Blog : Posts tagged with 'Russell T Davies'

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This Is Not A TV Blog

In which we discuss the passing of The Doctor


Through the last year, we’d managed to avoid watching the various Doctor Who specials that popped up around each bank holiday. The reason being, the last full series, back in 2008, really hadn’t grabbed us very hard. Despite having a few sparkling gems within it, there were too many painful moments and mystical endings. So: the one-off specials passed us by, as if they had never existed.

We did think, though: better make an effort to watch the Christmas specials. Because, after all, we knew the Doctor was going to regenerate, and we assumed that it would be done with as big a splash as possible. So: a date for the diary. We watched them, on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. And, generally, they made me think: well, I’m glad we didn’t bother with the other specials then.

K pointed out that Doctor Who isn’t, and never has, been aimed at People Like Us. It’s aimed at the people it always has been: immediately-pre-teenage children and their parents, who probably loved all the dramatic running about and look-there’s-The-Master’s-skeleton special effects. But one of the problems with new Doctor Who is that it’s been caught between several camps: trying to appeal to Camp A, the family audience; Camp B, the Doctor Who fans who can quote whole segments of tangled back-story; and Camp C, the people in-between who can vaguely remember that the old 1970s and 1980s show was pretty cool when they were in Camp A.

I used to assume, back when the resurrection first started, that Russell T Davies was a Camp B type of chap. Now I’ve watched a few series, I’ve changed my mind. Some of his writers may be Camp Bs, but now I think that RTD himself is a Camp C who wishes that he was in Camp B; not just that, but also wants the rest of Camp B to look up and adore him. To do it, he pulls in bits of random back-story and continuity whenever he wants to, but without any consistancy or pattern. Timothy Dalton’s character, for example, was described in the credits as either “Narrator” or “Lord President”; but the Doctor referred to him as Rassilon, a character from Doctor Who ages past, but not one whose past appearances fitted at all into the new story.

The story as a whole seemed awfully twisted and confused. I’m not always, I have to admit, the most perceptive of people, but I really couldn’t make much sense of the plot. What happened to the secret society trying to bring Saxon back, and why were they doing it? Who was that millionaire trying to make his daughter immortal, and why was he doing it? Was he really as plastic as he looked? Those “locked/open” cubicles in the control room – just why exactly were they there in the first place?* Why was Gallifrey “hell”? For that matter, why did it just pop into existance when the Time Lords were vaguely nearby? Why didn’t it cause massive tidal waves on Earth?** Who let the Time Lords’ soothsayer near the box of black biros? Was there meant to be a connection between the Weeping Angels, the Who monster invented by Steven Moffat, and the female Time Lords who kept sneaking messages to Bernard Cribbins? If so, what the hell was it? Was it anything more than Davies trying to derail a potentially-good monster created by his successor while he still had the chance?***

Maybe that’s the key. Certainly, the episodes might have made more sense if more time had been spent on storytelling. Instead, a good 10-15 minutes at the end was spent on the Doctor popping round to visit his previous companions for a cup of tea to lurk ominously in the background in a meaningful oh-my-painful-heart way. Not something that’s happened for any of his previous regenerations, as far as I know. K said, charitably, that maybe this was because David Tennant’s Doctor character was rather more emotionally attached to his companions and other human characters than previous Doctors.***** My interpretation is: it’s not about the Doctor regenerating and Tennant leaving at all. It’s about Davies leaving, and regretting it. That was his goodbye to his creations, not the Doctor at all. It was self-indulgent, and the programme would have been better without it. Maybe he’s not very happy about the degree of change that’s coming now he’s left: the programme now has a completely new logo, a much better one at that. That’s hopefully a sign that a lot is changing, more than just a name on the credits.****

Having said all that: there were a few good points. There were a few good scenes. Not very many at all, though. Apart from John Simm’s performance, though, there was nothing that I can put my finger on and say: “ah, that made The End Of Time worthwhile”. Give me a minute, and I’ll try to think of something that wasn’t John Simm.

(no, a bit longer than that)

Nope, nothing springs to mind. Doctor Who in general is a Good Thing, but in its specifics it’s lacking something. I have a nagging feeling, though, that back, back into the mists of time, that was always the case.

* I mean, I know why they ended up being there in plotting terms, but I didn’t at all get what their justification was. And while I’m on the topic: I was rather suspicious that the protective glass the cubicles were made from could apparently block all that dangerous radiation, but said radiation couldn’t make it through the gap around the edge of the door. It’s semi-plausible – microwaves can’t make it though the wire mesh in your oven door, for example – but really not that convincing.

** true “tidal waves”, in fact, not tsunamis.

*** If so it didn’t work, because the Blink-style Weeping Angels popped up in the trailer for the next series. I feel like adding “why did the Time Lords’ sublimation mean that the universe had to end?” to that list of questions but the key there is in the word “sublimation” for what the Time Lords wanted to do – I first came across the concept in Iain M Banks’s novels, where many races have done it, but there’s nothing to say that it has to work the same way in the Who universe.

**** I am very much hoping that the incidental music is one of the things that changes. I’m hoping that it’s possible to have an entire series of Doctor Who without the involvement of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, and, in particular, without the involvement of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales Choral Section.

***** K also said: “why are you getting worked up about such insignificant stuff?”

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Signs I’m Getting Older

In which FP has lost interest in something


Signs I’m Getting Older, number 3267. Not only do I not remember that there’s a Doctor Who special on, I’m not particularly bothered when we realise we’re missing it.* And not only do I forget it’s on, I forget when it’s repeated. And don’t bother to watch it online, either.

OK, I did at least look up the repeat times. But in a mildly disinterested way. And I don’t have any particular urge to watch it, especially not after seeing the trailers many times. I’ll probably be able to raise a bit more interest next year when the next proper series starts; but for now, I’m not too bothered. Maybe I am starting to get older.

* because K phoned someone only to get: “why are you phoning me right now? Doctor Who‘s on!

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Cute Fat

In which Doctor Who is getting silly


We turned to each other and said: “it was never this silly in the Old Days,” was it? And I don’t think it was.

In Doctor Who of Olden Times, you might well have got little creatures made from body fat. The difference, though, is that they wouldn’t have been so damn cute. They wouldn’t have had happy smiling faces and stubby hands to wave with. It’s always been a children’s show, but the old series was never so consciously one.

There are hints of something darker, I’ll admit. A minor character dying purely because of the doctor’s assistant fiddling with something she doesn’t understand, for example. Not fiddling with it because she wants to know what it does, but fidgeting and giving her hands something to do, and killing someone directly because of it. Maybe that will come back up later in the series. There are rumours, after all, that things are going to get much darker later on; but I’ll have to see it to believe it.

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Godlike powers

In which we’re not impressed


Christmas came, and brought the flu. I was in bed most of yesterday, aching, coughing and sleeping.

We really weren’t impressed by the ending of Doctor Who on Christmas Day. Russell T Davies doesn’t know how to write a good ending – as demonstrated both by the end to the last series, and the Christmas special. I’m dreading the new series, and I really hope he’ll have written as few episodes as possible. Give the writing jobs to Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat in future, please.

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Insert catchphrase here for easy headline

In which we get wary of the talent


As for Doctor Who: as you’ve probably heard, catchphrase-based comedian Catherine Tate is going to be back in the show for a whole series. It’s been in all the papers, after all, and lots and lots of people, who shudder in terror at the mere mention of the name Bonnie Langford, think it will all go horribly wrong. It might be interesting to see if Tate can act, rather than just mug through with a comic voice and lots of makeup until she gets to the catchphrase.

Russell T Davies has been widely quoted, in connection with this story, as saying:

We are delighted that one of Britain’s greatest talents has agreed to join us.

Strangely, though, his thoughts on Catherine Tate herself have not been mentioned.

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This is not going to turn into a Doctor Who blog, honest

In which we try to guess the ending


Ardal O’Hanlon is bound to turn up in Doctor Who again, before long. The only question is, when:

  • Later in this series
  • Some time in the next series
  • Don’t be silly, Russell T Davies has already spent BBC Wales’s entire makeup budget for the next five years.

Answers on a postcard as usual, to Symbolic Towers, Iambic Avenue, By The Banks Of The Swampy Tea-Brown Swamps, The Forest.

Seriously, there’s logic behind this. The only minor characters to appear in both New Series One and New Series Two were your giant face chap, and Cassandra, both in the same episodes. The second of which also introduced Nurse Thingy Cat-Face.* Now, the only minor characters to return in New Series Three have been… your giant face chap again, and Nurse Cat-Face. Logic suggests that in the next series, then, Ardal O’Hanlon and his wife will come back, because they were the only decent characters at all in Saturday’s episode.** Logic, you know, is unarguable.

H rather liked Saturday’s episode, incidentally, for resurrecting a monster not seen since ye olde Black And White days. H is far more of a Doctor Who geek than I will ever be.

* Wikipedia suggests her proper name is Novice Hame, and that she’s apparently classed as a Henchman. Ooh!

** I keep trying not to imagine Mrs Brannigan giving birth, and failing. Must … wipe … mind …

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Bigger on the inside

In which we play “spot the plot hole”


Whilst we’re kind of on the subject, from yesterday: Doctor Who.

Who’s this Saxon chap, then? What’s he up to, and what’s he going to turn out to be? Some dirty politicking with an eye to mad-eyed global supremacy, is my guess to the first. The second: well, it could be anything really.

As to the episode itself: I’m sure Russell T Davies has a machine hidden in his basement somewhere which stamps out little, villainous old ladies. It’s not that he uses them a lot, just that when he does, they are instantly recognisable, always virtually the same as each other. The whole thing was: well, nothing special. What was going on with the Doctor temporarily dying from lack of blood, then being revived by CPR? How did that work? If people in the middle of the hospital were on the verge of death when it was returned to Earth, did any actually die? It would take a while, after all, for oxygen levels in the centre of the building to return to normal. What about people investigating the big crater the hospital left behind it – were they all squished when it returned? Answers on a postcard to Symbolic Towers, 4 Iambic Avenue… OK, maybe I’m being slightly too serious. It’s entertainment, after all. Doctor Who has always had plot holes, and it always will; I shouldn’t expect it to be harder-than-hard SF because it clearly never has been that. It did entertain me, and that’s all I should ask for.

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The Doctor*

In which we criticise the finale


So … OK, the Doctor worked out that closing the breach into the Void would suck in all the alternate-universe Cybermen, not to mention the Cult of Skaro refugee Daleks. But did he know beforehand that the Void would somehow manage to suck them all in through one small window, instead of just acting like a big attractor and leaving thousands of Daleks and Cybermen stuck to the side of the Canary Wharf tower?

And am I the only person who thought that a couple of the plot points were lifted directly from The Amber Spyglass? Not just the general travelling-between-universes idea, but more specific things: the breaches between universes causing major climate change; and, of course, the whole ending.

(highlight the following space if you want to read the spoilers)

The ending to write Rose out of the series was, essentially, just like the ending of The Amber Spyglass – two characters with an intense but non-sexual love for each other, who are told they have to stay apart, in seperate universes, because if any of the gaps connecting the universes are kept open then everything will be undone and destroyed.

(end of spoiler space)

The episode did prove one thing beyond doubt, though. Out of Daleks and Cybermen, Daleks have by far the better sense of humour.

* apologies to anyone who didn’t watch the Doctor Who series finale this weekend, so has no idea what I’m on about.

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The state of things

In which we open presents and watch the telly


This Christmas, I have received:

  • Some of the CDs and DVDs that I couldn’t be bothered to buy during the year
  • A new denim jacket, with a nice warm fleecy lining
  • Vodka
  • A cunning device to tell you when your parking meter is about to run out.

The parents have received, from me:

  • One of those car navigation gadgets
  • A fossilised fish.*

Well, at least neither of them was going to guess a present like that before they opened it. It is now sitting on top of the TV, in stony silence.

Naturally, we all gathered around the telly last night to watch Doctor Who. The episode could have been better, the plotline felt rather thin, but when the Doctor woke up and swung into action he was marvellous indeed. The main gripe I had with the plot was: the Doctor shouldn’t just be a deus ex machina, but in this story that’s effectively all he was. Still, at least Russell T Davies does know how to write a running joke.**

* Actually, there are two fish in the slab I gave, but one is faint and difficult to see. I didn’t spot it myself until after it was unwrapped and on display.

** and the Douglas Adams reference was a nice touch too.

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