Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Doctor Who 8.1 "Deep Breath"

I am a fan of “Doctor Who” the show. It would take a lot for me to give up on the program. I have enjoyed aspects of every “era” of Who, and have things and stories I like from every incarnation of the Doctor. I have every reason to think I will like this new incarnation quite a bit. He is certainly one of the best things about “Deep Breath.”

And now for the “but” that the previous paragraph certainly forecast…

I don’t think there is much else to like about “Deep Breath.” Specifically, three things brought it down for me:

(1) Madame Vastra and Jenny’s sex life. And it isn’t just that they are completely different species (something that equally made the romance between the Doctor and Rose nonsensical and frustrating). Nor is it the less-than-subtle, even clumsy, homosexual implication. It is the overt (and superfluous) reference to sex whatsoever. Doctor Who is one of those “made for children, but good enough for adults” types of stories. Those are the best sorts of stories. C.S. Lewis was a championed that sort of story as the supreme variety. Fairy tales are a whole genre of that type of literature. And, they are capable of tackling important things like marriage and sex, but always in a sophisticated, hidden way. Doctor Who has a long history of teaching important and even controversial ideas in such a way that they do not hit the viewer over the head. Here, Moffat feels the need to bludgeon us over the head with it. Repeatedly.

(2) The unnecessary apologies and preoccupation with Capaldi’s age. Peter Capaldi is not that old. And, while he may be the second oldest actor to debut as the character, someone in their 50s these days in nowhere near as “old” as someone in their 50s was back in the 1960s. But, the character has trended younger and younger since the series returned, and it feels like the BBC was scared to death that the younger generation was only interested in a young Doctor. So, they did the character of Clara a huge disservice by having her freak out about the age-shift, and then had Madame Vastra berate her (and presumably anyone in the audience) for judging without really knowing. Seems that the producers could benefit from listening to their own sermon.

(3) The unoriginal ideas on display. There is a trend in comedy these days that is just lazy. Referential humor throws random information at the audience that is not really funny, but simply relies on the smug position of recognition. For those “in the know” they laugh (or at least grin) because they derive satisfaction in making the connection. Lately, Doctor Who has been engaging in a similar, self-referential, storytelling style. The robots of “Deep Breath” are not anywhere near the most interesting or original monsters the show has had to offer, but the hope is that fans will overlook any blandness because they are written with a connection to a much better, original concept from earlier in the series. “Doctor Who” used to be rife with original, novel concepts and ideas only rarely referencing past villains. That helped make things like Daleks and Cybermen special. Now we get them—and countless, lesser villains—repeatedly every season.

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