Friday, December 27, 2013

Congratulations Moffat, This Is Everything I Hate (Doctor Who)

So, here I was, minding my own business, celebrating Christmas with my family, watching A Muppet Christmas Carol on repeat because I freaking love that movie, and eating lots of cake, when I decide to sit down and watch the Doctor Who Christmas Special. It's tradition, right? And I love Doctor Who, right? 

Consider my evening rather thoroughly dampened by the giant cloud of rage that hung over my head for the rest of the night. By which I mean that I didn't really like this special. Not so much. Or even a little bit.

In fact, it royally pissed me off. Why? Let me count the ways.

[Okay, you guys know the drill, or at least I hope you do. SPOILERS from this point out.]

Here's my best summary of what happened in this episode. If it's not super coherent, that's not my fault. Seriously. This episode was whack.

A really loud broadcast is suddenly heard from this random planet in the middle of nowhere. The broadcast is really scary, so all the bad guys of the universe decide to (for some reason) park their spaceships right outside the planet and hover there in a giant villain swarm. But a couple of good guys turned up too. Namely, the Doctor and the Church of the Papal Mainframe whatever whatever something.

The Doctor tries to figure out what's going on while Clara calls ceaselessly demanding that he come over for Christmas dinner because she invented a boyfriend who was coming over for dinner with her parents. Who are apparently not dead. When did that happen?

Anyway, the Doctor comes to save Clara from her little female problems, like family members, romantic woes, and apparently being a terrible cook, and whisks her off to the planet, where they find the source of the distress call. Well, first they get naked and chat with Tasha Lem (Orla Brady), the Mother Superious of the Church of the Papal Mainframe, and then they pop down to investigate. 

Turns out that the place the signal came from was a quaint little town named Christmas, where everyone is very nice and tells the truth (for the first bit, until later in the episode when characters can lie apparently because of reasons shut up). They trace it back to a giant tower in the town, where the Doctor finds, dun dun DUN, a crack in the wall. So we're back to this all.

On the other side of the crack is Gallifrey, which is broadcasting a single question through all of space and time. You see, they're outside the universe and want to make sure they've got the right place before they come in. So they're asking a simple question: "Doctor who?"

If the Doctor says his name, Gallifrey will emerge from the crack and everything will be all better, except for the bit where it starts the Time War over again, and everyone dies and badness. The Doctor can't say his name. But he also can't let anyone else get at the crack. So he ships Clara off home because he needs her to be safe and out of the way, I guess, and plunks himself down in the town, to keep it safe forever.

Also the Church of the Papal Mainframe goes kind of nuts and turns into the Church of the Silence, wherein we get The Silence, and then they try to kill the Doctor and kidnap River and lots of other stuff that has already happened on the show, but which they think this explanation will make more clear (it really didn't). Clara, meanwhile, manages to come back about three hundred years later, and tries to get the Doctor to leave. He's much older now, and looks it, but even though he saves Tasha Lem from becoming kind of Dalek-y and fights off more invasions, it seems he's learned absolutely nothing, and sends Clara away again. 

Then she comes back...sigh....and he's super old now, but the war is still raging and he's dying, so Clara takes a moment to whisper into the crack that if they love the Doctor (which is a weird thing to say to a planet), then they'll understand that he doesn't need a name, and also that they should piss off and leave him in peace. 

So Gallifrey does just that, but not before whipping him some regeneration energy. The Doctor, who is now dying of old age, I guess, starts to regenerate and manages to regenerate so hard he blows up the Daleks. And then he whines for a bit, and turns into Peter Capaldi.

Ugh.

There are a lot of things I hate about this particular episode, and, honestly, very few things I loved. Actually, I'm not sure there's anything I loved here. Maybe Handles, the dismembered Cyberman head. He was fun. But everything else? Sucked.

The biggest problem is pretty simple though: this plot made absolutely no sense. It didn't make sense emotionally, thematically, logically, in the story, or even as a bit of comedic relief. Instead, this seems to be an attempt to wrap up every single Matt Smith Doctor storyline into one big bow right before he goes. So now The Silence and Trenzalore and the Name of the Doctor and Gallifrey's return and River and the cracks in the universe and also Clara's weirdness and holy crap everything, it's all tied up into one Gordian knot of weirdness. And I mean that honestly. None of this actually makes sense if you look at it for two seconds.

Why the hell were only bad guys gathered outside the planet? The Time Lords weren't the only reasonably good species with time travel in the whole universe, were they? And why do the Daleks keep using human-Dalek shells to hide in? Don't Daleks think everyone else is inferior for not being a Dalek? Why hide as humans?

Why the poop are the Weeping Angels there? HOW THE HELL DO WEEPING ANGELS WORK NONE OF THIS MAKES SENSE.

Also, aren't Clara's parents dead?

Basically, none of the story, not even a little bit, made sense. And it didn't make me feel sufficiently emotional for me to forgive that. Mostly it just pissed me off. Because I am a creature made of caffeine, rage, and library cards. (I'm sort of kidding, but sort of not. I have six library cards, all still valid.)

This, of course, isn't even counting my other big problem with this episode, and Moffat's whole tenure on the show in general. That is, simply put, the sexism. Oh the sexism. I hate it. And he is rife with it.

In this episode alone, there are about five female characters altogether. Total. At all. Which is actually pretty good for a Doctor Who episode, sadly. Of those characters, only two had significant amounts of screentime. The others were just in it for brief moments that served little to no purpose, that being Clara's disapproving mother who only wants her to find a nice boyfriend and settle down, and her alarmingly randy grandmother who keeps hitting on the Doctor.

The third female character of little screentime was Amy Pond, who showed back up again in a dream sequence of sorts right before the Doctor regenerated because I guess he really needed to see her again and isn't that sweet? Only it just serves to reinforce the whole, "Amy's life revolves around the Doctor to an alarming degree," thing, because even if it was just a dream, it still makes it so that Amy's entire run on the show is wrapped up in the Doctor and his needs, and her character development is completely secondary.

Of the two major characters, Tasha Lem and Clara, both of them had pretty much the same problem. They both fancied the Doctor, and he kissed both of them and let them down and ignored him until it was convenient for him to remember them and they strived and fought to help him and in the end he kind of did nothing to save the situation and all their striving was a bit pointless, but isn't it nice that they loved him so much?

Excuse me, I need to find a bucket in which to barf.

Look, I really hate that all the women of the Moffat era have been romantically obsessed with the Doctor, seem to have no lives outside of his orbit, and who are incapable of functioning without him. Women who sacrifice everything for this epic great man. Only this epic great man does jack shit in the whole episode.

Like, oh, it's nice that you're holding off all the bad guys, but you're not actually producing a proactive solution ever at all even a little bit. You're just going to fight until you die? Seriously? And when push comes to shove and the end comes you...magically get out of the scrape with almost no consequences because those are for meanies?

Anger. Rage. Fire.

I'm not saying that you can't like Doctor Who as it is right now, written by Steven Moffat and filled, as it is, with racism and sexism and bad bad terrible writing. You can like that. I like Teen Wolf, I really can't judge you. But I do demand that you recognize the flaws in the show. Because I refuse to believe that it's better not to notice these glaring problems. You can still love something cracked and broken. But to deny that's it's messed up in the first place? That's just blindness.


20 comments:

  1. Also, aren't Clara's parents dead?

    Her mother's dead, but they were credited as "Dad" and "Linda," so I think she's meant to be an aunt or an evil stepmother.

    Well, first they get naked and chat with Tasha Lem (Orla Brady)

    At least I can add another person to the list of who I think would be a good non-white-guy Doctor.

    And then he whines for a bit, and turns into Peter Capaldi.

    I rather liked his pre-regeneration speech, and the answer to the "Doctor who" question. But that and Orla Brady are just about all I liked. I disagreed with you about Day, but I sure don't disagree about Time.

    The very next episode is too soon after Day for Gallifrey to reappear; I'd rather the remaining cracks had led to Omega, who really is an existing enemy outside the universe (and who I always thought should have been running the Silence). And if the Trenzalore battle has the Doctor fighting alongside an old enemy - which I grant has some resonance - it should have been an older enemy than the Silence. Like, say, Omega represents a sufficient threat to the universe that the Doctor enlists the Daleks (taking advantage of the fact that they no longer have a reason to hate him specifically over their general omnihatred) and/or Cybermen and/or Sontarans in a parallel to the alliance from season 5. Because Omega really is that dangerous (and also the one of the most sympathetic villains the series has ever had, so it's ironically fitting for the Doctor to face him alongside the worst ones).

    I'd have liked Peter Capaldi to be the last natural regeneration, not the first "get-round". If for no other reason than his appearance in Day of the Doctor - the thirteen natural incarnations being the ones to save Gallifrey is more symmetrical than missing one out and including a later one - and avoids the fact that Eleven should have reacted with a "wait, what, who?" to his appearance. Plus, getting around the limit was the time I was hoping for the white-guy pattern to be broken.

    Grabbing and kissing unwilling women is not a habit I want the Doctor to have.

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    1. I was rather hoping for Gallifrey to be a season arc, maybe two. I mean, finally we have something that can actually be drawn out and keep the suspense going, instead of just driving people nuts. You're definitely right that the "truce with an enemy in the face of greater evil" would have been more touching if it was with the Daleks or someone more integral to the mythos of the show. Also, I feel like Moffat has fallen into the same trap with the Silence that he did with the Weeping Angels: in explaining them, he's both made them much more confusing, and way less scary. They're only scary because we don't know how they work, and I don't think he understands that.

      And yeah - can we get less of the sexual harassment Doctor please? It's gross and weird and I hate it. Remember when the Doctor was all about consent and boundaries? I miss that.

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    2. With Jenny in the Crimson Horror, I gave it the same "kinda pass" as I did Amy in Flesh and Stone - the aftermath of something traumatic is a time when I am willing to somewhat excuse your (general your) actions as not your normal self. But with Tasha... no, that's making it his normal self. And as you say, gross and weird.

      Plus, with Jenny, he seemed to accept that he'd done something wrong. With Tasha, her remonstrance was met with a joke.

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    3. Crimson Horror was one of the better episodes last season, marred by that one moment. Grrr.

      Orla Brady is fabulous, though.

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  2. Her mother was the only one who died. This is her father, and her what-I-assumed stepmother. Overall I didn't care much for the special, but I did enjoy the Amy Pond appearance. It served as a nice parallel that Amy is now the Doctor's imaginary friend when he used to be hers. It felt more like "here's how important Amy was to the Doctor", rather than how much important the Doctor is to Amy. She's dead, but he still thinks about her. Like how 10 got to have one last round of goodbyes to his companions (which I didn't really care much for when it came to Martha, Mickey, and Jack b/c it closed up those storylines and felt more about Russell leaving than about the Doctor).

    Overall I was a bit disappointed with the storylines and how a nun was treated as basically enamored by the Doctor. It felt very disrespectful. The only part I did like was the ending, and it was the only thing I felt Moffat did correctly. He brought Amy back for the sentimental fans who wanted a goodbye like Rose, and he brought Karen back for Matt, so she'd be there for his end, which I think is great for him, as they're great friends and I'm sure that must have been reassuring.

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    1. Ah, gotcha. Yeah, I think I thought both her parents had died this whole time. Maybe because we never spend any time with her dad. And because she is the least explained character possibly ever. And your point about Amy being the Doctor's imaginary friend is brilliant. That makes me love that scene much more.

      Yeah. Kissing a nun without her consent? Kind of the pits. And what was up with the unexplained nudity jokes? Weird.

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  3. Technically, there are six women in this episode - not five (more if you include voice-overs and weeping angels). Clara, Tasha, Linda, Gran, Marta, and Colonel Meme.

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    1. Who are Marta and Colonel Meme? I don't remember them... I'm not saying I don't believe you, I just have no idea who they are.

      Also, is that really much better? Six instead of five?

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  4. Ah yes, but this is my point exactly. Having your eyes opened is not the same as 'seeing'. Most want to wipe away minutiae as an annoyance, details that don't conform to our preconceived views of the world. Often, the truth can only be found lurking in spaces between our words. You see, there are only 14 credited roles in episode 241, so the difference between 5 or 6 female cast members is very large indeed, 43% instead of 36%. Additionally, the Amy Pond cameo appearance would increase the female cast to 7 of 15, or 47%. Look around, young friend, because you might just be 'seeing' your world for the first time.

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    1. Ah, but you didn't answer my other question. Who are Marta and Colonel Meme?

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    2. Okay, maybe I haven't actually watched this episode, eh, or any episode of Dr Who for that matter. My wife told me that the Tardis is also a woman, but I have no idea what that is. I guess my point was simply that on Christmas Day, we should be looking for the good in humanity, seeing each other as fellow travelers to the grave, instead of becoming an embittered Debbinezer Scrooge.

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    3. Seth. Seth.

      Seth.

      Don't make me turn your children against you. I did it to Hero, I can do it to yours!

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    4. Ok, I have to admit, I've never come across for the sake of Christmas as the reason a feminist critic should shut up.

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    5. Actually, that's just my housemate, Seth, trolling me. He spent the whole day asking me how my blog was going and if I had any annoying commenters until I figured it out.

      Ah, friendship. :P

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    6. Ah, well, I'll just shuffle off embarrassedly then.

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    7. No more embarrassed than I am. He had to tell me it was him. *dies of shame*

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  5. I'm not that big of a fan of the show mainly because the Doctor never seems to show his fighting ability though everyone calls him a great warrior. I personally prefer Captain Jack. Did it ever say what The Doctor's true name is? They keep teasing us with the secret and I've never found out what it was. I really love the Weeping angels I'm obsessed with Angelic lore even the fake ones. Why the hell are the time lords still around? Didn't they all die off or are they trapped forever outside of the universe?

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    1. You make a good point about that - personally, I go the other way. I prefer the old series, where the Doctor was a noted pacifist. He's good at being a pacifist. Jack is lovely and I adore Torchwood, though Miracle Day was the kind of awful usually reserved for SyFy original movies...

      Nope, they've never said what the Doctor's name is, and hopefully they never will. I'd rather like it if they stopped bringing it up. The Weeping Angels are cool, but I honestly have no idea how they work anymore, they've been mushed around too much. As for the Time Lords, at the end of the 50th Anniversary Special, we found out the Time Lords were in a pocket universe just outside of ours. So, alive, but outside the universe and also kind of trapped in a painting. It doesn't make much sense.

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    2. The Doctor is not a warrior in the "martial arts" way, it is in the "he always defeats his enemies and wins the battle/war" way.

      To be honest, I prefer Captain Jack Harkness as well. I love The Doctor and I'd come close to selling my soul for the TARDIS but that Time Lord is so incredibly self-righteous. Jack can be angry by your choices but he still understands them and you get the feeling that if the weight of the world weren't on his shoulders he'd make the same call. But The Doctor just judges you. He can have compassion for mass murderers but if you kill the mass murderer he'll act as if you are the monster. And he's a hypocrite. He gets on people for doing things that mess with time when he constantly messes with time to disastrous results. And I love that Captain Jack doesn't abide by that whole "I don't believe in guns" nonsense. They even started doing that on the later seasons of Buffy. Seriously, if something is trying to brutally murder you, you pick up that gun and defend yourself. That isn't you being violent. That is you not wanting to be brutally murdered. And it's just so clearly anti-gun propaganda since all these shows are dealing with lasers and axes and a thousand and one other ways to kill someone and yet on these fictional shows we're supposed to be thinking guns are the most deadly things that should never be touched. I'm pretty sure zombies and demons and carnivorous aliens are worse.

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  6. I actually really love Clara and her relationship with The Doctor. With every other Nu Who female companion, it's all about The Doctor sweeping in and the woman dropping her friends and family and entire life to run off with him and falling for him first. But it was different with Clara.

    She was already planning on traveling (only put it off to help a family friend with his kids after the death of his wife) and would have regardless if The Doctor showed up in her life. She was not waiting for him and did not run off with him and live by his rules. He almost immediately gave her the TARDIS key and asked her to travel with him and she said come back tomorrow to prove that she wasn't at his beck and call and then would only travel on Wednesdays. She continued with her everyday life while The Doctor was the one jumping forward from Wednesday to Wednesday to be with her. She didn't see traveling as better than staying still or hope that it never ended or continue with the adrenaline until she outgrew it. She always had a balance and never even got into the TARDIS for the life and death adventure that was so much better than her dull life, she just wanted to see things with her own eyes that she'd read about in books. She didn't have to pressure The Doctor into teaching her how to fly the TARDIS, he was the one that practically begged her to learn how to fly it.

    Their relationship was just completely flipped from Amy & River who were obsessed by him since they were little girls to the point that despite being strong women, it really damaged their psyche. Martha had to leave because he was making her feel less than when she knew that she wasn't. Donna and Rose were both trapped in mediocre lives before meeting The Doctor and thought that The Doctor was crucial to their ability to get out of the rut.

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