A Breakup of Sorts

capaldiI just made kind of an important decision. If you know me or read this blog at all, you know about my obsession with Doctor Who. You also know that I fucking hate Steven Moffat, who has been the showrunner on Doctor Who for the last few seasons and is the co-creator of the BBC’s Sherlock, which reimagines the Holmes stories in present-day London. I’m not going to recount all of the shit I’ve said about him up until this point. Go read some of my previous posts if you want to hear about that. Or read what some other people are saying about him, because he’s a pretty polarizing figure. So what is this big decision? I’ve decided to stop watching Doctor Who.

It’s not that big of a surprise, when you think about it. Season three of Sherlock was so stupid I decided not to watch season four. (How did Milverton not realize that Sherlock would shoot him? If he doesn’t keep hard or even electronic copies of his blackmail shit, then that’s all you have to do, right? Besides, it’s not like he has an endgame. He just likes fucking with people. So kill the bastard.) I had been checking in with the new season of Who only intermittently, anyway, as I found Capaldi’s 12th Doctor to be, while still an improvement upon the 11th, more grating than charming. You have to walk a fine line in presenting that kind of character. The basic idea behind the 12th Doctor is that he’s an arrogant, manipulative asshole, but one who still has a strong moral code and turns out to be right more often than not. Boy, that sounds a lot like Sherlock, doesn’t it?

cumberbatchThe problem is that the Doctor’s/Sherlock’s moral code is becoming increasingly flexible. In season 2, Sherlock drugs Watson and traps him in a lab just so he can monitor how he acts when he thinks a hound is chasing him. In “Mummy on the Orient Express”, the Doctor takes Clara along on a farewell journey without telling her that he knows there is a monster on board because some mysterious presence has been trying to get him to come aboard for a while now. At the end of season three of Sherlock, Mycroft forgives Sherlock for his crimes and allows him to return to England after a four-minute exile because his country needs him. At the end of “Mummy on the Orient Express”, Clara forgives the Doctor for lying to her and decides to keep traveling with him even though she has a job and a man waiting for her at home. Because everything worked out all right, see, and the ends justify the means.

Except they don’t. I’ve had this argument many times, so let me see if I can distill what I’m trying to say here. In “The Day of the Doctor”, the Doctor travels back in time along with previous incarnations of himself to stop himself from pushing the button that will destroy Gallifrey and the Time Lords but also end the war with the Daleks. I don’t think real life is that convenient. People tell me I’m cynical for rolling my eyes at that, but isn’t teaching people that there’s always an option that saves everybody’s life and doesn’t have any negative consequences the most cynical lesson of all? To backup: Doctor Who was rebooted in 2005. The showrunner then was Russell T. Davies, who decided to make the new Doctor (the 9th overall, because he’s an alien who can regenerate and grow a new body when injured) the last of his kind. It’s a familiar trope, but the show ran with it. In the original series, the Doctor had had frequent run-ins with his fellow Time Lords and he rarely got along with them. In the new series, there were no fellow Time Lords (well, except for a scattered few, but never mind that) for him to clash with. It seemed like a step forward.

But then Steven Moffat decided to undo that last year. It used to be that the 9th Doctor, Christopher Eccleston, was the last of his kind (almost). But thanks to some timey-wimey paradoxes, his story has been rewritten so that he and his subsequent regeneration only think they’re the last of the Time Lords. Some people will say that it doesn’t matter, and that all that matters is how they react to what they know. Bull. The Fuck. Shit it doesn’t. Whether my mother is really my mother or a pod person who has been replaced by the Body Snatchers makes a whole lot of difference to me. Likewise, whether the Doctor really blew up his own planet to stop a war with the Daleks (the most evil race in the entire galaxy) or just thought he did makes a fuckload of difference. I’m not interested in any rationalizations. Russell T. Davies had an annoying tendency to bring people back from the dead, but at least he made you feel their deaths. The only episode Moffat has ever written for Who that I liked was his two-parter back in season one, and that was due more to Eccleston’s charisma and the introduction of Jack Harkness (a character Davies created) than anything else.

The Doctor can be a lot of things: outgoing yet lonely, funny yet distant, brilliant but impatient. It’s a difficult balance to pull off. Yet there should still be warmth there. Eccleston’s Doctor could be a real dick, but he was suffering from PTSD, and I’ll be damned if there weren’t moments where I wanted to hug him. With Capaldi’s Doctor, they seem to have been going for the asshole-who-kinda-has-a-point vibe and missed. That vibe is more suited to antiheroes anyway (think Ben Linus), and the Doctor isn’t an antihero; he’s a hero. Capaldi’s doing fine with the character, but I’m checking out. Let me know when Moffat leaves. At least there’s a big backlog to work through.

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