Tuesday, December 15, 2015

What Is So Bad About Doctor Who Season 9.

The Good: The performances of Peter Capaldi, One or two moments of character
The Bad: Dull plots, Lackluster performances, Ridiculous character directions, Preponderance of gimmicks, Agonizing "resolution," Absurd conceits
The Basics: Doctor Who takes a dive, but Peter Capaldi gives it the old college try when the ninth season wanders into a pointless point.

When Peter Capaldi was announced as the next incarnation of The Doctor on Doctor Who, I was incredibly excited. After all, Capaldi is an incredible actor and my thought was that even if Doctor Who's executive producer and chief writer, Steven Moffat, kept churning out wishy-washy crap (i.e. the Impossible Girl conceit, Sudden random prophecies concerning The Doctor, etc.), Capaldi would find a way to make it work. After Capaldi's decidedly erratic debut season (reviewed here!), Capaldi managed to prove me both wrong and right with the ninth season (series, for the Brits) of Doctor Who.

Peter Capaldi's performances are about all that works in the ninth season of Doctor Who.

But, alas, even Capaldi's acting abilities prove unable to turn shit into gold in the current season of Doctor Who.

The ninth season of Doctor Who suffers from the exact same problem as the forthcoming Star Trek television spin-off (bear with me a moment!). The next television series in the Star Trek franchise was announced with much fanfare just a few months ago and the information about it was stark, simple, and direct: There will be a new Star Trek series premiering in 2017 and it will be made available exclusively through the CBS pay-to-stream service. What is the new Star Trek series? We don't know, but we know how we plan to make money off it. We have no ideas for what the show will be about, but we're ready to make it the flagship of our new service (Paramount absolutely failed with that approach when it launched UPN with Star Trek: Voyager). To bring it back to the ninth season of Doctor Who: when the ninth season of Doctor Who was announced, all the buzz about it was that the season would be made up of two-part episodes. We have a structure, but not a genuine story idea or character arc. This is what they described brilliantly on Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip (reviewed here!) as the continuation of the one-sheet world ("I think we'll do the Green Lantern [as a movie] - I can see the one-sheet now. Don't worry that we don't have a story . . ."). The ninth season of Doctor Who is all about gimmicks and structure, style trumps substance and the executive producer and the BBC hope the audience has become too stupid to notice.

Sadly, for Doctor Who, we have not.

The ninth season of Doctor Who is one, long, jerking back and forth and all around about Clara Oswald dying. Rewatching the season, which follows on a season where it was widely advertised that Jenna Coleman (Clara Oswald) would be leaving the show, it becomes very clear that while Coleman was enticed to remain with Doctor Who, Moffat did not know what he wanted to do with her . . . so, he constantly teased viewers with the idea that she could die at any moment. In one two-parter, she is stuck in a Dalek and there's the possibility the Doctor himself will kill her, in another The Doctor abandons Clara in an isolated base filled with what appear to be ghosts that could easily kill her. Clara is captured by The Mire, then the Zygons replace her, and then she appears to be infected with something that might well turn her into hardened eye mucus (if that whole adventure even actually happened!).

The entire season is not about exploration or character development, it is structured around the "will they or won't they" of killing Clara.

And then they don't even have the balls to make it stick.

The problem, from the very beginning, is that Steven Moffat created a character who is, technically, impossible to kill. The whole idea of the Impossible Girl is that one incarnation of Clara Oswald traveled up and down The Doctor's timeline, constantly rescuing each and every incarnation of The Doctor from being exterminated by The Great Intelligence. It is why alternate versions of Clara appear to Matt Smith's version of The Doctor before Clara Oswald does. To carry the conceit to the only logical conclusion, it does not matter if Clara Oswald is The Doctor's Companion or not; present and future versions of The Doctor will encounter versions of Clara Oswald who will save his life or alternate versions of Clara Oswald will continue, behind the scenes to save the life of The Doctor and his Companions. In short, it doesn't matter if the Clara Oswald from "The Bells Of Saint John" and beyond lives or dies; we've already seen two others die and she keeps popping up, thanks to the events of "The Name Of The Doctor."

So, by the time Clara Oswald's arc is resolved in the ninth season of Doctor Who (and it's anything but resolved), it's virtually impossible to care.

And, if it seems odd to review the ninth season of Doctor Who with so much focus on Clara, such is one of the fundamental issues with the season. The ninth season of Doctor Who is mired in The Doctor being completely overshadowed. Missy returns to steal the spotlight, Maisie Williams plays a character and Game Of Thrones fans cream themselves watching the show each of the four times she pops up, Clara is menaced, A gimmick is thrown in, and serious fans roll their eyes because the consequences of "Listen" (reviewed here!) become more and more impossible to generate [and yes, I read the comments people send in. In "Listen" Orson Pink references "someone in the family" as a time traveler, but Danny Pink never time traveled, Clara was not, apparently, pregnant with his child, and Danny Pink was an orphan without any in-episode siblings, so "Listen" is one dangling loose end or just another by-product of shitty writing and poor overall narrative construction!]. And the longer the season goes on, the more viewers wonder "what the hell ever happened to The Doctor wanting to find exactly where Gallifrey ended up after the events of 'The Day Of The Doctor'?" And when that question is answered, it is just one of the many anticlimaxes in a season that is devoid of cleverness, substantive character development, and constructive continuity.

The ninth season of Doctor Who shows just how bad the show can be when it is built around a marketing gimmick; may the executive producers of the forthcoming Star Trek spin-off take heed!

For more information on the content of this season, please check out my reviews of the episodes contained in it at:
"The Magician's Apprentice"
"The Witch's Familiar"
"Under The Lake"
"Before The Flood"
"The Girl Who Died"
"The Woman Who Lived"
"The Zygon Invasion"
"The Zygon Inversion"
"Sleep No More"
"Face The Raven"
"Heaven Sent"
"Hell Bent"
"The Husbands Of River Song"


For other Doctor Who episode and movie reviews, please visit my Doctor Who Review Index Page!

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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