Topic: The new Doctor Who

I’ve been trying to give this a chance; but we’re now six episodes in, and I’m just not into it.  I also find it odd how much praise the new episodes are receiving, and even the ratings are good.  I’m a bit perplexed by it.  The rest of the post will contain spoilers if you haven’t yet seen the episodes.




If I had to sum up the reason I’m not enjoying it, I would say the show has now become more drama than a fantasy sci-fi adventure.  Whittaker is not the problem; I think she could be a fine Doctor.  However, she’s not being given the material to work with.  In fact, my sense of the stories so far is that Whittaker’s Doctor is delegating out tasks to the point that she’s almost irrelevant.  I’ll put it this way - I don’t watch a James Bond movie to see him ask what everybody else thinks they should do.

Really, I’ve begun to wonder if the Doctor is now actually the surrogate voice of showrunner Chris Chibnall - a showrunner in over his head asking everyone else what they think the production should do.  Just look at the episodes so far and how bereft of imagination they are.

The first episode felt like and looked like a 1990’s direct to video low budget sci-fi movie.  Alien hunter stalks the city in a sports hunt for humans.  Then he pulls off the helmet.  Tooth head!

The second episode is what’s left of a racing contest on a planet of ingenious traps like flying bed sheets and rejected sports gear robots from Sliders “Rules of the Game”.

Rosa was an exception and was done pretty well even though the villain was underutilized.  But again, look at the grand ending.  The Doctor tells the others how Rosa’s mark on history will last forever, and she flings open the door to show them.  Do we see the flagship of the Earth Fleet named Rosa Parks?   Maybe the planet Rosa inhabited by people who uphold the ideals of civil rights?  No.  We see a rock.  I felt like that kid in the Charlie Brown Halloween special.

Then there’s the giant spider episode with Donald Trump.  We can forget for a minute that this story is just another tired Trump bashing exercise; but the spiders aren’t even as good as those in “Eight Legged Freaks” with Kari Wuhrer.  What’s the big resolution?  The big spider grows too large and suffocates under its own weight.  Nobody did anything to make it happen; it just happened.

Then we get to the spaceship adventure, and who’s the threat of the week?  It’s Stitch from Disney’s “Lilo and Stitch”!   And I don’t mean as a metaphor; I mean literally.  Disney could probably win a copyright infringement lawsuit against the BBC.

The most recent episode - didn’t even watch it.  Not sure I will.

Looking back at Doctor Who since it returned under Russell Davies, the show hasn’t always had the big budget or the best actors; but it always had imagination.  Whether it be Cat people, carnivorous shadows or that big ole face in a jar, it was there.  An adventure. A spectacle.  There was always a plot thread - a big epic story that connected the entire season whether it was obvious or not.  Halfway through Chibnall’s first season, and I’m not seeing it.  It’s all gone.

I don’t know.  I guess I’m posting this just to see if Ive lost my mind.  Everyone I see seems so into it and loving it.  I don’t get it.  Is it because the Doctor is a woman for the first time?  Are people afraid to say it’s bad for fear of diminishing that?  If so, that may be the one genius thing Chibnall has done in his Doctor Who run - he hid his inability behind a social agenda.

Re: The new Doctor Who

I haven't watched the season yet, and based on what I've heard, I'm not sure that I will bother. The press for the show has been good, but a lot of the fan reaction has been the same as what you've said. They think that the new Doctor could be fine with better writing, but I've heard that the new season is just boring and preachy. Again, this is based on comments I've seen from others and not my own personal opinion, but it sounds like they replaced stories and metaphors with lessons and monologues.

I don't know if I will watch. Honestly, I wasn't a huge fan of the Capaldi era, and there doesn't seem to be a big upswing here.

Re: The new Doctor Who

Informant wrote:

...it sounds like they replaced stories and metaphors with lessons and monologues.

For me, it does have that feeling to it.  It’s like a college lecture taught by the Socratic method (where the teacher asks the students questions so that they fill out the lesson instead of the teacher).  I know Doctor Who was originally designed in the 1960’s to be an educational series; the monsters were added much to creator Sydney Newman’s chagrin (he being the head of drama at the BBC).  It was producer Verity Lambert who kept throwing the monsters in (like Daleks and Cybermen) to try to juice up the show; and it worked.  A pure educational series just doesn’t work.

As for Capaldi, it was hit or miss; but I liked it overall.  The problem was that then showrunner Stephen Moffat was running on fumes; he was tired.  He didn’t even want to do that final season, but the BBC convinced him to do it to give Chibnall time to wrap up his other works already in production.  From what I’ve read, it wasn’t so much that the BBC wanted Chibnall; it’s that Chibnall was the only person they could find who would take the job.  Nobody wanted to take over running Doctor Who.

I don’t mean to be doom and gloom; but if you’re having that much trouble finding someone to take the job - well, the show is on its last legs.  We may be looking at another long rest for Doctor Who soon; but the BBC has years yet of Chibnall and Whittaker to deal with because of the long contracts that were negotiated.

It’s all really just a shame.

Re: The new Doctor Who

Well here’s an interesting report:

https://wegotthiscovered.com/tv/jodie-w … ctor-2019/

Re: The new Doctor Who

Interesting. The BBC has been kinda crazy lately, so I imagine that they're difficult to work for. I'm not sure whether or not to believe the report. It could be true, bit until there is more info, I will just consider it a rumer.

Re: The new Doctor Who

The rumours of Chibnall and Whittaker leaving aren't true. The source is an absurd DOCTOR WHO 'fan site' whose webmaster hated Jodie Whittaker before he'd seen a single frame of her and has been creating one false rumour after another about her leaving the role and before the first episode had even aired. DOCTOR WHO is doing extremely well in the ratings and currently averaging 8.55 million viewers per episode, slightly beating the previous high point of the Tennant/Tate era (Series Four) averaging 8.05 million viewers per episode. I'm not sure which site is more ridiculous, the DOCTOR WHO fan site with whom this rumour originated or those asinine Midnight Edge videos asserting that Viacom is tricking CBS into signing over the TV rights to STAR TREK by stealthily having DISCOVERY set in the Viacom movie timeline.

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TF's criticisms of the new DOCTOR WHO are fair. I think the Chibnall era has been a lot of fun so far. I really enjoy all the actors, especially Whittaker's magnificent charm and Bradley Walsh's subtle comic timing. I've enjoyed all the episodes in spite of their flaws, but they are emphasizing competence and efficiency rather than the lavish imagination of the Steven Moffat era. There's been a struggle to adapt to a new format and style, but "Demons of Punjab" was excellent in how it balanced historical drama, character arcs and science fiction elements. It's a shame TF missed it.

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"Rosa"'s ending was quite a letdown with the Doctor suggesting that Rosa Parks' grand contribution to the universe was getting a rock named after her. I would have preferred a more nuanced ending: Ryan pointing out that Rosa hardly ended racism -- and the Doctor gently suggesting that Rosa showcased how every single person has the ability to resist tyranny and that even the smallest of resistances can matter. Yaz could ask how much will it matter: do racism and prejudice ever vanish from the cosmos? And the Doctor could put her hand to the TARDIS controls and suggest that they all find out together. But I forgive the episode its faults because it was a *very* difficult story to pull off and I give it credit for walking a very tough tightrope even if it staggered and stumbled.

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I liked the spiders and the P'Ting -- I liked how the episodes emphasized that these creatures were not malicious, evil or sadistic -- they were merely forms of life seeking to survive and at odds with human beings. But TF's criticism is fair And TF is basically right in general: I'm having fun, but the Chibnall era lacks inventiveness. Paradoxically, part of that is three episodes confronted America's history of racism, corrupt capitalism in the UK and the Partition of India, and having the Doctor end such evils with the sonic screwdriver risks grossly trivializing real-life struggle, but having the Doctor avoid doing anything offensive risks doing the same.

Re: The new Doctor Who

And now, having stood up for DOCTOR WHO, I must condemn it. “Kerblam,” the seventh episode of the Chibnall era, is a well-paced, exciting story that balances all the cast members well and structures its story beautifully except it has the Doctor confronting a fictional version of Amazon, a corporation that abuses and exploits its workers to exhaustion and injury and leaves them homeless and broken and encourages sociopathic sabotage among its workforce – and the Doctor ends up delivering a lecture to the one labour activist in the episode. The one advocate for labour rights, fair wages and responsible management of workers is presented as a mass-murdering terrorist whom the Doctor promptly blows up before leaving the universe safe for Amazon to carry on its horrors.

This is so wrong it’s hard to know where to begin. The Doctor has been a figure of revolution and anarchy since 1963, bringing down establishment structures as a force of chaos who just happens to be against the monsters. She has always been an anti-authoritarian figure and to see the Doctor defend corporations’ right to grossly mistreat their workers for a pittance of a salary is an absurd depiction of a character who has historically always brought bureaucracy and capitalist empires crashing down. It’s one thing to have the Doctor refuse to intervene in historical situations, but to have the Doctor confront Amazon in space (dubbed “Kerblam!”) and take no issue with it is a betrayal of DOCTOR WHO.

The strange thing is that it’s probably not even intentional. DOCTOR WHO, a product of a massive corporation whose streaming rights were sold to the real-life Amazon, is probably not in a position to show the Doctor toppling Jeff Bezos’ castle with her sonic screwdriver. DOCTOR WHO, having cast a woman, a Pakastani actress, a black man and a senior citizen as leads, is probably not intending to have the Doctor defend corporate abuses.

More likely, DOCTOR WHO, having to appeal to its whole audience and not just left-wing liberals, attempted a polite middle ground: the climax of the episode has the Doctor declaring that the problem is not the Amazon system (offering the lowest prices for its products in the speediest delivery at maximum profit). The problem is how people use the system, whether it’s to pay workers the least the company can get away with to maximize its bottom line or our labour activist who decides to use the Amazon-style delivery system to send bombs to the customers.

Now, this is an argument I have a lot of time for. Tom Cruise made this argument in MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE - ROGUE NATION. Quinn made a similar argument in "World Killer," saying, "The universe has no conscience, so WE have to."

Except the only person the Doctor feels the need to argue against, stop, trounce, confront and defeat is the labour activist and then space-Amazon makes some noise about hiring more humans and fewer robots and the Doctor is off. At no point does the Doctor confront space-Jeff Bezos; no analogue even appears in the story. And the problem here is a lack of imagination.

A Steven Moffat edited version of this script introduces space-Bezos and has the Doctor rewire the space-Amazon AI so that space-Bezos can only ever live in the conditions on the wages of his lowest-paid employees, forcing him to improve conditions. A Robert Holmes edited version of “Kerblam!” has the Doctor drown space-Bezos in so much bureaucracy that he’s forced to hire and retain a decently paid workforce just to manage. A Russell T. Davies version of this script has the Doctor blow space-Bezos up (he was less imaginative).

But a Chibnall edited script? Well, in attempting not to say anything too provocative or offensive to any particular party, Chibnall has inadvertently presented the Doctor as an enforcer for the establishment who keeps people who protest mistreatment in line while declaring labour rights to be terrorist ideals. I don’t think this is deliberate; it’s more likely incompetence. It’s clumsiness. It is a massive screw-up and it’s not the first. DOCTOR WHO has often made terrible mistakes. At times, the Doctor has been written as racist, abusive, militaristic, spineless, needlessly violent emotionally dysfunctional – and over time, such portrayals are left behind as errors to be explained or forgotten. “Kerblam!” is one such story.

Re: The new Doctor Who

“Kerblam!” sounds like another example of hitting the target but veering off the bullseye. It’s just clumsy.

To revisit “Rosa” for a second, I earlier mentioned how the villain was underutilized.  From many comments I’ve read, people have seemed confused over what Krasko’s plan was.  Would destroying that singular event in the history of Rosa Parks somehow end the civil rights movement?  That idea stretched plausibility past breaking.  So what was Krasko thinking?

I believe the idea was actually meant as a commentary on the mass shootings that have been happening in the United States recently.  In those cases, the murderer doesn’t have a full plan - instead they’ve just picked a spot that in some way fits the target of their rage, and then they walk into that church, synagogue, etc and start shooting anything that moves.  No real message. No specific goal.  They just want to destroy the lives of some of their perceived enemy.

I believe this is what Krasko was doing.  Just like our current mass shootings, Krasko was under no illusion that his actions would change the world. Krasko just walked into history and started shooting up the timeline.  Chibnall hit the target with the idea but veered off the bullseye leaving the audience not quite getting the full message.  Clumsy.

Re: The new Doctor Who

Also a pretty funny thing Amazon has done:

https://www.bleedingcool.com/2018/11/21 … n-release/

No idea if it’s intentional or not, but you can’t currently find “Kerblam!” on Amazon Prime - if you choose that episode, it instead plays this coming Sunday’s episode “The Witchfinders” leaked well ahead of schedule.  Perhaps a little revenge on the BBC for taking shots at Amazon?