Saturday, 18 May 2013

Doctor Who - The Name of the Doctor: Amazing flashbacks, some relief, excitement ahead

The fact that every review you might read about the final episode of the latest season of Doctor Who is so overwhelmingly positive tells us a lot about several things.

Firstly, it's relief. It's evident in many of the reviews that the fact that the last episode, The Name of the Doctor, was completely absorbing, comes as a relief, especially after a patchy season. It's still got the power to wow, if you will.

Secondly, it shows how, in contrast, that several of the previous seven episodes just haven't been as good - some of them withstand re-watching, others you wouldn't really bother.

The one with the talking sun (The Rings of Akhaten) and the one with Cybermen (Nightmare in Silver) felt un-engaging and failed to captivate - a fact perhaps surprising given the pedigree of those episode's writers (Neil Cross and Neil Gaiman respectively - perhaps it's a Neil thing?).

But what one fans endures another fan loves. Hide (the one in the country house) or The Crimson Horror (Mark Gatiss' Victorian-set story) felt like stronger, more coherent stories that worked well with the Doctor and Clara. They felt like we weren't just watching them turn up somewhere, speaking quippy dialogue and getting into situations we don't really care about and where we end up contemplating a channel hop to You've Been Framed.

But some fans failed to enjoy them but that's how it goes. It's fine. We can't all love everything and it doesn't mean the programme's in terminal decline despite the rage of some of the more angry corners of fandom (who tend to be the most vocal).
Clara from The Name of the Doctor: She's sort of dressed as 1980s companion Mel...
So you would think that disappointments about weaker episodes could be forgiven for the thrill at that opening scene of The Name of the Doctor, one that both newer fans, and longer-term ones, will not forget - a thrill that was inexplicable as it was a surprise.

And with the inevitable repeated viewings of that pre-credit sequence - watch again below, why don't you - featuring current companion Clara briefly interacting with the previous tv Doctors - admire those period costumes! Thrill at the re-creation of the moment the first Doctor left Gallifrey! Note the difference in picture quality of 30 year old standard definition material on a HD tv! -  the relief might subside but the pleasure - oddly - won't.

But in watching this fan-pleasing moment, its success is in its rarity and its connection to the story. If every episode looked to the past, if every episode wallowed in the show's own heritage, we'd be at a dead end before you know it - it's happened before, in the 1980s.

And while that era still saw some great stories, much of the general non-fan audience diminished, and isn't it better we get new ideas, new stories and ambition each and every episode, even if they don't always work, rather than heritage for heritage sake.

Save the show's past for special occasions, and keep it as the thrill it becomes by doing so.

Reviews like this one or this one on the 'genre' news websites or this one on The Mirror website rightly praise the same things - the surprise of John Hurt as 'the Doctor', the significance of the episode's title and the resolution of the Clara mystery.

And with the Steven Moffat-penned 50th anniversary the next episode due, the stage is set for a special that if not exciting in itself (which it has to be) you'll at least want to watch to see how the whole John Hurt thing is resolved - and if not for that reason then to see how much Billie Piper and David Tennant may have aged... Or is that just us?

Related stories:
Doctor Who: Are the Cybermen the vainest lifeform in the universe? (Yes, yes they are)
Doctor Who 50th anniversary: Can the fans' high expectations be met?

No comments:

Post a Comment