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Beware the Creeper!

Iain's life as a psychotic crimefighter

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Daze of the Doctor

it seems de riguer to present one's credentials for long term Dr Who watching when discussing the 50th anniversary and who am I to bugger with tradition.

My first doctor (you always remember the first) was Patrick Troughton and I believe the story was Wheel in Space (at least, I remember Zoe and Jamie, and that was Zoe's introduction.) I have limited memories of the Troughton era, I remember the Krotons and the Mind Robber and some of (but certainly not all of) The War Games, so I remember my first regeneration, that of Troughton to Pertwee.

So I watched Dr Who pretty much continually until the Davison era. I didn't mind Davison's Doctor but I was losing interest in the stories. I caught a couple of Colin Baker episodes and that was it for me. I dropped in occasionally to see if it had improved but, no, it seemed childish nonsense that I had finally grown past. However, the last season of McCoy seemed to pick up - the Doctor had become enigmatic again and slightly sinister, I liked Ace as an active assistant for once and the stories seemed to be less pantomimey, more interesting. Then Dr Who was cancelled and I regret to say I didn't miss it. It had gone from essential viewing (especially when following The Goodies) to being a vague clownish childish shadow that just faded away, briefly spluttering to life before being snuffed out by a no-longer caring audience.

Then Dr Who came back to television as a tv movie. Briefly. I was excited by the prospect. I loved Paul McGann and thought he was an excellent choice for the Doctor and I even liked Eric Roberts as the host for the Master but the movie itself was wrong headed. It was trying to reshape the Doctor for American tastes by making him half-human (ugh) and giving him a love interest (double ugh.) So whilst I will always miss seeing a run of McGann as the Doctor (I've read a couple of the 8th Doctor books and thought Kate Orman did a good job of blowing the embers of the character into flame) the movie was misconceived from the start so we were spared the horrors of the series it would have spawned.

So I'd been disillusioned by the Doctor twice and by that stage I never even hoped I'd be given the chance to be disillusioned a third time.

But here we are, 50 years after the first broadcast, with Doctor Who now being one of the most successful revivals in tv history and entering the Guiness Book of Records for having the most widely simulcast episode in history. Not only historic, but making history itself. Instead of getting just three Doctors (like the 10th anniversary) or five Doctors (like the 20th) we get all 13! Including one (Capaldi) that we knew was coming but hadn't seen before now. And one we didn't know about (Hurt) that acted as a bridge between "Classic" Who and "NuWho".

In a way "Day of the Doctor" is an astonishing piece of story architecture - truly impressive in the way that it both builds a bridge connecting the two different eras of TV Who's, whilst including a nod to the tele movie, with the webisode "Night of the Doctor" showing McGann's regeneration into Hurt. At the end of "Day of the Doctor" Hurt regenerates into Eccleston so the arc is finally complete. But not only that, it shows the way forward - for 50 years (our time) the Doctor has been running away from Gallifrey and now he's running towards it. Or finding away of releasing it from its timelocked state. Or something.

Because, you know, by this point I don't really care.

Gallifrey is not a magical word for me that summons the legendary home of the Time Lords. For me it's just another in a long parade of plot mechanisms - devices to keep the Doctor moving in some direction (either towards or away from), to spark a series of associations that the current writers can use instead of developing plots and characters strong enough to hold interest in an episode long enough to make it to the end. Doctor Who is no longer a show about an eccentric, enigmatic man who pops into the middle of a problem, solves it (usually at some cost) then disappears. It is now a show primarily about the Doctor himself and that's not the show I'm interested in.

Without actually realising it, I'd reached the point with NuWho, that I was with Classic Who towards the end of the Davison series, where I'd pop in occasionally to check out what was going on but wouldn't feel compelled to stick around to see what happens. Because the Doctor always wins - and now the Doctor is the whole point of the show, not the stories it can tell. There is no point in me getting interested in any of the ongoing mysteries that NuWho has been coughing up because, inevitably, the solution is less interesting than the setup. If I'd wanted that out of a show I would have stuck with "Lost".

It's not that NuWho hasn't had some great episodes. "Blink" is pretty much perfect and many of the other stories Moffat wrote for NuWho, when Russell T Davies was producing, were good too. I even like "The Eleventh Hour", the introduction of Smith's Who because it serves as a perfectly good jumping on point for new viewers. The choices for the NuDoctors are all fine actors - but the Tennant Who and the Smith Who are just not that interesting as characters. They talk too much (especially about themselves), they have to be constantly reminded by their assistants to save lives rather destroy them (a trope still present in "Day of the Doctor" where Manic Pixie Girl Clara gives three Doctors the solution to not bombing Gallifrey out of existence.) He is no longer the smartest man in the room. He just thinks he is. Too much like real life for me - if I wanted to spend time in a room full of people all convinced that they were smarter than everyone else in the room, I'd attend more SF conventions.

Because that's what I think has happened - the Doctor has regenerated into his own fan, because he's written by fans. He even brings his own fans along with him in case he gets caught up in the labyrinth of his own awesomeness and needs someone to lead him out again (which appears to be the only weakness of the NuWhos.) And the general awesomeness the show is bathing in has slopped over to the scripts which have discarded outmoded ideas such as plot and characterisation for the Rule of Cool. "We're going to kill the Doctor", "We're going to blow up the Tardis", "We're going to END THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE!!!!" And then they don't. Because... reasons.

I feel exhausted. I feel awesomeness fatigue. I know EVERYTHING will come to nothing. I know NuWho is following the basic plot of old Star Trek - "We're in trouble... we're really in trouble... no, we really, really, are in trouble... I cannot stress enough exactly how much trouble we in... no we're not. Everyone carry on." NuWho knows it because on occasions it has just dropped a machine in with a BIG RED BUTTON (as in... say... oh, I don't know... "The Day of the Doctor".)

But, of course, it's not about the story. It's about the fans. It's about how many references can be dropped in (which isn't SO annoying in a 50th Anniversary special as it is expected), it's about HOW AWESOME IS THE DOCTOR!!! It's about HOW SPECIAL WE ALL ARE TO BE FANS OF THE DOCTOR!!! And it's about moving metric tonne-loads of Tardis Biscuit containers, Sonic Screwdriver bottle openers and cuddly Adipose figures. It's not a merely a show anymore, it's a brand and. like all brands. all it ultimately stands for, is itself.

tl:dr version.

Here's how I feel after watching a current episode of Dr Who:

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I was going to give you a wise Whovian comment (being very peeved at having had to skip the Reboot special due to my download speed) but my screen skipped and I didn't realise it had and you got something else entirely. Which says something...

Ok, interesting. But I think it became "about the Doctor" between Troughton and Pertwee, when the Gallifreyans exiled him to Earth. Which is before I even became a fan. So I guess we have very different perspectives on what Dr Who is about.

Thanks for your level-headed analysis.

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