First Impressions: Series 1/3/31/Farg/Arthur So Far

I find that if I’m really enjoying a tv show, I don’t have the need to write about it. Certainly not on an individual-episode basis! Only if a season is flawed in several ways do I need to put hands on keyboard and break out the snark on an episodic basis.

Can you tell I’m liking the Moffat era so far?

Since we’ve reached the halfway point, though, I thought I’d comment on the series so far. And, really, it’s all good.

Well, 95% good.

Oh, okay, I have an issue or two.

and all will be revealed in the Arc of Infinity after the jump.

The Moffat universe if full of wit and charm, and I find it quite refreshing. Russell T. Davies tended toward obvious maudlin, obvious kitsch, and obvious nudge. Oh, and the Theme of the Series? RTD loved to hit us over the collective head with it. Moff, though… not so much. Even the obvious Theme so far—Amy’s crack, and the effects it’s having on the universe—has been handled in an intriguing way. First of all: it’s popped up in every story. Second, the Doctor has already noticed it. None of this “Oh hai guyz it’s episode 11 we’d better has big finale set-up NAO!” that we got in the Davies era. It’s… dare I say it?… adult storytelling.

(Oh hai guyz “adult” as in “sophisticated” and not “WAUUUUUUUUGH.” Please to remove mind from gutter, yes? And, no, I don’t care how hawt you think Matt and/or Karen are!)

Speaking of the Doctor… Hell yeah, Matt Smith has totally nailed it! I love his performance. Snarky, self-deprecating, joyful, and, most of all, alien, too. I especially like how he actually builds up to shoutyness. (Tennant tended to go from bouncy to shouty as a direct flight. Manic, sure, but also annoying if it were a particularly shouty episode.) I still don’t know if I like the outfit, but I’ll forgive it as everything else on Eleven goes to eleven.

How about the overall “look”? I’m amused but the console, as it looks like the prop people hit up American Science and Surplus for any old thing that looked cool. As the Federation has done exactly the same thing on several occasions, I can’t help but approve.

I’m not so sure, though, about the consistent steampunk/WWIIpunk look of most of the episodes. All the “tech” in the far-flung “The Beast Below” looked like it came from the same place the “tech” in “Victory of the Daleks” and the Weeping Angels two-parter did. Again, it’s the whole “hitting up American Science and Surplus” thing. It’s okay in small doses, but not if every freaking episode looks the same!

(“Vampires of Venice” was quite refreshing in that aspect, because the old things looked old and the sci-fi elements looked properly scifi and not a steampunk variant of SF tech.)

(That new central column, though? Wrong in so many ways. Especially the way it looks like it came straight out of “Lesbian Spank Inferno.”)

Since I have already brought up references to other things, I can’t help but feel that the current series is one big repeat of the first series of New Who—not in exact stories, obviously, but in overall theme. Check it out:

  1. First story introduced new Doctor, new companion, and new companion’s hapless boyfriend. New companion runs out on hapless boyfriend to be with the Doctor.
  2. Second Story, Doctor and Companion go to the far-flung future, uncover secrets, and make decisions they don’t like.
  3. Third Story: A Mark Gatiss historical featuring an actual historical figure. Oh, yeah, and World War II, which technically doesn’t come up until story 9 in the Eccles series, but obviously this doesn’t really matter!
  4. Fourth/Fifth Story: 2-parter involving aliens, at one point trapping the Doctor and friends in a seemingly-inescapable room. Also, Older Woman who makes more than one appearance.
  5. Sixth Story: The Doctor and Companion gain a somewhat-hapless male companion; also, the last of a race (in theory) is done away with.
  6. Seventh Story: It’s all a game! (Also, in a departure from previous episodes, heavily-stolen ideas from Classic Who (“The Celestial Toymaker” and “The Mind Robber” come to mind) and The Sarah Jane Adventures. (I for one was quite disappointed when the Dream Lord turned out to be the Valeyard and not the Trickster.)

And having noted all these parallels, I have to wonder why I am noticing them so easily. It’s not like Doctor Who hasn’t plagiarized itself before. Hell, it’s as old as I am, it would be unnatural if riffs on various plots didn’t occur. (Not easy padding a series out to 46 years, yanno.) But… perhaps it’s because I don’t feel as emotionally engaged with the current series, that the great enjoyment I get from it is purely intellectual. With the intellectual brain more engaged, I can only surmise that the repeating-plot-ideas becomes more noticeable—those nasty emotions aren’t getting in the way distracting me from spot-analysis of the show.

I’ve noticed a fair number of people online complaining that they’re not as emotionally engaged with the current series as they were during the RTD era. Davies is, overall, a more emotional writer; Moffat goes more for the cerebral factor, the wit and humor in dialog and the wow factor of playing-with-time. Those dear fen who came in via Eccles or Tennant got hooked on the emotional bits as well as plot, characterization, the hawtness of the leads and overall entertainment. Now, without the emotional bits (not necessarily all UST (or RST), but certainly more soap-opera-y in places and much more interpersonal in general), it can seem that the show doesn’t zing the strings as much.

At times, I feel there’s something missing, too; but, then again, in my own Doctor Who fanfic, I tend to bring the interpersonal level (not soap-opera-y, but sometimes UST, especially when writing about the Fifth Doctor and Nyssa (or Peri)) into the story. I like the interpersonal level, which is why I particularly like Nyssa (and the whole story with her father) and Peri (and the whole story with her step dad and mom) and Sarah (and her many sequels, which all involve family to one degree or another) as companions.

(So, for those confused, “interpersonal” here means “dealing with other people in the Companion’s life on a semi-regular basis.”)

(And, no, sorry, Ace’s backstory does nothing for me, and was made really, really creepy by the Doctor’s actions in “The Curse of Fenric.” Then again, the Seventh Doctor/Ace relationship I find rather emotionally abusive on the Doctor’s part….)

So, since I’ve been nattering about emotions (or lack thereof), how bout dem new Daleks? I groove on their mod, candy-colored hard shells! They’re the M & M’s of Doom!!!! But, still don’t know what the bustle in back is supposed to be. Kick stand? Door stop? Ironing board? Ooh, that last has definite possibilities! “DOC-TOR! YOU ARE WRINK-LY! You will be iron-ated! IRON-ATED!!!!!” All in all, nice to know they’re back, and not infected with icky icky Human DNA any longer.

My favorite Human on the show right now has to be Rory. It’s so refreshing to have an Everyman (aka Average Joe) who’s both young and not stupid. He’s braver than he knows! Sure, he’s being brave mostly for Amy’s sake (his dream life in “Amy’s Choice” clearly proved it), but he stepped up to the plate with the first pitch. What’s nicer is that he seems to have the Doctor’s number. While Amy is all “isn’t he wonderful and isn’t this experience wonderful,” Rory realizes that associating with the Doctor can be dangerous. That he doesn’t hesitate in letting the Doctor know what he thinks is brilliant. Rory has a backbone. He also loves Amy to pieces, and was willing to let her go if it made her happy. How can people find fault in that?

(Oh, I know, I know, people are. Only goes to show that there’s always going to be a loony contingent in fandom.)

Have I mentioned how witty this series is? Oh, I know I have, but let me lay some heady examples on you. First up, from The Vampires of Venice, “Stop talking. Brain thinking. Hush!” Ooh, what a delicious phrase to put in everyday conversation! Bonus, more wordy version of the 4th Doctor’s “shh-shh-shh!” A Dalek saying, “Would you care for some tea?” Warped in a good way! “Mr. Grumpy-Face” is brilliant. But on top of all these little clever lines lands the absolutely, positively best line EVAH of New Who: “No one who is Human has a right to talk to me today.” It ranks right up there with the 1st Doctor’s farewell to Susan and the 4th Doctor’s “Have I the right” speech from “Genesis of the Daleks.”

(Can I suck up any more to the verbiage this series? I am all about wit and language—my fave authors are Georgette Heyer and Harlan Ellison, after all—and the Moff and his posse are delivering in spades!)

So, yeah, there you have it, what I like so far, and why I’m disinclined to write individual reviews.

Oh, wait, you say? What about the bit I don’t like? Well, get your flamethrowers warmed up. I’ll don my asbestos suit. Braced? Yes? Good! Here we go.

The only thing I don’t like about the current series is Amy Pond.

And, really, my rant about Amy in particular and society in general is so long, and quite possibly so prudish to some people, that I’m going to save it for a whole ‘nother blog entry. Until then, keep your teeth clean!

Special thanks to Burai Dragon, whose chibi art illustrates this entry. Look for her work on DeviANT Art.

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3 thoughts on “First Impressions: Series 1/3/31/Farg/Arthur So Far

  1. Yeah, as I said on FB, I am getting to where I can’t stand Amy. At least Rose was all emo and annoying because she was hopelessly in lurvve with the Doctor, but Amy seems like a genuinely awful person — the way she treats Rory, her general dismissiveness, talking about how amazing things are, but being impatient and snide towards cool tech things (I’m thinking of her bored “So?” when the Doctor is telling her about the flight recorders in “Time of Angels”). I’m wondering if all this is an attempt at “spunkiness” that’s gone all wrong, or if Amy’s redemption — in one way or another — is going to be the central theme of the finale/season. Just five weeks til we see! 🙂

  2. Hey, Jenn, I know you! Sure, it’s been over 25 years, but time is relative. 🙂

    I agree with your assessment almost completely: Matt *is* great, the series formula is awfully familiar (though not objectionable), I have felt a bit emotionally detached this series (upside: not so manipulated!), and Rory is brilliant. I don’t mind Amy, and I like her evolving chemistry with the Doctor. But Rory is really needed to both balance Amy and connect the to the viewer in a way that Amy can’t. I’ve decided that Amy is Mary Sue and I’m now seeing why that doesn’t quite work as a companion. But I suspect Moff is smart enough to let her evolve, and I look forward to that (I couldn’t stand Donna at first and she’s right up there with SJS in my book now).

    Anyway, great half-time analysis, I look forward to your “rant”! If you have any recollection who I am, drop me a note offline and we’ll catch up!

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