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Doctors and their discontents

Recently a friend posted a link to a wonderful article that basically skewers Steven Moffat. There were things I didn't know in the article, things I'd thought but never said aloud, and it also helped me clarify some things that have bothered me. But, well, it isn't what I want to say, but it does help buck up the foundation a bit, so you may want to go and read it. I'll wait.

Okay, so, if you read it, forgive me if I repeat anything, and if you didn't I'll try not to say things that will only make sense if you did.

I've been a fan of Doctor Who since the early 80's. Before that I didn't even know it existed, and when I found it I was a recent college graduate, employed, taking graduate school classes, and, to most intents and purposes, a grown-up. I don't have any of the childhood foundation pieces that some of my friends have (either in Britain or America, though those experiences are demonstrably different in effect), or that I myself have with shows like Star Trek or even Wonder Woman. No, I met the Doctor as an adult American female, and he had big teeth, curly hair, an absurd scarf, and was clearly the craziest, most dangerous clown in the universe. And I adored him. Then I met some of his earlier incarnations, and immediate heir, and they became part of the cast of imaginary friends that I carry with me and that keep me sane. But then, well, the subsequent ones lost their charm. Colin, Sylvester, Paul (ill-served by a horrible script). The Doctor went away, and given the most recent versions, I didn't care. I still had my old friends, and that was enough.

Then he came back, with a "daft old face," and I was seduced again. Russell T. Davies as showrunner managed to honor the old, but brought wonderful new ideas and twists that made me love the mad Galifreyan all over again. Even the startlingly abrupt transition from Christopher "I don't dance" to David in Trainers was handled brilliantly, and Davies was gifted with one of the best doctors ever (or at least in my opinion), which really allowed the Davies years to shine. I was even willing to forgive him Rose Tyler and the horrible way he treated Martha. There was so much wonderful in what he did with the series (Jack!). But then as things do, he moved on and was replaced by Steven Moffat. And David was succeeded by Matt.

It's hard for me to be sure how much I dislike about the Moffat years is because of Moffat and how much is because of Matt Smith (who is a perfectly fine actor, but who never worked for me as The Doctor). I'm inclined, though, given what I've seen of Smith out of character, that he was hired because he matched well with what Moffat wanted to do and then did a superb job doing what was asked of him. So I pretty much come down blaming Moffat. For a lot. Like the train wreck that is Amy Pond (loved her for three episodes, but by the time "The Angels Take Manhattan" came around I was cheering because she'd be GONE). Like River Song. I'm a huge fan of Alex Kingston, and "Silence in the Library" is one of my favorite episodes of the 21st century Doctors, but the almost farcical elements of the Doctor's and River's relationship has me ready to scream. That may in part be because it could have been wonderful, until Moffat made it stupid. The notion that her life is moving backwards to his, so that he is "forgetting" their life together as she moves into having it only be memory has a heartbreaking poetry, that could have been so wonderful. Instead, it's ridiculous.

And then we have the story which brought me to this reflection, "The Day of the Doctor."

First we had "The Name of the Doctor." I was unmoved, but there were some interesting elements. Then there was "The Night of the Doctor." I actually liked it, and it made me angry that Paul McGann's tenure as the Doctor was limited to that awful movie. I liked the darkness, and the moral ambiguity of his choices (I loved Babylon 5, which is also riddled with those kinds of moving in the grey). Then there was "The Day of the Doctor." On one level it was just a shallow "let's bring all the old faces back for the fans" one-off episode, where some of the elements really were very forced and artificial. But the attempts to contextualize that huge "elephant in the room" that is The Time War were at least worth attempting, albeit I don't think they were successful in the attempt. And, well. David.

Which brings us to "The Day of the Doctor." I should probably watch it again. Maybe I missed something. Maybe it had some worthwhile elements. Maybe the script wasn't as bad as I thought, with logical errors, McGuffins, and ridiculous symbolism. Maybe. But I don't think so. But, give me a minute. Let me rewatch it. I'll be right back.