Saturday, 1 May 2010

Doctor Who

Doctor Who, I have ardently chirped from the branches of superiority, is for children. "It's about a time-travelling hero armed with a screwdriver which appears to solve every problem ever thought of, doing battle with inter-galactic monstrosities" I cried, in a long-winded slogan of indifference towards the whole thing.

In an effort to turn what was a mild apathy about the whole thing into a full-blown hatred of it, I watched this series like an avid viewer might, from episode one through five and I can honestly say I genuinely enjoyed it. Sure there's little niggles about the whole thing, but in general, it was captivating, amusing and generally a worthwhile excursion into the imagination of the writers.

The writing is, in general, pretty good at setting a sense of tension so utterly palpable it didn't glue me to my chair so much as force me down. The last episode was a two-parter about Weeping Angels (Essentially, you have to look at them, or they kill you.) which was so terrifying I had nightmares for days. By the start of tonight's second part, I was thinking "If the Doctor doesn't kill the Weeping Angels, I will never sleep again". I also realised I referenced him as "The Doctor" rather than Doctor Who, and knew I had been taken in.

However, the one region the writing does let me down (And this may only be my complaint) is in what I cheerfully describe as "Assistant's Syndrome". The Assistant inevitably falls wildly in love with The Doctor, that's always a given. Equally, the Assistant has an unerring ability to find the most pressing danger, and immediately offer themselves up like lambs to the slaughter, all while under the misapprehension this shows bravery rather than boneheaded idiocy. This causes the Doctor to divert his efforts away from saving Delta-1 or some other planet, and saving one fairly thick girl. By the end of the episode, I was practically willing her to die in increasingly stupid ways. "Assistant" is a misnomer, given that I rarely see her help. I prefer "Force of unimaginable distraction".

So the writing in regard to the general relationship the Doctor and the Assistant has is pretty formulaic, but I can accept that in respect to the other writing, which is chaotic and inventive, occasionally witty and very engrossing. The whole show feels very tightly put together, like they start with a plan for it then work around that, and whilst at a very obvious level it follows the pattern of "Doctor doesn't want any trouble, is roped in against a group of unknowable evil, appears to be losing, pulls out magic trick, saves day" while we also have the whole assistant thing in the background, the magic trick is usually something you weren't expecting, and the group of unknowable evil is generally pants-wettingly terrifying.

I can't comment on Matt Smith, since I've not watched any other Doctor, but he seems generally efficient at being Doctor Who, I guess. The Assistant I hate, because of her role of "Get in trouble, get saved, possibly save day", but I can't really fault Karen Gillian for that, and since I assume that's the image the writers wanted, she is portraying the part sublimely.

Disappointingly, then, the show is good, the acting is good, it's Saturday night television for all the family which is both interesting and sort-of intellectually challenging, which is why I enjoy it. "It's for kids" still rings true, but that doesn't mean adults can't revel in a few minutes of idle amusement. I heartily recommend it, despite its niggling flaws.

1 comment:

  1. I found myself roped into watching it because of a friend, and had exactly the same opinion as you about it being for kids (plus slightly odd maths teachers) but was taken aback by it's good writing and acting and how good the production values are for a british sci-fi tv show. I mean you look at the american ones and they're slathered with special effects and gloss but ultimately always lose their edge because they become boring and cliched. I remember a movie about time travel with the Irish guy from the IT crowd and it looked a bit cheap in comparison to the big budget American things but strangely doctor who, in my opinion, doesn't suffer from this problem.

    Missed the season finale, however, will catch it up.