This commentary contains spoilers from the current season of “Doctor Who.”
Do you remember what it felt like back in 2005?
We as fans were still on a major high, enjoying the fact that after years of waiting, “Doctor Who” had returned. And boy did it. We loved Christopher Eccleston. We loved Billie Piper. And despite the corny soundtrack and rather questionable special effects for the time, we weren’t paying attention.
That’s because Russell T. Davies enthralled us with a hidden continuing story arc, the Bad Wolf track, that came to an exciting conclusion with Rose looking into the heart of the Tardis itself, and using it to set up so much more in the Doctor Who universe.
Whatever happened to those days? It’s sad that less than a decade later, I no longer have the same enthusiasm I once did for “Doctor Who.” And it has nothing to do with Peter Capaldi. In fact, I really like his version of the Doctor, and I accepted him in the role right from the beginning.
What I have not accepted is this pedestrian attempt at storytelling that came to a head this weekend when Steven Moffat and crew completely underwhelmed viewers with a boring Zombie Cybermen/The Master episode that really put a big question mark at the end of everything done so far.
When we first got a glimpse of Missy at the beginning of this season, I had some high hopes that she would be really someone special. I mean, I’m not an expert in classic “Doctor Who,” but I do know enough about the history of the show to think of many amazing and awesome possibilities Missy could be. And each time I would share some of those theories, others would come back and say, “No, I bet it’s The Master.”
And with all those tantalizing possibilities, what do we get? The Master. And a boring one.
Not to say anything about Michelle Gomez, who played Missy great. She did the best she could with the story she was provided, and it just felt … uninspired.
Even when it was revealed that Missy first connected The Doctor to Clara, and put the ad in the paper, I still was not impressed. This was no Bad Wolf. It was definitely no Saxon. It wasn’t even a Torchwood. The revelation that The Master was orchestrating everything made me yawn. And I’m betting I was not alone.
I was talking to a good friend of mine this weekend after watching the episode, who also felt like she was in no hurry to see it, and didn’t feel like she missed much when she did. I was trying to recount just aspects of the episode I liked — Gomez, Capaldi, and the wonderful scene between Clara and The Doctor in the volcano, ending with “Go to hell.” To me, that was the most moving part of the entire two-parter.
But then I realized something: It was the most moving part of the entire season. I actually went back in my mind and started reviewing all the episodes leading up to this, and it was a bloodbath in terms of interesting story.
Traditional new Doctor episode, bringing back some familiar characters, and having some fun holding our breath. But nothing really stands out, and some of the interaction between Clara and Madame Vastra seemed forced and unnecessary (like the whole veil conversation — wasn’t Clara in shards, helping the Doctor in many ways? Why would a regeneration be so new to her?).
Into the Dalek
Shared way too much detail about the Daleks. The thing I like about bad guys is knowing as little as possible about them. Think about how awesome the Borg were, even after “Star Trek: First Contact,” and then think about how much you liked them once “Star Trek: Voyager” was done with them.
Robot of Sherwood
Hated this episode. Not a single redeeming shred of value.
I really liked the idea of creating some retcon significance to the barn the War Doctor chose in the 50th anniversary special. But that was about it. The rest of the time, I was just confused.
This episode moved at such a fast pace, it felt like it was originally written as a two-parter (or should’ve been). I didn’t buy the end where The Doctor was the one leading everything (and called it right from the start).
Felt like the writers here wanted to do an episode similar to “School Reunion,” which featured the late Elisabeth Sladen, but ended up feeling more like an episode of the children’s spinoff to the show — “The Sarah Jane Adventures.” I’m all for “Doctor Who” being a family show, but that is still different than being a children’s show.
Kill the Moon
The moon is nothing more than a big egg? That’s a horrible idea. and completely uninspired. Also, has anyone noticed that we have had seven episodes to this point, and five of them were on Earth? And then we finally get …
Mummy on the Orient Express
It was great that the Orient Express came up more than once, and we finally get there. And I really did like this story overall. I liked what the mummy was, and what was needed to fix it. Plus, ticking clocks are great for dramatic effect. This was a highlight of the season.
Back to Earth, and while this enemy seemed interesting, the story itself was not.
In the Forest of the Night
Once again, the Tardis becomes Romper Room for kids, who don’t seem to care about the mysteries of the Tardis. And once again, people are asked to just forget about something major that happens — trees popping up everywhere, to protect the Earth from some solar flare. This would’ve made the film “Knowing” obsolete, which I would give $25 to anyone who could make that true.
Then we get to the finale, and there are really only two trains of thought I have with this. Either Steven Moffat goes back and focuses on one project (choose between “Sherlock” and “Doctor Who”), or it’s time for a break.
In my opinion, BBC made a huge mistake when it pushed forward in the 1980s to keep “Doctor Who” going, when it obviously needed a breather. If it had just taken a few years off after Colin Baker, I think the break from “Doctor Who” would’ve been far, far, far shorter than what it was.
Even a short break can do wonders. Look at the break we had in the David Tennant era. Don’t get me wrong, I felt the fourth season finished strong. Yes, the Daleks in the finale were not the greatest, but bringing everyone together, and having that wonderful moment of everyone piloting the Tardis, made it worth it.
And then we had some specials over 2009, and returned with new episodes in 2010 with a new Doctor and Moffat on board. That next season was a lot of fun, and right up to the end with the Pandorica and rebooting the Earth, we had a lot of fun.
Even the next season had far more gems than lumps of coal. And it wasn’t until we reached the seventh season that the series started going off the rails. I mean, look at “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” and “The Angels Take Manhattan.”
The second half of the season did pick up a little, and the Trenzalore storyline was good (even Clara’s revelation was interesting). But there were a lot of duds in that season. And “Hide” was probably the better of the failures (did I mention “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship”? Oh, I did?).
I love “Doctor Who,” and I want to keep loving “Doctor Who.” And I love Capaldi.
But I don’t love these stories this past season, including the finale. And unless we want to go a couple decades without “Doctor Who” again, then maybe it’s time to catch our breath, maybe even refreshen the writer team (including the person who is leading it). Let’s put in some new ideas. Hell, I would love to see what Jack Kenny from “Warehouse 13” would do with a show like this, even if he is American.
Above all else, let’s not have Capaldi turn into Sylvester McCoy — a great actor for The Doctor, but a victim of a franchise experiencing heavy fatigue.