Who Are You, Doctor?

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pic Neil Thompson, The Dr Who Experience

Not about politics, but Doctor Who, which I’ve been watching from the beginning. I haven’t liked every regeneration. So when a new Who happens along it’s a big deal chez Douglas. Tired of Tennant, and blah re Smith, I was on tenterhooks to see what Peter Capaldi would do. Make or break time, actually.

Till last night, I was still unsure. It’s been a bumpy ride to get to this point, with some real troughs of despair (Sherwood), but finally, finally, we’re on form. Probably because this ep, and the previous one, Mummy on The Orient Express, don’t have Steven Moffat’s sticky fingers all over them.

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pic: Mark Freeman

To recap the current series: the opening episode, Breathe, was a mess. A dinosaur introduced for no particularly good reason and disposed of before it became too embarrassing. Another outing of the Lizard, the Maid and the Monster: please hive them off to a kids series of their own, please, BBC. The villains: a retread of the clockworks bots from Girl in the Fireplace. Moffat should have stopped at one bite of this particular cherry. Should’ve shitcanned the Angels after one outing, too, but I digress.

But: Capaldi did an amazing job of stamping his own personality on what clearly sounded like Matt Smith’s lines – a recurring problem with all the Moffaty-woffaty eps this season. And Clara was bossy and annoying.

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Get off my land!!! Giant Dr Who Dalek at Snugbury’s Cheshire. pic by Paul

Ep 2 was Daleks. Really? Again? Can we please bin them for a few seasons, like, until everyone whose already seen them has died? And that old, just push in these bits of memory bank thing, HAL style? Clara still annoying.

Jordanhill School

Should have been canned after one outing. pic: Jordanhill School

Ep 3 was Robin Hood. The kind of thing Who once did very well. Take a myth, give it a makeover, imagining the facts from which the myth might have grown. Too many past eps to mention. Here, utterly woeful. Even worse than that pirate thing. And again, with a Smithy script: duelling with a spoon, indeed. Bringing down the spaceship with a Golden Shot. Rubbish.

Ep 4 Listen. One of those self-referential turns back on itself and disappears up it’s own arsehole of timey wimeyness stories beloved of Moffatt. Which is fine if you like that sort of thing. Capaldi amazing, beginning to sound like his own Dr at last. Clara also great, even if you do rather want to lock her in the staff room and set it on fire. But then I generally do.

Ep 5 Time Heist. Yawn. Obvious plot, retread of ‘monster wants a wife’ trope, rehash of nasty female executive trope (and haven’t we had a lot of them?). Competently done, Capaldi and Coleman again smashing it despite the thin material. Still want to lock her in the staff room etc etc love him, hate her.

pic: Jordanhill School

pic: Jordanhill School

Ep 6 The Caretaker. Having run out of old Matt Smith scripts, turns to Sarah Jane Adventures. Flat footed humour. Perfunctory, not very scary monster (K9 with a dose of nanoplague, perhaps). Clumsy Clara and boyfriend relationship stuff. Digressing for a mo, couldn’t they find an actor to play Danny? You know, someone who delivers lines instead of leaving a card saying you can pick them up at the post office later? Now Clara’s bossing and annoying two men. Plus, Moffat throws in Courtney, a sub-Ace type annoying female brat. Oh no, he wouldn’t, would he? Swap existing annoying companion for even more annoying one?

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I’ll have mine scrambled, please. pic: Ulrich Peters

Ep 7 Kill The Moon. Most infuriating ep to date. On the one hand, absolutely brilliant. Thrills chills and spills the whole way. Acting superb all round. On the other hand, infuriatingly stupid plot that made no sense whatever. I won’t bother to rehash everything that was wrong with it, except to say, this is a science fiction show, allegedly. Scifi fans tend to be intelligent, and know at least some basic science. Don’t treat them with this level of contempt. Cheered at the end when Clara stormed off. At last! Her exit looms! Hooray!

Ep 8 Mummy on the Orient Express. Unfortunately Clara and the doc have inexplicably made up, sort of, whereas she really ought to have been gone for an ep or two. Or even a series or two. However, Capaldi really hit his straps. I’m loving this Doc, even in the crap eps, when he has to slog through drifts of dreary Moffatry-woffatry and turn sugary Smith/Tennant leftovers into something crisp and tart. But this is fresh, smart and Moffatless. One of the best in years. More, please.

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Capitalism for sale, by Banksy. pic by Bruce Krasting

Ep 9 Flatline. He’s back! The Doctor Is In, and boy is he in. Even Clara is bearable tonight. Great concept, great script, great CGI, terrific acting, undoubtedly best of the season and one of the best of the entire reboot. And best of all, no Moffaty-woffaty-ness!

One more promising ep to go before we drown in two whole eps of Moffaty-gloop. I’m dreading Moffat’s season final two parter. Missy and the Nethersphere with her collection of Doctor victims. Suggestions Clara is a Missy plant of some kind. Do I care? Not a lot. Might be worth watching, if it’s companion changeover time. Some hopes! Still, with Capaldi in the Tardis, Who will survive.

Just give Clara and Danny their own show, please. In another universe.

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About the author

Veteran gay writer and speaker, Doug was one of the founders of the UKs pioneering GLBTI newspaper Gay News (1972) , and of the second, Gay Week, and is a former Features Editor of Him International. He presented news and current affairs on JOY 94.9 FM Melbourne for more than ten years. And now he's been nominated for LGBTI Journalist of the Year 2017, which is great news, as he hasn't won any of these things for years! If you want to nominate him too - the more the merrier - you can do it here http://www.australianlgbtiawards.com.au/public-nominations.html "Doug is revered, feared and reviled in equal quantities, at times dividing people with his journalistic wrath. Yet there is no doubt this grandpa-esque bear keeps everyone abreast of anything and everything LGBT across the globe." (Daniel Witthaus, "Beyond Priscilla", Clouds of Magellan, Melbourne, 2014)