The Great Doctor Who Debate
June 29, 2015 at 4:14 am #48103
We just dropped our long-awaited Doctor Who episode.
It’s a heated debate between those of us who love the show (@nina, @bryan, @tony) and those that have some strong opinions to the contrary (@doug, @cap, @briggs). There’s plenty more to be said, so here’s a thread to say it in!June 29, 2015 at 7:47 pm #48110
I have a few things to say.
1. I have been harassed by dr who fans just for saying I don’t like and they called me a not real science-fiction fan and I am hesitant to say it just few bad apples cuz it’s happened over a dozen times in real life and on line of people multiple ages and genders.
2. I don’t care for it
3. A lot of the dr who fans that I have encountered are the most stuck fan base I have come across.
4.i have seen five or six episodes.
5. He calls him self a dr where did get his degree and or certification?
Not joking it just bugs me when characters calls them selves dr when they are not.June 30, 2015 at 5:12 pm #48121
@cheifofstuff Right there with ya, man. Team Doctor Detractors is on your side.
What kinda smug asshole tells you to call him Doctor and does nothing to qualify it? Indiana Jones is barrel of laughs AND a Phd., but you don’t see him exorcising to pompousness of being called Doctor all the time.June 30, 2015 at 6:06 pm #48123
HEY! YOU CALL HIM DOCTOR JONES!
If you want to reach my in-character profile as "General Manager" of the Ghostbusters, tag me using: @sevenJune 30, 2015 at 6:30 pm #48124
Well, hey. Doctor Jones to disrespectful airheads like Willie… Indiana to everyone else. Also, only Short Round was enforcing it so…June 30, 2015 at 10:34 pm #48127
In Indy’s defense, Willie showed him zero respect from the start. She was ready to let him die in the nightclub just so she could get her hands on a diamond. She stuffed the antidote down her dress, then refused to give it to him. Even after he saved her life, she tried to pretend that she didn’t have it. Then when Indy stuck his hand down her dress to get the vial so he could… y’know… NOT DIE and save their lives, she tried to play it off like he was taking advantage of her. THEN she dropped his gun out the window of the car while they were in the middle of the shootout. So yeah, she’s got a lot to make up for. But like Indy said: It’s a long way to New Delhi.
If you want to reach my in-character profile as "General Manager" of the Ghostbusters, tag me using: @sevenJuly 2, 2015 at 7:13 am #48132
1. your argument is trash
2. Despite no one ever having heard of The Doctor, he is pretty well known, and likely has several honorary PhD’s that would qualify him to his title.
3. The name Doctor comes more as a description for his general purpose rather than a status of his contributions to science or medicine. In the episode where the Master is reintroduced, he rediscovers his name again and the reason behind his name is clarified. Master is to rule and control things. Doctor is who you call to take care of the sick. Doctor is a better term compared to the repairman, because even a surgeon will cut off your arm if it is for the better good of your health. Using this moniker, coupled with the Tardis’s babble fish function, lets him deceive others into trusting him for a few moments.
4. I just found this argument for the title. The Doctor came before your puny human comprehension of a doctor, and his presence supersedes your notion of what a doctor is or isn’t. Therefore, your notion that a doctor must have an earned degree or acknowledged expertise is really just a shadow of how humans try to create people with a similar purpose as the real Doctor.
5. Doctor Jones knows he doesn’t compare to the real Doctor. Jones Sr. likely had a run in at one point with the Doctor and that is why he goes on archaeology quests.July 5, 2015 at 7:01 pm #48188
I have seen some of the shows, and what i have seen was entertaining. but it is something i dont want to get into. i look at Dr Who like i look at Voyager, i have seen good episodes but i dont want to watch the whole thing.
But you have to love how strong both sides debate this show. and really, the big debate “why watch Who?”
Does anyone have any other long running show that holds such strong opinionsJuly 16, 2015 at 3:24 pm #48502
Before I start watching Series 4 (Tennant’s last), my plan is to watch all of Firefly first, since I still have never seen it. Hopefully It’ll give me more stuff to compare. I’ll report my findings after I’ve collected enough data.
If you want to reach my in-character profile as "General Manager" of the Ghostbusters, tag me using: @sevenJuly 22, 2015 at 12:06 pm #48596
Okay, before I actually say anything about the episode or the show, I have to say: getting upset at the use of the term “Doctor” without showing credentials is being pedantic for pedantic’s sake. Fiction has always and will always convey themes through metaphor, and expects you, the audience, to be smart enough to understand when something is to be taken literally and when it’s being used to communicate an idea: The Doctor is someone who makes people better.
Now maybe it’s just because I’ve been catching up on NSN podcasts from the past few months and listened to the PIEcast episode where Schaffer watched the show for the first time and am still a bit annoyed at how poorly he was introduced to it, but for how much this episode was being hyped up to me (specifically by you, Cap, which came across as hilariously ironic, as you seem the most adamant that Doctor Who doesn’t respect its audience enough to let them come to a thought or emotion without it being shoved in their face), it came across as incredibly average and meandering, getting caught up a lot in the minutia of specific aspects of Doctor Who and spending barely any time actually talking about the show as a whole. In general, it’s just seemed like, twice in a row, what’s really great about the show was missed in favour of trying to immediately get into the specifics.
I also find the notion of “the second the show runs up against something you’re even a little iffy on, ditch it completely” to be incredibly unfair, and comes off as far less of an opinion of “I don’t care for it” and more one of “I think it’s not worth your time, yet will put up with you enjoying it”; I promise you that almost none of the revered pieces of nerd culture would stand up to that test.
I like Eccleston and Tennant’s runs, and there are several episodes of Matt Smith’s that I enjoy (he’s a fine actor). I’ve enjoyed Russell Davies’ seasons of the show and think the arcs he set up were, while not flawless, certainly tied things together in a way fit enough that I never found myself immediately questioning seven things at once.
I continued watching the show through Matt Smith’s run, largely out of habit, but let’s be clear on something. Steven Moffat is a terrible writer who is good at exactly one thing: monster of the week episodes. He cannot construct a coherent, season-long narrative, he cannot handle recurring villains even when he is the one who wrote them, he cannot write the Doctor as a likeable character, he cannot write women who would pass the Bechdel Test, he can’t write an ending, much less a sad one; all he can do is take a concept or visual and spin a convincing enough scary story out of it. One story. And even then, in a single episode (Midnight), Davies managed to make a scarier monster than all of Moffat’s combined efforts, by making something that was impossible to explain, impossible to properly defeat, and never came back.
Steven Moffat is universally praised for four things in the world of Doctor Who: Captain Jack Harkness, the Angels, River Song, and complex time travel plots. All four of those fall apart when examined.
Jack Harkness? Wasn’t Moffat’s creation. All he came up with was the idea of an interstellar conman. The part that was immediately dropped after his first episode, and was only mentioned for about two minutes in that episode anyway.
The Angels and River Song? Good the first time they appeared and then retroactively ruined by his insistence on bringing them back; and if you try to tell me the angels are still scary or a good monster after he tells us that in the city that never sleeps nobody would be looking at the Statue of Liberty of all things for long enough that it can waltz over to a sleepy motel, I’ll personally come to your house, put that episode on and spend the entire time laughing.
Complex time travel plots? Look, the idea of a grandfather paradox works once, maybe twice. Using time travel and paradoxes as a means to wrap up every single plot is laziness, the same way that reducing every single explanation to Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey™ or some variation on kindergartener talk is avoiding the fact that you don’t understand the internal logic of the universe enough to actually talk confidently about it; and Moffat most definitely doesn’t understand it.
You say that the show as a whole has no respect for its audience, but I never felt as disrespected as a viewer as when Moffat took over, started throwing very obvious plot elements in my face, and then revealed that they were exactly what I thought it wasn’t because it couldn’t possibly have been so asinine as to be that pathetically, predictably simple. Never felt so disrespected as someone who isn’t straight as when Moffat decided that the role of every queer person in the show was to be a punchline, and that queer people themselves wouldn’t mind because they’d be so busy having copious amounts of sex to actually watch the show. Never did the Davies era of Doctor Who ever make me feel like I was too stupid to handle a complex plot, and that I was a joke of a person.
Besides. Even if you think that the show as a whole doesn’t treat its audience like they’re smart enough to not have things spelled out for them, that’s your own problem, not the show’s. It’s a family show. It’s a show that impressionable kids are supposed to watch and learn from (or, at least, would have, before it started teaching them things like how being sexually aggressive or putting people down is A-OK), and if that means being overt, so be it. That overtness gave us an episode about Vincent Van Gogh that displays depression better than most pieces of media I’ve seen could ever dream of, while still being palatable to children.
Speaking of which, let’s go onto what episodes are good to start people on the series, because that’s two episodes now that I’ve listened to people really not approach selling others on the show in a good way. The PIEcast chose to do The Christmas Invasion, which is a terrible starting point, because the Doctor sleeps for about 75% of it. Blink is a terrible starting point as well, because while it’s a good episode, it’s not a good Doctor Who episode. It doesn’t represent what the rest of the show is going to be at all. And telling someone “watch all of a certain Doctor’s run or start from the beginning, it’s such a great show and you’ll see that it’s exactly as great as you’re being told” doesn’t work either, because it sets up horrible expectations.
If you want a good starting point, the history episodes are some of the better, and oft overlooked, places to go:
The Shakespeare Code
The Fires of Pompeii
The Unicorn and The Wasp
Vincent and The Doctor
They take care of the setting easily, giving you a place, period and supporting characters that you are likely already somewhat familiar with, then using that as the jumping off point, turning the characters slightly on their heads, forcing them to confront alien menaces, and humanising them in a way that just history books can’t; famous figures from our point of view who couldn’t have possibly known that they would last into the next year, let alone for all time, and either used that fear to their advantage, or just ignored it, and pressed on.
Even beyond famous historical figures, Father’s Day is one of the best unsung episodes of New Who, taking what is still a very relatable subject to many people (parents and the desire to keep them out of harm’s way) and creating a desperate fight against the crushing reality of the situation.
For non-history episodes, I’d go with:
All of the listed episodes, history and non-history, are good, standalone introductions to the world of Doctor Who. Some of them aren’t perfect, but they have interesting concepts where the protagonists are fighting easily understandable dangers. They give you a small window into the Doctor and his current companion, show his compassion in spite of his pain, his powerlessness in spite of his knowledge and abilities, and let you understand why he needs a human travelling with him.
I’d have also recommended The Doctor’s Wife, a great episode written by Neil Gaiman, but it only really works after you’ve watched a couple of episodes and come to understand the TARDIS and associate that blue box as a safe place that nothing can get in without permission.
Lastly, if you really must watch a Doctor-lite episode, go with Love & Monsters. Unlike Blink, it still actually hits on all the proper themes of a Doctor Who episode while having very little Doctor in it. Although it loses a little if you haven’t seen a couple of specific episodes of the previous episodes of seasons 1 and 2, it still stands alone very well.
I stopped watching after Matt Smith’s run ended because of how masturbatory Moffat had gotten in his writing by that point, especially in the 50th anniversary episode, and that the regeneration felt like a good place to finally put my interest in the series to bed, and I actually have mostly positive feelings on the show as I know it now. Moffat single-handedly killed my continued interest and love of the show to see what happens next, but I still feel like the Eccleston and Tennant eras are great combinations of sci-fi and fantasy for young adults in the same way that the Discworld is, although perhaps in a slightly more relatable-as-a-human-of-the-planet-Earth way than those novels are.
Of course it’s not perfect, but I hardly feel that all of the criticisms levelled at it in this episode are wholly valid. A decent number of them feel like the hosts in question are upset with the show for not being something that it never made any claim to be, like not liking a documentary for not being funny enough. I think Nina was on the mark about that being a more American attitude, because as I listened to some of the criticisms, I couldn’t find myself understanding how that conclusion was reached in the first place.
I think it’s well worth watching, because I think that even just across the revived series, there’s something for everyone. I don’t think that you should just stop watching if something doesn’t sit right with you unless you find you can articulate exactly what it is and it turns out to be something fundamental about the show. Unless that fundamental thing is the actor playing the Doctor or a companion, because even those change eventually, as mentioned.
It’s a fine series, and modern sci-fi/fantasy and pop culture owes a lot to its existence and longevity. Even as a purely academic study, it’s worth watching some of the old serials and new adventures, the same way it’s worth watching most classic films.
~Roy42July 22, 2015 at 12:56 pm #48597
This episode may have felt a little meandering or “middle of the road” to those already familiar with Doctor Who. But for those who have never watched it, I hope we have shed a little more light on an extremely popular yet divisive show.
The problem is that Doctor Who can’t be encapsulated. Every time I’ve attempted a discussion with a fan of the show, it quickly breaks down into specifics and minutia. I can see how it’s unavoidable, though. I believe this is because Doctor Who has only one continuity spanning over 35 years of television, movies, books, and radio. Ultimately, it collapses under its own weight.
One line of questioning that I wish we had spent more time on was: “Are all Doctor Who fans destined to be disappointed?” I’d argue yes. This is the same reason I quit watching “Lost” after the first season. An echo chamber of superfans, lack of respect for the audience, and a “laissez-faire” writing policy are just too much hassle for me to invest my time into any show.July 22, 2015 at 8:52 pm #48604
I get how that makes the whole thing feel so impenetrable, but as someone who never watched any of the old series before getting into it, the new episodes never felt like they suffered from that problem. The talk about the tone of the show being inconsistent in the new series felt like it fit with the very clear underlying narrative of the Doctor always running away from what he has done. He does his very best to ignore the pressing issues and just have a fun adventure, right up until he can’t do that anymore.
Certainly that’s a byproduct of the non-arc episodes being written by different writers than the showrunners, but the fact that an emotional event that happened in the previous episode isn’t mentioned by the Doctor or his supporting cast in the next episode doesn’t mean it didn’t happen in a narrative sense. Who in this world actually wears on their sleeves their emotional response to every single thing that’s ever happened in their life and lets that get in the way of having fun? A very, very, very, very, very small number of people.
Destined to be disappointed? I wouldn’t have said so. Not back in 2008 or 2009, in the height of Tennant’s run. Obviously there would be sadness when the Doctor reached his thirteenth regeneration, and any attempt to actually end the show would be horrible, but then no one actually expects the show to end, they expect the writer to pull a really pathetic plot device out of thin air to give him more regenerations (even when it wasn’t necessary, but why should Moffat understand the show he’s writing?).
But no, I didn’t think I was destined to be disappointed with the show. Maybe that’s because I was in my stupid teens in the first five years of the new show’s run, but it never for one second crossed my mind that I might have zero interest in watching a new episode one day. Pinning that on Doctor Who as a whole and a fifty-but-actually-ten year continuity is unfair. That’s Moffat’s horrible treatment of the characters and insults to my intelligence that drove me away.
I don’t think the minutia is unavoidable, even if it makes it easier to talk about things from a personal, “this is the way my Doctor acted” standpoint. Anyone who actually wants to have that conversation should, as a starting point, be capable of detaching themselves from the old series and acknowledging what the series, old and new, is about in general (and Nina’s description fit the bill perfectly), then move onto what the revived series is about (a man, fresh from actively choosing to kill two entire races, one of which was his own, and still trying to remember what it’s like to not be at war, attempts to have fun adventures again).
Lastly, Cap, the jab at the show for being masturbatory, while having a podcast dedicated to talking about and being excited for Star Wars, the new movies for which are being created by fans of the original Star Wars films, is really petty, come on.
~Roy42July 22, 2015 at 9:02 pm #48605
No, wait, not done.
Briggs, did you hear yourself at the end when you cited Game of Thrones as an example of something where cohesive plotlines have resolutions and characters have endings where they get to where they want to go? Did you actually listen to that comparison as you said it?
~Roy42July 23, 2015 at 12:01 pm #48611
Certainly that’s a byproduct of the non-arc episodes being written by different writers than the showrunners,
I agree. Looking back on all the episodes I’ve seen so far, my favorites were written by Russell T Davies. But that’s kind of my complaint with Doctor Who. The balance between “arc” and “non-arc” episodes feels so out of whack with me that I’m not sure what kind of show I’m watching. Is this a serialized character focused drama like Breaking Bad? Or an episodic space adventure like the original Star Trek? The only “focus” the show seems to have is trying to have fun. Except when it wants to be taken seriously. We can blame the guest writers all we want, but at the end of the day it looks like the “goofy one-offs” that get a free pass from fans are being encouraged instead of discouraged.
I didn’t much care for Grindhouse or Machete. Those movies set out with a goal to be bad. And they succeeded. They’re bad. But people love them. “It’s TRYING to be bad! Don’t you get it?” Yeah. I get it. Doesn’t change the fact the movie IS bad.
I get the feeling that Doctor Who is trying to be irreverent or “different.” And in doing so, it gives itself a free pass to do pretty much anything. It’s embracing the scatterbrained storytelling, and chalking it up to “Well, that’s just Doctor Who for ya! Never know what you’re gonna get!”
Who in this world actually wears on their sleeves their emotional response to every single thing that’s ever happened in their life and lets that get in the way of having fun?
The Doctor after losing Rose. He’s witnessed so much horror in his 900+ years of traveling through time and space. Homicide. Several instances of Genocide, including his own race (except not really), but he has to leave one companion behind (not the first time he’s done so) and he won’t shut up about it. He’s “moved on” from WAY worse things in between commercial breaks. But this one companion this one time? I just want consistency.
no one actually expects the show to end, they expect the writer to pull a really pathetic plot device out of thin air to give him more regenerations […] Pinning that on Doctor Who as a whole and a fifty-but-actually-ten year continuity is unfair. That’s Moffat’s horrible treatment of the characters and insults to my intelligence that drove me away.
Fair enough. But regenerations and pathetic plot devices have been disappointing fans since the show began. To me, Steven Moffat is a symptom of a bigger problem. Not the cause.July 23, 2015 at 4:02 pm #48612
There is a difference from a show Being masturbatory and a fan being masturbatory.
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