onsdag 20 januari 2016

You know Who (again)

It's official: Peter Capaldi is the best Doctor in the new Doctor Who series. Well, in my opinion, anyway. (I still haven't watched the old series, except the odd episode: I have a feeling I'll get there soon enough.) He can make me listen with rapt attention to a pacifist speech. Thanks to his tour de force solo performance, I can put up with an episode featuring one of my least favourite private fears (the misnamed "Heaven Sent", which should have had the title of its companion episode "Hell Bent" - enough said). I know the Doctor gig is draining, but I certainly hope Capaldi will hold out for a while yet; he'll be an extremely hard act to follow.

Mind you, all the new Doctors have been excellent, which is one sign among many of the effort and brainpower invested in this series. I preferred series eight to series nine - in the end, the two-episode structure didn't add as much as one would have liked - but if I grumble, it should be remembered that I'm still very well aware of the high level even a comparatively lacklustre Who episode attains compared to most other shows.

So, though I admit I found "Sleep No More" incomprehensible, hated the twist at the end and sniffed at the railing against "filthy, greedy humans" - hey, look it's not as if we actually had banished bed-time, is it? - it was nice to hear the Doc quote Shakespeare in his defence of the blessings of sleep. Even if I smirked sarcastically at the clumsy political parallels in the two-parter "The Zygon Invasion/The Zygon Inversion" (and could we perhaps not equate red, blotchy aliens with minorities that are unquestionably human? I'm not sure it's very tolerance-furthering), it was great to have Osgood back from the dead - so to speak - together with the other gutsy women from UNIT. Though it was an overcomplicated cheat to back away from the tragic but dignified ending Clara was given in "Face the Raven", it feels churlish to deny the fans the possibilities of the new adventures sketched out for her at the end of "Hell Bent", complete with her own Tardis and her own distinctly impressive companion. Even so, given that poor likeable bit-part players are killed off in droves in Doctor Who, with the Doctor mostly snapping something like "you can mourn him/her later" (as they're in the middle of a crisis), how come he has such a hard time accepting his precious companion's mortality, and goes to such extreme lengths to reverse the natural order of things for her? Humans die - you would have thought he'd grasped that by now. Only saying.

Series nine frequently falls into the three Doctor Who traps of preachiness, grimness (it should be scary sometimes, yes, but like a ghost story with a happy ending, not like a horror film) and over-tricksiness. Luckily, it has enough of the Who virtues of heart and brains to compensate. As for the plot holes, I've started to believe that they are quite deliberate, in order to give the devoted fan base something to do. There are all kinds of opportunities to fill in the blanks, even through the official channels: the sheer mass of spin-offs in the form of novels, audiobooks, comics etc. is enough to make devotees of other fictional TV worlds green with envy (I should know). I was planning to be more severe on series nine, but the enthusiasm displayed in the behind-the-scenes features were heartwarming enough to put me in a better mood. Whovians - the ones in charge, anyway - must be some of the most loveable nerds around, and it's difficult to stay cross with them for long.