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 third 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 Three of this series: 10 Things I Hate About New Who.
10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT NEW WHO
3) IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE?
Everyone has their favourite Doctor. Mine is probably Tom Baker, but really I like them all, that is the Classic series Doctors; each one convinces me that they are an ancient alien from outer space with deep unknowable depths. Even that controversial TV movie had one element just about everyone agrees they got right: Paul McGann nailed the character of the Doctor instantly and his return for last year's Night of the Doctor saw him delivering an even more impressive performance.
Unfortunately for me I would argue that for the best part of 9 years Doctor Who has been mostly missing its title character. Basically put and leaving Capaldi out the equation for the minute, neither Eccleston, Tennant or Smith have actually convinced me they are the Doctor. I've given each one a chance and waited for that defining moment where I would be convinced I was watching that ancient time traveller from Gallifrey, only for it never to come. I am not saying that Eccleston, Tennant and Smith are bad actors; the problem more lies in the writing and the direction their characters were taken in.
I was an admirer of Eccleston's before Doctor Who and remember him being particularly good in several downtrodden gritty working class parts. It is unclear how much of the character was Eccleston's idea and how much came from Davies' script. I suspect it was a case of 50/50. The result unfortunately was a character that rarely felt or looked anything like the Doctor we knew. As the series went on Eccleston seemed to look more and more uncomfortable in the part and his initial energy and enthusiasm seemed to peter out quickly. He also seemed to approach the part of the Doctor in an odd method fashion; what would seem at home in a gritty drama out of place in the fantasy world of Doctor Who. I remember his faceoff with the Dalek in the episode of the same name played in the fashion of a confrontation in Eastenders. I think Eccleston was trying. The problem was that he was miscast or at least approaching the part in the wrong way; nothing about his portrayal felt natural and combined with his plain skinheaded Everyman look it was hard to believe he was the same character as that played by Hartnell through McGann. At the time I felt cheated he left early, but as I wasn't enjoying his performance quickly came round to the idea that a new guy in a more traditional Doctor mode would be a good move.
Initially I thought David Tennant was an improvement; his costume instantly restored a recognizable iconic silhouette to the character and he seemed more in tune with the offbeat nature of the character. Unfortunately it wasn't long before I started having issues with his performance. There was something about Tennant that was never quite commanding enough so when he had one of those awful 'I am the Doctor and you should just run' speeches, I never believed in him. As the series went on they started to take the character into previously uncharted waters. The Doctor started to become human.
It became impossible to believe Tennant was actually an alien from another planet because all his character traits were human: the love stories, the overly emotional performance Tennant gave, the Doctor's silly knowledge of 21st century pop culture; all took away from the mysterious and enigmatic quality of the character. Occasionally they'd stick in a line which hinted at the Doctor's mysterious nature but it was too little (too late): the damage was done. By the end of Tennant's era I was praying Matt Smith would restore some integrity back to the character.
Again initially I thought Smith was an improvement; anything would have been better at this stage I guess. He seemed to handle the quirkiness better and the emotionalism was dialled down. It wasn't long though before it all started to go wrong again.
They took Smith's quirkiness and decided to play it up. The Doctor began to act more and more like a buffoon. Bursting out of wedding cakes, appearing naked on more than one occasion, shaving his head for no particularly good reason, doing silly dances, threatening Daleks with jammy dodgers. They were trying to make the Doctor Mr. Funny but it just made him look like a bloody idiot.
Admittedly my experience of the Matt Smith era is limited as I tuned out for the most part half way through his second season. I don't think he's a bad actor or was miscast, simply that the material he was given was god awful and didn't play to his strengths. There is the odd scene where he nailed things and gave a sincere performance, but those moments never lasted very long and as with much of the new series we are left with a few diamonds stuck in a lump of dung which is never going to be very aesthetically satisfying.
So what of Capaldi? Well I'm on the fence. He hasn't gone too wrong so far and lost credibility, but he also hasn't fully convinced me either. Once again he has had to contend with some pretty bad material but thankfully the Doctor is maintaining his dignity even though it does feel like he's on a sinking ship. The character has to a certain extent returned to his roots even though you do feel like a lot of the dialogue could have been written for Matt Smith. There are elements about Capaldi that hint at that dangerous unknowable quality that we haven't seen in a long time. I think if the series were straightened out and approached in a more serious fashion Capaldi would really come into his element. Sadly I don't think that's going to happen and I think he's going to continue battling with some god awful scripts.
I've already decided I'm tuning out now at least till Moffat goes. (Capaldi) has at least restored some integrity to the Doctor's character I'll give him that, but there are still so many issues with the series; it's just not enough to keep me on board. The question is will a decent showrunner arrive in time before Capaldi's characterization is slowly dumbed down to the level of his predecessors?
NEXT TIME: 4) SICKLY SENTIMENTALITY
On this point I'm going to take a slightly different viewpoint.
I think Christopher Eccleston did a fine job as a 'darker' Doctor (ironically showing up the current 'dark' Doctor). This is because he plays a survivor of the Time War, one driven by guilt about his actions. There were moments when Eccleston played it light-hearted, but on the whole his era wasn't all that bad.
As for the 'working-class' bit, I think that was one of the things he was asked to do: be less posh than his predecessors. I have nothing against that on the whole.
With Tennant, again I think he did well and he's certainly one of the most popular Doctors around. However, while I too have not finished a particular Doctor's era (I have not seen anything past Army of Ghosts/Doomsday), I too think by the end it was getting TOO emotional and weepy. "I don't want to go". His big farewell tour. He was playing a part, not bidding goodbye to his subjects. It was a bit drawn out in my view. However, I have no problem accepting Tennant as The Doctor (though not as the definitive Doctor).
I do agree he was becoming too human. All the Doctors prior to Tennant had an alien quality when they played the part, as if they were humanoid but not fully human (or even half-human). Tennant was simply too 'of Earth' to be really an alien.
As for Smith, I thought he too started out well, then descended into total idiocy. Laying down backing vocals on a rap song? Not realizing 'the parking brake was on'? He soon became an idiot, and I know a few fans LOVED this dimwitted take on the Doctor, but the Doctor was never an idiot. He was the smartest person in the room. He could play idiot (the Second and perhaps the Seventh Doctor being adept at it) but this was all a rouse to fool his enemies and be triumphant. The Eleventh, on the other hand, was a total nitwit who couldn't find his way out of a room if all the doors and windows were open. I grew to detest Matt Smith's interpretation.
Finally, it is far too early to give a firm opinion on Capaldi. I think he's better than his material, and I think he's doing the best he can with what he gets. Both in Mummy on the Orient Express and Flatline he was excellent, but in others, like The Caretaker, Time Heist, and Robot of Sherwood, it looked like he was given a Matt Smith-era script and told to do his best Eleventh Doctor impersonation.
Of course, this is what I also think of the Colin Baker years: a good actor in lousy scripts trying to do the best he can with them and then getting blamed for the failure of the show. Will we see a repeat of the situation that brought about Doctor Who's downfall?