The ultimate sacrifice: Doctor Who finally defeated by Steven Moffatt

There is, tis said, no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. No doubt that is a sentiment that fans of Doctor Who have, over the years, roundly applauded.

But when the sacrifice is one of principle and credibility, surrendered for one man’s limited vision…an apt metaphor given the WWI allegory hammered clumsily into place from start to finish of the latest series…that is something else.

Allow me to introduce to you Steven Moffatt, the man who ruined Doctor Who.

Sensation and non-revelation: all froth and no content

Let’s skip briefly over the froth – the issues of style that have dogged Moffatt’s growing grasp on a series and character that really is not his to own. The last few series have seen the triumph of sensation over plot, of shock non-revelation over character, stuck together with a bizarre psychobabble.

We have had a dabbling with fantasy and the supernatural. Its happened before: as early, perhaps as the first Doctor and his brush with the Celestial Toymaker; and more recently with the creature from before the universe began in the Satan Pit. But Doctor Who is sci-fi and if you are to introduce magic and such like, then do so carefully and in such a way that it meshes with his universe.

As opposed to bringing in Robin Hood and Santa Claus in the same year in which you decide that there IS some sort of after-life and Gallifreyan technology is capable of communicating with it.

I thought the Bertie Bassett monster of Sylvester McCoy days was the ultimate low (closely followed by Ken Dodd as a character in an episode inspired by Hi-de-Hi). But Moffatt seems to have found new lows.

There’s been all the “Who is Who?” speculation which, in the end, ended unanswered. A lack, i suggest, of writer’s courage. Because after 50 years, perhaps we are ready to move on: to open a new chapter in our knowledge of the Doctor.

But because we are stuck in a rut where nothing more can ever be known, we are eternally teased, never satisfied. And on the rare occasions where something interesting does happen we….wake to the amateur of amateur devices: we learn that “it was all a dream after all”. Or alternative reality. Or something. Nothing ever sticks any more.

There is no death cannot be undone. No finality. None.

Of psychobabble and soldiers

Then there was the bizarre plot arc throughout the latest series, which ended last night, in which Doctor’s companion, Clara, is in love with an individual, Danny Pink, who cannot abide the Doctor.

For why? Because this man was once a soldier, and the Doctor, as we all now, cannot stand soldiers. Nasturally, he assumes Danny is a PE Teacher, rather than a mathematician.

And Danny cannot stand officers…and no matter what the Doctor does…saving the world from alien killing machines, or protecting his love interest, he is ever resentful of a man he sees as “officer class”: a type he knows all about, naturally.

Really? I mean, really?

Let’s pass on Danny, whose persistent hostility borders on the pathological. What of the Doctor? Oh, yes. We know he’s never been a fan of the military, or of military solutions.

He’s always been fond of deflating military pomposity, as the sparky interplay with Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart of fond and distant memory makes clear.

But equally, he respects where respect is due. Martha Jones, f’rinstance, who may be a medic, but is also a part of the dread military machine.

OK. For a few episodes, let’s pretend this is all just the working out of post-regeneration angst.

Sacrificed – to the Beeb’s commemoration plans

Until the final episode, when all becomes clear. In the set-up episode (Dark Water) we find Danny, post-death, forced to confront the reality of a young boy he has accidentally killed.

Then (mega-spoilers), as the last episode (Death in Heaven) draws to a close, it is Danny, half-way between human and cyberman, who saves the day. With his ringing declaration that what he does is “not the order of a general, nor the whim of a lunatic, but the promise of a soldier”, he soars off into the stratosphere, sacrificing his own life – and saving humanity.

As if that was not enough, we then, a few minutes later, encounter the last cyberman, behind whose anonymous visor, natch, hides the brave spirit of the Brigadier: a man who, we are reminded earlier in the episode, the Doctor has ever refused to salute.

Only now, since it is reconciliation all round, the Brigadier salutes the Doctor – and the Doctor salutes back.

Poignant moment?

Feck, no! Twas a moment that made me incredibly angry.

Because Doctor Who does not happen by accident. It is planned and plotted years in advance – literally. The BBC knew, or decided, that the final episode of this series would take place on the Saturday before Remembrance Sunday.

In this year of all years, i guess, they decided it would be a good idea to have some sort of remembrance allusion in there. But they/Moffatt decided to take it further.

The entirety, the point of this series was to be about a healing of wounds between an old pacifist and soldiers who gave their all for their country. So from start to finish, there are hints and intimations of what is to come. No allusion, apparently, too heavy-handed for this leadenest of leaden writers.

The Beeb wanted a remembrance Doctor, presumably to counter the War Doctor of the last series (did they really plan it that far back?) – and Moffatt delivered.

I am disappointed and genuinely sickened by the manipulativeness of it all.

For the first time (ever) i am beginning to wonder if it is worth staying with this much betrayed Doctor.

About janefae

On my way from here to there
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4 Responses to The ultimate sacrifice: Doctor Who finally defeated by Steven Moffatt

  1. abe says:

    I am sorry to agree here. This whole season has reminded me of the Colin Baker era. A really good actor whose tenure as the Doctor is being ruined by bad writing. Moffatt, IMO, can write good episodes, but ONLY if he has an editor/showrunner like Russel Davies looking over his shoulder and telling him when he needs to change things. Felt the same about a lot of the Smith era, but at least a lot of that was fun and funny, if stupid, heavy-handed, and not science fiction.
    Which sucks, cuz I am a long-time fan of Peter Capaldi and was overjoyed when he was cast as the doctor.

  2. annebrooke says:

    Yes, this series has indeed been a disaster. I won’t be watching the next one – it’s such a shame how they’ve ruined it …

  3. UnicycleBloke says:

    We had an Australian guest last night who said he had finally seen some Who, and couldn’t see what all the fuss was about. As I waffled about a er… British cultural icon er… I too wondered what all the fuss is about. As as child it was the program I could not miss, and Tom Baker was “the” Doctor. Now? I don’t know. I’ve watched the whole series with dismay and disappointment.

    Still, it’s pretty hard to beat sentient alien Christmas trees for episodes-timed-to-coincide-with-significant-dates that suck.

  4. Spencer says:

    Really why do you all moan . Its excellent acting and dialogue . No program Is going to be 100%. And after 50 years it is difficult to come up with new plot devices and story arcs. I actually feel this series whilst not perfect . Is evolving and will lead to a renaissance in doctor who storytelling. Combined with Peter capaldi . Who will establish itself once again as the premier sci fi series. Give it more time. We seem to be a microwave ready meal culture . Expecting everything almost immediately . Instant gratification. And please ” oh I’m not going to continue watching this blah blah. ” Then don’t go away . Moffat isn’t writing for himself . He is writing doctor who to entertain. But anyone cannot please all of the people all of the time .

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