Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Death of Doctor Who Episode One

Before it all went to Hell...
In a little while, I will be watching Asylum of the Daleks, the first episode in Series/Season Seven of Doctor Who, or should I say, the revived or NuWho as opposed to the Classic Series which ran from 1963 to 1989 with a 1996 television movie that is part of the canon. 

I am a Whovian, have been for a long time.  In fact, to misquote Barbara Mandrell, I was Whovian before Whovian was cool.  I endured the taunts of the Trekkies who dismissed my show as cheaply-made and with rubber monsters.  Now, however, I find that I was on the vanguard, keeping the light burning before Doctor Who was revived in 2005.  Doctor Who today is all the rage, especially among Americans, who find something great in the adventures of the Gallifreyan Time Lord and his Companions/Assitants (being old-school, I will always refer to the characters who travel with The Doctor as Companions and see no reason to change).

However, as time has gone by I find that Doctor Who is no longer the show I once loved and admired.  In fact, it has become a shadow of itself.  Granted, not all of the original show's stories were good (some, like The Web Planet or Timelash, are simply awful) and some of the NuWho stories are brilliant (The Unquiet Dead, Dalek).  I'm not about to throw the baby out with the bathwater. 

However, the last season had some truly appalling episodes and some ghastly decisions that in terms of story just don't make any sense.  In terms of programming, there comes a time when any show either runs the danger of 'jumping the shark' (when a series so runs out of steam creatively that it goes into embarassing stunts to try to stay fresh) or has actually encountered this phenomena. 

Doctor Who has reached such a point, and now I will make my case as to why I have grown so disillusioned with Doctor Who.

5.)  Ignorance of History  

The entire arc of Series/Season Six revolved around...well, we'll get back to one thing that it revolved around that is something else that is killing Doctor Who, but for now let me focus on a big, fat part of Who's problems (and no, that isn't a James Corden joke).  Part of the larger story was about the Doctor facing his own upcoming 'death'.  As part of that, he does a 'farewell tour', visiting people from his past.  As part of said 'farewell tour', he goes to roly-poly Craig Owens, a character we saw in The Lodger and who now makes a return appearance in Closing Time.

I thought The Lodger was a pretty bad episode, but Closing Time was one of if not the worst of the entire run of Doctor Who (classic and NuWho combined).  Still, what troubles me most about NuWho is that for a show that is coming up on its 50th Anniversary, there is a stubborn refusal to acknowledge that anything came before Rose.   THIS, I think (as well as a special fondness for Corden) was the reason roly-poly Craig was brought back for another appearance in a story that was even worse than the first.

Allow me some thoughts.  Let's say that all this is real and this character, the Doctor, really is making some sort of farewell tour to visit all his old companions and friends before dying.  Here is a list of people he could have picked: Ian Chesterton or Jamie McCrimmon or Jo Grant or Tegan Jovanka or Peri Brown or Ace or the piece de resistance, Susan Foreman. 

These people who were not only involved with Doctor Who's original run but are still extremely popular with classic Who fans (some of them are ranked among the Greatest Companions ever) I imagine would welcome having a chance to make a guest appearance on Doctor Who.  Imagine the possibilities: this impossibly young-looking man reuniting one last time with his very first Companion Ian or his granddaughter Susan, a touching nod to the original series from the New Series. 
What Magnificent Stories Those Would Make!

Alas, it won't happen, because NuWhovians would say, "Who are THESE old people?"  "The Doctor had a GRANDDAUGHTER?" "I thought Amy was the Doctor's first Scottish Companion." The Doctor had AUSTRALIAN and AMERICAN Companions?"  "You mean apart from Sarah Jane, the Doctor had Companions before Rose Tyler?"

I am convinced of this.  No show ignores its own history and insists on referring to only things that came after the revival, not before.  THIS is why roly-poly Craig Owens was selected rather than ANY of the above.  Now granted, Sarah Jane did have Jo Grant as a guest star on her spin-off The Sarah Jane Adventures, but apart from her has the NuWho ever touched on the Doctor's long history, or is it thoroughly obsessed with its own six-year span?

We see this in all the BBC Specials promoting Doctor Who.  In The Women of Doctor Who, we had an endless parade of people talk about how great all the broads on the show were.  There was talk of Amy and Rose or Martha and even River Song.  The Nerdist Himself, Chris Hardwick, someone who I imagine knows as much about Doctor Who than any American sans moi, and his crew waxed poetic over these women (like Donna).  However, with the exception of Sarah Jane Smith, there was no mention of any other female Companions pre-2005.  Sarah Jane only got mentioned because she was on the NuWho and thus, is familiar to the NuWhovians. 

As a result, there's no room for Ace or Romana I or II simply because they are not as familiar to NuWhovians as they are to those of us who know both Classic and Revived.

There just is something totally screwed up when you can give a profile to Lady Cassandra from The End of the World and New Earth but can't be bothered to mention someone like Leela of the Sevateem.   As far as NuWho is concerned, none of that ever happened.

Same goes for The Monsters of Doctor Who.  You had the Daleks and Cybermen and Sontarans and Silurians, but you also lavished attention on The Silence and the Weeping Angels.  Apart from the Weeping Angels I don't think many new monsters will be among the greatest.   So there are no Sea Devils, no Black Guardian, no Meddling Monk, no Rani. 

This might explain why NuWho fans think River Song is so brilliant, why roly-poly Craig Owens is so brilliant, why they are the Ponds rather than the Williamses.

Either that, or they are stupid.

In short, despite the wealth of history Doctor Who has, there is a concerted effort to downplay or ignore all that has happened before.  Why this is I don't know.  There is among NuWhovians this vague idea of there being something before, but I suspect most of them don't know or don't care.

Now that leads us to The Death of Doctor Who Episode Two.   

SERIOUSLY?  You prefer River Song over HER?


  1. agreed; I was shocked to see that Caroline John's passing didn't get a mention in the openening episode after Liz Sladen had 'The Impossible Astronaut' dedicated to her memory.

    1. Sladen got a dedication because she was known to NuWhovians from her appearances on the revived Doctor Who.

      Caroline John wasn't on the NuWho, so in the new production team's mind, Whovians wouldn't know or care.

      BTW, don't expect any tribute to Mary Tamm (Romana I) either. As far as NuWhovians are concerned, she never existed...maybe that Crack in Time erased her as well.

  2. I can understand not bringing back Classic companions, once you'd done it a couple of times it would become overdone very quickly.
    As for monsters, every new series have started including a dalek episode and a weeping angel episode and every other series has the cybermen. Initially these were all very effective enemies, but they lose their fear factor the more you show them. If you cant come up with new monsters, Theres good news: Dr who has a wealth of history, tap into it!


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