Friday, March 21, 2008

Doctor Who: Voyage of the Damned

So, in keeping with only taking the tree down a little over a week ago, I finally watched the Doctor Who Christmas Special, Voyage of the Damned. In two parts, and unfortunately I enjoyed the first part more than the second, where it really began to fall apart and drag for me. Some stuff to chew on.

1. In the wearing-influences-on-the-sleeve department: Didn't Douglas Adams and Terry Jones co-author a Starship: Titanic book a few years back? I'm starting to get tired of how close to home Russell Davies pinches his ideas.

2. The fat people in the interracial marriage, and the short alien cyborg die. The better looking white people survive (if what happens to Kylie Minogue is surviving, and I think the implication is that it is.) There's something not right about that, even given the speech at the end about the Doctor not being able to choose who lives and who dies.

3. I know this is par for the course for Doctor Who, but I'm tired of people coming from the vast reaches of time and space only to have cultures, ideas, values and class systems just like us. It seems like the era of original Trek and The Outer Limits was the last time aliens were truly alien. I miss that, and it's sad that 4 decades old television is more progressive.

4. I hate that the Doctor is clearly no longer vegetarian. Of course, since very incarnation is a new person, I should be cool with him falling off the vegan-wagon after the 8th Doctor. I fell off it too, after all. And around the same time apparently.

5. More seriously: I really am bothered by him making a direct promise to someone that he'd save their life and then NOT. Has he ever failed at this direct promise before? Don't the occasions when he directly promises to save someone carry special weight? Like the occasions when he gets mad? I think they've gone to both those wells too often for them to really impress.

6. In the geeky stickler for (dis)continuity department: The Doctor can't have both been traveling for 903 years and be 903 years old. He did not travel from the point of birth! Since McCoy's Doctor gave his age as 956 at one point, I think the Doctor has decided to shave off the 125 or so years he spent on Gallifrey before he was first called the Doctor for vanities sake, so he doesn't have to say he's in his second millennium. I.e. "The Doctor" is 903 years old. Like Bruce Wayne saying that "Batman" is ten or fifteen years old or whatever. On a related and more relevant note: I'm sorry they established that 3 years TV time has been three subjective years for him too. Historically, the Doctor aged between 70 and 150 years per incarnation (if you do the math) - plenty of room for all the missing adventures to fill in, but since the pilot episode has Christopher Eccleston checking himself out in the mirror as though for the first time, this move means that one year was really all the time the 9th Doctor ever got. That's sad.

Interestingly, I think the problem is that Doctor Who has raised its own bar so high with episodes like "Blink" and "Human Nature/Family of Blood" - both Hugo nominated as of today - that it can't get away with the kind of loosely plotted, stapled together nonsense scripts that made up the bulk of the original series. Even the worst of the new show is better than 98% of the old, and admittedly, were this old Who I'd probably love it. But it isn't. It's New Who, and New Who can do better.

Me, I'm looking forward to more episodes penned by Steve Moffat and Paul Cornell. There work can sit alongside the best of contemporary television, and that's the bar Who should always be aiming for.


ces said...

Tom Baker is, always has been, and always will be my favourite Doctor. Any show he is in is wonderful - no matter how good/poor any other aspect of the show is.

And, yeah, it has its inconsistencies. Just like book series do. But for me, it's just entertainment.

Lou Anders said...

No argument, but that doesn't mean there isn't levels of accomplishment in entertainment, and something like "Blink" holds up a LOT better across the board than "Voyager of the Damned." Whereas something like "Human Nature/Family of Blood" actually transcends "entertainment" in the way that TNG's "The Inner Light" or DS9's "The Visitor" did.

ces said...


Perhaps instead of "entertainment" I should have said "escapism entertainment." There is a difference. I've always considered Dr. Who as "escapism entertainment" and not thought anything further past was it funny; whereas a show like "Masterpiece Theatre" is entertainment where the writing definitely matters. A good example of this is when I was 11 or 12 years old (many many years ago) I saw a production of Sarte's play "No Exit" on TV. I was both entertained and educated. That production is still as clear in my mind as it was back then, when black-&-white was the only TV available.

Lou Anders said...

I think that as my own viewing time becomes more and more rare and precious, I have less and less tolerance for entertainment that doesn't fire on all cylinders.