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The new series of Doctor Who: Fleeing from format?

FEATURES - TV

Critiquing the curious relationship of Doctor Who's new series to the classic series...

You call it...

When Doctor Who returned to our screens in 2005, I was genuinely excited. Despite having grown up in the period following the cancellation of the classic series, I quickly became a fan through watching the repeats and collecting the stories on video cassette. Many a dark evening was spent watching this or that thrilling adventure (and some truly awful ones) in time and space with the Doctor, his companions, and his foes.

Despite the fact that many of the stories I watched were from the 1960s, '70s or '80s, and constructed on what was obviously a shoestring budget, I was not put off; I was captivated. By the sense of danger and adventure. By the bold ideas and the characters. By the horror and the action. By the sometimes humorous, sometimes cantankerous anti-establishment lead character. As a child I was very much under the impression that, if this was being made 'for me' I was definitely not being pandered to, and secondly, that what happened in the stories really mattered and were taken seriously by the cast and writers; even if it sometimes looked a bit like pantomime it was usually played pretty straight. Peril was perilous, danger was dangerous, and people would die horrifyingly on a regular basis. So what is my assessment of the New Series, of NuWho?

The New Series has given itself two basic tasks. One, to put back and keep on our screens a programme by the name of Doctor Who that maintains substantial visible continuity with the classic series in many ways. Two, and this is where conflicting elements start to come in, to seek to define this resurrected programme against many aspects of the classic series, even fundamental aspects in pursuit of task one.

In itself this is neither good nor bad. If anything it is on balance probably a good thing to seek to redress the shortcomings of the classic series that could not simply be transposed into the cultural environment of the early 21st century without modification. But this is no more than what has always happened in the show's history anyway. What matters, ultimately, are the choices involved and their execution.

Dual character

Doctor Who - 'Aliens of London'Two words. Farting. Aliens. I know, it's crude and unfair to start with such a low blow right away, but I do so with a reason. The farting aliens of Aliens of London were reflective of the concerns of the production team about whether or not they could make the relaunch of Doctor Who a success. Russell T. Davies is on record as stating that it was their belief that they could pull in the adult audience, if simply out of curiosity or nostalgia.

The real question for them was: Would it pull in the kids? This was why in Rose you never actually saw the hapless cannon-fodder characters get blasted by the Autons, this is why you had the farting aliens and so on. Old Who style violence and horror was out and gross out humour was in. However, the problem is that, in actual fact, this is a very partial truth at best. Looking back from the present the first series of NuWho looks like uninhibited sanguinary and horror.

"When, as a fan, you find yourself hoping that the lead character is disintegrated on the spot, you know we're in trouble"

Who could forget the blood-red giblets flying across the screen from an exploding Cassandra in The End of the World? The Daleks massacring their way up the space station during the The Parting of the Ways (What do you mean you weren't cheering?), the gas masks forcing their way up through people's faces in The Empty Child or the Doctor being tortured in Dalek. This came from the need to demonstrate fealty to the original series - one only shows such things if they fit with the aims of the storytelling, the atmosphere one is seeking to create, whether or not the characters take events around them seriously and so on - a need which seemed to evaporate with the second series as the desire to define the show against its earlier self grew and grew.

This dual character of the first series contains the seeds of later decline, though they co-exist alongside a genuine attempt to remain somewhat true to the spirit of the classic series. The negative aspects mostly seem to take two forms, exaggeration or fetishism of some particular aspect of the show or a character, or seeking to define the present show or some aspect of it against the fundamentals of the past, undermining itself severely in the process.

Exaggeration and fetish

On the first count, one thing that springs to mind is the 'Doctor as superhero legend'. The seed of this is having the Ninth Doctor reveal that the Daleks have given him the amusingly hyperbolic nickname of 'The Oncoming Storm', presumably after they heard him in the bathroom. This later grows into the insufferably smug Tenth Doctor telling the Vashta Nerada to 'look him up' in part two of Silence in the Library, causing them to temporarily flee in terror. Though it is nice to know that invisible space piranhas can read. All this finds its nauseating apogee in the Eleventh Doctor ranting incoherently giving a cider-fuelled 'come and have a go if you think you're hard enough' speech atop Stonehenge to a cartoonish alliance of baddies hovering above him in spaceships, who then promptly scarper. When, as a fan, you find yourself hoping that the lead character is disintegrated on the spot, you know we're in trouble.

"Though it is nice to know that invisible space piranhas can read."

Doctor Who - 'Last Of The Time Lords'What about bad faux moralistic posturing? The Doctor is clearly a highly developed moral individual who sides with the oppressed against dictators, mad scientists, warmongers, rapacious capitalists, and destroyers. But this necessarily involves a degree of practicality - you have to break eggs to make an omelette - and though not one to resort continuously to the use of force, the Doctor has, historically, been practical enough to use force when a situation requires it. The flip-side is that the Doctor has frequently been on the receiving end of violence and coercion. Both of these are almost complete taboos for the New Series yet are also, in a weird way, two of its central occupations.

On the one hand the Doctor becomes an absolute pacifist, reduced to moral posturing that does not even make sense (I can save you Daleks of Manhattan! I can save you Davros! I can save you Howard from the Halifax!) and the Doctor's enemies are not allowed, for the most part, to lay a finger on him, or him on they (perhaps seeing the Doctor get knocked on the head is deemed too disturbing for children). This takes root early on with Nine happily admitting in his final story that he is so principled he would allow everyone on Earth to be exterminated rather than to destroy the Daleks, and Ten's exaggerated sniffiness about guns and relentless, actually very selfish, grieving for the dead Master in Last of the Time Lords. In a more general form we get the mostly deathless universe of Steven Moffat. The Moffat-verse, like the opposite of Logan's Run, like the opposite of a Swiss clinic. Everyone lives. That syringe is actually full of MORE LIFE!

Doctor Who - 'A Good Man Goes To War'On the other hand we get, somehow, the other extreme. To show that the Doctor is actually a bad-ass we get indiscriminate, unprovoked mass slaughter from the Doctor in A Good Man Goes to War, blowing up a fleet of Cybermen for no apparent reason beyond the need for the story to make him look like he means business and have a cool looking explosion while Rory gets to spout action hero catchphrases while looking cool. "Brap, brap!", said the Doctor, as they watched the cybermen's sheltered accommodation block explode, showering them with bits of harmless cyber-granny.

There is also the 'wrath' of the Tenth Doctor against the alien misfits in Family of Blood, Ten declaring himself the 'winner' of the Time War in Waters of Mars and free to fashion history as he sees fit...all designed to contrast with the portrayal of the Doctor as an absolute pacifist and all-round infallible good egg. The problem is that we get two disconnected extremes that bear no relation to one another and are only ever portrayed in a way that makes a big fuss out of each extreme as 'defining' character moments. No middle ground, no mediation between the two seems to exist. Perhaps the sentence of execution passed by Eleven on the irredeemable Solomon in Dinosaurs on a Spaceship is attempting to bridge the gap in an angular and apparently controversial fashion, though I don't think that it merits any controversy myself.

Defined against

The second main way in which the New Series is defined is in its conscious counter-posing of itself versus the classic series in a way which takes the fundamentals of the show and transforms them into their opposites while ostensibly including the original premise. This can lead to the show undermining itself badly, and risks slipping into a state where instead of being told stories we get simple mucking about with the format of the show as a substitute.

"You get Daleks without the substance that actually makes them Daleks. But what if you don’t want funny, ironic Daleks? What if you want actual Daleks?"

Doctor Who - 'Doomsday' (Daleks)To take an example from Doomsday, the bitchy Daleks. Now, in Doctor Who the Daleks are genocidal Kaled mutants, bubbling lumps of hate who show no mercy and bring fear and terror to the galaxy. But in order to define itself against this premise while still somehow including it we get the Daleks treated as a complete joke at the same time as being the major concern of the story for the Doctor and co. Unable or unwilling to write the Daleks as what they are, the writers muck around with the format. Even Mickey is too busy making funny about Rose's increased heart rate and Stephen Hawking’s electronic voice to notice that he could die at any second. The writer, in this case Russell T. Davies, turns the Daleks into a pastiche, has the characters not give a hoot about them, and takes great delight in making the Daleks do things that Daleks would never do instead of writing them as, well, Daleks. The mucking about with the format only undermines both the Daleks as a concept and the purpose of having them - that is, to generate a sense of threat! But in much of NuWho a genuine sense of danger is considered far too visceral. Danger cannot be dangerous, peril cannot be perilous. You get Daleks without the substance that actually makes them Daleks. But what if you don’t want funny, ironic Daleks? What if you want actual Daleks?

A similar view can be applied to the role of the companion. The (sometimes true, sometimes false) memory of the classic series is that the (often pretty) female companions existed solely to provide eye candy, state the obvious about what was happening, and be damsels in distress who would sell the danger in the story by screaming hysterically.

The reaction against this has been to make the companions miniature heroes in their own right, unafraid of the terror that lies out there in the universe, mocking it alongside the Doctor with sit-com one-liners and smugness. Serious, even deadly situations evince wisecracks and glib remarks which undermine the story but which give us the sassy, strong, modern companions who are designed to contrast with the screaming, fainting females of old. That most New Series episodes are written in a sit-com style where everything is played for laughs does not help; in a way it is woven into the fabric.

But the good intentions only achieve so much. Time and time again the supposed drama of a scene gets utterly sandbagged as the characters in general refuse to take their own plight seriously. And on occasion when, quelle horreur, the gravity of a situation is actually allowed to peek through a bit and the characters begin to respond even slightly naturalistically, the programme is so self-conscious about it and how exceptional this actually is that the whole thing frequently comes off as overwrought. Most of the time either there is no attempt to generate any sense of danger because Doctor Who is a 'romp' now, or if there is then there is frequently no-one there to sell it to the viewer with any enthusiasm or realism.

This is made all the worse when one considers that one of the positive lessons drawn from the classic series was the need to give the New Series a more human touch, deeper characters, something that had always leaked in from time to time but only very inconsistently.

"In the end, the moves towards displaying deeper hues of human feeling in the show are transformed into sugary Big Emotional Moments™ that can usually be seen coming a mile off, filled with tears and with the Murray Gold turned up from 11 to 12...on the Richter scale."

Karen Gillan as Amy PondBut adding more dimensions to the lives of the companions, adding a greater depth of emotional responses and self-reflection to the Doctor's character, though all great ideas, stumble in the execution. The constant ironic dialogue obstructs the process of caring about the characters or the attempts to add emotional depth and a richer psychological palette. In the end, the moves towards displaying deeper hues of human feeling in the show are transformed into sugary Big Emotional Moments™ that can usually be seen coming a mile off, filled with tears and with the Murray Gold turned up from 11 to 12...on the Richter scale.

The show reaches for emotion but, for the most part, serves up sentimentality. That is, to quote from James Baldwin, via Comrade Wikipedia, "Sentimentality, the ostentatious parading of excessive and spurious emotion, is the mark of dishonesty, the inability to feel...the mask of cruelty". You either get blockbuster-style sentimentality to force a sense of importance amongst meaningless run-around spectacle, or you get dilution to avoid it being too visceral and not cosy enough. Sometimes the shot finds its mark, I am happy to admit, but the need to include a BEM™ as a matter of routine does tend to make it both overused as well as overwrought.

Another aspect of this counter-posing of New versus Old, or the perceptions at least, can be seen in the way the show is produced. As against the supposedly slow and plodding classic series, we get the 'pacy' - that is, tediously fast - new series. Writers for the new series have expressed that you do not just have scenes of people stood around talking, and not only that, but that every episode ought, in fact, to represent a genre crash, switching almost at random between being a romance, a horror, a comedy, a thriller, etc.

This lends a feeling of incoherence and a sense that some stories just do not know what they are trying to be, attempting to be several different things at once and succeeding at none of them. Steven Moffat says that Doctor Who is half Hammer Horror and half The Generation Game (Nice to see you, to see you...!), but I must have missed all those episodes that took inspiration from The Generation Game. Is there a Doctor Who with an evil oversized cuddly toy on a conveyor belt that I don't know about? And no, you cannot steal that idea for an episode! This essentially strikes me as revisionism of the history of the programme. Most Doctor Who serials contain humour - as most good Who should - even ones like Genesis of the Daleks or The Curse of Fenric , but this is not the same as making them contain elements of outright comedy. By all means do a comedy, but keep the outright comedy out of any story that’s meant to be vaguely serious. The insistence upon the crashing of genres and of tones more often than not leaves only a car wreck.

A mini blockbuster every week?

Matt Smith in 'The Wedding Of River Song'This is the tag-line for the present 2012 run of episodes, and if it turns out to be nothing more than another way of saying that the episodes will have high production values then it is relatively harmless. But what other kinds of words might one associate with the 'blockbuster'? Plastic? Soulless? Dependent upon spectacle? Sentimental? Dramatic voice-overs as if from nowhere? New Series season finales in particular are plagued by these problems, which are present in revived series as a whole, but for some reason they tend to reach their highest concentrations here.

Think of the RTD series finales, or think of A Good Man Goes to War or The Wedding of River Song. All of these display utter terror on the part of the writer, the terror that arises from a lack of belief in the dramatic viability of Doctor Who in and of itself as a programme. The writers positively flee from what one could consider much of the basic format of Doctor Who.

This is partly why the best episodes of the New Series tend to be the ones that have had the least money thrown at them, as they are forced to tell an interesting story within relatively tight limits. 2011's The God Complex and The Girl Who Waited, the finest stories of that year's run, are pointed examples of this and positively rebelled against many of the standard NuWho clichés.

For the most part, however, there is the terror that some channel-hopping viewer who does not care what form their momentary screen-based distraction takes will happen upon the programme for a few seconds and, seeing the absence of crying, big explosions, and right-on if quite patronising and token identity politics characters, will keep flicking through the channels, and that the BBC, sensing this, will choke Doctor Who to death in front of us The Deadly Assassin style. And when this happens, dear viewer, it will be your fault for being a moaning git in the first place.

 

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Comments 

 
#1 Well said Sir Gilbert 2012-11-16 10:21
I agree wholeheartedly. When was the last episode of NuWho when one character or another wasn't in tears at some point? There's a shocking lack of ideas in NuWho, with plot being replaced by emotional gimmicks.
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#2 Here Here! Lal Oldscool 2012-11-16 20:11
A perceptive consideration between old Who and new Poo. Some aspects of the current series I do like, e.g. production values and effects far superior to the old series (though to be expected given today's technology) and Matt Smith, unlike his two immediate predecessors, is imo potentally a great Doctor. But the writing and style tend to let things down. We get pastiche and comedy more than anything else. Drama, excitement, action, humour and menace were all in the old series at its best on a regular basis whereas comedy and a reluctance to engage with real threat predominates now. So bring back some horror i say - scare the kiddies back behind the sofa and some of the adults too! New Who concentrates on an 'every one lives' saturation of tears and overblown emotion. I think diminishing returns will result if it continues like this.
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#3 I disagree... Jack 2012-11-16 23:02
...the fact that WHO is more popular now than ever seems to contradict these views. Furthermore, I think overall the writing, especially since Moffat took over, has been fantastic (I didn't really care for Davies stories).

There are plenty of stories that were dreadful with "Aliens of London" being a big stinker (see what I did there?). But, again, overall, they've been splendid.
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#4 POV Dragorth 2012-11-16 23:13
So, I loved the original Doctor Who as a child. And I really enjoy the new series as well. When comparing my thoughts on the series to those you have posted, I realize that I just don't think that much about it. I simply enjoy the story the writer is telling, and don't try to critically analyze it.

Why?

Because the point of the Doctor, as he has evolved from the children's show teaching about the Aztec culture, to the latest "Dalek blockbuster" is to be fun, and irreverent to the whims of the crowd.

Its great You have great reasoning abilities, but don't let it take the humor the Doctor has always tried to put in your life.

This is the reason so many of us loved the Tom Baker Years.
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#5 Enjoyed It So Far Michael 2012-11-16 23:18
The older stuff was far too stand aloneish for me. I don't understand how people watched older shows that ignored continuity driven stories. If I can just jump right in at any point and grasp the grander plot points then it's not worth the time to watch. The stuff I've seen with Matt shows a better attention to a continuity driven plot, and less to the stand alone plot. The problem a Continuity driven plot has is the urge to treat it as the never ending standalone plot. A Continuity plot must have a finality to it. Example, Babylon 5 Season 4 ended perfectly with the conclusion of their massive war. Season 5, though good, drew things out too much, and didn't take on a new story firmly enough. I see this as eventually ending for the doctor in a finally as some point with the doctors name reveled. But unless they are willing to target that point and actually stop this will eventually become a boring long drawn out story.
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#6 Thank goodness it's the end of the Amy Pond show! C.W.Zachary 2012-11-16 23:23
I almost wept when finally, finally Amy Pond was dead and gone and can no long haunt my dreams. Seriously, I expected them to rename the show at some point to "The Amy Pond Show, guest starring Dr. Who" the way they were going.

Enough slapstick and get back to what I loved about old Dr. Who - the sense of adventure and intrigue without the goofiness.
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#7 You miss the point James 2012-11-17 00:03
I can't completely disagree with what you are saying, but a HUGE difference between classic Who and the current series is format/pacing. The serialized stories, with a several cliffhanger points gave plenty of time for exposition, character development, and story. But the current series is far from the only modern entertainment to blur through these things in the interest of getting to the end of a story. The ADD generation has forced all movies and TV to blaze through the "boring" parts, and we get the highlights of character development in everything we watch. And exposition is limited to what moves the story along.

So in "Terror of the Autons", we get minute-long shots establishing the countryside setting, and in "New Earth" we get 10 seconds of story setup, SFX shot, and character growth thrown all together. Doctor Who is far from the only entity going through this. Star Trek in its many variations has done the same thing, and it ended before the current series started.

I think the storytelling of Doctor Who is not significantly off from what it was before, and there were (at least with Tom Baker) as many toothy grins and in-jokes as we see now. Yes, we do have more emotional moments per minute, but I don't think we have more per story, on average. They just happen with less "fluff" between them. The eleventh doctor said goodbye to Amy and Rory how many times? And then they meet again, and again. I think because we had so many previous goodbyes, the final one was almost anti-climatic, and cut short. And we haven't seen any episodes since, so who knows what will happen. How many times has Rose returned after being trapped in another universe? The characters are brought back frequently to assuage fan demand, as much as the executives and writers having another gimmick to raise the ratings.

As far as the change from eye candy to heroines for the companions, that is a societal evolution. Sarah Jane Smith was all screams and damsel in distress with Pertwee/Baker, but was converted to heroine in "School Reunion", and then given her own show to play heroine. Yes, the difference is notable, but moreso looking back at the mysoginism that existed then, compared to now. Compare Duke Nukem 3D / Duke Nukem Forever. The reviews went on about the unbridled sexism that just doesn't hold up over the last 15 years. Not saying that Doctor Who doesn't hold up well, just that it shows its age when the women faint, get lost, can't do anything.

We do need an engaging show, one that portrays accurately the situations the characters are in. I think it is very difficult to do in the time given, and still set up the story properly, and give us bits of humor and insight. More two-part episodes, more character development, and less sci-fi wonder are the only way that you can separate out the humor scenes from the action and horror scenes. So I'll put up with the awkward "Dinosaurs....on a spaceship" comment while being charged by said dinosaurs, in order that we get the story without sacrificing the Whoness of the situations that we get. Where every episode has something different and wonderful and terrifying to deal with.
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#8 Episodic format Michael Wallis 2012-11-17 01:35
One of the big changes that bug me is the change away from story arcs to episodic television.

Old Dr Who stories used 3, 4 or 5 parts to tell a good story, develop characters and build affinity for the Dr and companions. But in reviving the series, the BBC has decided the American "tell-a-story-in-45-minutes-and-get-out" meme is the new gold standard for television. They're all short stories now. Not a novella or novel in sight.

EXCEPT ... they DO make multi-part stories but you can't tell because they are not labelled as "Part 1 of 3" but each have their own title! Nothing is more annoying than ending a show in an unresolved plot line when you weren't aware it was a multi-part story!

Give us back our story arcs! Give us back the extra time to actually get into the story, the characters, the setting, the world and the problem. THAT will build viewer support and excitement far more than throwing money at a "shock and awe" season finale!
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#9 RE: The new series of Doctor Who: Fleeing from format? Derik 2012-11-17 02:43
I agree with pretty much everything you said.
Though the one thing that kind of ruins the new series is the "sonic screwdriver," or as I have taken to calling it, his "magic wand."
The sonic screwdriver is just that, a screwdriver that makes noise. It's not a scanner, it can't turn glasses into sunglasses, and it can't hack an alien computer.
The fact that the Doctor can just wave his magic wand and get himself out of most situations makes the stories a lot less interesting and "Who-like." My hope is that the next Doctor will take Davison's approach and not use it.
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#10 RE: The new series of Doctor Who: Fleeing from format? Chris Rywalt 2012-11-17 03:22
Yes! This article hits many a nail on the head!
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#11 RE: The new series of Doctor Who: Fleeing from format? henry the turnip 2012-11-17 05:47
As on old-skool Who fan I quite enjoyed the new stuff when it first came back. But now Moffat is at the helm there's just way too much handwavium going on, the show is very slick visually but it is now a triumph of style over substance. For the first time ever I must decide whether I'm going to keep watching.
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#12 Good and Bad Paul 2012-11-17 07:47
The new series are a child of their times. The 70s shows were more like mini dramas because that is what 70s UK TV shows were like.

The new shows are a mixed bag. On the one hand you get great episodes (Blink, The Empty Child, The Satan Pit, the one where the tardis gets human form) but often terrible dialogue or scenes.

While I liked the tenth doctor - mercurial and very (for me believable most of the time), the series has descended into a pastiche of space opera (River Song????? The fact that the doctor cannot drive his own tardis????? and worst of all "Skittles Daleks" - wtf???).

I am not sure if I do not warm to Matt, to Moffat in control or the mix of both.

Dr Who needs to ground itself again. Less big bang, fewer "we are as brilliant as the doctor" other characters and more credibility.
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#13 I'm sorry...but... Uncle Mikey 2012-11-17 18:36
...this article's attempt to eulogize the classic series and pillory the new are simply misguided.

Here's the sad truth: Classic Doctor Who was Children's Television made in an era when television was staged like plays in a theatre, only taped. Modern Who is "Family" Television made in an era where technology allows television to be like film only smaller.

Neither era is high literature. Neither era goes very far out of its way to be deep and meaningful. Both eras have some really damned embarrassing writing, and both have moments of brilliance. Both eras have dodgy performances and great ones. Both wrestle with the balance of entertaining an audience while trying to be something slightly better than the run-of-the-mill dreck in similar timeslots. Sometimes they succeed, sometimes they fail.

The old series constantly fought against its own format, changing that format fairly radically on a couple of occasions in fact. In the space of 5 years it veered from the gothic horror of the Hinchcliffe era to the camp of the Graham Williams to the near-panto of early JNT. Every time it got too violent it was pilloried for scaring the children; every time it stripped away the violence it got pilloried for being bland.

I think the new series still has some evolving to do, to be sure, but I don't hold up the classic series as some sort of golden age. Both sereies are enjoyable for what they are. Every era, every evolution, of the series has had both its upsides and its downs. Every evolution runs the risk of not being to everybody's taste. Yet, I prefer the constant evolution, the constant change, to stasis.
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#14 RE: The new series of Doctor Who: Fleeing from format? Toby 2012-11-17 23:01
I remember as a child being genuinely scared when watching (but not wanting to look away). I wonder if that is still the case for kids now?

I also remember even just a single dalek being a serious threat to the doctor - an apparently unstoppable force that couldn't be reasoned with, threatened, scared, and almost impossible to damage or destroy.
Today's daleks aren't anything like the daleks back in my day....!
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#15 Irony maiden LizR 2012-11-17 23:09
Nice to see things I've been saying since 2005 (and getting roundly denounced for by many a Who fan) going mainstream. I will however disagree with the idea that this format is a necessity because children now have the attention span of gnats, since my son (now 14) is an avid fan of "classic" Who and dismissive - for the most part - of "new" Who. Not thanks to me, except insofar as I had some classic Who available for him to watch. Why is this? Well, apparently because old Who told proper stories, took itself seriously and had reasonably realistic characters; the stories were long enough to care about, and the resolutions involved intelligence and a bit of derring-do, rather than a wave of a magic wand / timey-wimey ball / encyclopaedic knowledge of everything in the entire universe.

The Doctor was not an "Oncoming storm" (who knew the Daleks were secret poets, like the Vogons?) or a "Lonely God" but a cantankerous old man / mad, fun uncle / alien who said things like "you're a beautiful woman, probably" and who saw the bigger picture rather than wittering endlessly about how wonderful the human race is because he was, actually, an alien.

And it wasn't possible to change history on a whim, but it actually had a cost, when it was possible at all, just like in real stories where achievements have a cost.

Some people think that because new Who is watched by a lot of people it is therefore good by definition. This view also indicates that "Playboy" is the height of literature, "Naked ice skating chefs with the stars have got talent" is the best TV programme ever, etc. Anyone who still has this view should have a look at the best-selling novels of (say) 1912 and see how many of those works, all of which were consumed in droves, have stood the test of time.

Here they are, the equivalent from a century ago of new Who.

The Harvester by Gene Stratton Porter
The Street Called Straight by Basil King
Their Yesterdays by Harold Bell Wright
The Melting of Molly by Maria Thompson Davies
A Hoosier Chronicle by Meredith Nicholson
The Winning of Barbara Worth by Harold Bell Wright
The Just and the Unjust by Vaughan Kester
The Net by Rex Beach
Tante by Anne Douglas Sedgwick
Fran by J. Breckenridge Ellis

It might be better to be a less bum-on-seat achieving work of greater worth, e.g. a Wells, Kipling or Conan Doyle...
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#16 Idk Raqaelita 2012-11-18 17:59
I agree with almost all of the comments. Personally, I like the new who, including eccleston and tennant. But I also understand that oils who followed could be upset. At middle and high school the new show is very popular.
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#17 Oldies were goodies Odd Job 2012-11-19 04:17
There were some very relevant points made and I would like to agree with one of the comments, sonic screw driver, it can't shoot down spaceships, guide you out of a maze etc, it gets used in far too many key situations as an instant out key. Also, all of this bringing back dead characters, magically making up ways that they didn't die when they did just undermines the integrity of the show. You lose all fear of a character dying because the doctor constantly finds ways that they didn't really die. And please, please, please can the doctor's TARDIS go somewhere other than Cardiff? All of time and space and he stays within a couple of millennia on Earth.
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#18 RE: The new series of Doctor Who: Fleeing from format? Narcissa Smith-Harri 2012-11-19 14:00
What? I mean what? You think the Doctor's mix of pacifism and fight is a new thing?

But overall I don't see how I am supposed to take seriously an article that pines for female characters who are just eye candy there to sell the action?" An article that sees complex female characters as an artistic failure?

Of for that matter am I too take seriously an article which sees the past companions only in that light? Leyla was passive? Nyssa, Tegan and Romana were all bright, useful people and Sarah Jane Smith, the curious journalist was not a fainting heroine there to sell the action.

.They are there (as well as to give him someone to talk to) to bring in the girls to the show. Remember us? Half the population? And fully realized human beings just like your are?

Any improvement in that understanding of women characters in the new show is just that an improvement. If you don't get that, you don't get anything.
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#19 RE: The new series of Doctor Who: Fleeing from format? Arndt Mojo 2012-11-20 16:33
This article is spot-on, and expresses most of the problems I've had with NuWho -- to the point where I gave up on watching it a couple years ago.

For the life of me, I could never figure out how The Doctor could be allowed to become a kind of cheeky megalomaniac (the 10th). Smith's 11th Doctor comes closer to the original 'format', but he is given little to work with. Gaiman's episode is the closest story we've gotten to Old Who -- and it still fell short.

All in all, NuWho is a glitzy farce palatable only to fanbois and fans of 'genre fiction', and these types aren't the brightest bulbs of the bunch.
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#20 HushJohn J Dewey 2012-11-20 22:58
Well, first, to say the old series didn't pander and the writers took it more seriously is really strange. OldWho mostly pandered straight to the kiddies and grown-geeks and there was some real weak writing because they knew they could get away with it. NuWho has its own pandering, one of a homogenized, mass appeal variety which probably (along with the budget increases) puts the writers under a lot more scrutiny.

OldWho and NuWho are two completely different animals. The only quibble I have, that I agree with the article about, is that the idea of The Doctor as this legendary messianic figure and the companions as largely romantically bonded to him were real missteps that have negatively impacted the Who universe. I have no problem with the shows format or juggling tones, good stories can be made out of those elements, but those two key changes in the Doctor's character and his relationship with the companions has struck as the worst kind of lazy characterisatio n.
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#21 Blame DAVIES Rusty 2012-11-21 02:43
His bad fan fiction stories almost made me quit watching altogether. I got sick of the Soap operas, the "quick find an ending" stories and BOY was I sick of the "Boomerang Blonde!" When a companion leaves, they LEAVE end of story. They don't keep coming back - especially when their exit story said they couldn't come back without destroying the universe. Davies had NO respect for plot lines or canon. I was PISSED when he killed off the rest of the Timelords and keep hoping Moffat will get smart and find a way to bring them back. I was THRILLED to hear he was leaving - pity it was just so he could go on to murder Torchwood. Moffat's stories aren't perfect, but I've seen 13 year old fangirls write better than Davies.
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#22 Agree with Jack, James (#7), and Uncle Mikey (#13) here Jennifer 2012-11-23 16:29
Quoting Jack:
...the fact that WHO is more popular now than ever seems to contradict these views. Furthermore, I think overall the writing, especially since Moffat took over, has been fantastic.


The show is more popular than ever and I actually love it. Too blockbustery? Maybe. But evolution within such a show is to be expected, especially when you consider the time span - 50 years, and a good 25 years since the last episodes of Who (1963). Tastes change, your own and the ones of the public, and society changes too.
Also I am sure children and adults (myself for instance) watching the show would vow it is plenty dark, scary, and emotional. Again tastes differ and change accross time. I also love the comedy in it and the various styles we've seen in the different episodes. Let's see the next episodes, the public votes.
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#23 embarrassing ian 2013-05-12 03:49
So true. It really is garbage now - and astounding that a show that calls itself Doctor Who seems determined to be as unlike the original series as possible and positively embarrassed when it occasionally unwittingly manages it. The current run has been the worst of the new series as well, soulless, plotless, agonisingly dull. As a long term fan the series needs stripping down to bare essentials or just axing altogether; it's an embarrassment.
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