Friday, April 16, 2010

Doctor Who: A New Era begins (hopefully)

In less than 24 hours, Doctor Who returns to America with the 5th season (or more accurately, Season 31), with a whole new cast and a new man in the producer's chair.

Russell T. Davies (or as I will refer to him, RTD) did an *okay* job helming the series as producer these past 5 years. However, I wish he could have avoided most of the writing duties and instead penned one or two stories and co-penning one or two others, allowing more seasoned science fiction and fantasy writers to take those duties.

What I want to see with this new series is more two-part stories that allow for proper build-up and additional time devoted to building a stronger plot. This should also help reduce costs for a given episode, as sets, locations scouting, design of props, and cast would be spread across multiple episodes.

The stark difference between the way the old series and the new series have developed their stories is that the story is based almost solely on the Doctor. He's in almost every single scene, with the occasional cold-opening where he doesn't appear. In fact, Blink wouldn't be too out of the ordinary for some of the classic series stories, where the Doctor sometimes didn't appear until almost the 10 minute mark, and occasionally only had brief appearances in a given episode while he's working on this-or-that (allowing for the companion or a minor guest character to be the focus for a short time).

Often times we aren't actually given a reason to like or even *care* about a given guest character, except through melodramatic music and the doctor getting a teary eye every once in a while. I can only imagine if episodes like 42 had had a bit more buildup for the characters, instead of just having them basically be the "stock" characters of the week. Obviously the episode wouldn't be called 42, but something like 84, or something along those lines.

At the very least with additional time, they could reduce the number of scenes where characters have to run to obnoxiously loud Murry Gold music.

Oh and the graphics... they were not phenomenal. Most of the effects were not a problem, but they were far too ambitious and often they end up being, well cheap looking.

They could probably afford to do more "off world" stories if they didn't waste the budget on dodgy graphics like from The Lazarus Experiment or Fear Her, or the unnecessary CGI wasp from "The Unicorn and the Wasp" and the still terrible looking Adipose from "Partners in Crime" and "The End of Time: Part Two."

RTD's biggest complaint was that all the alien planets looked like quarries. I'd take a quarry or two over some contemporary Earth setting which includes a companion with another bitchy mother and idiot siblings. Heck, they used quarries in Utopia and Waters of Mars (at least it appeared so in the latter) and I don't recall a single complaint from people watching those at the time that the were "cheap" by using a rock quarry.

RTD just never really *got* Science fiction. Let's just take a quick look at RTD's final-final story, "The End of Time:"

Personally I thought the psychotic Eric Roberts Master from the FOX television movie was far more believable than the "cartoonish" Harold Saxon version of the master played by John Simm. The Harold Saxon Master may have been "more evil" but he just wasn't a believable character. I couldn't take any of the things he did seriously because of how hammy the performance was written and acted. The "Blond" Master who appeared in the latest story was pretty terrible, but was probably the closest we'll get to a Delgado or Ainley in part two of that story. The character never grew to his full potential and was probably only saved by Simm's acting.

After seeing both parts of "The End of Time," the entire subplot of the Time Lords, the race the Doctor comes from, returning was entirely unnecessary. The story could have been entirely a struggle of the Doctor trying to rescue the Human race from being turned into an abomination. But nope, let's just throw in multiple threads to make it more "epic." If anything the addition of the Time Lords was done to tie the hands of future producers and writers from bringing them back by vilifying them to such a degree that fans of the new series (unfamiliar with the original series) would be in an uproar should anyone attempt to bring them back.

For those who watched, can anyone explain how the Ood's development was affected by the Master or the Timelords? Why did he introduce Donna to the story (and especially the cliffhanger) where she was immune to the Master's huge scheme, only to then ignore her until after the entire crisis was already resolved? How did the white star diamond escape the Time Lock? Wibbly-wobby time-locky-woky. Make stuff up that sounds good and not mention it again. The famous Russell T. Deus Ex Machina.

Most of his stories had huge science fiction buildups and always had disappointing resolutions compared to what they *could* have had. The one exception was Midnight, which was RTD's finest writing of the entire series. Had he written more solid stories like Midnight, people wouldn't be bashing him the way he was bashed since the show returned in 2005. His stories were full of distracting camp, "easy buttons" and plot threads that were dropped almost as fast as they were introduced. Personally I hope the incoming production crew sticks two large fingers up at RTD and retcons nearly all RTD's established "history" that was introduced by him in the series. As someone else put it, "Rot in Hell, Russell T. Douchebag."

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