Far be it for me to sound (even more than usual) like a grump, but are there any sacred cows about Doctor Who that Russell Davies and Steven Moffatt don’t plan to blow up?
Call me selfish, but I don’t want The Doctor to have a love interest, never mind a wife. I don’t want his assistants to be his mother and father-in-law. And I certainly don’t want the title of the show to finally be used as a plot device. But that’s we have after Grand Moff’s season finale – all of that. And I can’t help but feel a little sad about it.
There was some good stuff here, no doubt about it. I certainly thought Nicholas Courtney was given a lovely and tasteful tribute, all the more so as it was unexpected. And I enjoyed Matt Smith’s performance a lot, from the deadpan reaction to Amy’s pencil drawing of Rory to his recovery from his mopey mood to a cold-hearted but firm determination to see things through to the end. And I thought Alex Kingston – though I resent the role she’s assumed overall – was more restrained and closer to the character I enjoyed when she made her first appearance.
On balance, though, it feels as if things have been left pretty much up in the air, all the more galling as we’re looking at a full year’s wait until season 33 begins next Autumn. I wondered along with many others just how in the world Moffatt was going to tie up all the loose ends he’d laid for himself in 45 minutes. The answer was deceptively simple – he didn’t try. Moffatt answered the bare minimum and resolved what he absolutely had to, and punted the rest of it to the 2012 version of himself to deal with.
The Doctor’s answer to the “fixed point in time” conundrum was pretty clever – using the Teselecta to be there in both spirit and body, yet not actually take the blow. Would it work? Who knows, but this is science-fiction so anything’s possible. The overall conceit of the finale was interesting, and I enjoyed the imagination Moffatt showed in paiting a London where all of time was existing simultaneously. I could definitely see that being a bit of a problem.
Not to pile on, though, but I’m definitely on board with the idea that things have generally gotten a little too heavy and complicated. Whether Amy, Rory and River are major characters next season or not, I’d like to see a series more focused on hard sci-fi, adventure, horror and stand-alone stories. I don’t a whole season of stories obsessing about the grand problem of The Doctor’s existence, and I don’t want a whole season of him fretting that the universe is better off without him. It’s a valid point, and it was past time that we saw The Doctor do some real soul-searching about the danger he’s put his friends in and all the harm that’s come to those who loves him. Kudos to Moffatt for bringing that to the surface, and by all means let’s see that consideration become a part of The Doctor’s character in coming years. But please, ease up on the mooning and the moping and the convoluted plots that leave you exhausted just trying to remember all the clues. Here’s a tip – if you have to keep using flashbacks to remind the audience of important stuff they probably missed, you’re throwing in too much stuff for them to miss.
I don’t want the series to go back to what it was in 1963, or even 1983. I just want Doctor Who to be a little more connected to what it was, and a little bit less hard work to watch. I still have faith in Moffatt, who’s clearly the better writer than Davies. Now he just has to prove he’s clearly the better show runner.