Wednesday, May 1, 2013

How I Would Do DR.WHO

Okay, this is about Doctor Who, a cult t.v. show I initially encountered way, way back in the 1980s with Tom Baker as the Fourth Doctor (we are now on Matt Smith as the Eleventh!).

In recent episodes, many fans seem dissatisfied with the show. Anyone reading this who isn't a fan will probably find what follows baffling. Especially since explaining would take way too much time. Pardon the pun. So I'm not going to.

As a fan, and a somewhat dissatisfied one, here I offer my suggestions of what might recapture the "magic." This isn't about Clara, however. I've no problem at all with the character or the story arc involving her on the show. These suggestions are for the show regarding the next Companion, maybe even the next Doctor!

First and foremost, I'd like to see a Companion who is not a pretty young girl! Contrary to popular belief, this would not in fact be a brand new development. I wouldn't mind an alien, a male, or simply someone older rather than in their twenties. I even offer a model of how such a chemistry might work--on another BBC show no less! Of course I mean the modern retelling of Arthur Conan Doyle's famous detective, Sherlock. Not that I believe the almost-but-not-quite-homoerotic dynamic is needed, anymore than Sherlock and the Doctor are that close in weirdness or personality. But that model, re-imagined much as it is every time we see a new version of Sherlock Holmes, that would be something to explore and use in a fresh way! For example, an adult male with plenty of real world experience that comes in handy, shoring up the Doctor's weaknesses. Lord knows the Doctor can be extremely undiplomatic, whereas someone who handles such things extremely well might prove quite useful in terms of story. Also, this Watson-eque Companion could have his own story, his own secrets and issues in a way Rose and Amy never did.
Another thing to develop would be an antagonist. Frankly it might very well be The Master, as far as I'm concerned. He could well have survived what happened at the end of "The End of Time" (stranger things have happened, after all) and a new regeneration could give him quite the lease on life, a new face and a new agenda. In particular what about a version of the Master who's decided to woo the Tardis away from the Doctor? Lately the Tardis has come across increasingly as a subtle character in the show. Use that! Imagine the Master's convoluted plan to drive a wedge between the Doctor and the Tardis, to offer himself as in fact a better Time Lord with  which to travel, especially since this Master would be a new person in many ways!

I'll do a step further. Since we know Time Lords can regenerate into a different gender, why not cast a woman as the Master? The Corsair, we're told in "The Doctor's Wife," was sometimes a woman. I'll even make a casting suggestion. Someone will all the sleek elegance of a panther, who can convey a mind brilliant as that of a thousand-year-old alien, one of the great geniuses from a billion-year-old civilization. Yet can also appear surprisingly vulnerable. In this case I refer to Jaime Murray, late of Dexter and The Mystery of the Blue Train as well as Spartacus, Warehouse 13 and Defiance. The possibilities here really boggle the mind. Suppose The Mistress (to coin a pseudonym) laid traps for the Doctor, including somewhere the two of them share a past. Wouldn't we all love a hint of that! And if our Watson-Companion developed some feelings for this strange woman he encounters now and again?

Frankly I think The Mistress might provide a wonderful chance to see how a Time Lord sans all that vast technology might find a way to do things. A quick trip back in time? Find a Weeping Angel. Need to leave a message of sorts on an alien world? Send a carefully targeting message through a wormhole into a planet's past to set up a religion. And so on.

These of course are details, like the desire for a vaguely steampunk design to the Tardis control room.  More fundamentally, I'd want to see a few other tendencies brought to the forefront. One problem with this show is that it has gone on so long with so many stories, how can  you do something new? Well, in one sense you cannot, but that remains a problem with all story-telling in general. In effect Twilight as well as Romeo and Juliet and Jane Eyre are just re-tellings of Pyramus and Thisbe. Keeping things fresh and interesting depends on other things than pure, unadulterated originality. This such as...
  • Every set-up needs an equally powerful denoument. Frankly this is the eternal problem with some episodes such as "Lets Kill Hitler." I would argue that really great set-ups probably need a climax spread over multiple episodes. Probably.
  • Integrate guest characters with the regulars. Better than nine times out of ten, when this isn't done the stories don't work. "Blink" handled with as lightly as one can imagine. "Journey To The Center of The Tardis" frankly did not. The result was a weaker (although by no means bad) episode.
  • Return to clarity. This can be really really subtle, but given just how confused some watchers have gotten, I think it needs stressing. Honestly, that includes me. I still don't know who was behind events in "The Big Bang" or why. And I'm very bright! Not that I don't love me some mystery and some open-endedness! I do! But lately I've been getting right confused along with everybody else. Overload might well be why the mystery of Clara simply isn't interesting me as much as that of River Song or John Saxon.
  • Humor as a light in darkness. One reason my favorite Doctor remains Seven (Sylvester McCoy) is how very clown-like he often seemed, yet increasingly we saw that as a mask for an ancient wanderer full of horrible secrets and dreadful decisions. As with many things, 'tis a tricky balance to achieve. But Dr.Who requires that, with general use (I emphasize general as opposed to universal) of the following dynamic: The Doctor meets some folks who are treating something very, very seriously. He seems to grin and make light of everything, while revealing things are many times more serious than those folks ever dreamed. This need not be present for a good story. Look at "Amy's Choice" for example. But as a strong tendency this remains important.
For what it's worth, that is my opinion. 

1 comment:

Auriette said...

I agree with most of your comments, but I'd just as soon avoid gender-changing on the established Time Lords (and Ladies). You want a female antagonist - bring back the Rani. But not that "Warehouse 13" girl. I didn't like her at all. Granted, I've only seen her in the one thing, so maybe she's a better actress than came across.