The writers delve into the dark heart of immortality, the Doctor makes a new frenemy, but loses this reviewer.
Lets bitch it out …
As I hinted at two weeks ago, I’m not convinced that Moffat and crew are up to the task of sustaining a Doctor Who series based on two-part episodes. If they want to embrace this new system, then, as a viewer, I expect that each half should be able to function as a stand-alone episode. I shouldn’t have to commit to feeling unfulfilled every other week. But in order for that to happen, there has to be enough “story” in every episode to fill the allotted time slot, and this is where the writers are falling down. The third two-parter this series is another example of spreading the story-telling too thin, and failing to sustain narrative interest. All of the right ingredients are there: great actors, plucky dialogue, decent music, fun costumes, kitchy monsters, and a darkly serious over-arching subplot that we all know will lead to the inexorable loss of dead-weight companion, Clara (Jenna Coleman). But every week of series nine has been a slow slog through dark-lit corridors and meaningless banter. The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) has become boring and this reviewer is done.
On the topic of banter, even The Doctor reminds us this week that he disapproves of it, but the clever back and forth between him and Lady Me (Maisie Williams) is the only thing sustaining the episode. Just as Me feels trapped in her life, I felt trapped in the story: lots of words and actions, but nothing really happening. Well, not exactly true, there is a bungled robbery, a tension-less heist, a meaningless mugging, an interrupted hanging, battling broaches, and a not-so-surprising alien invasion from a Narnia-inspired race of lion-people which is dispatched as quickly as it begins. Despite all of this narrative clutter, nothing in the short-term is accomplished and the story ends where it began, with the Doctor learning nothing after being confronted with the harsh consequences of messing with immortality, and Lady Me resenting/loving/hating him for it. Long-term, however, the writers are investing in a complex new frenemy, who I suspect will bring about the downfall of Clara. Maybe I’ll check back in once the season is on Netflix and I can fast forward through the dull bits.
I used to watch Doctor Who for the good guy TARDIS-team, but in the current series the bad guys are far more interesting. Missy and Lady Me are wonderfully complex villains who make it difficult to continue liking The Doctor. They highlight the moral politics of his time-dabbling, and draw attention to the inconsistencies of his character and hypocrisy. As a long-time fan of the show I find the trend deeply troubling. The Doctor is supposed to be a source of hope, but the current season is turning him into a spreader of darkness. First he helps create his mortal enemy Davros, then he kills off innocent bystanders to test a theory, then he condemns a young woman to an unwanted immortality that she loathes. There has been no hope this season, and knowing that we’re going to lose Clara makes me fear for how the writers are going to close the door on her character. I suspect we’re in for a depressing slew of “downfall” episodes that will culminate in the loss of a beloved friend. I disagree with the direction, and I won’t participate by watching it happen.
- I’ll keep it brief: Leandro … Leo/Andromeda (I presume)… WTF? Worst evil alien ever. Looks like they wasted the season’s creature budget and new-idea quotient on The Fisher King.
- Maisie Williams has some of the best scripting I’ve ever heard on the show. Her monologue about being trapped in immortality is powerful and convincing. It is at that moment I stopped liking and began hating The Doctor. I saw through the series how his selfishness and his cavalier attitude affects the lives of individuals who aren’t his companions. A dangerous move by the writers; once I realize how much I dislike The Doctor, I have no desire to continue watching the show. Without hope, there is no show. It’s possible I’ll be back, but unlikely.
- The Doctor (to the woman who used to be Achilda): “Anyone in that village would have died for you.”
Lady Me: “Well, they’re all dead now, and here I am. So I guess it all worked out.”
- Lady Me (rebuffing The Doctor’s desire to keep calling her Achilda): “I call myself Me. All my other names died with whoever knew me. Me is who I am now. No one’s mother, daughter, wife. My own companion. Singular, unattached, alone.”
- Lady Me (pleading with The Doctor to take her with him): “I have waited longer than I should ever I have lived. I have lost more than I can even remember. Please Doctor, just get me out of this. I want more than this. I deserve more than this.”
- Lady Me (rebuking The Doctor for refusing to help her): “Human life is fleeting. People are mayflies: breeding and dying, repeating the same mistakes. It’s boring. And I’m stuck here, abandoned by the one man who should know what eternity feels like, who should understand. [I do, now. But …] You still won’t take me with you?! You who gad about while I trudge through the centuries, day by day, hour by hour. Do you ever think, or care, what happens after you’ve flown away? I live in the world you leave behind, because you abandoned me to it. [Why should I be responsible for you?] You made me immortal. [I saved your life. I didn’t know that your heart would rust because I kept it beating. I didn’t think that your conscience would need renewing. That the well of human kindness would run dry. I just wanted to save a terrified young woman’s life.] You didn’t save my life, Doctor, you trapped me inside it.”
Your turn: What did you think of Lady Me’s argument about the negative consequences of immortality? What are your thoughts on the direction this season? Have you, like me, lost faith in The Doctor? Sound off below.
Doctor Who airs Saturdays at 9pm EST on BBC America in the US