Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A Special Announcement Part 2



Well, we're back to schoolbooks.

It's the first day of Spring 2015 at UNT, and thus, it will cut back considerably in terms of postings, hence my mad rush to publish as much as I could before now.

Like last year, I will be posting, but it will not be as frenetic as it has been in the past few weeks.   Some semesters have been relatively easy.  Some have been extremely tough.  I have no idea which one I will have.

Personally, I dislike going through all this.  School gets in the way of more important things (J/K).  I hope to be able to put in a few, but for anyone keeping up with Gallifrey Exile or my sister site Rick's Café Texan, I may be silent for a few days or even weeks. 

I shall be back, but I think it's fair to let people know the truth rather than think I'll be gone.

Hope to be back very, very soon. 

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Ten Things I Hate About Who. Number Ten: Vulgarity and Silliness


I have made no effort to disguise my growing disdain for NuWho.  I was concerned I was speaking to an empty theater so to speak, but to quote the Face of Boe, "You are not alone".  On one of the Facebook pages I belong to (Classic Doctor Who Fans Who Dislike New Who), I have come across a series of thoughts by Mr. Paul Berry.  We in the group were so genuinely impressed by his series that I urged him to publish them. 

Ethan White of Sixstanger00 has requested permission to upload them on his YouTube page.  I don't know if Mr. Berry has but hope he does.  I for my part asked for permission to reprint them on this site. 

For this essay, I have added all pictures save the first, which was part of the original essay.

Mr. Berry has graciously allowed me to republish them as he posts them, and here is the tenth and final of a ten-essay series.  It is reprinted as written with the content exactly as it appears. The only alterations made are for any grammatical/spelling errors, spacing for paragraphs, and perhaps a few afterthoughts which will be noted after the photos.

I hope readers enjoy and share them.  I also hope readers will debate these matters, for I believe in a healthy debate.  However, I find Mr. Berry's comments and thoughts quite well-thought out and worthy of a greater audience. 

With that, I present Part Ten of this series: 10 Things I Hate About New Who
 
**********************************************************************************
 
10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT NEW WHO

10) VULGARITY & SILLINESS

Okay I admit I've shoehorned two reasons into this the last of my posts, but as one story in particular closely connects both issues, I hope you'll excuse me.

I must confess I've never liked Doctor Who when it gets silly. That's not to say it can't have humour or be fun, but when it crosses the line into puerile frivolity it just doesn't work for me. The Classic series was not exempt from silliness: the Graham Williams era when Tom Baker began to get much more control over things often veered in that direction, and as a 12 year old I was mortified by some of the early McCoy stuff, in particular The Rani dressing up as Mel and Richard Briers doing a pantomime turn as the Chief Caretaker amongst other examples.

The loss of Power of the Daleks from the BBC archives perhaps spares us from some of the 2nd Doctor's more outlandish moments. Would this classic be undermined for instance by a moment not recorded in any telesnap, where the Doctor apparently gets up from a chair and walks off with it still attached to his behind? Generally speaking though, despite going through its camp periods, Classic Who nearly always realised it was a mistake and pulled itself together. The camp/silly periods were but but blips in the show's 26 year history.

Not so for the new series, where silliness seemed to be part of the show's remit from Day 1. No longer something to be embarrassed about or shied away from it has carried all the way through the show's 21st century incarnation. The modern version of Doctor Who to my mind has never had a prolonged period where it has been played straight.

What do I mean by silliness?, Some would argue that Doctor Who by its nature is silly and indeed there is a large subculture of fans who revel in the camp elements of the series. But going back to what I said in one of my previous posts, to suspend my disbelief I have to believe in what is going on and any silliness usually undercuts that. It is a fine line between what is acceptable and what is ridiculous, but can anyone argue that Christopher Eccleston's first episode was not irrevocably tainted by that awful burping bin idea? I remember thinking at the time I hope to God that was a one-off; sadly it wasn't and there were plenty more such moments to come.

Only 4 episodes in I was literally astounded by the two part Slitheen story where depths were plumbed which made all the criticism that had been levelled at stories like The Happiness Patrol seem minor in comparison. After going to great pains to point how that Doctor Who in the 21st century to quote Davies was being approached as full blooded drama, this was Doctor Who as send-up. The baby faced flatulent Slitheen being the sort of thing that would have once cropped up in a Lenny Henry or French and Saunders sketch parodying the show.

The Slithheen bring me neatly to my other point. You could once rely on Doctor Who being a clean cut show for the family, I don't think toilet level humour ever occurred in Classic Who. In short the series was tasteful well-mannered entertainment, the sort of thing the BBC name was once synonomous with. Crude vulgarity was just another bad aspect Russell T Davies brought to the show in his attempt to update the show.

The farting was but the first instance, another episode presented us with a lovely visualisation of frozen vomit; there was then the silly scene of Captain Jack having a laser pistol hidden up his behind which if RTD had gotten his way would have also given us a shot of John Barrowman's bum on prime time BBC1.

The following year brought us jokes about the Doctor's genitilia, rather inappropriate humour about the Royal Family and a tasteless inference of oral sex. To my mind all this stuff cheapens and taints the show and lowers it to the level of an Austin Powers movie.

The Matt Smith Era has seen this level of puerile silliness go into overdrive. We have now been subjected to the supposedly hilarious idea of the Doctor being naked 3 times, once hiding under a dress, then stripping for Comic Relief, and finally that lamentable scene in The Time of the Doctor with all that nonsense about holographic clothes.

It's almost at times as if Moffat is being deliberately iconoclastic. That he is supposedly a fan and has any respect for the integrity of a 50 year old character I find hard to believe.

The silly "Doctor Who?" joke seems to recur numerous times in the new series, particularly in the Moffat era, it as if he's trying to justify the name of the show to himself. The scene in Asylum of the Daleks with the Daleks saying "Doctor Who?" over and over and then the Doctor dancing around the TARDIS repeating it was positively embarrassing to watch.

There's also the sheer childishness of the 11th Doctor's Dr. Doolittle abilities as he chatted to a transgender horse. Of course any chance there is to get a gay or sexual joke in there Moffat and Davies are straight in (no pun intended: RA).

I could go on but it is almost impossible to watch Doctor Who these days without a story being blighted by these things, even some of the better episodes. Even though the new series has had moments of drama, it is to the side of frivolity that the programme inevitably leans. Since 2005 it would be fair to say Doctor Who has been afraid to take itself very seriously.

So that's my 10, I could probably think of another 10 but I'm going to leave it open to anyone else if they want to continue on from where I've left off. I have to say these posts have allowed me to get something off my chest which has been bothering me for a long time and I am heartened to see many of you have been in agreement with me about my misgivings . I am a lifelong fan of Doctor Who that no longer watches the series. It's a strange situation to be in and I feel cheated and robbed in a way.

I strongly believe that between them Russell T Davies and Steven Moffat have perverted a great sci fi icon into something cheap, crass and puerile. I have tried to like the new series, time after time I have tried to make excuses for it and forget the mistakes of the past and give it another chance but every time it lets me down. New Doctor Who leaves me feeling angry and mockingly contemptuous, rather than the comfortable feeling of nostalgia I get from the classic series.

I appreciate the show has to change and evolve. I never wanted a carbon copy of the Classic series. I believe we could have had an updated Doctor Who that was relevant to the 21st century and was actually good. Occasionally I have seen glimpses of this in the new series but it has never been capitalised on or sustained. A good percentage of the changes Davies and Moffat have brought to the show have been to its detriment.

It is now nigh on 10 years since Doctor Who returned and it should have been a cause for celebration. Instead I can only look back on 10 years of disapointment, failed potential and on how I became shut out of a show that had been such a big part of my life. Compared to the achievements of those original first ten years, I honestly feel the show has moved on very little from that first episode in 2005.

It's like the series is stuck in Groundhog Day or as Doctor Who would call it a Chronic Hysteresis and to paraphrase Romana... I dont think it'll ever get out of it.

I remember watching from Rose to The Impossible Planet Parts 1 & 2 (Impossible Planet/Satan Pit) and being like many NuWhovians.  This is the GREATEST Doctor Who episode of ALL TIME!  NO, they've done one BETTER!  My enthusiasm for the show grew and grew.

Then came Love & Monsters, and I was left quite literally speechless, stunned at the freakshow I had seen and worse, growing with a shaking fury the more I thought on it.  I was so appalled at the end of it that I refused to watch Fear Her because the trailer became tainted by mere association with that horror.  I was so enraged and disgusted I quit watching Doctor Who then and there.  For full disclosure I did watch Doomsday Parts 1 & 2 (Army of Ghosts/Doomsday) but only to show my friend Fidel Gomez, Jr. (who may or may not be dead) the Daleks and Cybermen. 

He found the whole thing hilarious.  I found it sad and pointless.

It wasn't until The Eleventh Hour that I came back to Who and give it a second chance, and while I do still watch Doctor Who, it is almost with no sense of pleasure, seeing it as being determined to divorce itself from the first 26 years to concentrate on its first nine.  I am extremely close to saying that, despite the "50th" Anniversary Special and the efforts to make NuWho tie in with Classic Who, the revived Doctor Who has nothing to do with what came between An Unearthly Child and Survival

Mind you, this is coming from the fact that the end of Love & Monsters left me a bit puzzled.  "What kind of love life could they possibly have?" I asked myself at the end.  Put it to my naïvete, but I didn't get the 'love life' bit, at least at first.  When, after some thought (seriously, I had to think about what kind of love life Elton and Linda could be capable of), my reaction was "Eww!" 

Russell T Davies says he's shocked, SHOCKED that anyone would think oral sex was going on in here.



Sure, Davies NEVER meant to suggest oral sex.  No doubt about it.  In fact, I bet Davies is still a virgin who has never gone cruising and that Queer as Folk just sprung from someone else's imagination and has nothing to do with Davies or his past (real or imagined). 

I hate Love & Monsters for many reasons (a bad monster, terrible acting, deliberate mocking of the Doctor Who fanbase, almost cartoonish chase scenes, an almost brutal manner with the characters, nonsensical characters to begin with).  The "not oral sex" joke, which for better or worse went over my head, was the most disgusting thing of a disgusting episode. 

Of course, little did I know that Steven Moffat would manage to outdo Love & Monsters.

Here, Barry and I are in total accord.  What is it with all of Moffat's "Doctor Who?" jokes?  I have nothing against this.  The Classic Era had some fun on occasion with "Doctor Who?", like in The Gunfighters or The Five Doctors.  However, the few times "Doctor Who?" was used in the original was few and far between.  NuWho has an almost pathological obsession with it, and like any joke, it's gotten stale with every passing use. 

To quote the great Morrissey, That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore
To quote Frozen, Let It Go.

This is the thing Moffat and the Moffia simply don't get.  You can't take something seriously if the characters can't take it seriously.  Doctor Who is a science-fiction program, not a fantasy program.  The Librarians is a fantasy program, so all sorts of outlandish things can happen because we are not in a 'real' world (for example, Santa Claus appearing).  Doctor Who, for its part, has to be grounded in some sort of reality, otherwise it's just idiotic (for example, Santa Claus appearing). 

Why fans enjoy "Doctor Who?" or the Doctor 'speaking horse', let alone think that the Doctor would come out in favor of same-sex horse marriages, is clever or some sign of genius I genuinely have no idea.

Doctor Who 2.0 is dying.  It is a bad show, too wrapped up in it own faux-mythology to be any good as solid science-fiction.  People may love it, but they also have an affinity for things like Keeping Up with the Kardashians and Adam Sandler movies.  Does that make them 'quality' too?  Popularity and quality are not always the same.  It's clear that Steven Moffat, self-delusional 'genius' is at the heart of all Doctor Who's problems.  If he remains stubborn and is allowed to hold on to power, then the brilliant work that has come before, and that includes the revived Doctor Who, will all be shambles, sacrificed at the altar of a raging egomaniac who is surrounded by sycophants and nitwits.

#MoffatMustGo

 
WHAT WOULD PERTWEE THINK?

Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Nightmare Before Christmas of The Doctor



STORY 257: LAST CHRISTMAS

We've had Doctor Who Christmas specials for what, eight years now.  Apart from a reference in The Feast of Steven episode in The Daleks' Master Plan, I don't think Christmas was a large part of the Doctor Who mythos in the Classic Era.  Now, however, we live in a new world, where NuWho feels compelled to create a story every December 25th that will tie in some way to the season's festivities (with the exclusion of course of any mention of or reference to Jesus Christ, a figure which has absolutely NOTHING to do with Christmas and which would be too offensive for Christmastime viewing since people don't want 'religion' during Christmas).

Last Christmas, the most recent Doctor Who Christmas special, as a story is very easy to sum up.

Last Christmas is Alien meets The Thing with an extremely heavy dose of Inception and a pinch of Miracle on 34th Street put into the Doctor Who blender.   Do we really need to waste time on a recap when the above description pretty much covers all the bases?  Oh, very well...

Clara (Jenna Coleman) finds herself meeting Santa Claus himself (Nick Frost) and two of his elves on her rooftop, with Kris Kringle dropping tangerines all over the place.  She isn't all that fazed by it, but having travelled with The Doctor for what appears to be millennia one can't blame her for being a bit nonchalant about the whole thing.  The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) whisks her away to The North Pole.  There is a base there, and it's under siege.  There are four people at the North Pole: Shona (Faye Marsay), Ashley (Natalie Gumede), Fiona (Maureen Beattie), and Professor Smithe (Michael Troughton).  They are menaced by beings not dissimilar to the Face Huggers of Alien (which The Doctor claims to have never heard of, sharply remarking that the use of Alien is probably the reason Earth keeps getting invaded).  The Doctor and Clara arrive just as these creatures, known throughout the galaxy as Dream Crabs, are attacking.

To the rescue comes Santa and his elves, who now must join forces to fight these otherworldly beings.  The Doctor knows that the Dream Crabs induce dreams that appear real and wonderful, but that this is really a form of anesthetic to lull the victims until they are dead.  Into this state Clara enters, finding herself once again with Danny Pink (Samuel Anderson), which she believes to be real (despite herself).  The Doctor goes in to rescue her at risk to himself, convincing her that, in the words of Dallas, "it was all a dream".


However, there is still more nefarious work about.  Once The Doctor pulls Clara out of her dream state, he realizes they are in a dream-within-a-dream (a completely original Steven Moffat idea which has never been used before in the history of film or television).  Now he must work out how to get out of the dream-within-a-dream, with a little from Father Christmas. 

At the end we find that the appearance of Santa Claus itself is connected to being in a dreamworld, and that the three survivors (the bad Professor having woken up dead, we're told).  Santa is not real, but the fact Santa isn't real allows them to escape the Dream Crabs on his sleigh.  The three women all wake up in their own worlds, with Shona looking up her list to see that her own dream matched so much of what was going on (minus the Game of Thrones marathon).  Thanks to them waking up, the Dream Crabs die.  The Doctor goes to Clara, only to find that she has aged 66 years. 

In what appears to be a beautiful reunion, but Santa popping up alerts the Doctor that he's in a dream-within-a-dream-within-a-dream-within-a-dream.  He awakens, rushes to save Clara in the present day, who agrees to keep travelling on with the Doctor.  Things appear to be as they should, though outside Clara's window, a tangerine lays...



For those at home keeping score, I count four dreams: Clara's dream of Danny, the group dream involving Santa, the group's dream OF the dream involving Santa, and the Doctor's dream of Old Clara.  Honestly though, I might have missed one.  For me, this entire idea was one dream too many.  It's another effort to make things more 'complex' but sometimes, Moffat should not gild the lily when he's given the opportunity. 

What can I really say about Last Christmas?  A bit illogical?  Yes (all those dreams, the Doctor flying Santa's sleigh because it makes for a 'Christmasy image').  Repetitive of other Doctor Who stories?  Yes (Santa sending the Dream Crabs to bed was not unlike the Ninth Doctor telling the children to "go to your room" from Moffat's own The Empty Child Parts 1 & 2, the 'judge what is real and what isn't' might have made us call this episode Clara's Choice, and Clara's speech about not marrying despite proposals due to a man she was with being 'impossible', well, let's just summon Sarah Jane Smith in School Reunion).  And that isn't even going into how Last Christmas so nakedly steals from Alien/Inception/The Thing/Miracle on 34th Street.  Moffat may acknowledge Last Christmas was inspired by those (except for Inception), but there's a difference between homage and rip-off. 

I leave it to you to decide which one Last Christmas was.

One of my correspondents on Facebook observed that Doctor Who doesn't have actual Christmas stories but either previously-seen stories set AT Christmas but with little to nothing to do WITH Christmas or Christmas stories adapted for Doctor Who.  There was Doctor Who Meets The Poseidon Adventure (Voyage of the Damned).  We've had A Christmas Carol (which followed Dickens' story beat for beat), The Doctor, The Widow, and The Wardrobe (which if not a strict interpretation of C.S. Lewis' work a remarkable facsimile thereof), The Time of The Doctor (a variation of It's A Wonderful Life, perhaps), The Snowmen (a retelling of the children's book The Snowman, if the TARDIS wiki page is to be believed) and now Last Christmas.

Perhaps this is to say that Christmas really has no purpose in Doctor Who (as Last Christmas could have been set outside Christmas without affecting the plot).  Perhaps this is to say that Doctor Who is a show running on its legacy as opposed to its originality (in other words, it's out of ideas and resorting to remakes to keep going). 

Last Christmas is suppose to be a dream, or a dream-within-a-dream or whatever, but perhaps it is just me, but my own dreams aren't as conventional as the ones within Last Christmas.   Dreams are a place where all sorts of things, however illogical, can take place, because dreams have their own logic.  Last Christmas' dreams-within-dreams-within-dreams-within-dreams weren't all that clever or original.

How many times has there been a 'base under siege' story in Doctor Who?


Now, like all good Moffat stories, when you think about it, doesn't make sense.  IF we are to believe what we see, Shona's dreams came from her Christmas watching of Alien and The Thing From Another World plus Miracle on 34th Street (the first two odd choices in and themselves for Christmas, but I wondered why she would choose to watch the Howard Hawks 1951 version rather than the John Carpenter 1982 remake, one of the few to be the equal of if not superior to the original. So long as she watched the 1947 Miracle on 34th Street and not the crappy remake with Sir Dickie in it, but I digress...).   HOWEVER, one can ask, WHY HER?  WHY THEM?  Why were these particular people the ones the Dream Crabs went after?  Why have them share the same dream?  I figure the Dream Crabs have some kind of herd mentality on these matters, but if the Doctor was the first one infected, where did he dig up Shona?

Allow for a slight digression.  Shona referred to The Doctor as a 'magician'.  It's already known that the Season Nine episode is titled The Magician's Apprentice.  Steven Moffat is not known for subtlety.  Will Shona make a return? 

I sincerely hope not (though I wouldn't put it past him).  Already calls for Shona to be the next Companion (which shows the total lack of imagination among NuWhovians, who keep picking the same types: 21st Century British women as Companions).  However, given how Moffat always goes for a complex and convoluted answer when an easy answer would be better, I would not be surprised to imagine Shona (whose opening scene was to dance into the infirmary in the manner of Star-Lord in the opening of Guardians of the Galaxy) to get her wish and exchange numbers.

Still, I wonder why this massive invasion would select these particular people.  There wasn't anything tying them together or to The Doctor, so where did they come from?


There's something else I don't follow.  The Doctor claims to have never heard of Alien, yet this is the same Doctor who was fully aware of the entire Harry Potter series (like all things in NuWho, the ending made him cry.  Didn't have that effect on me, but oh well).  I find this rather illogical in that the Doctor, at least in the revived series, has been fully immersed in popular culture, and something as legendary as Alien and Aliens having escaped his attention seems unbelievable.

Then again, we have a story where Santa Claus comes across as real, so perhaps this is really a pointless point of debate. 

Another odd question from Last Christmas.  When the Doctor visits Old Clara, he says that he's seen people use these Christmas hats, though he doesn't seem to understand what they really do. 

Let us take the Wayback Machine to The Christmas Invasion, the first Doctor Who Christmas Special...


Yeah, the Doctor has seen people wear those Christmas hats.  It's not as if HE HIMSELF has ever donned Christmas gear...

One thing to have The Doctor unaware of Alien.  It's another to have him not aware of what a previous regeneration had/hadn't done. 

Sure, call it nitpicking.  I call it continuity.

Yes, the Doctor HAS seen people use Christmas hats. 
Shame he can't remember where or when...

Doesn't understand them.  HE'S BLOODY WORN THEM!  Is continuity THAT irrelevant on Doctor Who

At least this is a positive about Last Christmas: we had a plausible explanation for Santa Claus being there (the Dallas solution, I call it).  To his credit Moffat acknowledges the silliness of believing Santa Claus as real.  There WAS a solution, and it all would have worked so well, but Moffat went one too far with the tangerine (which I think is a British Christmas tradition).  I know it's a nod to Miracle on 34th Street, where they find a cane not unlike Kris Kringle's at the house Susan wished for.  That doesn't mean it works.

In the film, it was there to leave doubt as to Santa's existence because the whole film was based around that.  In Last Christmas, having already established that Santa was not real, why throw that in? 

Look, I'll just cut to the chase because I'm bored with this all and I want to finish this.  I didn't hate Last Christmas.  It has the sappy sentimentality that NuWhovians crave.  It gives them the little romance bit with Danny they all like (which was a waste because there is no pathos involved knowing that it really is all a dream where a struggle to believe whether it was real or not would have made things more tense, and frankly which was done better by of all things, Ugly Betty).  I didn't hate it.  I just didn't like it.  At times silly (the Doctor excited about driving Santa's sleigh...what would Pertwee think?), at times nonsensical (we never got the connection between our characters), Last Christmas has nothing that made me happy.

I cringed at seeing Santa come to the rescue.  I cringed at Santa riding Rudolph like a horse.  I rolled my eyes at Santa turning Rudolph's red nose like a car alarm. 

Seriously, Santa was immaterial to Last Christmas.  If you cut him out of the story, it would have worked just as well. 

I had made Last Christmas my make-or-break episode, whether it would be something so patently idiotic (after the horror of Death in Heaven Parts 1 & 2) that I would quit Doctor Who...again, or whether it was tolerable enough to keep this train chugging.   To his credit, at least Moffat decided that having Santa Claus be as real as you or I was too idiotic even for him, and that at least a plausible explanation for having Santa in Last Christmas was provided.  Therefore, Doctor Who survives to see at least one viewer continue, though this viewer has pretty much given up all hope that the show he still has fond memories of will now ever be truly good. 

Honestly, I'm beyond caring.


Toss up as to which is more embarrassing...


2/10

Next Episode: The Magician's Apprentice

Ho Ho No!
 

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Ten Things I Hate About Who. Part Nine: Doctor Who Meets Trashy Pop Culture


I have made no effort to disguise my growing disdain for NuWho.  I was concerned I was speaking to an empty theater so to speak, but to quote the Face of Boe, "You are not alone".  On one of the Facebook pages I belong to (Classic Doctor Who Fans Who Dislike New Who), I have come across a series of thoughts by Mr. Paul Berry.  We in the group were so genuinely impressed by his series that I urged him to publish them. 

Ethan White of Sixstanger00 has requested permission to upload them on his YouTube page.  I don't know if Mr. Berry has but hope he does.  I for my part asked for permission to reprint them on this site. 

Mr. Berry has graciously allowed me to republish them as he posts them, and here is the ninth of a ten-essay series.  It is reprinted as written with the content exactly as it appears. The only alterations made are for any grammatical/spelling errors, spacing for paragraphs, and perhaps a few afterthoughts which will be noted after the photos.

For this essay, I also added all the photos save for the Osmonds one, which was part of the original essay.

I hope readers enjoy and share them.  I also hope readers will debate these matters, for I believe in a healthy debate.  However, I find Mr. Berry's comments and thoughts quite well-thought out and worthy of a greater audience. 

With that, I present Part Nine of this series: 10 Things I Hate About New Who
 
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10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT NEW WHO

9) DOCTOR WHO MEETS TRASHY POP CULTURE

For a programme about time travel I have always felt Doctor Who has had a certain timelessness;  a majority of the episodes from the classic show can be seen out of context from when they were originally made and yet still be perfectly relevant and understandable today. Yes the series production values easily date the show to a particular period, but when viewing many of the episodes the odd dodgy haircut or fashion aside they don't feel too tied to a particular time.

Sixties Doctor Who doesn't seem mired in psychedelia, while 70's Who doesn't feel permeated by glam rock. This is because the pop culture of the time wasn't allowed to needlessly intrude on the story. The classic series pandered to popular culture on a handful of occasions, probably the most blatant of which was jumping on The Beatles bandwagon in The Chase. The Beatles were mentioned again in The Three Doctors, got played on a jukebox in Evil of the Daleks and Elton John got a rather unflattering reference in Planet of Fire. There may have been others but generally speaking they were few and far between.

Imagine though how it could have been. Susan being a Cliff Richard fan and the drama of stories like The Daleks being undercut by references to Cliff's then recent Summer Holiday film. Twiggy getting a cameo as herself in The War Machines. Troughton's Doctor turning up on a sci-fi version of Juke Box Jury where the rest of the panel are robotic versions of various celebrities.  The Osmonds putting in an appearance during the Pertwee era. I would argue if any of this sort of thing had happened it would have made the old show much less than it was.

Classic Who remains so watchable and accessible now because it largely kept away from the pop culture that surrounded it; like those other sci-fi greats Star Trek & Star Wars, it existed in its own bubble universe.

As my mom says, "They know him at HIS house..."

I would argue that much new Doctor Who is so entrenched in modern disposable pop culture that it feels cheapened and dated by such inclusions. What relevance today do X Factor winner Shayne Ward or many of the futuristic game shows featured in the Bad Wolf episode have?

Putting pop culture references into Who is a tricky business. OK, it makes the show modern and cool.  Used in moderation and depending on what is being referenced and who is doing the referencing it is generally okay, but as with many aspects of the new series it has been overdone to the point where it has become intrusive.

The Tennant era was probably when it was at its height and was made worse by the fact that The Doctor was often the one referencing 21st century pop culture: Kylie in The Idiot's Lantern (a bit incongruous considering she later turned up in the series), Eastenders in The Impossible Planet, Skeletor in the Dreamland cartoon to name just a few off the top of my head.

Okay realistically speaking The Doctor has visited all parts of human history and absorbed the culture of the time. He knows of Dickens, Shakespeare and the greats; maybe in the future Eastenders is high art. It is feasible today's disposable culture could well be that, but the truth is it feels odd and incongruous in Doctor Who that The Doctor would know of such things; it just doesn't work dramatically.

My own opinion on the matter is that a 20-30 year rule works well on what pop culture can be assimilated into Doctor Who. When the 7th Doctor refers to Elvis in Time and the Rani, he is enmeshed in history as such an iconic figure that we can believe that The Doctor would talk of him as a great of human history. Had Hartnell or Troughton talked of Elvis it would have seemed a gratuitious pop culture reference.

Ian Dury's music played in the TARDIS in Tooth and Claw again works to a degree because it is old enough to believe that the 10th Doctor could be a fan of the punk era. Used during the Baker Era it would have been disastrous. Similarly the playing of Soft Cell's Tainted Love in The End of the World is another touch, again old enough to just about be viable as a piece of music that has survived into the far future. The subsequent inclusion of a contemporary Britney Spears track in the same story then ruins the effect.

The Beatles cameo in The Chase
(the only known footage of them from Top of the Pops)

This is my personal opinion but that 25-30 year lag on what elements of pop culture The Doctor can talk about works in my mind. That said even older pop culture references can jar and seem incongruous. David Warner listening to Vienna by Midge Ure in the Cold War episode is one that springs to mind, the other is the use of The Lion Sleeps Tonight in Rise of the Cybermen. The use of these songs in the context just comes across as tacky and seems more about the writers personal music taste than how it aids the story.

The Russell T Davies era also brought us the yearly celebrity cameos, a feature thankfully Moffat seems to have dropped. Tricia, Mcfly, Sharon Osborne amongst others all popped up. All this just tied Doctor Who into a low brow pop culture. It was one step away from The Doctor taking up reading The Sun or News of the World.

I am not saying the show should have no references to modern culture but it should be sparing and nowhere near as gratuitious as it has been over the years. All these references have nothing to do with telling the story, but are more to do with the insecurity of not letting the show stand on its own merits and feeling the need to seed it with references and cameos from all the other shows and culture its audience is familiar with, so Doctor Who seems part of the hip crowd of programmes, and not some maverick sci fi show for nerds.

You ARE The Weakest Link.  Goodbye!

I must admit I can't recall too much in the latest series so to give Steven Moffat his credit I think he has vastly toned it down, but much of the RTD era is blighted by this stuff which to me makes Doctor Who less of a sci fi classic and more of a tacky piece of pop culture.

I think Doctor Who works better without all this stuff. Indeed when it was used in the classic series it often wasn't very successful either. The Doctor's reference to Batman in Inferno for instance is the low point in an otherwise near flawless story. Yes we know Polly and Ben came from Swinging London, Jo Grant had a thing for 70's fashions and Ace liked her big tape decks, but that was all we needed to know, enough to make a connection with the contemporary world without being beaten over the head by it.

I think the worse reference ever was not actually in the series but in one of the early 9th Doctor books where the Doctor seemed to have an innate knowledge of a plot going on in a then-current episode of Eastenders. Don't get me wrong: I like Eastenders, but it and Doctor Who don't mix and Dimensions in Time is testament to this. Like that scene in the Paul McGann TV movie: I can buy The Doctor sitting back to read the greats in his spare time. What I can't visualise is him sitting down to a soap marathon of Eastenders, Hollyoaks or Emmerdale with a bit Jeremy Kyle thrown in for good measure, but I believe by his intrusive use of all this pop culture that is probably what The Doctor has been getting upto in his last few incarnations.

NEXT TIME: 10) VULGARITY & SILLINESS

10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT NEW WHO

9) DOCTOR WHO MEETS TRASHY POP CULTURE

For a programme about time travel I have always felt Doctor Who has had a certain timelessness,  a majority of the episodes from the classic show can be seen out of context from when they were originally made and yet still be perfectly relevant and understandable today. Yes the series production values easily date the show to a particular period, but when viewing many of the episodes the odd dodgy haircut or fashion aside they dont feel too tied to a particular time. Sixties Doctor Who doesnt seem mired in psychedelia, while 70's Who doesnt feel permeated by glam rock. This is because the pop culture of the time wasnt allowed to needlessly intrude on the story.  The classic series pandered to popular culture on a handful of occasions, probably the most blatant of which was jumping on the Beatles bandwagon in The Chase, the Beatles were mentioned again in The Three Doctors, got played on a jukebox in Evil of the Daleks and  Elton John got a rather unflattering reference in Planet of Fire, there may have been others but generally speaking they were  few and far between.
Imagine though how it could have been, Susan being a Cliff Richard fan and the drama of stories like the Daleks being undercut by references to Cliff's then recent Summer Holiday film, Twiggy getting a cameo as herself in The War Machines, Troughton's Doctor turning up on a sci fi version of juke box jury where the rest of the panel are robotic versions of various celebrities,  The Osmonds putting in an appearance during the Pertwee era. I would argue if any of this sort of thing had happened it would have made the old show much less than it was. Classic Who remains so watchable and accessible now because it largely kept away from the pop culture that surrounded it, like those other sci fi greats Star Trek & Star Wars, it existed in its own bubble universe.
I would argue that much new Doctor Who is so entrenched in modern disposable pop culture that it feels cheapened and dated by such inclusions. What relevance today do  X factor winner Shane Ward or many of the futuristic game shows featured in the Bad Wolf episode have?
Putting pop culture references into Who is a tricky business, okay it makes the show modern and cool,  used in moderation and depending on what is being referenced and who is doing the referencing it is generally okay, but as with many aspects of the new series it has been overdone to the point where it has become intrusive.
The Tennant era was probably when it was at its height and was made worse by the fact that the Doctor was often the one referencing 21st century pop culture, Kylie in the Idiots Lantern (a bit incongruous considering she later turned up in the series), Eastenders in The Impossible Planet,  Skeletor in the Dreamland cartoon to name just a few off the top of my head. Okay realistically speaking the Doctor has visited all parts of human history and absorbed the culture of the time. He knows of Dickens, Shakespeare and the greats, maybe in the future Eastenders is high art, it is feasible todays disposable culture could well be that, but the truth is it feels odd and incongruous in Doctor Who that the Doctor would know of such things, it just doesnt work dramatically.
My own opinion on the matter is that a 20-30 year rule works well on what pop culture can be assimilated into Doctor Who. When the 7th Doctor refers to Elvis in Time and the Rani, he is enmeshed in history as such an iconic figure that we can believe that the Doctor would talk of him as a great of human history. Had Hartnell or Troughton talked of Elvis it would have seemed a gratuitious pop culture reference. Ian Dury's music played in the Tardis in Tooth and Claw again works to a degree because it is old enough to believe that the 10th Doctor could be a fan of the punk era, used during the Baker era it would have been disastrous. Similarly the playing of Soft Cell's Tainted Love in The End of the World is another touch, again old enough to just about be viable as a piece of music that has survived into the far future, the subsequent inclusion of a contemporary Britney Spears track in the same story then ruins the effect.
This is my personal opinion but that 25-30 year lag on what elements of pop culture the Doctor can talk about works in my mind, that said even older pop culture references can jar and seem incongrous, David Warner listening to Vienna by Midge Ure in the Cold War episode is one that springs to mind, the other is the use of The Lion Sleeps Tonight in Rise of the Cybermen, the use of these songs in the context just comes across as tacky and seems more about the writers personal music taste than how it aids the story.
The Russell T Davies era also brought us the yearly celebrity cameos, a feature thankfully Moffat seems to have dropped. Tricia, Mcfly, Sharon Osborne amongst others all popped up, all this just tied Doctor Who into a low brow pop culture, it was one step away from the Doctor taking up reading the Sun or News of the World.
I am not saying the show should have no references to modern culture but it should be sparing and nowhere near as gratuitious as it has been over the years. All these references have nothing to do with telling the story but are more to do with the insecurity of not letting the show stand on its own merits, and feeling the need to seed it with references and cameos from all the other shows and culture its audience is familiar with, so Doctor Who seems part of the hip crowd of programmes, and not some maverick sci fi show for nerds.
I must admit I cant recall too much in the latest series so to give Steven Moffat his credit I think he has vastly toned it down, but much of the RTD era is blighted by this stuff which to me makes Doctor Who less of a sci fi classic and more of a tacky piece of pop culture.
I think Doctor Who works better without all this stuff, indeed when it was used in the classic series it often wasnt very successful either, the Doctor's reference to Batman in Inferno for instance is the low point in an otherwise near flawless story. Yes we know Polly and Ben came from swinging London, Jo Grant had a thing for 70's fashions and Ace liked her big tape decks, but that was all we needed to know, enough to make a connection with the contemporary world without being beaten over the head by it.
I think the worse reference ever was not actually in the series but in one of the early 9th Doctor books where the Doctor seemed to have an innate knowledge of a plot going on in a then current episode of Eastenders. Dont get me wrong I like Eastenders, but it and Doctor Who dont mix and Dimensions in Time is testament to this. Like that scene in the Paul McGann tv movie I can buy the Doctor sitting back to read the greats in his spare time, what I cant visualise is him sitting down to a soap marathon of Eastenders, Hollyoaks or Emmerdale with a bit Jeremy Kyle thrown in for good measure but I believe by his intrusive use of all this pop culture that is probably what the Doctor has been getting upto in his last few incarnations.

NEXT TIME: 10) THE REST

Oddly, this essay brings to mind, of all things, Scooby-Doo

During the original run of Scooby-Doo, various celebrity guest voices came to help solve the particular mystery.  I particularly remember Mama Cass from The Mamas and the Papas doing a guest turn.  What exactly Mama Cass was doing with these meddlesome kids I can't recall, only that as a child, the only thing I remember about this particular story was that 'no one's getting fat, except Mama Cass". 

It's no surprise therefore that a lot of times I've heard people compare Doctor Who to Scooby-Doo, though I imagine for various reasons, none flattering.



The curious thing is that anyone watching the Scooby-Doo with Mama Cass won't see a great singer with some memorable songs like Dream a Little Dream or Words of Love.  Instead, they'll see a silly fat woman obsessed with chocolate and getting her exercise by running after ghosts.

One thing that I think Berry is completely right about is on how modern references in NuWho makes things dated, and worse, a bit confusing.  Take Bad Wolf Part 2 (Bad Wolf) as an example.  Apart from The Weakest Link and Big Brother I had no idea what other shows they were referencing.  This is due to me being American, which then narrows the scope of Doctor Who for non-British viewers.  Imagine if The Doctor were suddenly on Let's Make a Deal or Beat Bobby Flay or Cutthroat Kitchen or  Keeping Up with the Kardashians or Press Your Luck.  Would fans in say Australia or India or Britain be able to fully appreciate what's going on?  I'm sure they could piece it together (as I did, though for full disclosure I've never seen an episode of Big Brother and only one episode of Survivor) .  You are forced to make these shows part of Canon, and then you are forced to say that these stories take place in OUR world rather than an a plausible but still alternate world.

The Next Companion?

Take The Daemons for example.  Here we had a world that could exist, but once the church was blown up, we could move on without thinking it HAD to happen in a particular time. Contemporary audiences could see it as either present or future, future audiences (like myself) could put it in the present or past.  It still stands because it wasn't tied to a particular time.  NuWho isn't like that at all.  It is rooted in the present, but then it becomes disposable, failing to obtain the classic level Classic Who stories like Daemons or Tomb of the Cybermen have. 

Anyone really think people fifty years from now will curl up to watch The Bells of Saint John or Closing Time

I personally don't think including some modern references is a bad thing.  However, take a second look at The Chase's Beatles reference.  To Vicki, The Beatles were 'classical' music, as she was from the 25th Century.  It was made partly as a joke (to signal that something as 'pop' as The Beatles were in the future considered 'classical') and from a unique perspective (a girl in the far future).  It would be the same as if I, a 21st Century man, went into what I would consider 'the past' and tell someone on Tin Pan Alley that the Gershwin Brothers' music was high art and performed in concert halls.  To someone in the 1920s, this would seem rather silly as George and Ira Gershwin wrote what were considered popular songs.  However, they wouldn't have the perspective I do.  Similarly, The Beatles reference was not bizarre or out of place, but from the vantage point of someone for whom John, Paul, George, and Ringo were long-dead historic figures. 

Even celebrity guest appearances can work IF they are done correctly.  Take for example pop singer Foxes cameo in Mummy on the Orient Express.  She made a quick appearance singing a song, keeping it to the 1920s feel of the episode, and it wasn't overblown or heightened.  For those of us who've never heard of Foxes, it was irrelevant what her current status is.  It wasn't a big deal, but a nice touch.

Converse that with Professor Richard Dawkins in The Stolen Earth or Sian Williams and Bill Turnbull in The Wedding of River Song.  Think people really care who the last two are or will care fifty years from now (I personally don't care for the first one either, but that's unimportant).  It does immediately date the episode in the same way having say Sarah Jane Smith report to Walter Cronkite would have if the original series had done what NuWho does. 

One thing that Mr. Berry probably doesn't see is that it is different for non-British people when they watch these references in NuWho.  Someone watching Dimensions in Time would be puzzled as to what Miss Brahms from Are You Being Served? was doing here, and we wouldn't get the reference (also, if DIT is Canon, does that mean Pauline Fowler really exists as well?)  Things do get lost in translation, and it muddies the waters for those of us not following the adventures of Albert Square. 

Of COURSE I'm Marion Anderson, Leontyne Price,
and Martina Arroyo's equal!
Maybe they could sing, but did any of them
get Tom Cruise to JUMP?!

Pop culture has become THE culture around the world.  It's infected everything.  Even something as lofty as The Kennedy Center Honors is now ruled (and ruined) by the next/new/now ethos of celebrating pop.  Once, Kennedy Center Honorees were the likes of Yehudi Menuhin, Agnes de Mille, and William Shuman; today, they now select figures like Sting, Led Zeppelin, and Oprah Winfrey as people worthy of recognition for their contribution to HIGH culture.    

Ultimately, while I personally don't find something bad about current references, Doctor Who, and any show really, should tread lightly on these matters. 

What will Whovians fifty years from now think of Mcfly and Sharon Osbourne in the same world as the Daleks? 
 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Ten Things I Hate About Who. Part Eight: Unlikeable Companions and Cliched Characters With Silly Names


I have made no effort to disguise my growing disdain for NuWho.  I was concerned I was speaking to an empty theater so to speak, but to quote the Face of Boe, "You are not alone".  On one of the Facebook pages I belong to (Classic Doctor Who Fans Who Dislike New Who), I have come across a series of thoughts by Mr. Paul Berry.  We in the group were so genuinely impressed by his series that I urged him to publish them. 

Ethan White of Sixstanger00 has requested permission to upload them on his YouTube page.  I don't know if Mr. Berry has but hope he does.  I for my part asked for permission to reprint them on this site. 

Mr. Berry has graciously allowed me to republish them as he posts them, and here is the eight of a ten-essay series.  It is reprinted as written with the content exactly as it appears. The only alterations made are for any grammatical/spelling errors, spacing for paragraphs, and perhaps a few afterthoughts which will be noted after the photos.

For this essay, I also added all the photos save for the last three, which was part of the original essay.

 I hope readers enjoy and share them.  I also hope readers will debate these matters, for I believe in a healthy debate.  However, I find Mr. Berry's comments and thoughts quite well-thought out and worthy of a greater audience. 

With that, I present Part Eight of this series: 10 Things I Hate About New Who
 
**********************************************************************************


10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT NEW WHO

8) UNLIKEABLE COMPANIONS & CLICHED CHARACTERS WITH SILLY NAMES

One of the things that has struck me about this latest season of Doctor Who is how unlikeable the Companion has become. Clara frequently came across as petulant, snivelling and up herself. I am not sure if it's Steven Moffat's writing or Jenna Coleman's performance, probably a bit of both but if I were still watching the programme her exit from the show couldn't come soon enough. The problem is that the next Companion isn't likely to be much better because Steven Moffat cant seem to create genuine believable characters.

In all honesty I have only liked two Companions in new Doctor Who, Rose and Martha. I haven't revisited these episodes in a long time and I found it easier to forgive the show its sins back then so it may be well that these two characters havent weathered as well as I thought, but at the time they genuinely seemed to gel as likeable charismatic characters.



Billie Piper in fact deserved much of the acclaim for the series comeback in 2005. I think the strength of her performance helped carry Christopher Eccleston's rather weak and uneven one. Hers was the greater loss to the show when she bowed out at the end of Season 2. Rose seemed to be a character in touch with the time without being overdone or nauseating; that said the writing of her character in the second season was not nearly as good as the first and too much time was spent trying to make her look smart or witty.



Martha was probably not as well a realised character and was saddled with the god awful storyline of her having a crush on the Doctor, but Freema Agyeman's performance was endearing enough to overcome the shortcomings. I think given longer Martha would be a much better remembered character than she is. Sadly she was dumped from the show with the pathetic reason that she had to get over her infatuation with the Doctor.



The real reason seemed to be that they had got wind that Catherine Tate would be up for a full season as the Companion after her brief stint in the previous year's Christmas special. I could never take to Donna as a Companion. It was Doctor Who hooking up with low brow culture and a stereotyped one at that. She did admittedly get a bit better as the series went on and the caterwauling fish wife persona was vastly toned down.

The fourth series was the nadir of Russell T Davies' period on the show when any of the positive aspects of the first three series were thrown to the wall as the series became a full fledged sci fi light entertainment show with Tennant and Tate as a comedy double act.



Matt Smith's debut brought us Amy Pond, a character who for me never gelled at all. I just never got what Amy was all about; she just seemed to have no personality at all. Admittedly she was lumbered with some poor Steven Moffat material but Karen Gillan's delivery always seemed so flat and uninteresting. Even worse though was the decision to make her boyfriend Rory a permanent Companion, a character so uncharismatic that he barely registered when he appeared in Matt Smith's first episode.

Rory has been the butt of many of my jokes over the years, but I honestly think he is the worst Companion to ever grace the series; he was just so damn dull. Perhaps Moffat thought he was championing the fan underdog with his tale of the boring geek who gets the hot girl, but it was as stimulating as watching paint dry.

Furthermore the same story had already been done with the whole Rose Tyler/Mickey Smith thing. The attempts to create tragedy and drama with the whole Rory being wiped from history thing and then becoming a Roman Auton Centurion, or whatever the hell he was, was just ridiculous and laughable and the attempts to toughen the character up just fell flat.

Arthur Darvill couldn't play hard to save his life.

Any producer with any sense would have realised the Amy/Rory pairing just wasn't working and swiftly dropped them from the show or at least dropped Rory and tried to get a better dynamic going between the Doctor & Amy. Unfortunately in his Ivory Tower Steven Moffat seemed uneffected by issues that would have troubled his predecessors, such as when characters like Katarina or Dodo were quickly dropped when they were felt not to be working. So it was Amy and Rory endured hanging around like a bad smell for long after their sell by date.

Admittedly I didn't see their last year's worth of adventures or their exit, so forgive me if they got better but I doubt it.

There have also been those characters which can't fully be classed as Companions but more as recurring supporting characters. We never really had these in the classic series unless you count the Brigadier and the UNIT team.



First off was Rose's family. We had Mum Jackie and boyfriend Mickey. Jackie was Doctor Who's first brush with low brow chav culture. It was Doctor Who meets a particularly bad day time soap opera, and Camille Caduri was never able to give any nuance to the character above the stereotype Russell T Davies had created. Mickey initially didn't make much of an impression, but as the series went on Noel Clarke seemed to get better and the writers noticed this and upped their game.

Captain Jack, I thought at the time seemed to be almost forced on the show. I also found John Barrowman's performance to be stereotypical American guy. I remember being astounded that he was getting his own spin off show after only 5 episodes. In the end I came to like Torchwood much more than I did new Doctor Who and Barrowman was a lot better in that, even if they did give him a lot of the Doctor's traits.

Martha's family was just a complete non entity and was barely worth including. Bernard Cribbins endearing performance as Wilf just about made the inclusion of Donna's family bearable, her mother Sylvia came across as pretty unlikeable: Doctor Who's clichéd attempt at doing someone with heirs and graces.




Then we had River Song, a character who was initially okay in her debut story before she spiraled out of control into an overblown cliché with Alex Kingston camping it up for all she was worth. We then had the so called Paternoster Gang, a group of three random characters chucked together from nowhere as if Moffat had decided he wanted to make a spin off but couldn't be bothered to go the usual route of waiting for a character to make an impression first. These cringe inducing characters again seemed to be shoehorned in at every opportunity, even though to my mind they don't really work.

Finally this year saw yet another Companion's boyfriend: Mr. Danny Pink. I initially tried to give the character the benefit of the doubt figuring he couldn't be as bad as Rory, but have to concede as his story came to an end this season (if it is the end) the character was overall pretty pointless and hadn't really helped the series in any way.

And what's with all these silly names? Can anybody take a character seriously with the name Danny Pink (even more ridiculous was when we heard that his real name is Rupert Pink)? Its like Moffatt's trying to go out his way to destroy a character's credibility before we've even seen them. Why do Moffat and RTD seem to keep giving  Companions these old fashioned names? Martha and Clara sound like two refugees from Last of the Summer Wine. Amy Pond and Rory Williams hardly seem naturalistic.

Ian Chesterton. Victoria Waterfield. Sarah Jane Smith. There's an unpretentiousness about these names which work; they just trip off the tongue.

The silliness with names and cliched characters spills over into the smaller supporting characters. We've had Margaret Slitheen, Chip, the Van Hoffs, Bannakaffalatta, Lorna Bucket, just to name but a few off the top of my head. There have occasionally been some good guest performances, particularly in the first series. Simon Callow and Shaun Dingwell immediately spring to mind as giving good honest performances where the characters are played for real , but more often than not the supporting characters in the new series have not been very memorable and have often veered close to cliché.

I am not saying the old series was above this as there were some classic examples of actors hamming it up and going over the top. But the new series has truly produced some awful tacky characters who just dont seem as if they should even belong in Doctor Who. I literally cringe at the thought of the Van Hoffs from Voyage of the Damned, looking like two refugees from a Dolly Parton concert. Or the shrieking girlfriend they invented for Martha's dad in one episode. Or the crowd of pensioners which graced David Tennant's final story and seemed like they had wondered in from Coronation Street.

I also often notice a style of acting in new Doctor Who which I can only describe as children's series acting; it is not all pervasive but is prevalent enough to be noticable and robs the series of any credibility as proper sci fi. Classic Who's Shakespearean theatrics may hardly be naturalistic, but at least they didn't feel dumbed down, the actors were mostly playing at the same level you would have got in I, Claudius or other costume fare of the period.

Nowadays many of the performances seem pitched down to the sort of thing you'd expect of a Disney kids film or something on the CBBC channel.

The truth is supporting characters and Companions don't necessarily need to be multifaceted or have huge backstories or family connections; they just need to be honest, well written characters played by actors who believe in their roles and aren't dumbing down their performances.

Over its original 26 year run Doctor Who had so many memorable characters it is hard to know where to start. New Doctor Who has on the other hand produced very few memorable or enduring characters. If Doctor Who can't give us characters we like or believe in there isn't a lot of hope for the rest of the programme.

NEXT TIME: 9) DR WHO MEETS TRASHY POP CULTURE

Paul Berry's photo.

Paul Berry's photo.  
Paul Berry's photo.

Again, a lot of ground to cover.

In terms of NuWho Companions I'm at a slight disadvantage in that both all the Martha, Donna, and Wilf eras (nearly the sum of the Tennant Era) went by me since I boycotted Doctor Who after the horror of Love & Monsters.   However, after reading and rereading Mr. Berry's thoughts I agree that most NuWho Companions are pretty weak.

They are weak in so many ways.  They are weak emotionally.  With the exception of Donna (at least I'm led to believe) every one of his main Companions has had a fixation on The Doctor, usually romantic or erotic.   Their whole lives revolve around the Doctor.  I can't imagine Zoe or Jamie or Liz Shaw ever being obsessed with the Doctor.  Ian and Barbara wanted to go home, and while they eventually enjoyed travelling with The Doctor they were thrilled to return to their own time. 

Come to think of it, did any Classic Companions cry when they left?  They might have been sad, but full-on tears?  

They are also weak intellectually.  The majority of NuWho Companions don't have high levels of education.  Martha is a doctor, River a professor (though I would argue she's not an actual educator but an adventuress), and Rory a nurse.  Apart from that the NuWho Companions have at most a high school education.  Yes, Clara is a teacher, but until she magically popped up as one in The Day of The Doctor there was never any indication that she was certified to be one.   We have a whole slew of Companions who in short have almost no life and few prospects until they meet The Doctor.  

Now, having a basic level of education is not a hindrance to being a great Companion.  Jamie McCrimmon was not highly educated.  However, I do wonder why most NuWho Companions can't be of various backgrounds.  You had educators as the first Companions (Ian and Barbara) and professionals (journalists, scientists, military...despite the Doctor's lifelong 'hatred' for soldiers).  A lot of the NuWho Companions appear to be cut from the same cloth, and that is their third weakness.

They are weak thematically.  Take a look at the main NuWho Companions:

Rose: 21st Century London girl. 
Martha: 21st Century London girl. 
Donna: 21st Century London woman (the idea of Catherine Tate being a 'girl' is a stretch). 
Amy: 21st Century Scottish girl. 
Clara: 21st Century London girl.

Is it me or is there a theme?  Just in the Hartnell and Troughton Era, we had a wide variety of Companions:

Two 20th Century adults: Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright
A 25th Century girl: Vicki
A 23rd Century astronaut: Steven Taylor
A 1st Century BC handmaiden: Katarina
A 40th Century Security Agent: Sara Kingdom
Two 20th Century girls: Dodo Chaplet and Polly
A 20th Century boy: Able Seaman Ben Jackson (strange since the Doctor has always hated soldiers)
An 18th Century Scotsman: Jamie McCrimmon
A Victorian girl: Victoria Waterfield
A 21st Century math prodigy: Zoe Hariot
    
Then we've got a wide variety of Companions in the show's long history: investigative journalist Sarah Jane Smith, "savage" Leela and sophisticated Romana, American student Peri Brown, Australian air hostess Tegan Jovanka, Royal Navy medical officer Harry Sullivan, and exiled alien Turlough. 
 
In short, all sorts of Companions from the past, present, and future, as well as those who were both human and humanoid served alongside The Doctor.  Now, we get the same thing over and over, and not just with the female Companions.  Anyone who didn't think Rory was just another Mickey is extremely gullible.  Why do the male Companions, who are there basically as the female Companions' love interest, tend to be idiots?
 
My own theory is that Doctor Who 2.0 is Companion-centered, not Doctor-centered.  That is why we can have epic storylines around Rose, around Donna, around Amy, around River, around the Paternoster Unholy Trilogy, with the Doctor just being the excuse to tie things together (and most of the time, tie them in badly if not unbelievably).   This is why we have to have all these stories about Rose's family, about Donna's family, about Clara's family and Amy's family.   It really is all about them.  It's a shame really, given that this gives us nothing more than soap-opera/Twilight-type stories rather than good solid science-fiction.  Imagine if we had to stop something like Inferno to check up on the Brigadier's maiden aunt or Liz Shaw's boyfriend.    
 
As for the silly names, I don't know why we have to have them apart from bad stabs at comedy.  When the Doctor travelled through the Key to Time story arc, take a look at the names of the worlds he went to: Ribos, Zanak, Earth, Tara, the Third Moon of Delta Magna, and Atrios.  They sound rational, with their own civilizations that are familiar and yet otherworldly.
 
NuWho, conversely, has The Mighty Jagrafess of the Holy Hadrojassic Maxarodenfoe from The Long Game.  It was such a horrifying tongue-twister that guest star Simon Pegg found it almost unpronounceable and at one point sound effects had to be used to cover up his inability to say something so complex.  It's a pity writers like Davies and Moffat can't understand that while these things sound amusing TO THEM, they aren't thinking of the poor actor/actress who has to SPEAK such things.   
 
Need I remind people of the planet Raxacoricofallapatorious from Aliens of London Parts 1 & 2? No wonder Eccleston quit in disgust! 
 
Compare that planet's name to Ribos, Zanak, Tara, and Atrios.  The most they had was two syllables.  The other one has eleven. 
 
All these names I think are done because the writers think they're funny, but they simply serve to draw attention to themselves and show how goofy everything is.  One of the reasons I thought The Long Game was awful was precisely because I couldn't take something with such an overtly idiotic name seriously. It's like having a Bond villain named Gretel. 
 
One last thing.  As for the Companions being unlikable, well, eventually their neediness soon overwhelms any sense of adventures in space and time.  Rose's weepy love for The Doctor, Martha's unrequited love for The Doctor, River's erotic fixation for The Doctor, Amy's perpetual anger towards The Doctor, Clara's big-eyed anger towards The Doctor. 
 
I detest River Song (and that's considering I haven't seen her debut).  Just one episode was enough to think her a smug little...  And worse, if one looks at her story, like so much in Doctor Who, it's both irrelevant to the show AND it doesn't make any sense!
 
Of course, this is what happens when the Companion becomes the de facto star of Doctor Who, with now TWO showrunners forgetting the show isn't about the Companion.  Would that they remember the name of the show and take things from there...