Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Death of Doctor Who Episode Four

Before it all went to Hell...
Now we get closer to the source of the issue, the thing that is destroying a once-great program.  The refusal to acknowledge Doctor Who's epic history is a culprit, NuWhovians willing to play along and not ask questions are party to it, and the focus on secondary characters is yet one more nail in the coffin of a show that is getting closer to irrelevance. 

Now we turn our sad and tired eyes to the Number Two Thing Killing Doctor Who...

2.) Matt Smith as The Doctor

Alas, yes.  One Matthew Robert Smith.  Matt Smith is killing Doctor Who.  Now, you might think, this guy's really gone off the beam.  Why, Matt Smith is one of the BEST things about Doctor Who.  He's one of the most popular Doctors ever according to Entertainment Weekly (only his predecessor David Tennant and Fourth Doctor Tom Baker bested him).
My answer to that is that Matt Smith is popular among NuWhovians the same way Jar Jar Binks is popular with those who watched the second Star Wars trilogy before watching the Original Star Wars trilogy.  The older fans hate Jar Jar but the younger ones love him.  Similarly, the fans who know Doctor Who only from Ninth Doctor Christopher Eccleston onwards would love him, but I suspect those who have seen or remember the Doctors from 1963 through 1989 (and 1996) might take issue with how Smith is taking on the character.
I at first was a staunch defender of Smith, who at 27 was considered too young to play the part.  I was first impressed with him in Series/Season Five and thought he was keeping a strong balance between being serious and being funny.
Now I think I was suffering from a Who version of Stockholm Syndrome. 
As I watched Series/Season Six, and started seeing how the Doctor was getting lost in all the River Song mayhem, I started noticing that "the madman in the blue box" was becoming quite insane.  I remember with disgust his goofy wedding dance at the wedding of Amy and Rory Pond (might as well join the "Pond Brigade"), but hoping that perhaps this was just excessive exuberance.
Alas no, things kept getting worse.  Smith has become more frantic and frenetic in his interpretation of the Doctor, more manic, more crazy. 
I just rolled my eyes when I saw him emerge from the TARDIS in River's Secret Part 2 (Let's Kill Hitler), in that tux and top hat, asking, "Doctor?  Doctor Who?"  OH GOD WAS THAT AWFUL.  Of course, that really was just the tip of the iceberg.  Everything about his manic interpretation just smacked of farce.  One never got the sense that this man could marshal the forces of good against the Silence or why Amy and Rory or anyone really would follow him.
In fact, from what I see Matt Smith has decided to make his Doctor into a goofball, someone not to take seriously.  This isn't like Tom Baker offering jelly babies to villains.  This is someone who doesn't look heroic because he doesn't act heroic.  He acts like this is all done for laughs.
Take both times he was with -poly Craig Owens (The Lodger and Closing Time).  In each I can only imagine that the episodes were done as a joke, not tying into much of anything.  Certainly in the case of Closing Time,  you had bits that might have been funny in the 80s: the Doctor trying to convince Craig that he was 'in love' with him, the whole "we're not gay but everyone thinks we are" bits, the "I blew them up with love" method of solving the problem with the I hated it all. 
I don't think that could have been endured well, but Smith's performance overall is a major part of the problem.  His take on The Doctor isn't as a man of action  or as someone who will come to a great/intelligent way out of the predicament.  Instead, Smith plays the Doctor now as a man unbalanced, someone who stumbles and bumbles his way into and out of predicaments.
So, in Series/Season Six, he knows he's going to die.  He opts for a farewell tour (and a visit to roly-poly Craig Owens), but he really doesn't solve his predicament.  Instead, he finds a convenient way out (one that I had predicted easily, so easily I thought it would HAVE to be another way because the way out was so obvious). 
I am beginning to despair about how Smith's take on the Doctor as a man more of mockery than a man of intelligence is affecting the show.  His habit of using his hands in a nervous manner, his rapid-fire delivery that seems more in place in a screwball comedy than a science-fiction series are all dooming Doctor Who
As much as I keep saying it, no one appears to listen: you can't take a hero seriously if HE doesn't take either himself or the situations seriously.  He behaves as though he doesn't understand what he's doing, as if he's completely divorced from reality.  Nothing captures this better than the mini-sodes Pond Life (again, since when was Rory's last name Pond?).
If I judge these little clips, the Doctor apparently doesn't realize one shouldn't break into a couple's bedroom in the middle of the night, has never seen a naked woman (frankly, if I had to see River Song nude, I might want to block that out too, but I digress) and dances around as he lays down 'backing vocals' on a rap song.  These are not the actions of a rational person.  I can't imagine any other Doctor behaving this odd (or Ood if you will).  These are all the actions of someone not grounded in reality, someone who poses a danger to himself if not to others. 
As much as Smith's 'gee I'm a kid mentally' routine is starting to wear thin, he really isn't all at fault.  He is an actor, and as such performs the parts as they are written and directed. 
How lovely that this should lead me to...
You'd trust the Universe to THIS kid?

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