When the creator of Ankh Morpork decides to wax lyrical about Doctor Who, we should all sit up and listen. The creator of Discworld, Terry Pratchett, has written an amazing guest blog on the SFX website that details his adoration and his frustration with all things Who.
He touches on topics that we’ve been discussing here on Shout this week – the state of modern Doctor Who. Here’s a quote from him that refers to the Russell T Davies era right up to the new Reign of the Moff:
And then suddenly it all changed. We had a couple of Doctors who were “street”, at least by BBC standards, and what looked like very good, very well-thought-out sets and effects. I still preferred Torchwood, though, which tried so hard and came up with some memorable episodes, of which “Small Worlds” (the one about fairies) sticks most in the mind. It was clever.
So once again I became a believer and have been watching right up to the most recent episode. Regrettably I’m an older believer and noticed something. It’s this; Doctor Who is ludicrous and it breaks most of the laws of narrative.
He goes on to talk about the Deus ex machina solutions that make everything alright regardless of whether they make sense. Pratchett also namechecks some of my own favourite episodes: The Empty Child, Blink and the Family Of Blood.
But he does continue to take the series to task for being labelled science fiction. I’m not sure that’s a label the series gave itself, but I agree with the premise. Sometimes we do expect too much from Doctor Who. And maybe it is better to leave your brain on a hook by the door as he suggests than to try and think too deeply about it:
After all, when you’ve had your moan you have to admit that it is very, very entertaining, with its heart in the right place, even if its head is often in orbit around Jupiter. I just wish that it was not classified as science fiction. Much has been written about the plausibility or otherwise of the Star Trek universe, but it is possible to imagine at least some of the concepts becoming real. But the sonic screwdriver? I don’t think so. Doctor Who’s science is pixel thin.
One thing I will say though. As part of our family’s Saturday evening routine, there is usually an in-depth analysis of that night’s episode. My son will pester me for hours: why did the woman do this? How did The Doctor fix that? How did they escape? The Empty Child remains the most pored-over episode of all-time in our house. He named the little boy “the masked mummy”, because he wore a gas mask and constantly asked for his mummy.