What's in a Name?

May 19, 2013

Spoilers for Doctor Who: The Name of the Doctor (an example of so much potential squandered)

It's hard to judge this episode without being judgmental of the character of Clara. The idea of Clara is fine, the actress is fine, it's simply that the character of Clara really needed more work.

There were so many interesting possibilities here in this episode that had never been covered in Doctor Who before. As a time traveller, what happens when you face your own death, especially if you are the Lord of Time? We get a moving moment with Matt Smith who is given incredible range with his performance. But really, what answers were we given? What did we learn about the universe or our beloved characters?

And then we have an answer to Clara, the Impossible Girl, and it's an answer, at least. But one that is a little flat simply because we the audience was not fed anything solid, not even a red herring, on her mystery. It's much like the foreshadowed death of the Doctor in Season 6, where the audience was kept waiting, hoping that Amy, Rory, and River would do something, anything to explore that mystery, but didn't.

A finale has impact because the characters have earned it. It is a grand climax but only if you build up to it. You need to feed a finale with tidbits, action, goals, characters, red herrings, clues, answers, and more questions. You can't solve a mystery without giving the audience tools to solve it themselves.

But the last few minutes show one of Moffat's strengths; he dangles another tantalizing mystery in our faces, one that hints at the missing pieces of the Doctor's history, and consequently, a missing piece in the history of Doctor Who. Moffat is filling in his blanks in his universe; I just wish he made the journey more worth it.

Throwing Away a Golden Opportunity

May 11, 2013

Spoilers for Doctor Who: Nightmare in Silver (an ok episode; a little too much and still not enough of other things)

I was not particularly impressed with the Doctor's Wife, Neil Gaiman's earlier episode. It had some very strong character development, but it was obvious that Gaiman was more interested in the Doctor and his TARDIS than the plot, Rory, and Amy.

In this episode, Gaiman had some interesting ideas, and he had written a very interesting bit of future history; that humanity fought a bitter war against the Cybermen and were willing to destroy a galaxy to do it. Was it a rip-off of the Doctor's Time War against the Daleks? Or a statement about how similar the Doctor is to humanity? Doesn't matter. I liked it.

But it was obvious that Gaiman was either not allowed or not interested in delving into the character of the Doctor. Too much was made of the physical chess game, but it should have been a metaphor of the actual chess game in the Doctor's mind. We could have seen or learned more of his past or more of his hopes for the future.

Oh, and Clara. Was there enough of her? Did we learn anything about her? Did she learn anything about the Doctor and the universe she inhabits? She got to be bossy and spunky, which is the same adjectives used to describe Amy Pond and River Song.

Lastly, we have Warwick Davis playing a character with a twist that ultimately doesn't add up to a lot. While a fine performance by the actor, the twist really only changes the episode in a small and annoying way; it instantly solves the problem without the other characters making a decision.

Seeing Red

May 4, 2013

Spoilers for Doctor Who: The Crimson Horror (not bad; but was following the wrong protagonists)

This season really needs to slow down. Every episode has about 10 to 15 minutes of extra ideas that really can't afford to be in the episode, diluting the other, more interesting ideas.

The Doctor had already been missing for the first 20 minutes, and other episodes have done well leaving the Doctor out (Blink), others not so well (Love and Monsters), and some ok (Turn Left), but the Crimson Horror would have been stronger focusing on Lady Vastra, Jenny Flint, and Strax. It is obvious that Moffat has been grooming these characters for some Victorian-era steampunk spin off (Russell T Davis did the same with Captain Jack and Torchwood, and also with the Sarah Jane Adventures, both of which are no longer on the air). So why not make this a proper backdoor pilot and give them all of the screen time.

And there was some interesting character dynamics between Mrs. Gillyflower and her daughter Ada, but it was Ada that had all of the good characterization. Mrs. Gillyflower remained a cackling, stereotypical villain, and even proclaims herself as such:

Doctor: In the wrong hands that venom could wipe out all life on this planet.

Mrs. Gillyflower flips her hands up. The Doctor examines them.

Mrs. Gillyflower: You know what these are? The wrong hands.

And lastly, we really haven't received enough about Clara. We have dialogue. We have scenes, but we haven't really learned anything about her. What are her goals? What are her motivations? What does she think about the Doctor? What does she think about traveling across all of space and time? The most poignant scene was in Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS when she declared her temporary fear of him.

Even Martha Jones was given some character development, albeit crappy development. Here, Clara is stuck in the status quo, preserved in a glass jar, smiling and being pretty.