geekery / TV talk

Everything Wrong with the Doctor Who Finale

Doctor Who takes place in a different world than our own: It’s fictional obviously, but it doesn’t even bother to try to imitate the norms of the audience’s reality. This is a world where everyone speaks in impassioned monologues, in desperate pleas for help or hope, in ominous warnings. Melodrama is a key component of this world, and for the most part, the people who love this world embrace the melodrama.

But after this series’ two part finale, which concluded this past weekend, I felt a doubt about this accepted fact of Doctor Who, a doubt that I’ve never felt before. A doubt that said, for the first time, maybe it’s time for the Doctor to retire. (Spoilers ahead).

I enjoyed the first part, which aired two weeks ago. The opener was unexpected, a jolt of electricity in an otherwise stagnant plot line between the two romantic leads. And it was hopelessly sad too, a real throwback to the days of Donna type sad, a tone that I have missed on the show lately. The afterlife plot line caught my attention, and surprise! held it because it did that thing that Doctor Who is so good at: it asked a really big question about life, an unanswerable one – what happens when we die? – on a small, personal scale: Was Danny Pink really, truly dead?

Picture shows:  Peter Capaldi as The Doctor and Jenna Coleman as Clara

But towards the end of the episode and into the second part, it fell apart. The RETURN OF THE CYBERMEN plot line is tired – I really think the writers have squeezed everything out of this particular villain that they can. And they couldn’t even commit to their evilness! The writers established over eight seasons that the Cybermen are obedient and emotionless killers and then quickly reversed all that work over the course of 45 minutes. That just doesn’t cut it guys. I’m not buying it. The shadow of an explanation that the writers do give – that by downloading a dead person’s consciousness into the body of a robot, Missy suffered the unexpected consequence of her new army harboring old feelings from their literal past lives – is interesting. But this is the ongoing issue with the new season: it all comes to head in a five minute sequence. In this case it was, in the first thirty seconds, quite powerful – As Danny takes off the Cyberman mask and reveals himself to Clara, I really felt her loss, and  knew he was gone – but then it begins to deflate once the plot begins to explain itself via character exposition (exposition that didn’t really answer any of my questions clearly; I literally went on Wikipedia after I watched to read the plot summary just in case I missed something crucial).

Here’s where my point about melodrama comes in: After I watched the finale, I switched to Netflix to watch a couple of early David Tennant episodes as a palate cleanser, which are just as shouty and emotional as this new series, to try to figure out why I used to so readily accept the tone of the show, but can’t bring myself to do it anymore.

Here’s what I came up with: In the early and mid-2000’s, the world had a distinctly cheesy tone. Angel. Boy bands. This obvious masterpiece. But the tone of entertainment, for better or worse, has clearly changed, and the new series of Doctor Who did not change with it. There are some aspects of the show that fundamentally should carry over to new seasons (though that’s for a different essay) but the show should give itself room to evolve. Instead of creating their own universe to house Capaldi’s otherwise genius Doctor, this new series relies on what was good about the past series – Tennant’s high-stakes, always in a hurry, always just about to die brand of melodrama (Matt Smith has his unmatched goofiness and Amy and Rory to play off) – and it’s just not working. It’s unfair to the fans and frustrating to watch such a fantastic actor work with such lame material. I don’t want to see Peter Capaldi go, but unless the writers can create his own unique world to live in, and not one copy-pasted from the past, then it might be his, you know, time.

Let me know what you thought of the finale in the comments!

Image: Ray Burmiston/BBC

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5 thoughts on “Everything Wrong with the Doctor Who Finale

  1. Yes, yes, and YES!!!!! Everything you said.

    Moffat is the problem. It’s time for him to let it go. He’s stuck on trying to make everything fit into his 11/Amy/Rory mold, and it doesn’t work with Capaldi.

    I used to be one of Moffat’s biggest defenders, because what he did with 11, Amy, and Rory, was brilliant. But ever since last year’s Christmas episode I’ve soured on him. Every episode of this season has soured me more. It’s time for him to give the show to someone else.

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  2. I really didn’t care for this season. Some episodes were better than others, but I was disappointed with the season finale. The whole afterlife was an awesome concept that I felt wasn’t utilized to it’s fullest potential. I was totally expecting to see all of the Doctor’s past companions and friends (who’ve died) rise up against him because they were being controlled by the Master. The actors wouldn’t even need to do cameos since the dead are now Cybermen. I can just see the Master adding insult to injury by putting name tags on these Cybermen-friends (Rory, Amy, Jamie, Madame de Pompadour, Harriet Jones, Vincent Van Gogh etc…). How would the Doctor defend himself against all his old friends? Wow, that was the episode I wanted to see.

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  3. I really enjoyed this season. (This shows how different we all are, of course. I’ve seen dozens of posts running down this season and dozens more lauding it) Season seven struck me as particularly lacklustre. I didn’t think Matt Smith and Jenna Coleman worked well together. However, I felt the tone of this season, with the uncertainty of the Doctor about whether he was good or not, gave her something to work with when it came to her character.
    Were there problems with the plot of the finale? Probably. I’ve learned not to look too hard for plot holes in Doctor Who. Russell T Davies’ run was notorious for endings with huge plot holes covered up by big bangs, special effects and soaring music. I used to cringe when I saw his name in the writing credits. However, I found the human arc of this one more interesting. Characters and relationships have always been my favourite thing when it comes to any drama. I found the Danny Pick/Clara relationship well acted and effective, and the coda of Danny keeping his promise rather than being selfish with the gift the Doctor gave him gave his character an amazing depth. The idea of the brigadier being one of only two cybermen shown who retained their human identity (Was there a reason for this? Was it force of will or just a malfunction in their upgrade?) and coming to the Doctor’s rescue, killing when he knew the Doctor couldn’t, (and the brigadier never had trouble killing the bad guys) brought back everything that was true about the Doctor’s character which he had been doubting over the entire season.
    Yes, I enjoyed it and it’s given me hope for better things next season.

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  4. I never liked Matt Smith, so to me….this was a big improvement. I DO wish they had grown off the “Day of the Doctors” more than they did. I still think that was the BEST Doctor Who ever. But I am not burnt out on Cybermen, I think having “Missy” use them to her ends was a new and different take.

    The promise from Danny was heart breaking…but also so much something I expected from that character that it worked.

    I really enjoyed this season as a whole….yeah we had a few sci-fi fails but I usually give Doctor Who a physics pass just on principle…

    I would like to see more depth, more plot development, and more movement in the next season. But it always seems like they take at least one season to really settle in with a new actor as the Doctor.

    The writers need to feel out that new character as much as the rest of us do.

    I have high hopes for the next one!

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  5. Hi, new reader! Came over from CarrieS’s blog “Geek Girls in Love”.

    Wanted to say that this season of Who has been unfortunately rocky in my household–and we’re all long-time Who fans. My wife and our housemate in particular are fans clear back to the classic era, while I came in officially with Eccleston.

    And we officially bailed on watching as of “Kill the Moon”. I’ve been paying just enough attention to read episode recaps and to keep up to date on plot developments, and from what I’ve seen of Mr. Capaldi I do respect his acting prowess–but the overall arc of the story has just been way too grim for my personal tastes, and I didn’t like what I saw of the character development arcs in this season either. Which makes me sad. I don’t want to not like the Doctor. 😦

    Happy to discover your blog, though! As an SF/F reader and writer who also does quite enjoy some paranormal romance (and some Doctor! Tennant is my Doctor, yo), I clearly need to check this place out. 😀

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