The Trouble with T.Davies

Another Doctor Who themed rant, I'm afraid. Deal with it.

I thought The Next Doctor wasn't all that good. That was down mostly to RTD's writing, and it's often something I have problems with.

Having watched all his episodes, I've found that he generally writes two types of episode - one where the threat level remains constant throughout, and the other where there's a big reveal about two-thirds of the way through.

The episodes where the general tone of the episode and the overall threat remains roughly the same throughout work really well. Tooth and Claw, for example, or The Waters of Mars. Whether it's a constant feeling of doom or just a standard romp, they generally turn out pretty well.

The episodes where there's a big reveal about two-thirds or so into the story are not as good. Love and Monsters is a prime example of this, as was The Next Doctor. Up until that point, the story will be pretty good, but once you get to that reveal, RTD can't resist having some big earth-shattering event or an utterly ludicrous monster (or both) that just stops the episode dead in its tracks. Once you hit that moment, you're gone - you've lost whatever respect or enjoyment you previously had for the episode and you switch to mocking mode. 'That monster looks ridiculous!' or 'That makes no sense at all!'. And once the big reveal happens, you still need to have the Doctor beat this threat. But if you don't take this threat seriously, then it's hard to watch someone else do so.

Let's take Voyage of the Damned as an example. It wasn't the most fantastic episode in the world (way too much death for my liking), but it was enjoyable enough. Until we find out that the big bad is a head in a box. An annoying, smug, vain and just plain irritating head in a box. And it's an ugly head in a box as well - sparkling teeth and everything. Once we, the audience, discover this, we stop caring. It could be the head of Hitler for all we care, we're just not going to take it seriously. And if we won't take that seriously, then why should we take anything else seriously? And then Kylie takes a forklift to the ugly head in a box. I'll repeat that.

Kylie Minogue drives a forklift and forces an ugly, irritating head in a box to fall down a hole.

If anyone else had written a script with that in it then it would never have gotten through. It's just ridiculous. And RTD expects us to not only accept that, but feel sorry for Kylie as she then falls down the hole herself and dies. Which is absurd, because he's already lost us. He's crossed the line and lost the viewer's respect. And then he goes on and has Queen Elizabeth evacuate Buckingham Palace in case the ship crashes into it, and when it doesn't he has the Queen actually thank the Doctor. This isn't serious drama - it's a bad comedy sketch.

Several of his episodes play out like this. With Boom Town it was the Slitheen taking control of the TARDIS and causing somewhat unconvincing cracks to appear in Cardiff. With Love and Monsters it was the Abzorbalof (or, rather, Peter Kay). The Stolen Earth/Children of Time, the sheer cluster-f*ck of characters. The Next Doctor, the CyberKing. And so on.

I'm not saying this happens all the time. It's something I've only found in some of the episodes written by RTD. And even then, those episodes are fine, even great, until that 66% mark. It's the fact that RTD includes those OTT moments that means I am thrown out of the plot with little to no hope of getting back in. And when I say 'we/us', I mean me as a typical audience member. I admit not everyone shares my views, but if you visit the Gallifrey Base forums (formerly the Doctor Who Forums), for example, there are a fair few who do.

I very much enjoy Doctor Who. Even the old, not-as-good ones (well, except the early ones which just go on and on and on...). And when RTD is on form, he can write some of the best episodes. But, conversely, he can also write the worst. It's still better then a lot of other shows, but when compared to the brilliance of Who, he can really fall short.

I enjoyed Planet of the Dead - I thought it was an enjoyable romp, if not exactly jam-packed with tension. And as I already mentioned, The Waters of Mars was, with the exception of a few make-up issues, bloody marvellous. It seems that co-writing episodes with someone helps to temper RTD's bad habits.

Honestly, I don't really like to over-analyse stuff. When I do, all I find are more things to dislike. But I've had this view on RTD's writing for a while now and I felt like sharing. In doing so, I help myself to actually realize why I feel that way. I look forward to the Christmas two-parter.

- Ironically, RTD did exactly what I ranted about once again in The End of Time - Part I, with the Master turning everyone on Earth into himself. I mentioned in another thread that it was the sort of thing a six-year-old would come up with, which I think sums it up nicely. Part Two was brilliant though.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent Article! I agree with pretty much everything you said!