Sunday, May 11, 2014

Doctor Who: The Time of the Doctor (BBC, 2013)

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2014 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved

Charles and I watched an item he’d downloaded from the latest incarnation of Doctor Who, “The Time of the Doctor,” the most recent Christmas episode (actually aired on December 25, 2013!) and — quite frankly — a real disappointment. Written by Steven Moffat and directed by Jamie Payne (though some of the series’ previous writers, including Terry “Dalek Man” Nation, Kit Pedler, Gerry Davis, and Robert Holmes, get credit because their characters are incorporated into the script), “The Time of the Doctor” seems at first to be a sort of Doctor Who’s Greatest Hits as the Daleks, the Cybermen and the Weepers all make their appearances, and the Doctor (Matt Smith) and his companion Clara (Jenna Coleman) — both, quite frankly, way too young for their roles (though the Doctor actually starts aging visibly during the show and it’s at least briefly asserted that he can only regenerate himself 13 times — the regeneration business is how the show’s producers explain that the Doctor can look completely different from one season to the next, and thereby he can be played by different actors and they don’t have to try to find someone who looks like his predecessor the way Bewitched producer William Asher tried, and dismally failed, to do when Dick Sargent replaced Dick York as Darrin Stephens for the last two seasons of that show) — end up on a planet where the religion is a church that worships a mainframe computer. The gimmick — or one of them — is you have to be naked to attend the mainframe church’s services (actually some Wiccan groups do that and they call it “skyclad”), though you can use some sort of hologram to create the illusion that you have clothes on.

The church is led by a high priestess named Tasha Lem (Orla Brady), who’s potentially an interesting character, but precious little is done with her. Matt Smith seemed way too immature to be playing the Doctor — when the BBC rebooted this series in 2005 after letting the original expire in the 1980’s, they went for youthful Doctors instead of dotty middle-aged ones but I think they’ve way overdone it; after this show they put in Peter Capaldi, who at least according to reviewer “jc-osms” (I hate these gibberish pseudonyms used on the Internet — and in some cases mandated by the Web sites; I once tried to sign in on a site under my actual name, since it’s a point of pride with me to take credit or blame for everything I write, but was told I wouldn’t be allowed to!) — I haven’t seen any of his episodes — is older. “I have enjoyed Matt Smith's tenure at the TARDIS, but feel that after the youthful but different eccentricities of both his and Tennent's reigns, a more mature, perhaps spikier Doctor could make for a refreshing change of pace and it will be interesting to see how Clara moves on from her clearly physical attraction for the younger Doctor to an older man,” wrote “jc-osms,” and I couldn’t agree more: David Tennant (whom Charles and I watched when we ordered a boxed set of the second season of Doctor Who 2.0 from the Columbia House DVD club, not realizing that there was a Doctor Who 2.0, and quite liked him: he was young enough to provide the hunk factor the younger fans wanted while old enough to have enough gravitas to make the series work. The reviewer also noted “the Doctor’s literal attachment to a disembodied Cyber-head called Handles,” who both looks and sounds like C-3P0 from the original Star Wars (except there are quite a few others of his production run also in the dramatis personae), which is actually one of the cleverer bits in a show that seemed steered way too much towards the camp elements of the Doctor Who mythos.