Is Doctor Who “a little bit rubbish”?

It seems fitting for the very first substantive entry on WitterLog to be about Doctor Who. It has always been, and remains, one of my favourite TV shows, and one of the foundations of my love for “the speculative” in all of its forms. I grew up in Australia and The Fourth Doctor is “my Doctor” (though I also have an enduring fondness for the Third, who I met through reruns as I was growing up – regrettably I never met the First or Second except through the “multi-Doctor specials”). Watching The Goodies, Doctor Who and The Kenny Everett Video Show back-to-back (was it on Sunday evenings? I seem to think it was) on the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Commission) is an enduring memory of childhood. My fondness for it never paled, even though I gradually stopped following it during the tenures of the Sixth and Seventh Doctors. When the series was cancelled in 1989, I was a little sad and wistful even though I hadn’t seen it at all for a couple of years.

So when the show was resurrected in 2005, I was both deeply apprehensive (“they are bound to screw it up”) and strangely excited. The first episode (“Rose”) was nice, in that it was clearly a part of established continuity, not some pants re-boot, and did a good job of establishing the fundamentals, though the story itself was somewhat uninspiring. Of course, to my mind under Davies and Moffat the programme has gone from strength to strength, though not without blips and quibbles as you would expect over a long-running series.
So when today I read an article in The Telegraph suggesting that the latest series (the seventh of the re-launched series) was “a bit rubbish”, and the bulk of comments to the article seems to agree with the author, I bristled. Insults like “middling”, “generic” and “generated out of a plot tombola” were cast about willy-nilly. The author feels the show is “coasting on its reputation”. Ouch.
I think whether one agrees with these comments on an episode-by-episode basis is really down to individual taste. Personally, I think series seven feels like a bit of a re-set. The whole space-time continuum has been so battered and bruised over the previous six seasons (especially the last two, with total space-time collapse being averted twice) that I’m not sure even an escapist bit of quasi-sci-fi fun like Doctor Who could sustain interest if the Doctor had to avert the end of the world every 14 episodes or so. Also, it has to delicately bridge the  generation gap, appealing to children as well as adults in need of a bit of downtime. The season-long plot arcs were ingenious but I suspect lost on a significant part of the audience. So now we have the Doctor presumed dead as far as many of his foes are concerned as of the end of Season Six, and the Daleks have now apparently been induced to forget about his existence altogether as of the beginning of Season Seven. Episodes so far in 2012 have been very “singular”, not terribly cosmic, and devoid of any obvious sub-plots (as far as I can see – hope I don’t look like a dunce as the season unfolds). Also, though I am quite fond of Amy and Rory, the TARDIS is a bit crowded these days and their impending departure (sorry, sort of a spoiler, but everyone knows they are going, right? It isn’t exactly a secret) will simplify things further. I think it is quite nice to return the Doc to his roots for a while and if that means some episodes are enjoyable without being stellar, I am fine with that. After all, there isn’t a long-running serial in the world that maintains absolute peaks of quality, and if we don’t have the average episodes, how do you recognise the great ones?
This sounds like a really lame apology by proxy, I know. I guess I am just indelibly fond of Doctor Who, and quite happy to sit back and enjoy it for what it is. And if it is sometimes a bit forgettable, I don’t really mind, because I know – I know - that it will surprise me with a piece of sublime story-telling soon enough.
I drifted away from Doctor Who once before, in the Eighties. I somehow doubt I will drift away from it again.

About Mark Winter

Dark Fantasy novelist (INFERNAL PREY). Blogging on politics and current affairs (GibberLog), science and history (BlatherLog), sci-fi, fantasy & horror (WittlerLog), business, product development & start-ups (MutterLog). View all posts by Mark Winter

30 responses to “Is Doctor Who “a little bit rubbish”?

  • DAVROS

    DR WHO A BIT RUBBISH WELL SORRY YES MATT SMITH IS TRYING TO DO HIS BEST BUT CAMES UP SHORT .DAVID TENNET WAS THE BEST WITH JON PERTWEE AND SYVESTER MCCOY CAMMING 3RD .MATT SHOULD STOP DOWN AT THE NED OF THE SEASON AND THEY SHOULD GET AN OLDER ACTOR IN IE THE CHAP WHO PLAYED JASON LAKE IN THE THE NEXT DR XMAS SPEACAL.SO IM SORRY BUT THIS WILL BE THE LAST TIME I WATCH DR WITH MATT SMITH.

  • IHAVEANIMGINARYFRIENDTHATLIVESINABIN

    Yes Dr Who can be a bit rubbish, in an argument with my friends it caused me to run into a fence. But most of the time it is awesome wooo.

  • Patricia

    I adore Matt Smith as Dr Who and think that he rivals Tom Baker who in my opinion was the best. However, thus far I have been very disappointed by the first three episodes of Season 7.

  • Richard Borweil

    Matt Smith is not realy strange like William Hartnell and not funnie like Tom Baker ,Christopher Eccleston or David Tennant.
    The actor makes The Doctor. I Hope they changes Matt Smith with Tie.

  • Don Elliott

    Matt Smith is doing one heck of a job in my opinion and I love the writers of this show as well they always seem to surprise me even after all these years.

  • Dave Regan

    Matt smith is doing a brilliant job every incarnation of the doctor has to develop the character in there own way, which isnt easy when you have the likes of Hartnell, Troughton, Pertwee, Baker, etc. from the original series with there 6 part cliffhangers green bubblewrap and screaming assistants, with a low budget and minimal cgi, acting had to be good! Now matt smith has to try not to be drowned by cgi in single story episodes, which are over before they can be established often too quick, Eccleston and Tennant did a good job in selling the doctor to the younger generation, shame the film was only a one off, Mcgann was a very believable Doctor! There are some very clever twists in the series my only gripe is the compannions overpower, the character of the doctor! But I love the way Amy bosses everyone around and Rorys humour. I would be great if they made a full length film of the Time War piecing together the old with the new timelords vrs Daleks. I have watched every available episode of every doctor, I cant wait for the next episode! Dr Who forever.

  • Ashton Lamont

    At it’s worst it’s the greatest teevee show in the world, at it’s best it’s the greatest teevee show ever made. Fact.

  • Karen Deakin

    he is a good doctor the story-lines just don’t seem to have the strength that they had last season perhaps they need a different writer ? however we are only a few episodes in so it really is fast judgement on my part

  • Kathryn M

    Once religious viewers, it’s now the end of the Dr. in our house. The heroic element has been missing for a long time, but in the last ep, when The Doctor sends the bad guy off to his death without so much as turning a hair, my son cried, “He’d NEVER do that!” Too right. The Doctor we all so fervently loved and admired would never do that. I’d like to see Steven Moffat tried for corrupting a generation and murdering its hero. He’s just negated the ethical genius of the Doctor we so loved. The show that enthralled generations and could rivet an audience from 5-15 is now over. Gone. I doubt that Matt Smith has the strength of character to convince us that he could save the universe from destruction, but Moffatt certainly hasn’t given him the scripts to test his mettle. Defend it all you like, but the strength is gone. We’ve had enough of this appalling “artistic exploration” of the character. We want our hero back. And until he appears, it’ll be re-runs of Doctor Who in our house.

    • Jeff J

      So just because the Doctor kills a villain it’s all over..?
      Did you ever see the 10th Doctor kill the Sycorax? “No seocnd chances” he said.
      Did you see it when the 7th Doctor destroyed an entire planet in Remembrance of the Daleks?

      Steven Moffat has improved the stories no end IMHO. Some of the RTD stories would often have quite weak resolutions although his overall story arcs were good. I’d gamble that the Doctor’s actions in the first few episodes this year will probably come back into the storylines of later shows, I’d be very surprised if not.

      As for Matt Smith – I like his version of the Doctor. It can be a little bit OTT on occasion, but he’s rarely anything less than entertaining to watch and David Tennant was a very hard act to follow.

      The hero you speak of is still there – don’t give up on him!

  • Colin

    I have heard a rumour of Amy being killed off. Do youremember the up-roar after you tried that last time

  • Joachim Reinhold

    The problem is simple: if a plot goes faster, higher, more exciting, uttermost brilliant, way over the top, better and better – well, where do you go from there? DOCTOR WHO is an epic story, it has its ups and downs. Naturally. But having said that, even in other epics you get “rubbish” bits and pieces, too.

  • Paul

    I suspect that Matt Smith could be a Great Doctor but the Moffat scripts and view of what Doctor Who is leave a lot to be desired. Please can we have some decent scripts and direction.

  • Joe

    Matt Smith is doing a brilliant job, my Favorite Doctor by far! he can be funny, dramatic, serious, dark, light hearted, sometimes all at the same time! i loved the 10th doctor but i did think it was time for him to go, it was all getting too serious and harder to enjoy.

    I do have a few criticisms on the writing and story-lines of the latest episodes though. As brilliant as Moffat is, sometimes the stories get way to out of control, and don’t get me wrong i love it when they do! but the problem is they get so mad that when it finally comes to the climax, its always a bit of a let down. (i.e end of series 6 with the doctor surviving death) series 5 was my favorite series as it did have a few twists and turns, but not so many that you get a headache! I still think Moffat is doing a fantatsic job! a lot better than Russel.

    Even though series 6 was a bit messed up; instead of putting me off the program it made me want to watch it more! (as strange as it sounds) and i cant wait for the mid-series finally next week!

  • J Korvin

    Interesting, I think Dr Who’s reputation at the moment has slipped back into one of bemused toleration. Though the latest episodes have been lightweight, until last night. I though it was a really well crafted drama, formally innovative, economical and moving without mawkishness. Humanity-as-pest is a great hook, and a point of view that has some relevance in the real worls outside Dr Who, but I thought the camp sf conclusion was a mistake tonally. It was potentially a great piece of sf if only they’s let the resolution of the mystery play itself out in a straightforward and simple way. There was some incredible potential in this though. My full review: http://wp.me/p2ssXy-g

  • John, from TX

    Although I found “Asylum of the Daleks” to be a great “single” episode, there was no continuity or transition from the awesome end of the previous season. The Dr and River married, Amy and Rory found out he’s not dead, and I spent the next months contemplating the possibilities for the next story arc. But no, it’s as if they called the local college seniors and said “take over for a season and use your fan scripts. Keep them short and disconnected.”

    I don’t perceive it as a lack of enthusiasm or ability on the part of the cast, but “where is Moffat?” Is he no longer involved or has he lost interest? Or have they all come to the end of their ability?
    Have they no more ideas, so we’re down to scripts that are short, disjunct and underdeveloped?

    While I remain an loyal fan, I’m getting a bit annoyed. I’m seeing better writing by far on other shows this season. But in a universe of almost infinite possibilities, with a show that has a loyal and massive fan base, why the obvious lack of quality this season?

    I request that someone – everyone! – send Moffat a note: you’re killing “the goose.”

  • rory

    I have been a Doctor Who fan since Tom Baker was the doctor, like so many people we were all sad when they cancelled the show back in 89. But since it’s return in 2005 I have been quite impressed with all the actors playing Doctor Who so all these negative comments make me so mad, the answer is simple for those who do not want to see it why don’t you change the program over to the rubbishey X factor now that is a show that should be axed.

    • Peter

      I agree. Since 2005 I have been an avid viewer, and I feel that series 7 has been one of the best series so far. In my opinion, the show did drop and grow a bit complicated over series 5 and 6, but with a totally new transition of cast and crew, that can be expected. Those who watch the show just to wite negative comments should switch over and watch something else. I just hope that Doctor Who continues to go from strength to strength in the run up to the 50th anniversary.

  • Keano

    I believe Doctor Who has slowly got worse over the past few seasons. To much attnetion is being paid to the lifes of the assistants rather than any alien threat the story is meant to be about. It’s also become more of a comedy than a sci fi series. The writers need to go back to basics and write the stories as they were in years gone by. Everything is all to hurried now and you don’t the excitment anymore. If it carries on the way this season is going which is very poor, the show will be dropped again.

  • Brian

    Matt Smith is just not up to the job , it has to be the biggest joke that he’s still being cast in the role .
    This years series has been sorry to say very poor and that’s down to the lead actor , they need to make this Matt Smith’s last series and get someone who is up to the job and is a much better actor , how he ever got the role in the first place is a mystery .

  • The Master

    Ever since Steven Moffet has became the head-writer, I think doctor who has been more than little bit rubbish, as none of the stories are making sense anymore and the enemies are not in the episodes for long. So I blame the head-writer for making doctor who rubbish.

  • James

    No, Doctor who is not a little bit rubbish. Possibly during the third and fourth seasons, yes, I might have agreed with that statement, as the show increasingly went out of its way to be “big” and “epic”, and just seemed rather devoid and hollow.

    I had a lovely moment this morning when I was just sitting and thinking: “Hey, it’s dead cool the way these episodes are just mini-movies.” You really do get that feeling, like Red Dwarf before it, of a lot being crammed into a small space.

    I don’t agree with every thing Moffat has done, but I’m not going to turn into one of those ranting internet nerds. We should be grateful to have a show like this at all: a proper bonkers show that doesn’t demand you watch it because it’ll have hardcore nudity every six minutes.

  • Shane Lockwood

    Yes it’s a bit rubbish. This season has lacked any real intensity so far. Why haven’t we found out who the Silence are properly yet? So many unresolved questions. Why did the Silence blow up the TARDIS on Amy’s wedding night? Was it to stop the conception of River Song?

  • Natascha Harrison

    My first Doctor was David Tennant so maybe Im a bit biased but I think that David was the better Doctor, while Matt Smith had the better stories. After River’s first episode “Silence in the Library” I couldn’t wait to see her in another story. I wish that River and the 10th Doctor would have had more stories together before Matt Smith came along. Although Matt Smith has grown on me, and I think he is a better Doctor now than he was at the beginning of season 5, I wish that David could have stuck around longer. Although I loved Asylum of the Daleks” I do have to say that the first 4 episodes of season 7 have been a bit of a let down. Even though they are brilliant stories, I felt a bit cheated that they were only 42 minutes long. I felt like all 4 could have been 2 parters or even done like the old Doctor Who episodes before the series moved to the episodic format.

  • Franky Vansteelandt

    I ‘m a Belgian 45 year old Belgian and I ‘ve seen Doctor Who the first time at 10 (Tom Parker).
    In the new series I ‘ve seen Christopher Ecclestone, David Tennant and Matt Smith. Each are fantastic and unique Doctors.
    I hope to see for many years new adventures from the Doctor & his friends. Doctor Who rubbish … blasphemy!
    Sorry for my bad English.

  • Franky Vansteelandt

    Correction: Tom Baker … not Tom Parker.
    Shame on me.

  • Jacky

    Does anyone else think that the episodes are getting a bit too americanised

  • http://tinyurl.com/freeholt24734

    Thank you for writing “Is Doctor Who a little bit rubbish?
    WitterLog”. I reallywill definitely wind up being coming back for
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  • Charlotte

    Lately it has, series 5 and 6 were good, but the episodes just aren’t exciting any more. It always used to be really exciting to see what would be coming up in the next episode but now I don’t really care. Clara is pretty but rather average as a companion imo. I guess the par has been set too high with the likes of Rose, Donna and Amy.

  • Revisiting Doctor Who: Series 7, Part 1 | WitterLog

    […] when Asylum of the Daleks was aired, and some folks dared to suggest that Doctor Who was “a little bit rubbish“. But let’s come at it afresh, as I did when I sat down to watch it with the Lad, who […]

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