Fixing Doctor Who - Season Five Edition

Fixing Doctor Who – Season Five Edition

Let’s make this past season make sense, shall we?

Rewriting Doctor Who

Yep.  We’re going to rewrite a season of television written by the great Steven Moffat.  If Doctor Who has taught me anything, it’s that extreme arrogance will get you anywhere.  (“This pop culture website!  Is!  Protected!”)  (Alternately: “Wait!  Why are you in charge of this rewrite?”  “BECAUSE I’M VERY CLEVER!”)  (Oh, Tennant.  How I miss you and your scenery chewing.)

Here’s how we’re going to do the rewrite.  First, we’re going to pick the best themes of the eight I listed on the previous page.  Then, we’re going to write new character arcs for the Doctor and Amy so our themes actually relate to our characters and their development over the course of the season.  Finally, we’re going to rework the plots of the thirteen episodes so they aren’t so “all over the place” thematically.

OK: Step 1.  Let’s look at the themes.  “Can Robots Love?” is the first on our list.  It’s an inherently silly theme–watch “Victory of the Daleks” again and tell me that it’s not.  Even if it weren’t silly, we’ve seen this theme handled in science-fiction so many times that it’s old hat.  I say chuck it.

“But what about me-e-e?”

“Childhood vs. Adulthood” could be a good theme, but, ehhh, I dunno.  To write a story with such a theme, you’d have to define “childhood” and “adulthood,” and I don’t feel comfortable doing that.  In this season, Moffat and co. defined childhood as “wonder” (“Don’t ever grow up,” Peter Pa—err, The Eleventh Doctor said).  Meanwhile, adulthood was defined as “heterosexual marriage.”  Blah.  Blah, blah, blah.  I throw you away, “Childhood vs. Adulthood” theme!

“Identity vs. Disguise.”  Yeah, that’s a good one.  Moffat liked this one a lot–perception filters and so on–so we’re definitely keeping this one.  “Stories Becoming Real”?  If it’s metaliterary, I’m in!  Though this theme didn’t get much play in the middle of this season, it was big in the season finale, so it has to stay put.  Finally: “Memory & Forgetting.”  That’s the theme Moffat harped on the most throughout this season, so that one has to stay, too.  Orphans, stasis, and especially shrewish females get chucked into the Void.

Remember, kids: Crack is whack.

Okay: we have three good thematic topics: Identity, Stories, and Memory.  I like it.  Now let’s figure out what the actual theme of this season is going to be.  Based on “The Pandorica Opens” and “The Big Bang,” I’m going to say that the big theme Moffat was going for was something along the lines of, “A person’s identity–a person’s whole Universe–is based on the stories she tells herself—stories based on her memory (or false memories) of past events.”  That’s a neat theme—a really neat theme, actually.  I wish the season as a whole had supported it.

Now that we have an actual, honest-to-goodness theme, let’s figure out how to relate that theme to the emotional arcs of the main characters: Amy and the Doctor.  “But wait!” you say.  “Do characters even need arcs?”  All right, I’ll give.  No, characters don’t always need arcs.  Not always.  Characters in satires are flat, as are characters in old-fashioned Shakespearean comedies and modern-day sitcoms.  But Doctor Who isn’t a satire, and though this season did end with a wedding, it’s not a comedy.  (It’s not a Brechtian epic, either, smartass.)

No, this show is a romance.  It’s a fantasy.  The main characters need to do the quest thing, start in one place and end in another.  Would you like if Luke Skywalker started out as a whiny, unheroic farmboy and ended up as a whiny, unheroic Jedi?  Would you like Batman if the Joker weren’t there to challenge him to kick things up a notch?  And if you want to bring out the old chestnut, “It’s just a children’s show!” (or the new Moffat-era version: “It’s just a fairytale!”) then I bring you this list: Harry Potter.  The Little Mermaid.  Aang.  Beauty and the Beast.  Dorothy.  Taran.  Children don’t like character arcs?  Bah!  Kids should love character arcs more than anyone—they’re changing all the time!

We all know that classic-era Doctor Who didn’t have character arcs, or, if they did, they were much more subtle than what we saw in the RTD era.  Thing is, classic Who was almost completely episodic.  It didn’t really have much in terms of season-long story arcs.  But we’re in the post-RTD era now.  We got used to having a full season story arc each  year, and we got used to having season-long emotional arcs, too.  Once a show goes that route, you can’t really undo it.  It seems like a step in the wrong direction–a step from art back to cartoon.  (Actually, that’s unfair to cartoons, because lots of modern cartoons have good character development. ) You may disagree with me on this, but, in my mind, the characters in Doctor Who need emotional and developmental arcs.

“Quick! Develop me! Develop me!”

So let’s tie our themes to the character arcs.  Remember, our new theme is, “A person’s identity is based on the stories she tells—stories based on her memory (or false memories) of past events.”  That means our main characters should start the season misremembering themselves and end the season by remembering who they really are.  Then they can have their happy ending.

So what’s the Doctor misremembering?  Well, he’s just regenerated, and he had a pretty crappy time at the end of his run as the Tenth Doctor.  In “Amy’s Choice,” he misremembers himself as an asshole pedophile who abandons people whenever he gets the chance.  I’d say, then, that the Eleventh Doctor’s new arc should be this: At the beginning of the season, he’s super-happy, because he’s just shed his Tenth Doctor baggage, and he’s actively trying to forget all the crap he’s just gone through.  As the season goes on, he’s continually reminded of his past, which is sad, because he’s trying really hard to be Happy-Go-Lucky Doctor.  Then (here’s my favorite bit), he actively causes the Cracks in the Universe to form, because then he can, vicariously through Amy, really start over from scratch.  This turns out to be a huge mistake, and they go and fix it.  Then the Doctor remembers the real story of Doctor Who: He’s the hero, and regardless of how many times he screws up, he’s still a good guy.  He can remember this good stuff and play the part of the hero while still accepting the bad stuff in his past, too.

Also, the shower scene stays in.

As for Amy.  I didn’t like Amy this season, because she didn’t seem like a real person to me–more like a cardboard cutout of a sexy, snarky Scot.  However, there were some little rays of hope for her.  First, even though her occupation as a costumed kiss-o-gram came off as slightly sexist, I thought it was a great idea, because it reflects the theme of identity, and it reflects the Doctor.  What is the Doctor if not a person who keeps changing identities in order to be all things for all people?  What’s more, this occupation works on a meta-level, too.  Amy is played by an actress who is playing the part Amelia who is playing the part of Amy who is playing the part of a sexy nurse, a sexy cop, or sexy whatever.  The Doctor is now being played by a new actor who is creating a new character based on an old character who is always changing faces.  This is really interesting stuff!  I wish the show actually referenced it after “The Eleventh Hour.”

Other than her one-dimensional personality, the other thing I really didn’t like about Amy was the whole Rory/marriage plot.  If season five is about Amy learning to accept the story and memory of her childhood and gain a true identity as an adult, why does her end goal have to be marriage?  Is a woman only self-actualized if she’s a shrewish wife?  Honestly, if I were writing this season, I’d leave out the marriage/Rory plot altogether, even if it meant losing the far too clever “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue” line.

If Amy’s new character arc is to work, it needs to work as a foil for or reflection of the Doctor’s arc.  Let’s say at the beginning of the season, Amy and the Doctor are in the same place: they both are actively forgetting their pasts, and they both want to be happy and have fun.  Later on, like the Doctor, Amy is continually reminded of the crappy times in her past.  The Doctor can basically deal with this, but Amy cannot.  She gets really screwed up.  Therefore, the Doctor decides that, for Amy’s good (although it’s for his good, too), he’s going to create the Cracks in time and let her forget about all of the bad things she’s seen and been through.  Then things go bad and the Doctor fixes it and everyone earns their happy ending.

Sound good?  Okay.  Let’s do it.

ON THE NEXT PAGE: Our new, improved season five, episode by episode.

24 Comments on “Fixing Doctor Who – Season Five Edition”

  1. Timothy J Swann #

    (So everyone can read it):
    Wow, what an endeavour – you ought to send it in to the BBC, get yourself a job over here just kind of poking Moffat to get him on the straight and narrow. (Not sure why the comments are closed on this one) Also, if you find the time, do see if it’s possible to find his show Jekyll, which I think holds themes together a fair deal better. Was going to counterpoint that I liked Amy’s Choice as foreshadowing, but then you hit me with the Valeyard (whom I’d been insisting was in the Pandorica – at least so much as it would be the Doctor himself). Also, I don’t know if you’ve heard for your Cold Earth rewrite that Moffat intends to have a purely Tardis-based episode next season. I only wish I had some Overthinking to offer, except to say a) wow and b) I knew the themes of the novel far before I’d made sense of the plot, and I had to make the plot fit those themes, which slowed me down often, but hopefully it was worth it, by which I mean, there must be writers out there who intentionalise themes and make them work and happen, right?


  2. Count Spatula #

    Brilliant! I especially like your moving the Lodger nearer the beginning and introducing the Valeyard. I was convinced that guy was some old school baddie, but nope he was just a hallucination. Damn.

    If I was writing it I’d have had the little girl as the companion, with the main theme of Children vs. Adulthood. Never Grow Up would be the point of the series. Amelia was interesting and funny and she complimented the Doctor brilliantly in the fish custard scene, and “Never Grow Up” is a great theme for Doctor Who, especially with all the “The Doctor’s seen too much suffering” thing going on. Also it would have been different: the little girl and the ancient Lord of Time. The Doctor would have shown her how the Universe can be more terrible and more incredible than she could ever imagine, and she would have shown him how to be a child again. I might write up a list of how I’d change each episode a bit later on, but for now this is just the jist of my season.

    I’d have made it so the stories Amelia told people weren’t dreams she had waiting for the Doctor to come back, they all happened that night but nobody believed her because how could anything like that be real? And at the end the Doctor leaves her back at her house the same night they left, forgets something or makes a promise to see her again or whatever, and then turns up years later on her wedding day and older Amy gets to be his companion for season 6, like a brand new Amy Pond. The Amy we got for real didn’t have a personality I felt jumped from the screen and shouted “This is who I am! These are my quirks and nuances! This how I make a difference to the Doctor!” But I loved little Amelia from the get-go.

    And at the wedding when the Doctor turns up, a huge smile lights up her face, or she raises an eyebrow or something and turns around to everyone and goes, “Here he is, my Raggedy Doctor, only [however many] years later!” I’d have loved that scene to happen to me when I was a kid – I’d love it now. When I was little, I was always annoyed by that adult cynicism that those amazing people on TV were “just fictional characters”. So I think the wedding scene fits in with my idea of “Never Grow Up”. The last big triumph: “See, I told you my imaginary friend was real!”


  3. Rob #

    Nice. Very Nice. I think you have an excellent series there and have picked on why series five – whilst enjoyable when being watched – felt a little flat as a whole.

    To play devil’s advocate, however, I think there are two points to be made

    Firstly, the story from the last series isn’t over yet. It will probably be put on hiatus for the Christmas special – Christmas Day stuffed with turkey and wine is not the best time for intricate science fiction plotting – but the final episode implied that some of the open questions, most notably who was piloting the Tardis and controlling the alliance, will be answered. Here, then, I think Moffatt has extended the season-long plot arcs of the RTD era and replaced them with an even longer-term story. Some of the episodes which at the moment seem rather throwaway and unconnected might yet be retrofitted into a bigger arc. Your arc, whilst excellent, wraps the whole series into itself (character development excluded).

    Secondly, too, its easy at the end of a series to look back and wish for a complete narrative. But that’s not the way that episodic television is told. Each episode is a stand alone narrative and there’s no harm in having episodes which don’t, in retrospect, fit. One of my bugbears with a lot of sci-fi/fantasy series is that they begin with a rough premise and plot arcs which allow for stand alone episodes early/mid-season. By their latter series, they’ve created such complex set-ups that every episode is a ‘we must save the world and defeat the big bad’ story, which means they often loose the aspects that made them fun (Tru Blood seems to be going this way).

    So an interesting re-write, but I wonder if what you’ve actually produced is a film/three part-television special rather than an episodic series.

    PS Actually then – wouldn’t this storyline have worked brilliantly for the David Tennant 2009 specials?


  4. vegie #

    I’m with Rob to me this season felt more like a first act, the beginning of a larger story. There is no real enemy or at least no confrontation with one. The season rather revolves around a disaster that the doctor has to fix that may or may not have been caused by a mysterious foe.
    The first time I watched the final I thought rivers last line about everything changing was a bit wanky, but the second time around it occurred to me that large changes in the next season would give the fifth season allot more purpose. From that angle It looks to me like setup of charters specifically the doctor and river to provide starting points for the next seasons arc’s or ending points in rivers case as well as possible future villains and the beginnings of future themes .
    This season had a lot of left overs from the RTD seasons and I think after the end of the tenth doctor moffat needed to recreate the baseline to start a story where everything changes from.


  5. Brimstone #

    i thought i liked the last season, but i was wrong

    you’re a genius


  6. Nexxus9 #

    Finally watched the rest of the season last night so I could read this. Good stuff. I like a lot of your ideas… especially bringing back the Valeyard.

    I think you missed a recurring theme, though. The Doctor being “dangerous”. The big reveal with the Pandorica being the obvious example, but there were other instances. Rory outright states it in the Vampires of Venice, but in many episodes the Doctor is a catalyst for bad things happening. It wasn’t mentioned after Rory disappeared. I feel like the Valeyard would have fit in well with such a theme.


  7. Hana S-Smith #

    I agree with you on a lot of points here (especially the relative worth of creativity, but that wasn’t the main objective admittedly) however I’m inclined to state the obvious a little here.
    Not to be too on-the-nose but surely the key theme tying together this season (and every season) of Doctor Who is, well, time? Your past catches up to you (River Song, The Pandorica, The Doctor, Amy), Memories are our link to the past (Amy, River, Rory, The Doctor…) The future is a formidable thing (The Lodger, Van Gogh, The terrible Silurian bit). I know it’s the central device, but I keep feeling like every other theme ties centrally and derives centrally from that point. What happens when we look at Time a bunch of different ways? Moffat loves messing around with time.

    Also, just a nit-pick, but the whole ‘can robots feel love?’ theme doesn’t really exist. Ostensibly that was what was happening in the episode but that doesn’t make it the theme. It came up again with the whole Roryisanautomaton thing. It’s just identity/memories again. Both are replicate of a real person, who has memories of that person that define their identity. As soon as you start denying their personhood/identity they are dangerous. Memories are the connection to a human past and to a human life. I’d argue that theme doesn’t exist at all. Although I agree it is completely unnecessary.

    I personally like this season’s arc extending beyond a season, it doesn’t make it feel so… capsuled. There’s plenty of time to make the themes tie together.

    Either way, it’s definately a fun take on the series (done in 2 hours?!) that I would have rather watched, but I don’t mind it as it stands.


  8. toasterhedgehog #

    Here, I fixed the basis for your thesis so it more accurately reflects the TV show we both watched:

    “The Eleventh Hour” (Moffat): We are our connections to other people.
    • “The Beast Below” (Moffat): ignorance is consent; Moral courage vs status quo
    • “Victory of the Daleks” (Gatiss): You are your connections with other people. (I’ll elaborate, the Daleks are defined by their relationship to the Doctor, as the Doctor is defined by them, Amy is defined by her relationship to the Doctor and in absentee Rory, and Paisley is defined as a man by his love. Choosing to be a man in his mind makes it so, and saves the world.) who you want to be effects who you are.
    • “The Time of the Angels”/”Flesh & Stone” (Moffat): faith vs. reality; the limits of trust; and secrets
    • “The Vampires of Venice” (Whithouse): Genocide; how far do you go to survive; sacrifice for those you love; Fantasy Vs. Reality (that means Doctor Vs. Rory)
    • “Amy’s Choice” (Nye): Fantasy Vs. Reality (Doctor Vs. Rory), You are your connections to other people, aging, What will you do to stay youthful (The doctor carts around young humans to keep from feeling old?) self deception, childishness vs. maturity
    • “The Hungry Earth”/”Cold Blood” (Chibnall): Violence begets violence; We are our connections to other people.
    • “Vincent & the Doctor” (Curtis): The relationship between madness and genius; We are our connections with other people. (Vincent realized how he affected people, and was changed by that knowledge)
    • “The Lodger” (Roberts): stasis vs. progress; how low self esteem effects our relationships and lives; the power of love (I know, blech); who you want to be effects who you are
    • “The Pandorica Opens”/”The Big Bang” (Moffat): We are our connections with other people (literally); who you want to be effects who you are; the power of love (blech)

    The sexual politics you brought in as themes have nothing to do with the actual story as presented, and are more about your baggage than what actually happened. You shouldn’t run around accusing people of sexism without cause. It’s no better than calling everyone a racist or a homo-phobe, and is fairly insulting to any moderately evolved person.


  9. josh #

    See? You DID make sense of it! I knew that would happen.


  10. life 'n things #

    This was a nice reworking of a season that felt hastily cobbled together. I for one would have liked to see 11’s Raggedy Doctor identity more firmly established before Matt Smith threw it off so vocally.
    The theory that Moffat plans to tie together this season’s themes sometime next year is a bit ridiculous; this is television where the next season is never a given thing. And while every episode doesn’t need to tie directly into the overarching season theme, there at least needs to be a point at the end of the season where the obvious loose ends are tied together.


  11. mlawski OTI Staff #

    @toasterhedgehog: I’ve been thinking about how to respond to you for a while, and I think I’m just going to quote Roger Ebert:

    “[Steven] Boone’s review [of Inception] fits my definition of usefulness. It doesn’t matter whether I agree with him. He helps me see things … There’s a human tendency to resent anyone who disagrees with our pleasures. The less mature interpret that as a personal attack on themselves. They’re looking for support and vindication.”

    I am not calling you immature, don’t get me wrong. But please know that I did not mean this article to be an attack on any fans of the past season, and I hope in the future you will avoid attacking others by saying they have “baggage” and lack “evolution.” We’re just talking about Doctor Who here. No need to bring out the ad hominem attacks. We can disagree and still consider each other intellectual equals, right?

    Just to be clear, I do not believe that Doctor Who is sexist in general. In fact, you folks can read my ode to earlier seasons’ progessive gender dynamics here.


  12. Dr. Bob #

    Ok, short and sweet. If you look at the series finales since the beginning of the NEW Dr. Who they have been one upping each season, more at stake, more to lose, bigger solution. I was wondering how the writers were going to one up towing the Earth back how through hyperspace. Well they did with the Big Bang 2.0.

    They have jumped the shark I am afraid. Where do you go after you reboot the universe and no one notices. They would have done better to go with the “I stole the Tardis” theme, and had the current Doctor Reboot and become the First Doctor. Time Lords are alive. Whats a Dalek? Cyber-who? I don’t like what they did.


  13. toasterhedgehog #

    I apologize for attacking you. I should have chosen my words more carefully.

    I would like to clarify, if I had read that a work of mine’s theme was ‘women are shrews’ I would feel as if I had been called sexist. By ‘evolved’ I meant that any ‘evolved’ person would be offended by being called sexist.

    Rereading my post, I can see how I might have seemed angry. I was just writing quickly, and I was a bit excited.

    I enjoyed reading this post, and your blog.



  14. oldskool138 #

    It’s “Hopelessness” that Pandora traps inside the box not “Hope” itself. If the only thing left in the box was Hope then there would be no Hope in the world.


  15. manwhoneverwould #

    I really enjoyed your post. I agree with just about everything you said. However, though your take on Eleven’s character’s development is a brilliant idea, I think that Moffat would never have Eleven reference Ten to that degree as it would be tantamount to Moffat linking himself to something RTD-related, as he seems determined not to do with his desire to distance himself with new titles, Tardis (interior AND exterior – because the Tardis needed a new coat of paint?) and Sonic. From my perspective, Moffat seems to be saying that the older seasons were rubbish and that he would like to shed the franchise of that mess before he can tell the story that he wants to tell. Which to me seems unnecessary as a clear point of demarcation can clearly be drawn with just the new Doctor and new stories. Improving on what came before doesn’t have to mean erasing as many traces of your predecessor as possible…in my humble opinion…


  16. Claire #

    Absolutely fantastic. I want to rewrite time and space to make this the real season 5.


  17. Gab #

    Alright, I don’t have a lot of overthinking to do in re: your new episodes, because, frankly, I think you did a bang-up job. Many, many props to ya.

    But to overthink the reasons *for* your rewrites, *that* is something I can do, I think. I find a lot of the relationships in this season to be harmful or unhealthy, or at least abnormal or unbalanced. Not just between the Doctor and Amy or Amy and Rory, but even minor characters that show up for their lone episode. And the Doctor doesn’t always fix them, nor does he even notice them a lot. The Ninth Doctor usually picked up on that sort of thing and acknowledged it, but I feel as though this one, even if he does see them, doesn’t speak up enough. So this means two things for me. First, the politics nerd in me wants to postulate that RTD is a federalist/Big Government-type (because his Doctor tends to get more deeply involved and invested in what’s going on around him, meddling in peoples’ personal lives beyond what is necessary to get the job done), while Moffat is an anti-federalist/Small Government-type (because his Doctor tends to do the opposite); and second (which is a separate theory and not to be equated with government at all), that the Tenth Doctor has lost some of his humanity this time around. I believe the latter has been tossed about or alluded to on other comments pages here before, but suffice to say that he’s much more cynical, dark, distant, and callous than before. I have lost a lot of faith in the Doctor’s hearts (not abilities), to the point where when he made the remarks about Amy to test botRory in “The Big Bang,” I believed he meant them- and thought, “Holy shit, the Doctor would NEVER have said that when he was played by David Tennant!” and when he got up after being punched and stuff, I still had trouble believing he hadn’t meant it and wasn’t covering up for what he realized was a very hurtful thing to say (so as to avoid apologizing). The first little theory would probably be a lot harder to work and feel more contrived if hashed out in more detail, but I like leaving it vague so as not to spoil the fun for myself. The second wouldn’t be as hard, I don’t think.


  18. Freshly Squeezed Cynic #

    The theory that Moffat plans to tie together this season’s themes sometime next year is a bit ridiculous; this is television where the next season is never a given thing.

    The next series was a given thing. It was commissioned before this series was even aired. The BBC would have to be absolutely mental to cancel their biggest money-spinning cash cow. So Moffat knows that unless he fucks up, badly, he’s probably got a lot of time to play with. It’s not ridiculous at all that he’d want a multi-series-long arc.

    From my perspective, Moffat seems to be saying that the older seasons were rubbish and that he would like to shed the franchise of that mess before he can tell the story that he wants to tell.

    “Holy shit, the Doctor would NEVER have said that when he was played by David Tennant!”

    Both of these comments are somewhat Missing The Point, as it were. Above all, Doctor Who is (or at the very least, has become) about change. The passage of time. The inevitability of aging versus the flux of the choices we make. Everything ends, but that is only so things can begin anew. Moffat, by starting afresh is not devaluing the RTD seasons any more than NuWho devalued Andrew Cartmel’s attempts to put the series back on track in the late Eighties, or Jon Pertwee’s action-and-gadgets focus devalued the whimsical cosmic fool of the Patrick Troughton years. They complement each other, different spins on similar characters.

    The Doctor is an archetype. I’m not sure entirely what of, but he is. A trickster god, a lonely wanderer, an anti-authoritarian? But within this (or these) archetype(s) a myriad of personality types can be expressed. He becomes, literally, a different person from time to time.

    People change. The Doctor changes more than most. Welcome it.


    • Gab #

      About the change. I could “accept” it if it was shown as a progression, but it was done too abruptly for me to be comfortable with it. I understand he went through a lot in losing Rose, but there was absolutely no time to see any sort of development when the actual personality change happened- there was no path from point A to point B, he teleported (or Tardised himself, heh) over, and it has no cohesion. See, the series with Martha wasn’t enough to create said cohesion- he was kind of transitional then, still grieving, and even so, he still wouldn’t have said something like what I was referencing during that series, either (or at least not in a way nearly so cold or callous or flippant- it would have been in the middle of a serious heart-to-hearts (get it, hearts, with an ‘s’? (which, by the way, is something this Doctor does not do, or at least not very well, and this is, again, an example of a change in personality I’m troubled by!). And the way he ended up regenerating before Amy was not enough of an explanation for the drastic upheaval of his personality. Again, it jumps too suddenly, and even the change between Eccelston and Tennant made more sense and felt more like a drive to the lower level as opposed to a fall off the cliff. If it’s supposed to be the same character, I’d like to see the change and not just be expected to accept it. Maybe this is because I’m viewing the show on that aspect of writing the same way I view others: I need reasons for actions and personality traits, otherwise it feels cheap and lazy to me. And having already seen a good transition between Doctors, I’m disappointed I didn’t see one this time, which makes accepting this Doctor’s personality a lot more difficult.

      So yeah, I’m kind of petulant about it, but I think it’s bad writing, even for a Dr. Who series, and I simply just can’t sit back and “accept” bad writing on a show I loved previously. I get indignant. So it’s not you, it’s the writing. To me, it’s not about the fact that he’s different so much as how and why. Admittedly, I haven’t seen more than a few random episodes from the pre-Eccelston eras, so if the transitions were jerky back then, I’ll concede that my problem is completely my own because I’m holding the show to a standard it can never fit if evaluating the arc of its entire run. However, like I said, Eccelston to Tennant felt smoother, so I’m basing my assumptions on that versus the newest regeneration; and thus, I admit I could be focusing too much on an anomaly of the series.

      But (and I realize I’m rambling) in today’s television-viewing world, is it really acceptable to have a character become so different so suddenly anymore? If they’re trying to make it new and for a modern audience, it should adhere to what modern audiences tend to want- and I don’t think I’m all alone in wanting my characters to make sense when I’m watching TV or a movie. Since the change in his personality doesn’t make sense to me, I don’t like it.

      Yup, I think I sort of made a point.


      • Freshly Squeezed Cynic #

        I could “accept” it if it was shown as a progression, but it was done too abruptly for me to be comfortable with it.

        Are you meant to be comfortable with it? Regeneration is one of the more fundamentally alien aspects of The Doctor, so I’m not surprised if some people get, well, alienated by it; maybe I’m just looking at this in the context of the old series, as you say, but I see this transition as a lot smoother than the infamous regeneration into the Sixth Doctor (first line: “Change! And not a moment too soon.”), where (spoilers?) he goes into a bit of a post-regeneration fugue and attempts to strangle his companion. Yes, you read that right. Thankfully, he gets better, but initially he’s written as an arrogant, self-satisfied coward (with a terrible suit). It was meant to be a redemptive arc as he slowly regains his more heroic nature, but the writing in that period was never good enough to pull that off (people complain about the writing now have… The Sixth Doctor’s Big Finish Audio stories are much better, though.)

        So there’s certainly meant to be a continuity of traits there, but focused through the prism of a different (sometimes radically) individual. You can see Six’s egoism dialled down somewhat in Ten, especially in The Waters of Mars, or Eleven’s deceptively goofy, disarming persona in Two and Four. Or Nine’s irascible nature and slight condescension of humanity paralleled in One and Six.

        Eleven’s not callous or cruel, I don’t think; you have to set aside a lot of things (the spacewhale, for all that was a bit of a messy episode, did show Eleven burning with righteous, compassionate anger). He’s less inclined to take humanity’s side automatically, like Ten seemed to be, and he’s a lot less empathetic and sometimes blunt when making observations. But cruelty? I’m not seeing it, to be honest.

        I’m also confused by who you’re talking about here; you mention Eleven by talking about this season, but you’re calling back to events of Ten’s, as if the personality change from Ten to Eleven should have been foreshadowed (forgive me if I’m misreading you, but that’s how it seems to me). Eleven never regenerated before Amy, for one thing… In any case, I get that traits should be shown, not told, but I’m honestly perplexed by why you think that’s not been the case in general with Eleven, unless it’s more to do with the nature of regeneration sort of jumbling up the personality of the Doctor in one fell swoop. To me, that’s not a problem; regeneration for the Doctor has been shown to be traumatic. Why wouldn’t that affect the way he thinks and acts, in sometimes drastic ways? Not all personality traits are earned in slow, fulfilling character arcs.

        Looking back, to me, Ten is a lot different from Nine, from the very start. He’s established right out of the gate as a different man, but with the same drives and impulses. What he becomes three series and three specials later was even more different, and special, but then, Eleven hasn’t had three series and three specials under his belt, yet.

        As for this season’s writing, at times it was patchy, definitely, but I don’t remember anything as singularly awful or pointless in terms of the arc, in this series, as say Fear Her or the god-awful Daleks In Manhattan. Or The End of Time, for that matter…


        • Gab #

          Sigh, I need to convey myself better. No, I realize I’m not necessarily *meant* to be “comfortable” with the change in itself; however, the difference I see is this: if the progression had been shown and I was uncomfortable with it, I could still accept it. Got it? Please, stop being hung up on my dislike of the personality because that’s not where the beef I have comes from: it comes from what I consider to be poor writing. If it had not been jerky, even if I hadn’t liked it, I could have accepted it. I mean, I absolutely couldn’t stand Kate in Lost, but I accepted that her character was so annoying and selfish because she was written that way and written well– it made sense, or was at least shown as how she always was, all the time, no matter what, so I didn’t question it. I question this Doctor because he doesn’t make sense. Even between/among episodes within this series, his personality jumps around, and I do not know what Doctor to expect each time a new one starts. I could totally go with a plot like the older one you described where he strangles his companion at first- if it is shown right, but whatever Moffat wants the Doctor to “be” this time around, or whatever personal, introspective journey the Doctor is supposed to go on, it’s very, very unclear to me, so it makes me uncomfortable. Am I being clear this time? I’m sorry, I guess I either can’t say it in terms someone else can understand, or you’re arguing side details instead of my main point.

          And speaking of side details, though (sorry), I didn’t mean Eleven is always cruel, but that I felt what he said and how he said it at that particular moment was delivered cruelly and callously- whether that was Rory or not, he/it was at least programmed to love Amy more than him-/itself, so to be so flippant about her life’s value to him/it was a cruel thing to do.

          Looking back, to me, Ten is a lot different from Nine, from the very start. He’s established right out of the gate as a different man, but with the same drives and impulses. What he becomes three series and three specials later was even more different, and special…

          Exactly! And as you imply, it’s shown gradually, not abruptly and jarringly, these overall changes. Ten started out different, yes, but there was still Nine in him- and that Nine slowly faded away until Ten became his own. Eleven hasn’t had as much screen time, as you say, but, as such, his screen time hasn’t been enough to justify how different he is. And again, he changes from episode to episode, so… well… yeah. I’m still not convinced it’s done well, even if I ignore any comparisons to Ten or Nine because Eleven sea-saws so much between episodes in this series- one he’s happy, the next he’s chaotic, the next he’s brooding, the next he’s chaotic, the next he’s close to dull, etc. The writing is too inconsistent.

          Bottom line: I’m not disliking the Doctor for his traits this time around in themselves, but for how inconsistent they are and because they are a reflection of the sloppy writing for this series.


          • Caroline #

            I do understand why you’re saying about the transition, but I feel like Ten alluded to the potential for dramatic change in his last special. When he was explaining regeneration to Wilf, he said something along the lines of “It really is like dying. I’m gone and a new man walks away.” Nine, as a very different personality, was not hesitant about dying and eased the transition for Rose (and the audience) by downplaying the change. But Ten REALLY didn’t want to die, which I feel contributed to the jarring nature.

            Also, I felt there was a good flavor of Ten in Eleven’s first couple of episodes. The first seen between Eleven and Amelia felt strongly like Ten to me, as did a lot of his interactions in The Beast Below. After that, he definitely went in his own direction. But that’s what the Doctor’s always done, and it’s what Ten told us would happen. With that in mind, it seems unfair to hold it against the series too much.

  19. Freshly Squeezed Cynic #

    Also, token nerdery, The Valeyard is not the Twelfth Doctor, but a possible future incarnation of the Doctor somewhere between his Twelfth and Thirteenth selves. A sort of avatar of possibility, much like The Watcher between the Fourth and Fifth Doctor, only an expression of malice and hatred, given a semblance of self by the Time Lords.

    You could (and I do) easily argue that that was The Valeyard, since the psychic pollen awoke that aspect of the Doctor and gave him voice, made him as real as he ever was. Why shouldn’t he be The Valeyard just because he called himself by a different name? The Doctor wasn’t always called The Doctor…


  20. Quin #

    That was outstanding. Steven Moffat would be wise to take you on his staff. And P.S., you’re not the only one who smelled a faint whiff of sexism this season.


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