Is The Doctor Dead?

Should I even be watching this show?

Well there it is. The bottom line. Folks, I have come to a sad point in my Doctor Who Fandom — the point at which I must seriously consider giving it up. I’ve been a new series fan from the beginning. I literally dreamed of David Tennant returning and taking up the role of The Doctor again, although I liked Eckleson too. I wasn’t a big Matt Smith fan but while the Smith years had me cringing at times, disappointed at others, I still basically enjoyed the show and I clung to hope of what could still be.

Peter Capaldi is not the problem.

I want to start by making it clear that the actor, Peter Capaldi, is not the problem. He is delivering the lines written for him the best way he can. Nevertheless, seven episodes into a thirteen-episode season that introduces Capaldi as the new Doctor I’ve gone from cringing to scowling. From disappointment to outright dislike. I am no longer enjoying the show.

Steve Moffat is the problem.

I’ve said for years that Moffat is big on ideas and short on follow-through. He isn’t very good at character development (and being a character girl at heart, this is a huge problem for me). But throughout the Matt Smith years there was always some driving force behind the show that kept me watching. Wanting. Waiting.

Among other things, season eight seems directionless. I’m not honestly sure what the show is *about* anymore. We’re down to a series of unfortunate events, many of which defy logic and credibility.

Confusion and Disbelief


Let’s take “Listen,” for instance. It begins with the ridiculous assertion that if nature had evolved the perfect predator, it must also have evolved a creature with the perfect ability to hide — and that of course we wouldn’t see it. I might even have bought that premise if the show hadn’t been internally inconsistent. They seemed to have found such a creature, but ultimately this is never resolved.

“The Heist” was ridiculous as well. I think someone thought it would be cool for The Doctor to rob a bank but ultimately I wasn’t convinced that he needed to do any such thing.

Meanwhile, where are the big ideas? 

Oh, there’s a hint about something going on … dead characters are going to “heaven.” (Or something like that.)  But this is a tiny part of the stories we’ve been shown so far.

Clara isn’t doing anything for me.

I don’t dislike this companion, but now that her “Impossible Girl” arc is over, there’s not much left for her to do. In truth, she was never the companion I hoped she would be or that she could have been, but in this season it feels as if the writers simply don’t know what to do with her. It doesn’t help that she and the new Doctor have little chemistry together, nor that Clara’s interest in The Doctor and being his companion is not well established.

But worst of all, there’s The Doctor himself…

He’s grumpy. Maybe that’s a simplistic way of looking at the problem, but when it comes right down to it, that’s how I feel. He’s humorless, and seems to have lost much of the heart he spent the past seven seasons developing. He’s more distant, less approachable (although the lack of chemistry with his companion could explain part of this).

I’m getting particularly sick of all the pseudo-deep character revelations that lead to no lasting change.

To tell you the truth, I could have forgiven all the rest. But this is the point that is keeping me from enjoying the show. It’s just not fun this season. For all his faults, the Matt Smith version of the Doctor was fun. He even had his trademark bowtie and his fez.

Will it get better?

All of which leads me to the real reason I haven’t stopped watching. Hope. Will it get better? Will Moffat hear the criticism and make changes? I don’t know. I’ve seen shows go downhill before, and they never seem to recover once they’ve hit that downhill stride, do they? Fans keep hoping, reminiscing about the glory days. Is that why I’m still watching Doctor Who?

The other night I watched a David Tennant episode with my kids — they wanted to see the one with K-9 (from season 2 — “School Reunion”). What a great episode! It was cheesy, but it was a good kind of cheese. And what fun! I know that as I watch now, that’s what I really want — the Russel T Davies episodes back again.

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  1. I couldn’t agree more with you about Moffat. Ever since he became show runner, the quality of the scripts dropped, and characterisation went out the window. Most of the episodes seem to be wish fulfillment as in let’s put dinosaurs on a ship, or what if we had the doctor run a bank heist! Peter Capaldi shows great promise as the Doctor, and it might be good to have a grumpy, gruff doctor. It works for “House” and “Doc Martin” but the current writers don’t know how to do it well.

    This current season seems to be the worse. And I can only hope that when Clara is gone, a more engaging companion is found. Moffat believes it is always about the companion. But I disagree, for me it has always been the Doctor solving the problems with help from the companion. And they don’t always have to be Earth shattering live or die ones. A few Quantum Leap style episodes would be welcome, where the Doctor restores a time line change. Even a key-of-time like story line would be welcome. I would love to see a return of the Black/White Guardians.

  2. I hadn’t thought about it, but I agree — it would be nice to see some stories that weren’t “end of the world” in nature. The Doctor used to travel to cool places and stumble across mysteries, but when this Doctor went to meet Robin Hood, it STILL had to come down to a plot to destroy the world!

    And yeah, the grumpy doctor wouldn’t be as big a problem if he weren’t written so poorly. I do think the companion is a big part of things, though. Not the whole of it, but a big part.

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