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June 27 2007

Doctor Who: Buffier By The Moment. Times review of the Doctor Who season three finale (it discussed parts one and two, but not the actual third part/finale -Z.) citing comparisons with Buffy and Russell's unabashed love of The Boss.

[ edited by zeitgeist on 2007-06-28 18:10 ]

I didn't read the review, but if it's a review of the finale, wouldn't this post need a spoiler tag? Among other things... (a period at the end of the link, hint hint).
It does have spoilers for this season's Who, although it isn't actually a review of the finale as the third, and final, part of the finale hasn't been shown yet :)
Anyone who, like me, had inadvertently lost track of matters Tardis will have found themselves astonished by the spectacle before them. The Doctor’s recreator, Russell T. Davies, has expressed his admiration for Joss Whedon, the genius behind Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and the series gets Buffier by the moment: witty, literate, sophisticated, and revelling in postmodern panache. Blink, the episode preceding this trilogy, was awesomely terrifying in the manner of Whedon’s Emmy Award-nominated silent episode of Buffy entitled Hush.

I'm not a huge Who fan, but I watched Blink, and it was good. As is the writer's (Steven Moffat) new Jekyll & Hyde show.
It's a review of last week's episode, but if you haven't seen the last 2 episodes then a spoiler warning might be nice.

Good piece though.
There likely won't be any advanced reviews of the third season finale of "Doctor Who" because the BBC aren't sending out screeners. They haven't even updated their Fear Factor forecast, because they don't want any word leaking out.

I do agree with the Buffy comparisons, though - wholeheartedly. There have been some wonderful revelations in the past couple of weeks, pulling at story threads that have been laid into the arc this year, last year, the previous season. Hell, some of this story goes back decades!

Russell T Davies is walking a fine line between drama and comedy, just like Buffy did. He errs on the side of comedy though, given that this is - in the broadest definition - a children's show. But there is some very bold and innovative stuff being done on Doctor Who and the inspiration lies in Buffy, without doubt.
Nice piece, bit fluffy but still. There are some Buffy-ish elements (even if i'm generally against our penchant for claiming anything good has "Buffy-ish elements" ;) though I don't think too many, maybe touches in the stuff about the downside of extreme longevity (though that's always been implied in 'Doctor Who'), maybe the general look and feel and the arcy approach (but again, 'Doctor Who' did series long arcs as far back as 1978 so that's not really new). And surely in parts of the soundtrack (not sure if it's deliberate but i've been listening to it recently and the tracks for 'Doomsday' and 'The Impossible Planet' are very 'Angel' and 'Firefly' respectively IMO).

Not sure about the love stuff though, I think they've been fairly careful not to show The Doctor actually engaging in it (skirted the line a few times though and he was clearly about to step over it with Rose at the end of series 2).

After all, to him it'd be like screwing a particularly clever ape that happens to have benefited from funny thumbs ;).

(and if I were him and was going to marry anyone, it'd definitely be Romana 1. Mary Tamm ? *sigh* ;)
What about the piece at the end, a female Doctor with a male assistant, how would that work for the longtime fans ?
What about the piece at the end, a female Doctor with a male assistant, how would that work for the longtime fans?

Many, many years ago there was some talk (rumours, really) of having a female Doctor, with the wonderful Beryl Reid mentioned as a possible candidate. It never came to anything. Personally, I've always liked the idea, but I doubt it would be a popular decision (at first, at least). There have been a number of male companions in the past.
The thing is, Russel T. Davies doesn't seem to get why exactly Buffy works. His episodes of Who are pretty terrible, and insulting stupid. The other writers like Moffat, and Cornell show him exactly how it should be done, and how good it can be, but he seems happy to churn out daft, cartoonish pantomimes.
Bivith, I would have to disagree with that. Russell T Davies is an excellent writer with a portolio of past work to prove it. I think he has done a brilliant job in bringing Dr Who back to life and I can't say I find his episodes in any way terrible or insultingly stupid.
I know about Russel T Davies previous form. I just think he's a terrible Doctor Who writer. Please explain to me which televisual genre is most suited to having comedy dynamite strapped to the back of a TV? Here's a clue. It involves a not so crafty coyote and a fast running flightless bird. And I loved the Master's impression of Daffy Duck. All that we needed was a pointless irrelevent dance tchoon ... oh hang on.
Agreed, dashboardprophet, Davies is an excellent writer.

I maintain that while he hasn't written masterpieces like "The Girl in the Fireplace" or "Blink" or "Human Nature"/"Family of Blood", he's really bound to the season arc stories - whereas Cornell and Moffat are free to create episodes that are mostly self-contained.

That said, "Gridlock" was easily the best episode of this season until "Human Nature"... and everything after that. "Boom Town" and "Tooth and Claw" are also up there with the best episodes of their seasons.

And Davies' season finales, while seeming to follow a certain pattern, always bring the emotion in the final hour. It will be interesting to see how he tops a regeneration (season one) and the loss of a companion (season two), though.

I guess as the showrunner, he must suffer criticism over the direction of the show - if it's warranted, but attacking him on a writing level is completely wrong-headed. How he ever gave the greenlight to this year's Dalek two-parter, I'll never understand, but he's only responsible for a couple of badly written episodes himself.

Those examples you give, bivith are all from the most recent episode. One bad episode does not make him a bad Doctor Who writer... if, indeed, I agreed with your premise. But I don't. I think "The Sound of Drums" (complete with Rogue Traders song) was an excellent hour of the show. And almost impossible to judge, wedged in between the first and final hour of this three-part finale.

As to the question of a female Doctor... wow, yes, wow, fascinating. It would be a pity if this didn't happen some time in the history of the series, given that we know the Doctor can change "species" or even have "no head" when he regenerates. But I don't think it requires a female Doctor for a male companion. Strictly speaking, there's been three male companions in the new series - and only two women. (Jack, Mickey and Adam, in case you were wondering...)

[ edited by crossoverman on 2007-06-28 13:00 ]
Gotta say, for me, Davies' episodes usually have the highest "Well, it is primarily for kids" quotient and I much prefer the other writers (and there's the incidental music issue too - always too loud/intrusive on his eps IMO). I also find his dialogue pretty clunky at times and, with a few exceptions, his stuff doesn't resonate with me the way Moffat's or Cornell's does (ironically, considering RTD's the exec producer, I think they 'get' The Doctor more). I also don't see anything wrong with 'attacking' his writing. If we can praise Moffat, we can 'attack' other writers for their specific episodes.

That said, he's done some great stuff and even his duffer's often have good bits. As crossoverman mentions, 'Doomsday' was excellent at the end, wonderfully evocative and haunting, 'Tooth and Claw', 'The End of the World', 'Smith and Jones' all either flat out good or with good aspects. And, perhaps alone on this Earth, I also liked 'Love and Monsters' ;).

(and his arcs for the show have always been pretty good and had interesting themes)

Female Doctor ? Dunno, it'd take a lot of getting used to and for me a large part of his character is a sort of infuriatingly smug paternal attitude. Not sure if that would work with a woman but, maybe strangely, i'd love to see a time when it would (it's not just gender either since I think, more than many fictional characters, especially alien ones, The Doctor is very British so I don't think e.g. a Yank could do him justice - unless they had an absolutely flawless British accent and could fake the attitude/mannerisms. If only there were someone like that from the Buffyverse, say, someone that's criminally underused on current TV ?).

(I think it ended up just being a 'Children in Need' thing but there were at one point rumours that Joanna Lumley might step in. Reckon she could maybe cultivate the right air of very British, ex-imperial, almost 'old colonial', superiority)
Ah, Saje, I do love your idea for the Yank qualified to play the Doctor. Would that be great, or what?
My ability to appreciate good writing might be stuck at the level of a Roadrunner cartoon (I'll have to look into that), but I still maintain that Russell T Davies is not only an excellent writer, but also an excellent Dr Who writer. I would argue that the proof can be clearly seen in the episodes he has contributed to the revived show. However, it is simply an opinion - and one that not everyone shares.

There is talk that he plans to leave the show. I think he has done a fantastic job, but I hope he does. He is such a good writer (or, at least, a writer I like) that I want to see new and different work by him. The show will survive, as it has (largely) survived other departures over the years (the dark days of Michael Grade's hatred of it excepted, of course).

As to "attacking" individual writers, I would rather think that we can engage in a constructive critique. I think we can all recall some of the more unfortunate and hard to defend comments that were made about certain Buffy writers (with the initials MN) in the heat of the moment.
Well, I've only commented on the writing, so i think it's fair enough. I won't bang on about this any more, but I'll sum up with a Buffyverse comparison. The episode of Angel, "Couplet", had a subterranean tree demon with a computer connected to the internet and using it to lure victims as blind dates. That episode was so stupid, and silly and for me, an all time low for the Buffyverse, and in addition had all that tedious groosalug and cordy stuff. To me it look likes RTD took that episode as the inspiration for the tone of Doctor Who and ran with it, and every episode he writes is as silly as that episode ( or worse ).


[ edited by bivith on 2007-06-28 14:49 ]
My ability to appreciate good writing might be stuck at the level of a Roadrunner cartoon ...

Meep, meep ? ;-)

Attacking wouldn't be my choice of word either (hence the quotes) but I was specifically responding to something crossoverman had said. I still think if RTD writes an episode then the standard of the writing on that episode is open to discussion, no matter how good (or otherwise) the rest of the job he's doing is.

On balance, I think he's done a decent job of reviving the show too (even the very tough balancing act between getting new fans and pleasing the old ones) but I also have no problem with someone else taking over (especially someone Moffaty ;).

(and yeah, toast, I mean so long as he's happy then great but it'd be good to see him in something again and I think AD could really carry the slightly patrician yet clownish part of the character and S3-5 of Angel showed he can do dark with the best of them)

[ edited by Saje on 2007-06-28 14:52 ]
I'd take Denisof over Tennant any day in the role of Who. Tennant's a fine actor, but when he starts going manic, his shouting is unbearable, and he keeps making what can only be described as a "sex face". He was really good in Human Nature/Family of Blood as John Smith.
There's a fanfic writer who wrote a series of Girl!Doctor fics. (I wish I could remember her name!) She was either an alternate Tenth or an Eleventh Doctor and was "played" by Rachel Weisz. Once you got over the initial shock of "The Doctor is a chick!" they were fun reads. (Although it could be suggested that if you want to see a female!Doctor, look no further than Romana II.)

As far as Rusty's writing goes . . . well, no, I wouldn't call him the best writer on staff (that honor goes to Steven Moffat, if you ask me, who has turned out consistently good work) but he's competent enough. He's certainly not the worst writer on staff. The problem I have with his worse scripts is that they're just a collection of set pieces -- awesome and fun set pieces, to be sure -- but they just don't always hang together properly. Rusty is like the little girl who had a little curl right in the middle of her forehead: when he's good, he's very very good, but when he's bad, he's . . . okay, horrid is a bit of a strong word to use. Mediocre?

No, the new Who isn't Buffy, but it's one of my must-watch shows -- and I live in the US, so that involves jumping through some hoops. ;-)
I've really started to enjoy Dr Who recently, although I was often disappointed with the first two seasons of the revived series. I think the second half of this season has been really strong. And "The Sound of Drums" was probably one of the best episodes that Davies has written, and is leading towards a really satisfying finale.

I think it struck the intended tone perfectly; it was creepy, funny, dramatic, and anchored by John Simm's wonderfully charismatic performance, one moment cold and chilling, the next undermining it with a really flamboyant line or gesture. The fact that a Who villain was so convincing and multi-layered reminded me of the Jossverse, and I don't think Harold Saxon was too far removed from The Mayor!

I also think that the episode was quite similar to the Jasmine arc in Angel season four- an extremely powerful enemy appears all of a sudden and gains political control rather than simply attacking our heroes as most villains usually do. The idea that Saxon could see the Doctor on camera and the number of shady government henchmen at his disposal was also really reminiscent of Team Angel being pursured by the Jasmine devotees. And Martha being the only person who can save her friends was quite like Fred being the only person who knew how to break Jasmine's spell.

I think the similarities were strong enough to suggest that perhaps Davies was influenced by Angel, but not strong enough to suggest that he was just ripping it off. But I think the idea of taking a more interesting villain than some random alien, and bringing politics into the mix, is the kind of idea that will keep Who interesting, and the kind of thing that Torchwood could benefit from.

I also think that the chemistry between Tennant, Agyeman and Barrowman was perfect: interesting and with a sense of comradeship but not too overtly romantic or overwrought. I do hope we get to see the relationship between the Doctor and Martha develop further next season, but hopefully not in a romantic way. I quite like the idea that Martha is in love with the Doctor, and it's unrequited. The only real mis-step for me was the bomb behind the TV, a little too cartoonish and more like something I would have expected in the earlier episodes of the new series, like the ridiculous flatulent aliens.
I think the similarities were strong enough to suggest that perhaps Davies was influenced by Angel, but not strong enough to suggest that he was just ripping it off.

No, we have to look to Torchwood for that evidence ;)
I find it strange that no one has commented on the second Buffy-verse connection in the article. I hope Marsters gets to use his real (California?) accent.

"Talking of the axis of evil genius that is Davies and Whedon, the Buffy and Angel protagonist James Marsters (aka cult, Billy Idol-esque vampire Spike) looks set for an appearance in the Captain Jack spin-off Torchwood."
I've often said that the revived Who has struggled with balancing between being a kids show and being a show for older folk, and it seems like thats what folks are complaining about more often than not. Folks like Moffat make it look effortless and if and when RTD leaves the show I would love to see him take over as show runner. RTD gets a little too silly sometimes, but its all in service to it being identified as a kids show and losing that balance thats so hard to maintain. When he's on he's very on and when he's off I roll my eyes and keep watching because he has also done some really truly breathtaking stuff with the season enders being a prime example.

I don't feel like anything in Who or Torchwood is a ripoff of Buffy/Angel (the underground fighting thing came close I guess), and I still argue that the back half of Torchwood's first season was actually well done. Chibnall still owes us for Cyberwoman, but... all in all i think its starting to find its footing. Now if they could just get Jack to behave as he does over on Who... And I think Tennant's brilliant, in spite of my complaints earlier in s2 about his shoutiness.

p.s. - I'm the other daft bastard who liked Love & Monsters :)
Clearly maniacs, the pair of us ;).

'Doctor Who' has always trod the difficult line of appealing to kids and (kinda-sorta-ish) adults at the same time but I think the way to do that is to layer the script 'concurrently' the way e.g. (and just off the top of my head you understand ;) 'Toy Story' does so brilliantly NOT to have a mix of 'kids stuff' and 'adults stuff' in the same programme. When we watch Tom Baker offer a villain a jelly-baby a kid sees The Doctor being kind and maybe brave but an adult might also see him as being sort of passively threatening i.e. "Right now, i'm offering you sweets, let's not go to the other place shall we, there's a good fellow ?". Watching his performance now is an entirely more subtle (and funny) experience than when I saw him as a kid (even though I liked him then too).

And there was a thread a few days ago talking about JM appearing on 'Torchwood' OneTev so I guess we're kinda talked out on it ;).

(also, Tennant does a great job IMO. The solution to the admittedly excruciating 'shouty' problem isn't to swap him for AD, it's just to not have him shout ;)
While Moffat and Cornell are by far my favorite writers on the series, I do enjoy RTD's work quite a bit. It's clear he really "gets" the character of the Doctor better than anyone. I do think that he sometimes lets the story suffer for the sake of his ideas and his characters. Usually, I'm caught up enough in the latter that I can overlook the former to an extent and just have fun watching. And if not, well, I'll probably be distracted by Tennant's Doctor putting on his glasses and/or licking something.

Am I the only one who isn't bothered by the shouty?
Saje - Clearly :) I'm with you on the concurrence versus A then B then A then B.

Lady Brick - Oh, I think the shouty is at times entirely appropriate, but I think there was a tad too much of it early on in S3 is all. I like Tennant enough to blame a director or two rather than he ;)

p.s. - for the record I'm not all that keen on the Doctor turning up with girl parts next time he regenerates. For one thing, see upthread comments about Romana. For another thing it would feel like a stunt and an outright over-Buffy-fication to me. I'm also not emtirely keen on AD as the Doctor, though I'm willing to be convinced on either front should there be a great story in the offing :)
Anyone who knows my former OG membership knows I am a big fan of Doctor Who and Russell T. Davies. But it's still no Buffy and RTD is no Joss Whedon. However, John Simm is my Master now (ha!)
Ok then it's not a review of the finale? The post clearly states that it is, which is why I avoided clicking the link.
Edited the text to state that it discusses parts one and two, but not the third part of the finale.
p.s. - for the record I'm not all that keen on the Doctor turning up with girl parts next time he regenerates.

I'm afraid Doctor, and I'm not sure if this sentence has ever been used so completely accurately before, you're just not the man I fell in love with.

Sorry, couldn't resist.
I'm hugely against a female Doctor, I'd accept a colored Doctor but not a female Doctor, the Doctor's a bloke. If they ever cast a woman in the role they'd have to be so careful about it, they'd basically be saying "there were no male actors good enough", the stories would have to be written very carefully, not making silly jokes or suddenly having the Doctor start wanting to go shoeshopping with Martha. The whole thing would stink of publicity stunt, a publicity stunt which I'd wager would cause a hell of a lot of fans to turn off seconds after the regeneration.

I'm not saying they couldn't do it, it would just be a huge job to do well, and I don't really reckon it would be worth it, introduce a female Time Lord if they want a female "Doctor".

While I love Moffat and Cornell's episodes (they're really beautiful stuff) and want Moffat to take over when RTD leaves, I do really like RTD's stuff, he definitely knows how to write a finale as well each first part of each season finale has had me physically on the edge of my seat by the time the episodes ended. His episodes are never dull, always exciting stuff. When he tried to do something clever "Boom Town" (disliked the Slitheen earlier in the season, but thought this was a really good episode) people attack him for that.

And yes, I liked Love & Monsters too, and this year's Dalek 2 parter.
We already have a coloured Doctor, he's a sort of pale pinkish white colour ;-).

(always found that usage a bit odd, we're all 'coloured' FFS* ;)

The key thing is that they write The Doctor, no matter who plays him. If they write The Doctor doing unDoctorly things it doesn't matter if he's female, Martian, purple or shell-fish, they've still betrayed the character (and stuff like shoe-shopping, unless it's out of the sheer joy of watching humans do those crazy things they do, is decidedly unDoctorly). I do agree though that there'd have to be some excellent in continuity reason for it or else it'd smack of stunt casting. And, rather like James Bond, The Doctor is above those sorts of attention seeking shenanigans.

(because it's a natural thought after 'female' I was thinking about a black actor and, obviously ;), Chiwetel Ejiofor who played patrician, smug superiority very well as The Operative sprang to mind. The bloke can clearly act as evidenced by, well, everything he's ever been in e.g. 'Tsunami', 'Kinky Boots' etc. so I think he'd be pretty decent if they went down that route. Or a young Don Warrington - from 'Rising Damp' - would be perfect. Surely they could sort that out, I mean, they've got a TARDIS after all ;)

* except albinos
I think it would be interesting to see the Doctor regenerate as a woman, and perhaps in the future I wouldn't mind seeing it, but the fact is that I think there are so few strong, admirable male characters on TV, and the Doctor is one of them. I know some people might disagree with me, but recently [particularly since Buffy gave the genre the kick in the behind it needed] we've seen so many strong, interesting female characters particularly on TV.

And whilst I am all for that, it's also nice to have men portrayed in a similarly positive light. The Doctor and Jack are two characters who I think represent men well on TV, whereas I have noticed a trend of many male characters [and worryingly enough, quite frequently in children's programs] being portrayed as stupid or weak. I think Dr Who does justice to both genders. Yes, Rose and Martha have often served as the damsels in distress, but they're human, not Time Lords. And they've often saved the day themselves, and rescued the Doctor a number of times. Quite empowering all round, really!

I really like Tennant's portrayal of the Doctor. I have noticed what people have said about him being quite shouty sometimes, or too smug and knowing, and also overacting occasionally, but I think that the interesting performances he regularly pulls off make up for some of the more irritating qualities he displays- and at least they make the Doctor more interesting by giving him flaws.

I think having a Doctor of another race after Tennant leaves would be a great step, as there are many fantastic non-white actors out there.
Yeah, that's a fair point Razor, The Doctor hates guns and violence in general, solves problems through inventiveness and knowledge, treats absolutely everyone equally until they give him a reason not to and does it all without seeming in any way weak.

He's very much the sort of modern hero Nathan's art thing talks about so maybe we should leave him male after all, he might do more good that way.
I think there are only two real problems I've had with the new Master so far.

First, he seems far too similar to Tennant's Doctor. Perhaps there is supposed to be that "mirror" like aspect, but it doesn't work for me, at least so far. It feels like they decided to write him as The Doctor, but bad, instead of wrapping their heads around a new, individual character.

Second, also having a problem with the "insane" claim about the Master. He was never even remotely insane in all his old appearances. Megalomaniacal and power-hungry, yes, but not insane. I know regenerations produce changed personalities, but the insanity would have to be a newer thing, not from childhood, for me.

As for female Timelords, I would be all for bringing back Lady Romanadvoratrelundar (aka "Fred" or "Romana") from E-Space, or the Rani from wherever she ended up (she probably survived, since the Master survived that little trip -- and she had a way cooler TARDIS than the either the Doctor or the Master...). But I agree with most above that the Doctor, himself, is definitely male, and changing to female had better have a majorly good rationale or it will just feel like a stunt.

Anyway, just my 2 cents. :)
Well, the Master was always the Doctor's Moriarty - so, in a sense, like the Doctor "but bad". I don't think this is a new take on the character. The manic-ness is, but that's a regeneration thing.

And if the Doctor can, over many lives, get tired and lose his capacity to be merciful, I can totally buy that the Master might get more insane as he goes on. Clearly, like Buffy, when the Master was resurrected, he came back wrong :-)

I'm all for a female Doctor. It might seem like a stunt, but if the writers made the decision to do it, there would be a damn good impetus behind it. In fact, if he's got any say in the matter, the next time he regenerates, he might be a woman, so that the next female companion he picks up from modern day London might not fall in love with the Female!Doctor.

Or it could turn into lesbians in a TARDIS. Which ever.
In his cheerful undercutting of his own typical villainy, he's actually more like The Master from Buffy than The Master from Classic Who...
The manic-ness is, but that's a regeneration thing.

sorry, no, the master on earth had regenerated 18 months previously.
sorry, no, the master on earth had regenerated 18 months previously.

I meant, this Simm!Master is different from previous Masters in the same way that Tennant!Doctor is different from other Doctors. I didn't mean the process of regeneration, I meant this new incarnation of the Master.
Yeah, as in "The Christmas Invasion" except when this master asked himself "What kind of man am I ?" the answer was "Bonkers" ;).

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