Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Doctor Trilogy Week: The Time of the Doctor

Before we get started, here is another shameless plug for MOVIE MUTTS, my upcoming Webseries! Watch the promo!

So here it is, the climactic entry into the Doctor Trilogy. I'll start off by saying I thought this was seriously the weakest of the three, stories, and if you've turned in for my reviews of The Name of the Doctor and The Day of the Doctor, you know that's saying a lot. 

Pictured: the best way for the Eleventh Doctor to end his
Most Idiotic Review

"... I can’t think of a better way for the Eleventh Doctor to end his tenure .... There were lots of loose ends for writer Steven Moffat to tie up, but somehow he did it." — Kyle Anderson (Nerdist)

I can think of many better ways for the 11th Doctor to end his tenure and I don't think Moffat tied up his loose ends effectively at all. I thought the episode was bloated and the exposition was rushed.

Most Accurate Review

"Every time the Gordian plot-knot gets sonic-screwdrivered into submission for the 60-minute limit, the writers just tap the remnants into Later. What's the deal with the creepy brain-wiping creatures known as The Silence? Later. The name of the Doctor? Later, and then we get The Time of the Doctor, where every second line seems to offer a footnote to some arcane Wikipedia entry on Whovian lore." — Tim Martin (The Telegraph)

In Monday's review, I quoted George R.R. Martin. If you missed it, here it is again. “It's always the question, when do you reveal something, how long do you draw it out? The books are full of little puzzles and enigmas and reversals, and how do you place those? You don't want to give it away too soon, but if you stretch it out too long everybody's going to guess it anyway, so at what point is that? I kind of like having the puzzles and you need to keep at least some of the puzzles till the end, but then again you can't keep them all till the end otherwise or you end with this final chapter that's just one guy endlessly talking about, 'Well there's this and then there's this and the explanation for this is this,' and it's a very boring and not very good chapter."

Now look at this exchange of dialogue 

TASHA: Why did you ever come to Trenzalore?
DOCTOR: Well, I did come to Trenzalore, and nothing can change that now. Didn't stop you trying though, did it?
TASHA: Not me. The Kovarian Chapter broke away. They traveled back along your timeline and tried to prevent you ever reaching Trenzalore.
DOCTOR: So that's who blew up my TARDIS. I thought I'd left the bath running.
TASHA: They blew up your time capsule, created the very cracks in the universe through which the Time Lords are now calling.
DOCTOR: The destiny trap. You can't change history if you're part of it.
TASHA: They engineered a psychopath to kill you.
DOCTOR: Totally married her. I'd never have made it here alive without River Song.
We literally just got four years of reveals in an eight line exchange. That is not good storytelling. 

"The actual plot of The Time of The Doctor itself doesn't really quite hold up to the rest of the storytelling-sewing going on in the background. The carnival of Monsters never feels quite justified, outside of a 'wouldn't it be cool *if*' moment, and the laboured, repeated use of voice over montages to pass time reflects the relatively cramped nature of the script and its ideas battling against the time frame - especially when it comes to the manner of The Doctor's renewed regenerative cycle (which I must admit, as a gift from Gallifrey for having saved him, was rather touching, ending this 'trilogy' of Name, Day and Time as a singular arc) delivered in a bit of a deus ex machina moment. These issues persist throughout, and bring the episode very close to falling flat on its face at points." — Ursus-Veritas (io9)

As I keep saying, Moffat is good at two things, concepts & dialogue. The in-between stuff (structure, characterization, and theme) really seem to fail him. He always seems hung up on 'what looks cool' or my, "Moffat's being subtle again," moments. The episode survives on the basis of the skill of its actors and the altogether atmosphere created by its disparate elements ... although a wooden Cyberman still strikes me as an incredibly stupid leap of logic. 

What I Say

Can we get a new head-writer please? 

Plot — The episode actually really had me hooked with good ol' classic Who vibes for the first 25 minutes. We had small cameos of the Silence, the Weeping Angels, a great big mystery, and some clever humor. Then we got to the planet. We got to the Truth Field in the town called Christmas ... and then the f***ing montages began, complete with whimsical fairy-tale voice-overs. I don't inherently dislike voice-overs like certain prominent names (George R.R. Martin is one), when they're there to add to the story, like spices that add flavoring. However, when major key plotpoints are told via voice-over and montage, that's just unforgivably lazy writing that serves no purpose. If you seriously think a montage/voice-over is the only way to go about telling your story effectively, you're either not trying, or not very talented. There are always better, more effective storytelling methods at your disposal if you just use them. 

So the Doctor finds himself in a standoff between the Time Lords (resurrected narratively by the events of The Day of the Doctor) and all the baddies in the Who universe. It's a nice concept to see the 11th Doctor tied down, but then the oddness starts ... the old-age makeup. This serves little to no purpose in the grand scheme of things. There's no reason to it, other than to suggest that he's been tied down for an extra long time. The way they justify this is by having Clara tricked into leaving twice. The first time, I didn't mind; the second time, I started getting insulted on behalf of Clara, especially considering how she throws it all away once she's reunited with the Doctor. Sure he ditched her, but how can she stay mad at those puppy dog eyes?

I'm also really interested in why the Town of Christmas doesn't technologically progress in three-hundred plus years. It strikes me as damned odd. I know it's going for the whimsical fairy tale, but if it bothered me in The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant (my favorite series of all time) why can't it bother me here? 

So through one of the Cracks in space/time that've been haunting the 11th Doctor since his first outing, the Time Lords give him a new regeneration (since he didn't have anymore), and old-age makeup Matt Smith returns to form (albeit with a wig) and then turns into Capaldi. They wanted him to be old, except for when they didn't. Astounding writing chops there guys. 

Characters — Handles should obviously be the new star of the show. I don't care if he malfunctioned. He's the best companion the Doctor's had in years. 

Matt Smith, as always, does a great job, turning in every possible direction. He really does shine in the episode, which, if that's the point, is, I must admit a resounding success. But I'm too much of a stickler to allow for that. I didn't like the repeated mistreatment of his companions. When Eccleston sent Rose away, it was devastating, for both of them, and for the audience. With Smith ... eh. Less so, especially the second time. 

Clara, as a character, finally unfettered from the Impossible Girl story-arc really begins to shine. I say begins, because after the second time the Doctor tricks her away, she starts to seem overly gullible. She's also been downgraded to crying. A lot. I didn't realize until this week, watching the Doctor Trilogy in succession how many times she cries. It's ... distracting.

Tasha is an interesting addition, torn between flirting incessantly with the Doctor and spouting some of the clunkiest expository dialogue. I wish she'd been introduced earlier and behaved more as a character than a plot point. 

I also want to take a moment to point out Clara's parents ... who I have no investment in seeing again. I feel like Moffat's falling back on his sitcom days with this lot. There's an overabundance of mean-spirited ... humor from the mother and saccharine speeches from the Gran I really couldn't wait for them to get off screen (Gran and Dad don't even get real names in the script). 

Spectacle — At one point the Doctor says, "We saw this planet in the future, remember? All those graves, one of them mine."

All those graves ... and all those mountains
Wait, where the hell did those come from? 
The only thing I could think was, "This isn't what I was expecting." I understand it's a television show and I don't expect something on the Scale of Marvel's series of films or Lord of the Rings, but ... considering the hype that's built up around this event, the Fall of the Eleventh? This was a serious letdown. A single village that never changed in over three hundred years. It's every conservative politician's wet-dream. 

Even if I never liked Amy's character, I would never deny
Karen Gillian's talent as an actress, or her chemistry with
Matt Smith
Matt Smith's regeneration though, almost made up for the fifty minutes prior. It's tender, sweet, and a lovingly crafted specifically to say goodbye to a brilliant actor. When Moffat lets his characters just talk for an entire scene, he can still work magic. 

So. There it is. The Doctor Trilogy. I've been waiting a year to review these three episodes, and there. It's done! It's finished! I can take a break! Until next week when the next episode airs! Looks like I'll be back here in the TARDIS next Monday (and we're still building toward a special new addition. MOVIE MUTTS PROMO).

Here's to new kidneys and new adventures.

No comments:

Post a Comment