Dr Who and the Deus ex Machina of Doom

I am going to be controversial and say that I really loathed the Dr Who series finale, and am getting increasingly despondent with the gushing unthinking praise that the programme gets from the fans (who make Apple fanboys looks moderate by comparison).

Some of the stories have been truly excellent and innovative – such as the clockwork robots and the weeping angels (first story, not the 2nd), but some have been dire – the appalling Midnight, which is basically a reworking of a cheesy 1970s horror movie was probably the bête noire of the relaunched series.

I am moderately keen on the TV series, and will generally sit down to watch it, although if I miss an episode it isn’t a disaster.

However, where the Doctor used to be a cunning chap who usually solved things by dint of cleverness, a dose of Heath Robinsonism and a splash of wit – today he is the all-action hero who grandly launches into long speeches about how awesome he is while having someone pointing a planet destroying weapon at his head.

Add in that the skeleton key style Sonic Screwdriver is now more like a Star Trek style tricorder that can study anything, fix anything and just coincidentally open anything and much of the slightly geekish fiddling with wires and cables is subsumed into a mere wave of Harry Potter’s silvery magic wand.

Leaves more time for rushing around the place and grinning about how much fun this all is though.

Worst though is the proactive role of The Tardis as an all-powerful deus ex machina that magically and improbably solves any unsolvable situation.

Someone dying – don’t worry, The Tardis can save them. World destroyed – don’t worry, The Tardis has magical entropy reversing systems that can put all the atoms back in place again.

Now we have the ultimate task – rebuild the entire universe, while coincidentally also being destroyed by an explosion. What will it do for the next series? Repair every universe in a multiverse existence, all at the same time, while also dancing a rather nice Irish jig?

We have a situation where people die, worlds end – all in emotion wrenching slow motion – and yet wave the magic wand a bit and when people wake up it was all just a vaguely remembered dream.

“It was all a dream” is rightly said to be the worst way to end a story, and yet that is the mechanism that Dr Who seems to be using to solve the unsolvable.

I know it’s only a bit of light entertainment, but can we get away from the curse of plot inflation where each series finale has to be bigger and better than the last – to the point were we now have the entire universe being destroyed by a blue box – and also saved by it.

Saving the entire universe is too much for any story to cope with.

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4 Comments

  1. TGP

    My pal put up a similar rant this morning – http://chocolate-ocelot.blogspot.com/

    I utterly hated the series myself. The magic wand (AKA the sonic screwdriver) was my least favourite part but I also disliked both major characters – did like Rory though. The IKEA daleks are just un-scary.

    I was most miffed to see that my own choice for the new Doctor, Bill Nighy, was ridiculously underused so he can’t really ever be a Doctor now, which just leaves my alternative choice – Kim Newman. The campaign begins here.

  2. Pedro

    There have been highpoints: Blink was superb TV, likewise the Empty Child and Silence In The Library – dark, stripped-down & scary. Matt Smith, too, has worked out well, with that young but old, bony face. But overall, it is indeed becoming unbearable, with that insecure compulsion to make each episode more bombastic than the rest, the endless repetition of the Daleks and Cybermen, and that wizard sonic screwdriver.

    And why does an assistant always have to be someone star-crossed, significant beyond compare, integral to the future of the universe? Why can’t they be just an assistant?

  3. it’s that dreadful temptation to hit the reset button. if only they didn’t make every darn series finale so end-of-everything-we-ever-knew-and-ever-was-epic-y, there wouldn’t be a need to turn to a fix that seems too quick and unsatisfactory.

  4. TRT

    Agree. This series worst since Colin Baker. Far, far too much ego, too much pace and too much sonic screwdriver/Tardis can fix anything.

    I don’t know about Midnight; I quite liked it. It was well acted and very different, the Doctor was truly scared and unable to do the universe saving magic wand I’m in control stuff, which I found a refreshing change to the new style action hero episodes. As was Blink. Empty child was good and Dalek could have been until Rose got in the way with poxy time traveller DNA rubbish.

    I do miss The Doctor as a scientist. It’s part of what made ME a scientist.

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