Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Revisionist Viewing of the "New" Doctor Who Season 4 Finale

[Along with voicing my opinion, this entry definitely acts as a cheap ratings stunt]

The season 4 finale of the "New" Doctor Who that aired on the Sci-Fi Channel in the US last Friday night disappointed me quite a bit and really made me feel frustrated about Russell T Davies.


Essentially, the season finale felt like it ended with too much of a deus ex machina that made me feel cheated. The resolution of defeating the Daleks felt too easy.

I'm cool with the whole three Doctors thing, the original Doctor, Meta-Crisis Doctor and DoctorDonna. I'm even cool with the solution to the problem coming from the existence of three Doctors.

The following excerpt from an e-mail I sent to a friend voices my opinion about the element that caught my craw:

But yeah, this last finale was just too much deus ex machina for me. . .especially with the "master control panel" for the Daleks and Davros being at the doors of the TARDIS. What was up with that? And what is up with having that kind of thing? Sure, I can understand if Davros had one (once bitten, twice shy with his Daleks in the past rebelling), but to allow it to control Davros? What? What?! What?!?! But I think the main issue was that there was absolutely no reference or emphasis on the thing before they took control of the master control panel.

In other words, the lack of allusion to the control panel before DoctorDonna started fiddling with it. I think just having a character use or manipulate something in a scene, unless the sudden appearances of things is appropriate for the type of story told, especially when it becomes a vital object, breaks a rule of storytelling in some way. At least, it breaks a rule of engaging storytelling.

After some unconscious thinking on the matter, though, I came up with the following revisionist explanation that I e-mailed my friend:
Maybe Donna got a glimpse of the master control panel while in the TARDIS. It didn't really strike her as anything important while she was just normal, banal Donna, but once she became Doctor-Donna, she made sense of that memory of the master control. Also, did the Meta-Crisis Doctor also receive memories from Donna. . .so they could both actually remember the control panel.

So at least the Meta-Crisis Doctor programs the coordinates for the TARDIS's landing on the Dalek ship to be right at the MASTER CONTROL. Maybe he doesn't have everything planned, but that gun thing they had put together was really just a diversion. Being born in war and willing to commit genocide is kind of a sign that he was willing to sacrifice Donna on a hunch that if she gets zapped by Davros, she would become Doctor-Donna and figure out bunches of stuff out on her own.

And so after getting zapped by Davros and becoming Doctor-Donna, she remembers the MASTER CONTROL, which isn't necessarily a MASTER CONTROL but could be something else, but she's Doctor-Donna and can quickly move wires around & stuff at Time Lord cognitive speed to create a MASTER CONTROL. And then we know the rest after that.

Which, then, certainly brings up a whole bunch of other interesting narrative points. How does a genius, an intuitive one at that, get portrayed successfully as a protagonist? How does someone who has just become a genius after going through a "meta-crisis" and starting at the audience's level or lower of intelligence get portrayed successfully? And, less interesting, did Russell T Davies even think of the above scenario or did he just let an unsatisfying deus ex machina occur because he likes doing that kind of thing? And, just to throw it out there, am I being a spoiled anti-fan or does my criticism come from my "writing sense."

Either which way, I'm not sad to see
Russell T Davies leaving Doctor Who as head writer. I give him credit for really being one of the main forces for bringing Doctor Who back to world. He has probably written some great episodes that I really liked. This finale, though, along with the resolution to the deus ex machina in Season 3 finale, "Last of the Time Lords", really just makes me think that I've had enough of Russell T Davies.

I look forward to and welcome Steven Moffatt as the head writer come season 5 in 2010. The writer of the episodes "Blink", "The Empty Child", "The Doctor Dances", "Silence in the Libary", "Forest of the Dead", of course, "The Curse of the Fatal Death", among others that he has written, I look forward to see what Mr. Moffatt has in store for us for at least a season.


Allan R. said...

So I take it you did not like "Journey's End" at all. I'll take issue with your revisionist history of the revival of Dr. Who. It starts with a poll in 1999 or 2001 run by BBC regarding its most loved and wanted to be revived series from old and Dr. Who won this poll by an overwhelming percentage. A few years later RTD approached the BBC and told the BBCPTB that if you're going to do this ever you all need to do it now, and I'll be the show runner. The result was that in the spring 2005 "Rose" was shown. The point is that RTD was the only one who had any sufficient clout and ability to revive a series that had been off the air for SIXTEEN years.

Doesn't all spec. fiction have some type of "deus ex machina"; examples, Gandalf survives the fight with Balrog, Scott or LaForge always repair the warp coil in time to save the Enterprise, G'Kar survives all his encounters with the Centauri who are the sworn and mortal enemies to all Narn, Tony Soprano always just elludes arrest by the Feds (always a little to convenient, no) etc. Is not it the case that as with any literary device or plot device, it matters entirely how the storyteller uses it. One can dislike RTD's style of storytelling. But I'm most likely full of crap.

Addiionally, by your self indentification as an "antifan" is not the purpose of your analysis to deconstruct and diminish Dr. Who.

The_Lex said...

I'll be the first admit that I might not be the clearest writer on my blog. So to clarify on a couple things:

1. My revision was for the finale, not the revival of the series

2. The finale was actually pretty fun until the the whole deus ex machina occurred. . .and it actually got fun again after that

3. To repeat, I have to give RTD credit for being able to do what he did to get Doctor Who back into into production. Doesn't mean I have to like his showrunning (that would take a whole other entry) and all his episodes (I probably have liked at least a couple episodes of his)

4. I'm only being an "anti-fan" of RTD, not Doctor Who

5. And you essentially made my argument for the "deus ex machina." The storytelling needs to be good. I think the storytelling collapsed with the "deus ex machine" and made me feel cheated. Like a reviewer of the finale said at one point: The episode was good, if you don't think about it

The_Lex said...

And, oh yeah, as for the title of this entry, I mentioned "New" because I didn't want to refer to the "classic" series.