate it. I expected to compare it constantly to my oh-so-fattening fattening chocolate concoction (with custard? anything should come with custard). I didn’t. It’s not like it’s a lemon meringue pie (I hate lemon meringue pie, for the record). It’s just, like says, a salad. Salads are nice. Healthy. I can stay in control of a salad. I can have a few bites and step away from the plate. I’m able to stay a whole week without thinking about the salad, whereas the chocolate would keep me obsessed until my next fix.
    Basically, I feel I have nothing to lose with the new series. Unlike S2, there’s no Rose, no real continuity with what took place before. I expect everything to be different – and different isn’t necessarily bad. I still like Doctor Who, and I’ve enjoyed both eps that have aired so far much more than I ever thought I could. I haven’t felt the urge to rewatch them, though, and that’s okay. There were some nice moments, I think Amy is wonderful, and there’s always room for improvement in a salad; if you slice up bits of chicken and grate some parmesan over it, a salad can become very nice. I might never become a salad-olic, but that’s all right, because there’s always gonna be some chocolate leftovers in the fridge, and I’ll keep on cherishing it.

  41. You and I must share a brain! Yes, I even hated DT at first – in New Earth, at least (I was bowled over by TCI).
    Thanks so much for commenting. BTW I have just had DietChef mushroom stroganoff and steamed spinach for tea – I could use a little chocolate right now!

  42. I’m late to this discussion, and new around here. I liked the salad comment, from a poster. It sums up DW now, for me. To be honest, I always thought Moffat’s scripts to be well written, to have the right amount of salt and pepper, and to be perfectly balanced, like a good recipe. But… it’s only good for one meal. I never want to go back and watch again, because it’s lacking emotion, which is something I crave in a show.
    And I don’t feel like watching his episodes again because not enough emotion and knowing the plot of the story? Me not wanting to watch. Just like I don’t reread a mystery book, once I know who the killer is and his motives. It’s stuck in my mind and I have no will to read it again.
    So yes, I admit that his stories are good, entertaining but they lack a little something that appeal to me, while RTD had managed to grab me with his writing. It’s just my personal preference. I still watch DW but from afar. I’m not in a hurry to watch the episodes but they are there, on my computer, for when I have some free time.
    And, well, to be honest, other shows have grabbed my attention now (Fringe, Fringe, Fringe!!!Peter and Walter, oh my god, oups sorry.)

  43. OH yes. (Catching up on these threads very late because I was behind watching the first few eps of Eleven and wasn’t sure if I cared about being spoilered.)
    So far I find I can take or leave Eleven. I watch it with my six-year-old son, who wasn’t allowed to watch Nine or Ten (he was too small, and besides, Nine and Ten were Grown Up Entertainment in our household) and I don’t hang on every word and Shhh! him if he asks a question. He loves it, incidentally. Whereas I think the incredibly intense emotional load of Ten would have gone entirely over his head.
    I’m both missing Ten desperately (I still spend the first few minutes of each ep looking at Eleven going “Who are you? Give the TARDIS keys back!”) and feeling really rather relieved that I can watch it for pure fun, with my kid, and not at any risk of swearing, screaming or bursting into floods of tears (also reasons why I wouldn’t have wanted to watch Ten with my six-year-old!) I think it’s all still a bit wobbly, but am hopeful it will gell as the series goes on…

  44. I initially thought DT was too young-looking, too skinny, and not angry enough. What can I say? Swiftly proven wrong on all counts. Which is what I keep reminding myself when I catch myself inwardly wailing “But… you’re not the Doctor!”

  45. I must say you have hit the nails exactly on the head in that way that the very best literary critics have. Salad and brownies! I swear you have the knack for it, while I am just visceral with my storyteller ranting. 😀 RTD is a child and Moff is an adult looking back on childhood. The adult gives us a lovely sense of controlled fear and sketches out terrifying scenes but from a comfortable emotional distance. RTD made us part of things, but at the expense of continuity or reasoned plot at times. He didn’t think ahead, he just went with his sense of the moment. And, sadly, I believe that is why RTD and I had such an affinity. I am very much an emotional hedonist. I throw myself into experiences and take personal joy from my writing far more than I bring discipline to it.
    Russell and I both work primarily from instinct when we come up with our storylines, I think. And we both put a high value on connection to our audience. I like to believe that I have learned to add some structure to my work though. I might rewrite the night before, but I do not fly strictly by the seat of my trousers. Moff puts his value on the technical merits of the story–telling us the Doctor is a god or the best sort of imaginary friend.
    This is probably where you get the idea that he doesn’t do emotion, because as you noted, he does do emotion, sometimes quite well. Chris does phenominal things with what he’s given in Empty Child/The Doctor Dances. But Moffatt gives us the emo as part of a plan, I think. And that’s why he regretted messing up the Rose/Ten story a bit in GitF…he was upset about the plan. RTD would just do have the Doctor love Reinette because he wanted you to cry. RTD’s objective was to make you feel that the Doctor was lonely or Rose was heartbroken or this was the most spectacular thing you had ever seen. Brownies and salad! Both tasty in context.
    Moff’s vision of childhood, however, is from the outside. It’s all about nostalgia and that fey, slightly creepy wistfulness that British fantasy excels at. Look at Amy’s world. Can you imagine Amelia (the very name’s old-fashioned) on a Play Station or even with a TV in her bedroom? No, she’s the introverted only child surrounded by books and make-believe, making her paper Doctors and dressing up.
    As I’ve said, Amelia is very much an Alice in Wonderland character. And I got that even more with the floating in space and wearing her dressing gown for an adventure part of TBB. All I keep thinking is that Amy fell through the cracks, like Alice down the rabbit hole…and all of these magical adventures are just part of a fantastic story we are rereading.

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