I love Doctor Who. I distinctly remember being thrilled and terrified by it on many occasions as a child. I was thrilled when it came back with Christopher Eccleston, and I loved the intensity of David Tennant. I even liked Matt Smith, although he was really too young to be Doctor Who – what a relief to get Peter Capaldi! I have no problem with Peter Capaldi as Doctor Who. His performance in Torchwood’s Children of Earth was excellent and I enjoyed watching him in Series 8.
But Series 9? After every episode so far this series I have come away feeling underwhelmed and cheated.
The sunglasses and the guitar are part of it, feeling more like an attempt to counteract the ‘old guy’ image with ‘cool dude’ affectation. I know you can justify these through the plot, but as eccentricities go the guitar is far too intrusive. Matt Smith’s fez and bow tie obsession worked better, being less intrusive but also comedic.
Sunglasses… Okay, I can see how they make sense. In fact, they make such good sense that the real question is why he never used them before. After all, you can’t argue that the technology didn’t exist, so there has to be a reason why sonic screwdrivers have always been the tool of choice.
If these were the only issues I had, I wouldn’t be unhappy. So, what is it? Partly it’s the way that this series (and Series 8 also, but in a different way) is focussed on death. We have people dying and then coming back from death, and gaining immortality, and so on. I know Doctor Who has often walked along the edge of death, but the present series is embracing it wholeheartedly. And death is a subject not to be treated so lightly in something that claims to be science fiction.
But what really has me frustrated is the dishonesty in the plots. (The phrase that keeps running through my mind is ‘Tricks are for kids’ – quoting Tarantino rather than the original Trix commercial.) Take Under the Lake, which is based around a time-travel paradox (always interesting if done intelligently). Even without the weird and unnecessary introduction by the Doctor himself, and the Beethoven analogy that’s frankly idiotic, the resolution of the plot is critically dependent on a holographic projection, which is poorly explained; and the nature of the ghosts is never adequately explained either.
I don’t know. I’m generally forgiving of Doctor Who, but for whatever reasons this Series 9 has consistently disappointed me.