I’m Breaking Up with Doctor Who (For Now)

Doctor Who is my favorite show. I’ve been saying that for years. And it’s the truth. I’m going to a convention for it in February that I’m very much looking forward to. And yes, Doctor Who from a few years ago is currently my favorite show. Current Doctor Who is not currently my favorite show. And I won’t be watching series 9. At least not when it originally airs. I need to step outside for some fresh air.

Now there’s a lot contributing to this. I admit I enjoyed our time with David Tennant best, though in certain ways Christopher Eccleston seemed even better suited for the role, and I enjoyed both of their tenures immensly. I also quickly noted that the best episodes of the series’ were almost always written by this Steven Moffat guy. At the time I started watching the show I was a screenwriting student and payed particularly close attention to this credit. I grew progressively gleeful whenever his named appeared behind the TARDIS, hurtling through time and space and crashing into the next adventure.

Eventually, as is the nature of the show, Tennant left, and it happened to coincide with the departure of Russell T. Davies, the brilliant mind responsible for the revamp after the show had been off the air for about 15 years. The job of showrunner went to Moffat and I, along with a good chunk of the fanbase, was delighted. Wonderful! He writes all the best episodes! That will certainly translate to full series arcs like clockwork steampunk droids.

The first series under Moffat’s rule, series 5, was…not bad. Accepting Matt Smith as the character that committed double-genocide, as canonically confirmed after the show’s 2005 return, was a little hard to believe, but he was sort of endearingly dopey and clumsy. He reminded me of Patrick Troughton’s Doctor, my favorite from the classic series. This could be good. And Amy was pretty cool. I liked her. I was a little confused why, at least on for the American broadcasts, we were suddenly being treated to this recurring intro by her, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

Series 5 wasn’t quite what I was used to, but it was better than nothing, and the new cast and crew needed a little time to warm up, find their footing. This was actually a good sign, right? The show could only get better.

Season 6 was…about the same. I liked Rory. I liked when Mark Sheppard guest starred. And I liked River, though I still thought her appearance in the library episodes in series 4 were her strongest. Unfortunately, I did not buy her romance with Smith’s Doctor at all. Don’t get me wrong, I thought both Smith and Alex Kingston were doing fine jobs, there just wasn’t any chemistry. It felt forced.

I’d also like to point out that in this series, an amazing piece of television was produced: the Doctor’s Wife. It was a bit a-typical in mood and tone, but it breathed some original life into the show, tied into the overall arc, and had some truly exquisite Neil Gaiman composed prose. That one episode in a series of unexceptional episodes gave me, what I now believe to be misplaced, hope for a long time.

“Are All People Like This? So Much Bigger on the Inside?”

Series 7. No. No. No no no no no. Okay, I liked Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, because I’m a 12 year-old-boy at heart, but we have missed the mark.

A couple things happened. We knew that Amy and Rory were exiting the show after episode 5, we were then going to take a midseason break and return with a new companion, Clara, and Moffat claimed he would be taking the show in a darker direction. So let’s address these changes:

The first first few episodes of the series 7 were just alright, but still not terrible. Amy and Rory were sent off in what was a bit of an anti-climax. Sure, the Statue of Liberty turned out to be a Weeping Angel, but a flurry of false endings resulted in an emotional disconnect (it finally got to me at the very end, but I should have been bawling from the opening credits; I give you permission to rip my heart out when a companion leaves the show, I want that) and left a lot of Whovians scratching their heads.

Over the break we read up on Clara. She had surprisingly showed up on the series 7 premiere. She was…alright. Then she showed up in the Christmas special. She was perfectly fine. There was some mystery surrounding her. I wasn’t totally sold, but my interest was peaked.

The show came back. The following is a rundown of the remaining episodes:

The Bells of Saint John – Boring
The Rings of Akhaten – Boring
Cold War – Boring
Hide – Okay, actually, I kind of liked that one
The Journey to the Center of the TARDIS – Possibly the worst episode of the show ever made
The Crimson Horror – Meh
Nightmare in Silver – Not as good as Gaiman’s first attempt, but I like his flavor of Who and it was fun to see Matt Smith play the bipolar Doctor trying to resist being taken over by the Cyber-Planner
The Name of the Doctor – I just don’t really care anymore

I must confess though, the series 7 finale was the first time I ever bought a kiss between the Doctor and River (in what would be the last time 11 and River would be onscreen together. A little late there). Plus, John Hurt was just thrown into the mix. I can’t give up on the show right as John Hurt joins the party.

But I also discovered that I couldn’t stand Clara. She wasn’t relatable. A little too perfect. I understood that men thought she was hot, but there was nothing about her that I saw in myself. Where was the fallibility? Where was the humanity? There was nothing to her, and the story was constantly relying on the viewer caring about her. I did not care. And I was not at all impressed when we found out who she was. I was blown away by some of the fan theories, but when we got to the actual reveal I was let down.

I was delighted at the idea of the show becoming darker, but I don’t feel that it has, more that Moffat kept saying it (and still keeps saying it), but isn’t reflecting it in his writing. I think there’s a necessary element of suspense that’s lacking, that could make the show darker (the episode “Listen” from series 8 was in the right direction, but we never returned to it and we never achieved that point before it).

Then was the 50th anniversary. And I’ll give the show a reprieve here. Mostly good. It’s tough to please so many fans who want so many different things. It was pretty good. They blasted a huge whole in the canon, but if they can make an intriguing show out of the fact the Doctor just…I guess…thought he blew up all the Daleks and Time Lords, but didn’t and just…forgot? Sure, if you can make that into an intriguing storyline, I’ll follow you. I’LL STILL FOLLOW YOU.

In the Christmas episode, the 11th Doctor regenerated into the 12th. It was a very poor episode. The Doctor grows old defending a planet we’ve never heard of before from a parade of wooden downgrades of old monsters, who seem to be causing a minor annoyance. Clara was there. There was stuff. The Doctor died. Then didn’t. Then was regenerating. Then wasn’t. Just get on with it. Your speeches don’t impress me. The Doctor finally regenerated, so suddenly and with such little fanfare that for the first time, I didn’t cry when the Doctor died. And it wasn’t that I didn’t like him. He grew on me. I was just so lost in a haze of what was either too much story or not enough, I’m still not sure, that I was unaffected.

Then came Capaldi as the 12th Doctor. I liked him. Still do. I think he makes a wonderful Doctor. But the story has lost any trace of zest. It’s become a mess. We aren’t addressing the Gallifrey in the room near as much as we should, nor that Capaldi was both the man in Pompeii and played a role in the Torchwood series (we were told this would be for a reason, but it was never discussed).

But what about Clara?! Danny Pink?! Their undying love?! Nope. Not buying their love story, I don’t care about Danny, and I want Clara to die just to be rid of her. I’ve never been disappointed to see Nick Frost, but when he showed up at the end of “Last Christmas,” I was devastated. Let me back up:

Jenna Coleman, who plays Clara, was going to leave the show. Then after Moffat finished writing the series and tied up her storyline, she changed her mind. And rather than anyone saying, “wait…that will be truly detrimental to the story, the arc, the show,” Moffat just said, “splendid! Let’s keep the hot girl around. I like looking at her.” Okay, I’m being a little harsh and that’s not totally fair, but I can’t help but wonder what he could possibly be thinking. It’s as though he’s completely forgotten how to write a television show. And no one did anything to stop it. So the show’s going to fall into deeper disrepair trying to backtrack and untie the tied-up ending. I can’t look.

The entire 8th series was like a long slow car accident (oops. Sorry, Pink). I didn’t care for it, would fall weeks behind (it used to be, I’d never dream of missing an episode). I grew frustrated with Moffat’s attempts to outclever us. I’d give up all his unexpected surprises, the moments I never saw coming, for a single solid story.

And I recently realized why Moffat’s era of Doctor Who doesn’t work, and this is what I was saying about that Amy Pond intro:

Moffat has said time and time again, that he believes Doctor Who is about the companion, rather than the Doctor. I firmly believe that’s not the case. Doctor Who is about the Doctor, from the point of view of the companion. You know, Moff. Like how Sherlock is about Sherlock from the perspective of Watson. That’s why Sherlock works and Doctor Who used to work. We can observe these mad adventures by relating to a normal human companion, struggling through their everyday life.

Instead Doctor Who is now about an infallible, smug girl, who doesn’t struggle through life, but is rather carried along on the breeze, like that goddamn leaf they wouldn’t shut up about, and fails to reflect the audience in any way. Because life sucks, or is at least very difficult, and Doctor Who used to be my escape.

And I hear the loyalists (it pains me not to include myself in this group anymore) screaming, “if you don’t like the show, you don’t have to watch it.” And they’re 100% right. So I won’t. And I’m heartbroken. On that note, if you disagree with this post, I’d really appreciate it if you could abstain from argumentative or passive aggressive comments, because I’m properly grieving here and I stood up for this show for a long time, after most of my friends had ditched it. Also, I do realize this one was especially run-on-y. I do apologize.

Maybe, just maybe I’ll check in after a season has passed or a new companion comes on or, dare I dream, a new showrunner. I have a hard time believing I’ll never be back. But I’m frustrated and more than a little bit hurt with things that have been said (that’s whole other very long and very involved story) and the ways things have been handled by those in positions of power over the show as of late….

All that’s left to say is:


About Risa Romano

Writer type thing. I have a blog: rambleonnerdyponderings.wordpress.com I'm also the creator and moderator of the Doctor Who vodcast/podcast A Disused Yeti: https://adisusedyeti.wordpress.com/
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