Thursday, April 20, 2006

Re-Doctorin' The TARDIS

Is there a word for a person who, while being really great, thoroughly likeable and sometimes awe-inspiring is also, well, a bit of a twat? I’m sorry, I don’t have a Profanisaurus to hand so my lexicon is rather limited. It’s just that the thought occurred to me the other day while watching the first episode of the second series of the all-new Doctor Who. Could it be, I thought, that the good Doctor, for all his good intentions, may quite possibly tick that box marked T more easily than we thought?

I mean it’d be really great to hop on the TARDIS and go whizzing through time and all with the Doc and Billie Piper (‘Cause we want to! ‘Cause we want to!), but all that baton relay flirting, off-the-cuff one-liners and smug flippancy of the laws of society and physics – if you were right in the thick of it it’d really get on your nerves after a bit, wouldn’t it? You’d feel a bit useless in there. A bit of third wheel. A gooseberry. You’d start to resent the Doctor a bit. Think he’s a twat. Like I’m sure you’d think about anyone who certainly regards himself as a lot greater than you no matter how humble he appears. Unless you’re Mother Theresa. And she’s dead, and you’re not (her or dead).

You’ve got to think that the reason that Rose’s boyfriend, the hapless Mickey, doesn’t want to travel around the universe with her isn’t because he can’t take the excitement, it’s because he somehow knows he’d be carrying a torch that both Roy Castle and Bernard Cribbins held (then dropped, tried to pick up, burnt their fingers and sprang up to bump their head on the underside of a table). But then, the Doctor does that to other men.

Maybe it’s just the show’s focus on the eponymous Who as the centre of attention that his persona shall shine the brightest and dim those who stand in his light. As the man of the hour, and as anyone of a twattish nature shall show, assertion of their gender dominance is paramount to them, and in this case the writing of the show has justified that. Take heed that nearly all of the male characters who popped into the TARDIS during Ecclestone’s run have or developed some kind of negative flaw that let their sex-side down: Mickey, of course who’s a bit fick; Adam who teams up with the duo for one trip before succumbing to greed; even Captain Jack, who despite being the dashing hero stereotype, admits he’d tipped the scales towards number one and tried to fleece them. And he only gets away with it by being bi-metrosexual and thus less of a threat to the Timelord.

That a prominent force such as the Doctor has to force that authority and magnitude of personality via the conduit of Ecclestone’s cheeky-chappiness, inevitably results in this chipping away at his 'good' competitors for his benefit, blatantly or not. For all his own flaws, he's as critical of others'. Especially, when this particular incarnation of the series tips the wink at the Doctor glossing over the greater responsibilities and ethics of genocide and murder when he himself decides the end justifies the means. He has a great habit of pulling those carriages of doubt quickly back onto his own track of thinking before anyone, particularly Rose, can question his motivations. He’s the guy with his name on the canopy, that’s all we need to know, so why should his limelight be stolen?

Now then, why say all this about the last incarnation when we should be talking about Tennant’s relay run? The answer’s because it looks like not much has changed for series two. I can’t talk as a leading authority on Doctor Who, having not seen as much of last century’s output as I managed beyond the gaze of a child (yes, I literally did hide behind cushions during some episodes, no word of a lie), but I presume that each incarnation of the Doctor plays on a distinct variation of a main theme. That is, they may all be time-travelling aliens, but they each have room to manoeuvre in what they say and how they act. You’d have to agree that a Tom Baker is on an altogether different spectrum than a William Hartnell or a Sylvester McCoy.

Tennant, on the other hand, doesn’t have that; he’s far too much like Ecclestone to make that differentiation. Their personalities are interchangeable. That is, the one of the cheeky-chappy, charming, funny, arrogant, smug, really great guy. And a bit of a twat.

Two arguments: one, that it’s only the first episode (and a Christmas special), so he’s not had the opportunity to get into his own groove. Time will tell, yet at the moment he’s just a face to a name as opposed to a character of his own. He may be slightly better-looking, but he’s nothing more than a different ink ribbon for the same typewriter.

And two, the plots are more important than the characters. Which is plainly ridiculous as nearly all the humour and drama comes from that interaction between Rose and the Doctor, and their reaction to others. All of which is a roundabout way of saying that I believe a more conscious effort to write to type and find that ‘click’ for Tennant is necessary if they want to avoid getting stale. Particularly since this new era of DW depends a lot on recurring characters and themes to provide its entertainment. That means a constant requirement to inject fresh elements into the show and making sure they stay fresh. And surely nothing would be fresher than a new Doctor with a new way of doing things.

It’s all in the bag now, so we shall see how it develops, and maybe such a criticism shall be insignificant beyond this week. If you’re after criticism of the actual episode, though, well I’ve heard talk of people saying it’s pretty weak, and, yes, while it’s alright, it’s a little too much of a repeat on season one. Maybe if there’s eventual evidence of a series arc that doesn’t dead-end in quite the way the ‘Bad Wolf’ did, it’ll get more exciting. If one thing, this episode wasn’t an indication of a dip in quality quite yet, just a bit of a re-tread. I await this Saturday’s supposed scariest episode yet with anticipation. Until then, Tennant, Ecclestone, whoever, they’re all the same to me.

The two-hearted twats.

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