The Lost Doctor?

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.

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9 thoughts on “The Lost Doctor?

  1. I think there’s also such a thing as a plot being too clever for its own good.
    Hole-in-freaking-one. I spent much of last season being frustrated and upset because too many things were all flash and bang without letting the viewer in on the joke until it was over and done and perfectly safe to let them in. And this premier is more of the same. Moffat has scrubbed away any enjoyment I had of this show.

  2. Thanks for this post, with which I very much agree. I’m not likely to stop watching, but it is increasingly clear that the terms on which I engage with the show are going to have to change if I’m not going to be at least a little disappointed every single week.

  3. 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.
    I haven’t rewatched the episode, but I thought Eleven did give the Silence a warning to leave, and they refused?
    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?
    One could say that because the Silence existed only in subliminal awareness, the solution had to be subliminal as well. Still, the lack of any indication Eleven was bothered by turning a whole species into potentially genocidal weapons was glaring. And Eleven’s obvious approval of River’s gun-handling ability left a sour taste. I don’t think Classic Who had such–glee in killing, even though the Silence were going to kill them.
    Last season I wondered if Eleven was heading towards the Time Lord Victorious again. “Amy’s Choice” infuriated (still infuriates) me because of her non-choice choice, and then the end of “The Big Bang” and “A Christmas Carol” solidified my opinion. So I’m not surprised Eleven chose this solution. This Doctor is bigger than the universe.
    I agree, Moffat’s show and Eleven do seem to have lost their moral centre compared to RTD’s era. I can’t help but compare Eleven’s actions to Margaret Blon Fel Fotch’s redemption with Nine, or Ten’s obvious regret at killing the Cybus Cybermen, or reaching out to the Daleks, the Master and the Sontarans. I can only hope it will be addressed later in the season. I can only hope that the Doctor will fall, that his “death” in TIA was supposed to be his redemption in retrospect.

  4. Hm. I still have a few things I want to say about DotM – some of them I decided not to include in my post yesterday and others that are occurring to me as I think more and read more of others’ reactions.
    I agree with much of what you say here, although I don’t have too much of a problem with the Doctor’s actions towards the Silence in general. I thought it was more of a “get out and don’t come back or else”. The Doctor has always been one to do what needs to be done – and while he’s always tried to find a peaceful way to do it, it’s not always (!) worked and the plan of last resort has been put into action. He’s been a manipulative bugger in the past – I’m thinking of Seven in particular here – but like you, I don’t like the idea that the human race has now been programmed, through some sort of auto-suggestion to “kill us all on sight”.
    I have problems with the shooting and the fact that the Doctor didn’t even question Amy about it afterward. One could say that’s because he knows there’s something going on that he’s not supposed to know – which actually brings me to a point I want to make about how the “apologists” are out in force. We know with SM that there are going to be lots of questions and loose ends and we’re going to theorise and speculate – but I’ve read a lot of posts and comments today and yesterday that are falling over themselves to justify some of the … less palatable events in the episode.
    We also know – as it’s SM – that there will be clues and red-herrings and plot-twists galore… but I’m wondering now whether he’s trying too hard to out-fox the fans, and is throwing all these questions at us just for the hell of it – with no intention of answering half of them because they’re completely irrelevant.
    The other thing I didn’t post yesterday was my thought that after Canton’s revelation, he’d be sitting back saying “take THAT all of you who accused me of undermining the ‘gay agenda’ last year”! – because really, what was that other than some kind of token?
    ETA: The viewing figures for next week’s episode will be interesting. If I, a pretty diehard fan, found DotM so ultimately unsatisfying, how are the majority of the casual viewers going to react? I know a few people who have decided not to bother any more…

  5. I haven’t rewatched the episode, but I thought Eleven did give the Silence a warning to leave, and they refused?
    He did, but I think he did that only so that he could later say that he gave them a chance and they didn’t take it because, quite simply, the Silents had no idea what the Doctor was about to unleash on them and so they couldn’t make any sort of informed decision about what to do.
    Also, just because that group of Silents had Amy, it doesn’t mean that they were the head Silents, that they had any sway over other Silents, or that they could communicate with their fellows.
    It was an uneven negotiation, no matter how you look at it.

  6. On reflection, it seemed to me that the whole two-parter was aimed at a very prejudiced British projection of what Americans are like. The idea that they won’t enjoy a show unless it’s trigger happy and action packed. The assumption that everybody carries a gun, all the time, and all that Men in Black iconography. But America is a vast and complex nation. It’s like saying we Brits all drink tea out of bone china cups and keep horses in our living rooms.
    I think it’s very sad if our lovely, eccentric, very British show completely sells out to this lowest-common-denominator idea of the US audience. It would be a great loss not only to the UK viewers, but to those Americans who have taken our funny little show to their hearts simply because it’s so different from most mainstream TV.

  7. I suppose I am as guilty as Moff, because all I saw in this was fodder for my own plot. However, I do address the issues you’ve raised here…and as I cryptically say in my own review…I have no illusions that Moff is going to follow what I see as the obvious direction for the show at this point. I think he thinks he’s brilliant. But it was too clever for its own good as you say. Very clever but ultimately, the failure here is with Moff and Matt because they can’t deliver a decent Doctor. He’s just silly and vain and following in the footsteps of greatness by pretending to sort of be them in a cooler hat.
    Though, I do agree that the whole concept is flawed and is sending a really terrible message of callousness and carelessness to a vulnerable age group.

  8. Wanted to come by and repeat the favor (albeit at a late hour for me, so apologies if I make only half-sense now) and say that your analysis is spot on. This hardly feels like Doctor Who anymore, none of it, and your notes on trying to vie for an American audience (wtf?) was what I got from the past two episodes. Weren’t the ratings higher in America than the UK, or am I twisting it around? Either way, too many American, gun-shooting ideas and not enough UK-think it through Doctor ideas that made up this two-part run. If I wanted lots of guns and cgi, I’d watch Fringe, Battlestar Galactica, Rome, or a ton of other American-produced shows that center so much on the violence (although, I must admit, the ones I named are pretty awesome and I love them for very different reasons that DW).
    Also, your comparisons to Ten and his death to Eleven and the child were interesting. So were all of your other points regarding Ten’s character and the big shift from Ten to Eleven (not to even begin on Nine). And including WoM in your analysis was lovely. It’s a favorite episode of mine because it does explore that darker side of the Doctor, one at his rope’s end, but it also shows the consequences of his actions and makes not just the Doctor, but the viewer as well, to think about what has just happened. With DotM, all we get is five seconds to thing about the end of the Silence and then, bam!, we’re back to the TARDIS and all is right? Just…what?
    And this is certainly not Classic Who at all. No way. Barely even New Who to me. I haven’t given up hope yet but I’m close to it. The real Pandora has yet to let hope escape for me, gods help me.

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