The new series of Dr Who started on BBC1 today and, while I was only half watching it, I must say that so far it is not as good as those that went before. I am not sure if it is a combination of dodgy scripting or atrocious supporting actors, but there is certainly room for improvement.
First off, sadly, David Tennant is a very, very good Doctor. Christopher Eccleston is a very good actor and really got the new series off to a good start after the problems which ended the series in the late 80’s. (Colin Baker and Sylverster McCoy truly have a place in the LinuxGod’s hell for their part) Despite this, Eccleston never really was “Doctor Who.” He was a touch too agressive and militaristic (maybe I just remember 28 Days Later too much).
Tennant is as close to the real Doctor (Tom Baker of course) as any one since has ever been. Shame everything about him screams that he should be terrible, he just isn’t.
Unfortunately he is pretty much on his own though. For some reason Dr Who’s scriptwriters – who include some of the most imaginative people in Britain – have a hard time putting together a decent plot. I suspect it is not all their fault, the constraints of the new format are against them.
Compared to the old series, the new ones are rushed. They try to introduce a setting, build tension, create a conflict, get the audience attached to the protagonists, get all dramatic and conclude in about 45 minutes. That is never going to be good. If you look at the Tom Baker years, each “episode” ran about 3 hours long and the extra breathing room certainly pays off. The plots are massively more engaging and you can actually get into the characters and their interactions. Are children really so short of attention span now? I doubt it myself.
The scriptwriters obviously collude with the set designers to make life easy. Oddly it goes horribly wrong. Unlike the first seven doctors, Doctors 9 and 10 never seem to leave Earth. It is rare for them to go anywhere other than London. Nearly every episode starts and ends “today” which seems to miss most of the point of it being Sci-Fi. None of this fighting Daleks on Skaro or the like, now the Doctor largely fights comedy monsters in London. Sometimes it is Victorian London, and I think a total of three episodes out of the last two seasons have been elsewhere. On the massively rare off chance any one involved reads this GET OFF EARTH! Go to colony ships in deep space, go to weird trading worlds, or planets which are stuck in a combination of the middle ages with lasers. Get SCIFI! Please! Don’t turn this into Hollyoaks with a sonic screwdriver.
Obviously the set designers like this because it should be easy to mock up sets that look like London. However, they still get things weirdly wrong. Tonight’s episode had a hospital moved to the moon, and every time they tried to show shots of people looking at the stars, or the ones back home looking at the hole you could see massive visual artefacts round the join points. I know it is not high budget, but this is 2007. Even the BBC can afford a decent Linux box with decent software… surely… ?
Add to all this the nonsensical “baddies” and it seems the BBC is trying to cut costs for what should be the flagship programme for 1900hrs on a Saturday. In the episode tonight, there were two sets of baddies, a blood sucker (who kills Dr Stoker – see, humour is not dead) in the form of a little old lady and some intergalactic police. When the police turn up, they are basically cybermen in black with bigger helmets. They walk the same, they form up the same and initially they act the same. It was almost painful. Please Dr Who scriptwriters. Use decent monsters. Stop going for people with funny masks on. Remember this is 2007. Check your calendar if you don’t believe me!
In a similar vein, despite Tennant’s excellent acting skill, the rest of the cast are painfully bad. I thought “Rose Tyler’s” family in the last season were poor but this new crop reach a new nadir of poor acting. The new sidekick/leading lady “Martha Jones” (Freema Agyeman) is a poor actor. She seems to be constantly giggling and gives the program the air of watching a secondary school play (High School for the Americans). Even at the most traumatic, shocking, surprising or scary moments, she appears to be fighting to suppress a grin. It is painful. I can only assume she will get better.
That said, she outclasses the rest of the supporting cast by an order of magnitude. Watching them pretend to scream, pretend to faint, argue or whatever is painful. I know this is “Kids TV” but if the support can’t act, write scripts that need less of them. Stop trying to recreate Ben Hur in a hospital.
I know this is a bit of a rant and there seems to be quite a few whines, but overall, I quite enjoyed the program. I am sure kids today will like it, but sadly they miss out on the real joys that Dr Who could provide. The lack of a cliff hanger is a shame and it seems to pander to limited attention spans rather than make people want to come back and watch more – this is odd, as each episode shows a taster for the next one…
Maybe someone, who knows someone, who knows someone who works on the team for this will read this blog and pass on some comments. If it changes for the better, brilliant and it could be a fantastic series. If it doesn’t, never mind. It will still be OK (if repetitive). At least the science is broadly sound 🙂
[tags]Dr Who, Doctor Who, BBC, Freema Agyeman, David Tennent, Tom Baker, Television, TV, Daleks, Sci-Fi, Science Fiction, Rants, Christopher Eccleston, Martha Jones, Cybermen, Rose Tyler, Society[/tags]