N.B. As the title indicates, this is a parody. I’ll have my real review of the two-parter up in the next few days. In the meantime, though, if you like reading Doctor Who reviews, like I do, you should appreciate this.
I don’t want to believe that Doctor Who is in crisis, but when stuff like this passes for the “highlight” of this series, I can’t resist the conclusion any longer. In a series that has so far traversed abject mediocrity and outright crap, this really is a new low. It really does epitomise everything that’s wrong with Doctor Who at the moment, a show that just keeps astonishing me by its capacity to keep digging itself deeper and deeper into irrelevance and ineptitude.
So let’s start with the resolution to what I gather was supposed to be a suspenseful cliffhanger. Yeah no. You know, I might have been interested in finding out what happened this week if the show hadn’t been using the Doctor’s death as a plot device every single fucking week (or close enough to) this series. Yeah, I knew what was going to happen. The Doctor wasn’t going to die. We know, and Moffat knows, and Moffat knows we know, that the Doctor is not going to be killed off. Moffat wouldn’t put himself out of a job like that. More to the point, he’s just not brave enough to kill the Doctor for real. So, for the love of God, can we please stop pretending that the Doctor might actually die one of these days? It’s just a suggestion, but could we have a real cliffhanger for once?
The next fifteen minutes or so of the episode were just mind-numbingly tedious. Actually, “tedious” isn’t the right word. It’s the feeling you get when you realise you know exactly what the script is doing, where the episode is going, because it couldn’t have made its intent more blindingly obvious; because, instead of telling a story, it chose to preach. Oh, look, the Zygon rebels are just like ISIS. But this isn’t ALL Zygons, see, it’s just a deranged splinter group — see, this Zygon shopkeeper is all right. Yeah, I could have worked that out for myself, thanks. I do wonder whether Doctor Who really is more “adult” these days than in the days of the burping bins when it feels the need to patronise the audience like that and treat us like we can’t handle sensitive political subject matter without being treated like wide-eyed schoolchildren. If Doctor Who can’t deal with political issues maturely and in a non-patronising manner, it should just leave politics alone altogether.
And, by the way, while we’re on politics, could the episode have delivered a more obnoxiously bigoted message in the whole “the Zygons have to blend in and pretend to be human if they want to live with us” thing? How could that be read as anything other than a suggestion that immigrants — refugees, even — should be expected to assimilate, should leave behind their old identities and become British/American/Australian, etc, if they want to live here? If Doctor Who insists on wading into politics, could it at least refrain from encouraging the abhorrent Ukip/Trump elements of the audience? Is that too much to ask?
I don’t need to spend much time talking about Jenna Coleman’s performance. She has, in the past, delivered moments of brilliance, but, for the most part, she comes off as out of her depth in a prestigious drama like Doctor Who. This has never been more apparent than here, where her portrayal of Bonnie vacillated between caricature and pantomime. The face-off between Clara and Bonnie was a good idea squandered by trite dialogue and cringe-inducing acting.
And without further ado (and, really, there isn’t much ado at all in this episode), we come to the big scene. It’s not that Peter Capaldi can’t pull off scenes like this. He’s a good actor. A great actor. But that’s the point. It’s all so below him. The character is below him. The writing is below him. If I were him I’d be embarrassed to be seen in rubbish like this. He’s clearly valiantly straining every acting sinew in his body trying to make the lines work; trying to make the scene work. Not without limited success, mind you, but even an actor of his calibre couldn’t make this clichéd, hackneyed, trite garbage convincing. Oh, Doctor, isn’t war awful? Isn’t killing a shame? God, spare me. Could this show get any more banal? There was a laudable moral and political point in there (really, Doctor Who? War is bad? Do tell me more!), but the way it was expressed was so pedestrian and patronising that I couldn’t help cringing right through that scene. And that was even before we got to the rehashed emo angst about the bloody Time War. Good God, I thought we were done with all that. After the 64th time, I’m getting sick of hearing about the Time War, to be honest.
What compounds this episode’s failure is that it really was a good idea. But, in typical Moffat era fashion, it took a good idea and bastardised it with inept and trite writing. To trash as good an idea as this as extensively as this really takes some effort, but in the sure hands of Steven Moffat the show has, once again, duly delivered.
I’m a fan of Doctor Who. I love this show. That’s why it pains me to see it being so systematically wrecked at the hands of Steven Moffat. I know this show has potential, but it’s been so long since it’s produced anything of worth that I can’t help cynically wondering if Doctor Who really is finished this time. And you know what? I don’t even care. If this is what Doctor Who has come to, maybe it’s time the show was put down. The only regret is that it couldn’t have happened sooner, so that we didn’t have to witness the undignified senility of its final days.