Burn Baby Burn

Okay, so I'm not so good at the exercise thing. Eventually I sat down and watched the latest New Who - Father's Day. Considering what I wrote a few paragraphs/hours ago, I'm not terribly impressed. I've written a review and posted it to Outpost Gallifrey. They may or may not publish it, but in any case, I'm pasting it below.

As I write, it is, as usual, a little past four in the morning. I have two dozen or so CDRs to burn. Here goes.
I've just got around to watching Father's Day, and I think I finally know what's wrong with the new series.

It isn't the intrusive or inappropriate music of End of the World. And I don't think it's really the pseudoromantic bond between Rose and the Doctor in Dalek, or aliens with supposedly comical long names. I think the problem is Russell T Davis.

In interview, he said Rose and the Doctor would be given equal billing. This turns out to mean Rose is the star and the Doctor is her all-purpose plot device. It's her concerns, feelings and actions that drive the show. The Doctor is there to transport her to settings where she can meet the local sentient life and display emotions.

This is evident in the first scene of Father's Day when Rose asks to see her father on the day of his death, and the Doctor cheerfully responds, "Your wish is my command."

Actually, he lets her do it twice, so they get to see themselves from the first time, in spite of knowing the great dangers of being "present in two aspects" as the Black Guardian once said. Inevitably, Rose impulsively saves her dad, and mucks up causality.

The wedding party get trapped in a church, with the Doctor using an idea straight out of Sapphire and Steel that the party would be protected (for a while) from the time creatures because the church is old. Cue a series of dialogue driven emotional set pieces.

We get to see the Doctor envious of the bride and groom, because he doesn't get to do romance and ordinary life. He says the couple are "important" and that he will save them because of their ordinaryness.

The Doctor tells us (once again) that his world - still not named as Gallifrey - is gone, and mentions his friends and family, indicating he would dearly love to go back and save them. Presumably this family is the clan of warring cousins in Lungbarrow. Has the Doctor ever mentioned any family in the television series before? Apart possibly from Susan, the canonical Doctor has always been a rootless renegade.

Rose realizes that the father she'd been told about is a fabrication from the mind of her grief stricken mother, but that the real man is both a failed wheeler-dealer and a decent, charming fellow. He later makes the greatest sacrifice a father could make for his daughter, dying to save her, and incidentally the rest of the world.

We even get to meet Mickey as a boy of about 5. Which, seeing as this is 1987, would make him about 23 in 'Rose'. The prepubescent boy hugs the girl he won't meet for years in a 'foreshadowing' of their later relationship.

RTD described Doctor Who as a 'Space Opera'. This turns out to mean 'Soap Opera'. Science Fiction is a way to explore ideas, not a forum for exploring tortured interpersonal relations.

He pointed out, quite correctly, that Doctor Who has consistently ignored issues about companions joining The Doctor, disappearing from their ordinary lives, and abandoning loved ones to go exploring the universe. Companions seem to effortlessly jettison their past lives and associations when they step into the Tardis.

There is a perfectly good reason why emotional bonds to friends and family are ignored. It's because they don't belong in Doctor Who!

If you want to know about the endlessly layered complexities of someone's neuroses - their insecurities, loves, fears, and of course their family - watch a soap opera, or a 'reality' show. If you want to play 'What If' games with technology, history or the laws of physics, science fiction is the place to be.

Obviously Doctor Who - and science fiction in general - has always had personalities and interpersonal relationships. The first Doctor was a wise but curmudgeonly explorer with bewildered companions, the third was a benign avuncular dandy with a series of innocent relationships with young women in short skirts, and the fifth a profoundly moral man who was very patient with his whining (and sometimes scheming) young friends.

But in Doctor Who under Russell T Davis it's just far too much. The science fiction elements of the plot are paper thin, while the soap opera elements are luxuriously thick. It's mildly interesting to find out about Rose's background, but not to have her family the center of every second adventure.

The Tardis is a way to easily find new worlds and threats for each adventure. It lets us see new aliens and human cultures, new mad scientists and fascistic robots, new political corruption and amazing technology, each time our mysterious, nameless hero lands somewhere.

It is not a way to find new angles for examining the inner life of a teenage girl.

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