Monday, September 24, 2018

The Doctor Is Out: Why 'Doctor Who' Is Not My Doctor Who

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This is a sad tale, a tale of divorce: my divorce from Doctor Who 2.0 (generally known as NuWho).  It's one I have shared with others, but now I put this out so that everyone know why I have, very sadly and painfully, come to see that the current version of Doctor Who is Doctor Who in name only and has nothing to do with the 1963-1989 series that I so loved.

When Rose premiered in 2005, I was very excited.  At long last, Doctor Who returns!  I know some either didn't want it to return or wanted it to return to its previous format, but I was not concerned about that.  I was just happy that a show I loved as a kid on PBS was coming back.

I cajoled a friend who had BBC America to let me watch it, and at the time, I was not disappointed.  Rose was not the greatest episode, but I enjoyed it, as I did the first season for the most part.

When Christopher Eccleston left and David Tennant took his place, my enjoyment and delight in Doctor Who, along with my firm acceptance of it being Canon to the original series (Classic Who) continued unabated. I had essentially become a fanboy.


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Then came Love & Monsters, and Doctor Who died.

The plot was idiotic.
The characters were awful.
The monster was both idiotic and ugly.
The oral sex joke was obscene.

Love & Monsters, simply put, horrified me in a way I had never been horrified before.  It shocked me, not just in its awfulness but in its nastiness, even hatred towards Doctor Who fans.  Far from being a 'love letter' to the fanbase, Love & Monsters delighted in ridiculing them, portraying them as virtual losers.

For the first time in my Doctor Who-watching experience, I was figuratively and literally disgusted.  I'd seen some bad Classic Who episodes such as Timelash and Delta & The Bannermen, but they were more clumsy than downright grotesque as Love & Monsters was.

I was stunned, shocked, and moreover, fiercely jolted from my unquestioning fandom. It was a genuine shock, but in a sense a good one in that from that moment on, I no longer accepted or delighted in everything NuWho.  I began to reevaluate whether my support and enjoyment of what had come between Rose and Love & Monsters was more a result of sensibility than sense.

Love & Monsters, I've often said, was so horrifying that I refused to watch Fear Her because its trailer was part of Love & Monsters, and while I stumbled into Army of Ghosts/Doomsday, essentially I quit watching Doctor Who at that moment.

It didn't help that the fabled meeting of the Daleks and the Cybermen was a letdown, but that's for another day.

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When I learned that David Tennant was leaving and being replaced by Matt Smith, I decided to give Doctor Who a second chance.  It has nothing to do with Smith himself.  I just decided that perhaps enough time had passed for me to metaphorically 'heal' from the horror of Love & Monsters to where I could essentially start fresh.

Perhaps it was a case of 'fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me', but the pattern repeated itself.

I thought Smith was instantly successful as The Doctor in his debut episode and that things were starting to go right.  I was not as enthusiastic and cheering as I had been prior to Love & Monsters, but I thought things were going to get better.

I was sadly and quickly proved mistaken.

Elements of his first series/season didn't shock me, but made me slowly dislike Smith's Doctor, a dislike that grew to downright detesting.

He was billed as 'childlike', but I found him a perpetual idiot, incapable of understanding the most rudimentary things. 

It didn't help that we had the suggestion that one of his Companions, Amy Pond, essentially tried to rape the Doctor and that his other Companion, Rory (Pond) Williams kept dying more often than South Park's Kenny.

Jumping into the series with Smith's Doctor was also my first introduction to River Song, and I instantly hated her.  Perhaps she was wonderful in Silence in The Library/Forest of The Dead, but in The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone, I found her smug, arrogant, obnoxious, unpleasant.  I also found something that later Doctor Who episodes confirmed.

For all intents and purposes, she was the actual star of the show to where The Doctor was almost a guest character. 

River Song is the worst type of character.  She is a catchphrase machine ("Hello, Sweetie" and "Spoilers" now spouted out like it's Scripture).  She is shown repeatedly as superior to the main character.  Many times was River Song shown as smarter and more capable than The Doctor, which in turn diminished him as a character.

The nadir of all this is in the first story I saw with Song in it: The Time of Angels, where she infamously lands the TARDIS without its iconic 'whooshing' sound.  This character then smugly turns to our lead character and retorts, "It's not supposed to make that noise.  YOU leave the parking brake on".

This genuinely angered me for a few reasons.  One: that 'whooshing' sound was part of Doctor Who, so having this interloper say that somehow it wasn't rubbed me the wrong way.  Two: it showed The Doctor as a total buffoon as well as one who acquiesces to this insignificant person. Three: it elevated Song to a higher level than she merited.  Four: all other Time Lords' TARDIS made that sound, so it was really just stupid.

As Doctor Who continued, I kept watching despite my growing dislike towards it bordering on hatred.  I don't think it was 'hate-watching'. It was a genuine hope that things would get better.

They didn't.

When Smith left the series, I was hopeful that his successor, Peter Capaldi, would bring about an improvement.  Certainly, his casting was a change: gone were the pretty boys that girls (mostly) could 'squee' about.  He was also going to be a 'darker' version of The Doctor, someone who was going to be less the pleasant boyfriend or bumbling schoolteacher we'd had.

Promises, Promises...

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It's hard to believe in a 'dark Doctor' when you see him fighting Robin Hood with spoons or worse, see him ride into a cheap version of Medieval Times on a tank while shredding on his electric guitar. Frankly, I cringe at that memory.

I sat watching this in perhaps not disbelief but in utter dismay, wondering where the promise and potential for this show went.

By this time, I would say I was no longer a fan.  I watched in the same way one watches a train wreck: fascinated at how disastrous it all is and more fascinated that so many both viewers and production team genuinely thought this was somehow brilliant.

It wasn't that there weren't good things within the Capaldi Era.  Certain episodes like Flatline and the unfortunately-titled Mummy on the Orient Express were flashes of brilliance and harked back to Classic Who.  However, those were few and far between.

We had to endure such horrors as Kill the Moon (or as I call it, Kill the Egg), The Caretaker, Robot of Sherwood (the one where he meets a fictional character, Robin Hood, as if he were an actual historical figure), In the Forest of the Night and Sleep No More among so many awful moments. 

The last two were so awful that my bete noire Kyle Anderson at The Nerdist, who usually shills for every Doctor Who episode as if each one were on some Citizen Kane-level of brilliance, found pretty appalling.

And now we come to The Thirteenth Doctor.

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Ever since Doctor Who decided to swap the gender of the renegade Time Lord known as The Master into The Mistress or 'Missy', it was only a matter of time before we got a Female Doctor. The transition was part 'testing the waters' and part 'establishing possibility'.

'Missy' was a terrible character because She was no different from the previous version of The Master.  Essentially, She was a crazed Mary Poppins who was more annoying than genius.

However, the reason we got 'Missy' apart from some kind of 'shock/twist' with regards to The Master that was anything but a 'shock' or a 'twist' is to show that Time Lords can switch gender.

Let's put some things out here.  There is nothing wrong with a Female Doctor if it were for actual story reasons.  However, in a case of 'The Doctor doth protest too much', the transition is not being done for any other purpose than a cold sociopolitical motivation.

Each of the transitions for Time Lords that have been seen have been in one direction: male-to-female. The Master-Mistress. The General from old white guy to not-so-old black woman. The Doctor.

Even worse, in Capaldi's last episodes, he has to recite this pompous speech about how Time Lords are 'beyond gender'. Virtue-signaling par excellence.

A stronger case for gender-swaps would be made if we saw a female-to-male regeneration.  However, we have yet to see that, and it is unlikely that we will see that.  If we had the Classic Who villain The Rani, a female Time Lord, regenerate to The Rajah, then you could say that it is 'more common'.  If we had the Doctor's former Companion, the Time Lord Romana, return and become 'Roman', then perhaps we could accept the gender-swaps.

However, we didn't, and I don't expect we ever will.  Simply put, Missy and The General were part of a plan to retool the show to be more about 'social justice' than about a time traveler's adventures.

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In another post, I will expand on thoughts regarding a Female Doctor, but for now I can say that while I will watch, and while I do wish Jodie Whittaker the best, I find that this show is no longer connected with the Doctor Who that ran from An Unearthly Child to Survival.

It's a whole other show that merely uses the name 'Doctor Who'. 

It has the trappings of the old Doctor Who: two-hearted alien from Gallifrey who travels through time and space in a time machine known as The TARDIS, who has 'Companions' with whom he travels with and can change appearance.

However, it rarely if ever makes reference to what came before Rose.  The BBC is promoting the new Doctor with '13 Days of Doctor Who', but despite its name this marathon will have only NuWho episodes. A true '13 Days of Doctor Who' could have one day devoted to 'the best of' each Doctor before 2005 (The Aztecs, Tomb of the Cybermen, Inferno, Genesis of the Daleks, The Caves of Androzani, Vengeance on Varos, The Curse of Fenric) along with selected episodes of NuWho.

Instead, under new showrunner Chris Chibnall, this version seems determined to remove all aspects of what came before.

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Worse, it seems equally determined to purge fans like me, who stuck with the show during its 'wilderness years' and who kept watching even after I found the quality sinking.

It does this by calling me 'sexist' for objecting to the reasons behind a Female Doctor.  Note I said 'the reasons behind a Female Doctor', not 'a Female Doctor' itself.  If an effort to convince me that this was not only natural but done for non-SJW reasons had been made, I could have come around.

Instead, I along with others was mocked, insulted, trashed, dismissed and harangued.

I had already had problems with Doctor Who: bad stories, unpleasant characters, a lack of quality. The sole Doctor Who spinoff I saw, Class, was not helpful (done in, in part, by again appealing to some social justice agenda rather than focusing on telling good stories). This change did not help in winning me over, not because I think a Female Doctor is a terrible idea, but because the motives behind it are so blatant.
I will watch the Whittaker version, but at this point, I do so not as a fan but as a disinterested party.

Doctor Who 2.0 is simply not for me anymore.  I used to love this version.  However, I find that I part in very bittersweet sorrow.  Truth be told, I probably would have quietly left even if they had brought in another male for the part.  The fact that the Doctor was made into a Woman in and of itself is not the killer.

It is that they hold their virtue signalling and 'moral superiority' over everything else.

I'm too disillusioned to work up enthusiasm anymore.

I used to care, but things have changed.

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