Aug. 23rd, 2014

blahflowers: (Doctor/Jack)
Wow, I mean wow. I've seen episodes of Monty Python's Flying Circus that had more narrative cohesion than that. I accept that you could write an eighty-minute episode of a television programme using the 'cut-up' technique but I never thought you'd be allowed to broadcast it in prime time. When did I meet Steven Moffat? Because surely I must have met him, we got drunk, and I challenged him to make every episode of Doctor Who more wretched, stupid and full of loathing for everybody than the last. I re-watched last Christmas's episode a few days ago just to reassure myself that it was as terrible as I remembered. Oh for those carefree halcyon days when the Doctor could destroy a Dalek fleet by regenerating. We were so happy then. Tonight's episode didn't just ignore what makes a good Doctor Who story, it ignored making a good story period. The two things that remained constant was that it was set in the Victorian erathat the Doctor now seems to go to every other episode and that every actor played the same role all the way through the episode, clearly they are waiting for episode four before having Peter Capaldi play Emmanuelle and Jenna Coleman played Pontius Pilate while the Doctor is played by a box of tissues, because The Man doesn't get to tell Moffat how to write a script Godsdamnit!

I don't really want to summarise the plot because doing so would require me spending more time thinking about it than Moffat did. Also, there is just the vaguest possibility that I have been pranked and shown something completely different to what the rest of the world saw. What I saw was a dinosaur appearing in Victorian London and coughing up the Tardis. Victorians aren't particularly alarmed by the appearance of the Tyrannosaurus Rex, they're probably blasé after that Christmas when the giant robot trampled half of London. Indeed no one tries to do anything to remove the dinosaur despite the fact it stalks around Westminster for at least half a day presumably eating people and shifting everywhere. It then catches on fire and dies. We will later find out this is due to robots that want to use part of its eyes to repair their spaceship. Of course, one might point out that if you set fire to something that you run the risk of destroying whatever it is you're after but as we know Steven Moffat writes these scripts based entirely on the visuals and his clever dialogue and everything else is for those spotty virgins he hates that are called 'fans'. Clara, meanwhile, is for some reason having immense difficulty getting to grips with the idea that the Doctor has regenerated into an older body. Let's ignore the fact that three episodes ago she took a ride in the Doctor's lifestream and saw every incarnation of him and hung out with the War Doctor for a while as well. Let's ignore this because Moffat certainly is. If you want to have a character express surprise that the doctor is now an 'old man' then in Victorian London you've got the choice of three characters who could be the audience surrogate for that story point: Vastra, Jenny or Strax, don't have it be the woman who in the previous episode saw the Doctor as an old man. He still has some of the more annoying habits of his previous incarnation such as the delusion that he can understand what non-verbal lifeforms are saying, the Eleventh Doctor claimed that babies were capable of having conversations much more advanced than ten-year-olds, the Twelfth Doctor can apparently talk to the animals, or at least understand them. Yes, it turns out that 'The Name of the Doctor' is actually Doolittle.

Anyway, Vastra takes the Doctor and Clara in while he recovers only for him to escape and live on the streets as the Tramp for a bit. Clara is a bit put out by this but doesn't really do anything to find him because clearly the Doctor's not in any danger at all in a confused and amnesiac state in Victorian London. They finally come together in a restaurant, both thinking the other has placed a newspaper ad to attract them, clearly the 'Bad Wolf' of this season. This restaurant is full of robots similar to the clockwork robots from the Madame de Pompadour episode except for the small difference of being completely different. We know that in recent years the show has had to reuse sets and costumes to save money, this is the first time that I'm aware of a show reusing the same story, especially considering the way Steven Moffat repeatedly draws attention to this as though he wants to win a BAFTA for recycling. The robots have been stuck on earth for millennia replacing worn out parts with human limbs because if you're a robot with access to metals then clearly you ignore that in favour of human flesh which, even if you have the means to keep it in good working order when separated from its original owner, still only has a working life of a couple of decades. I'd say that Moffat started writing a Jack the Ripper story and then realised late in the day that he'd already had Vastra dispose of Jack and changed it to except that was series and series ago and we know what Moffat thinks about continuity.

The Doctor and Clara dick around for an unedifying amount of time, everyone fights robots that only attack them if they breathe, the Doctor goes for a flight with the head robot in a balloon seemingly made of human skin, persuades the robot to kill itself which for some reason kills all the others and then goes off in the Tardis before coming back for Clara. That summarises the last twenty-five minutes or so, it's odd that Moffat has been given extra time for this episode when he clearly doesn't need it and has to resort to an awful lot of padding. The robot is doing what it's doing in order to fulfil a confused desire to reach the promised land. After the Doctor persuades it to kill itself it wakes up in a garden with a mysterious woman who tells it that it's in heaven. Whether this is whimsy, it's killed enough people that it somehow has developed a human soul and gets to go to heaven despite, you know, killing loads of people, or whether this is a more material place we may find out in a future episode but I really don't care. We have a final scene in Glasgow where Clara finally reconciles herself to the new Doctor by talking on the phone to the old one before he regenerated and that is the one genuinely interesting and emotional part of the episode where Clara and the Doctor open up to one another and it is far, far too brief.

As I suspect might have been hinted by the above I hated this. And I hated it pretty much entirely for the writing. The lazy, self-congratulatory writing. I can't believe that if Steven Moffat wasn't in charge of Doctor Who that the scripts he turns in would be considered acceptable. He has written nothing of the quality of what he wrote in the Russell T. Davies era and each week approaches the show as a collage of interesting images rather than a story. There's an interesting tale to tell each week but he seems absolutely uninterested in telling it. The actors tried very hard, the Victorian team are great as ever but Jenna Coleman was never particularly interesting beyond the mystery of Clara and Peter Capaldi, just like David Tennant, is sidelined in his first episode so we don't get a chance to see him shine. Next week is apparently 'Daleks killing lots of people' week, so the recycling of episodes hasn't stopped yet.


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