Let’s talk about Doctor Who, story telling and character development

This post is going to be about the most recent (2012/2013) series of Doctor Who and may touch on the 2013, 50th Anniversary episode, and the 2013 Christmas special.  If you haven’t watched any of these, and don’t want the spoilers ahead, have a kittie and enjoy the rest of the internet.

Ok, let’s get started

Story telling

It’s not that Moffat can’t tell a good story, well maybe it is.  Coupling was funny, but is based on his life, and Sherlock is based on Arthur Conan Doyle’s work, so maybe he can’t tell a good story.  What really annoyed me about this entire season (minus 50th anniversary special and the Christmas episode), was that the story arc, and apparently there was one, was pretty much non-existent.  The Christmas episode ended with the disbandment of “The Great Intelligence” so that it would be a long time before it could threaten the earth, or the galaxy or something.

The first episode of 2013 had a cameo appearance of the Great Intelligence (a seriously wanky name for a villain), that the Doctor doesn’t notice, but is a suggestion to the viewer that something more might come from this.

And then nothing, nothing concrete about the Great Intelligence until the final episode when we discover that the Great Intelligence is pissed at the Doctor for constantly upsetting his plans, the plans we should note that have never really happened during this season apart from the 2012 Christmas special and the first episode in 2013.  That’s two whole plans in a season, that’s not plans, that’s a side story that something forgot.

It turns out that the Great Intelligence has a massive backstory, but as a minor reoccurring villain the average fan, especially new fans, are not going to have the foggiest idea what is going on.  This is not a story arc, this is a shoehorned “let’s make everything neat and tidy and pretend we had a plan”.

River Song

The Name of the Doctor (final episode of this season), casts the Doctor as a selfish arsehole.  It’s not exactly like it’s hard to cast him like that, in an earlier season River Song tells Amy not to grow old in front of the Doctor, that it upsets him (oh woe, poor Doctor who has been associating with humans for at least 1000 years, he should be used to it).

After Clara has done something of her own volition for a change (more on that later), River attempts to stop the Doctor entering the bright shiny thing, and only at this point does the Doctor acknowledge that he can see her.  We find out that at this point in her timeline she’s dead, but is effectively haunting the doctor because he hasn’t said goodbye, and he’s been ignoring her because it’s painful.  Quite frankly I think being dead and haunting someone who won’t say goodbye to you is more painful than the Doctor’s fee fees (especially as her death was pretty tragic), but he is important man, so his feelings are totes more important that River’s, and she’s dead anyway.


Clara spends most of this season doing what’s she’s told.  Protect this, go there, do this, stay here, and this follows through until the 2013 Christmas episode.  When she does do her own thing, it’s often to save the Doctor from something or someone, or to beg someone else to take action to save the doctor.  She’s a stereotypical female character, feisty, determined, somewhat argumentative (but only to a point), and wants to have all the fun – except when she doesn’t.

The sad thing about the character of Clara is that there was a lot of potential for mystery and exploration of why she was always around saving the Doctor.  There should have been (given the ending of the episode The Name of the Doctor) more attempts by the Doctor to remember if he’d run into her before, or only recently (because it was only recently as far as the current stories go).

The Doctor’s “Mysterious Girl”, and the resolution of why she keeps appearing in the Doctor’s life is apparently the true arc of this episode, but again it’s shoehorned in.  There is the Doctor pondering it, but instead of actually talking to people who might know (as he’s done in other seasons), or doing much beyond sometimes thinking about it (out loud), it’s not really the point of the season, even though it is.

The pregnant/not pregnant scan during an earlier season when it turned out that Amy was effectively a replicant/pod person (or whatever they were called), was quite well done, and on reflection you could see that the stories linked into each other as there was a common theme.  Clara is not a theme, she is a character.  You can’t really use a character like Clara as a theme in the same way as you can use a scan, or a series of words (Bad Wolf), or the scar in the universe.

And really the Doctor treats her like she’s 7 half the time.  He attempts to protect her, even when she doesn’t want protecting.  He breaks his promises to her about not leaving her behind, or about letting her join in the fight, and apparently this doesn’t piss her off enough to tell him to get fucked (and it should).  Unlike some of the other “companions” that the Doctor has recently, Clara obeys and sets out to do the best job obeying that she possibly can, except when she thinks she’s being left behind, in which case she’ll do what she can to stay and help/protect the doctor.

The Christmas episode

Which makes the Christmas episode all the more annoying.  Against Clara’s express wishes, and the Doctor’s own promise (and we didn’t see him cross his fingers), he sends her away, multiple times.  Clara fights to come back and manages the first time, but not the second, until she is brought back by the Tasha from the Church of the Papal Mainframe.  Seriously the Doctor is such an arsehole.

The Doctor spends over 300 years on Trenzalore, and for the first time, despite hanging around in his current form for a few hundred years, he ages and gets frail… how many hundreds of years, on a planet that is pretty much at war every day, does the Doctor stay there?  The planet’s population seems to not just survive, but also thrive despite being at war for over 300 years (that’s a lot of war), though I can be convinced that the war was more occasional incursions.

Once again Clara saves the day by begging the Time Lords (who just want to be set free so they can keep being the arseholes of the universe), to save the Doctor.  Her mission in life is to save the Doctor, she has no other purpose in this universe.  Sure she gets to look after children from time to time, but mostly she’s just off saving the Doctor.  It’s been remarked upon before that women in Moffat’s universe are the nurturing caring types and that’s pretty much all they get to be, and Clara pretty much just that.


Moffat really needs to stop being show runner.  He’s had lots of fun now, but the show will do better (and attract all the fans that have left because of him) if someone else took over.  The last season was so disappointing and frustrating because it was so badly put together.  Some of the stories were good, but I watched the season out of habit (and because I was travelling and watching TV during the heat of the Roman summer was a necessary thing).  I want to be gripped by the stories and the season arc like I was when Russell T Davies was running the show. I want the seasons to be as tight as Torchwood and as gripping, and this last season was a joke.

Doctor Who isn’t likely to drop in ratings anytime soon, because people are still watching it and still hoping for the magic to return.  It’s not going to return, and I’m beginning to lose interest in watching future episodes.  I’m vaguely interested in Peter Capaldi’s Doctor, but with Moffat running the show, I don’t know if I can be bothered.

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