I usually try to say something interesting about the episodes of New Doctor Who I review here. Even if I don’t like it, I try to find some reason to say *why* I don’t like it. I at least engage enough with it to try to see what it’s trying to do.

But if Steven Moffat won’t try, then why should I?

It’s a shame, because everyone else on the programme is clearly trying. Matt Smith is an astonishingly good actor. Jenna-Louise Coleman is perfectly capable of pulling the ‘quirky’ face that’s the sum total of what she’s asked to do in the story. The effects people are clearly working hard.

But Moffat? Moffat is someone who clearly *can* write. He’s not as good as his reputation suggests, mind, but he can pull together a script that makes some kind of sense. I’ve seen it.

Yet this?

They’re ‘hacking’ people and ‘uploading’ them. How? “Wi-fi”.

Words have meanings. Writers, of all people, should be aware of this. If you make something up, say “their minds are being controlled because of quartronic energy”, then OK, fine, we’ll go with that. We don’t know what quartronic energy is, so maybe it can do that.

We know what wi-fi is, though. Everyone knows it *doesn’t* do that — even if you show a shot of someone typing *really* fast.

That’s not to say that I expect Doctor Who to be technologically accurate — while I winced at the scene where the Doctor says “I’ve hacked their base operating system, but I can’t find their geographic location”, that’s because I’m someone who just spent five years working as a software engineer and now works for a firm of computer security consultants. It’s annoying that they’d get that kind of thing wrong, but no more so than, say, when Robert Holmes used to confuse the terms ‘galaxy’, ‘solar system’ and ‘universe’. I just expect that the writers at least make a tiny bit of an effort to sound plausible. “They’re uploading everyone’s mind (and also mind-controlling everyone in London, and also controlling all the power and the planes) because of wi-fi” just isn’t trying.

And this lack of trying is evident throughout the script, from Moffat’s reuse of his tired trope of having a character speaking out of a screen they’re trapped in, to the random sexist joke thrown in for no good reason at the beginning, to the fact that the villain of the story turns out to be the Great Intelligence. The Great Intelligence was a villain from two stories from the late 1960s, both of which have been wiped, so nobody under about the age of fifty has ever seen them. His modus operandi was also different in those stories (and much better — he had robot Yeti that lived in the London Underground and shot webs), and the only reason I can see for having the Great Intelligence in the story at all is to make a couple of dozen nerds say “Ah, I see what he’s done. The Great Intelligence was in The Web Of Fear, and this is a story about the World Wide Web. I am clever.”

The epitome of this comes in the scene where the Doctor suddenly reveals that his motorbike has antigravity, and drives it up the Shard (which is, for the 54,466,900 people in Britain who, like myself, don’t live in London and pay rapt attention to everything that goes on in that most omphaloskeptic of cities, a new building there and thus absolutely fascinating).

People have been referring to this sort of thing, wrongly, as a deus ex machina. I don’t think that’s quite the correct term. Rather, I think it’s sort of an inverse Chekov’s gun. Normally, if you’re an actual writer, one who’s bothered about such trifling things as coherence, if you wanted the Doctor to have an antigravity motorbike, you’d set it up in some way, perhaps by having a scene at the beginning where the Doctor is riding his antigravity motorbike.

Then, when at the end he uses an antigravity motorbike, it would seem like something that was a logical consequence of events leading up to that point, rather than, as it does, like something improvised by a six-year-old playing with action figures:

“My man says that the Doctor can’t come in and he’s bigger than the Doctor so he wins.”
“Oh yeah? Well… the Doctor’s got a flying spacebike, so he just flies up there and *he* wins!”

The worst thing about this is that there’s a scene earlier in the story where he’s talking to Clara and the dialogue goes something like:

“I fixed your quadricycle”
“All those quadricycle bits you had lying around. I put them back together.”
“We didn’t have any quadricycle bits.”
“…I invented the quadricycle!”

Well, firstly, of course, quadricycles have existed for over a hundred years (we’re back to the words meaning things thing again, aren’t we?) but secondly, replace “quadricycle” with “anti-gravity bike” in that exchange, and what happens? The joke works — possibly even better than it did. It certainly does the same job as a character exchange.

But it also then means that later when the Doctor starts riding up the Shard, instead of just being something Moffat pulled out of his arse that doesn’t make any sense, it becomes a clever call-back to something that we originally thought was just an offhand joke. The script becomes tighter, the plot becomes more coherent, and you’ve made a piece of dialogue do double-duty.

Now, I thought of that straight away. I am not a professional screenwriter. Steven Moffat has been writing TV shows for over twenty years. Had he bothered even to read over what he’d typed out without thinking, just to give it the same kind of basic checks I give one of these blog posts, before having a huge crew of technicians, directors, actors, musicians and so on work on this thing and broadcasting it to an audience of millions, he would have thought of that too.

Clearly, though, it doesn’t matter. The Hugo nominations were announced today. In the short-form dramatic category, three of the five nominations were Steven Moffat Doctor Who scripts.

Clearly this is what the people want. Clearly this is somehow considered ‘good’.

At this point, I’m only watching this programme because I’ve agreed to write these posts for Mindless Ones. I think that once this series is over, I won’t ever watch it again.

It couldn’t get any worse, could it?

Oh, wait…

69 Responses to “Doctor Who: The Bells Of… Oh, I Give Up”

  1. My review of tonight’s Doctor Who over on Mindless Ones | Sci-Ence! Justice Leak! Says:

    [...] Don’t read if you liked it, I may ‘harsh your squee’. Share this:PrintEmail [...]

  2. Lawrence Burton Says:

    Pft. I was a postman for twenty-one years. I knew postmen who had been at the job longer than me (a job which whilst physically demanding is not intellectually taxing in terms of the mechanics of what one is actually paid to do) who STILL hadn’t got the hang of it. Moffat has always written flashy drivel, a few good hooks to make it appear like some level of craft has gone into it, but otherwise he may as well be some knobend hacking out f***** Torchwood comics. My life has improved immeasurably since I stopped watching that shite.

    See also Coupling – possibly the most laboured comedy ever to be broadcast.

  3. Bob Temuka Says:

    If you are just watching it to write these posts, maybe you really should give it a rest for a while. It doesn’t sound like you’re having any fun at all, Andrew.

  4. Andrew Hickey Says:

    I’m not. But people like reading the posts, and I’ve said I’ll do them, and it’s not like there are a huge number of episodes.

    However, I will be writing about Doctor Who I *like* every Sunday, to get that 50 Years thing I’ve been doing finished before the actual anniversary. And once this series of Who stops I’ll be on to the Promethea book we trailed here last month. So I won’t just be spitting vitriol.

  5. Weeknotes, 31/03/13 | hecavanagh.org Says:

    [...] with family, finish some sketches and (as I have been forewarned) watch lots of taped episodes of “Doctor Who”. [...]

  6. Patman Says:

    Meh. I think you’re being unduly harsh. Yes, your idea for the quadricycle would’ve been better, and yes, a lot of this didn’t really make sense, but it was zippy and amusing and clearly was an attempt to do an RTD-style season premiere — complete with goofy ‘contemporary’ situations and lots of broad humour and physical action. You may not like the style, but I don’t suspect it’s really for you. (Besides, despite all the Moffatisms, there were a lot of effective moments, especially the bit in the cafe when The Doctor was talking to his adversary through bystanders, as well as the ‘Factory Reset’ resolution.)

    I’ve sort of plowed through your archive of reviews in the last couple of days, and I really like them. They’re good. And while your distaste for *all* nu-Who is that, too, I often feel you’re more forgiving of Classic Who as being a product of its time(s) than you are the new series. My two kids, who are, respectively, the age when I first watched Pertwee and Baker, adore the both the Moffat and RTD versions of the show, but will only watch *any* episode of Classic Who grudgingly and politely, if at all. (The only exception was ‘Robots of Death,’ which transfixed them and led to a week of nightmares. What was I thinking?)

    Classic Who was, at its best, complicated semiotically. It was great. I’ll always love it. But it was *also* formulaic, emotionally inert (the many counter-examples stand out because they STAND OUT!), and often boring. And while Moffat/RTD Who is neither perfect nor the only way to do the show in a modern context, I get the sense that your ideal 21st C. Who would either be exactly like the old show, or else some kind of adult-oriented dark fantasy series a la the ’90s Virgin novels. My kids wouldn’t watch either one, from their will or mine.

    The current breezy zippiness is as 2013 as Pertwee’s kung-fu was 1973. The criticisms of Moffat (his tics, his weird sexism, his wonky plotting) and RTD (the! stories! all! end! weakly!) are valid…but not more so than any of the criticisms of Letts or Hinchcliffe or any other regime figurehead. I’ve been a fan forever, and it still feels like ‘Who’ to me.

    (Oh, and my son’s favourite episodes? ‘Voyage of the Damned’ and ‘Night Terrors.’ Yes, I know. Kids.)

  7. Andrew Hickey Says:

    “I get the sense that your ideal 21st C. Who would either be exactly like the old show, or else some kind of adult-oriented dark fantasy series a la the ’90s Virgin novels.”

    Not at all. My problems with the new series basically amount to two things. Firstly there’s the sheer incompetence of the plotting, which I’ve detailed here, and secondly there’s the fact that the Doctor is repeatedly depicted as utterly immoral (which thankfully isn’t the case with this story).

    While I definitely have *preferences* about other things (and they don’t lean towards dark fantasy) I only complain about the show when it’s actually bad, either morally or on the level of craft.

    I’m more forgiving of the old show for a few reasons. Firstly, the stories where the Doctor acts horribly immorally are *very* few and far between (they exist, but no more than four or five of them in the twenty-six years it was on). Secondly, there are fewer stories where they fall down on basic craftsmanship — there are some, but not all that many.

    And thirdly, and most importantly, there’s the fact that they were making the show for tuppence ha’penny on an incredibly tight schedule. If you’re trying to do something with no money and no lead time and the scripts you were promised don’t turn up, then it’s forgivable if sometimes you end up with the last episode of Trial Of A Timelord. What’s astonishing is that under those conditions they occasionally ended up with City Of Death.

    When the old series was crap, everyone knew it was crap, but it was the best they could do given the constraints they were under. Timelash and Mark Of The Rani weren’t nominated for Hugo awards, and they didn’t get people going on and on about the geniuses behind them.

    Someone trying to do good work and sometimes failing gets a lot more leeway from me than someone who can’t be bothered . Even the worst series of old Who had a few really good stories in them mixed in with the bad, and that’s not been true of the new series for the most part.

    The problems with the old show come down to not having the time and money to do as good a job as they would have liked to. The problems with the new show come down to laziness, pure and simple.

  8. Ron Lamb Says:

    I hope I’m not being pedantic, but the Great Intelligence featured in the previous episode at Christmas. I don’t think it’s use here would be too confusing for people.

    Love the reviews of the classic series Andrew. Hope you don’t find the rest of this year’s run too bad.

  9. Tim O'Neil Says:

    I can’t speak for Andrew, but I will hazard a guess that his “ideal 21st C. Who,” like mine, is simply a Who that doesn’t suck.

  10. Andrew Hickey Says:

    Ron — ah, I didn’t see the Christmas one, as I was in the USA, and I didn’t have to write about it here.

  11. Gavin Burrows Says:

    I’ll grant you the Christmas special had its flaws, but leaving the country to escape it – that seems a bit excessive.

  12. Patman Says:

    Sorry, still don’t buy it. ‘A Who that doesn’t suck’ doesn’t really merit a response, so I’ll leave that. As for nu-Who, the plotting is often ropey, and I’ve just accepted it as an inherent structural weakness of the show (as I long ago accepted that the old show wasn’t terribly interested in its characters *as* characters — something not true about Who 2005). I wish it were better. It’s never been. Pointing it out is fair. Harping about it after seven seasons is kind of pointless.

    As for The Doctor’s amorality, I don’t really buy that either. While Moffat Who hasn’t explicitly explored this as much as it should, the portrayal is consistent and logical. The Doctor is moral, but his morality is more palatable on a small scale. On a large scale, his sense of right and wrong is colder and more problematic. Pretty much everything follows explicitly from that.

    And I have to really scratch my head when you talk about The Doctor’s ‘morality’ in the classic show. Yes, he made lots of speeches about self-determination and everyone’s right to life. But he also blew up planets, destroyed civilizations, and seemingly only got briefly annoyed when his proxies (UNIT, Leela, Ace) stabbed, shot, or exploded opponents. And that doesn’t even touch on Colin Baker’s lamentable first season, where he threw people into vats of acid!

    The thing is, the show weaves past versions of itself into its own DNA. That’s why, as you say, the Pertwee years were (then) a complete change in the show AND (now) a formative, perhaps even definitive version of it. Think of late ’80s Who. The script editor and lead writers were *explicit* pop postmodernists (they cite ‘The Dark Knight Returns’ and ‘Watchmen’ as templates for what they were doing), and so, to a degree, deconstructed the character into someone who plays at being the good guy, but is followed by a trail of blood. And, in true Who fashion, that’s now an inescapable part of the character and the show; a post-McCoy Doctor would never ask “Have I the right?” He would just blow them up. RTD was aware of this, but played coy with it because of his populist instincts. A Who nerd like Moffat, I don’t think, may be temperamentally unable to.

    Finally, I’m unclear how any clear-headed assessment of even a season as problematic as series 6 could watch ‘The Impossible Astronaut’ (a favourite of mine, not one of yours), ‘The Girl Who Waited’ (for my money, the best nu-Who episode), or ‘The God Complex’ and say that all the episodes are crap. You may have issues with all of those. They may not be to your taste. But I’d argue that they work regardless.

  13. Andrew Hickey Says:

    “Sorry, still don’t buy it.”

    Then fuck off. If you’re going to come here, tell me that I think things I don’t (and I have never, in my life, ever, said that ‘dark fantasy’ was a good thing) and then, when I tell you that’s not what I think, say “sorry, still don’t buy it”, as if you know better than I do what I think, then I’m not going to bother responding to you any further.

    Not only is that tantamount to an accusation of lying, which is shockingly rude, it’s literally impossible to have a reasonable discussion with someone who insists on arguing with a version of me he’s made up in his own head. I haven’t even bothered reading past your first sentence because that kind of breach of the rules of civilised debate is simply not welcome here, at least on any of my posts.

  14. bobsy Says:

    He said ‘Meh’ as well.

  15. Andrew Hickey Says:

    True. That should have been a warning sign.

  16. Richard Bensam Says:

    “I’ll grant you the Christmas special had its flaws, but leaving the country to escape it – that seems a bit excessive.”

    Not one bit. I still envy Andrew because he didn’t see any of it, while I watched about fifteen minutes of it in horrified disbelief. If only I’d thought to flee the country instead! (But it would have helped to have some country to escape to where it wasn’t being shown.)

  17. Bob Temuka Says:

    “The problems with the old show come down to not having the time and money to do as good a job as they would have liked to. The problems with the new show come down to laziness, pure and simple.”

    One of the main points I got out of the Russell T Davies’ book about the process of writing Doctor Who was that there is NEVER enough time or money to do everything you want. They might be playing with a lot more money than they had in the past, but they’re still squeezing everything they can out of every penny, and always running out of time.

    They other main point was that Davies hated it when people call his writing lazy, and after reading of all his long, lonely nights trying to get a script into shape, I can’t really blame him.

  18. Andrew Hickey Says:

    “They other main point was that Davies hated it when people call his writing lazy, and after reading of all his long, lonely nights trying to get a script into shape, I can’t really blame him.”

    To be fair, I’m talking more about Moffat than about Davies. I think Davies was an incompetent writer, but not an especially lazy one. Moffat is competent and lazy.

  19. RetroWarbird Says:

    I enjoyed the bits where, say, Matt Smith spoke with Jenna Louise Coleman and the inkling of where they’d be by the end of the series started to creep in. I mean there were fun bits – Miss Whatever’s (Celia Imrie’s) mind erased back to being a child fits with the Intelligence’s last appearance. A woman in her 60s had been a little girl during the Second Doctor’s run-ins with robo-yetis.

    But much like the Great Intelligence’s web, Moffat’s narrative threads strike me as fairly unspectacular. The cosmic mystery of Clara’s new lives, paired with a Big Bad like the G.I. implies a bit of video-game “multiple lives”. As for how that’ll be navigated, it’ll be via cherrypicking elements sprinkled nonchalantly through the season, maybe a casual toss of a nostalgia bit, and voila, the whys and wherefores. There’s always highs and lows, and Moffat’s episodes aren’t usually the standouts anyway, but the ‘arc-building’ thing has been rote since … X-Files? No it must go further back. But glaring patterns have started forming in season structures.

    Anyway, on its own this was lean. Very lean. “Pilot episode” lean. It doesn’t even have the novelty of being the shakedown cruise for an entirely new cast & crew. And I couldn’t shake an unnerving amount of deja vu. Deja vu could be incredibly effective in time travel fiction. I still enjoyed myself, and having some new damn Who to watch, even if I couldn’t divorce myself from thinking of the writing room while I watched. I’ve been having that problem more and more lately, anyway.

  20. Illogical Volume Says:

    See this Andrew…


    That’s what you like that is.

  21. Andrew Hickey Says:

    Yep. I want Doctor Who to be exactly like Dark Needs At Night’s Edge and Darker After Dusk. Those are my favourites.

  22. Mister Attack Says:

    The Impossible Astronaut/Day Of The Moon was… Pretty dark. One might even go as far as to say it was a… ‘Dark Fantasy’.

  23. The Beast Must Die Says:

    ‘Darque Phantasy’ is so much…classier

  24. Mister Attack Says:

    I’ve an idea for an episode! It can be about a monster that does something to you when you make eye contact! It won’t have a moving mouth, to make it scarier. I’ll add in some stuff where people communicate via electronic means, appropriate for the time period. This shit writes itself!

  25. Mister Attack Says:

    @The Beast Must Die – Shall we trip The Darke Fantastique? You can lead!

  26. Patman Says:

    Wow. Douchebaggery unchained! Fuck you too. Bye.

  27. Gil Says:

    I’m not totally clear why you bothered enabling comments on this post. Unbothered by research – “no-one will have heard of this ‘Great Intelligence’ except me, lone watcher of archives and Keeper Of The Flame Of True Doctor Who… oh, and anyone who was watching three months ago, or for that matter anyone under 50 or otherwise who read ‘Doctor Who And The Web Of Fear’… but whatevs, my house, my rules” – and unafraid of overstatement – “NuWho hasn’t even had the occasional good story in amongst all its dross, yes, it’s all been shit, ALL OF IT, ALLLL OFFFF ITTTTT”… this may be the first reply-proof article on the internet. In which case, you don’t really need us around reading it, do you? Sorry, Mindlesses, I’ve loved the ride, but this is too much: a barrel of wine plus a glass of shit is a barrel of shit.

  28. Illogical Volume Says:

    Who was unafraid of overstatement again?

    While Andrew doesn’t really like NuWho he’s always up for discussing why and you remain free to disagree with him. It’s a shame he didn’t see the Christmas episode (aside: not really, it was like the glass of shit from your closing flourish, i.e. not exactly a highlight of the Volume family Christmas), but he’s been corrected on that point and while I doubt anyone’s going to change his mind on the quality of this episode/modern Who in general I don’t see any reason why there couldn’t be some entertaining arguments in the comments.

    If you don’t say “meh” too often or call Andrew a liar – see you later Patman, may door and arse forever meet in your passing – I promise I won’t make any more crap “dark fantasy” jokes. Deal?

  29. Andrew Hickey Says:

    It’s great when people reply to a totally different article than the one you’ve written, isn’t it? I like that even more than people calling me a liar.

    For anyone who is planning on copying Gil, try reading through the comments. Note that when someone pointed out my factual error, I immediately accepted it. Note that despite Patman coming here and being rude, my first reply to him was polite. Note that Bob Temuka is disagreeing, but is doing so politely because Bob is a reasonable person.

    Disagreement is great. Rudeness will be met with rudeness.

  30. Andrew Hickey Says:

    In particular, Gil The Understated somehow thinks I’ve said that *all* post-2005 Who has been shit.
    While that wouldn’t be an unreasonable opinion for me to hold, it’s not one I’ve ever actually stated. In fact, I remember most of the 2005 series as being reasonably OK (though I’ve only ever bothered to re-watch Dalek), Blink and the Human Nature two-parter were very good, and Gatiss’ story from 2011 (the one with the doll’s house) was OK was I recall.

  31. Tony Morris Says:

    I for one greatly appreciate Andrew’s efforts at explaining why current Who isn’t all that and a bag of chips. I haven’t been able to watch an entire episode for years now, largely due to a feeling (which I doubt anyone else has) that what I’m really watching is one of those twist-heavy episodes of Law & Order. You know, where it doesn’t matter where the story starts out because by the end it’ll be a thousand miles away and about something else entirely.

    Exploring a mystery is one thing, piling on “cool” moments at random is to my eyes something else entirely.

  32. tam Says:

    I didn’t know what the acronym RTD meant so I wikipediaed it and learnt quite a lot about national broadcasters in both Djibouti and Tanzania; don’t quite understand how they relate to Doctor Who but very intrigued…



    My tuppence on Doctor Who is that since its return, (and possibly before) it’s primarily there as a show everyone in the family can watch together and get something out of. This is something that’s incredibly difficult to achieve; The Simpsons is the only obvious comparison that comes to mind. It’s one of those shows, (QI is another) that I don’t watch very often but makes me very proud of the BBC

  33. Andrew Hickey Says:

    RTD — Russel T Davies, head writer and executive producer of the show from 2005 to 2009.
    And what most of my small family (me and my wife) get out of the show currently is a crushing sense of disappointment.

  34. Hollistic Tendencies Says:

    It’s weird how Doctor Who is a thing people aren’t allowed to dislike. I remember one dear friend getting really hostile with me for not thinking much of it soon after Tennant took over — he even accused me of just learning by rote your own objections and spouting them as if they were my own! It took me a while to convince him that I wasn’t “just saying” those things out of a worrying sense of “loyalty” or something, but that I actually didn’t like the show very much. He was of the opinion that it was so amazing to have Doctor Who back that it shouldn’t be complained about, which always rubbed me up the wrong way — I’m not so slavishly grateful — but also he seemed to take my dislike personally.

    And I’ve noticed that among some Who fans ever since; if you don’t like what they like, and in the way they like it or for the reasons they do, the only proper response is to insult you or pour scorn on you. It’s really peculiar.

  35. Andrew Hickey Says:

    Yeah. One of my friends posted this to his blog today:
    “Perhaps inevitably, I was once quite the fan of Doctor Who, right up until its 2005 reinvention which, for me at least, missed all the major points of what had made the series so enjoyable in the first place; and then I found my disappointment somewhat polarised by the repellent fervour with which so many embraced the revival, a fervour which often seems indistinguishable from bullying from where I stand, and bullying offered in support of opinion presented as doctrine, received wisdom reiterated as fact.”

  36. Marc Burkhardt Says:

    Off topic somewhat, but I found the Xmas Special 100 times worse than the most reviled episodes of 80s Who, such as Timelash.

    The main problem I have with modern Who is that it took a character who was primarily a scientist – albeit one who specialized in “sci-fi” technobabble science – and turned him into a hand-wavy magician that often solves crises through “the power of love” and under-cooked plot twists.

    I think the only reason I’m watching right now is the great enjoyment I take from Matt Smith’s portrayal of the Doctor, rather than anything about the Doctor himself or his current adventures.

  37. Johnny Thunders Says:

    “And what most of my small family (me and my wife) get out of the show currently is a crushing sense of disappointment.”

    So watch it with kids, the way it’s meant to be watched.

  38. Jennie Says:

    so I finally got around to watching this ep yesterday after reading your review before doing so, and…

    The quadricycle is never seen on screen. The triumph scrambler that the “doctor” rides is the doctor’s own and clearly stated to be so, and got out of the tardis “garage” not Clara’s. presumably this is also where Tennant kept his moped.

    Also I am slightly disappointed that nobody had punctured the old canard about Colin Baker throwing people into vats of acid, which any fule no never happened, but as that was in the comment which Andrew said he wasn’t going to read past the first sentence of…

    Anyway, I too lament the turning of the doctor from a scientist into a magician; unlike most of the commenters here, though, I don’t find that makes the show irredeemably bad, just less good. I enjoyed The Bells despite its flaws, and I suspect I’ll enjoy the rest of this series. Making nuwho one of the genuinely few things that Andrew and I continue to disagree about.

  39. Hollistic Tendancies Says:

    Oh yes if only we had kids, like would be perfect! The scales would fall from our eyes and we’d learn to like things we don’t like! We’d stop being social pariahs not just for being a childless couple but for disliking things that we’re supposed to either love or shut up about!

  40. Hollistic Tendancies Says:

    Also I am slightly disappointed that nobody had punctured the old canard about Colin Baker throwing people into vats of acid, which any fule no never happened

    If it’s any consolation, Andrew was watching Vengeance on Varos around the time those comments were being written, and explained to me about the vat of acid thing, which had just happened on his screen. He never did read that comment, but I just had, and thought it was funny that Andrew could so easily refute it. I don’t think much is lost by him not trying to explain to that dude though; somehow I don’t think it would have worked.

  41. Illogical Volume Says:

    Word of warning to anyone who might be thinking about borrowing a few children to make Doctor Who more enjoyable: it doesn’t work, and isn’t worth the ensuing legal trouble and double plus pariah status.

  42. Hollistic Tendancies Says:

    Do you just feed them directly into the TV or what? Any tips?

  43. Illogical Volume Says:

    You’ve got to train the TV to eat first, then build up its appetite – a diet of rodents, cats, and small dogs should do the trick.

    The method is simple of course, you just upload them to the TV using your wi-fi connection, and… sorry, hold on, I think I can feel a psychic attack from Andrew coming through on line 2.

  44. Lawrence Burton Says:

    I’ve tried watching it with my stepson, and it just doesn’t work I’m afraid. Watching Dora the Explorer and the Super Mario Brothers Super Show in the company of children has similarly failed to instil me with an increased appreciation of either.

    Oh well.

  45. Tim B. Says:

    Thank you for the review Mr Hickey, don’t nescessarily share all your appraisal of the current Who, but I can certainly see where you’re coming from. I just want Who that doesn’t scream how very clever it is, and may be a companion that isn’t part of some overly complicated ‘arc’, just an interesting character.

    As charming as Ms Coleman’s performance is(and her interaction with Matt Smith), don’t have her turning out to be Romana. (Unless she some how deals with that singularity of smugness, River Song, in which case, fill yer boots Mr Moffat, by deal I mean we no longer see her turning up and we are reminded that she ends up dead, she just goes right through me. Part of me wishes the godawful Arrow TV series is a runaway success and the writers have a big storyline for her nescessitating permanently living in the US. This could also have the added bonus of restricting any possible future Torchwood, which would be a worthwhile result all round).

    I must admit that I like the new TARDIS design.

  46. Mercy Says:

    I don’t disagree all that much with the text of the review but this:
    “And thirdly, and most importantly, there’s the fact that they were making the show for tuppence ha’penny on an incredibly tight schedule. If you’re trying to do something with no money and no lead time and the scripts you were promised don’t turn up, then it’s forgivable if sometimes you end up with the last episode of Trial Of A Timelord. What’s astonishing is that under those conditions they occasionally ended up with City Of Death.

    When the old series was crap, everyone knew it was crap, but it was the best they could do given the constraints they were under. Timelash and Mark Of The Rani weren’t nominated for Hugo awards, and they didn’t get people going on and on about the geniuses behind them.

    Someone trying to do good work and sometimes failing gets a lot more leeway from me than someone who can’t be bothered . Even the worst series of old Who had a few really good stories in them mixed in with the bad, and that’s not been true of the new series for the most part.”

    Seems rather unreasonable in the context of a series which has been cut back, delayed and forced to reuse sets/costumes (eg: the Ood in the Doctor’s Wife) in response to budget cuts and shortfalls. Is there any reason to think the new writers are operating under any less awful constraints than the old ones were. This is a show that spent several seasons using a toy sonic screwdriver replica from argos, after all.

  47. RetroWarbird Says:

    I had the odd reverse of seeing both ‘A Christmas Carol’ and ‘The Christmas Invasion’ and ‘Widow/Wardrobe’ all after ‘Snowmen’. But when I flexed my critical thinking muscles it seemed pretty disturbing how ‘incredibly important to the season finale’ all the elements felt. The Dinosaur Lady’s entourage and the Victorian period. I could tell it’d be cropping up with the kind of regularity Satellite 5/New Earth. I’m not nostalgic, rather a young bastard, but I could tell the show swapped manic sense of spontaneity for production values – but that sense of mania (that twinkle in the corner of Tennant’s eye came closest to capturing it) was actually the biggest carryover I got from the Classic serials. I’m not nostalgic, I’m a young bastard.

    Point being, it’s tough to smash a Drashig through the wall and cut to “dunna-du-dah, dunna-du-dah, dunna-du-dah” and maintain a sense of “what the fuck just happened to me and where can I get more of it?”

    But I can empathize with the ‘anything’s better than reruns’ crowd. I lived through it three times with Star Trek and beyond to the horror of big budgets and youthfully young actors in 2009 when J.J. Abrams Schrodingered Star Trek to death/life.

  48. RetroWarbird Says:

    I’m guilty of liking the new TARDIS interior as well. I psychic link the sterility and grays/blues with the memories of the previous RetroWarbird of the 60s.

  49. badlucksatellite Says:

    At this point I’m mostly watching the show so I have the pleasure of seeing Andrew tear it to shreds. Don’t stop writing these things – I can’t do without the catharsis.

    I don’t know, I’ve been complaining about how shit Steven Moffat is for years but after this episode I think even the criticisms are getting old. This was shit in the exact same way every other Moffat episode is shit. Lazy writing, cheap jokes, bizarre catchphrase fetish, deliberate avoidance of anything which shows the potential to be even slightly interesting. There’s a point where even mocking something becomes boring and you have to move on to forgetting about it entirely. Unfortunately, Doctor Who is such a cultural juggernaut that it’s almost impossible to eliminate it from your life altogether, and since it never ends you also have to deal with the likelihood that if you keep watching it for long enough it will eventually get good again. That’s the worst part, I think. There’s a good show hidden inside this terrible one and maybe once Moffat leaves we’ll see it again, so we don’t want to stop watching in case all of a sudden it turns around.

  50. Andrew Hickey Says:

    “Is there any reason to think the new writers are operating under any less awful constraints than the old ones were. ”

    Yes — there’s the fact that all the writers on the new show have talked about how many rewrites they’ve been made to do. This is in stark contrast to the 1963-89 series, where often script editors had to write a script themselves over a weekend because they hadn’t even received a usable first draft.

  51. Dave Page Says:

    Back when I still watched NuWho (I gave up during Tennant, though I tried a few episodes of Smith) I enjoyed Andrew’s writing on these episodes for a particular reason. I’m not great at analysis of music, film or TV in the way that Andrew is.

    Watching NuWho gave me a sense of unease, a feeling that there were things I didn’t like or that didn’t feel right, but I couldn’t put my finger on it or put it into words. Reading Andrew’s writing and reviews of NuWho helped me realise why I didn’t like it – “Oh, the plot made no sense and the Doctor just used his Sonic-Ex-Machina to wrap everything up after 40 minutes with no actual dramatic tension!”

    Now, I still enjoy Andrew’s reviews because reading reasoned deconstructions of inexplicably popular rubbish tickles my funnybone; I don’t actually need to watch the show to know how terrible it is, because Andrew lets me know that the things I don’t like are still there.

  52. plok Says:

    Late to this, but…

    I don’t watch it. I liked most all of the Eccleston, and the first couple of Tennants, then became uncomfortable and a bit bored, then lost access and didn’t really miss it…then got access back towards the end of Tennant’s run and it was, like, this horrible THING?!

    Am I really the only one who noticed?

    Not talking “bad episodes”, talking “crap show”. There’s a difference, right? “This is a good show, but it has some bad episodes, the writing isn’t always good, there are problems”, that’s one thing…but “the show is bad, the way it’s conceived of is bad, its badness is apparent even when the scripts are pretty much fine, the problems clearly reach through to the Producer level”, that’s another? So if you’ve ever said that about any show, you have to support the idea that it could be true even about something called Doctor Who?

    Saw the first Matt Smith one and liked him, was unnerved by the de rigeur badassery involved (things a bad show does!) but mostly found it promising…see how forgiving I am, how willing to give things third and fourth and nineteenth chances?…lost access again, then heard about all these dreadful-sounding “arcs” and have completely lost enthusiasm. These “arc” things, I have lived my genre-addicted life by them both high and low, but they can be self-indulgent. They are not automatically good! They are not even automatically impressive. I do notice a lot of people in TV toying with them more and more as time goes on, which I attribute to more and more people in TV having been comics fans in the 1990s as time goes on…when quality was so low the only thing you could hang onto was the prententiousness of the crap stories being part of an “arc”, at least? I think the NuWho showrunners just are so conditioned to associating this particular instrument, with STORYTELLING GOLD!! that when they sit down to think of an idea of “what would be good” they unfailingly come up with it, and that’s the curse of all this. One senses a wish to make Doctor Who “serious”, in that way all comics people know…and cringe when they think of…a thing we have long been used to accomplishing through “arcs”.

    Not that arcs can’t be fantastic, because they can. Boy, can they! But they’re not a way to save something.

    Really disturbing to hear of a kind of Who fandom that’s stridently tribal; I’ve always thought this was something Whovians were very lucky to escape. Some of the arguments are pretty screwy, for example that fellow who told Andrew “meh” and “I think you harping on about your negative opinions is pointless” — never a good idea to tell people either of those things! — commits a bit of a foul when he talks about things getting into the “DNA” of Doctor Who (it’s a bit like Mark Zuckerberg talking about data sharing as something people always did because they liked it, that Facebook just cleverly gave them a way to do better?), because of course Dr. Who doesn’t have DNA…and so it’s just like that thing where people talk about language “evolving”, when it doesn’t do any such thing. A post-McCoy Doctor unable to convincingly ask “have I the right?” Well, then again we’re living in a world where the Doctor sleeps with his Companions, so I gues anything’s possible…

    As for watching it with kids, I decline to force kids to watch something I think isn’t any good. Maybe if it was the only game in town, but it isn’t. So many things out there, that you can watch with kids! There’s such an endless river of it, why would I ever force myself to have to learn to like what’s in this old barrel.

    Also, the thing with kids? They don’t know if something’s “new” or “old”, don’t know they’re supposed to be hip to the trends. Adults just LOVE to attribute that fashionable tendency of their own to children, but children just aren’t creatures of fashion in that same way. If they only see new stuff, then that’s what they’re going to like; if they see all kinds of stuff then they’ll like all kinds of stuff. I daresay I would not be reading the same book I am right now, if my father hadn’t read me Robinson Crusoe when I was a boy.

    Also, I’m not sitting through nine hours of The Hobbit!



  53. Papers Says:

    I would say the episode was worse than the standard crap that Moffat has been producing, because even the first sct wasn’t terribly good or memorable. Usually the velocity of the cold open is strong enough to keep me watching even when it inevitably falls apart as soon as the second act hits (I am reminded of the episode of SHERLOCK where I was impressed that it made it *all the way* to the last fifteen minutes before falling apart).

    Re: arcs, plok. Arcs are just fine when they are based on development of character (or characters) over the course of a given, longer plot. I can think of shows that do arcs remarkably well while pacing them to make them almost invisible. Moffat doesn’t do character arcs, he does take a companion character and treats them like an object rather than developing them as a character, building them out of cardboard and one-liners (Clever Boy, blah-blah, virtually everything River said after her initial Library appearance) and something which can only be classified as a mystery because it’s made up of random details that look a bit like clues. RTD managed to give Donna an actual character development arc (even though he undoes it cruelly in the end) while Amy Pond was slowly leeched of any character by the end. Moffat’s arcs are just another shenanigan for the Doctor to react to, only his Doctor is equally a cardboard cut-out with some “hilarious” catchphrases and mannerisms attached.

    The episode itself is just “Idiot’s Lantern,” only without the interesting historical & character-based components, without even the chilling design element of the faceless victims; the “wireless base points” walking around looking like people with the backs of their heads as satellite dishes wasn’t even aesthetically pleasing.

  54. RetroWarbird Says:

    “Re: arcs, plok. Arcs are just fine when they are based on development of character (or characters) over the course of a given, longer plot. I can think of shows that do arcs remarkably well while pacing them to make them almost invisible.”

    I remember when an “arc” was something the actor was secretly fighting for behind the scenes, that only kind of became apparent after the fifth or sixth season had ended and you went back to the pilot or the first season and realized just how much your characters had grown, despite their show being a serial and wherein a “two-parter” was a huge deal. Whereupon you realize that because the actors playing the roles have become friends, so too, the characters feel like they’ve really ‘opened up with one another’ and so-and-so’s shocking death actually has emotions invested because they never once felt like a walking plot device. Companions always feel like walking plot devices. Well, Rose didn’t. But then eventually she did.

    It took a qualified watcher writing lists or with a long memory to piece together ‘arcs’. Original Star Trek had two Klingon appearances per season, terrifically scant that, but it was enough to have serious emotional payoff once Shatner went to theaters with your Searches for Spocks and Undiscovered Countries.

    Some day I’ll actually avoid bringing Star Trek into these comments.

    I got “Rose” far more than “Idiot’s Lantern”. The eerie not real person thing felt vaguely “Auton”, and the Intelligence is a hive mind, just like the Nesteen. Plus, you know “First Date with a Companion and a Fiesty Jaunt through London-Town/Bigger on the Inside”.

    As cyclical episodic patterns go, these two episodes feel incredibly similar to Series 1′s beginnings, just more “geeks are bad-ass” and less frenetic kitchen-sink sci-fi. “First Date”/”Outer Spacey”. “Rose”/”End of the World”. “Christmas Invasion”/”New Earth”. “Eleventh Hour”/”Beast Below”. Martha Jones and Donna Noble avoided this pattern, but they were doomed to their own patterns.

  55. Joe Cassara Says:

    What an insufferable bore you are, Dan. The worst kind of geek. But there’s still hope for you. I’m told the plot of episode 4 of the series involves The Doctor and Clara helping Linus Torvalds squash a particularly nasty bug in the new Linux Kernel (spoiler: it’s a misplaced comma in line 32124). Then they all fap the RFC documents from 1983.

    Realistic enough for you? Sheesh.

  56. Illogical Volume Says:

    Reckon that’s Dan sorted out then.

    Fukken BAM!!!! straight aff the canvas.

  57. Illogical Volume Says:

    Unless that’s a neat bit of stealth irony, a convoluted play on the complaint about using existing worlds to mean something else, in which case that’s me sorted out then.

    Fukken BAM!!!! straight aff the canvas.

  58. regretting Says:

    One thing that’s been made clear is this is a website for haters of the series. Try to argue intelligently with the author and you get a ‘fuck off’ rather than a reply. You don’t like arguing, you like discussing with people who agree with you.

  59. Illogical Volume Says:

    regretting – HOW DARE YOU SIR/MADAM?! I WRITE FOR THIS WEBSITE AND I’LL HAVE YOU KNOW THAT I’M INDIFFERENT TO DOCTOR WHO AT BEST! *slides down a brightly coloured floom on a slow trickle of nerd tears*

    Please note that Andrew and Patman had a civil exchange before Patman doubted Andrew’s account of his own thoughts, that Ron Lamb and Jennie have provided a helpful factual correction, and that Bob Temuka has disagreed with Andrew throughout this comments thread without being told to fuck off, because he’s somehow managed to resist the temptation to be a wee bawbag about it.

    Then, if you still feel that this is an impenetrable haterspace, you know what to do.

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