In the last few months, we’ve seen not just the new series of Who, but plenty of views expressed about the series. I talked about Stephen Fry’s comments in my last post, but there was also Sir Terry Pratchett, saying that the show wasn’t so much as science fiction, but fantasy. To be honest, I’m sort of with him there. Neil Gaiman, for what it’s worth, pointed out (quite rightly) that the show has never pretended to be hard sci-fi – and I’m rather proud that it’s not.
When other shows like Star Trek have a writing team dedicated to making up mumbo-jumbo fake science language, it’s nice to have a traditionally British kind of show. One that cannot be bothered to get up and switch the TV over, it’ll just wait on the sofa till someone else comes in.
But it’s not as if it matters a great deal – it’s still all wonderful escapism, right?
Or is it? I’m not sure there’s ever been a time when this “children’s show” has ever reflected society so astutely and with such brilliant timing. I mean, this year, we’ve had riffs on elections and decision-making the weekend before a general election. And spitfires – albeit in space – the same year as the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain. And a football connection on the opening weekend of the world cup. A finale planned and shot using specific dates.
That’s pretty impressive planning on behalf of Mr Moffatt, I would say. It’s almost unbelievable to think that he’s been doing that while also teaching
Guy Ritchie how you update Sherlock Holmes without including Jude Law…
When RTD ran the show, I always got the feeling it just sort of, you know, rambled on – like it didn’t really belong in the same world. Nothing real was allowed in and nothing out. But I love the little connections.
I love watching things like Survival and remembering that Hale and Pace were once famous in this country. I love seeing Stephen and Jamie on the screen and remembering that one was a Blue Peter presenter, the other spent years as a farmer on Emmerdale Farm (because it was still a farm then. Oh how the reality hurts these days…).
But these days, we’re in the hands of someone taking us away from the soap opera in space style and back towards the show’s roots, finding writers who are able to grasp this, no matter how far removed they normally seem. If Richard Curtis’ episode proved anything, it’s that the unexpected source is often the richest. And if Chibnall’s proves anything, it’s that we should really try and avoid that again…
But I’m thrilled… THRILLED that filming on Neil Gaiman’s episode is starting filming next month. Gaiman’s writing has always been consistently great, he has an amazing ability to draw spectacle from something normal, unobtrusive as well as the unknown and fantastical (very Who), and I think he’s always been counted as the dream writer fans would like to see working on the series.
I was convinced it was a cruel joke when it was announced he’d be writing for the next series, but it’s real, and there was apparently a photo on his twitter feed last week showing him, the Moff and Richard Curtis at a read-through. I can’t find it on there, but then asking me to find something on Twitter is a bit like putting someone in a round room and telling them to stand in the corner…
(To one side, what was Curtis doing there? Is he writing more? I’ll be delighted if he is.)
But what excites me more than anything, is that Gaiman GETS Who. Properly. And this proves it beyond even the most unreasonable doubts:
“At best Doctor Who is a fairytale, with fairytale logic about this wonderful man in this big blue box who at the beginning of every story lands somewhere where there is a problem…”
Roll on next April!
If you’ve ever wondered why we’re almost always universally positive about whatever Who throws at us, I think I have a shortened way of explaining it.
Last week, I watched the 1982 story, Time Flight.
How can you complain about the effects or storyline of the new series when you’ve seen things like that?
Incidentally, despite its obvious (and brightly coloured) flaws, I really enjoyed watching it… I know I have a natural bias towards the vegetable-wearing Edwardian cricketer, but I expected it to be awful. And it was, I suppose, but nowhere near as bad as I was expecting. I’ll be more than happy to watch it again. Anyone else?
Why I don’t hate what Stephen Fry said
We didn’t talk about this on the podcast at the time, so I want to just have a go at tackling this.
Not very long after my birthday (it was very nice, thank you), the hulking great genius Mr Fry said this:
“The only drama the BBC will boast about are Merlin and Doctor Who, which are fine, but they’re children’s programmes. They’re not for adults. And they’re very good children’s programmes, don’t get me wrong, they’re wonderfully written … but they are not for adults.”
I think he’s kind of right, although I think his comments are slightly tongue-in-cheek and pointing to a completely separate issue which then got almost lost behind the overblown storm that followed him mentioning Doctor Who…
If it is a proper complaint, however, it doesn’t quite follow. I say that for 2 reasons.
First, Doctor Who and Merlin are not children’s programmes – these days the term for it is “family entertainment” – there’d never be children’s stuff on BBC One that time of day…they have their own channels, and so on that basis I disagree with him respectfully.
But I also think what he’s saying is not a terrible thing. If it means I’m a fan of a children’s programme, I can live with that. Especially seeing as how “adult drama” appears to mean Eastenders, Casualty and the like.
Second, his speech complained about two things – too much family entertainment, and also that scheduling is too polarised into specialist areas. Which is a bit too much of a contradiction to make sense to me… You want something with more general appeal, but you’re also convinced that we already have too much of that? Head. Hurts.
And even besides all that, he’s complaining while desperately ignoring “Kingdom” – the nice, but marvellously mediocre series he starred in on Sunday nights. Hardly your obvious example of a “grown-up” drama which is made to “…surprise us, to outrage us.”
People in glass houses, Stephen, people in glass houses…