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Dumbed Down Doctor
Doctor Who - The Complete Series 5 (DVD)
Member Name: SWSt
Doctor Who - The Complete Series 5 (DVD)
Date: 16/02/12, updated on 17/02/12 (32 review reads)
Advantages: Odd glimpses of promise
Disadvantages: One-dimensional acting and scripts
When the last episode of David Tennant's Doctor Who aired, I wondered how on earth they could possibly top it. Packed with emotion, a strong story line and a wonderfully fitting conclusion, there was a part of me that wondered whether they should just stop there.
I was right: they should have. The casting of 12 year old Matt Smith as the new Doctor, and 8 year old Karen Gillan as assistant Amy Pond set alarm bells ringing. Early glances and photo shots suggested they lacked the experience and depth needed and left the niggling feeling that the BBC was repositioning Doctor Who for the lucrative teen market.
I'm not one of these people who are in love with David Tennant and can't see anyone else being The Doctor. I've been watching the show since the Tom Baker days so am used to the character changing and welcome the new take each actor brings. It's that regular reinvention which has helped keep the show fresh.
Smith, though, has turned The Doctor into an idiot; a buffoon who seems permanently out of his depth. OK, so this "make it up as you go along" attitude has always been part of the Doctor's character, often used to good effect to fool his enemies. But it's been a PART of his character; in this fifth series it's his defining characteristic. The Doctor is no longer the hero who always saves the day and seems to constantly rely on his companions to get him out of tight spots.
Smith is awful. His delivery of every line is flat and uninspiring and his comic timing way off, so that he fluffs even the simplest of funny lines. After Tennant's latter performances, his character feels superficial and dull, a Doctor for the dumbed-down generation. Smith is the Orlando Bloom of the TV world.
The shift in direction could possibly have worked if a decent assistant had been along for the ride. Sadly, Karen Gillan is just as actorly challenged as her male counterpart. She seems to think that flaring her nostrils, widening her eyes (or narrowing them - she's versatile this girl) and shouting constitutes "acting". Like Smith, her lines are delivered by rote and although there are odd moments, there is very little chemistry between the Doctor and his latest companion.
Only Arthur Darville really makes any impression as Amy's erstwhile fiancée, Rory. Rory is sweet and vulnerable, yet when needed, can summon up a steely resolve that often saves the day. What little emotion there is in Series 5 of Doctor Who comes almost entirely from Rory.
Admittedly, the cast are not helped by some rather weak scripts. In theory, the departure of Russell T Davies as chief scriptwriter should not have had too much impact, since his replacement Stephen Moffatt also penned many previous episodes. Unfortunately, he is hampered by an apparent directive to make this fifth series more child-friendly. It never captures the balance between dark and light, scary and funny that worked so well previously; instead, there is a greater concentration on "comedy" misunderstandings. The series has lost that crucial balance
The more child-friendly scripts also make things less scary and (bar the overly convoluted final two episodes) result in far simpler storylines. This loses one of the key strengths of Doctor Who: that it truly was a programme for the whole family. As a child, I loved the monsters and the explosions (however low budget they were!); as an adult, I grew to appreciate some of the clever characterisation, imaginative writing and complex sci-fi ideas. Series 5 loses that multi-layered approach and reduces almost everything down to "find the monster, beat the monster". As a result of weak scripts even previously scary monsters (the weeping angels) are neutered, and just don't get me started on the new day-glo Lego Daleks.
In fairness, there are some on-going themes (principally an obsession with the crack in Amy Pond's bedroom wall and Amy Pond's wedding day; further evidence of how attention has shifted from the Doctor to his assistant), as well as more appearances from the mysterious River Song. In previous series, this combination of standalone adventures with a running theme has worked very well, slowly piecing together a cleverly constructed plot where everything becomes clear in the final episodes. Here, it feels weak and contrived; even when the final picture is revealed it's desperately dissatisfying.
I kept watching in the hope that these were just teething troubles; after all, it took David Tennant a couple of episodes to start to look comfortable. I gave Series 5 a fair crack of the whip and I desperately wanted to like it. It never happened. Weak writing and poor acting has drained all the emotion out of Doctor Who. The darker side of The Doctor, explored so effectively by Eccleston and Tennant, is long gone and there's nothing to replace it.
Normally, I'd end a review like this with an overview of the episodes and a score out of 10 for each. This would be a waste of time: all the episodes fall into the mediocre to weak category and the best score I'd award would be 5/10.
Matt Smith's takeover over the famous blue box has divided the fan base like never before, and it's probably pretty clear by now which side of the divide I stand on. I've been watching Doctor Who since around 1978, so I'm no "Johnny come lately". I even stuck with it during the dark days of the Sylvester McCoy era when the BBC deliberately sought to kill the show.
Enough is enough, though. The quality of writing and acting was so poor in this series that I haven't watched it since. People who have stuck with it tell me there has been a marginal improvement... but not much. The BBC's decision to aim Doctor Who more at children has alienated this particular long-time viewer and I won't be watching again until Smith is gone.
You can buy the whole series off Amazon for around £25. You know what they say about a fool and their money...
© Copyright SWSt 2012
Summary: Doctor Who Cares?
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