September 27, 2015
There are three different schools of thought about Steven Moffatt's work on Doctor Who: one school believes he can do no wrong, providing intricate plots which have revived the show; another believes Moffatt can do no right, promoting their view with a vitriol and venom that seems grossly out-of-proportion, ranting because Moffatt isn't catering to their particular tastes. Then there's the rest of us (approximately 99% of Doctor Who fandom) who can take or leave the show per episode, but who can look at each episode critically and determine their own conclusion.
Last week's entry, The Magician's Apprentice, was a bit too much like fan service to me. Oh, sure, it harkened back to Genesis of the Daleks (one of my favorite classic Doctor Who stories)....actually, it didn't so much harken as serve as a draft one "spinoff". In brief, the Doctor encounters a boy who will grow up to create the Daleks....and remembers the infamous "would you kill a child who you knew would grow up to be evil?" conversation. Shenanigans ensue, and the cliffhanger is the Doctor seeming to say, "Why of course I would!"
The Witch's Familiar is an interesting part two - Michelle Gomez and Jenna Coleman make a really good double act. Julian Bleach makes for a pretty good Davros, manipulating the Doctor into performing a seemingly selfless act. In terms of ideas, the script is solid....but I kept wondering one thing as time progressed after seeing this episode.
Why did Davros have to be the big bad?
In talking with other fans - those of the take-or-leave-it-but-Moffatt-might-be-tired school of thought - I realized that many of Moffatt's scripts in the Russell T. Davies era contained no callbacks to the classic era at all.
Go on. Name one. There may have been a shout-out, but Moffatt-era Who has not only played in the classic era-series' sandbox, it's pretty much destroyed the wooden box that contains the sand.
For every smart idea, there's an equally pandering one. Daleks being powered by negative emotion versus "wearable technology", for an example. Moffatt likes his classic-era tropes (and yes, I'm ignoring some of his deeper tropes around portrayal of women and people of color - that's a can of worms that others have opened), and those who love Moffatt love those little callbacks. Those who hate Moffatt seem angry because he's not using their tropes in the way they would prefer.
For both sets - much of the classic series is on DVD. You're more than welcome to enjoy both.
Me? I was fair-to-middling on this opener, and as a classic series fan....I can watch it anytime. Heck, I even run a group who watches one classic story per month. Don't show me what I've seen before, Moffatt - show me something new.
And that's my main problem with this two-parter - and Steven Moffatt - in general.
Doctor Who used to have a sense of wonder....and I really want it back.