onsdag 2 augusti 2017

Goodbye to a brainy male hero

Apologies for going down the doctorish road again, but I just can't wait until Peter Capaldi's last Christmas special (which we foreigners don't get to see until well into the new year anyway) before posting some final thoughts on the Capaldi era. Whatever adventure his Doctor is going on this Christmas together with the very first Doctor (with David Bradley taking over the William Hartnell role), it feels likely that the finale of series ten is where we say a proper goodbye to Number Twelve - the Christmas two-Doctor caper being more of a lap of honour.

This series delivered all the way through. Bill Potts (Pearl Mackie) continued to be a great companion, and comedian pro Matt Lucas managed to keep comic relief Nardole from becoming annoying - also, it was a nice touch that for all his apparent goofiness, he was actually more reasonable and responsible than the Doctor himself. Missy as played by Michelle Gomez was great entertainment value, as in series eight and nine, and even when she showed signs of being ready for redemption it wasn't too much or too soppy. Moffat latched on to the idea of two old friends with vastly different moral outlooks who for all that really wanted to find a way to save their friendship and ran with it. Adding another layer to this relationship, John Simm turned up again as the previous incarnation of The Master (I don't think it can be regarded as a spoiler anymore that The Master and Missy - short for The Mistress- are one and the same), who had no interest in reconciliation with the Doctor whatsoever. The dynamic between the two Masters, and between each of them and the Doctor, was a thrill to watch. And of course Capaldi was superlative throughout. Let's face it, whoever was going to succeed him would have suffered from the fact of not being Capaldi. More of this anon.

I know Steven Moffat's twisty plots can get on some people's nerves, and I do see their point. For all their cleverness, there are loose ends that never get properly tied up, and I have occasionally found Moffat too smart-alecky myself - with the overlong story-arcs for the Eleventh Doctor, for instance. But I'm really going to miss him. The finale of this series, World Enough and Time/The Doctor Falls, was as gripping as ever, and full of the trademark witty dialogue which has the pleasing side-effect of making the viewer feel clever for appreciating it. (Not all of it was equally good though - that bacon sandwich conversation? For shame.) But once again, I wonder about the younger audience that Doctor Who is supposed to have. Are there any of them left? World Enough and Time was particularly grim, almost like a horror film at times. This is not what I'd consider family viewing - having said that, it works for me.

What's next, then? I must confess that the news that the new Doctor was going to be a woman did not leave me jumping for joy. However, the Master's sex change worked out all right, and I'm willing to give the Thirteenth Doctor a chance. I've not seen Jodie Whittaker in anything else that I can remember (she was in Cranford, apparently, but I don't recall her character), but judging by looks alone she's the right type for a female Time Lord - serene and intelligent-looking. Still, I can't help wondering why making the Doctor a woman was necessary. The thing is, there are plenty of engaging heroines in TV shows already, not least in Doctor Who. Strong women are all the rage, and they tend to have plenty of smarts as well. Brainy heroes, on the other hand, are harder to come by. The Doctor was one of the few who could measure up intelligence-wise with the average villain. When he tries to explain his attachment to Missy to Bill, he says that Missy is the only one who is even remotely like him. Turning the argument around, the Doctor is if not the only then one of the very few heroes I can think of who is even remotely like a villain - while at the same time trying to do the right thing. Those who claim that boys will lose a role model have a point; while far from perfect, the Doctor is a good male character who is also clever, which makes a nice change considering the more-brawny-than-brainy heroes you usually find enacted on your average playground.

Still, I'll let hero-fanciers worry about this. We villain-lovers will never be short of brainy characters to engage with. Come to the dark side: we still have clever, Scottish cookies.