In Our Opinion

Q: WHO IS THE MOST INTERESTING DOCTOR ON TELEVISION? PT. 2

By • Sep 20th, 2011 •

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Not any more.

Since my last article on this subject the venerated Doctor has regenerated twice, firstly in the form of actor David Tennant and now the even younger Matt Smith. The series has recently resumed on the UK’s BBC1 channel in its regular Saturday night slot.

I’m a great Doctor Who fan. I grew up with it, but I find now the subtlety has gone out of it. I’m glad the series is continuing but I feel they are heading toward killing the golden goose. The Doctor as a young action hero may pander to a lower common denominator but long time fans deserve something better than the current fare.

The Doctor running about, shouting and being overly eccentric is no longer charming, just annoying. And his continual justification of ‘Trust me, I’m the Doctor’ with a wink, a smile and a flourish of his sonic screwdriver and a rush of Murray Gold’s music doesn’t work any more. He should stick to L’Oreal hair product commercials – ‘Because I’m worth it…’

The score by Murray Gold and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales (I wonder where that funding came from? Not from Wales I’ll bet, they’re skint) is heavy handed also – This isn’t Harry Potter, but they seem to think it is.

Even the pathos is flogged to death, and though I am loathe to admit it, though you still struggle with irony, you Americans DO do pathos best and more subtly – look at series like M*A*S*H, Frasier or Monk, all of which I love. They can bring a tear to your eye. Doctor Who just beats you over the head with it, and with ridiculously over the top sumptuous music to reinforce the fact in case you didn’t get it.

I remember a quote from Christopher Plummer on the set of THE SOUND OF MUSIC where he said working with Julie Andrews was like going to work with a greetings card every day. It’s a bit like that. Sorry, a LOT like that.

There’s also been an overly long story arc about River Song/Melody Pond. And I’m not even going to go there.

Doctor Who has become demographic fodder for idiots. And sadly they all lap it up.

In 1975 Harlan Ellison had these words to say at a Sci Fi convention after being introduced to the series by writer Michael Moorcock:

‘STAR WARS is adolescent nonsense! CLOSE ENCOUNTERS is obscurantist drivel! STAR TREK can turn your brains to purée of bat guano! The greatest science fiction series of all time is Doctor Who! And I’ll take you all on, one by one, or all in a bunch, to back it up!’

I think his view may have changed by now. Mine has.

Hey, BBC – Note to self – Nobody cares anymore. No wonder Eccleston left.

Good man.

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3 Responses »

  1. Oof. A tad harsh lol. 
    A fair bit to get yer teeth into but I think the problem lies with the way he was originally conceived remember it was by committee who were wanting a specific demographic even back in the 60s. New who isn’t perfect n if it doesn’t change it’s ways it won’t be long till sharks are jumped…. But I feel the river song thing has been cut short n shoe horned in n spat out in one season. Before we just had one maybe two appearances n hints to her past but this became too vague n there’s an element of making it up as they go along where she’s concerned. But even now when the mystery is exposed it still feels unsatisfying like there is something more that needs to be told regarding dr song. The music I like I know it’s a subtle as a brick that’s just been flung thru my window with a note that sez ” THIS IS A BRICK ” however I like the way my 4 yr old can get excited n almost foresee the connection by the musical cues. Dr who isn’t perfect but a show that’s 50 min long and encompasses the whole of time n space n works best with an over arching arc is gonna be relying on stereo types and quick reference guides. 
    Old Who had one small advantage. It was on tv twice, or occasionally, three times a week so they could let it breathe n feel more interesting at the same time. 
    I still feel that matt smith has a fair bit to go when it comes to interesting doctors but Tom baker ( possibly the most interesting ) was the dr for years. 
    This Moffatt era has had quite a few classic moments though. The Neil Gaiman episode was superb. Hopefully if these rumours about omega bear fruit it’s still gonna be well worth a watch. 
    Incidentally my fave tune from the show is Gallifrey ( our child hood) and Tennant is still the doc to beat

  2. Sounds like Harlan Ellison may have had designs on the good doctor’s title himself if he made those remarks in 1975 – especially since neither ‘Star Wars’ nor ‘Close Encounters’ came out till 1977.

  3. Having been on the other end of this comment section several times I’m going out on an undignified limb, here, but after reading Max’s excellent editorial, with which I generally agree, I’ll nevertheless feel some need to defend the show as it stands on all points from this American’s perspective, with positively no slight toward Max intended.

    In a nutshell, the problems that are most manifest in the new show result almost entirely from the writing.

    Those of us who remember the years (or the replays of the years) when Robert Holmes was the script editor and head writer were spoiled by a stunning virtuoso combination of concept, wit and structure, and in my opinion, little I have seen has matched that long-gone point in the show.

    On the issue of the lead, basically, as one of the Doctor actors once put it, anyone can play the Doctor if it’s well-written. Not quite true but true enough, if the actor is good. I like the new one. He looks old and young at the same time which is extremely interesting for a young man who is supposed to be 600 years old (or whatever the age) after several physical regenerations, though when he’s 60 he may end up looking like Gustav von Seyffertitz in “She”, so I cross my fingers for him on that account. But in my opinion he’s a whale of a good actor with depth who has a remarkable ear for complex tempo for someone his age; in my opinion, he is the only one apart from Baker to make the complex technical prattling roll of the tongue and sound convincing and not something merely written by one person and recited by another. He can also turn on the emotional juice when required.

    I’m coming to the defense of what the show currently is and can be because of an episode I saw recently that absolutely knocked me for a loop: “The Doctor’s Wife.” Was it sugary-sentimental, overtly Dickensian in an anachronistic way as only that series can be and relentlessly loud in the third act? Yes. But I absolutely loved it. In many ways it was a return to the Shakespearean history that only the British can know instinctively and shaped much of what the best of the show has been in the past: mysterious, confoundedly skewed nods to the British classes, conceptual fireworks, adventurous, flirtatious, and a roaring build-up to a bloody good finale. It shows everything that show can be in it’s current production arrangement when the right script is in hand. When a show can pull an episode like that out of the hat after 30 years, it’s an indication that many of its best days are still, astoundingly, still before it. It just needs scripts which harken back a bit to the mind-bending and quick-witted days of Robert Holmes, such as that for The Doctor’s Wife.

    The production is, in my opinion, outstanding, and the visual effects occasionally lay waste to some of Hollywood’s biggest productions, a fact which I find positively jaw-dropping given the show’s cardboard and duct tape origins. They just need to work on a few of those scripts a bit and everything will be great.

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