Monday, 7 April 2008

Dr Who

Oh well. The time of year has come again. Dr - bleeding – Who.

This has got to be one of the most overrated television shows ever. Every year we get months of build up, people filled with adoration for Russell T Davis. The Christmas episode was useless, but the last season was not too bad. Sure, there have been mistakes, but there are a lot of shows that I put up with that have dud episodes.

I am not going to review this new episode, which was turgid and boring, and which is as formulaic the old ones, but not as terrible as I had feared. Instead I have a few points on Dr Who that I would like to point out in general.

1. The award for the most overused plot device ever - the Sonic Screwdriver. Every single tight situation where cunning might be useful, and they switch to the screwdriver. (Incidentally the best aspect of the Doctor's personality is his cunning.) Any part of the plot that doesn't add up? Use the Screwdriver to get out of it. It's painful. It’s lazy. And they seem to be pleased with themselves evertime they think of it.

2. I understand that this show needs to appeal to all age-ranges, but that does not mean make it suitable for the lowest possible age range, and mass market it to "families", meaning adults will feel it is acceptable to watch. Toy story - good for all ages. The Simpsons - good for all ages. Dr Who is most often (see 3) written by three years olds, by three year olds. Mass appeal does not make lazy writing necessary, it just, sadly, seems to make it acceptable.

3. This is the exception that I need to write about. The one good point. Anyone who wants to see what Dr Who could be like, go and watch the episode from last series, Blink. Steven Moffat, you are the greatest scriptwriter the BBC can call on, you saved Dr Who, and actually made it into a brilliant piece of Science Fiction. You actually proved what Dr Who can be. For that I am eternally grateful, and really pissed off at Russell T Davis for not doing a better job. This has been referred to as a Dr Who-lite episode, according to Wikipedia, because the Doctor is barely in it. This is why it rules! The Doctor is allowed to use his ingenuity off-screen to help our heroes, and it uses time as a mechanism for his brilliance. This is the only point I have in favour of the Doctor. I have seen one episode that proved how good it can be. And it really is good.

4. Average CGI does not impress me. Even awesome CGI alone does not necessarily impress me. CGI is a means to an end. Just throwing it at me and hoping that I, as a viewer, can make something of it is not a good production strategy. Get over yourselves, and use that larger-than-average effects budget in a way that does not dramatically disengage me form the action.

5. This is the most important point of all, but one that is almost always overlooked. He is a time-lord! He can travel in time! WHY DOESN'T HE THEN!?! Almost all episodes could be easily solved if he arrived on earth a few days before he did! Usually, this would have saved lives! He picks the date of his arrival! He picks the time! So why does he choose to arrive late? Sometimes the Tardis makes a mistake, and this drops him into a tricky situation, or sometimes he doesn’t know what he is dealing with until too late, and yes, they do need tricky situations so as to make a TV show. But most of the time he can simply go back in time and set up supplies or mechanisms to help him out. Why ignore time travel as a mechanism for the plot, and just fall back on the "stupid alien & screwdriver" mechanic? I am not suggesting replacing one Deus Ex Machina with another, but at least vary it a bit. Why ignore the best possibility of the Doctor?

In conclusion, Dr Who is almost always overhyped, is almost always badly acted, is almost always badly scripted and is almost always badly produced. Almost always it is a waste of time, money and effort. But every now and again, the potential for the Doctor shines though, and in those moments you know that what you do have is special. Here’s hoping we get one of those again.

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