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Missed it by that much...
on November 10, 2011
I've been a fan of the Doctor going back to the days of Jon Pertwee and although he was fun and interesting in his first (half dozen) incarnations, it was pretty much a standard sci-fi tv show... monstor of the week, lots of action, lots of techno-babble conveniently cropping up to solve whatever problem the Doctor was facing.
Then Russell T. Davies revived it in 2005 and it was a whole new ball game. It became apparent very quickly that "making it all make some kind of unified sense" was one of the main focuses of the new series. If something got mentioned in one story/episode, you could bet it would be supported by subsequent episodes, making the Whoniverse seem more real, solid and believable.
Then Stephen Moffett took over and, while his first season at the helm (Season 5) was pretty delightful and had some lovely twists and turns in it, Season 6 is the first stumble that is really noticable. It has to do with the "season arc" (the main, continuing plot that drives every episode of the season.) For the first few seasons since the "reboot" in '05, those season arcs were kept simple... Bad Wolf, for example, in season's 1 and 2, or the missing planets scattered throughout season 4 paying out in the season finale.
But in Season 6.... huh?
It looks like Moffett wanted to start the season with a shocker (the Doctor dies!) but then couldn't figure out a way to resolve that without doing a bit of cheating. And although it might be a perfectly valid "resolution" in terms of a TV story, it wound up damaging the Whoniverse as a whole.
The premise was, the Doctor is going to die (for real, to the point of destroying his body so no more regenerations), making it look like the entire show would have to come to an end when we finally looped around to the other point of view on his death that we witness in the opening episode. We are told repeatedly his death at that time in that place is a 'fixed point in time'. Fair enough.
In fiction the audience can only know what is true and real based on what they are told in the course of the story. And since season 1 we have been told, over and over, that a "fixed point in time" can not be changed, no matter what anyone does, because it is rooted in the pure mechanics of the universe itself, not on anyone's perception of the event. It was the reason the Doctor couldn't save Rose's father, or change a number of other events he might have wanted to, because his attempts to change them would ultimately fail. The universe would not allow them to be changed.
So how does the Doctor's death get resolved? The Doctor "fools" the mechanics of the universe itself by faking his death? So, either "fixed points in time" really can be changed (in which case there are no limits to what the Doctor can do and good luck trying to build drama about fixed points in time going forward), or it wasn't a fixed point in time and everyone was just too stupid not to realize that. But then it had to be a fixed point in time because the premise of the entire final episode was that time itself was broken by the Doctor not dying. It had genuine, palpable universally mechanical effects. We saw that. So... the actual mechanics of the universe are stupid aqnd can be fooled?
The other thing that is a cheat is the introduction of the whole "the Doctor lies" concept. So now, after five seasons of having nothing else to depend on to determine what is true and what is not about any situation being only what the Doctor tells us, suddenly we can't depend on that either? Well, then now everything is up for grabs. We won't know if anything is true or not, because we get that truth from the Doctor and he's lying about it now?
It's a minor point, admittedly, but important in that such details have been one of the things that helped make the Whoniverse believable, stable and gave it much of its epic scope. It's why it's Doctor Who, because it had a higher standard and needs to be held to it or it becomes just another tv show, waiting its turn to jump that proverbial shark.
Now it seems that everything is up for grabs and that nothing is beyond the Doctor's abilities. It's rather tough to build tension and drama when your lead character is, in essense, God, and can lilterally do anything he wants.
Hopefully Moffett will stop throwing away such details in the future or making up some convenient techno-babble throw away dialogue to explain them away. That's the old Star Trek trick and it cheapens the universe in which "Blink" and "Turn Left" happened. It just weakens the whole concept and robs the show of the thing that made it so superior and special. And that would lose viewers. And that would get it cancelled. Again. And that would be sad.