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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Doctor Who blogging: “The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe”

Doctor Who The Doctor the Widow and the Wardrobe Matt Smith

(all spoilers! don’t read till you’ve seen the episode… or unless you don’t care if it’s spoiled for you. this is a love fest only — all complaints and bitching must come from a place of love / previous: “The Wedding of River Song”)
Dammit, but this is an infuriating story. It’s perfectly illustrative of all the many ways that Steven Moffat seems to misunderstand Doctor Who. Sure, it’s science fiction — or even the looser, less restrictive science fantasy — and sure, that means that almost anything can happen. But it doesn’t mean that everything can happen, and certainly not all at once. And it doesn’t mean that anything can happen for just any old reason at all, or — worse — for absolutely no reason. The dictates of satisfying storytelling still demand something reasonably close to a narrative, and something reasonably far from “a bunch of random cool shit happens so that everyone can have a happy ending.”

Oh oh oh, and there’s this about Moffat’s writing on Who of late (that is, out from under the editorial auspices of Russell T. Davies… or, I suspect, out from under the editorial auspices of anyone at all): he doesn’t seem to realize that he has the pieces for a stronger, more touching, more rewarding story right in front of him, and he lets them go utterly to waste.

Like this. Okay, the Doctor gets a bit of help from Madge Arwell and so he feels compelled to return the favor. Fine. But what the hell are we supposed to take from his direction that she “make a wish” if she needs him? How is that supposed to work? Seriously, if that worked, then what about all the other times when, we may sensibly presume, other much more intimate friends he has left behind will have wished for his help, or even just for his presence? The notion that the Doctor would come running on a wish isn’t just contrary to everything we’ve seen before: it’s a cruelty to those people who’ve loved him dearly, and lived with him, and shared adventures with him, and survived dangers with him… and it’s extra cruel coming in an episode that is supposed to be heartwarming and full of holiday spirit.

But look! Moffat stumbled over an excellent reason to have the Doctor looking out for Madge, which would also have been an excellent underscore to the theme he clearly wants to explore: the Doctor’s solitude and loneliness.

Doctor Who The Doctor the Widow and the Wardrobe

It’s the wrong police box. What if, instead of driving around with Madge until they find the right police box, the Doctor was stranded in 1938 until his TARDIS caught up with him? What if he was lonely and bored and took to looking out for Madge and her kids in secret, just to have something to do? Now, yes, I do think that the Doctor could find better ways of keeping himself amused in Britain on the eve on World War II, but still: this is just one option that is so much better than “make a wish.” It could have been a very poignant look at a Doctor withdrawing from the universe to such a degree that he has taken to ignoring the sorts of urgent matters of life and death he’s usually concerned with and just focusing on one little family. It might even explain this bizarrity:

Doctor Who The Doctor the Widow and the Wardrobe

Dancing chairs? A lemonade tap? This bedroom? When did the Doctor turn into Willy Wonka? Why would he ever do any of these things, and why is he doing them for these people? He certainly appears to have no awareness of Madge’s situation — that her husband has just died — and he certainly does absolutely nothing to fix her situation (that it does get fixed has zilch to do with anything the Doctor has done or will do).

Instead, Moffat builds in so much ridiculous coincidence that wouldn’t need to be there in a better constructed story. A story should never feel as if it is leading inevitably and exclusively to its own ending — a story should feel organic. (That’s the job of a writer of fiction: to make a contrived and constructed story feel as if it isn’t contrived and constructed.) But nothing that happens here makes any sense whatsoever except as a way for Madge to time-travel in order to provide a moon and stars for her lost aviator husband to fly home by, instead of dying in a plane crash over the English Channel.

Can I just ask: What the fuck is the Doctor doing at Uncle Digby’s house, anyway?

Can I just ask: What good reason can there possibly be for the Doctor to put a transdimensional doorway wrapped up under a Christmas tree? Especially since something is obviously wrong with it, so that he has to make repairs:

Doctor Who The Doctor the Widow and the Wardrobe Matt Smith

And then he’s worried about Cyril, who goes through it before he’s supposed to, and acts as if there’s some great urgency to find Cyril and bring him back, as if there might be something dangerous afoot, so naturally he takes Lily with him:

Doctor Who The Doctor the Widow and the Wardrobe Holly Earl

Yes, that’s a great image — the Doctor reaching out to invite a child to join him in an amazing place — but it makes no goddamn sense at all in this context.

Except! Wait a minute! This planet of the naturally occuring Christmas trees is a safe and wonderful place that the Doctor has visited many times! So many times that he recognizes an Androzani harvester! And yet he doesn’t know a damn thing about the acid rain and the tree harvest? And hey: the Androzani people have a beat-up old Androzani harvester — indicating numerous harvests over a long timeframe — and a military team ready to swoop in, but the trees have no ready contingency for dealing with a harvest except growing a tower that looks like a tower but is really trees (except for the glasslike globe atop it

Doctor Who The Doctor the Widow and the Wardrobe

that can conveniently function as an interdimensional, intertemporal vehicle and can survive the time vortex, hoorah!) and hoping that the arrival of a woman who can carry all their arboreal souls out into the ether as was foretold actually comes to pass?

I’m dizzy just thinking about all the pointless contrivances spinning here.

Why three years between Madge’s first encounter with the Doctor and her second? What’s the point of this… especially when it’s glaringly obvious that any child actors playing Cyril and Lily could not possibly be aged up three years? This is Doctor Who, of course, and it is entirely possible in this universe for three years to have passed and for kids not to have aged: time warps, chronic hystereses, something.

Moffat is so close to getting it right — or at least better — but he doesn’t even seem to appreciate possibilities of his own story.

How was the arrival of Madge foretold? Why do the Androzani soldiers arrive just before the harvest only to get almost instantly beamed out again (leaving their presumably expensive harvester behind)? Why do the trees need to take on humanoid form? How does the Doctor — who, recall, recognizes the Androzani harvester and calls it by name — not know that Androzani trees are the greatest fuel source ever, or that the forest is regularly melted down? How can the female soldier be unable to drive the harvester, but Madge can? How can a 900-year-old Time Lord be too weak to contain the trees’ lifeforces, but a human isn’t? How the hell is there a convenient on-ramp to the time vortex just hanging around near this tree planet?

Doctor Who The Doctor the Widow and the Wardrobe

You wanna tell a story about how everybody lives? Fine. You wanna tell a story glorifying motherhood? Fine. You wanna tell a story in which the Doctor learns to cry happy tears? Fine. Make it make sense as a story. I swear to God, Moffat seems to think lately that momentary signifiers and brief images that are cool or awesome are themselves enough to be the story, rather than just the cherries on top of the story. It reminds me of the joke about jokes so old and so shopworn that all a gal has to say to her regular audience is “Punchline No. 124” for everyone to fall down laughing. That’s what Moffat is doing here: he throws out an image of a Christmas hug with Daddy, and we’re all supposed to get soppy. He has the Doctor explain his presence to Madge with a would-be sentimental “You were there for me,” even though it in no way explains his presence at all. (In what way was his return about being there for her, except in making the easy chairs dance and Willy Wonka-ing up the kids’ room?) He throws out a line about a mother searching for her kids, and we’re all supposed to cheer. But moments like that have to be earned. They don’t — they can’t — exist independent of their context. Ripley’s “Get away from her, you bitch” — which I feel Moffat was trying to evoke in more than a few moments — only works because of the context in which it occurs. Such moments work as signifiers now because of the deep and intense context they sprang from (so that we can say “Ripley in the queen’s nest” and have it mean volumes, like “Juliet on her balcony” and “Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra” can). There’s nothing at all like that here — we can’t say “Madge in the forest” because it says nothing. Moffat cheats and hopes we won’t notice, or won’t care.

This isn’t just nitpicking. Nitpicking is doing what more than a few people have already pointed out, that the plane Daddy is flying wouldn’t actually come into use until the following year. That’s a lazy, inexcusable mistake, but it wouldn’t kill a good story. I’m talking about stuff that kills the story… or, actually, never lets a story get going in the first place. This is seeing that a house of cards has no clothes. So to speak. The whole shebang makes absolutely no sense. Not as a story. Not as Doctor Who. It’s bullshit and nonsense heaped atop more bullshit and nonsense, and we should be insulted as fans. We shoudn’t just accept an “everybody lives!” ending as a good thing if it’s not earned.

Random thoughts on “The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe”:

• I’m not sure this is survivable:

Doctor Who The Doctor the Widow and the Wardrobe Matt Smith

Never mind this:

Doctor Who The Doctor the Widow and the Wardrobe

Yes, I caught that line about the suit “repairing” him. But whatev. This is certainly the least of the problems with this story.

• What an incredible waste of Bill Bailey:

Doctor Who The Doctor the Widow and the Wardrobe Bill Bailey

You know what I always think when there’s a tremendous misuse of a guest star… and particular of a guest star who’s a huge fan of the show, as Bailey is? I figure he or she must be thinking, Seriously, that was it? I waited 30 years to be on this show, and that’s what they did with me?! And now this means I can’t be on again, at least not for a long time, or else the fans will be all ‘Continuity! Wasn’t he the Androzani Major major? How can he now be the Director of the Skaro Museum of Antiquities ten thousand years before that?’ Crap. I feel so sad for Bailey.

• Oh, the superfluous military team is from Androzani Major, is it? Moffat: Invoking one of the greatest of the classic stories ain’t helping here. You really wanna remind us that the old show actually pulled off some kickass science fiction drama?

• So, it’s Christmas morning, and Daddy — still miraculously alive — lands his plane. Now Daddy has been AWOL for five days, because the telegram that Madge had stated December 20th as the day he died. Where are the other members of Daddy’s crew (there were at least two other men in the plane)? They’re AWOL, too.

• Okay, so, the Doctor says his friends think he’s dead. Is he referring to the events at the end of “The Wedding of River Song,” or to the fact that he called Amy and left a message on her voicemail saying good-bye from the ship just as he believed he was about to be smashed into smithereens? Amy at her door on Christmas night says she knew the Doctor was still alive and not dead because “River told us,” which is a clear reference to the end of “Wedding”… unless the Doctor and River have encountered each other again in between his not getting blown to smithereens and that Christmas night. Which certainly could have happened in the time between his not getting blown to smithereens and that Christmas night. Who knows how long it was between Madge’s helping him back to the TARDIS and his Willy Wonka-ing…

• The happy-tears bit

Doctor Who The Doctor the Widow and the Wardrobe Matt Smith

was a nice moment for Matt Smith. Too bad his performance was wasted.

• Horrible quotes:

“Happy crying. Humany wumany.” –the Doctor (ugh)

(next: “Asylum of the Daleks”)



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  • Old Girl

    Absolutely agree with everything you said. So much potential in the idea, all wasted. I feel really cheated.   

  • Yep. Presumably they just left the terminally injured crew mate in the back of the plane to die.

    Quite annoying to watch.

  • lanchid

    Yes, yes, yes, a THOUSAND times, yes! I watched it Christmas night and thought, “um….okay. That was an episode.” which is NOT the reaction I can have with Doctor Who. I couldn’t even muster up any real enthusiasm for the nice touches because they were buried in a mountain of “Stuff happens. And then MORE stuff happens! Yeah!” I’ve had stronger reactions to accidentally ingested episodes Stargate, which bore me stiff. (I literally go to sleep on every episode friends have asked me to watch to drag me into the show. It’s just not my cup of tea – not sayin’ it’s a bad show.)
    This ep made me long for the unnecessarily convoluted episodes of the Second Doctor (The War Games, I’m looking at you!) I thought Pandorica was so…..plotty and marvelous and genius…..and I’ve been really disappointed at the weird plotting (on a good episode) of this season.

    Moffat, I expect better! Your fault, really. If you hadn’t given us season five wrapped up like a fairy tale with a bow on top (and Sherlock.) my hopes wouldn’t be so high.

  • Edmund Davis-Quinn

    I just enjoyed the ride .. didn’t think about it that much .. and like the wonka-isms.

    I guess my expectations are just lower for TV, and my knowledge of Dr. Who lore not as rich.

  • bronxbee

    also… getting tired of big alien machines easily operated by humans (see, also christmas episode with the giant cyberman, two years ago…)

  • CatRenee

    Yes, I thought it was cute for a Christmas show, but I also expected better somehow. Especially since I enjoyed last year’s Christmas so much more, flaws and all. This one was just way too predictable, and I was disappointed that the Dad showed up at the end. Also, WTF happened to the other two guys in the plane? Especially the wounded guy? Is he just bleeding out while they have a happy holiday? There is nothing about it that makes me want to watch it again, and that’s bad since I’ve been watching DW since I was little. I didn’t understand how the Doctor survived the fall to earth, how and why he went to the uncle’s castle. How come the family wasn’t just staying with the uncle all along? Didn’t they send the kids away from London sooner than that because of the bombing? I’m probably wrong about the timing. I didn’t get why the door scene played out the way it did with the Doctor and the Ponds.

  • sj

    I have been reading this blog since Donna and s4 but I am beginning to think I might need to call it quits. It gets tiring reading about how Moffat is contrived every time a new episode airs. My main reaction being “So was RTD and you didn’t call him out until The End of Time. What’s with that?” What happened to the Who place of love? Oh well haters gonna hate and all that jazz. Besides, without different opinions the internet would be boring.

    I do want to say though, that I found the Christmas special to be pretty awful- matching the standard of every other terrible Christmas special with the brief exception of A Christmas Carol on a plot level. However, thematically speaking, I found it to be actually incredibly rewarding. It was the natural end point of Eleven’s solution to having previously been Lonely God Ten. Madge told Eleven that he was being unfair to the people he had been left behind and she was right and Eleven listened to this. By the end of the episode he had not only learnt that it was OK to cry and feel lonely, he had also learnt that even though he is the last of his kind, he also has a family that he has a responsibility not to hurt.

    So when you say MaryAnn, “then what about all the other times when, we may sensibly presume, other much more intimate friends he has left behind will have wished for his help, or even just for his presence?” my answer is that The Doctor is not perfect, and is not human and has not always considered others feelings. Until Madge called him out he had no intention of visiting Amy and Rory. This is what I love so much about Moffat era Who, though of course he has things that are irritating about his writing. Moffat makes Eleven learn from humanity in a more meaningful way than Nine or Ten did.

    For me, this special was a return to a trickster/wizard type role, rather than saviour role. So for me, though the story was lame, the themes were interesting. I am very excited to watch s7 now with this kind of shift taking place.

    It sucks when a show stops being for you MaryAnn so I hope you get to enjoy Doctor Who again soon with a new writer or Doctor :)

  • RogerBW

    I’m not going to repeat everything from the open thread – though people who haven’t read it might, I think, find it interesting – but this is very much the feeling I got from last year’s Christmas Special: a series of scenes intended to evoke emotion, but nothing connecting them together, no reason for us actually to care. But at least that one had an approximate plot; this one was a story told by a five-year-old, “and then this happened and then that happened”.

    The key thing for me about the Lanc mistake was that there was no reason to mention the year in the first place. Setting the thing at an unspecified Christmas during the War would have been plenty, and indeed would have gone along with the nonspecific and fairy-tale feel of the thing. No detail should be extraneous; if someone says that it’s 1941, there should be a reason to say that it’s 1941. And if there’s a reason, then it wouldn’t hurt to spend ten seconds on Wikipedia and check that it’s a workable year to use.

    Why do I, as sj puts it, “hate”? Because the show can be so much more. Yes, it had duff seasons in the old days (particularly towards the end under JN-T), and I criticised sloppiness then too. It’s not a show I’m enjoying at the moment, but there are lots of shows like that; the others, I don’t bother to watch, or comment on. This one has been enjoyable to me, and perhaps will be again.

  • I had a great time watching this episode, but I also freely admit that this might be because I watched it immediately after watching Melancholia. It was like drinking a glass of lemonade after a three hour hike through the desert.

  • soilysound

    There was nothing in the episode to indicate the bomber has just landed that very second. They might have been there a few hours and the other grew had wandered off to the house to find out what happened. Or, they were still in the plane and Reg was the first one to get out. And the Doctor falling from space was about a billion times more believable than the similar scene with Tennant in the End of Time, at least 11 had an ‘impact suit’.

    I didn’t think this episode was that great, about on the same level as Runaway Bride and Next Doctor but way better than Voyage of the Damned and the End of Time abomination. 

    But your Doctor Who reviews are getting quite tiresome the last year, the nit-picking especially. Suddenly you’ve started picking apart the show for all the same reasons that have always been there all through the RTD era. The shows not working for you and only now do you notice the flaws?

    If you can no longer suspend disbelief about the dafter aspects of Doctor Who plots it’s time to stop watching or become like those twisted creatures on the gallifrey base messageboards who haven’t enjoyed an episode of Doctor Who since 1981 but still endure on, watching the show through abject misery and tiresomely letting everyone know about it.

  • Did you notice in my review where I said I was NOT nit-picking? To repeat: this is not nit-picking. Nit-picking is pointing out that the plane is from the wrong year. There is no reasonable *story* here. There is no emotional there there. That was NEVER a problem in the RTD era.

    Can’t you see the difference between these two things?

  • However, thematically speaking, I found it to be actually incredibly rewarding.

    But the themes were not supported by a story. They were just sitting out there all by themselves. That’s a telegram, not a story.

    The Doctor is not perfect, and is not human and has not always considered others feelings.

    He doesn’t have to be any of these things for my criticism to hold. He just has to have ignored the wishes of *all* of his friends *all* the many times we can guess they’ve wished for him, in favor of helping one person he barely knows at all. Does that sound like the Doctor we know?

  • sj

    Someone finally went and said it. But your Doctor Who reviews are getting quite tiresome the last year, the nit-picking especially. Suddenly you’ve started picking apart the show for all the same reasons that have always been there all through the RTD era. The shows not working for you and only now do you notice the flaws? That’s basically what I said a few comments down. Heaven knows there are things to pick on Moffat for but my brain does not compute when people call him out on the very same things RTD did and give Moffat all of the flak. MAJ let RTD off right up until the absymal End of Time.

    Honestly. When have the christmas specials ever made sense or been good with the brief exception of Christmas Carol? They are always pretty awful imo. My brother and I have rock bottom expectations every year. But also, nothing can get worse than The End of Time. Nothing. Not ever.

    Yes this story was lame. The story is lame and contrived every year by virtue of being a christmas special. But to say this: It’s bullshit and nonsense heaped atop more bullshit and nonsense, and we should be insulted as fans. We shoudn’t just accept an “everybody lives!” ending as a good thing if it’s not earned. I understand the anger and disappoint when a show becomes crap in your opinion, but that’s all it is- your opinion. Please don’t assume that fans should feel one way or another. I didn’t think it was anywhere near as bullshit as The End of Time or Journey’s End of even Last of the Time Lord’s with Doctor Jesus. I felt it was quite good for a christmas special. I thought the “everybody living” thing was earnt as that’s Eleven all over and signified the difference between Ten and Eleven and Eleven’s growth. Frankly, after the nihilistic crap that was the end of Spooks, I am good with that theme. I realise not everyone is. But I was. And I am still a Who fan. Just saying.

    ps: There’s alot of talk about the Madge/motherhood thing. I never saw it as that. I saw it as Madge’s strength coming from being her ability to love fiercely and make sacrifices on behalf of that love. In Madge’s case, it was mother’s love that gave her this ability, but I didn’t think that it necessarily had to be that- it was just she was there and had that power. To me this whole episode was about familial love, sacrifice and respect. Madge’s role was about this for me. And that’s why the Amy/Rory ending was just so damned good. For the first time in New Who The Doctor has a legitimate family who he cares about and who care about him. He realises that family and friends matter and that its ok to love them and be loved by them. That’s a great christmas message in my opinion.

  • sj

    They were supported by the story for me. For me, the story was about families and love and recognising that familial love. It wasn’t a good story, but those themes were still in the story. They are also themes that have been explores in s5 and 6 and for me the Christmas Special was the natual endpoint of these two series… the end of Eleven’s learning curve if you will… at least for now.

    He helps Madge because he is Eleven and can’t stand to watch children- even big children like Madge- cry. So for me, making a wish is very Eleven. Since s5 the show has had a more fairy tale vibe and this wishing fits in with that. I realise though that this kind of writing is really not going to work for everyone. I like fantasy and fairy stories so I’m good with things not being explained or being vague but I understand that this could be annoying if you like more concrete explanations.

    re no emotions: I repeat that is your opinion. I cried at the end of the episode and I know many others who did also. I found the plot to be meh but the family themes emotional. I had no emotions other than annoyance in all of The End of Time and Journey’s End. RTD was just as illogical, nonsensical and bullshit in some episodes as Moffat has been. I just find it a bit odd that it took you so long to call RTD on it.  

  • The shows not working for you and only now do you notice the flaws?

    Yes, exactly! The show is not working for me! It worked before, and I *often* acknowledged that there were flaws and stated flat out that they didn’t bother me because all the other stuff worked. Now very little of it is working for me — not in every episode, but many — and it’s *because* of the flaws that it’s not working. With RTD, it mostly worked *in spite of* the flaws.

    I really don’t see how there’s anything mysterious or hypocritical in what I’ve been writing for years now.

    I understand the anger and disappoint when a show becomes crap
    in your opinion, but that’s all it is- your opinion. Please don’t assume
    that fans should feel one way or another.

    Seriously? Do you *honestly* believe that I don’t know that this is all “only” my own opinion? Do you *honestly* believe that I assume all fans should feel one way or another?

    after the nihilistic crap that was the end of Spooks

    Since when have we been talking about *Spooks*?

    To me this whole episode was about familial love, sacrifice and respect.

    That is glaringly obvious. I’m not saying that these are bad things. I’m saying this was a ridiculous and naive depiction of these themes.

  • It wasn’t a good story, but those themes were still in the story.

    Have I suggested that I didn’t see the themes in the story? I see them. I just don’t think it’s a good story. So we agree on this!

    I like fantasy and fairy stories so I’m good with things not being explained or being vague but I understand that this could be annoying if you like more concrete explanations

    I don’t need “concrete explanations” — I need satisfying storytelling. Fairy tales and fantasy are not exempt from the basic rules of storytelling.

  • There was nothing in the episode to indicate the bomber has just landed that very second.

    Not that *second,* perhaps, but not long before. There’s still smoke coming out of the back of the plane.

  • If you can no longer suspend disbelief about the dafter aspects of Doctor Who plots it’s time to stop watching

    I think I’m perfectly capable of deciding for myself when it’s time to stop watching. And if you find my blogging tiresome, you don’t need to read it. Would you prefer that I lie about my reactions to the show?

  • Someone finally went and said it.

    Oh, people have been saying this all through the past two seasons. Is someone forcing you to read my blogging?

  • sj

    The first quote is not mine. It’s the person above me.

    And actually you didn’t point out RTD’s flaws. I have read all of your New Who reviews and your acknowledgement of RTD’s flaws were few and far between. But nevermind. It’s your website and your opinion and nothing I say will change that. All I was saying was I was sick of reading your opinion.

    I know it’s only your opinion but your statement that all fans should feel insulted places you in the position of dictating what fans should think wether you intended that or not. It’s the wording. I had no problem with the rest of your review as the rest was clearly from your perspective. Never mind.

    Since when have we been talking about Spooks? Since I just brought it up in the context of explaining why I don’t mind the theme of everybody living. Can you not read statements in context? Amazing.

    And I’m saying fair enough but the story telling was no less naive or ridiculous then practically every other christmas special. And just because you claim not to be nit picking doesn’t mean that you aren’t.

    Anyway, as I said, haters gonna hate. I’ve had enough of reading the hate so I’ll try this blog again when Doctor Who gets a new show runner because I am tired of it. You are entitled to the hate. I never said you weren’t. I just think it’s weird that you never criticised RTD for doing the same things as Moffat. And he did do the same things.

     

  • I_Sell_Books

    I fell asleep during this episode.  The ending as great, pretty much didn’t care about anything  else.  I’m not sure I would say I hated it but I’m not sure what the word is about how I feel concerning this…special.

  • sj

    lol so aggressive MaryAnn. I expect no less from the Queen of Snark ;)

    I actually meant someone finally said it in this particular thread. I greatly enjoyed your Who blog up until the second half of Who when love festing went out the window more often then not. By the way, I respect that you have an opinion and are sticking to it.

    As to forced reading: I will stop reading the Who section until there is a new show runner and then we can’t get annoyed with each other can we :P Besides, there is always hope of old who reviews to read and enjoy.

  • Oh this *is* fun. Friends reasonably disagreeing about their favourite TV programme.  No reason to stop tuning into the programme or the blog!

     The notion that the Doctor would come running on a wish isn’t just contrary to everything we’ve seen before: it’s a cruelty to those people who’ve loved him dearly, and lived with him, and shared adventures with him, and survived dangers with him… and it’s extra cruel coming in an episode that is supposed to be heartwarming and full of holiday spirit.

    This seems to be the point, not just of this episode, but of the place that the episode exists in the larger story arc. The Doctor is changing and being changed by his circumstances and his companions. Injured Doctor/isolated Doctor/TimeLord triumphant/isolated Doctor/self-protecting Doctor/madman-in-a-box Doctor has met Amy Pond and River Song and is NOT the same. What we saw at the start of the story (in the prelude) was the Doctor trying to call Amy before he gets all smithereened (“I think I just wanted a chat”). That’s a very different place he’s calling from, and a different place that we’re starting the episode from.

    It is bittersweet – MAJ is right to point out that other people have loved him dearly and he’s been a bit of a shit in the past. But he is nine-hundred-and- (what is the canonical age now?) so we must allow for him to develop and change! Goodness only knows whether this is a phase that he will grow out of. (Probably, and tragically, at the end of season 7.)

    So this wish thing. How the hell did that work? Is there any way that doesn’t involve a secret wish-o-scope in one of the undeleted TARDIS rooms? (Come on, there was an invisible-threat-o-scope readily available to help with the Krafayis.) Well, the Doctor does seem to have been spying on Madge’s family – he knows their names and the fate of Madge’s husband and the location of their Uncle’s house. We seem to have taken those things on board, and he has a time machine, and all the time in the world to go on adventures. So on a whimsy he tracks her timeline and discovers all about her.  (Two stalkers, eh, Madge? What is it about you and persistent men?) It still doesn’t explain how the Doctor knows about her wish specifically but we do have motive (see previous paragraph) and opportunity.

    Don’t you think when the Doctor said “Make a wish” it was more than just an off-hand comment? Didn’t it strike you that he had already decided to look out for her, and the Christmas moment that he found was just one of many that he could have chosen. 

     Moffat stumbled over an excellent reason to have the Doctor looking out for Madge, which would also have been an excellent underscore to the theme he clearly wants to explore: the Doctor’s solitude and loneliness.

    Haven’t we done that? To death? Isn’t it time to move on?

  • Haven’t we done that? To death? Isn’t it time to move on?

    Perhaps. It’s Moffat who wants to keep exploring this — I was offering a better storytelling option for that.

  • But how will you know if there’s an episode I’ve enjoyed? :-> I’ve certainly loved some of Moffat’s work on DW (I praised last year’s Christmas episode mightily).

  • cotys

    maryann – i wasn’t going to comment on this, until i read the comments. your review points out everything wrong with the series at the moment, without being unnecessarily snide or cruel about it. people are being ridiculous. alike to those who ask for constructive criticism on their work and then cannot handle it, they’re unable to deal with you disagreeing with their opinion. such people need to mature and look at things more objectively.

  • haters gonna hate

    Here’s some hate: I hate this expression. It suggests I’m hating for the hell of it, or because I think it’s fun. I’m not and I don’t. I love DW. I wouldn’t keep watching it if I didn’t. So I get all the more disappointed when it doesn’t work for me.

  • RogerBW

    I wonder whether this is the same sort of fannish defensiveness that kicked in over Scott Pilgrim and The Tree of Life? If a piece of media isn’t unambiguously perfect – and nothing is – then people who’ve chosen to bind their identities to being a fan of it need to believe that it’s good, and can’t tolerate any suggestion that it might not be.
    This is why I don’t call myself a Doctor Who fan: I’m prepared to admit that sometimes it falls flat. “Fan” was originally short for “fanatic”, and seems to be going back that way.

  • Danielm80

    The complaint people have been making, by and large, isn’t that MaryAnn disliked the episode. The complaint has been that she’s inconsistent. In previous seasons, she’s acknowledged the flaws in the episodes, but her reviews have focused on what she loves about the show. Lately she’s been focusing on the flaws, all the while saying that she’s approaching the show from a place of love. Now, series six has had a lot of flaws to focus on, and I’ve done plenty of bitching from a place of love. But it seems to me that MaryAnn has changed the rules. Just about every episode of Doctor Who has silly plot contrivances and hand-wave explanations in place of logic, but suddenly it seems to be the only thing she notices. Personally, in this case, I was paying attention to the witty dialogue, the imaginative and funny imagery, the skillful acting, and the moving transformations the characters went through. In previous seasons, MaryAnn might have spent the review talking about those things. I’m sorry that she’s become so disappointed by the show that she can no longer do that. Speaking as a cynic, and as someone who’s often distracted by the flaws in TV shows, I was glad to find someone who approached Doctor Who with such a positive spirit. It saddens me a little that we’ve switched places.

  • Alice

    Your criticism states exactly the problems I had with last year’s Christmas special–too many things thrown in altogether–confusing and not necessary.  I started to watch this year but the childlike doctor who is just too cute for words and kind of stupid about the ways of the world has really gotten on my last never.  You hit it on the head when you compared him to Willie Wonka.  I don’t blame Matt Smith, who remains charming.  I blame Moffat–the writing is just bad.

  • I find the points above very valid after watching this episode. I was very disappointed that Moffat did not take the episode more seriously because I have seen great episodes from him! But the whole idea of a story that boils down to the Doctor making a family happy by saving Daddy seems to throw out previously laid story lines. i.e. – In our universe Pete Tyler died! The Doctor even says that there is a man alive that shouldn’t be! But its ok to save a man we don’t know over the father of a companion with whom you travel? Yes, we know there is another Pete in a parallel universe but that is not on the table here. This whole story worries me greatly! More of this crap and the Beeb may do what they did during Sylvester McCoy’s era and shelve the show. Let’s hope this does not happen again!

  • David McAleece

    Hi Mary Ann- Just wanna come to your defence.

    I do not feel myself that you were over-snarky about this episode. I don’t read reviewers like yourself (you by the way are my main reviewer I enjoy) to simply seek out you blindly loving everything you watch. I like the times when your opinions diverge from mine. It makes me think!

    On a storytelling level I completely agree about this episode. Indeed, as you say, all of the elements are there and they just don’t sit well together. I do enjoy the feelings and thoughts I had from these distinct separate parts – but no pleasure or overall joy from “The Tale”.

    Of course, I want to like things that I generally enjoy – like Doctor Who – but my story appetite after this tale was unsatisfied. I am a professional oral storyteller and I know a bit about creating functioning narratives that hold people’s attention. This had real nice little signposts but not enough to hold the warp and weft of the story tapestry intact.

    So, I think that you are being pretty fair – thanks!

    (And I do not think that there is a hidden voice of discontent that has been waiting to emerge against you!)

    Thanks for your blog as ever.

    D

  • S J Hillier

    I don’t usually comment on much, so sorry, I don’t have an identity.  Interesting debate, good to see people still watching and caring anyway.  I’ll have to admit to being in the ‘disappointed camp’ on this one, as with a lot of series 6, particularly as I thought series 5 (and last year’s Christmas special) was so strong.  But on the other hand, I’m lucky enough to have 10 and 11 year old children, and they seem to love it more than ever – often the episodes I thought were the weakest (eg AGMGTW).  So maybe Moffat does understand what he’s doing more than we do.

  • McFeely

    Just a few points the bit with The Doctor in space, yes it is very survivable for the Doctor. It’s canon that he can survive the vacuum of space for a short time at least. He doesn’t call Amy’s voicemail, he call’s the Tardis’ answering machine. 

    I watch the show because Matt is brilliant at playing the Doctor he’s definitely become more iconic than Ten. You missed a lot of brilliant quotes as well.  All the stuff about him fixing up the house is to give the kids a magical Christmas and a trip to a Christmassy planet on Christmas day.  Not sure why he didn’t use the tardis but I’m sure in his mind a box with a dimensional portal was a lot cooler. I still enjoy Moffat’s stories more than RTD’s. I had to sit there and watch Ten fall from a spaceship through a glass ceiling and live, only thinking that Four fell from a much shorter height and dies. Not sure why you’ve lost “The Doctor” love, but I really can’t read these anymore .

  • KeithAllGamer

    Also, the Doctor didn’t take the wife to her folks house for Christmas. What’s up with that?

  • sj

    I won’t. Your point?

  • sj

    No, they aren’t exempt but fantastical fairy stories operate as stories in a very specific way; a way that really doesn’t need logic by virtue of being… a fairy story. They are predicated on an unreal world, where making a wish does achieve results, can always achieve results because that’s the magic of them.

    You don’t have to like Moffat using this trope, but to say he’s not following the rules of basic storytelling? His Who is more fairy tale. In every possible way. And the story he told followed the rules of that particular story telling trope.

  • In previous seasons, she’s acknowledged the flaws in the episodes, but her reviews have focused on what she loves about the show.

    I would love to do that here, but there was so little that I loved. I’m “focusing on the flaws” because they are the primary stuff that leapt out at me. In other episodes, it has not been the primary stuff that jumped out at me.

    You may see me as being inconsistent, but I have *never* given you *anything* other than my honest visceral reaction to any given episode. I have *not* “changed the rules.”

    I understand that some people love this episode and don’t agree with me. That’s fine. What I don’t understand is why on Earth anyone would imagine I must secretly love this episode but for some bizarre reason have chosen to hide this.

    I approached this episode — and every episode — with an abundant of positive spirit and generosity. I want to love unreservedly every single episode. Should I lie when I don’t?

  • You might miss something you’d enjoy.

  • Magic still has rules. Magic still requires its own internal logic. That does not exist here.

  • sj

    Danielm80 that’s EXACTLY it. The point is that the reviews aren’t consistent with what has come before- in previous years there were just as many nonsensical, bullshit and idiotic episodes that didn’t get this amount of flak. look no further than RTD era christmas specials

    Maybe if MaryAnn had stated any positives at all, I might have believed the love fest mantra, but even the quotes section was ridiculous this time round, focussing on the negative, not the positive.

    Personally, in this case, I was paying attention to the witty dialogue, the imaginative and funny imagery, the skillful acting, and the moving transformations the characters went through.
    As was I. It wasn’t a perfect episode, nor was it even a particularly good episode but there have been episodes just as bad in RTD era and even Moffat era who that never got this amount of flak.

    And it would be OK if this was a one off but it isn’t. It’s been a given since s6 came back on air. From where I am that is hating for the sake of hating. It’s not constructive criticism at all.

  • sj

    I have been waiting for this one. It’s an internet given. Everyone agreeing with the original poster= pleasant discussion, everyone politely disagreeing= viscious diatribe.

    I don’t think it is ridiculous at all to point out that this Who blog is no longer the love fest it claims to be.  

  • sj

    …But with the way you’re coming across in these reviews, I doubt it.

  • J_Lynn

    Yes, yes, yes! This hit so many of my peeves with this episode. Now I’ll be the first to admit, I’m not Moffat’s biggest fan, when it comes to personal preferences I prefer how RTD tells a story (if we ignore TW: Miracle Day…that was beyond pants), but the thing that bugs me most about Moffat is he’s got a fabulous Doctor in Matt Smith and he wastes him on stories like this.

    I can suspend my disbelief, but come on really the Doctor zings through the vacuum of space to grab the suit and then is conveniently close enough to earth’s gravitational pull to pull him down to earth, where he hits with a splat (conveniently in England) and doesn’t regenerate? I heard the line about the spacesuit, still it was too many contrivances in one scene.

    The introduction of Madge and her family were marvelous and quirky and then that promise fizzled and was never fulfilled. Somehow I feel Madge’s early acceptance of this bizarre scenario with a random spaceman should have been a precursor to show she was strong enough to accept what fate threw at her (widowhood) and how she and her children were able to grow and move on. Nope, Moffat had to end it with every body lives so that character moment loses value.

    It just kept adding up like that. When I see eps like this I really think Moffat’s heart and head are with Sherlock and he has to do Who to keep that. Which bugs because he’s got great actors here and he’s giving them nothing to work with. I’m just hoping a new companion next season is a like a shiny new toy that gets his full attention on Who again.

    As for everyone complaining that this critiquing by Maryann is new, did I read a different review of the End of Time and other RTD penned eps than everyone else? Because I remember those giving RTD what for as badly as Moff’s eps. Or it could just be I preferred RTD’s style, so I saw those critiques in a harsh light, like those who prefer Moffat’s style seeing these critiques in a harsh light? Having different opinions is part of what makes the world go round, so let’s enjoy that not everyone agrees all the time, because it keeps things fresh.

  • sj

    What I don’t understand is why on Earth anyone would imagine I must secretly love this episode but for some bizarre reason have chosen to hide this.
    No one accused you of this. It’s not a conspiracy to make you love the episode in an illogical 360 for Christ’s sake.

  • Alice

    Moffat cares nothing about canon.

  • Is it at all possible that I didn’t find the dialogue particularly witty, the imagery especially funny or imaginative, the acting skillful (though I did mention one moment for Smith), or the transformations moving?

    Is that *at all* possible?

  • sj

    You couldn’t find one positive thing to say about the episode. Not one? Really? Is that *at all* possible?

  • It’s canon that he can survive the vacuum of space for a short time at
    least.

    Yup, Peter Davison’s Doctor did that in “Four to Doomsday”… wearing a helmet for air. The vacuum of space may be survival for him for a few minutes, with breathing apparatus. But atmospheric reentry?

    He doesn’t call Amy’s voicemail, he call’s the Tardis’ answering
    machine.

    Yes, you’re right about this. He’s talking to Amy — or thinks he is — but then realizes she’s no longer around. My bad.

  • I praised Matt Smith’s performance.

    But my overall impression of this episode was very, very negative. This is my honest reaction. I’m really sorry you don’t agree, but my first job is to be honest. I promise you, I’m being honest.

  • See, and I actually really like last year’s Christmas episode. It worked on an emotional level for me in a way that this one doesn’t, which is the most important thing. For me.

  • I’m loving the show the very best that I can. I swear to God, I am.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    That was NEVER a problem in the RTD era.

    I haven’t actually watch this episode yet, but still, I’ll see this statement and raise you “Planet of the Dead”.

  • sj

    I praised Matt Smith’s performance.

    Yes, in a throw away, snide sentence which stripped it of its so called positivity.

    And actually, I don’t disagree with you all that much. It was contrived and lame and silly but the christmas special is that every single year, with the exception maybe of Christmas Carol. I’m just really confused as to how you expected any differently for a christmas special given what we are given every single year.

    So yeah, if the only thing you got positive out of this episode was a throw away remark about Matt Smith and you have been consistently irritated with the show since Let’s Kill Hitler then I’m with the previous poster, what are you still watching for? If there is nothing left for you to love fest about? I am really just very puzzled as to why you would bother to invest if it’s not enjoyable for you anymore.

    That’s me. Being honest.

     

  • Arkaan

       I’m surprised at how much I enjoyed about this episode.  Enough of it worked for me that I never really got bothered by the contriavances.  I have to admit that I sorta share the opinion that the second half of season six was disappointing; full of diffuse writing and it should’ve been much more powerful than it was, but I found much of this beautiful.  Most of the imagery was gorgeous.  I’m not quite convinced that MaryAnn’s hypothetical story would work better (much like I don’t get why the idea of the imaginary “all in his/her head” season holds such appeal other than to retcon), though I’d be interested in seeing something like that play out over a few episodes.

  • Babs

    I haven’t read this blog before but I think that many of the opinions expressed here are valid, even as I recognize that they are in fact opinion and not meant to be a mandate on how we all should feel about the episode.

    I also wanted to like it and didn’t. I should say first that I actually quite like most of the other Christmas specials so I don’t agree that they’re always ridiculous but worth watching anyway. I thought the others were good. Are there always contrivances? Yes, but some of them work and some of them don’t. For me, most of them don’t in this episode. His tour of the house with all its magical wonders to make the kids feel better felt overdone to me. I kept thinking ‘Did he really need to have flying contraptions and magical toys, etc to make it special or cool?’ It just seemed so exaggerated and unneccessarily so. And while there were moments that did work for me, there were also moments that took me out of that mood and just disappointed me. The biggest peeve for me though was at the end. I put up with the whole ‘She has to fly the ship because he’s so old and seasoned from feeling things as deeply’ but when he went to Amy and Rory’s house, they took a beautiful moment and then ruined it for me. I still think Matt Smith is great. And when Amy said they always set a place for the Doctor, I loved the look on his face as he took that in and the realization that he’s so much a part of them that they set that place for him each year just in case he shows up. Just to know that you belong to people that way is so powerful and he played it so well. But then…as I’d feared they might, they made him do that tear wipe with the look on his face that was clearly (to me anyway) meant to indicate ‘Oh look, I CAN still cry and feel things like other people.’ And in my head I’m shouting “That’s ridiculous. The Doctor cries all the time (yes, 11 and not just 10) and he feels things more deeply than just about anyone!” Sure he can be pragmatic in emergencies and is able to put off grieving until a crisis passes but he shoulders more guilt than anyone I know and feels the loss of all his companions (even the short term ones) to his very core it seems.  So to me that whole theme was incredibly contrived and worse inconsistent with the character as he’s been depicted to date. Had they shown him going down that path over a period of time, it could have been a great reawakening of his sensitivity. But he’d never lost it so he didn’t need to recover it.

    In terms of this particular episode, those were the parts I liked the most and the least. And as far as the show goes overall, I completely understand the idea of still loving it but not as much as in the past. That isn’t hating, and it isn’t even nitpicking necessarily. It’s just expressing a personal feeling about how the show does or doesn’t work for the individual. I’ll keep watching, and like MJ will keep hoping that each new episode has more elements for me to like than dislike. And pointing out the things I dislike doesn’t mean I hate the show, or any of the people involved. It just means that some episodes don’t work for me as much as others.

    Final note: Like many people, I thought series 6 had lots of ups and downs, good points and bad. But which was which is not universally agreed upon. I personally loved Rebel Flesh/Almost People and was surprised at how many people didn’t. There’s nothing wrong with their opinion and I don’t think of them as haters but merely people who like different things (or episodes) than I. And even when I don’t like an episode I’m always glad to hear that someone else did because it means that each episode touches someone and we all get a turn to see what we like.

    Sorry for the ramble. Peace to all.

  • Tara

    Actually, I didn’t like the “crying happy tears” bull. Oh, the performance was beautiful, but the idea that the Doctor is now so stupid that he doesn’t understand what this wet stuff coming out of his eyes actually is (as portrayed by the utterly befuddled look on his face) drives me nuts. Kind of like in “The Lodger” when he didn’t remember how 21st century English people greet each other. Alien does not mean stupid, for goodness sakes! Why do they keep writing the Eleventh Doctor like he suffered a brain injury mid-regeneration? He spends almost his entire existence with a wide variety of human beings. Earth is like a second home to me. You CAN NOT expect me to believe that he doesn’t get these things.

  • Tara

    Okay, so you’ve pointed out one episode. And even then, I don’t think you can honestly make a case for that one either. I would have possibly gone with New Earth. And even that one had an internal logic, even if it didn’t have any of that garden-variety logic. I don’t think you can find anything that’s simply pulled out of RTD’s ass without any explanation whatsoever. A story doesn’t have to be realistic, but it at least has to have some sort of rationale.

  • Tara

    To him, rather.

  • Darocky5

    OMG YOU ARE SO ON THE MONEY. Everything you said is spot on. I’ve lost faith in moffat. He was suppossed to elevate the sci fi factor of dr who, his body of work during rtds era was PERFECT, CLEVER and just so damn good. Instead he has dumbed it down to an all time low for 6 to 7 yr old children. The contrivancies are so stupid that its up to his fanatic fanbase to com eup with explanations for the how he came back on a wish, how he managedto be at the widows house in place of the owner etc. Moffat cant be bothered with a decent backstory of good characteristaion. Even the daleks are now tellytubby versions of themselves.

    Moffats taken the credit for blink, GITF and all the other classics in RTDs era but the thing that made those episodes GREAT weren’t just the cleverness of the scripts plot twists but also the deep characterisation, the realness of each and every character in those stories. With series 5 & 6 over its clear that it was RTDs input that put that element into moffats stories. No doubt. Good characterisation is RTDs thing, it was his MO. Nowadays moffats stories feel lack any characterisation, backstory and are poorly paced.

    Another complaint is his characterisation of matt smiths dr as some family therapist male mary poppins/ pedo lookin willy wonka who spends his days doin up a widows old house with lemonade taps, hammocks etc. The scene where he is acting like a pedo crack addict on speed whilst introducing the kids to thier room was terrible and what was up with that CRAP Backround music in the scene??..in fact throughout most of the episode! Moffats lost the plot, he doesn’t respect his audience anymore. Puts no effort into making a story make sense, no effort intot he science, with bullshit timey wimeyto get out of cliffhangers and nonsensical things happening all at once. Its like he brainstorms ideas that look or sound cool or spooky (like an astronaut rising from a lake, or goin back in time to kill hitler etc) and then makes up a story around it without worrying whether it makes much sense or not.

    What bothers me the most about moffats lacklustre storytelling, post RTD, is that he has now invented a free get out of jail card for any cliffhanger he can dream up and its called “Timey Wimey”.  Pandorica opens had a great cliffhanger. All the drs enemies assembled to trap him in this unbreakable jail (why not just kill him and be done with it? Very bondish) and we were left to wonder how he would escape. Moffats explanation “dr goes back in time to give rory sonic screwdriverto open ultimate prison” (some prison, anmy fool could free him from the outside), meanwhile we viewers are feeling disappointed and cheated wondering how the dr got out in the 1st instance to be able to go back in time to give rory the screwdriver? WTF?? Did moffat think we would just accept that lazy writing solution? All that build up and thats the best he can come up with?? Timey wimey bullshit??

    Look, it worked well in Blink cos you had all this other shit happening around it with fantastic villains and great characters who were very well written and acted with great dialogue so didn’t give u much time to think about the absurdity of the timey wimey solution. It was just a great story overall and we were in awe of it as viewers, but here in Pandorica opens it just didn’t work. The jail and the way in which the dr had to escape from it was the centrepiece and cliffhanger for the entire episode so having him escape with “TIMEY WIMEY” was just a cheat and smacked of lazy writing.

    I can just picture moffats next big season cliffhanger, the drs been injured and is unconscious, the tardis has been crippled and is out of commission and his companions rory and amy have been killed. 20 daleks surround the drs unconscious body and are about to shoot him, vaporise his body so there is no chance for regeneration-Episode ends with no chance of escape forseeable- No problems for TIMEY WIMEY! Episode 2 starts and low and behold, future dr who zips back in time with trusty teleport wristband and whisks past DR to safety via teleport. Then when both are safe they remember some bullshit about cracks in time and an echo so they wish rory and amy back to life and they miraculously appear unharmed. All thanks to moffats newest cliffhanger plothole fixer-TIMEY Fucken WIMEY!

    Moffats idea for next years xmas special- Dr Who hears his Austrian buddy needs a hand with his children and becomes the Von Trap families live in governess. Cue matt smith acting like a hyperactive mary poppins willy wonka pedo lookin dork again.

  • Many comments have expressed disquiet with RTD or Moffat’s direction of the show (and tastes in narrative!) This raises a really interesting question – how does a globally synchronised audience watch a 50-year-long TV show, with multiple generations of actors, scriptwriters, show runners, developed across multiple media (books, CDs, TV, film, Web)?

    I’ve admitted (elsewhere on this site) that I treat the first forty years in a rather abstract fashion, and only “buy into” the last decade’s material. Does jettisoning all that baggage give me an easier ride? If I’m more on side with what RTD & The Moff are trying to do to the Doctor, does that make me less bothered by the (ahem) uneven storytelling? Or am I simply an enfeebled and superficial fan?How do fans of Coronation Street (3 years older than Dr Who) cope? Do they come and go with the decades, do they stick with it? Or does the lack of a central character make it a more malleable property?

  • RogerBW

    I can’t speak for Coronation Street, but fans of The Archers (now the world’s longest-running soap) seem mostly to sympathise with the characters they knew when the started listening. Which unfortunately means that when the editor runs wild and starts annoying nearly everyone, their voices are ignored as nostalgia.

  • Arkaan

      I haven’t actually seen any Who pre-Eccleston, and am not all that interested in it.  Take that as you might, but similarly, I’m fine with what RTD and Moffat want to do.  I can see the flaws MaryAnn talks about, and some of the glibness does bother me, but I still respond to it.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    1. I don’t actually think an apples-to-apples comparison is possible or fair
    2. I think a single example is sufficient, when the specific word I’m addressing is “NEVER” (emphasis in the original)
    3. If there’s either a story or an emotion hook to “Planet of the Dead” I’d like to know what it is.*
    4. If you need more examples failed stories from Davies, I’d mention “Journey’s End” and “The Next Doctor” as well.
    5. I might also point to much of series 1, 2, and 4 of Torchwood, but I don’t think bringing in work from another series is actually fair, either.**
    6. This is all, of course, entirely subjective.

    * No, really. I’ve never been able to make it past the halfway mark of that show, it’s so horribad.
    ** Besides, we’re right now singing praises to Steven Moffat’s Sherlock in another thread.

  • Bassy Galore

    Spot on review for me.

    MAJ, I have no issue with you not loving it. This:  *all complaints and bitching must come from a place of love* to me just means not complaining and bitching for the sake of complaining and bitching. From this review, I took away that you felt Moffat had the potential for a great story and wasted the opportunity. If you didn’t love Who so much, you wouldn’t have cared to even point that out. Your review came across as someone who was upset and disappointed because it could have been such a great story! I don’t think you have lost your love, I just get the feeling that the show is (currently) not living up to the expectations of what you (and others) feel Moffat is capable of – correct me if I’m wrong…

  • This is a difficult episode for me to address properly. On the one hand, I somehow wound up blubbering like a little child while watching this with my 9-month-old son on the day after Christmas. On the other hand, the writer in me cringed at a lot of the bits. The logic of the story was dubious at best. There seems to be a decent episode buried under a lot of rubbish here, but the rubbish bits keep getting in the way.
    Matt Smith clearly loves playing the Doctor, and he brings such a wonderful enthusiasm and child-like wonder to the role that I find myself enjoying his performance every single time regardless of the actual episode. His joy at playing the Doctor is infectious, and that makes him worth watching even if an individual episode is less-than-stellar.

    Steven Moffat is someone else who clearly enjoys his job. Unfortunately, like many great writers, he really needs an editor or producer to reign in his enthusiasm. J.K. Rowling needed such oversight on the final Harry Potter book. George Lucas needed it on the Star Wars prequels. Being an excellent storyteller does not automatically make everything you produce excellent. This episode – indeed, much of series 6 – demonstrates how badly Moffat needs oversight on his writing. He gets a bit enamored of his own brilliance and buries the truly good stuff beneath layers of clever-but-disconnected ideas.

    I have been watching Doctor Who since I can remember. A six-year-old on the couch with his dad watching a strange, mysterious show on PBS – home to Mr. Rogers and Sesame Street in my mind at the time – that came all the way from – gasp! – the UK. As I grew older, it became less important to me but always remained influential in my views of science fiction and television at large. So, I can say without reservation, that I love the Doctor and his adventures as much as anyone.

    That said, I found this episode difficult to love for most of the reasons given by Mary Ann above. This story is so involved with its own clever tricks that it does not realize that it has very little actual story. In fact, the first time I watched it, I thought that the Doctor had been sitting around for three years trying to somehow insert the TARDIS into a real Police Box and decided to help the family while he was at it. Would that not have been fun and more interesting? Combine that with Mary Ann’s notion that the Doctor has become bored and lonely waiting all that time, and you have an actual Doctor Who adventure on your hands. While last year’s Christmas special was delightful and charming and worked with genuine emotion, this episode felt like it was more a collection of lovely moments held together with preposterousness and cattle dung.

    I love Doctor Who. I love good storytelling. I love ripping the stories that I love a new one when those stories are not up to the standards to which such stories should be held. Moffat is a great writer and an amazing storyteller. Doctor Who is a great property for his cleverness and insight into the characters. This Christmas special was not his best work. It might even be his worst.

    Constructive criticism of the arts – indeed of any field – keeps both the artist and the audience accountable for the material produced. Blind love and fanaticism for anything results in good ideas and great human stories lost in a sea of too much fantastical nonsense. Mary Ann, keep us all as fans accountable. Steven Moffat, go back to telling human stories with clever hooks and twists. That’s why we loved Girl in the Fireplace, Blink, the Doctor Dances, and Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead. It’s why we were so excited that Moffat was taking over the show. It’s why I loved series 5 so much and why I was so disappointed in much of series 6. 

  • For whatever it’s worth, I think it’s possible to love the old show (while recognizing its flaws) and also love the new show without getting hung up too much on the old-show canon and whether or not the new show adheres to it. I’ve been delighted to point out how the two incarnations fit together (or diverge) where they do. But my problems with this particular episode don’t have anything to do with the comparing it to the old series.

    Interesting observation, though. Could probably be a discussion worthy of its own post…

  • I cannot bear the thought of giving up on *Doctor Who.* Cannot. Bear. It.

    And hey: I liked “The Girl Who Waited” and “The God Complex.” I like those a lot. And even I had been “consistently irritated” with the last six or seven episodes — which, as I say, I have NOT been — is that really enough to give up on 30 years of love?

  • Ohiopokey

    Unless I missed someone else saying it: Could the doctor have helped Madge by responding to a wish because he’s laying low while the universe thinks he’s dead?  This is what’s left in his arsenal: playing around with safe people.  Having fun while he’s in self-imposed exile. 

    I’m with you in most every other way.  The give away for me was that at the end of the show I didn’t blurt out my usual happy analysis, arcs, red herrings, and all the fun stuff that we delightedly talk about after every show.  I didn’t watch it a second time, then a third time with subtitles.  Meh.  Went to load the dishwasher.

    And, boy are you right about Bill Bailey!  Simon Pegg got a great meaty role in the show with the broadcasting mainframe!

  • Ohiopokey

    Oh, yeah, and I thought it hysterical that the doctor identified himself as Caretaker, Doctor , or  “get off this planet.”  There were a few zingers in there!

  • It is a bit of a..limp episode. But the emotional pulling carried me through.

  • gb

    I don’t understand why so many people don’t understand that a review is the reviewer’s opinion. Nobody is saying that anyone else should feel the same way as Maryann in any comments or Maryann’s own review

  • jb

    I cried at the end of Journey’s End, I think Bernard Cribbins could make me cry at anything. When he saluted the Doctor in the rain, I was already crying, because Donna was my favorite companion and she wasn’t going with the Doctor, but that really got to me.

  • jj

    That part of the story also bothered me. I did think the Lodger was funny on  first viewing, but then I thought the same thing. How did he forget everything that he ever knew about people from all the time living on earth. It wasn’t like he had just regenerated.

  • Fuli Pongi

    So true. I hate what moffats done to the show. It used to be that the doctor was a plausible hero. Now he is a joke of a man. The stories and the shallow characters are beyond ridiculous now. Its like moffat thinks he is writing for LOST making up shit as he goes along, creating more questions and never ever answering any of the old ones satisfactorily. Anticlimactic jumbled mess is the best way to describe his whole seasons 5 & 6. He is making it up as he goes along like the writers of LOST and he is turning a once unmissable show into a totally missable one. No wonder the overnights for this epsiode were 8.9 million and only 10.77 for the finals. People like me, fans of the show for 25 years keep tuning in hoping it will get better but Moffat continues to disappoint time and time again. Its no wonder the newer fans and the more casual viewers are starting to switch off. I’m sure you’re right and it was RTDs input that made his Blink, GITF etc so GREAT! Gone is the superb pacing that allowed his scripts to breathe in RTDs era, gone is the characterisation that made each and every character in his RTD era stories come to life. Its all style and no substance now with stories seeming so rushed you dont have time to care about the people in them and too many things happening without backstory, too much detail on things that look cool but dont make sense. Plus hes run his cliches into the ground, Timey wimey should never ever have been used again to resolve the cliffhanger, what lazy writing, and River saying “Spoilers” was funny the 1st few times, not the fiftieth and as for River Song-Melody Pond- ARRGGHH! Nuff said. Apart from “the eleventh hour” he hasn’t even come close to reproducing the form he had in his RTD days again. What the hell happened Moffat??!! A very disappointed and disillusioned fan.

  • Fuli Pongi

    Yes, moffats storytelling is wildly inconsistent in his new series. Its like he gets a lightbulb idea “hey wouldn’t it be cool if we had the dr act like this for this episode” or “wouldn’t it be cool if the dr falls thru the vacuum of space and wrestles to fit into a spacesuit” and then goes with it. He didn’t write the lodger but as head writer he should have made the changes.

  • Darocky5

    OMG YOU ARE SO ON THE MONEY. Everything you said
    is spot on. I’ve lost faith in Moffat. He was supposed to elevate the sci fi
    factor of dr who, his body of work during rtds era was PERFECT, CLEVER and just
    so DAMN GOOD. Instead he has dumbed it down to an all time low for 6 to 7 yr
    old children. The contrivances are so stupid that it’s up to his fanatic
    fanbase to come up with explanations for things that happened like how he came
    back on a wish, how he managed to be at the widows house in place of the owner
    etc. Moffat can’t be bothered with a decent backstory or good characterization.
    Its so dumbed down for children that even the daleks are now tellytubby
    versions of themselves.

    Moffats taken the credit for blink, GITF and all the other classics in RTDs era
    but the thing that made those episodes
    GREAT weren’t just the cleverness of the scripts plot twists but also the deep characterization,
    the realness of each and every character in those stories. With series 5 &
    6 over its clear that it was RTDs input that put that element into moffats
    stories. No doubt. Good characterization is RTDs thing, it was his MO. Nowadays
    Moffat stories lack any characterization, backstory and are poorly paced.

    Another complaint is his characterization of matt smiths dr as some family
    therapist male mary poppins/ pedo lookin willy wonka who spends his days doin
    up a widows old house with lemonade taps, hammocks etc. The scene where he is
    acting like a pedo crack addict on speed whilst introducing the kids to their
    room was terrible and what was up with that CRAP Backround music in the
    scene??..In fact throughout most of the episode! Moffats lost the plot; he
    doesn’t respect his audience anymore. Puts no effort into making a story make
    sense, no effort into the science, with bullshit timey wimeyto get out of
    cliffhangers and nonsensical things happening all at once. It’s like he
    brainstorms ideas that look or sound cool or spooky (like an astronaut rising
    from a lake, or going back in time to kill Hitler etc) and then makes up a
    story around it without worrying whether it makes much sense or not.

    What bothers me the most about moffats lackluster storytelling, post RTD, is
    that he has now invented a free get out of jail card for any cliffhanger he can
    dream up and it’s called “Timey Wimey”. Pandorica opens had a great
    cliffhanger. All the drs enemies assembled to trap him in this unbreakable jail
    (why not just kill him and be done with it? Very bondish) and we were left to
    wonder how he would escape. Moffats explanation “dr goes back in time to
    give Rory sonic screwdriver to open ultimate prison” (some prison, any
    fool could free him from the outside), meanwhile we viewers are feeling
    disappointed and cheated wondering how the dr got out in the 1st instance to be
    able to go back in time to give Rory the screwdriver? WTF?? Did Moffat think we
    would just accept that lazy writing solution? All that build up and that’s the
    best he can come up with?? Timey wimey bullshit??

    Look, it worked well in Blink cos you had all
    this other shit happening around it with fantastic villains and great
    characters who were very well written and acted with great dialogue so didn’t
    give u much time to think about the absurdity of the timey wimey solution. It
    was just a great story overall and we were in awe of it as viewers, but here in
    Pandorica opens it just didn’t work. The jail and the way in which the dr had
    to escape from it was the centerpiece and cliffhanger for the entire episode so
    having him escape with “TIMEY WIMEY” was just a cheat and smacked of
    lazy writing.

    I can just picture moffats next big season cliffhanger, the drs been injured
    and is unconscious, the tardis has been crippled and is out of commission and
    his companions Rory and Amy have been killed. 20 daleks surround the drs
    unconscious body and are about to shoot him, vaporize his body so there is no
    chance for regeneration-Episode ends with no chance of escape foreseeable- No
    problems for TIMEY WIMEY! Episode 2 starts and low and behold, future dr who
    zips back in time with trusty teleport wristband and whisks past DR to safety
    via teleport. Then when both are safe they remember some bullshit about cracks
    in time and an echo so they wish Rory and Amy back to life and they
    miraculously appear unharmed. All thanks to moffats newest cliffhanger plothole
    fixer-TIMEY Fucken WIMEY!

    Moffats idea for next year’s Xmas special- Dr Who hears his Austrian buddy
    needs a hand with his children and becomes the Von Trap families live in
    governess. Cue matt smith acting like a hyperactive mary poppins willy wonka
    pedo lookin dork again.

    Moffat, if this years xmas special is indicative of what you have in store for us in 2012, do us all a favour and please LEAVE NOW! Do what JNT should have done back in the 80’s before he got the show cancelled.

  • one: thank you for the star trek reference . Two: I wonder if maybe the  push for international (especially american) success with the show has caused them to simplify the  stories?Maybe he did have a bigger , better story in mind and pulled back ?

  • Darocky5

    No, moffat just lazy with his writing now.

  • Maudlin

    An offering:

  • I started to listen to The Archers (omnibus edition) as a child while my Dad cooked us Sunday breakfast. Having dropped it for thirty years I then started listening to The Archers again while making dinner for my own family. Some of the characters had died off in the meantime!

  • Nakami

    Thank god there’s more Who fans out there that don’t flop on the deck ’cause Moffat tells them too. He’s a great writer, I was excited for a brilliant Doctor Who Christmas by Moffat but it turned out to be a piece of shit, and people need to take a step back and stop encouraging Moffat to keep writing pathetic fucking fluff stories with horrible writing and general story.

  • Jenna Miller

    Oh, I’m with you on this one. I have really tried to be positive and upbeat about Moffat’s unique take on things, but it seems he does throw big moments in randomly expecting to evoke emotions with no story, no substance, no real build up. Even young children can generally see through that. I know he likes to write for kids, but he forgets he is writing for families and yes, kids and even adults love big, wonderful moments and picturesque scenes that dazzle them, they also want reason, meaning, substance, sense. I couldn’t have worded it better than you. It seems he really does expect to just throw out some moments like a small child might to try to get attention, and hope you don’t notice there is nothing more to it. Like how kids will try to put a play together and say it IS Romeo and Juliet they are more likely to jump around and get to the ‘big’ scenes like the balcony and the deaths, and skim over or even completely not bother with the important in between bits. But I expect more from a professional who is running a hit series. I kept hoping through this entire episode, and there were some nice moments, but for the most part I was confused, embarrassed at the lack of logic, and frustrated. Feelings that come more often than I like with Moffat these days. I still hope for the best. I’m not a pro  or anti-Moffat person. I’m very much a fan. I just hope and wish and expect better from him. Let’s hope next season brings up some decent episodes. It just feels like Moffat really is missing some beautiful things he could be doing with Doctor Who. 

  • David McAleece

    Hi – I wanted to really enjoy this ep – I always do.

    I watched it a second time and still felt the same way – good moments in it, but it ain’t a great episode.

    No big deal is it?

  • David McAleece

    My partner and I (UK based) watched last year’s Special immediately before this current one. This had a profound effect on our shared view of this year’s one.

    The effect was that we were both so moved at the end of ‘A Christmas Carol’, that once we hit the midpoint and end of the new Special (the first parts had stuff going for it) – that we were left entirely emotionally unmoved. There was absolutely no contest between the two episodes.

    YES in lots of ways, last year’s was just as plot-daft as this one, but the big difference was that had a heart and an emotional core that somehow worked.

    We were both left cold, so I agree with you.

    I certainly feel bored by reading the posts from “sj”.

    Disappointment is sometimes a part of love. Our partners, children or lovers may not always meet our expectations or make us proud – but we still love them.

  • Darocky5

    You must be nuts!! There was nothing positive about the xmas special. It was typical of moffats failures which marryann perfectly illustrated. She is spot on. Its not hating for the sake of hating, if you like your dr who to be a silly willy wonka/magical male mary poppins character who like a magic fairy comes calling when you wish for him then be my guest. How old are you?? 6 or 7?? WTF?!! Moffats dumbed dr who down to an alltime low, he has to rememeber that with RTD it was a family show enjoyed by both adults and children alike. Now its just shit that even kids find hard to like. Maryann is just saying what most of us are now thinking and I’ve been a fan of the show for over 25 years. Well done maryann.

  • Darocky5

    You know a sci fi writers is shit when its up to his fanatic fanboys to come up with explanations for his stories glaringly stupid contrivancies.

  • Darocky5

    Planet of the dead was actually enjoyable to watch. It had shit goin on. Journeys end and the next dr are far better than this xmas special crap where the drs turned into a wish fairy pedo lookin willy wonka who can survive the vacuum of space and do silly things like give kids magical portal presents. No internal logic and no rationale. Like most of moffats hatchet jobs its up to his fanatic supporters to try and make up thier own fan fiction explanations for his stupid contrivances. Fans wouldn’t need to do this if moffat bothered to put some effort into having some backstory, some character development. One fan suggested the dr must have had a wishometer on board his tardis..its like fucken ridiculous. They spent half the episode wandering round a xmassy forest doin nothin. It was boring as hell and stupid in every possible way.

  • Darocky5

    you idiot. Since when has the dr been a wizard type trickster? The problem with moffat is that he doesn’t know how to write realistic characters and hes out of control with his total lack of internal logic. All the characters in blink, GITF and all his best work in RTDs era were well fleshed out and interesting characters we could relate to. No doubt these characters were fleshed out by RTD as script editor cos moffats shown an inability to write up a decent characther ever since. The problem is that moffats a reclusive nerd who wouldn’t recognise a realistic human social interaction and his supporters are the same. They probably never have much real human interaction themselves so dont recognise the fact that moffats characters are shallow, unrealistic and totally crap. Bring back the likes of Rose Tyler, Donna noble, Wilfred. Hes cast dr who as a nerd so its no wonder its the obsessive nerds who love his version so much and hated the cool handsome pin up boy Tenants character.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Um… what?

    If I’m translating this into English correctly, I don’t think you understood the point of my original post. I’m not commenting on whether or not TDtWatW was good (I still haven’t seen it). I’m taking except to the idea that Davies “NEVER” wrote a story and/or emotional impact free episode. And my problem with Planet of the Dead is that nothing went on, nor could I muster the interest enough to care.

    Is that clear now, or do you need me to use shorter, inappropriately capitalized and punctuated words?

  • Darocky5

     So you haven’t seen this episode yet? Take my advice, DONT!! Everything Maryann said is SPOT ON and that’s the truth. I doubt you could raise so many critiques of “Planet of the dead”. That was not RTDs best but it is Shakespearean compared to this illogical mess of an episode. Hey, but if you like yr dr who characterized as a magical wish fairy male mary poppins willy wonka wanker then it will be to your taste. Everything Mary said is spot on. Like Tara said, a story has to have some rationale to it. This had none whatsoever and made the DR look like a pedo looking willy wonka dork. If this shit is typical of what moffat has in store for us in 2012, he may as well do what JNT didn’t and leave now before the show is cancelled…AGAIN! We fans of old just want a dr who story that doesn’t require the services of moffats fan fiction brigade and thier “explanations” (which seem to vary greatly depending on which obsessive fanboy you happen to ask) because Moffat was too damn lazy or stupid to write a story with any internal logic or rationale. Maryann, you hit the nail on the head. Your last few reviews are exactly what I and all my friends are thinking too. Moffats fucked up bigtime. What a disappointment he has been.

  • Fuli Pongi

    I totally agree. Moffat is ruining dr who. Maryann is just telling it like it is. I miss the RTD days when the stories were gripping and you actually gave a shit about the characters. Nowadays its like watching paint dry for all the reasons maryann points out. P.S I hate matt smiths version of the doctor. He talks too fast, acts like a handicapped child on speed It isn’t all his fault I guess. Moffat writes him like that. I sooooo miss tenant.

  • Darocky5

    You like fairy tales? Stick to watching the disney channel so you wont miss out on cinderella, little red riding hood and such. Moffat turning Dr who into a magical wishman willy wonka male mary poppins might wash well with you but not the rest of us. We grew up on dr who being an intergalactic hero, not some bullshit wish fairy guy. This episode was ridiculous. The story was nonsense and everything maryann said was spot on. Face the truth you moffat loving fanboy! Only reason you nerd fanboys love moffats bullshit take on dr who is because he cast the lead hero as the ultimate nerd Matt Smith. May as well have Rowan Atkinson playing the lead, noone would notice the difference.

  • You’re quite entitled to your dislike of Moffat and his works, of course, but there’s no need to try to universalise it with spurious statistics. The line about viewers of Moffat Who ‘switching off’ isn’t actually backed up to any great extent by the figures. Some are less than the amazing peaks of RTD’s era, while others are higher than other periods. I was surprised to see how low the figures were for Satan Pit/Impossible Planet and others at that time, for example. In fact Blink only had around 6 million (though yes, I do realise that that was because Moffat is seven shades of shit and always has been).

  • Someone mentioned in relation to this topic that the fans of the episode were starting to behave like the Tree of Life lovers, and I confess, I liked that comment and reflected on it in relation to my own opinions (I am numbered among those who quite enjoyed the episode, for all its faults). The issue is a desperate need to have your own views validated by seeing them reflected in others. And I’m wondering here whether that tendency is limited in this case to the likers?

    Personally I don’t have any problem with those who dislike this episode. MaryAnn has explained in pretty forensic detail why she doesn’t like it, and I can’t see any point in arguing against that. I’ve commented that I’m sad that she doesn’t like Moffat Who, but that’s not berating her for bad taste, that’s expressing genuine sympathy for someone who I know loves the programme (and from someone who actually watched the 6th and 7th Doctors when they were broadcast and therefore understands the pain of seeing the show being awful!).

    But directing abuse against those who did happen to like the Christmas special does seem to be somewhat akin to the Tree of Life ranters. Does it really trouble you so much that people have different tastes to yours?

  • Darocky5

    I was only responding to that idiot SJ with his own medicine. He criticses maryann for her opinion which I wholeheartedly agree with and I will do the same to him. I also genuinely love the show and went through the pain of seeing the show become a pale imitation of itself back in the 80’s with the 6th and 7th doctors. I’m going through that same pain now seeing Moffat turn dr who into a parody of itself for all the reasons maryann points out. I honestly can’t get my head around it. Moffats stories during RTDs era were brilliant and he showed some more of that brilliance with “Eleventh hour”. WTF happened? How did he go from Empty Child, Dr dances, Blink, GITF, SITL, Forest of the dead, eleventh hour to this shite?? How did he get so bad?

  • Darocky5

    The ratings debate again. You moffat lovers always trying to make excuses for his low ratings. Satan pit/ impossible planets overnight ratings would beat most of moffats and blink is universally seen as one of dr who’s greatest episodes by fans and critics alike. It was written when moffat was “good”. Maybe he was only good because of RTDs input. Blink, GITF etc were brilliantly told stories with good characterisation & were well paced. What has happened to moffat since then?

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Since you intend to stick around, let me say this:

    You are, in the Wheatonesque sense, kind of a dick.

    You’re arrogant, abusive to other commenters, a poor reader, and a broken record. You’re vulgar in completely inappropriate ways, and seem to have a poor grasp on grammatical rules. You’re making this thread unpleasant to read. 

    But at least click MaryAnn’s “join” link, and drop a dollar in the jar on your way out. Someone should get a benefit from your contributions here.

  • Thank you for answering my question. A simple ‘yes’ would have sufficed, however.

  • The ‘ratings debate’ was raised by the person I commented on, not by me. Nor did I make excuses for his low ratings. I commented that he doesn’t have the low viewing figures that are being claimed. His figures in the UK aren’t significantly different. His figures in the US are much higher.

    Shouting something over and over again doesn’t make it any more or less true.

  • When you made this point, I thought it was a good one at the time. What do you think now, though? Which ‘fans’ on this thread now most resemble the Tree of Life crowd?

    My theory about fans suggests that their proprietorial interest in something can flip into a rabid destructiveness just as easily as the unthinking defensiveness you identified.

    I expunged myself of being a Doctor Who ‘fan’ (not that I had more than a very peripheral connection with Who fandom) in the 90s. Like you, I think this is a healthier place to be.

  • Darocky5

    Yes, but I’m only giving SJ a taste of his own mwdicine. He voices his intolerance for maryanns opinion so I give it to him back. Simple as that.

  • Darocky5

    The final ratings for this years xmas special was only 10.77 million. Compare that to RTDs best xmas specials. no comparison. I didn’t say you raised the debate but I’ve seen it across many discussion boards and dr who blogs & on youtube etc. Its always the same lame “nerdenial” from these moffat fans blaming the weather, the winter olympics, changing viewer habit etc. You name it. The BBC aren’t stupid. There’s a reason why they have put DR Who on hiatus for a year, cut its 2012 season down to 7 episodes, cancelled DWC. Its 1980’s all over again. Dr whos future hangs in the balance and 2012 will be mae or break and if moffats going to be churning out more shit like this then its gonna be curtains. Some fans are just in too much “nerdenial” to see the writing on the wall.

  • Darocky5

    Yes, all you say i true.  I am arrogant, maybe from your perspective a bit of a dick. I guess I am being a bit abusive, I must admit I am the type of person who does not suffer fools gladly. I may be vulgar and my english teacher always told me my grammar was shit. Yes, all you say is true but it doesn’t make anything I’ve said any less true. It definately doesn’t make anything maryann says any less true either. Her review is spot on. I’m sick of the obsessive moffat fanboys coming up with thier own “fan fiction” explanations because moffat was too lazy or stupid to write his stories with any internal logic or rationale. Yes, its science fiction and we are meant to suspend disbelief but…c’mon man..I aint gonna waste my time going through everything again. Maryann summed it up nicely. I feel the same as her but I aint so nice about it. I’m angry because I watched dr who become a parody of itself with the 6th & 7th drs in the 80″s. I see the show going down that road again thanks to bloody moffat!

  • Okay, there’s no reason to call anyone an idiot.

    Also: Moffat is married and has children. I think it’s safe to say that he’s not a reclusive nerd who doesn’t understand human interaction.

    There’s no need to get personal.

  • Auntbellow

    Moffat stood on RTD’s shoulders and everyone hailed him as a giant.

  • RogerBW

    My theory about fans suggests that their proprietorial interest in something can flip into a rabid destructiveness just as easily as the unthinking defensiveness you identified.

    I agree; I don’t see the destructive as often (I understand it happens a lot in comics fandom), but my guess is that it’s similarly a matter of having invested oneself in a particular viewpoint and wanting external validation of that viewpoint. (There may also be a betrayal component – once something has turned bad to the point that the enthusiast doesn’t feel able to support it any more, he may feel profoundly embarrassed by ever having done so at all.)
    I’m a mere amateur. Does anyone study this stuff seriously?

  • Darocky5

    Yr right maryann. I’m sorry. I guess I just get carried away. I love the show so much and hate to see it going downhill like this. I went through the pain of witnessing DR Who turn into a parody of itself in the 80’s with the 6th and 7th Doctors under JNT. RTD ressurected the show and made it a phenomenom again so it pains and angers me to see it going downhill like this once AGAIN under Moffat.

  • Darocky5

    I agree 100%. Without RTD monitoring his stories, we get this shite. Style over substance, bullshit and nonsense heaped atop more bullshit and nonsense. We get moffat throwing out scenes that are suppossed to automatically evoke emotion but have not been earned cos he doesn’t bother to put any effort into a backstory or make the characters feel anything close to being “real”. RTD had the emotional storytelling down pat.
    Maybe the new producer is also to blame. The musical score is terrible. what happened to the musical score we got in family of blood, GITF, Blink and most of RTDs era. It helped set the mood for the best stories.

  • Auntbellow

    Listen to Terry Pratchett in his Desert Island Discs interview.  He says exactly what MaryAnn says: Actual fairy stories have rules and logic. Fantasy must, too, if it’s going to work.  (Not a quote but that’s the gist.)  It’s like a game. Without rules it’s booooooooooooooring.

  • J.T. Dawgzone

    Wait, so, if I’m a nerd, am I supposed to be upset at Moffat for making DW too “fairy tale” and too different from Classic Who? Or am I supposed to embrace Moffat because he lives in his mom’s basement like me? Help, I don’t know what to think!

  • J.T. Dawgzone

    He also really hates Willy Wonka for some reason.

  • J.T. Dawgzone

    How does one become a professional storyteller? I’m actually really curious about this! Do you have a website?

  • J.T. Dawgzone

    Look, I understand most of your complaints, repetitive though they may be. I even agree with some of them. But why on earth do you keep insisting that Eleven is a “pedo”? Or looks like one? I don’t get it. Just because someone enjoys the company of children doesn’t mean he’s a pedophile.

  • Funny you should mention that: I was planning to make it the topic of my next academic paper.

    And no: though in a way I probably should be joking, I’m not.

  • Cagey

    Gareth Roberts (life-long Who fan, author of many who novels prior to the 2005 reboot) wrote The Lodger and Closing Time (and The Shakespearean Code and The Unicorn and the Wasp), not Moffat.  I personally loved these episodes. Yes, the Doctor has lived on earth (stranded completely during a chunk of Pertwee’s years) but he hung out with scientists and military dudes in U.N.I.T.  He didn’t spend time as a normal guy.  Roberts knows this, so I think this works.  Plus, Pertwee was a weirdo on earth too.  And so was Tom Baker.  I’m not sure where everyone is getting the idea that the Doctor was always super-smooth.  Moreover, I liked the Cybermen story.  I loved seeing a Cybermat.  And it was nice breather from the more convoluted Moffat stuff this season.

  • Arkaan

      Ummm…. with The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang I did totally accept the timey-wimey of it all, fwiw.  Yeah, Moffat goes to that well a little more than he should, but I still like it.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    No one who has ever written for Doctor Who has ever cared anything about canon. “Doctor Who canon”is itself a contradiction in terms. What new Who writer, Davies included, has ever expressed any indication they he or she felt in any way constrained by the implications of “Father’s Day” and the Reapers?

  • Darocky5

    How can you totally accept the timey wimey explanation? So he creates this huge build up to the dr being put in whats suppossed to be the “Ultimate prison” built by the combined forces of ALL his enemies throughout his long life. He creates this excellent cliffhanger and then delivers the ultimate anticlimax. Timey freakin wimey??!! Such a stupid lazy copout. I half expected future dr who to appear at the lake and whisk past dr to safety before river shoots him. Any five year old can write up a solution to a moffat cliffhanger with Timey Wimey. I can see the next one now, dr who trapped in a crippled tardis, surrounded by cyberfleet about to be blasted into atoms. His companions are dead and his sonic screwdriver broken. The dr is only seconds away from death with no escape in sight- roll end credits. Roll opening credits for episode 2- Timey fucken wimey Dr who from the future appears in the nick of time with repaired tardis and saves past dr who. What a load of bollocks!

  • Darocky5

    yes that is a bit mean. Has more to do with my dislike of the current shows storylines. He just looks a bit creepy to me and made worse by the willy wonkaisms mary poppins turn his character takes in this shit episode.

  • Darocky5

    I loved willy wonka (the charming gene wilder version) not the creepy pedo looking johnny depp version. But dr who is dr who, not a male mary poppins, not willy wonka and not a magical wish fairyman

  • Darocky5

    I dont mind if its too different from classic WHO, RTDs version was a refreshing reimagination of classic WHO and it worked. What I dont like is that it is so different from what RTDs version was …which was GOOD Television. Unimissable television. Moffats WHO is wrong for all the reasons maryann states in this review and then some.

  • Fuli Pongi

    Yes, yr right. Tom baker was the ultimate oddball but I dont remember him forgetting 21st century customs or greetings. I think moffat and some fans though tenants dr was too human and they were trying to make him appear more alien but like Tara says, alien does not mean stupid. Moffats trying too hard to make him alien and he’s going about it the wrong way. Nevertheless, closing time was crap and the lodger wasn’t too good either. I did enjoy shakespearean code though.

  • J.T. Dawgzone

    Ah, well, as I’ve seen none of the Wonka movies, I can’t comment. I guess you just don’t like the way he acts around children then.

  • David McAleece

    Hey Emma – I live in Scotland and we have a national centre devoted to supporting storytelling in all of its forms – including giving help to those developing themselves professionally, including myself. It still stuns me that it exists. You can find the Scottish Storytelling Centre here:

    http://www.scottishstorytellingcentre.co.uk/

    I guess I just started telling stories and didn’t stop, and then told them in many more settings and contexts. Then developing and honing my techniques with mentoring and continuous training.

    To link this to the thread here, I would say that it is STORIES THEMSELVES that got me into performing them. Doctor Who is right up there for me as a source that inspired (key word that!) me as a child. And in recent years that inspiration has grown as I have both discovered and rediscovered the Classic series. Almost 50 years of stories about one character – WOW!!!

    So I also find Mary Ann’s blog a good place to be inspired as I appreciate her passion for storytelling. That sometimes means being honest when something doesn’t work – O do that to my own self regarding my own performances.

    Oh and I don’t have a website as yet (one will appear!) – but you can find me on Facebook as ‘Daru Mcaleece’.

    Thanks Emma

  • David McAleece

    “I’m going through that same pain now…”

    Thanks for being honest – it certainly sounds (just from my viewpoint) that you are indeed going through pain.

  • David McAleece

    I would not say that I study this area seriously – but I feel that as well as “external validation of that viewpoint”, there can be a deep level of personal investment and especially a personal identification with certain plot-lines, characters, etc. People in a vicarious way live out their life THROUGH the people in the stories, or in how they are portrayed.

    When Euripedes produced his play ‘Medea’, the Greeks of that period were apparently incensed at the challenging of the orthodoxy around the myths of Jason and other such heroic figures.

    We can invest such feeling into these fictional characters, that when writers turn the tables, it can rock society at the highest level, or undermine our emotional life at the personal.

    Just some thoughts – cheers for your good clear perspective Roger and Paul.

  • David McAleece

    Yeah man – totally agree. I have always felt that the idea of Canon within Doctor Who is nigh impossible.

    It is an endeavour that is doomed to fail where we have a lead character who lives a non-linear life.

  • Darocky5

    Oh ..I get now why you wouldn’t understand maryanns willy wonka reference having never seen the films. Have you seen mary poppins?

  • J.T. Dawgzone

    It was one of my childhood favorites. I quite enjoy Eleven as the doctor, too. I enjoy feeling like a child again. But different strokes for different folks, and all that.

  • Darocky5

    So mary poppins was one of yr childhood favourites? The 3rd and 4th DR Whos were one of my childhood favourites and they were solid sci fi shows. RTDs dr who was enjoable for adults and children alike. Everytime I watch a good dr who episode Iit pleases the child in me too. If Moffat wants to cater to the adult audience that actually wants stories  (rather than fairytales) that aren’t designed for 6 yr olds, he has to put some internal logic & rationale into his stories again. In saying that, even fairytales have internal logic, rules they follow. Maryann is spot on.

  • David McAleece

    “Could probably be a discussion worthy of its own post…”

    Good idea MaryAnn – it seems like that would be a really ripe area for discussion!

  • Arkaan

      Why did I buy it?  Don’t know.  It was speedy, wittily crafted, with great character moments (“Why can’t I remember?” River Song v. The Dalek, The Last Centurion, the Doctor dancing ), some beautiful recontextualization of the fifth season (“You need to remember”) and was gorgeously visualized.  And it had such a kick ass ending (seriously, Rory might be my favourite companion, and I was chuffed he was gonna be a part of the sixth season in a real way).  New Doctor Who has placed a premium on storytellers and craftsmen as the most human humans – William Shakespeare.  Charles Dickens.  Agatha Christie.  Vincent van Gogh.  How could I not be moved by the Doctor’s final pangyeric and the moment of wit that adds to it later, which is basically a tribute to the power of stories?

      Was it anticlimactic?  I still watch it more than any other season finale (though in fairness, “Army of Ghosts/Doomsday” rips my heart out too much to repeat it).  It bugged me a lot more in the sixth season, where I almost just didn’t get it.

  • Darocky5

    wittily crafted? I dont know about that. Blink was wittily crafted and had great characterisation and well paced storytelling, but now we can assume that that was owed a lot to RTDs input since characterisation was his MO. The 1st part of the 5th season finale was just the dr trying to figure out what the hell the box was for and who the prison was meant for. The 2nd part tried to speed along quickly so that some less intelligent members of the population (no offense mate) wouldn’t notice the gaping holes in internal logic. Plus he still hasn’t answered how the silence took control of the tardis and blew it up…I dont think anyone cares anymore anyway. The answer he comes up with (assuming he hasn’t just ignored it hoping people will forget) will inevitably be anticlimactic rubbish again. Nonsense and bullshit heaped upon more nonsense and bullshit…AGAIN. No worries though, I’m sure moffats loyal “fan fiction” brigade will be happy to make up for moffats lack of logical explanation with thier own special “explanations”. Unfortunately, the explanations will vary greatly depending on which obsessive fanboy you ask .

    Timey wimey? Wishing you back to life? That aint sci fi, thats up there with cinderella and jack and the magic beanstalk. I dont know which finale ending was worse…this one or season sixes robot dr who for some reason begins to regenrate when shot. I half expected moffat to use his trusty ready made “timey wimey”cliffhanger solving bullshit explanation to get the dr clear of this cliffhanger. Half expected future dr who to swoop back in time and save his past self before he gets shot.  Maybe hes saving it for next season.

  • Arkaan

      shrug.  I’ll have to suffer through being one of the less intelligent members of the population and an honorary member of Moffat’s fan fiction brigade (honorary as I can’t write fan fiction worth anything).

  • Darocky5

    LOL Some people are just less discerning I guess. I’ll never be interested by any cliffhanger moffat can dream up because I will not be expecting any logical solution. I’ll be expecting his timey wimey dr who from the future to come to the rescue. Moffats lazy unimaginative writing device.

  • Haven’t you realised yet that you do your ’cause’ more harm than good with your continued ranting? I’ll wager there are readers of this thread who thoroughly disliked the Christmas special, for impeccable reasons, but whose dislike is being tempered by your attacks.

    One problem is that you don’t seem to care about evidence. You claimed that Moffat’s viewing figures were down. Not especially true (though yes, the Christmas special was lower than other Christmas specials). You also claim that RTD rewrote Moffat’s previous scripts. This particular claim is contradicted by no less a person than RTD himself, who wrote that Moffat’s were the only scripts he didn’t rewrite.

    Go ahead and hate Moffat all you like, but please be aware that continuing to froth about it in this forum says an awful lot more about you than it does about Moffat … even to those who are thoroughly disenchanted with the man!

  • Darocky5

    oh god, not the “ratings debate” again. Take a number pal. That defense has been run into the ground on so many forums. The BBC aint stupid. Doesn’t take a genius to figure out that theres reason for concern when the bbc put dr who on hiatus for nearly a year, halve its episodes this year and cancel DWC. Wake up and smell the coffee.

    RTD said he barely touched moffats scripts but no doubt he had a hand in pacing them properly and fleshing out the characters. That was his MO and its no wonder the likes of sally sparrow, madame de pompadour and others rang so true. Moffats shown an uncanny inability to write realistic characters since his departure from RTD. That in itself speaks volumes.

  • Tonio Kruger

    And Jane Espension used to have a great reputation as a screenwriter when she was working on Buffy and other American TV shows but ever since she teamed up with RTD for the last Torchwood outing, her work has been in disfavor with the critics. Odd coincidence, that.

    And if RTD gets credit for Moffat’s best work, does Moffat get credit for the Neil Gaiman episode–easiest one of the better and most popular episodes of the last season?

    For what it’s worth, I always thought “timey-wimey” was overrated as a catchphrase and I would have liked to have seen better writing this past season myself. But continually kvetching about how Moffat is not RTD is not going to accomplish that.

    We get it already. You hate Moffat’s work and prefer RTD’s work.

    Now let’s please move on to another subject.

  • englerp

    And Jane Espension used to have a great reputation as a screenwriter when she was working on Buffy and other American TV shows but ever since she teamed up with RTD for the last Torchwood outing, her work has been in disfavor with the critics. Odd coincidence, that.

    Well, your mileage may vary on this, but i kind of liked her work on Warehouse 13.

  • Darocky5

    Writing for torchwood and writing for dr who are two different things. Chalk and cheese. For instance, Moffats been brilliant as head writer for sherlock but has been lacklustre for DR Who post RTD. It does my head in.

    IMO RTD should get credit for moffats works during his era because nothings he’s done since then, besides maybe “eleventh hour”, comes close to being as good. Pacing, characterisation, substance, all the things maryann points out (AND THEN SOME) seem to be missing from his new stories. These elements were what RTD did best so it makes sense that it was his touches that made moffats stories shine. Another poster here hit the nail on the head when he said “moffat stood on RTDs shoulders and everyone hailed him as a giant”. So true.

    If moffat doesn’t get the boot, I hope he improves and shows the brilliance he once had instead of churning out shit like this years xmas special. I’m a dr who fan from way back and I’d hate to see the show get cancelled.

  • David McAleece

    Mmmm – I am not sure that I really wanted to hear a repeat of your “willy wonka
    pedo lookin dork” comments – again.

    I don’t really believe that paedophilia has anything to do with Doctor Who or this discussion.

    Thanks

  • David McAleece

    I agree with Paul above, Darocky5 . I am afraid that your tone is coming across as attacking in this thread.

  • Darocky5

    just saying…thats how he came across in this silly farce of an episode. Willy wonka dork..pedo was a bit harsh I must admit. Matt smith just looks kinda creepy.

  • Darocky5

    Well I do have an attacking tone…attacking moffat for ruining dr who with his dumbed down made for 8 yr old kids scripts. I have a right to express my opinion.

  • David McAleece

    Thanks for responding.

    Sure – I respect your rights to hold opinions and do not question them – that’s totally valid.

    Other folks also have a right not to receive an attacking tone – your opinions would be received more easily with a different tone.

    And I do personally hear your unhappiness with Moffat – that’s ok. Just soften up with the rest of us please?

    Much thanks

  • Miss Marbles

    Um, let me get this straight . . . Americans are simple?

  • Miss Marbles

    Not ALL of us are singing Sherlock’s praises, at least not this season. 

  • Tonio Kruger

    I meant Espension’s work on Torchwood: Miracle Day, of course.

    But thanks for the plug for Warehouse 13. That’s one of the few American sci-fi shows currently in production that I actually like–even if it does stretch the definition of science fiction quite a bit. (Perhaps it’s meant to take place in an alternative universe.)

  • Z Tom

    Yeah, I can imagine we’d have to “take a number” telling you you’re wrong about the ratings, because there’s so much “wrong” here it’s clear you haven’t tried very hard to listen to the people who’ve tried to set you straight.  The BBC is not “putting Doctor Who on hiatus” or reducing its episodes because of low ratings.  That’s just absurd.  It’s their most profitable property abroad– why would they make less of it at a time when they desperately need to make up for the freeze in the license fee?  Sorry, mate, you’re entitled to your opinions about Moffat versus Davies (for the record I didn’t think the Christmas Special this year was that great either) but you’re not entitled to your own set of facts about the ratings.

  • Z Tom

    and before you say it, yes I know the next season doesn’t start until next September, but as far as anyone knows that was a decision made by the Doctor Who team, not the BBC brass.  Hardly what I’d call a “year-long hiatus” and Moffat has said several times that they want to make more episodes, not less.

  • Darocky5

    more denial from the moffat fans. The BBC aren’t stupid. There’s a reason why DWC cancelled, year long hiatus (BBC decision by the way, not the dr who team. Wake up) and the season slashed in half for 2012. . They even put a freeze on production of dr who merchandise.

    Only the “in denial” moffat fans fail to see the writing on the wall. Wake up. This ratings debate has raged across so many forums with the “in denial” moffat fanboys making thier lame excuses for why ratings fallen. Enough is enough. Wake up to reality dude.

  • Z Tom

    It’s not denial, pal.  Honestly you’re just trolling at this point and making things up to suit your point of view.  Nice talking to you.

  • Darocky5

    really? So DWC hasn’t been cancelled has it? Dr who isn’t on a year long hiatus is it? 2012 wont see only 7 episodes? Wake up and smell the coffee.

  • usrbs

    I just came across this review and I agree with every word. Thank you so much for expressing so well what’s going wrong with Dr. Who. No story, no characters to care about, no internal logic or consistency, utterly random bits included seemingly just because they’re “cool” – it’s amazing how Moffit could have all that talent, money and time at his disposal and come up with this drek. I haven’t watched Sherlock, but apparently it’s of a high quality, nothing like this. So please, Moffit, if you’re spread too thin, please hand over the reins to somebody who cares about the show.

  • Darocky5

    Totally agree with you on every level. Thanks.

  • Sassy3012

    brilliant! spot on. Moffat does have some talent but he seems to throw everything into his stories but the proverbial kitchen sink.
    And sorry if anyone is offended but to saddle the Dr with the grossest nastiest, most sadistic sociopath by the name of River Song. She looks like his mother so when they kiss it looks incestuous. she is not some strong feminist role-model. the only ones calling her that are male-chauvinist pigs. She is a mary-sue of the worst order. And she is not a time lord. The new Who is NOT  reboot or a remake. RTD has said it is a continuation of the old series with a face-lift. So the old series still applies and in Invasion of Time it is made abundantly clear in the dialogue between Rodan and Leela that Rodan is not a Time Lord and neither are the guards. Time Lord is a title not a race.
    The cliffhanger was so stupid.  The only way that could work is if the Doctors real name is used a password to set off a machine that could destroy the universe. The Doctor did NOT start using the moniker The Doctor until he ran away from Gallifrey with his Granddaughter Susan. Now who but an extra-special kind of stupid would suggest that he did not use his real name each and every day he lived on Gallifrey?
    I sincerely hope Moffat isn’t planning on going down that dead-end road of ‘The Other’ because that nonsense completely contradicts established Doctor Who history. Can’t work! The Doctor could not be the third person who helped create Gallifrey because of the dialogue in ‘The Three Doctors’ and ‘The Five Doctors’.  NEITHER Rassilon in The Five Doctors OR Omega in The Three Doctors knew the Doctor. not in a personal way. like you would know  one of your co-workers. And the Doctor if he were an equal to both of these Time Lords would hardly act all differential to either of them and that is precisely what The various Doctors have done. And it was made abundantly clear in The Five Doctors that while Rassilon is indeed immortal The Doctor IS NOT!! And he does not wish to be. ‘
    I doubt I’ll waste time watching series 7. I’m getting the same sick feeling of boredom I got back in the 80’s when all the stupid stories like ‘The Happiness Patrol’ and other crap like that came out.
    And it’s all thanks to Steven Moffat. He needs to go. or hire an intelligent competent highly imaginative writer……like me? lol

  • Boston Karen

    Speaking as an American, that’s pretty insulting!  Those of us who are Whovians aren’t stupid, you know.  Although perhaps we all — Brits and Americans and any other fans — ARE really stupid, for continuing to watch Doctor Who as ruined by Stephen Moffatt.

    Boycott the show until Moffatt resigns.  That’s my suggestion.

  • Radek

    And what of the fact that the little Lily girl reacted more realistically to everything around her than any other character in almost 2 seasons?

  • Radek

    The main reason I didn’t like this episode is that Christmas IS NOT MAGICAL. It’s just a date, and if sometimes it’s possible to ignore all the Christmas-y things during Christmas specials and focus on the Doctor, there was NOTHING here other than nuclear heterosexual family bullshit. Why go to war in the first place? Why lie to your children? I hated the allignment of the magic of Christmas + nuclear family + war, as if all these things supported each other and need each other to survive.

    The Doctor finding shelter at Amy and Rory’s house was the only thing that rang true. I can’t help but feel that Amy and Rory turned out to be parental figures for the Doctor now that he is married to their daughter (and especially because she’s PRACTICALLY A BABY!). You see, I believe family is about who you choose to love and there has never been a more untraditional family than Amy + Rory + River + Doctor. That scene rang true because it showed openess towards others, even if they’re not related by blood or come from the future.

  • Reginald Anselm Leppik

    I think it was harmless, but utterly empty as a story.
    I agree with most of your criticisms. It just makes me wish back for the masterpiece Eccleston era(and yes, the Slitheen were not that bad).

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