Friday, January 8, 2010

Doctor Who the Hell is that New Guy?!

A woman is shopping in her local store when she overhears a manager bragging that he hasn't taken a vacation in 10 years. Overcome with curiousity, she walks over and asks if she heard right. "Yep" he replies, "Worked every scheduled day for a decade, with not a vacation the whole time." She asks him why, and says there are two reasons.
"Well, what are they?"
"For one, business might drop off sharply if I left for two weeks."
"What's the second reason?"

"It might not."

The day after New Year's, BBC America showed the last ever Doctor Who starring David Tennant. After a year of only a few specials (most of which were pretty good) and months of build-up to what was to be a universe-shaking conclusion, I have to say "meh"

Oh, it was spectacular in it's way, but so much of it seemed forced. The emotions of the viewer were led around by the nose instead of being carried away by the flow of the story. We were left with absolutely no way to misunderstand what we were supposed to feel during every moment. The subplot with the Master's latest return from the dead only served to stretch out what already felt overlong. Wait, let me back up a tad.

We learned over a year ago that Tennant woud not be making a full season, then we found out he was leaving altogether. Recovering from the initial shock, we resigned ourselves to the inevitable. Having a year pass, knowing he was a "lame duck Doctor" kind of overloaded the circuits though. By the time we got to the "end" it was anti-climatic at best. It was almost "Jeez, Tennant's still here?" He was gone, we knew that, he just hadn't actually left the room. When he did there was no shock, only something like indifference.

Part of that is definitely Russell T. Davies fault. In order to get the new revived Who series on the air to begin with he was forced to ignore a great deal of what the BBC felt was unnecessary baggage from the 28 previous years of the show. Gallifrey was gone, leaving the Doc as the last of the Time Lords. The Doctor's seeming sexual ambiguity was out the close...I mean, the window, as we learned he had been a husband and father at some point, and of course he fell hard for Rose Tyler. So much of the Doctor's earlier incarnations was left out that it seems Davies came to think anything he didn't feel like dealing with was fair game to dispose of. Which is my unbearingly longwinded way of bringing us back to the latest regeneration. Traditionally they went one of two ways: The Doc realizes it's the end of his current time, or he gets gravely injured and has no choice but to regenerate, Okay, once he was forced to regenerate by the Time Lord High Council, in effect murdering part of him for his "crime" of helping people. For Tennant's swan song however, the rules were ignored. For the last of the "Water's of Mars" special, and most of the "End of Time" finale, he whines incessantly about having to regenerate. And well he should, because it makes no goddamm sense.

First of all, the lines that draw towards his regeneration are only put in motion by the people/creatures telling him it's inevitable. Secondly, it's pretty clear by the time we get to the regeneration that if he had paid attention he could have seen the lines of probability closing and saved himself. Instead he just ignores the evidence around him and gives himself up to his "fate", then whines some more when he gets it wrong. And the reason for it.....

Wilf, an 80-year old man, clumsily and stupidly gets himself locked into a glass cage in order to save someone whom he has never met and has no reason to care about. The Doctor, stupidly and, well, stupidlly steps into the box to release Wilf, in essence exchanging 30-75 years of his own life for Wilf to have another 3-5. This is not what "heroes" do, this is what hack writers do.

The aftermath though I have to admit to quite enjoying. Usually the Doctor doesn't get the opportunity to properly say goodbye. It was nice to see everybody one more time. That being said...Well, why the Heck did he go see that woman's granddaughter? He was time-skipping throughout the finale, why not just go see her? It was established that Donna was "just making do" with her fiance and current life, so why did the Doc give her a winning lottery ticket on her Wedding day? Why not give it to her the day he took her home and wiped her memory? That way she actually gets a happy ending. The way he did it, now she is either stuck with her "making-do" husband or they (far more likely) will end up divorced, she loses half the money and is heartbroken and bitter. For all that matter, what gave him the right to take that money away from whoever won it in the original timeline and give it to Donna? Wasn't the "lesson" of Waters of Mars that he shouldn't tamper like he did right there? And Rose...Ah Rose. He goes to visit her a bit before he actually meets her for the first time. Rose is pretty sharp, so now she would remember this strange fellow when he becomes him later on, so just to satisfy his own needs he creates a time paradox that could unravel season 2-5 inclusive.

What're YOU going to do about it?

The Doctor referred to what he was doing as his "reward". Well, his reward winds up with him going through what is obviously intense pain, alone on a snowy New Year's and almost destroying his Tardis in the process of regenerating. And leave us not forget his last words, "I don't want to go". We didn't want him to either, but tough poop apparently. the star, producer, and head writer are leaving so screw the fans. Whovians need closure in order to accept the new Doctor. We got nothing like it. It felt like it right up to that last line, which summed up what we wanted and weren't going to get. And even more than slapping fandom in the face, Davies & company did quite a disservice to the incoming crew. We are now inclined to resent this new Matt Smith, because No. 10 did too. This "new man walked away" and we weren't done with the "old" one yet. Davies and Tennant had a duty, a responsibility, to the devoted fans who made them what they are today. That duty was to make absolutely as sure as possible that we were over Tennant and ready and willing for Smith. They flubbed that, utterly and on purpose. Shame on them.

Overall I found this finale to be the weakest of the story arcs presented during Tennant's tenure. If this was the best of which Davies was capable I would have preferred he let someone else handle the departure. I wish Smith all the luck in the world and I will be watching, but I think he is owed a Hell of an apology from Davies and Tennant.

I'll just wait right here and hold my breath until you apologize.

NOT happening!


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