Sunday, August 04, 2013

Congratulations to Peter Capaldi, but Doctor Who has problems

You know you are getting old when Time Lords start looking young, so I am pleased that the new Doctor Who will be an actor who is older than me - the first since Sylvester McCoy.

But while congratulating Peter Capaldi, this is a chance for me to say that I think the show has problems.

Whether you put it down to the changes in the way we watch television (more channels and the remote control) or to an attention-deficit society, the show suffers  from a lack of time.

It's not just that we no longer have cliffhanger endings: the producers feel obliged to show us the start of the next episode in an attempt to keep us hooked.

And this lack of time has also affected the acting. Both David Tennant and Matt Smith's performances were a collection tics and gimmicks that never quite cohered into a rounded character. Christopher Eccleston managed to avoid this trap, but maybe his just a better actor - though he had more two-part stories to act in.

Another problem is that the show has been taken over by adults fans. If young children still watch it from behind the sofa, it is because they can't get any nearer the screen. A family show's strength is that it appeals to everyone, but Doctor Who now seems to be aimed at young adults - hence the the younger and younger doctors and the introduction of a love interest.

I am reminded of something Will Buckley once wrote about football:
There was a time when I loved football - when I was six. I was introduced to the game by my father, and we spent many happy years watching Chelsea together. I took a childish delight in my team. Ossie, Hutch and Charlie Cooke were my heroes. Their performances affected my weekend. For my father the results were unimportant. He went to the game to have a laugh with his friends and enjoy his son's innocent pleasure. 
Now I am the age that my father was when he first took me to a football match, I am perplexed that so many of my contemparies (sic.) react to the game as I did as a six-year-old, rather than as my father did as a 40-year-old.
Perhaps the real problem is that the makers of Doctor Who just takes themselves too seriously. Interviewed last year, Steven Moffat announced that he found it "deeply offensive" that someone had accused one of his Sherlock Holmes scripts of misogyny.

But to write anything is to open it up to public criticism. We must be allowed to say something about his work that goes beyond "Coo Steven, you are clever!"


Anonymous said...

"... Doctor Who now seems to be aimed at young adults - hence the the younger and younger doctors and the introduction of a love interest."

I believe Capaldi will be the oldest actor to play the Doctor since William Hartnell. I hope that one advantage of that will be that the ancient, battle-scarred Time Lord stops acting like a love-sick teenager.

callmemadam said...

Hear, hear!

MarkJ said...

I'm really in two minds about it all. I was a big fan of the classic who's where the story would arc over several short episodes and didn't initially enjoy the re-imagined experience. Similarly I always felt as if Christopher Eccleston was quite bland next to previous doctors.

Naturally I thus found the switch to hyper-active David Tennant to be a bit over-the-top but eventually I grew to really enjoy watching him. Likewise it took time for me to warm up to Matt Smith but I did eventually enjoy his lunatic-asylum approach to acting, albeit not as much as Tennant.

Now we’re back to an older doctor, indeed a more seasoned actor at that, and I’m curious to see how this pans out. The fact is that the “new” Doctor Who series have attracted a lot of viewers so the BBC will naturally make what works best. I hope Peter can find a suitable balance between old and new approaches but I think that could be a very tall order.