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 fifth 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 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 Five of this series: 10 Things I Hate About New Who.
10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT NEW WHO
5) BRINGING STUFF BACK AND COCKING IT UP
When Doctor Who returned in 2005 I was glad it wasn't a reboot. I didn't want the whole of the classic series to be confined to some parallel universe or have 26 years of adventure written off as never having happened. The reboot route could easily have been taken. Indeed it was very nearly taken with the 96 TV movie and a pitch document from none other than Mark Gatiss in the early noughties proposed the series start from Day One.
The fact that new Doctor Who was a continuation of the original meant that old stuff from the original series could be brought back. Obviously it could still have been brought back in a reboot but the fact that this was a continuation created a clear line of succession which linked these new adventures inextricably to the glory days of the past.
Unfortunately my feelings have now changed on the matter. I now wish Doctor Who had been rebooted so it no longer formed part of the same narrative continuity as the original series. One of the reasons for this is that I believe each time they have brought something back from the past they have messed it up in some way.
Okay first the Daleks. I'll take my hats off to them, the BBC design team did a great job on the bronze new series Dalek. It was a masterful update of the Dalek design, close enough to the original as to still be recognisable, but at the same time make the creatures a credible threat for the 21st century. It would have been very easy to pervert the Dalek image and do something like spider Daleks as was mooted for the US revival. Thankfully Russell T Davies knew there was something iconic about the whole Dalek shape and it shouldn't be tampered with.
The area where the Daleks have now lost credibility is not in the design, but in the constant and repetitive idea of Daleks gaining emotions. Once, in the episode Dalek I can forgive, but they have now used this idea five times . We have had Rose infected Dalek, Dalek Sec hybrid, Dalek Caan, Clara Dalek and more recently Rusty. I am really now fed up of having Daleks who see the error of their ways or we are supposed to feel sorry for. We have also had human Daleks and zombie Daleks; the image of the Dalek eyestalk projecting from a human forehead in Asylum of the Daleks was terrible beyond belief.
I must admit to not hating Moffat's technicolour redesign but not quite seeing the point in it either. It should really have been a case of if it ain't broke don't fix it; the RTD design didn't need changing that soon.
Questionable from the word "Go" was the redesign of the Cybermen. The initial Pete's World Cybermen was horribly clunky looking and moved badly on screen. The new stomping Cybermen really took away from what had previously been sleek creatures with an element of stealth. The voice never worked for me either. I could see what they were trying to achieve but the tone always reminded me of the Kandyman. The idea to have the new Cybermen come from a parallel Earth, thus not having to explain a rather convoluted back story to a new audience wasn't a bad one, but it very quickly seemed to be forgotten about with the creatures becoming space faring and using advanced technology with no explanation.
It eventually seemed that we had gone back to having Mondasian Cybermen but still using the Pete's World design. The team never seemed to be able to decide what a Cyberman was either, flitting between being simply brains in a Cyber casing then to entire bodies and then inexplicably being able to convert dead bodies. I must confess to missing two of the Cybermen's Matt Smith Era adventures as I was boycotting the series at this point, so I could make little judgment on the new design other than to say it was an improvement and much closer to the sleek sophisticated look one associates with the Cybermen. Having now seen them in action in the recent series finale, I must admit to not really being convinced there seems a definite Iron Man thing going on and the stomping and voice still aren't doing it for me.
The third big bad to make a comeback was of course The Master, and probably the biggest screw up so far. Ironically they showed how it could be done properly for all of about 10 minutes when Derek Jacobi briefly got a shot at the part before he regenerated into John Simm. At the time of course Simm was big news due to Life on Mars, but it has to be said it was another example of miscasting. He was just too baby faced and lacking in gravitas to carry the part; furthermore the Russell T Davies take on the character was not to make him a suave scheming criminal genius, but rather more of an evil Jack Sparrow with silly one liners and a lot of mugging.
We were then invited to try and sympathise with the character, and at one point he confesses to the Doctor he is scared. His return for The End of Time was even worse as he suddenly gained Superman-like powers and was attired initially in the manner of someone who had walked off Benefits Street. The awful Master race idea and the character suddenly having an about face and turning to good would be about the worst you think it would get.
Unfortunately The Master has recently surfaced again now as a woman. I will address the logic and rights and wrongs of this move in a future article. The question really is, 'Does Michelle Gomez convince as a female Master?', and sadly the answer is no. It's not that she doesn't look the part; it's just that we now have another silly zany Master, except now we can't even call the character that. Missy just doesn't have the same ring to it and The Mistress just opens up a whole world of innuendo which I am sure Moffat will revel in.
What else have they cocked up? Well, we had the jerky Autons from the first episode Rose, which were played a bit for comic relief and didn't have any of the sinister edge of their 70's forebears. Then there were the Sontarans, not a bad redesign but the stories they have been in have stunk and we are now saddled with the comic relief Sontaran Strax. The Silurians took a well designed and memorable 70's race and reduced it to the level of a Babylon 5 or Star Trek alien, while also lumbering us with the pointless Madame Vastra character.
The new Ice Warrior design wasn't bad, but the creatures were ruined by having their appearance revealed not as being a mixture of their own reptillian skin and armoured plates as I had always assumed, but a Cyberman like mechanical suit. We were then treated to a blatant rip of from Alien as we saw a warrior out its suit and rather underwhelming it turned out to be too. Finally we had the Zygons, again not a terrible redesign but having little impact compared to their original appearance and once again used for light hearted relief in some scenes.
We also have a handful of original cast members who have returned and been forced to adapt to the series modern style. Elisabeth Sladen's return in School Reunion worked pretty well but it should have been left at that. I must admit I try to pretend the Sarah Jane Adventures never happened because although Sladen did her best, it was a cheap kids show which unsurprisingly suffered from many of the same problems as the parent show but without the grand vision.
It is unfortunate Nicholas Courtney's last appearance was in this same series, the episode of which was so unmemorable I can't remember a thing about it. Maybe we should be glad the Brig never made in into New Who proper. Oh sorry, he did: the Cyberbrig was crass and beyond tasteless. I can't imagine what Moffat was thinking to believe this was in anyway a tribute to the character. Are we to take it the poor Brig is stuck in this state?
We should also not forget that three Classic Doctors have also returned to the fold. The first was of course Peter Davison in Time Crash with a total reinvention that bore next to no resemblance to the character played by Davison between 82 and 84. Why would the 5th Doctor suddenly be grumpy? Would he really come out with talk of desktop themes and rubbish beards? Tom Baker's cameo was better, brief and a bit more poignant if a little overdone, although I suspect they were indulging Baker to a certain extent. Lastly Paul McGann starred in what I can only describe as the best thing that has come out of BBC Wales in 5 years, namely Night of the Doctor: epic and dramatic and a tantalising glimpse of what Doctor Who should be like more often, but they don't have the balls to do.
For the most part however old returns have been a disaster, nearly everything that has come back has ended up worse than the original. It also often makes the new version the definitive one as it will then generally appear on all the merchandising and in guides etc. over the original. For that reason I now pray they don't bring anything else back but I'm sure they will.
I live in dread at what the next icon will be that gets The Moffat Makeover.
NEXT TIME: 6) TRYING TO BE CLEVER
There is a lot of ground to cover here.
I find that the redesign of the Daleks, the Cybermen, the Master, and others (the once-proud Sontarans now reduced to idiotic comic relief, the Brigadier turned into a Zombie Cyberman who, like Danny Pink, conveniently didn't let the lack of emotion the Cybermen have get in the way of a 'touching moment) to be now painful.
I don't mean in terms of actual design (though, unlike Mr. Berry, I did dislike the Skittles Daleks...multi-colored for what purpose), though Flying Cybermen may be the nadir of the series. I mean in terms of characters. I hadn't thought much on the idea that we've had Daleks 'feel' so much in the revived series. I did note that there was a certain repetitiveness between the Ninth Doctor story Dalek and the Twelfth Doctor story Into the Dalek (surprise, surprise...the Doctor would have made a good Dalek).
What Classic Doctor Who managed remarkably well was pretty consistent continuity in the 26 years it ran. I'm sure it didn't get everything right, but on the whole we didn't have something so wildly different that fans would be puzzled by it. With NuWho, the production team can't even keep continuity within its eight seasons, let alone the first 26.
|Don't worry. It's only an egg...|
Take a look at the Sontarans. They started out as fierce warriors (in fact, their debut was in the story The Time Warrior, one of the few Doctor Who stories that escaped the curse of "Time", where a DW story with "Time" in the title ends up a disaster). Throughout all their appearances in Classic Who they were always about war: there was glory in war, and they even managed to invade Gallifrey itself at one point.
Now, who can seriously believe Strax could invade Walmart, let alone Gallifrey? The Sontarans are now reduced to a joke in the form of this witless servant who, apparently despite having lived with humans and others for all these years, still doesn't understand the concept of clothes (which he himself wears). Not having seen The Sontaran Stratagem Parts 1 & 2 I cannot render an opinion as to whether NuWho Sontarans are always this dimwitted and inept, but I can't help think they and their creator (Robert Holmes, the best Doctor Who writer of all time) clearly deserved better.
The same with the Silurians. Unlike others I thought well of Cold Blood Parts 1 & 2 and wasn't too up in arms about their redesign, but now they too are now basically there to be one thing: a lesbian. I dislike the Madam Vastra character not because she favors sex with women but because she's something deadly to any show...smarter and more important than the main character. She is the Silurian River Song: the person who knows more than The Doctor about almost everything and who whenever she steps in becomes the de facto star of the show.
That in itself is bad enough: the show is not called Vastra & Company (or to use my own name, The Lizard & The Lady), but Doctor Who. However, what purpose do they really serve? I know that in The Snowmen, Vastra referred to herself & her crew as "the Doctor's friends". Far be it for me to make pronouncements on what makes friendships, but they don't have the history with the Doctor that say, the Brigadier or Sarah Jane have. Just a thought.
I know many NuWho fans want a Paternoster Gang spinoff, but they, unthinking as always, don't think on just how limited the idea is. First, does one really want to see a sex scene between a lizard and a human? Are Blue Peter fans ready for same-sex bestiality to invade their screens?
Well, perhaps given that nowadays we have five-year-olds fully aware that they are transgender versus my youth when such concepts were not even within the realm of fantasy, let alone reality...
In any case, The Lizard & The Lady face other problems. They are stuck in a particular time frame and have to deal with that in a more real manner (I can't say realistic since that ship sailed long ago). Could you introduce Who villains to Victorian London? How would Vastra's appearance, if unveiled, be received? Sorry, no civil servant or religious organization (church, synagogue, mosque, temple, what have you) would ever consent to "marry" Vastra & Jenny. Even the Quakers might be aghast at marrying a reptile to a human.
What stories could you really get, and how to get Strax into this? He isn't a warrior. He's a buffoon.
I won't even get into the Master/Missy business save to say...it serves no purpose.
Doctor Who, I've long argued, is schizophrenic. On the one hand, it celebrates its long history (The Day of The Doctor, need one remember, was touted as the 50th Anniversary Special). On the other, it constantly ignores or dismisses said history (for all intents and purpose, The Day of The Doctor was an Eighth Anniversary Special given that the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors were the show, and their Companions were the show. No mention of Susan Foreman, the Doctor's granddaughter, or of any pre-Rose Companion, and very little to suggest that anything came before the Ninth Doctor).
I think we need to carefully look at the fact that perhaps, despite what we've been told, the Doctor Who of 1963-1989 and the Doctor Who from 2005 onwards are really two different shows altogether, sharing a name and some connections but really not being part of the other in a cohesive whole.