Today we’re going to talk about a BBC programme which should have been called The Magic Time Angel, but which for reasons which increasingly elude me, they continue to refer to as Doctor Who.
By Timothy it winds me up.
Look, I don’t want you to get the impression that I‘m about to go off on a long, rambling, apoplectic rant without any attempt at a balanced and fair assessment of the show, oh no. I’m going to be completely fair about this and list everything I like about the latest series as well.
So here goes – everything I like about Doctor Who, series 5:
So that’s that done with, now let’s get on to all the bits that bug me. Make yourselves comfortable – I’m about to start cutting…
Bambi McPoutface or whatever the toss the redheaded helper girl is called. Does she actually have more than the one facial expression? Does she though? You know the one: big brown round eyes, startled eyebrows, fat kissy lips puckered up like she’s going to plant a restylane-swollen smacker on the cameraman at the first opportunity. I just don’t get it - I’ve seen Karen Gillan in Doctor Who Confidential – she has at least three whole facial expressions at her disposal in real life, so why on earth is her on-screen character only capable of looking like a timid woodland animal about to bolt from a big bad wolf?
And then there’s her costume. Honestly, the leg-baring – how feckin’ cold-bloodedly calculated to please the dads is that? Utterly ridiculous. I’d much prefer it if they got rid of her and kept her seven-year old counterpart knocking around the TARDIS instead. At least she’s closer to the target audience’s age. And it would be rather good to have an actual child in peril every week, rather than a succession of sexualised young women who continually turn out to be Cosmically Significant (apart from Martha, who was just there to be a bit black for a while).
They should’ve kept old Wilf as the companion – an 80-year old granddad hobbling around time and space was a great change from the girlies, but hey.
What else? Oh yes, of course. Him. The Doctor - goonish, rubber-faced bowtie-wearing, girly skipping embarrassment that he is. And that horrible, horrible, ugly, grey costume. I thought we were getting somewhere with the fez in The Big Bang, but it was not to be, alas. And really, what is his character all about? Nothing but a disjointed series of motormouthed non-sequiturs and second-hand David Tennant impressions. They still keep giving him the odd “Brilliant!”, like they’ve got some old Tennant dialogue lying around at the back of the fridge that has to get used up before it goes off.
And what’s with those increasingly annoying Shouty Speeches to the bad guys, wherein the doctor gives a manically breathless monologue about how he going to defeat the monsters, rescue the girl and save the day, despite (and here’s the bit that really bugs me) being outnumbered, outgunned and completely unarmed? This goes all the way back to Eccleston’s speech to the Daleks in Bad Wolf – I’m sure he even rounds it off with something like “And doesn’t that scare you to death?” To the Daleks. And his successors have got exactly the same treatment – just look at Doctor Rubberface at Stonehenge shouting up at the assembled Space Legion Of Evil: “No plan, no back up, no weapons worth a damn” – he even bloody tells them he’s got nothing. Dude, that is not a cunning poker bluff, that’s telling the bad guys you’re in fact a total pussy. Which you are. Not clever psychology, just rubbish writing.
Then there’s the aliens, those bloody hunchbacked Daleks for a start. I notice that they didn’t inflict the entire multi-coloured line-up on us in The Pandorica Opens episode. Maybe Mr Blue and Mr Orange were on another job, being Strategic or Scientific or what have you. Which is a pity for the Daleks coz that means they couldn’t all merge into a giant Megazord without The Power Of Five. Probably. I also note that we didn’t seem to get any side or rear views of the ‘new paradigm’ Daleks in the last episodes – maybe the creators of the show realised that pronounced kyphosis of the spine is not a strong look for the most ruthless beings in the universe.
The Sontarans. Remember when they didn’t used to be dwarfs? I do. Linx or Styre, or whatever one he was, bloody terrified me with his humpty head and fully-grown stature. That’s a proper Sontaran, pal. I just can’t see Mike from the Young Ones as a credible threat, sorry. The only little guy in the history of Doctor Who to have been legitimately scary was Mr Sin, the Peking Homunculus. Sontarans should be man-size, not 12-year old size. And lose the Vogon noses – I keep expecting them to start spouting dreadful poetry.
Grumpy, or possibly Sneezy:
Then there’s the Silurians, or as I like to think of them, the Repticons from the Silurian Quadrant. Apparently we have a choice of looks for the modern Silurian – the budget-friendly but unthreatening big blank-eyed mask (why oh why can’t they have spooky vertical pupils? They’d be proper freaky then) or the Star Trekky lumpy-headed human look reserved for one or two actors with speaking parts (see also Sontarans and those rhino guys).
The magic, oh lordy the magic. Remember when the Doctor was just a smart guy in a time machine who had a device that could open some doors? Remember how he didn’t actually hop around in time mid-story, and couldn’t "cross his own time-stream"? Remember when he didn’t have telepathy whenever the plot required it? Remember when the TARDIS just went to places without coating its passengers in magical time-dust? Remember when it didn’t reroute phone calls from Historically Significant Figures to River bloody Song and her stupid hypno-lipstick? Yeah, the old Doctor called the TARDIS “old girl” and said it “almost had a mind of its own”, but I swear we’re just one series away from the blue box manifesting a frigging sexy hologram image of itself called Tara. Before you know it she’ll have a remote holo-emitter and start running around, getting captured and learning more about human emotions.
Remember when the sonic screwdriver was referred to by its full name, and not the adjective? Calling it ‘the sonic’ is like calling it ‘the electric’ or ‘the green’ or the ‘fairly useful’ It’s ungrammatical, goldarnit! And it sounds like a blue hedgehog. Remember when the sonic screwdriver wasn’t an all-powerful magic wand? It does not repair devices and heal wounds and it certainly doesn’t reprogram mobile phones so that they work anywhere in time and space for Rassilon’s sake. It’s a constant surprise to me that Dr Goonface doesn’t yell “Expelliarmus!” when he whips it out. Oh wait, I think he did (“Good old J.K.!” – arg.)
And the bloody music. I know I’m a little hard of hearing and I sometimes need to ask people to repeat themselves, but do you know which are the only two television programmes that I need subtitles for? The Wire and Doctor Who. The former because it legitimately uses fast-paced, strongly accented street slang and police jargon, the latter because Murray Gold’s perfectly decent orchestral efforts have been inexplicably turned up to 11 and so drown out the dialogue. Could it be that the producers don’t want anyone to listen to the script too hard? Perhaps they’re afraid that people might start to notice that the frenzied plot exposition that Matt Smith and his forebears have been compelled to spout often makes no arsing sense whatsoever? Honestly, I’ve lost count of the number of times he’s chattered some old toot out about "conflugalising the chronion particles within the space-time rift", but unless you resort to subtitles or lip-reading you wouldn’t know that because they’re pumping out “The Doctor’s Theme” at 110 decibels. And don’t get me started on the actual theme tune. Look, I get that they felt they wanted to update it a bit when they brought the show back in 2005, but did they have to bugger about with it completely in 2010? It barely has any whiddly-woo in it at all now. The sainted if peculiar Delia Darbyshire must be spinning in her grave, or more likely, being struck by stupid lightning bolts as her coffin foolishly bounces around the time stream. Yes, I hate the new opening visual sequence too. At least we don’t get a cosmic image of Sylvester McCoy winking at us.
Finally, let’s not forget the poor old TARDIS which has gone through some radical makeovers through the years. I remember the bendy girders in a candlelit warehouse design from the McGann movie, and of course the start it with a bicycle pump version from the Eccleston/Tennant era. They were OK, even if I did have to blank the bicycle pump from my mind. But now what have we got? A console with an old typewriter? Gramophone speakers? A TARDIS that looks like it’s been rebuilt from the set of Steptoe And Son by the look of it. And don’t try fobbing me off some old “It’s from Totters Lane” excuse – I’m just not buying it. The whole thing smacks of a concerted decision by Steven Moffatt and /or BBC Wales to emphasise the silliest aspects of the show and handwave it all away with the increasingly lame excuse: “Look, this is a family show.” That’s not going to wash with me, buddy. I do not accept a TARDIS made out of cack leftovers from a Sunday car boot sale. You are making Doctor Who silly, with its typewriters and its bowties and its swimming pools sloshing about. Silly! Damn you, damn you all to Hell!
So here’s my proposal for the next series of Magic Time Angel: Rory, in a sensible TARDIS with a screwdriver that open doors. Sonically.