An End of Season Dr Who / LM / LDB Meme. (Yes we must.)

Well, RTD has just rather publicly gotten himself over his Doctor/Rose dyad with a massive, turgid two-parter. Thank goodness for that.

Meanwhile, Loz Miles is positively inviting us to pile in on his agenda for discussion on the future of the programme:

The following 25-point programme may not be a way of guaranteeing that Doctor Who is great – only a competent scriptwriting team could ensure that, and in the Age of Chibnall, even competence is a precious commodity – but it would at least give the series a chance to escape its current rut of showbiz fan-fic and computer-generated slurry. Tick the ones you agree with, and if you tick all 25, then I’m available for a September wedding.

I will leave LM to explain himself on each of the points, there’s no point reproducing the whole lot here, but here are the 25 headings, along with my own thoughts (you can skip this if you’re pushed for time), and a score from 1 to “Yes! Yes! Just… YES.” (4, so that they will add up to a neat percentage).

I do hope I’m not getting married in September…

1. A companion who isn’t from the early twenty-first century.
Yeah, this would be nice. I’m not sure it’s a priority, though. Plus, if that moment in Planet of the Ood that pissed Larry off so much (you know; where the Doctor apologised for questioning sweat shops) had been with a companion who wasn’t from our times, there would have been no question of tieing the ethical issue back to our world in such a direct way in the first place, regardless of the apology.

2. A companion who’s played by a proper actress.
Yup. Not only on the basis of the quality of the acting, but if the show lets itself be judged on the star names it attracts, then it hands the press a stick to beat it with as soon as it doesn’t find a big name who wants to be a companion for a series.

3. We don’t necessarily need a single companion.
Not convinced. This seems to be based on Larry accepting that the programme needs UST, but wanting it not to involve the Doctor. The latter I can get on board with, but the former is not really a position I accept. You could have some occasional UST, where necessary, with a character specific to the story, or if you want something ongoing then a recurring character (maybe instead of the fretful-mother-and-accoutrements). A whole season of it between companions might get just as tedious as what we’ve had so far.

4. No more affairs for the Doctor.

5. A less sexy, less athletic Doctor.
Yes, but not too worried about this. At the very least, a Doctor who stops making knowing little smuggeries like “I don’t want to regenerate; I mean.. look at me!”.

6. No spurious super-powers.

7. The Doctor shouldn’t know everything.
Completely agree with what Larry says here about the spirit of the programme being discovery alongside the characters, not infodumping.

8. The Doctor shouldn’t be perfect.
I think, to be fair, RTD understands this point, and allowed Davros to make some relatively telling criticisms of the Doctor’s moral character in the finale. But I would agree that the idolising of the Doctor by Moff has been tedious.

9. The Doctor’s presence should never, ever be the solution.
Hmm. In many ways, it can be argued that the series has always presented the Doctor’s presence as being the crucial factor, but the difference was that he still had to do something, rather than simply be the Doctor. I think the point is that many scripts aren’t making much effort to make the solutions interesting, because they aren’t really interested in them.

10. No technobabble.
Meh. The show has always had technobabble, and Loz even admits that some stories (he cites The Pirate Planet) have done it in a dramatically satisfying way. I think perhaps technobabble is a straw man here. Although it has to be said that the fetishisation of technobabble we saw in Journey’s End with the DoctorDonna was silly.

11. Absolutely no “magic wand” technology.
Essentially the same point as the technobabble point, but better expressed.

12. Please, in the name of God, less stories set on modern-day Earth.

13. No more alien invasions.
Certainly fewer, they lead to some pretty uninteresting runarounds.

14. Stop wasting money on “big”.
Sometimes. I think at the end of the season it’s fair enough wanting “big”, but if you’re going to do it, do it well. The exploding Daleks and saucers at the end of last night’s episode looked seriously budget, to my eye. I’d certainly apply this rule to the big empty first-two-parter-of-the-seasons, though; the best one so far was Daleks in Manhattan, and that wasn’t great. I’d rather have a couple more cheapo Midnight type things spread throughout the season.

15. Less CGI monsters.
Maybe. I don’t really mind them, they’re a standard these days, and people, rightly or wrongly, think other forms of effect work look silly. I do think it would be nice to have more of a concept behind the monsters. Doctor Who monsters are always supposed to have some sort of “point”, to my mind – this is what has generally set it apart from stuff like Star Trek, with its ersatz alien “cultures”. Doesn’t really matter if the “point” is an aesthetic one or a more ideological one, or if the point is their environment more than the monster itself (Daleks = Nazis, The Master = Polar Opposite to The Doctor, Monsters of Greatest Show in the Galaxy = things that are creepy about a Circus, etc.). The worst thing, then, to do to a monster is to completely divorce them from their “point”, so that they might as well be any old thing. The example this series was the Sontarans, a physical monster, not a CG one, so… I think Loz may have let his dislike of the ubiquity of CGI cloud his diagnosis of a cause for the symptoms he has correctly identified.

16. Stop making straight-to-video horror movies with all the horror taken out.
Loz hasn’t really completely explained what he means by this, since he admits that Hammer Horror -> Talons of Weng Chiang worked, but what I gather from what he’s written is the following guiding principle: If you’re going to lift a movie trope, lift one which survives the transition. Talons works because the BBC could do most of what made Hammer good, but Lazarus Experiment doesn’t, because what makes the films which influenced it good cannot be transmitted at 7pm on a Saturday. I suspect I may be making my own point out of Loz’s components, but… it’s the only one I can find in there (unless he just means that the films they are copying nowadays are rubbish ones, which isn’t a very interesting point).

17. We need writers who can write, not just directors who can direct.
Yes, but I would add to this that there are some writers who can write: RTD when he stears clear of the finales, Moff when he’s not celebrating himself / just winding up fans who don’t like the idea of the Doctor “dancing”, Matt Jones to some extent, Paul Cornell, Rob Shearman.

18. I should obviously be hired as a writer.
I’d like to see it, but suspect it would be vetted heavily by Moff, and I doubt Loz could cope.

19. Make sure you hire the right “cult” comic-book author.
Agree with the comments recommending Alan Moore and Grant Morrison, though I don’t share LM’s complete aversion to Gaiman.

20. We need one – just one – proper historical story.
Yeah, might be nice.

21. Historical stories that are actually about the era in question.
Certainly, though more than this I would have pushed Loz’s other objection to the current historicals: the slavishly followed dogma that each and every famous historical figure was “a genius”, “brilliant”, “the best X ever”, etc., and furthermore that the episode needs to spend 20% of its running time impressing this upon us. In this sense, at least, Girl in the Fireplace was preferable – as an “Oddball Historical”, rather than as a “Doctor Weepie”.

22. Monsters that fit the story.
I made the jump to this point a bit early, under the point about CGI, so I will agree with it here.

23. Enough of the Daleks.
I dunno. A finale every two seasons, say, would be tolerable, but only if they have something fresh to do with them. I would certainly like to see the crash-bang-wallop Dalek Epics rested for a while.

24. Say no to story arcs.
Hmm. I appreciate what Loz says about the finale enslaving the rest of the season to some extent, but I still think it’s nice to have a payoff for following the whole series, something a bit more than the first couple of seasons’ code words. I couldn’t say this season’s arc bothered me, if you ignore the fervent fan speculation about it (which you will never stop) and just look at the actual episodes.

25. Less Confidential, more Totally.
Not bothered, suspect this is only on Loz’s list out of Moff-aversion.

So my total agreement with Loz here is… 64%.

Now, people who are to be made tediously to do this: anyone who wants to, really, but I’m guessing Daddies Richard and Alex, Jennie and Matt, Will, and anyone who I’ve forgotten.

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Nigel Kneale: Do We Owe Him That Much?

Loz Miles has posted this interesting piece challenging the received wisdom on Nigel Kneale. OK, I know, not obviously Lib Dem, but there is undeniably a Doctor Who fan audience to be found here! Quote from the article:

The Quatermass serials have left us with a vague sense of superiority, without prompting us to question their meaning. And it’s a poor sort of television that only inspires mistrust. Kneale’s vision is an insular, mean-spirited one, in which everything unfamiliar is a threat; all human endeavour is worthless, if not actively dangerous; and anything which goes against the principles of old-school Britishness must be destroyed.

Intrigued? Irritated? Go read.

Whilst I’m plugging Lawrence, I will also point out that the updates to his bizarre new fictional blog seem to have started flowing again, too. Hurrah!

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Ooh! Ooh!

Lawrence Miles has updated his blog, finally. This has inspired me to do the same to mine (Google Account? What?), if only to point out to anyone interested what a brilliantly creative writer Loz Miles is. I don’t know him from Adam, but never has he written anything that drove me to feel afterwards that I wanted the time it had taken to read it returned to me. And that is a statement that applies to very few writers indeed (as well as being a pretty unwieldy one).

This is even more remarkable when you consider his tendencies to write, for instance, some of the longest Doctor Who fiction published, and these extended burblings about popular culture. For anyone who has no idea who he is, I think one of the best places to acquaint yourself with his world view is probably still his OG interview, which is exceedingly entertaining. Don’t be put off by the Doctor Who content to it, that’s really pretty incidental, and if you’re not a fan of Who you’ll be pleased to hear that since then he has only become more and more distant from it.

Personally, I think that’s pretty regrettable. I know he would never be trusted to actually write episodes of the new series, but I think he’d have some great story ideas. I mean, the ideas in his fiction have been second to none, and since Doctor Who is (at least as far as Charlie Brooker is concerned) ideas driven TV, I’m betting he could knock some of the pretty half-baked plots we’ve seen in the recent series into a cocked hat. NB. I’m not saying all the things I just linked to were absolutely dreadful, purely that the ideas driving the plots were pretty unimaginative. You can still hang an entertaining and interesting emotional drama on them, but why not put interesting ideas in there too?

Well, here’s hoping that the new year brings plenty of creative success for Loz, not least some more FP audios. It’s a real shame that the novel range has ended (for now, at least). Of course, if Loz has some brilliant new plans up his sleeve, I might find it in myself to forgive him for letting them go. Eventually.

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