Saturday, 28 June 2008

"Legally, can the Earth be 'stolen' since no-one owns it?"

This week’s episode of ‘Doctor Who’, ‘The Stolen Earth’, left the Doctor – SPOILER ALERT – on the verge of regeneration. He’s now going to take a week to regenerate into a new body/actor. This means one of two things. The Doctor will either:

- Regenerate into a new actor

- Or David Tennant will stay on

My money’s on the latter. While I would like the Doctor to regenerate so as not to feel ‘cheated’, the episode did make a point of showing the Tenth Doctor’s extricated hand-in-a-jar. From this brief establishing shot, Davies could probably write some corny explanation involving Tennant’s biological code or some other sci-fi jargon. Additionally if the Doctor does regenerate successfully it would mean that the BBC can keep a secret far better than any American networks. The ‘Lost’ season finale was leaked days before it was shown whereas days before Doctor Who an article appeared expressly claiming David Tennant was not leaving. While they could conceivably still surprise us, I’ve become too cynical about anyone keeping a secret in this Information Age, particularly about a science-fiction property with the largesse of Doctor Who.

I’m not getting my hopes up about next week’s season finale: Russell T. Davies has hurt me too many times in the past. Davis has a habit of writing brilliant penultimate episodes and then ultimately failing to deliver on that promise. See the season 1 finale and the season 3 finale. Last year the Doctor escaped from the clutches of the Master because the human race wished he would. Then he floated over and hugged John Simm. The scene might as well have been a black screen with the words “deus ex machina” written across it. Same goes for when Rose magically vanished the entire Dalek fleet. Davies’ writing is flamboyant, filled with plot-holes, and often completely nonsensical. He can set up but he can never knock things down.

Steven Moffat on the other hand is the great white hope for the future of Doctor Who. His episodes are clever, poignant, well-crafted, and respectful to the fans. He has written the best episodes of Doctor Who over the past four years and his two-parters don’t have the disappointing conclusions that are the hallmark of Davies’. ‘Blink’ was magnificently clever and is still the only episode to take time travel seriously. That said Moffat’s writing can make too much sense. ‘Silence in the Library’ and ‘Forest of the Dead’ made coherent sense together; so much so that from watching ‘Silence’ I was able to accurately and completely predict where the story was going. It was a good story – very Philip K. Dick – but it didn’t surprise me because everything made sense and so everything was predictable. The Doctor magically reverting back to his younger self and the Earth moving back a year on the other hand did not make sense and so, while totally unpredictable, it was deeply unsatisfying on a narrative level.

I hope I’m wrong. I hope Davies can pull it out of the bag and deliver on the promise of his bloated, fan-service-filled set-up episode. I hope there are no cheap tricks and that the Doctor regenerates into a new actor. I hope Billie Piper can stop mumbling. I hope Moffat delivers a great season in 2010.

Time will tell.

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