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David Brider [userpic]

Would anyone mind if I have a quick rant?

May 4th, 2013 (01:25 pm)

current location: United Kingdom, England,City and Borough of Sheffield, Sheffield

It's about Doctor Who. Or more specifically, it's about the Doctor Who 50th anniversary special. And about Steven Moffat. And about those members of Doctor Who fandom (possibly a minority, but of late an extremely vocal one) who are being extremely annoying asshats (if I was a particularly sweary sort of person I might go for a more colourful description, but...)

Cards on the table time: I'm a wee bit biased. I like Steven Moffat. I've been a fan of his since Press Gang, I thought Joking Apart was possibly the second best sitcom ever (after Fawlty Towers, just to put that claim into perspective; indeed, I think the sequence of episodes from series 2 episode 2 through to series 2 episode 5 may be the finest piece of sustained comic farce on television since Fawlty Towers), his episodes of Doctor Who written under Russell T Davies' showrunnership are some of my favourites ever in the programme's history, and he's been genuinely a bit adventurous in the writers he's brought onto Doctor Who (Neil Gaiman was very much a case of "about time!", but Simon Nye and Richard Curtis were unexpected choices).

On the other hand, I'm not blind to his faults; Chalk was (IMO) an utter mess, I actually found Coupling a bit hit and miss (although the hits were absolutely wonderful), The Beast Below was one of the most boring episodes of nuWho I've sat through (to add insult to injury, broadcasting it the week after the wonderful The Eleventh Hour made it seem like a rather cruel joke), and his arc plots in Doctor Who have been rather weak, particularly in the payoff department.

There's also the matters of the split seasons and the fact (?) that the anniversary special might only be about an hour long, but I don't know if it's ever been precisely established whether those were/are his doing, or a result of BBC internal politics & budget issues.

Thing is...there seems to be an increasing amount of at best negativity, at worst outright hostility, towards Moffat over the last few weeks. Which seems to be more than a little unfair, particular as some of it seems to be directed at him because of...rumours regarding his personality and/or personal behaviour, rather than his abilities as writer/showrunner/executive producer. Whilst there may be some truth to those rumours - for example, that he's become impossible to work with, which certainly would help to explain the high number of producers/executive producers who've worked on the show under his watch - to be honest, for me, the bottom line is: is the finished programme any good? This is, obviously, a subjective thing. Personally, I can always find something to enjoy in most Doctor Who, and whilst I've not found the Moffat years of the show to be quite as good as RTD's stuff, it's been for the most part a programme I can happily sit down and watch.

One rather bizarre claim I've read recently is that Moffat has "contempt" for the viewers (and/or the fans). I doubt that this is true, although I'd also acknowledge that short of getting into his head it would be hard to know for sure. I suspect that Moffat, like RTD and, indeed, most other TV professionals, has a simple goal: to entertain people (although, as either Terrance Dicks or Barry Letts once put it, making sure we're not watching a blank screen for 25 minutes on Saturday afternoon is also important). His idea of what's entertaining may or may not be the same as yours, or mine, or various other people, although the fact that the Appreciation Index remains healthy suggests that most viewers are happy with what he's done. I definitely don't think he has contempt for the fans either, but like RTD, he appreciates that fan-pleasing gimmickry may not go down well with the wider viewing audience (of which the fanbase, though important, is a very tiny part).

Which brings me onto the main point: the 50th anniversary special. Apparently, it will be appalling a travesty, an insult to 50 years of the programme's history. Why? Because it doesn't feature the return to the programme of every single surviving actor who's ever played the Doctor.

Well, for one thing, I don't believe that a multi-Doctor reunion story is necessarily the best way to celebrate the show's history. It's a way to do it, granted, but it's been done before in 1972, in 1983, in 1993, and (by Big Finish, kind of) in 2003, not to mention 1985's The Two Doctors (which wasn't to celebrate an anniversary, but hey, Patrick Troughton!yay!). It will be done again by Big Finish this year, and one of the few things we know for certain about DW50 is that it will feature the return of David Tennant. When it works, it works. When it doesn't, it can be a bit of a mess. Leaving aside the simple fact that none of the surviving actors looks as young as they did when they were in the series (it's this inevitable thing called aging), in 1983 when The Five Doctors was made, fitting three Doctors, one recast Doctor and one Doctor represented by clips from an unused story, plus a host of returning companions, monsters, and other characters, into one 90 minute mega-episode, just about worked. Fitting eight Doctors, plus other shoutouts to the past into a (potentially) 60 minute episode is far more of a stretch. You can have all the Doctors back to do their party pieces...or you can have a dramatically satisfying story that celebrates the past and points the way for the future. I suspect that you'd be hard pressed to do both.

For another thing...all we know is that Doctors four to eight have denied involvement in DW50 (the BBC have also issued a press statement that Christopher Eccleston won't be involved; after the kerfuffle over his resignation in 2005 where they attributed words to him that he'd never spoken, I doubt they'd be so stupid as to do that again). Okay, they've denied involvement. Erm...and? About a couple of months back, Tennant said he wasn't going to be involved. And now...he isn't. Oh, hang on. Moffat lies. He's famous for it. He likes to preserve some surprises for us. I don't think that's unreasonable. I doubt, for the reasons I've already given, that we'll have substantial appearances by Tom, Peter, Colin, Sylvester and Paul. I suspect that little cameos may not be out of the question - but I wouldn't put it past Steven to ask them to say they're not in it, just so that when the special goes out in November our jaws can collectively hit the floor and we can all go "wow"!!!

But whatever happens, let's not actually have an opinion on the special until we've seen it, eh? And let's form that opinion on the basis of the its qualities as a piece of television drama, not how many leading actors from the past it manages to shoehorn into its 60 minute running time, eh?

Or is that too much like common sense?

Posted via LiveJournal app for iPad.


Posted by: Jamie (lifefailsme)
Posted at: May 4th, 2013 01:48 pm (UTC)
Doctor Who - 11th & Clara - Hand Holding


The community doctorwho is the worst for it and the vocal minority usually get their voices heard cos they know about Old Who in depth and I think newer fans feel intimidated by them.

But I totally agree with you and frankly I got bored of hearing them hating every single week about the latest ep or how New Who is fail when compared to Old Who, fault finding, so I no longer look at that comm even when it is airing. . I just couldnt watch a TV show for 30-40 or even 8 years that I seemed to loathe and yet that is what they do, all the time, daily and it gets worse in the weeks the show is airing.

I could be a completely nasty sod and say they're embittered copies of the comic book guy where everything about the show is, will be and always shall stay fail. Worst episode/Doctor ever! Just pee off and don't watch it then you idiots.

Again, VERY well said!

Posted by: Heidi (welshgirl15)
Posted at: May 4th, 2013 02:40 pm (UTC)
DW: Amy Pond {Close Crop}

Thank you for this rant, I completely agree with you! How can people complain that it's going to be a terrible way to mark 50 years when you haven't actually seen it?

I think Moffat could have gone 2 ways with it. It could have been a bit of a romp with all the surviving Doctors in it while we pretend not to notice that half of them look completely different to what they used to look at. Or, which I'm guessing is what he's doing, he could do an epic episodes with a fantastic story line and plenty going on. Which I'm sure will contain lots of shout outs to the 50 years of Who but worked into the story rather than just slap it all together.

Personally I can't wait to see what he does with it! My theory: Tennant isn't playing the 'proper' Doctor, rather the copy/human/thing that is trapped in the parallel universe with Rose.

Posted by: Blue (blue_aeon)
Posted at: May 4th, 2013 04:12 pm (UTC)

Well said! I've been withdrawing from the fandom lately because I can't stand what entitled little brats most of them are (and after the year my family's had, it's the last thing I want to deal with).

I think Moffat has the perfect approach to the 50th, and I'll tell you why:

There are whole generations of kids and people who have grown up with New Who now so, unless their parents showed them the Classic serials, they won't have a clue about what most of the stuff fans want to see. So all that will happen is that the kids and newer fans will be left feeling shut out of a show they've come to enjoy just so the "true" fans can indulge their own rose-tinted nostalgia.

People don't seem to realise that, for every episode they say is the worst, there are kids out there who've watched it and have been inspired to be an actor, or a writer, or go into special effects. And in a time where the shows that do that are thinner on the ground than ever before, that for me is why this show is so precious. And to shoot it down because it doesn't live up to the ridiculous standards of people who think the show is their and theirs alone is petty and mean-spirited. And believe me, IF Moffat holds that vocal part of the fanbase in contempt, it will be for that very reason. Because I certainly do.

Sorry for the soapbox, I've had a bee in my bonnet over this for a while now.

Posted by: alba (alba17)
Posted at: May 4th, 2013 04:24 pm (UTC)
Doctor Who Amy clock

I'm not really involved in the fandom, although I do watch doctorwho, and I see a bit of what you're talking about here and there. I don't get the dislike of Moffatt and what he's done with the show, so I agree with you. I detest the tendency of fans to prejudge things that havent aired yet merely on the basis of tiny titbits of info or brief trailers.

Personally, I think it would be hard to make a story work with all the past incarnations of the doctor, even if they were all willing to participate.

Posted by: Virgers! How are we doing with those explosives? (tree_and_leaf)
Posted at: May 4th, 2013 06:17 pm (UTC)

Hear, hear!

One rather bizarre claim I've read recently is that Moffat has "contempt" for the viewers (and/or the fans).

Oh, did you see ed_rex's latest? The man's off his head.

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