Tag Archives: david tennant

It was the best of time, it was the worst of time… [DOCTOR WHO: END OF TIME SPOILERS]

So, Russell T. Davies and David Tennant have finally left the TARDIS. Their final story together, The End of Time, did a great job of summing up most of what was best and what was worst about their run. In short, they were at their best when focusing on the small scale and at their worst when focusing on the epic.

The story itself seemed to have been cobbled together by bits of string. Almost none of it held together to form a substantive whole. The Ood at the beginning were simply introduced to get the Doctor into the story. The method of the Master’s resurrection seemed to be entirely contrived to make him all Skeletor-like, entirely redundantly. The “Woman’s” (Romana? Susan? The Rani? The Doctor’s mother/wife? Answer me damnit!) interventions were ultimately irrelevant. Naysmith’s grand machinations turned out to be entirely irrelevant to the main plot, as did, eventually, the Master’s. This wasn’t a story, just a series disparate events punctuated by set pieces. Whatever else you might say about Russell T. Davies’ scripts in the past, at least they tended to have an internal logic.

The fundamental problem I have with Davies’ run is their weightlessness. Things happen with seemingly no consequence. Everything has a magic reset button that can usually be activated with a simple flick of a sonic screwdriver. If you think about it, the 21st century Earth in the Whoniverse should be quite a scary place right now. Over the last five years they have had a succession of alien invasions, including two alien UK Prime Ministers. Just six months before the events of The End of Time, the governments – including the one in the US – were actively colluding with an alien power to sacrifice the world’s children. Yet the only thing people seem to care about on Christmas Day is what baby murdering Barack Obama plans to do about the fucking recession. In the early days of Davies’ run, he seemed to appreciate that these things had consequences – remember Harriet Jones destroying that ship at the end of the Christmas invasion? But as the catastrophes got more epic, so the impact they made on the human psyche seemed to get less and less. If the world portrayed in Doctor Who followed any kind of logic at all, the current Earth population would be in real turmoil.

Davies seems quite unrepentant about this, but there’s a problem. In a world with a deus ex machina around every corner and where every major world event gets forgotten about after a couple of days, why should we care about something like the main character dying/regenerating? Tennant puts in a fine performance, but his raging against the dying of the light had been totally undermined by the fact that he had just managed to bypass an apparent no-win situation literally sixty seconds before. If he didn’t really need to shoot the Master or Rasillon, why did he have to sacrifice himself to save Wilf? How come the sonic screwdriver can do all sorts of apparently magical things yet it can’t flick a switch from a distance of 50 centimetres?

It’s a tragedy because when Davies’ writing is good, it is very good indeed, and Tennant has the acting chops to match. These final two episodes had several fine moments which, almost, made up for all the nonsense going on between them. You could see glimpses of how good the series could have been if only Davies had been a little more restrained. I even liked the little gracenotes at the end where we got to meet all the key supporting cast one last time. I even blubbed during the Rose bit. But yet again, they had been undermined by the monstrous mega crossover that was The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End.

Davies deserves enormous praise for his resurrection of Doctor Who and many of the criticisms are misplaced. Frankly, much of the old Who was just as bad. Dare I say that The End of Time was actually better than Logopolis? I think I can. It was certainly better acted and scripted. Complaints about there being too much kissing on the New Who are frankly a little disturbing (Why do the professed fans of a series which started by introducing the Doctor’s “granddaughter” want him to be sexless so badly? Why would it be preferable to make him a cosmic child abductor than a simple family man?). John Nathan Turner all but destroyed the series. There are very few Old Who scripts that wouldn’t be greatly improved by simply halving them in length. Davies by contrast gave the series a real sense of adventure and excitement. He retained all the best aspects of the series while subtly ditching much of the nonsense. I like more episodes of his run than I hate and even his own scripts – when he isn’t writing about alien invasions and Earth in peril – can be excellent. But the line between greatness and rubbish is a fine one and he seemed too happy to keep skipping between the two.

It very much looks as if Steven Moffat has hit the reset button himself for the start of his and Matt Smith’s run on the series. If that’s the last time he uses it, things can only get better.

Doctor Smith I Presume?

Matt Smith as drawn by (c) Paul J. Holden.
Matt Smith as drawn by (c) Paul J. Holden.
This can’t be a nine wishes for 2009 because he won’t actually be appearing in the role until 2010, but I am intrigued by the casting of Matt Smith for the 11th Doctor Who.

It appears to have upset a great many people and in this X-Factor age everyone seems to think they should have been consulted (imagine if they’d gone down the talent show route… Brrr!). What is most striking is that most of the objections appear to be based on what Smith is – i.e. young, white and male – rather than based on any informed view about his acting talent.

I have sympathies for those disappointed that it wasn’t Patterson Joseph as he is a great actor. And, superficially, I will admit to having a yearning to see someone in their 50s or 60s in the role (if you may recall that I was flying the flag for Simon Russell Beale). But the argument that ‘this time’ it should have been a black actor or a woman is tokenism pure and simple. They were casting an actor, not a face.

I only recall seeing Matt Smith in The Ruby and The Smoke (and its sequel) but he seemed like a good actor. The fact that he has plenty of stage experience is also a plus for me.

I do hope they put a lot of thought into how the character might develop. What I would be most disappointed to see is Smith emerging as a carbon copy of the Tennant Doctor. The whole cocky, god-like, ‘no second chances’ schtick has well and truly run its course. I’m hoping he’ll go for more of a nervy, Davison-meets-Troughton personality and be deliberately more fallible.

The other thing that I’m hoping they will avoid is having all his companions fall in love with him. Russell T. Davies’ tenure was marked by heightening the emotions in the show. Nothing wrong with that. But in so doing, he did occasionally teeter towards cliche. It had reached such a point by Tennant’s third season that they had to explicitly rule out the possibility of Catherine Tate’s character having a romantic relationship with him.

Sex is a poor substitute for emotional depth. If the last few years of Doctor Who haven’t taught the new producers that, then the direness of the first season of Torchwood and the triumph of Sarah Jane Adventures should have done by now. If there is a danger of having such a young Doctor it is that trying the same sort of thing they did with Rose and Martha would come across like a badly sung and danced copy of High School Musical.

But I’m optimistic they won’t make this mistake. I have a lot of respect for Stephen Moffatt, both for his Doctor Who scripts and his earlier work.

As for the Tenth Doctor? It will be interesting to see how he goes and to what extent the four specials will be interlinked. And where does Prof. Song’s seemingly long marriage to him fit in?

Should the tall skinny young bloke be replaced with a short fat older bloke?

Listening to Simon Russell Beale reviewing David Tennant’s performance of Hamlet on Today this morning, I am reminded of a point I wanted to make on my abortive “memo to Steven Moffat” blog post. That is, wouldn’t SRB make a fantastic Doctor? He would of course be more in the Troughton mould, but that is no bad thing in my view. I just think he would be superb – and fundamentally the kids would love him. What does the panel think?

Doctorin’ the Asylum

Interesting article here about the 1994 BBC serial Takin’ Over the Asylum starring David Tennant. Leaving aside the “before they were famous” anecdote and the interesting stuff about how mental health issues are portrayed in the media, what caught my attention was how the BBC is now cashing in on the fact that a bunch of fans put the serial up on YouTube. It is now available on Amazon, priced £12.98.

We’re always told how much piracy costs the entertainment industry. Given that in this case the reverse is clearly true, should “Catyuy” and “Midcirclenine” be expecting a cheque in the post?