Thursday, January 10, 2019

Abandoning the Doctor

For me, Doctor Who began as a chance occurrence. Working out on an elliptical machine, at the YMCA, I'd search the cable channels for something to watch. Since I normally avoided television in the day, this was a minor adventure, and luck had it that BBC America was available. The reboot of Doctor Who was showing, and this wasn't the guy with the scarf. No, I was watching David Tennant and Freema Agyeman, their odd adventures punctuated with moments of genuine SF wonder.

Jump forward a little bit in time. I found the show streaming on Netflix. At least I think it was Netflix. And I decided to show my favorite episode to my daughter, who was still a single-digit age. We streamed it on my computer, a gigantic Dell Inspiron with what might be the worst screen ever designed by human beings. We sat together on the sofa, the machine in my lap, and if both of us could make out the picture, then neither of us saw it clearly. But that's how we enjoyed "Blink" together, and for years after that, we were hooked.

My daughter lost the faith first. David Tennant and the early Matt Smith were fine, but she was becoming impatient. Parts of some episodes were enjoyable, but everything else was too silly, or dull. Or worst of all, predictable. I never got a clear explanation. But I kept investing in the new seasons, including Peter Capaldi. Including "Heaven Sent," which is one of my favorite SF film dramas. Ever. Just a wonder of a thought problem carried to its logical, massive end.

At this point, I want to say that I have zero troubles with Jody Whittaker. I loved her work in Broadchurch, particularly in the first season. And the actor more than meets my ideas of the Doctor when it comes to energy and inhabiting the center of the screen. But the storytelling has been a letdown. I've seen exactly four episodes, and they feel like promising second drafts produced by young writers. "Rosa" was fine. Was the best. But I would have felt like tweaking events or remaking the story ... I don't know, make it smaller maybe. For instance, a couple of the Companions could have been separated from the Doctor, and finding themselves lost in the Deep South, they would have witnessed and perhaps helped a woman essential to everything else that has happened and has not happened in these Disunited States.

One big problem with the new season: For me, the science isn't clumsy, clunky fun anymore. It's just lousy. The series requires millions of dollars, but nobody seems to be looking at the minimal standards of logic. For instance, in "The Ghost Machine," we have acetylene gas used as a gimmick. Lighter than air. That's what some writer must have learned from Wikipedia. And so it floats above our heroes, and they set it afire with a cigar that has been carried throughout the hour for no other purpose. Boom. Enemies dead. Though I suspect that anyone with experience in welding or explosives would find that scene ridiculous. Our cigar-wielding heroes should have been incinerated in the flash.

Speaking of convenient plot ploys: The New Year's story has an oven carried about in a clumsy cardboard box. Why? I convinced my daughter to watch the story with me, and turning to her, I predicted, "That oven is going to save the world." Sure enough, that's what the clumsy box did.

Certain people would say, "Oh, but it's just a story and you have to suspend your disbelief."

And I would scream at them, "That's why we have the president that we have today. Everybody from the top to the bottom keeps suspending their disbelief, ignoring the obvious, and if we survive this next week and the next two years ... "

Well, that's another bunch of posts.

My point is that I'm pretty much done buying Doctor Who. If the next season shows up free somewhere, I'll try it. Maybe. But if I want to ride the Tardis, I'll watch "Blink" again.

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