Saturday, August 30, 2014

Shrinker Failure, Soldiers Die

Look as good when I'm 2000 years old, I will not. But I'd sincerely hope - unless senility sets in - I won't be demonstrating the sort of immature, blinkered view of soldiers that Doctor Who writers seem keen to impose on their central character. Maybe it's particularly difficult for those of us who retain a fondness for the UNIT family days of the show, but I was never a fan of this attitude when it was trotted out in the Sontaran two-parter of a few years back and guess what, I'm not a fan of it now.

You can't really have an episode in which the Doctor stands back and lets a soldier sacrifice herself, then refuses another soldier admission to the TARDIS because she's a soldier. Well, you can, because that's what happens in Into The Dalek. But don't expect me to like it.

We're all familiar with the Doctor's attitude towards the military over the decades, but back in the days of Lethbridge Stewart and the gang his disapprovals were delivered with some affection - because these people (yes, Messers Moffat, Davies and Ford, people) were the Doctor's friends. Despite - horror of horrors - wearing a uniform and carrying a gun. He used to be able to see beyond that and I'm not sure the narrow-minded view we're presented with today is much of a step forward in 21st century Doctor Who.

In some ways it fits with the Capaldi Doctor's brusque nature, but I guess it's just unfortunate that it reminds me of that example of supreme blind arrogance from Tennant's Doc, with his childish refusal to stand next to a man he'd just met simply because he was in the military.

It fits much less with a man who has waged war on the Daleks and who has seen so many people fighting and dying in their shadow. Who the hell does he think does most of that fighting? Of course, the crying civilians will meet with his approval but most of those would be dead without the soldiers and while that might gain them admission as companions in the TARDIS it might also change Doctor Who into The Walking Dead. It's utterly dumb. Maybe a rewatch of It Aint Half Hot Mum would provide a more progressive take on military personnel.

But no. What we get is, soldiers are evil. This in an age when Doctor Who feels the need to break away from a fascinating prospect - the Doctor heading into a Dalek, a la Fantastic Voyage - for a spot of soap opera romance at Clara's day job. Because, you know, that adds depth to the sci-fi adventure.

I hope that the introduction of Clara's soldier boyfriend is leading somewhere - perhaps to a re-education of the Doctor in the fact that soldiers are humans too. Not a lesson I need, so it rather dismays me that an intellect as sophisticated and complex as the Doctor's would need teaching in that regard, but hey, this is where we're at now, so there's always the chance that this new Doctor that some are still declaring is too old might also grow up.

Anyway, that shame aside, I still love the Capaldi Doctor and the actor makes the absolute most of every scrap of material he's given. Clara continues to shine, while the jury is out on her potential romantic interest. Despite the tear on cue, he struck me as a bit wooden and some distance short of companion material, but who knows.

Fortunately for the writers, we can side-step the issue of the soldier's self-sacrifice by virtue of her showing up in 'heaven' and drinking tea with Missy. I have my theories on the Missy mystery, but I'm willing to let that unfold and trusting it's leading somewhere interesting.

There were elements of the (better) Rob Shearman story Dalek here and elements (of course!) of the Tom Baker adventure The Invisible Enemy. And although the fx were far and away superior to that late 70s story (well done production team) the writing is no more sophisticated at all. In a show of this vintage, you expect a few characters over the years to be a little one-dimensional - but you don't generally expect that to include the Doctor.

In an episode where the Doctor strives to believe that there might be one good Dalek, you'd really hope that he'd wise up to the idea that there could be one good soldier. Or maybe more. And maybe give her a chance to travel with him.

Although ultimately it has to be said I'm not sure that one soldier was played by a great actress and if there's anybody being groomed for new companion material she'll have to be at least as good as Jenna Louise. And I didn't see anyone in this episode who could make a worthy replacement.

I did see a lot of pyrotechnics and those Daleks exterminated with extreme prejudice. But luckily the only people who died on-screen were soldiers so nobody of any importance. Phew.

All in all, not disastrous, but disappointing. I'd entertained hopes that collaborations would benefit the writing for the show but that doesn't appear to have worked out so far.

The Next Time trailer made me cringe, so the episode can only be better. Right?

SAF 2014

No comments: