I feel rather guilty about not watching this series of Doctor Who, to be perfectly honest. Admittedly I feel guilty about a lot of things, it’s one of my default states, but still, fannish guilt is as valid as anything else.
It’s frustrating, as for several years my identity was pretty wrapped up in Being A Doctor Who Fan. As part of that, I’m at least partially responsible for several people either starting to watch the show or renewing their interest in it. These days I have easy access to it, being UK-based, and the shine didn’t entirely come off the penny by my learning what goes into the media industry sausage.1
I know what it’s not: while I’ve been critical of Steven Moffat, it didn’t stop me from watching Eleven; I actually find Clara to be an okay companion, though the Special Girl stuff does wear on me; and I said quite firmly that if they absolutely had to go with a white dude for Twelve, Peter Capaldi would be the only one I’d want. Hell, he’s even allowed the right accent, and if he’s riffing off Seven, I’m entirely cool with that. I like Seven.
But apparently I can’t be bothered. Some of this is anxiety around watching things I like2 and some of it is the fact that I simply don’t have the energy these days to face the potential crap. I have an overly analytical brain, and DW has never been a show I can watch where I know, or even can be fairly confident, that nothing big is going to bother me in a fail kind of way. Usually this wouldn’t be quite as much of a problem, admittedly–as many others have said before, marginalised people tend to elide a lot of bullshit when consuming media, or we would never consume anything ever again. Sometimes it ends up being beyond the pale or reaching critical mass.
The problem with DW is that I care too damn much. I want it not to fail, to be as interesting and nuanced as it is in the best fanworks. And because it’s ongoing, every new episode is another hope that falls apart into, inevitably, another utter disappointment.
This is not, by the way, me strictly going off at Moffat for fail, though I notice the overall fannish and critical tide is changing towards that, in an interesting development. (If you asked me, and you didn’t, I suspect this is due to recent shifts in SFF around awareness of social justice; it doesn’t matter if one likes it or buys it, one at least knows about it.) RTD was as guilty, in my book, of certain kinds of screwup.
Lightbulb moment: in my opinion, the tone of the Moffat-run show is currently one where the viewer anticipates nuance and complexity. The cues are there, the settings, the narratives–and then things just don’t pan out. RTD had a problem of building up far too much drama to ever be remotely resolved, but to me, it was forgivable in the sense that it was not to be taken as high art telly.
It works better explained in the metaphor of animal vids. No, seriously.
For me, RTD’s show is like one of a puppy that runs about the kitchen, tripping over its paws, bonking its snout into things and careening off them. RTD’s Who was at heart, even when dark, even when failing3, a big camp romp.
Moffat’s Who is like one of a cat that prowls the edge of the sofa, contemplating the jump to the top of the nearest piece of furniture. There’s a lot of wandering back and forth and pondering about it, possibly a brief nap in an odd position, and then finally, when you least expect it, it jumps, misses—
And then shakes itself and walks off across the floor like Nothing Just Happened, Nothing To See Here.
And to be honest, I can really only put up with so much of that. I’ll store the Twelfth Doctor for some time when I have more of myself to spare, when things aren’t getting far too real and complex and problematic in the real world.
Or when the cat sticks the jump. Whichever comes first.
Even the coolest-looking things are held together by spit and duct tape and a lot of hard poorly-compensated labour. ↩
I’ve been fighting anticipatory anxiety around fandom and real life interaction for several years and I hate it SO MUCH. ↩
Let’s not talk about Donna: mentally insert gif here of stick figure flipping off the heavens, going f uuuuuuuu. ↩