Greetings, friends. I’ve been told that this is my blog, I can write whatever I want, and one of my readers will embark on a vicious campaign of cyber-bullying if the popular bloggers make fun of me and make me do the online equivalent of whatever sitting in the corner and eating my lunch alone is. So, welcome. After a brief consideration of the rules I set out for myself in the first post- no politics, no whining, and most certainly no bloody poetry- I’ve decided that I’m going to break them all. Because nobody censors Meg Stokes, not even Meg Stokes! And, quite frankly, I’m not a very imaginative person and I can’t think of much else to write. However, today, I have much more important things to rant about. As you all know, I’m one of those pathetic, insular people who set their calendars by the schedule of their beloved T.V. shows, and today marks the re-appearance of my favourite mad man with a box.
I’ve flip-flopped like Mitt Romney on a beach filled with Hispanic independent voters in my choice of favourite Doctor Who show-runner (an out-of-date reference, yes, but I’ve been wanting to use that line since the Republican primary elections, so cut me some slack). The highly unscientific sample of those still willing to talk to me about a programme I’m ever so slightly too involved in seems similarly divided. Fans of plotty intrigue, action sequences, a gritty, more grown-up Doctor and the Rose Tyler romance seem to prefer Davies. Those who appreciate the way the show can blend whimsy with spine-chilling scenes, pop-culture junkies and Pond lovers seem to like Moffat more. Steve the Great is a unanimous favourite among the American Tumblr cohort, of course, but this group includes people who profess their love for Doctor Who and Eastenders in the same sentence. This leads one to suspect that either a) some Stateside BBC viewers are starting to put the UK on a pedestal similar to the way over-zealous anime fiends do with Japan (can we call these viewers tea-aboos? Please?) or some cultural wires got seriously tangled on their way across the Atlantic, so I’m unlikely to take their opinion seriously on anything less superficial than the quality of Matt Smith’s cheekbones.
Of course, as with everything in fiction, the differences and similarities between the two writers are more complicated than that- meaning, simply put, that they can be analysed to death. What use would an English degree have otherwise? Moffat has played a lot on Davies previous character development of the Time Lord- Christopher Eccleston’s portrayal of a Doctor simultaneously damaged and hardened by the Time War was, in this humble blogger’s opinion, an excellent jumping point into the second half of Season Six. ‘A Good Man Goes to War’, anyone? Davies was partial to a bit of humour in strange places himself, even if it was a little more adult and came in the form of Captain Jack Harkness’ tension-cracking innuendoes. People criticise Moffat for his predilection for giving genius protagonists childlike traits- but at its heart, Doctor Who is an adventure story, something that brings out the inner child in everyone.
The point is that ‘The Bells of Saint John’ should have been the episode to push me firmly off the fence and have me falling head over heels into the Moffat camp. Soul-sucking Wi-fi? Moments of touching hilarity as we witness the flustered awkwardness that is a smitten Doctor? That skin-creeping, goose-bump inducing moment of dissonance when (SPOILERS!) our episodes villain implodes into a child in an adult’s body? An intriguing, sort-of-absentee Big Bad who bears no slight resemblance to the Great Intelligence of ‘The Snowmen’ and can control your freaking mind and make you enjoy it?! Looks great on paper. Sign me right up.
But something about the episode felt… flat to me. It wasn’t Clara Oswald, though. After the Christmas Special, I felt lukewarm towards her character at best, but thinking on it, that may have had less to do with her re-introduction and more to do with the internet Who fandom’s theory that she was supposed to represent the viewer in a more artistic way than the rest of the companions did (read: Mary Sue), or some sort of symbol of the progress of the series as a whole. Such meta-commentary can be clever, yes, and even entertaining if done correctly but I don’t see that fitting in to the context of Doctor Who. However much it treats canon as something that can be observed, ignored, or bent into a paper clip if needs be, it’s just not a viable vehicle for those kinds of ideas. Besides, it seems like lazy writing (as commentary on your own work so often does, but that’s another post)- take a two dimensional character, hide her in an enigma, make her the Doctor’s own personal Manic Pixie Dream Girl, pass it off as art, ???, profit. But ‘The Bells of Saint John’ hints at further character development for Clara. She appears to be a caring friend and an adventuress whatever her incarnation- sort of like the Doctor himself. Interestingly enough, in all but one appearance she’s been a surrogate caregiver. The Great Intelligence, from what we’ve seen so far, seems like a kind of surrogate as well- Walter Simeon was an orphan, and it’s strongly implied that Miss Kislet was abandoned as a child. Could it be that while the Great Intelligence (or whatever it is) coldly drives people towards ruthless ambition, Oswald is some sort of moral polar opposite? But I digress. The chemistry between Coleman and Smith was fantastic, though- flirtatious and comradely all at once.
The Wi-fi idea was an interesting modern take on the “machines are taking over” trope, but it wasn’t developed enough. I know that perhaps my expectations were too high for just one episode, but would it have been too much for the Doctor to take apart some of the alien technology and mutter a few syllables under his breath? Something with a whole bunch of ‘z’s and ‘x’s in it? When all you have to go on is a “twice-dead woman”, some references to soufflés , the name of a building and the voice of Sir Ian McKellan, it’s hard to keep up your interest in the plot after the show’s over.
In other words, Moffat really keeps up the balance on this one- not too fluffy, not too plotty, hints of a promising story arc- but watching him walk the tightrope isn’t as entertaining as it should be. As many a sadist will tell you, it’s a lot more fun when the performer falls over to one side.
(On a side note- if you want to keep your disbelief suspended, NEVER watch a show that takes artistic liberties with technology with anyone who works in IT. Though why Keith had a problem with people typing on the wrong side of a keyboard in a show featuring a time travelling police box, I will never know…)