Monday, April 8, 2013

Can you hear them singing?

It's no secret- or surprise- to anyone that Saturday night's episode of Doctor Who had me crying. And no, it wasn't just because of Eleven's speech at the end. Don't get me wrong. His speech- and, to a lesser extent, Clara's- were heart-wrenching. But that's not it.

It's because after two and a half seasons that kept the fans waiting, Doctor Who is finally back. With Neil Cross writing and Farren Blackburn directing, not only did Matt Smith finally achieve his potential as The Doctor, the show also returned to its core. Going to an alien world. Exploring. Running into trouble. Saving the day and learning a lesson. If you go back to the episode and pay attention to the credits, you'll notice that Steven Moffat did not write this episode. Yes, he still runs the show (which is the reason why the episode wasn't perfect, see below), but without his words or vision running the episode, the show and The Doctor were finally able to be who they are. 

Don't get me wrong. Steven Moffat has some chops. I have nothing but respect for what he does. He wrote The Pandorica Opens, A Christmas Carol, and The Doctor, The Widow, and The Wardrobe. What made this latest episode hit so hard- at least partly- was a combination of elements from these three episodes: respectively, the ferocity of The Doctor as he calls out to beings who want to destroy everything he wants to protect; the sociological and poignant aspect of a people coming together and singing for their lives; the emotion that leads The Doctor to cry, that shows us how, sometimes, despite his two beating hearts, he is just so very human.

This is what made David Tennant so all-powerful, so moving, as The Doctor. The combination of his strength and weakness was written superbly by Russell T. Davies and his writing crew, and was portrayed without fault by Tennant. I have no doubt that Moffat has a grasp on The Doctor's characteristics, but unlike Davies, he doesn't know how to put them together to make the man. In one episode, Neil Cross succeeded where Moffat failed- for over two seasons- by writing a complete character for Matt Smith to play.

There are still issues. As a friend of mine says, the show has gotten too big for its britches. I believe that this critique should be directed at Steven Moffat, as he is the one who turned Doctor Who into somewhat of a joke. From the time he took over after the last special of the 4th series, there's always been some mystery, always a twist, that leaves the audience with a plot so convoluted it a) leaves out important character development, and b) tends to make the writers forget about smaller continuity details (aka plot holes), which has the fans (aka me) ecstatically pointing them out on the internet and longing for the days of Davies.

I believe that this is what will happen with Clara Oswin Oswald. Moffat clearly has a plan for this character's storyline, but I predict that important aspects like character development and continuity will be left by the wayside. That's why, as much as I loved The Rings of Akhaten, the parts of the episode that dealt with the mystery of Clara didn't hold any interest for me. What held interest for me was the child who needed help, The Doctor's philosophy on saving people and the development we finally saw in his speech and his sacrifice, and the companion who took part in the action and helped save the day.

"Did you know- in nine hundred years of time and space I've never met anyone who wasn't important before." The entire point of Doctor Who, for me, is that every human being is special, and you don't need to be surrounded by mystery to be special enough for The Doctor. Here's to hoping Steven Moffat will one day internalize that and continue to bring the show back to what it was. (If you scroll down a bit and look to the right, you'll see a picture of me in which I am not holding my breath.)

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