The season finale of Doctor Who has been and gone, and I was profoundly disappointed by the entire season. The advent of the first female Doctor Who should have been a time of glorious reinvention for the show, broadening horizons and taking the opportunity to do something utterly fantastic to demonstrate how the character we’ve grown up with is still with us but in a whole new way.
Instead we got a season of simplistic contrived stories populated by forgettable characters accomplishing nothing remarkable.
Since my grumbling dissatisfaction with the show is pressing down on me I’m going to vent here in the hope it will purge the boil.
Three companions is too many. In each episode there is no time to do anything meaningful with each of them which means they are reduced to cyphers with expository dialogue and one clunky emotional hook each (Graham’s loss of Grace, Ryan’s daddy issues and Yaz’s I’m not even sure what).
The dialogue in general is poor. It exists only to explain either what we can already see or hear on screen (“Did you hear that? It was an explosion!”) or to clumsily dump exposition (““You’re the ux, the duo species? Lifespan of millennia. Only ever two of you!” You know just like you would speak to someone you’ve just met)
The threats are not threatening. This is the show that brought us the Daleks, the Weeping Angels, the Vashta Narada – real nightmare fuel. Last night we had squads of marching killer robots that stomped around and did nothing. When they met Graham and Ryan, the companions ducked as the robots obligingly lined up on either side of their targets and thus shot each other. Later they resurfaced, stomping through a doorway until Graham blew them up with a grenade. Because you know kids, weapons solve your problems. At no point did the robots do anything dangerous or threatening.
Weapons… yes. Since when does the Doctor hand out grenades to her companions, even with a “don’t use them to hurt people” throwaway. Since the writers can’t conceive of a problem that can’t be dealt with by violence, that’s when. Too often this season we’ve had the threats just blasted away — and even a gun that displaces them in time or a teleportation device that spirits them away is pretty much just a weapon. The show should be above that sort of thing, with the Doctor being the driving force to find other solutions.
Speaking of which… the Doctor should find clever solutions. What we have now is a breathy over excited social worker running round asking fatuous questions of the world and then saying “ooh I am clever” before being forced to deliver some nonsensical technobabble that relates to nothing previously established, fanny about with some cables and electrical sparks and then the problem goes away. She may as well say “I’ve just remembered a spell that will deal with this” or “I’m going to wish really hard”.
There’s no sense of story – just characters moving through generic sets asking questions and getting infodump answers.
Ryan’s actor either cannot act or is a brilliant actor who has been given the task of playing a character who looks like his actor cannot act and is pulling it off magnificently.
Graham’s actor can act, he puts some real emotion into his lines but the lines and character development are bland and predictable.
The big bad of this episode was the forgettable, mocked and easily thwarted Tim Shaw from episode one. He did nothing but stride around, approach Graham and get shot in the foot. Yep, this fierce Stenza warrior and hunter when faced with an untrained human just stood and postured, got shot in the foot and was vanquished. This led to the utterly predictable “I was too weak to kill him”/”No Graham you’re the strongest blah di bore di platitude di killing is bad” dialogue that was inevitable from the moment he’d announced to the Doctor earlier that he was going to get his revenge.
It was appalling. And the cynic in me wonders if the showrunner is banking on people overlooking the flaws in the writing and presentation because of the presence of the first female Doctor and a wonderfully diverse cast. Is that the equivalent of a human shield for the show, that they can say “Ah people who don’t like it are misogynists or racists that just don’t want a female lead and a diverse set of companions”? I hope not. I love this show and I was utterly thrilled at the idea of Jodie Whitaker as the Doctor, keen to see how the stories would continue and grow under a proper Yorkshire Time-Lord. Instead this sub CBBC science fiction show, that happens to use the Doctor Who name has been squeezed out and the only thing memorable about it is how far it has fallen.