I think last night was probably when I finally reached the end of the road with Doctor Who. I’m not going out in a flounce of fannish entitlement, but I can say that I just can’t get behind the show any more. I’ve lost all respect for the Doctor as a character – he’s not someone I’d root for or hold up as any kind of an example to my kids if they were young enough to be influenced by my viewing choices.
Up to last week I could accept that it was a smart, stylish, sexy and gripping bit of TV. But I think that what really got to me with DOTM was how trivial it all seemed. I know it’s a TV show, but it’s still a vehicle for some very interesting moral and philosophical points and that’s why I made the effort to watch it. Now it seems to have become little more than a pretentious, self-congratulatory shoot-em-up.
Many of the points have already been made elsewhere. I couldn’t suspend disbelief, even in the Whoniverse, to believe that the Doctor could have remained unaware of the Silents and what they were up to for so long. And the solution he came up with stank. Not just because it was arguably genocidal – he didn’t allow Harriet Jones to plead self-defence and he’s a much more advanced species, so if anything he should judge himself more harshly. I know people will say the Doctor’s killed races before, but he’s never felt good about it. He’s used weapons before, but there’s been at least some comment and self-reflection. We either accept that alien life forms deserve some respect, or we don’t. It’s always been DW‘s moral position that any race, even the Daleks, wasn’t to be killed casually or without remorse. There is absolutely no point putting in liberal jokes about people’s race and sexuality if you’re going to ignore the basic fact that all sentient races have equal rights. This bloody lot didn’t even get one warning.
But even if you could convince me that the genocide was justifiable, how could the Doctor claim to be any better than the Silence when he was doing the same thing – manipulating the human race into becoming executioners without their knowledge or consent? And then crowing about it to his trigger-happy lady friend? Talk about turning people into weapons! The Doctor is supposed to love the human race. Yet he turns them into killers and doesn’t even let them choose their fate. He can’t have forgotten, surely, what it did to him to turn assassain on such a scale. If that’s his choice of a fate for his favoured species, God help his enemies.
It might have been the best of a number of bad choices to do what he did. But what I couldn’t swallow was the total lack of any discussion or consultation. Maybe at times Ten navel-gazed and agonised too much, but at least he had some kind of morality.
What was the point of Ten dying to save one old man, if this is the Doctor’s attitude to humanity now? Who is left to call him in on his behaviour? Rory seems to be a half-decent chap but all we seem to be getting from him is the old third wheel stuff we heard back in the days of Mickey the Idiot. What a waste of a promising character. And then there’s River – great fun to watch, but even Superman seems to have more of a personal moral code these days.
It’s not just the genocide, though. It’s the way they abandoned that little girl to her horrible fate and went off to have adventures. If one person is worth dying for, does that have to be Bernard Cribbins in a beanie to qualify? What happened to the Doctor who couldn’t bear to hear children cry? He got crushed by a plot point, I assume.
And then there was Amy shooting the figure in the spacesuit to protect the Doctor. Again, I probably shouldn’t draw invidious comparisons, but Ten wouldn’t have been able to look her in the face after that. Or even Nine – remember what he did to Adam just for using time travel to his material advantage, What’s the message there – shoot first, even if the victim could be a terrified child, and ask questions afterwards?
It’s possible that there is still a Silent aboard the TARDIS influencing the Doctor’s morality, but I think there’s also such a thing as a plot being too clever for its own good. It’s very important that we don’t lose sight of the Doctor’s essential goodness. Yes, he can fall from grace, but redemption should follow shortly afterwards and be clear and memorable, as it was in The Waters of Mars. RTD was in no doubt about the seriousness of making that dramatic choice, and he had the sense to save it for a Doctor who was nearing his final battle. The danger of going the "bad Doctor" route is that it takes away our essential faith in his decency and invulnerability. Fans and critics may love it, but this isn’t Lost, it’s basically a simple, straightforward show, and messing about with that risks losing the essential core audience.
I’m not asking for a perfect Doctor. I’m not even asking for Ten back – it won’t happen anyway. But I think hit the nail on the head when she commented, "this isn’t Classic Who. This is something else altogether." I admit I’m intrigued by some of the questions – I was intrigued by Lost but not enough to watch it, just to ask what happened at the end. I don’t want DW to be Lost, and I don’t think it’s core viewing audience does either. It may appeal to the critics, it may suit some of the fans, but in the end they’re not what it’s about. I give it one more season, at best.
Why are we bringing the Doctor down to the Hollywood level? If mass America doesn’t like it, that’s fine. I’d rather it appealed to a small subset of Americans, those who can recognise it as an alternative to the American Way. You don’t gain respect and integrity by going for the lowest common denominator.