Friday, May 6, 2011

Doctor Who and its Discontents: Part I - Moffat, Misogyny and the Problem with Pond

Doctor Who fans, by and large, are a tenacious bunch. As the tales of the wilderness years - of long nights spend huddled round the flame of Big Finish - suggest, there is something about the dedication that this show inspires which goes way way beyond whether it happens (or not) to be any good (or not) at any particular time, or whether, even, the Doctor is presently in possession of a televisual incarnation at all. Quite why Doctor Who rocks so hard is a topic of eternal and, necessarily, open-ended debate; favourite theories include the versatility of the format, the child-like effervescence, the unmistakable aroma of camp mixed with the uncanny, and of course, general, all round, timey-wimey goodness. But, in the end, it probably boils down to the one simple thing most Whovians can agree on (and that's not much): this guy is the greatest superhero ever conceived by human-kind, and there is a place tucked inside each of our souls - filled with the longing for wonder, and adventure, and cosmic justice - where we all need to believe he is real.

Being not only tenacious, but fastidious, by nature, the response of most Whovians to being disturbed or disappointed by what the Doctor has gone and done this week is to engage in explosions of analysis. And here we find ourselves. For I, among many of the faithful, am not at all happy with what is going on in the Whoniverse right now. This is, we should note, a far from unanimous opinion. There are many - principally those who spent much of the RTD-era wailing though gritted-teeth about the latest credulity-stretching deus ex-machina - who are endlessly enchanted by Steven Moffat's Chinese puzzle-box approach to plot development. Also, Moffat can do monsters. That I'll give him. But Who is more than the scaries, and evidence is accumulating - from declining ratings* to the National Television Awards flunk** - that all is not well in the land of rebooted New Who.