Saturday, May 25, 2013

Story Structure is Showing in “The Name of the Doctor”

Doctor Who’s structure is showing again.

Not that that is a bad thing, or that good stories hide their innards, but it can be concerning for a show that is nothing if not innovative and creative.

Shortly after the re-launch a pattern began to emerge that held fairly steady for the first three years the show ran. In that case the worrisome trend was that a show that could go anywhere in time and space chose to spend 80% of its time on earth in the current day, and when it did go somewhere it tended to be the same places over and over again. (In the chart below, the only episodes that truly went to “another time and another place” are highlighted in green.)

Since Moffat has taken over the show, things have changed. None of his seasons have fallen into a predictable pattern like earlier ones, but the predictability is there. Namely, a threat is set up, built up, and then, just when no one can image how the Doctor is going to escape inevitable death… we get tricked.

Season five/thirty one saw cracks in time that were leading to the destruction of the universe. How could the Doctor stop it? He couldn’t, but inexplicably he just rebooted the universe.

Season six/Thirty two had the Doctor killed at the start, and then had us salivating as to how he could change that timeline. He couldn’t, but it was all a deceit in the end, used by the Doctor to accomplish his purposes.

Those were all a bit annoying but the stories told along the way and the style with which they were delivered made up for it. In the latest story, “The Name of the Doctor” we believed we were going to see the resolution to a couple of big set-ups. Who is Clara? And what will happen when the Doctor’s name is revealed? In typical fashion, we get the carpet pulled out from under us. It could be that more answers are coming in the 50th Anniversary show in November but we are learning not to expect too much.

I, for one, will be happy to put up with it all if the writing gets better and the ideas get imaginative again.

1 comment:

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