Log in

No account? Create an account
14 January 2014 @ 09:00 pm
Time of the Doctor  
I found Time of the Doctor to be an oddly frustrating viewing experience, at least in retrospect. While it was more coherent, at least in concept, than Day of the Doctor it felt strangely lifeless in execution.

Of course Time of the Doctor was intended, if not as a tragedy, at least as a farewell while Day of the Doctor was a celebration. That meant Time of the Doctor lacked the energy and the sense of fun and delight that, I think, characterised the 50th anniversary special and lifted it above its many absurdities.

I think it is also fair to say that Moffat's puzzle box construction of the 11th Doctor's tenure didn't quite deliver the necessary pay off. Even allowing for the fact that his plans have, allegedly, been affected by limitations of budgets, timing and BBC politics, I didn't have so much the sense that an elegant solution to all our questions was being revealed as that throwaway answers were being trotted out. The story itself did not seem particularly interested in the questions that have been raised over the past few years, its focus was far more on the idea of how the Doctor would be affected by fixing himself into one location for a couple of centuries. Given that the majority of a Christmas day audience has probably not been following along carefully and taking notes, I can see why the arc resolutions needed to be backgrounded, but that mostly only serves to justify Russell Davies' belief that arcs needed to be lightweight. I appreciated that the effort was being made to provide some kind of resolution to the plot threads, but I wasn't surprised or delighted by what we got which is was an arc needs to justify its existence.

Even accepting that the story wanted to keep its thematic focus on the Doctor's extended sojourn on Trenzalore, and not on the ongoing plot about Papal Mainframes, the Silence, the Crack etc., etc., the delivery seemed oddly lightweight. The Doctor's relationships with the people of Christmas were sketchy at best, there was no real story about it, its not clear the Doctor changed particularly while there (beyond ageing and I'm never very convinced by ageing make-up). His ill-ease at settling down in The Power of Three should have informed his reaction to his enforced stay here but didn't. In all, it just sort of happened, it felt more like a setting than a story to me and could have taken place over three days rather than three hundred years for all the difference it actually made to the progress of the episode.

One of the features, I think, of a certain kind of geekiness is a tendency to fixate upon minor details. Halfway through Time of the Doctor my brain became fixated upon how the town of Christmas actually worked. With only half an hour of daylight how do you grow crops? with a blockade in place around your planet how can you ship food in? why is the whole place freeze framed as a Victorian German village anyway? On one level I know that the answer is that the production office, particularly under Moffat, feel Christmas is implicitly linked with nostalgic historical images and are more than happy to warp a setting around delivering that particular hit to the audience, but I did worry about agriculture. I'm aware that other fans were finding more fundamental idiocies to annoy them (what exactly are the Time Lords playing at?) but agriculture was the one my brain decided to worry about. This may have contributed to my sense of dissatisfaction with the core story.

I wasn't too keen on the execution of the regeneration either. I wasn't sure about the reappearance of Amy Pond. Clara's character has had short enough shrift from the scripts already without being rather explicitly side-lined in the regeneration story. It highlighted the way the Pond arc has dominated the era with the Impossible Girl tacked somewhat lopsidedly at the end. I assume the idea was to reinforce the point about the "first face this face saw" in order to build Clara more firmly into the life of the 12th Doctor but I'm not convinced that worked. I wasn't hugely convinced about Capaldi's first few seconds in the role either, but I will reserve judgement on that.

So, all in all, I was disappointed. I didn't hate it. I appreciated the attempt to resolve dangling plot arcs. I could see what it was trying to do with the central plot conceit but, at the end of the day, I think I was a bit `meh' about the whole thing.

That said, I'd take it over The End of Time any day! Christmas Day arc-resolving regeneration specials can be a lot worse than this was.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/109284.html.
sophievdennis on January 15th, 2014 12:24 am (UTC)
Crops at Christmas
I had the whole crop-growing thought too. The problem with those kind of intrusion is they puncture the essence of the old suspension of disbelief. It also suggests the story and setting isn't sufficiently engaging, so your brain has time to wander off on tangents. Plot holes happen all the time, but on the good stuff you don't notice them while they're happening.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on January 15th, 2014 12:19 pm (UTC)
Re: Crops at Christmas
That's a good point. I'm interested that it was a "realism" plot hole we picked up on, because the story has at least a couple of internal plot logic holes which you would have thought would have been more jarring.
parrot_knight: DavidIconparrot_knight on January 15th, 2014 12:25 am (UTC)
I think the only statement there with which I'm not in sympathy is that I preferred The End of Time to this, rough though it was, mainly because it held my belief more.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on January 15th, 2014 12:20 pm (UTC)
You may be correct, in that I don't recall particularly objecting to it when first shown, but when I watched it as part of the Randomizer I did think it was a god awful mess with few redeeming features.
daniel_saunders: Leekleydaniel_saunders on January 15th, 2014 01:17 pm (UTC)
I haven't been looking at fan reaction much lately, but from what little I've seen, a lot of people seem to be thinking as you felt. I think I'm broadly in agreement too: I enjoyed it a lot, but it felt less than the sum of its parts and I may have liked the idea of the Doctor settling down more than the execution.

Capaldi wouldn't be the first Doctor to recover from an awkward opening line or two...
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on January 15th, 2014 05:46 pm (UTC)
It was only on writing this review that I began to feel how thin the execution of "the Doctor settles down" really was. The sum total of the Doctor's actual engagement with the townsfolk (as we are shown, rather than as is reported by the Doctor) appeared to be mistaking someone for his grandfather and that was more a point about ageing than about character development/elaboration, I think.
telperion_15: Gallifreyantelperion_15 on January 15th, 2014 08:08 pm (UTC)
You fixated on the agriculture, I fixated on the lack of Vitamin D! Assuming the residents of Trenzalore were human, of course, which they certainly appeared to be, why did they not all have Vitamin D deficiency. I also slightly wondered about the complete lack of technological development over the course of 300 years, especially given that there would have been all sorts of technological flotsam lying around after numerous attacks by technologically advanced races...

I was also slightly disappointed by the use of the 'trick the companion into letting the Tardis fly them away to safety' device, which was used not once, but twice, and in the first instance, anyway, smacked very much of what Nine did to Rose in his finale episode.

Having said all that, I did like the episode, even more so when I got to watch it all the way through without the recording cutting out right at the moment of regeneration!
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on January 16th, 2014 05:43 pm (UTC)
People keep listing the plot holes they spotted in the episode. I'm not sure it had more than usual, but they were obviously more visible for some reason.

Structurally I understand the trick the companion thing - because they couldn't let Clara live 300 years so thematically I don't think it was as significant as what the Doctor did to Rose. Of course, that's taking a step away from the action. It was obviously the same from Clara's point of view.