There’s a thing that exists when buying big value items. It’s called buyer’s remorse. When you sink a lot of money into a high-value item like a car or a house, but end up wondering if you made the best decision.
How does buyer’s remorse tie in to Doctor Who? Well, opinionated bloggers like myself are desperately trying to pin down Matt Smith’s Doctor, to make a proclaimation whether he’s better or worse than Tennant’s. And while we’re at it, the much-heralded leadership of Steven Moffat is under the microscope as well. How is he shaping up compared to Russell T Davies?
Charlie Jane Anders, writing for io9, declared on Saturday that Doctor Who’s new era isn’t quite new enough. She feels that Moffat is trying too hard to give us the same style of episode that Davies did, but that it’s not working out well:
“The Beast Below” leaves you feeling as though Moffat’s not quite playing to his strengths here — he’s convinced he can’t do an entire season of stories like “The Empty Child,” “Blink” or “Silence In The Library,” so instead he’s trying to do some lighter, Davies-style episodes.
My biggest gripe with Moffat is that he’s leaning too much on past glories. Perhaps a wee bit too aware of his own part in making the revived series great. Yes, we know some of the triumphs of Series 1-4 were written by the Moff, but The Doctor rhyming off some of Moff’s favourite dialogue from his own writing detracted from the episode, and the frequent callbacks to his own creations – overt and otherwise – even the neural relay concept from [[Silence In The Library (Doctor Who episode)|Silence In The Library]] got re-factored in the Angels using a dead man’s voice to communicate.
With great hype comes greater disappointment
Expectations for this “new era” have been impossibly high. The greatest writer of the revived series steps into the showrunner’s shoes. A new Doctor, a controversial boy of a Doctor, but a bold choice that I personally opted to support because hey, Moffat knows where he’s going with this, right?
Thing is, after a fantastic introduction to our new companion, we’ve had no more of that wonderful initial discovery. Somewhere in a bedroom in Leadworth, there’s an obsessive secret of her own that Amy Pond is hiding. Whatever happened to that? Moffat himself harped on about how “the story of Doctor Who is really the story of the companion”. But we still don’t know a whole lot about that companion.
Four episodes in and I like Amy Pond, but I feel curiously detached about her.
Of course, it was utterly unrealistic to expect every episode of the Moffat era to be a Blink or The Empty Child. But shit, throw us a bone or something. [[The Eleventh Hour (Doctor Who episode)|The Eleventh Hour]] was such a promising start. The following two episodes left me lukewarm, and [[The Time Of Angels (Doctor Who episode)|The Time Of Angels]] was about 7/10 for me.
I want to point out that other reviewers are tripping over themselves to declare everything MoffWho a success. Famously, the Telegraph journalist Michael Deacon was one of the first to crown Matt Smith with the “better than Tennant” crown. Rounding on Tennant’s acting, he made some valid criticisms:
His Doctor Who, though, I often found unbearable. All that mugging and gasping and gaping. All that sub-Frankie-Howerd squawking and groaning. All that try-hard eccentricity. He was 34 when he started as the Doctor, and 38 when he finished – yet he played it as though the Time Lord were a 12-year-old boy. But Tennant doesn’t look anything like a 12-year-old boy. He looks like Harry Potter’s camp uncle.
But to write off David Tennant’s four-year contribution to Doctor Who after four episodes from Matt Smith? No, it all seems a bit premature. We’ve seen flashes of brilliance from Smith, but it’s too early to tell where all this is going.
Remaining on the fence until episode 13
Overall feeling at the moment? Lukewarm. Series 5 of Doctor Who is neither a raging success or a total disaster. Yet.
I’m still surviving on hope. Hope that Steven Moffat is laying out a very subtle narrative with us. Hope that there are treasures ahead that will redeem the few weaker episodes. Noticing that Gallifrey-boy is a little pussy-whipped at the moment? Amy solving mysteries for him and River Song leaving calls for him across time and space like an overly demanding wife? Hoping that he regains some modicum of authority again.
I think when you regenerate the series as radically as Steven Moffat has, you need to give the viewer an opportunity to reconnect with the newness of it all. There’s been a crucial missed opportunity in episodes 2 and 3 particularly to give us more of a look around the TARDIS, or to give us more of an insight into Amy’s past.
As reviewers and fans of this particular show, we’ll forever be passing judgement. But at my most rational, I say we have to judge each episode on its own merits until the entire picture presents itself. That’s not going to happen until the end of the thirteenth episode.
So, from this point forward, I’m going to be holding off making grandiose proclamations about the series until about half-an-hour after episode 13 ends. Each episode on its own merit from here until 13. OK?