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.