Monday, October 15, 2018

The Doctor's New Clothes

Do you ever find yourself asking whether you've seen the same thing on TV as everyone else?  For the second week running I've been left feeling that way about the latest iteration of Doctor Who.  Once again, I hadn't planned upon watching it, but I was somewhere that somebody else was so, out of politeness, I watched the second episodes.  Besides, I thought at the time, it will at least give you a chance to see if these is a significant improvement in quality and whether I've warmed any more to the new Doctor.  Now, according to the majority of the press, what I saw was another great episode, full of entertaining action, plot and dialogue with another winning performance from Jodie Whittaker.  Except that it wasn't.  It exhibited all of the same problems as the first episode: paper thin plot, (if, indeed, one could call it a plot), no real conflict, no character development, bland dialogue a flat performance from the lead.  Indeed, if I wasn't a long-term viewer of Doctor Who, I would have been hard pressed to identify the Doctor as the lead character.  I know I came into this new series of Who as a non-believer in gender bending regenerations and with severe doubts as to Chris Chibnall's suitability as a show-runner (let alone a writer of individual episodes), but surely it must be obvious to anyone who has watched them, that these first two episodes simply don't work.

I've done my best to be objective, despite my own preconceptions and prejudices, and there are things I like: the new titles and both the rearranged theme music and the electronic incidental scores are actually pretty good.  And I still, sort of, like the overall look of these new episodes, in that they still remind of  low budget exploitation flicks from the seventies or eighties, (a feeling reinforced by that electronic music).  Although  still think that the BBC should be aiming a bit higher than this in terms of production values.  But the big problem still lies with the central performance, or lack thereof.  Again, there was just no authority, no gravitas to Whittaker's performance as the Doctor.  But the media clearly think I'm wrong and seem to have been watching something other than the entirely superficial episodes I've experienced.  It feels like I'm trapped in the story of the Emeror's New Clothes, cast as that small boy who keeps trying to point out that the aforementioned emperor is stark bollocking naked, but is ignored by everyone else.  Part of the problem is, I'm sure, that too much of the media invested so much in the gender change for the Doctor, trumpeting how great it was and what a triumph for liberalism, gender equality and whatever else it was, that they can't see past it.  All they can see is a woman playing the role and that's enough for them to declare it a roaring success, in spite of the fact that the woman playing the doctor, on the basis of the first two episodes, at least, isn't up to the job.  That said, with scripts this weak, I fear that anyone they cast would labour in trying to breathe life into the character.

(Don't worry, I'm not going to chronicle my reaction to every episode of this series of Doctor Who.  Life's just too short and I really don't want to keep sounding so negative.  But I just felt that the huge divergence between what I've been seeing on screen and the way it has been ecstatically reviewed in many quarters was worth commenting on.  Perhaps if I see an episode which shows signs of improvement, I might return to the subject).



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