There; I said it. The 11th Doctor, played by the mostly untalented Matt Smith, needs to head for the big blue police box in the sky. In the opinion of this author (and huge Doctor Who fan from waaaayyyy back), I’ve never been impressed with the 11th Doctor, his companions, or the general direction of the show since Russell Davies left after the 2009 season. The series has been flat, the stories weak, and the tone of the episodes highly sophomoric since Moffat took the helm. I know many of you fans love Smith’s portrayal of our favorite roving Gallifreyan, but before you leap to his defense, close your eyes and admit something to yourself; one of the best (and longest running) science-fiction shows of all time (and space) is now a middling knock-off of itself, and that has to stop.
From the first episode, “The Eleventh Hour,” it was already clear that the tone of the show had changed. It was shot darker, and everything about it, from the voiceovers, to the characters, to the clothes, to the aliens, were more cartoonish than in years past (at least since the show’s return). That season, for the first time, I didn’t feel like I wanted to get into the T.A.R.D.I.S., and go on an adventure. For the first time, I didn’t feel safe with The Doctor.
And in discussing the series over the last few seasons, The Doctor is a good place to start. Matt Smith himself can look the part, but he’s never shown an ability to play the part. Nothing about the way that he plays The Doctor says that he is, in fact, the great savior, the great warrior, the great thinker that the universe needs him to be. He plays it the way Jerry Lewis would play the part; all The Nutty Professor, no Buck Rogers. The Doctor HAS to be a little of both. With Chris Eccleston, the mix leaned much more heavily toward gallant, space-warrior genius. It eased back a little with David Tennant, letting him play it a little goofy, while at the same time, always letting the audience know The Doctor was in.
But with Matt Smith, all that we ever get to see is the mumbling, bumbling doofus who drops in, screws up, and then sonics his way out of said paper-bag situation. In the few episodes where he has to dig in and show himself as “The Oncoming Storm,” he becomes even more laughable, like a child doing a Rambo imitation for his grandparents.
The companions haven’t helped the series either. Now, I’m a red-blooded American man, and a sci-fi geek, so of course, I have no aesthetic problems with Karen Gillan as the mind-bendingly hot and strong Amy Pond. Only one problem; I can’t give two flying shits about her or her problems. As inquisitive as she was in the first few episodes, by “Amy’s Choice,” she, somehow, was magically more able and perceptive than The Doctor at every turn. Always brow-beating both The Doctor and Rory, she comes off less like a companion out to see the universe, and more like an over-done sitcom wife, always getting the best of Ray Romano or Tim Allen. It’s lame at best, and gratingly un-fun at worst.
Rory still has a bit of that awe in his eyes, but is used more for the goofy comic relief than the great reveal (which is what the companions are there for in the first place). Did Rose and Martha become functionally able and smart companions? Yes. Were they ever all knowing, or more able to deal with a situation than The Doctor (other than the “Bad Wolf” storyline)? No. They remained, as they always have, tourists, learning about time and space from the great traveler, not surpassing him.
The story lines have also gone sideways. Some fans prefer the focus of a season (or series, for the U.K. readers) to be an overarching storyline, in which every episode follows one long epic adventure. Other fans, particularly older fans, usually prefer the “drop-in” stories, where The Doctor and companions show up somewhere, have an adventure, and leave. One episode, one adventure; the old one-and-done. I believe that there is room to do both, but Moffat’s run on the series doesn’t seem to be able to do that.
My biggest problem with the show over the last 3 seasons has been the way that the cannon of the show has been cast off to the side. We fans all accept that, sometimes, things just happen – it’s Doctor Who magic. You have to cast away science and rationality and just let it happen. But with 49 years worth of legend and lore, you can’t just break the rules that you yourself have established for the universe.
All the wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey stuff allows for some great screwing around with what was and what is, but unbreakable rules are established, for the purpose of being UNBREAKABLE. Facts have to exist, and the stories have to work within the rules for the universe. If fire always beats ice, and suddenly, one day, ice can now freeze fire, it makes the whole of everything silly, cancelling out everything that came before, and breaking the rules of the fictional world we are following. There are dozens of examples of this in Moffat’s run, and they all work to unmake everything that fans have loved about the series. Here’s a taste of what I mean, just from the last season.
What do we know about the Weeping Angles? In “Blink,” we learn that they kill by sending people back in time, they feed off of temporal energy, and they are an ancient species who have evolved to be made of inorganic stone, and cannot move if they are watched. The second time we encounter them, in the two-parter “The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone,” they feed off radiation, and they just straight up kill you, while only assuming you’re looking at them, as Amy’s pretending showed, as well as being able to hide in your eye, and make you into one of them. In their last appearance, “The Angles Take Manhattan,” they’re back to the time teleportation and living off of time energy, but now, they can have babies, and the Statue of Liberty (which is made of bronze) is one of them.
Moffat, as far as I can tell from this example and dozens of others, just doesn’t care about keeping the universe organized. He likes to make the 11th Doctor use the sonic screwdriver as a magic wand, a Deus Ex Machina for all seasons, whenever he paints himself into a corner and doesn’t have the ability to get out. I’m tired of it, and I know a lot of long time fans feel the same way.
Why the change in the first place? Well, it’s no secret Moffat wanted to greatly expand viewership. I feel like the move to cast Smith and drive the show in this direction was a push to get the Twihards, those detestable little scamps who loved Twilight and Twilightesque sci-fi, mostly made up of either 14 year-old girls, or others who are, for all intents and purposes, exactly like 14 year-old girls. I’m all for bringing in new fans (14 year-old girls or not), but I’m opposed to doing it by watering down one of the greatest sci-fi series ever made; get them to love the greatness it’s spent 49 years being. So, I send out this heartfelt plea; please kill off the 11th Doctor, and replace him with someone who will commit to the part out of love for the character, and while you’re at it, tell Steven Moffat to take a walk, and focus on Sherlock, which is a great series, that doesn’t have to do with time-travel or aliens.