The Moffat Master Plan – Series 6 (part 2)

Warning – Some very minor spoilers for The Hand of Fear, and The Androids of Tara. Major spoilers for important bits of series five, six, and seven.
Also major spoilers for
The Tomorrow People episode, Hitler’s Last Secret.

Well, after a big gap, here is part three of my investigation of Steven Moffat’s story arcs.  Part two dealt with the first story of Series Six, and originally this part was to deal with the rest of that series, until I realised how overwhelmingly convoluted and inconsistent it was.  So now this bit will take us up to the penultimate story, and part three will be all about The Wedding of River Song.

(Late edit – Grant commented that I was applying a level of scrutiny that most stories wouldn’t hold up to – and he’s right.  So in order to be sightly fairer, I have coloured the bits that don’t really relate directly to the story or character arcs but are in fact individual episodic or story flaws.  So if you’re just interested in the arc bits, ignore the rest.)

 

Rory looks on in horror as the Doctor cold-bloodedly kills an innocent being for no very good reason.

So, after events in Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon we get various cameos with Madam Kovarian, and then we get The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People. It’s a story about how Gangers are really, really honestly living sentient beings after all, and killing them is wrong, wrong, so terribly wrong.

That ends with the Doctor choosing to kill the Ganger of Amy.

Just because.

He say he needed enough information to block the signal to the Flesh.  The Doctor has already waited through a few stories previously, so it’s a bit off that once he has confirmed the Ganger origins and that Amy is a Ganger, he pretty much immediately chooses to kill her, rather than keep her alive and try to track the signal animating her.

But it was a nice, cool, shock ending.  One that helped make the Doctor look, at best, like a massive, unfeeling hypocrite.  At worst he’s a murderer.  Would the Doctor have dispatched an actual living being like that?  Oh wait, he spent the last two episodes arguing that the Gangers were real, living, feeling beings, so the answer must be yes.

I think it would have been more shocking if they way came up with to deal with Ganger Jennifer, that also took out the Gangers of the Doctor, Cleaves, and Amy.  There’s a lot of drama to be had from that, especially if it turns out the Doctor didn’t know for sure, so he’s almost as stunned and shocked as Rory.  And it avoids turning the Doctor into a cold-blooded killer.

But that’s not as cool or surprising, and one should always jettison good character stuff for cool.

So then we come to…   Continue reading

Advertisements

I’m back and angry…

Hello gentle reader.  Sorry to have been away so long.  December was busy, a virus ran through our house, and then I had to go interstate to visit sick relatives and bereaved friends, and post-trip I was pretty bloody tired.

So what brought me back out again?  What was it that got me all fired up and angry?  What got me so very annoyed that I could not avoid hitting the keyboard?

Steven Bloody Moffat!

So that’s why I love myself. But enough about me. Why do YOU love me?

I read this today – “Steven Moffat has defended criticisms that his stories contain plot holes.

In an interview with BBC Radio 2, Moffat addressed the issue for both Sherlock and Doctor Who and explained that he thinks clever viewers are able to join the dots themselves and don’t always need an on screen explanation.

He said: “I think people have come to think a plot hole is something which isn’t explained on screen. A plot hole is actually something that can’t be explained.

“Sometimes you expect the audience to put two and two together for themselves. For Sherlock, and indeed Doctor Who, I’ve always made the assumption that the audience is clever.”

That’s the whole of it, but here’s a link to the site.

What I dislike about this is the cynical, utterly transparent, manipulative intent of his comments.  What he’s essentially saying is, “No, it’s not that I’m leaving plot holes, it’s that people who criticise my writing aren’t very clever, unlike people who like what I do.”

It’s Moffat attempting his own version of The Emperor’s New Clothes. [1]

He’s broadly attempting to do two things.  One is to make people think twice before criticising him, lest they be perceived as being a bit dim.  The other is to bolster the support of those who enjoy his writing in an uncritical way, by telling them that by enjoying what he does, they must be more clever than those who are critical.

Well, I’m bloody calling him on it. Continue reading

The Moffat Master Plan – Series 6 (part 1)

Warning – Some spoilers for Pyramids of Mars, Father’s Day, and Waters of Mars. Major spoilers for important bits of series five, six, and seven.

Okay, welcome to part two of my investigation of Steven Moffat’s story arcs and writing, and how it holds together.

Hint = it doesn’t.

This article will only be about the first story of series six because there’s a lot to say. But the series certainly started strong…

Boy, I hope we don’t completely screw up this iconic scene later in the season…

Impossible Astronaut While at Lake Silencio, Amy spots a figure on a hill. It’s a Silent. But even though it’s incredibly likely that she’s seen the footage of the moon landing at some point in her life, she doesn’t immediately try to kill it on sight. Continue reading

The Moffat Master Plan – Series 5

Warning – Some spoilers for Pyramids of Mars, Image of the Fendahl, Mawdryn Undead and Father’s Day. Major spoilers for City of Death, all of series five, and bits of series six and seven.

Steven Moffat’s first season, series 5, blew me away. I still think it’s his strongest by far and it seemed a very canny and clever beginning to his run. It was enough like Russell Davies’ era Doctor Who not to alienate the fans who had come on board in the last few years, while at the same time gradually shifting the mythos.

The theory I quickly developed, as I watched that season for the first time, was that Moffat was going to slowly remove the seeming godhood that had been bestowed on the Doctor. To take him back to being a simple wanderer who wasn’t known to absolutely everybody. I suspect he’s still heading in that direction, but it’s become more distorted with time, and Moffat’s admitted fear of the audience becoming bored, so he seems to keep straying back and forth.  I may well be wrong.  I hope I’m not.

After becoming disenchanted during series six, to the point where for the first time in my entire life I didn’t care about the show by the end of the season, I went back to look through series five again to get the taste out of my mouth.

While I knew it was not a perfect run, it was solid, held together, and made sense.

Or did it? Continue reading

The Moffat Master Plan – Prelude…

Since coming back in 2005, Doctor Who has become a show based firmly on the Buffy model. An over arcing story for the season, with episodes that build the arc peppered throughout the run, usually building up to a major conflict and/or big bad.

The original series had done arc story-lines before, but generally handled them differently. The very first Hartnell season when viewed as a whole is about the first Doctor learning to be a hero from his human companions. Other seasons had ongoing stories or themes. Season sixteen was all about the Key to Time. Season eighteen had the constant theme of decay and stagnation, and also incorporated two trilogies of stories before it put the universe itself in direct peril for only the third time in the show’s history.

For instance, the arc for season 8 was about how the Master loves being a complete dick to the Doctor. I didn't say it was a complex or clever arc.

For instance, the arc for season 8 was about how the Master loves being a complete dick to the Doctor.
I didn’t say it was a complex or clever arc.

Since coming back, the enforced arcs building to big end of season showdowns have given us the potential end of the universe five times in seven years. Where the original series was contented to simply try to end the series with a solid story, admittedly not always successfully, the new series by its nature has to try to give us a massive, ‘important’ story to finish the season with.

One of the problems with this is the perceived need to build-up to that finale. Russell Davies’ way of handling this was to have a word or phrase pop up throughout the season, keeping the audience guessing until the end where we would then find out what it referred to.

It wasn’t always successful, and as story or arc building goes, it really is a bit light on. It makes a show of knowing where it’s headed, while really not doing much in the way of work toward actually layering hints or clues. Indeed, the very first year Bad Wolf wasn’t originally intended to be anything special. Before the series aired, the fans went nuts over leaked pictures trying to figure out what the graffiti on the TARDIS meant, figuring it had a deeper meaning. Davies decided to start layering it in to bait them, without any real idea where it was headed. The truth is, Bad Wolf originally had no more importance to the show than than being a one-off piece of random graffiti on the TARDIS.

I am Bad Wolf.  I reached this conclusion in a completely illogical way, but I'm allowed to do that because I'm Bad Wolf.  So Blah!

I am Bad Wolf. I reached this conclusion in a completely illogical way, but I’m allowed to do that because I’m Bad Wolf. So Blah!

The problem with constructing an arc is, you have to be on your game. If you’re really going to build up an over-arcing mystery to a satisfying conclusion, one that will hold up to basic scrutiny, you need to think about where you’re headed and plan carefully for that future destination.

Instead of being a show about the adventures and the people the Doctor and his friends meet, it has become a series about the Doctor and his companions. Hence the continual need to have companions who idolise, fancy, or romantically love the Doctor, and the end of season stories often involving things that directly affect members of the TARDIS crew on a personal level, usually leading to unlikely destinies for those characters.

The destinies of the companions these days make some of the surprise sudden departures due to unforeseen romances and the like from the old series look brilliantly restrained.

K9 and Leela elope together leaving the Doctor alone once more.

K9 and Leela elope together leaving the Doctor alone once more.

Doctor Who as a series now isn’t about the stories, it’s about the season’s clues. Fans obsess over any little detail that might have something to do with that season’s arc. All too often stories are treated by fans a means to get the hints to the finale, rather than having a point in and of themselves. The fact that the story may be an excellent stand-alone is considered less important than the arc. Indeed, some stories are badly hurt by having aspects of the arc poorly grafted in.

Once Steven Moffat took over, he made a show of having a better idea of how to layer in hints and clues that would pay off. Certainly his first season had some very clever story-telling scattered and hinted at throughout. But for every bit that pays off and works, there are several other bits that don’t hold together.

Now, in fairness, virtually no series can hold up to close inspection. There will always be bits where things are a bit hand-wavey, or simply don’t add up or hold together. However, in turning Doctor Who into a show where the clues scattered throughout are meant to be of crucial importance, in actively inviting the audience to pay close attention and to treat all manner of things and moments as potentially being vital story elements, it also invites us to be more critical of when these things don’t add up.

Moffat’s storylines are full of glaring inconsistencies. While it’s painted as an incredible layered puzzle, in fact it’s even less well constructed than Davies’ run.

I’m usually the guy who is surprised by all the plot holes and such I haven’t spotted that my friends have. Minutes after watching something, when others are saying, “But what about the such-and-such?” I’m sitting there amazed that I missed the errors that seemed so obvious to others. In fact, it’s become one of my judging criteria – if I don’t spot an issue until after the film or episode is over, I figure they’ve done a good job. But if I spot it while watching it for the first time, if it’s something so glaring that it spoils my suspension of disbelief, then they must have been pretty bloody slack for someone as clueless as me to spot the issue.

I’ve spotted a lot of issues with Moffat’s seasons on a first viewing.

And in going through them to research for this little run of posts, I’ve found even more inconsistencies. So over the next few articles I’m going to run through the season arcs in detail, since the new series wants us paying such close attention.

I’ve suffered for my obsession, and now it’s your turn.

Here are a few of questions that have yet to be answered.

  • When will we see the fall of the Eleventh on the Fields of Trenzalore? Because surely the events in The Name of the Doctor don’t count as the fall…
  • The Silence wanted to stop the Doctor from answering “the question that must never be asked.” His name. But he didn’t answer that question at Trenzalore when asked it, so is that arc now over?
  • Why does the “Most Important Leaf in the Universe” change to a radically differently shaped leaf? (Actually I know the answer to this one, and it’s both really annoying and quite telling)
  • So who was it wanted to blow up the TARDIS in the first place in Pandorica Opens?
  • Who was saying, “Silence will fall,” in the TARDIS?

Except for the leaf, I can actually see a couple of ways to tie these questions together and give some satisfactory answers. And I really hope Moffat does just that. I’d love to have all those elements that have annoyed me be explained or retconned in a way that works.

It’d be nice to have faith in the writing again.

The Forgotten (I completely ruin the film and tell you the ending)

The Forgotten – 3/10

forgotten

Look, it’s a good film, but I had some serious issues with the scripting of it so I’m basically going to ruin the ending to explain why it rates so low.

The basic premise is, a woman whose son died in a plane crash is still not over the death of her son 14 months later. Then one day, everyone denies she had a son. And there’s no evidence she ever had a son.

There are some early scripting issues I had. Within the first half of the film, on two occasions the people chasing her get stopped by blind chance placing a car or person in their path so they lose her. Then in another scene, someone looking for her is practically right on top of where she’s hiding and… they get called away.

It all happens very close together and is basically really poor writing. Or directing – maybe the writer had her getting away using her wits and the director thought this was better visually. Who knows? What I do know is that it added up to some bad storytelling.

Later in the film, we meet the unfeeling power that has been screwing with people’s lives. It tells her it was all an experiment to see if it could make people forget their kids, but she’s a threat to the idea that it is possible. That was all fine, but when it suddenly lost its temper and screamed at her and talked about the personal cost to itself should it fail… that was shit. It’s a way to humanise the baddie, which is the exact opposite of what should have been done.

Which leads to the ending, which for me, seriously buggered the central conceit of the film.

Right at the end, when it becomes apparent that she’s not going to forget her son, the powers that be take away the bad guy, and basically give her her son back.

Why?

Seriously, is there any reason to do this other than to give the film a happy ending? Because it makes no friggin’ sense in the context of the entire movie. If they didn’t care about experimenting on these people in the first place, why would they care enough to give them back their kids? In fact, why would they even keep the kids alive? Or on ice? It doesn’t work, especially given that anyone else who seemed to be a threat to the status quo was simply removed, so why not simply remove her at the end of the experiment?

I would have preferred her to find out her son was still alive, living with another family somewhere in the world, and for her to decide she would keep looking for him. I can imagine the beings that started the experiment in the first place thinking that this would be a worthy follow-up. How many years would she search? What would she do? Could she find enough evidence to track him down?

It is a good movie, the acting is solid, it has some nice concepts, but the ending guts the central premise.

For links to the list of other cosmic horror films I’ve been watching, go here.

Dalekboy’s Linky Goodness

So, haven’t been posting here a lot because that thing called life keeps getting in the way.  You remember life.  Look away from the screen.  There it is.  Now quick, hide back here with me again.

I’ve got several pieces started here that I need to finish, but some were begun last year and I’m just not quite getting time to work on them.  Or when I have time, I’m a bit too tired.  But anyway, I have been doing some writing here and there, and I thought I might link to that, and to one or two other bits and pieces I like.

 

Get Off My Lawn, you damned nuWho kids!

Get Off My Lawn, you damned nuWho kids!

Continue reading

Classic Who – The Valeyard and Regenerations

There are two things you need to know before we can talk about the Valeyard as being or idea. The first is that the concept for the character builds on, and is inspired by, the handling of regeneration from as far back as the second Doctor.  The second and more important, is that the character came up at a time when the script editor and producer were at odds with one another – drastically affecting the quality of the whole season in which the Valeyard was featured, and the way he was eventually handled.

I’m going to try to minimise spoilers, so if I’m oddly vague about something that you think is common knowledge, be aware I’m trying to let people less well versed in the show’s history still have some of these surprises.  Personally, if I know I’m going to read a specific book, or watch a specific film, I will usually avoid reading anything about it just so I can experience it as freshly as possible.  That said, some spoilers are going to be unavoidable, especially when I talk about the Trial of a Time Lord season, and the Valeyard.  There will almost certainly be spoilers in any comments.

One of the genius ideas with regards to Doctor Who was the whole concept of the lead character being able to change appearance, allowing the show a longevity far beyond what most actors would be able to achieve. Continue reading

Classic Who – The Martian Legacy

(A delayed post – I started writing this last year, then suddenly it’s the day before a new Ice Warrior story.  So here it is with a quick final edit, for those of you who want a taster for what went before.)

d2-2o-037

Given they only ever had four televised stories (until tomorrow), it says a lot about the Ice Warriors that 38 years after their last televised adventure, they are still a popular alien race. They’ve been given a lot of life beyond those original TV tales with numerous appearances in comics, novels, and audio plays.  Here I’ll just concentrate, in as non-spoilery a way as possible, on their televised appearances.

I think the key to the Ice Warriors’ popularity is that they are a rare race within the Doctor Who universe in that their plans and motivations are different in each of the stories in which they featured.  While Daleks and Cybermen have more appearances, their stories are substantially less varied – those creations stopped being a race of aliens and became monsters – whereas the Ice Warriors changed organically over the course of their stories. Continue reading

The Rings of Akhaten, and the importance of clarification in writing…

Major Spoilers below the cut for The Rings of Akhaten, as I complain about how people miss the stuff that is spelled out clearly, and talk about the importance of clarity with regards to a story’s finale, and how modern Doctor Who seems unconcerned with such things. No major spoilers for Citizen Kane, though there are a couple of minor thematic ones.

Let me start by stating one thing very, very clearly – I really liked The Rings of Akhaten.

People talk about Doctor Who having a sense of wonder, but seldom is that evoked as clearly and beautifully as it is in this story.  Forget the visuals, there are some conceptual ideas within this tale that are wonderful and lovely, and the main story does justice to them. I think this is another Dinosaurs on a Spaceship[1], where people get so caught up in one or two details, they cheat themselves out of appreciating just how beautiful the core of the story is.

Continue reading