Yet, despite those clunky effects, the spaceships you could have made at home with an eggbox and a few loo rolls, Doctor Who always retained its charm, carried by great characters and superb storylines. Julian Glover pulling off his false head to reveal Scaroth of the Jagaroth underneath looks a bit ropey now, but it remains a chilling moment that has remained with me for nigh on thirty years now. Even now, even with that rubber head, it still packs a punch.
It’s safe to say that Doctor Who is now a phenomenally successful show, pride of place on BBC1’s Saturday night schedule, rather than sandwiched between Jim’ll Fix It and Bob’s Full House. So why do I find it so disappointing lately? Major Spoilers ahoy, shipmates!
The last five episodes were all high concept, ‘mini films’ told in the space of fifty minutes. The show’s suffered for it, I think, but I may be being bitter as I’ve missed the old-fashioned cliffhanger endings more than words can say. So, without further preamble, here are a few of my complaints.
Episode One saw the Doctor summoned by Daleks (weren’t they supposed to have forgotten about him, along with the rest of the universe?) to beam down to a planet of crazy Daleks and do something; less than two months later, I can’t remember what it was. It turns out a girl he’s been speaking to is a Dalek herself, although somehow it’s her human voice that comes through the tannoy system. Oh, and at the end the Daleks forget the Doctor exists, like they were meant to have in the beginning. I think.
Episode Two was bonkers, disjointed and utterly charming in places. Great dialogue – some funny, some dark – and moving performances made this the best of the bunch for me. The Doctor sending someone off to his death, though? Rumours abound he’ll pay for it later, but why would he do something so out of character in the first place?
Episode Three. “Ooh, lets film in
!” They did, and made a
sci-fi western. The ‘bad guy’ reminded me of a cyborg from a 1990’s Red Dwarf
episode, while Amy and Rory (this is their final series, remember?) are
criminally underused. I say underused, but they don’t actually do anything at
all. Shameful. America
In Episode Four, some black boxes turn up on Earth, essentially doing nothing for a year or so, before transmitting information to a spaceship. But don’t worry, the Doctor will fix it all with the sonic screwdriver in the end. This is another episode that had some great moments – moving conversations and the suggestion of a new, improved UNIT – but fell flat plot-wise. I’d like to see a UNIT spin-off series, but it would probably just end up like Torchwood. And you don’t want to get me started on that…
Finally, we saw the end of Amy and Rory. They left to be together, it was moving, and a fitting end for the two characters. Job done. River Song returned, as did the Weeping Angels, one of which turns out to be the Statue of Liberty. This suggests that, in the city that never sleeps, there was a point where no eyes were on this world-famous landmark, and that nobody noticed it had gone. Also, why did the Angels keep a battery farm if they only feed on each victim once? I also think they missed a trick by not setting this in LA, the City Of
Ah well. Angels
Ok, so those are five flippant, slapdash reviews. To me, that reflects the content of the show. I’ve enjoyed them – of course I have, it’s Doctor Who! – but I’ve been disappointed too. I know how good the show can be; it can make me cheer, laugh out loud and cry like a baby (sometimes all three within seconds of each other), but I’ve taken nothing memorable from these five episodes, other than the thought that they could have, should have, been better. They’re chances wasted, inconsistent and – at times – sloppy.
Doctor Who is fifty years old in 2013. I hope they do better for his birthday.