I generally don’t like treading on subjects I just walked on, however we track back over my footsteps in the mud walking back the way I came because there is more to be told.
Remember last time I ended my blog post with a statement saying I didn’t want to mention something unless I have the actual support pertaining to season 11 of Doctor Who. My hesitation in saying it mostly relates to the fact is feel like a phrase people throw around to criticize something they don’t like without an explanation of why.
That the phrase has power on it own when really it’s vague. If they do try to explain themselves, the argue it kind of poor argument. However, I want to try. I want to make that statement and say it because after watching the previous seasons of Doctor Who and then the actual New Years special, there is a lack of a sense of wonder for the show. This is a symptom of what might be the core issue. And that appears to be the fact that the show has decided to take the safest route possible when telling a story. There is no sense of wonder because of it.
When you write something safe the story tend to loose depth because things are being avoided and any sort of freshness can only go so far. And given the focus shifts, something is lost and everything is done under the sake of appearances and not storytelling. The appearance can be to either appease or to hide lack of knowledge of a subject. It can be other motivations such as just doing it because they need to for money or notoriety. Maybe the exact opposite, maybe they need to keep things simple because of lack of funds. However what is in common with all of these is the story being constrained. And because it is, it effects different things causing symptom. The one I’m focusing on is the lack of a sense of wonder.
And you might ask, what is a sense of wonder.
If you want to know what a sense of wonder I’m speaking of, I’ve a source and we shall go to George Mann what what it means:
“the sense of inspired awe that is aroused in a reader when the full implications of an event or action become realized, or when the immensity of a plot or idea first becomes known.”
Mr. Mann was referring to science fiction of his time. And that’s a broad enough definition for people to apply there own meaning to a sense of wonder. For me it brought by seeing something new I’ve not seen before. Something weird with the caveat of it not being new just to be new. There must be sustenance in that idea that makes me go, “that’s cool,” or “that’s intriguing,” or “what an interesting concept.” However, it was rare to feel wonder in season 11. It was the execution not being at it’s full potential. And for a science fiction show that sort of thing is important.
It took me actually to the New Years special to realize this is what my issue is . In my notes, it was half way down the list of things I wrote for me to get hit with it. Sure you would think body controlling dalek would be rather fun, new, and interesting. And it was but crippled by it’s presentation.
The entire episode felt entirely too long. That the pacing of it was off due to the events in the story. There was the subplot with Ryan’s father that didn’t seem fully realized along with the dalek that was trying to complete his mission. Then there was the Archeologist in the mix who needed help. When each were shown alone in an attempt of depth, all it did was slow the sense of urgency down. It didn’t help there was no good sense of time passage of time either. Everything was just happening.
It would’ve been better if the episode was more focused. They could’ve waited to tackle Ryan and his father which would’ve gave more time to be devoted to everything in the episode. That would’ve made for a good first episode in the next season. As it stands in the special there were too many characters.
This conflict between Ryan and his father really only included Graham. With everyone trying to help the two archeologists. These two you are made to care about quite early on as the have a budding relationship. However nothing is explored in how much the two care about each other as there much room to expand on it other than telling. Ryan’s father pops in the picture who already has importance to the audience so attention is given to that. On top of this you have the Doctor once again dealing with the dalek. At times it felt like an after thought because there was a lot of time spent on showing what the dalek was capable of.
Imagine if they just focused on the dalek and fam using all their skills and struggling to do something about it. This would’ve made U.N.I.T no longer being around to help them more than just a statement. This huge monumental task is of stopping one dalek would’ve had more impact. Instead, the Chekov gun microwave ends up being part of the solution and the Doctor saves the day.
Why not save the microwave for something else. Give Ryan and his dad more time. Then Ryan’s dad and Graham more time. It would’ve been better than Ryan’s father dad being dragged into it all and everyone fell in line with everyone despite being new.
Oh and once again Yaz is just there to do things that needs to be shown because someone has to do it. Poor Yaz, why are you even there?
As for the dalek, it didn’t feel that dangerous or threatening. Yes it did something new and controlled someone but the execution of this new kind of dalek I’ve never seen before left something to be desired. My issue with this was the dalek was played very standard going about things in a rather cliched way down to the cop stopping it and the scene plays out the way you think it would. We seen the cop taken down while unaware partner comes in too late.
Then there was the let’s have the military run up try to destroy it. However, it was done in a very disconnected manner. No one saw this save the viewer and the military that tried to stop it. The military was destroyed. No witnesses. Sure it a good show of it’s destructiveness but it had no impact. The fam didn’t see it. Who did? Not U.N.I.T. Then again the entire episode did very poor on showing impact.
The most it bothered me was when it took out WiFi and cell phone service. Them showing the impact was wasted on a family to provide a very trite joke that didn’t need to be there. Why not show crowds and random people getting cut off in conversation. People loosing connection when trying to send messages. Something that shows impact on a wide spread scale. There was no realization and full implication of what is going on when everything existed in a bubble it seemed.
I don’t know if people realize this but, scale matters in storytelling. Sure stories can remain in a tight little bubble however, the bubble becomes constrained when you introduce a conflict that goes beyond the bubble and for that bubble to remain small. I think instead of trying to fit something large in a small bubble. Make a story that can fit into that sized bubble or start widening the bubble.
However the story felt like a small bubble trying to tell a large story. I think it would’ve been better if the Dalek didn’t go as far as it did in the end. It didn’t get to the communication center. That they have to stop it with incomplete armor giving them a believe chance to do what an army did long ago. It would’ve made the archeologist breaking free worth it. Instead her breaking free didn’t mean anything other than she got away. It didn’t hinder the Dalek one bit. To me it would’ve shown this tenacity of humans, you know make the Doctor’s words have more impact. Instead we go plot contrivance of that ancient text in relation to the opening of what sounded like an epic story of heroes coming together and stopping an evil.
So all and all the episode fell short. There was too much going on. Everything was kept rather neat. Even with Ryan learning he cared about this father but even still, them leaving on better terms didn’t seemed earned. Saving the man is one thing, but being able just to move on is something totally different. We didn’t get to see that, instead we saw everything solved into a neat little bow.
Maybe next season well get a bit depth. This was just the opening season and usually that’s the weakest. Maybe this time, we can get a full season with more episodes and more room to tell a good story. Maybe we’ll get a setup for something better. Maybe all the actors and writers feel a bit more secure in their roles and step out of the safety zone and do something spectacular. If they don’t, I fear for the show.