Saturday, January 2, 2010

Out With the Old, In With the New Nu-Who

I was disappointed and skeptical when Eccleston left Doctor Who after only one series.  Tennant then came in and owned the role in a way I don't think anyone saw coming.  The change, in retrospect, was good.  I'm having rather the opposite feelings about Russel Davies moving on and Moffat coming in.  Davies has done some great work in bringing the show back and making it successful beyond what I would've dared hope, even though it was in genre dungeon on SyFy Friday night before falling further into TV obscurity on BBCA here in the States.  It's getting written about by my favorite TV critics (Sepinwall and Ryan) and has some degree of recognition beyond the cultists (amongst whom I include myself) -- and this time it's not for cheesy fx and ridiculous costumes.  

Mr. Davies has my undying gratitude for the work he's done in building the foundation for what I trust will be another long run for the show.  Under his watch we've had some of my favorite episodes ever: Blink, Tooth & Claw, School Reunion, Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead, Human Nature/The Family of Blood.  But he's also given us some pedestrian episodes, and some downright lunacy.  I loved the way he brought the Master back, that was brilliant. But, I wouldn't dare try to say from memory what exactly the Master's plot was or exactly WTF was up with the wizened old Doctor and how the timeline was reset in that whole Utopia/Sound of Drums/The Last of the Timelords 3-parter.  The Series 4 finale wasn't any more comprehensible.  Now, writing this between parts 1 & 2 of The End of Time, I'm disappointed with the mess he's making of Tennant's swan song.  On the plus side, he's giving Moffat and the new crew nowhere to go but up with the mess of a story he's got going on here.  The flaw I see with Davies's stories is that he's been trying to find the 12, 13, & 14 settings on the Spinal Tap brand amplifier -- sacrificing logic and coherence for bombast. It's not just the Earth is in danger, or the galaxy, it's all of time and space and reality and alternate realities, all the time.  It's just too big and too ridiculous to care about, which is a shame because he's gotten great performances from his Doctors and companions that've been overwhelmed by the sheer silliness of the villain's schemes.  

Moffat's episodes have been consistently strong.  Most I've loved; none I've even disliked. I think Moffat may be the better storyteller, or at least has better sense of how to scale a story so, no matter the threat, the viewer has emotional buy in.  I'm intrigued to see that the River Song character is coming back and am curious what the result of having the Timelords and Gallifrey back will be.  The Doctor can be a little less brooding and troubled now that he's no longer the last, I think Tennant's wrung all the pathos out of that state of affairs.  

So, we'll see how it goes tonight when Tennant's run wraps up.  Thanks, Mr. Davies, for giving us back Dr. Who.  Please just don't exterminate it on your way out.  Thanks, Mr. Tennant, for giving us Doctor a new generation of fans (and much of the old generation, too)  can call their favorite.  Messrs. Moffat & Smith, we're waiting with baited breath to see what you're going to deliver.  
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