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In Moffat We Trust?: Triumphs, Troubles and Timey Wimey of the Moffat Era (UK)


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#1

Still Ill

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Posted Apr 22, 2010 @ 7:00 AM

Discuss themes, tone and a possible Ginger agenda here.
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#2

clack

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Posted Apr 22, 2010 @ 6:23 PM

SM's scripting is crammed with what sf writers' workshops call "eyeball-kicks" : startling, original, evocative images.

It also reminds me of Grant Morrison's or Alfred Bester's writing, in that every nook and cranny of the narrative is stuffed with cool concepts and situations. That can leave an impression (sometimes accurate) of a grab bag structure, of a story built on these conceptual set pieces and held together with spit and chewing gum.
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#3

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Posted Apr 23, 2010 @ 5:50 AM

Interesting blog by Steven on the BBC website. Again he makes reference to filmic influences for the upcoming two parter.

SM's scripting is crammed with what sf writers' workshops call "eyeball-kicks" : startling, original, evocative images.

It also reminds me of Grant Morrison's or Alfred Bester's writing, in that every nook and cranny of the narrative is stuffed with cool concepts and situations. That can leave an impression (sometimes accurate) of a grab bag structure, of a story built on these conceptual set pieces and held together with spit and chewing gum.


That's interesting as much of Moffat's non Sci Fi writting (Press Gang fan here) was character driven, dare I say RTD like in tone.

Oh sorry and about the typo in the thread title, can't figure out how to fix it.
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#4

Maxie3987

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Posted Apr 23, 2010 @ 7:28 AM

That's a great blog. Thanks for the link.

Jacob, this is Doctor Who. Do you really really think that the complaints will ever go away?
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#5

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Posted Apr 23, 2010 @ 7:35 AM

WRITE BETTER STORIES. DO BETTER WRITING. MAKE BETTER STORIES. THOSE COMPLAINTS WILL GO AWAY. WE ARE BEGGING YOU. WE KNOW YOU CAN DO BETTER. WE KNOW WE DESERVE BETTER. YOU KNOW WE DESERVE BETTER.


Has he overextended himself? Writting too many episodes this series? I know he wrote most of the episodes of Press Gang and Coupling but The Doctor is a different beast requiring extra levels of story, ingenuity and plot than those kind of shows. Is this the difficult second album?

Writting aside, I think there were problems with the directing in the last two episodes. Flat and static. Thankfully Adam (hot) Smith is back for the Angels two parter and I suspect the story is something Moffat has been pondering since the aclaim of 'Blink' so it will hopefully be less chew gummy. I do fear that the whole River Song return is an "up yours" to the people who disliked her the first time. Making her a recurring a character just to show the haters what for, is worrying. Or he's read the crowd wrongly about her which is more worrying.

Sack them all and make a rotating writers roster of Morrison, Banks, Rowling and heck, even dig out John Christopher I say. Or this week will be the turing point where everything becomes perfect!

Edited by Still Ill, Apr 23, 2010 @ 7:41 AM.

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#6

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Posted Apr 23, 2010 @ 8:26 AM

WRITE BETTER STORIES. DO BETTER WRITING. MAKE BETTER STORIES. THOSE COMPLAINTS WILL GO AWAY. WE ARE BEGGING YOU. WE KNOW YOU CAN DO BETTER. WE KNOW WE DESERVE BETTER. YOU KNOW WE DESERVE BETTER.

It is not that fucking complicated. A lot of us are actually watching. A lot of us love you.


So with you Jacob (despite my no doubt shameful ignorance on Morrison). It is indeed not that fucking complicated. Those of us who are complaining are wanting better - much better - for something that we love, for something that has been premised on the idea, at least for the last five years, that we call be better. We can know we can like Rose when we first met her or we can repress that we can like Donna when we first met her or perhaps we never knew it like, I think, Mickey at the beginning but the whole invitation of encountering the Doctor, for us ad much as the companions, is to get it and be it.

But, much as I really want to be wrong, I genuinely do wonder about what Moffat thinks about why he wants to tell stories about the Doctor. And as much as I hate the ending of Forest of the Dead, the one from his past episodes that worries me the most about his conception of the show is Blink, which I have always thought seriously overrated, good as the Weeping Angels are. (Or at least put differently, as I know a lot of people love it: it never worked for me as anything like a top Doctor Who episode). I don't like the timey-wimey line because it reduces the wonder and mystery of the unravelling of linear time in the show and reduces it to something that the Doctor gives up on trying to express in a way - verbal or beyond words - that captures its enormity. I also think that Sally - great performance as Carey Mulligan gives - has a story that reduces rather than widens her horizons. The episode is a lot cleverer construct than anything we've had so far this season, and has a narrative structure that works well in its own terms, but for me it ultimately lacks soul. Ally that propensity in Moffat to an apparent decision to decharacterise and the added structural problem that the Doctor had completed his journey arc from Rose and what happens to him next storytelling wise is inherently problematic and would have posed a problem for anyone, and I'm alarmed about where we're going. I don't want to lose this show because I've loved it and it's been important to me in all kinds of ways, but I'd rather give it up than settle for what we've had so far.

Edited by Effra, Apr 23, 2010 @ 8:35 AM.

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#7

BluWacky

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Posted Apr 23, 2010 @ 9:55 AM

Has he overextended himself? Writting too many episodes this series? I know he wrote most of the episodes of Press Gang and Coupling but The Doctor is a different beast requiring extra levels of story, ingenuity and plot than those kind of shows. Is this the difficult second album?


I don't think it's necessarily fair to say that Coupling (the only show I'm familiar with) requires any less in the way of story/ingenuity/plot. It's a very different show, obviously, but episodes like the opener of Season 4 with its three different overlapping viewpoints show that Moffatt's very good at keeping a relatively complicated plot going - and having to write "funny" dialogue over it, which is something he and the other writers don't have to do for Doctor Who in the same way.

Plus, we've seen but two episodes he himself has written so far this season - one of which was undeniably ace, the other of which was pretty ropey as described effectively by Jacob. How much of a hand he had in Victory of the Daleks I don't know, although it clearly suffers from the same problem - I haven't watched the other Mark Gattiss episodes for a while so I couldn't tell you if they suffered from a similar "strung together" structure.

I know I sound like an apologist for Moffat here, so I should say that I agree that these past couple of episodes have been very disappointing and they need to WRITE BETTER STORIES and not just great ideas patched together. But I do think it's a bit early to say he's "stretched too thin" just yet.

Ally that propensity in Moffat to an apparent decision to decharacterise and the added structural problem that the Doctor had completed his journey arc from Rose and what happens to him next storytelling wise is inherently problematic and would have posed a problem for anyone, and I'm alarmed about where we're going. I don't want to lose this show because I've loved it and it's been important to me in all kinds of ways, but I'd rather give it up than settle for what we've had so far.


Who do you think has been decharacterised under Moffat? The Doctor himself, or any of the other supporting characters? I disagree, but it's something probably better discussed in the character threads; I would say that the Doctor SHOULD, as he has done for thirty-something series, survive as a character beyond his companions, and if his relationship with Rose has jeapordised that then I don't think Moffat is entirely to blame for it detracting from his writing.
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#8

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Posted Apr 23, 2010 @ 10:03 AM

WRITE BETTER STORIES. DO BETTER WRITING. MAKE BETTER STORIES. THOSE COMPLAINTS WILL GO AWAY. WE ARE BEGGING YOU. WE KNOW YOU CAN DO BETTER. WE KNOW WE DESERVE BETTER. YOU KNOW WE DESERVE BETTER.


Shall I start the slow clap now?

I could not agree more. I really want to love this show. I have loved it for the past five years- it has been more than just silly fun, it has engaged me on multiple levels. This new series doesn't do that even though it has all the necessary components in theory- a brilliant showrunner, extremely engaging cast and a rich mythology. What happened?

Edited by lovelyivy, Apr 23, 2010 @ 10:04 AM.

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#9

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Posted Apr 23, 2010 @ 1:09 PM

Who do you think has been decharacterised under Moffat? The Doctor himself, or any of the other supporting characters? I disagree, but it's something probably better discussed in the character threads; I would say that the Doctor SHOULD, as he has done for thirty-something series, survive as a character beyond his companions, and if his relationship with Rose has jeapordised that then I don't think Moffat is entirely to blame for it detracting from his writing.


I entirely agree Bluwacky that the Doctor has to survive beyond his companions, and indeed, I would say, that has been thematically established very well in the Doctor's story over the past five years, not least in the ending of the Rose story. Bad Wolf Bay II was both the Doctor accepting that there never could have been a 'forever'. Their separation wasn't ultimately the fault of the daleks, the Cybermen, the dimensions or whatever. It was a consequence of who he is, a truth he actually already knew.

The characterisation, or lack of it, so far bothers me at all levels, although I do accept that wherever we're going with Amy may make her a richer character than we've seen so far. As it is, the last moment I believed in her as real was her 'you said five minutes' moment. There was some interesting stuff set up with her in The Eleventh Hour, with a lot of potential, but I can't connect what we have seen in the last two episodes from her to the person who has spent at least twelve and probably fourteen years of her life shaped by the Doctor and the man she constructed him to be. Nothing in the two stories seems to get at that. As I say, I am hoping that what we have got may have more meaning as the season story develops.

The one-off characters have just been unredeemably poor for me. Churchill was leagues behind Dickens, Victoria, Shakespeare and Agatha Christie. Trying to compare at the same stage with season one, Cassandra, Jabe and Gwyneth were all well defined and served a purpose through their characters in saying something about the Doctor and Rose. Liz and Bracewell just served the plot.

The Doctor's characterisation thus far rests on Smith's performance (which for me is also erratic) and set-piece speeches or phrases about himself rather than developing either in relation to his own past or the stories. And the one time there was what should have been a huge character moment in Victory of the Daleks when he says he wants to banish the daleks and how come they don't stay gone when he's sent them to the Void, it was entirely wasted. It wasn't him who tried to rid the universe of them. It was his alter-ego whom he judged pretty ferociously for doing so. I entirely buy that the Doctor would now have changed his mind on that moment because a large part, I think, of the End of Time was the Doctor facing up to Davros' critique of him (and the Doctor letting his humanly mortal self do what he couldn't face was in some ways the perfect example of just Davros' point), but skipping over the fact of what the Doctor is accepting in reacting and saying these things just for me entirely sells the character short.

One of these things would be one thing, but when the same problem comes up across the range of characters, and we had motiveless and perspective-less aliens in the first episode, then it is difficult to escape the thought that it is a decision to change the story-telling premise of the show of the last five years, which was that science-fiction that has characters in it has to do character stuff seriously.
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#10

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Posted Apr 23, 2010 @ 5:04 PM

The Morrison/Bester comparisons were mine, Jacob. 2nd post in. I don't believe SM is writing at their level, for reasons I allude to in my last sentence -- SM doesn't consistently integrate his wild ideas into coherent, credible stories.

I like your (misdirected) rant, though. Stories are worth getting passionate about : we live in a story-shaped world.

Anyway, change of topic.

Most scriptwriters' speculative concepts ( sf, fantasy, horror) are crude, naive, and derivative. Like Paul Cornell, Moffat's ideas, images, and situations are inventive, sophisticated, state-of-the-art stuff.

He's worth taking seriously for that reason, though yes his flaws are abundant.

Edited by clack, Apr 23, 2010 @ 5:05 PM.

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#11

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Posted Apr 23, 2010 @ 5:25 PM

I know I'm going to be in a minority here but I'm having no major problems with the season so far, mainly because we're still so early into it and I think once the season has finished airing, I'll probably be able to make a more objective critique of the season but so far, I have no real complaints or big issues.
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#12

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Posted Apr 23, 2010 @ 7:01 PM

I'm cool with the season so far as well Darkestboy. I liked RTD and his character driven stories but I think it's going to be interesting to see something more tightly plotted and a season long arc.

I know everyone mentions S1 as having a cool twist but really it mostly amounted to having a phrase crop up a lot. Also Rose was lucky that "Bad Wolf" was the phrase to hand. She could have had a far less cool nickname :-)

The show certainly feels very different and it needed some new themes to shake it up a bit. I love Matt Smith. I had only seen him in The Ruby in The Smoke before so I didn't know what to expect but he's great.

Edited by Beatriceblake, Apr 23, 2010 @ 7:03 PM.

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#13

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Posted Apr 23, 2010 @ 10:19 PM

Darkestboy I agree with you. It's still early in the season. Matt Smith has said at least once, maybe more, that episodes 12 and 13 are the best things Steven's ever written, and everything builds up to it.

We can certainly judge if an individual episode works or not, but I'm not going to say anything on the season yet.

As for the Bester, Morrison comparisons. Clank made I'm not familiar with Bester so I can't say anything on him particularly, but I go there on Morrison and also Warren Ellis, who often tosses in Mad Ideas into work because he has them. Sometimes they're plot points sometimes they are just added colour. I certainly think it works better in The Eleventh Hour then it does in The Beast Below.

I think the way Steven Moffat writes Doctor Who, is 'What's a good story?' What's going to glue kids bums to seats? What will make them dive behind the sofa?

I don't think he concerns himself with greater themes and all that. (In fact I know there's an interview where he says he writes a story and people come along after and point out the theme. I can't find it though if anyone knows what I'm talking about please send me a link.)

When it comes right down to it, the concept of the Weeping Angels is silly. Why not just hit them with a hammer when they are stone?

It doesn't affect the creepiness of the story though.

For Me the show that Doctor Who is most similar to is the Simpsons. Every week you can be doing something completely different and there're no real limitations on where the story can go.
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#14

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Posted Apr 23, 2010 @ 10:24 PM

Why not just hit them with a hammer when they are stone?


Maybe they're like earthworms. You chop them in half and what do you get? TWO EARTHWORMS. You certainly wouldn't want to be fighting an Angel, smash it to smithereens, and then suddenly find yourself surrounded.
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#15

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Posted Apr 23, 2010 @ 11:08 PM

I think the way Steven Moffat writes Doctor Who, is 'What's a good story?' What's going to glue kids bums to seats? What will make them dive behind the sofa?


To me it sounds more like 'What's a good idea', rather than a good story. People having to choose between forgetting or rejecting. Weird-looking jokers. Daleks needing the Doctor to name them (oh, the irony!). But the story is something that happens to someone, and how they react. The rest is setting. SM seems to be quite clever and inventive, but I can't find any soul in this season so far.
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#16

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Posted Apr 24, 2010 @ 11:49 AM

I just rewatched the beginning of season 1 this week and maybe it's because it was the first time I'd ever watched Doctor Who, had almost no idea what it was about, and had therefore rather low expectations.
I had expected cheesy, badly written, cheaply executed scifi and got a character-driven, surprising, dramatic story with Rose and The End of the World. I learned more about a society where blue maintenance workers need permission to speak than I learned about Churchill. I was just as curious and lost about it all as Rose was. Now, my expectations are high and I want that same layered story and I feel I get cheap thrills I'm too old for to take seriously.

I agree, Blink and The Empty Child/Doctor Dances are one of the scariest Doctor Who but in my opinion, it's not because of the writing. The concept was fantastic, but I think it's the execution, (the effects, the acting, the editing, the direction) that makes them truly exceptional.

I give this show a few more chances because I do that with all new shows I watch but so far, I feel I get what I expected when I started watching Doctor Who.
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#17

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Posted Apr 24, 2010 @ 2:23 PM

I've only seen the first episode of this season but I have been re-watching the beginning of season 1 and I have to say that I actually find season 1 far less compelling. CE would eventually grow into the role somewhat but "Rose" was incredibly awkward and the initial treatment of Mickey and Jackie was just painful. The "end of the world" was a bit better, but only because of the other characters. I am now being reminded of how hard it was for me to stick around with it given my expectations. I'm glad I did but I hardly think that the early part of RD's reign was all that spectacular.
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#18

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Posted Apr 24, 2010 @ 2:42 PM

I didn't care for the first half of season one because I thought most of it was clumsily written. The treatment of Mickey in particular bothered me, and so did the constant need to remind me of how awesome Rose was. The show was all about Rose and her cute, mysterious quasi-boyfriend. It might as well have been her name in the title. They would lurch from stupid fart jokes (Slitheen debut) to ponderous, telling-not-showing speechifying (Dalek). The part I probably hated the most was Long Game, where they had a character arrive as a companion solely to reinforce to us that Rose was the ultimate companion, no one could compare to her, and this new guy would prove it. Then the Doctor leaves alien technology in his head for the rest of his life, as punishment, yet in the next episode, when Rose nearly destroys time itself to spare her father, the Doctor does little more than give her a stern lecture. With the exception of one or two of the episodes, like Unquiet Dead, everything seemed like bad fan fiction to me up to somewhere around the time of Father's Day.

The show as it is now seems more like a canned version of Doctor Who, complete with various prefab moments that the Doctor and his companion are supposed to go through, whether they're natural to the characters or not. I think it works when the show writes for the actors' strengths, instead of making them generic. Eleventh Hour wrote more for Matt Smith's strengths.

Some of the episodes under Moffat seem to have good ideas, but they never go beyond the ideas stage.

There's also the generic writing for female characters, especially Amy.
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#19

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Posted Apr 24, 2010 @ 4:18 PM

I have to say I'm not liking the show this season, and after a year with just a handful of specials I really wanted to. I think it's mainly because SM seems to be taking every opportunity to make Amy (plus most recently River) into something special, and in doing so he's making Eleven look a bit rubbish.

The Doctor didn't figure out that the Star Whale was benevolent, but Amy did. He couldn't reach the android professor's humanity, but Amy could. That's two for two, and in both cases Ten would have gotten there quicker, and without her. Maybe that's why he didnt want to change, he knew the next regeneration wouldn't be much cop. Or maybe he didn't want to be in the "Amy Pond and the Doctor" show.
Add in River Song's transformation from concerned and compassionate future companion/wife to ultra annoying smug knowitall and I am starting to have real problems with the writing.

Hopefully the show will pick up...the thing with the cracks looks interesting and maybe Smith will show some depth to his Doctor that will help me to like him in the upcoming episodes. But at the moment I have to say the show has slipped from "must see" to "if I'm in" and that's sad.
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#20

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Posted Apr 24, 2010 @ 5:33 PM

I agree with this, but I noticed it more in the smaller things. Like figuring out 'the human residence' in the first episode meant earth, not Amy's house; figuring out what the Daleks meant by 'testimony'; or figuring out 'images of the angels become angels' meant Amy was trapped with an angel. There have been a few other little moments where it felt like it took the Doctor a little longer to stumble to things than the audience did, which does have the unfortunate effect of making him look dumber than the audience. God knows I didn't find Ten perfect, but I bought him as 'the smartest man in the room' and I don't with Eleven.
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#21

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Posted Apr 27, 2010 @ 9:52 PM

I've only seen the first three episodes of this season. I'll admit that I didn't go into this coming season with a lot of confident in Moffat being the new showrunner. Don't get me wrong, I think he's an excellent writer and have loved most of what I've seen from him since Coupling. But with Doctor Who his episodes have been hit or miss with me. So I was a little apprehensive to this new season. I was pleasantly surprised. I think it goes along with what someone said in a previous post about having low expectations for season 1 and now having high expectations except for me, I had low expectations for this season. So overall I like it.

The problem for me is that I don't love it. I watched the first three episodes and they were entertaining enough but honestly, it also made me miss the previous seasons even more and want to rewatch those. Which I don't think is a good thing. It just doesn't leave any kind of impression on me. When I watch the first season of Doctor Who I just flat out fell in love with it. And I think it's because I fell in love with the characters. I loved Rose and Donna. I'm still trying to figure out if I like Nine or Ten better. There have been things that I could do without but overall I just loved the show as a whole. I don't love Eleven. I don't love Amy. I don't love the new TARDIS. The episodes are okay. I'm just not connecting to the story like I used to. I don't know if that is Moffat's writing. I don't know if all the changes were too much for me because I will admit, I do have my issues with change and this whole season is all just one big change. So I'm going to keep watching because like I said, it's better than I thought it'd be. I just wish I could love it again.
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#22

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Posted Apr 28, 2010 @ 9:40 AM

I think one of my problems with Moffat is actually the opposite of one of the problems I had with RTD. With RTD I felt he loved and idolised the Doctor too much (and also idolised Tennant too much, but that's besides the point) and his fan worship created problems. With Moffat I feel like there are problems because he doesn't like the Doctor enough or see the Doctor as special. I was just listening to the podcast the two did together for The Forest of the Dead, and Moffat expounds at length on how he sees the Doctor, which is basically that the Doctor is really just an average bloke who succeeds because he's a bit of a charlatan who has the gift of the gab. Personally, though I was sick of the Jesus Doctor (in sparkly or non-sparkly, flying optional) I don't want to see him as some random bloke who happens to have a time machine.
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#23

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Posted Apr 28, 2010 @ 9:58 AM

My issue seems to be one more in line with what passes for "modern storytelling." There's a lot of fast-moving, gee-whiz, bang-up moments strung together with some neat ideas (and some idiotic ones, let's be honest), but it's like the Emperior has no clothes. There's no plot. Something I expect from say, a Marx Brother's movie, but not from DW. If the pace keeps moving it looks cool and there's some neat ideas, but all sound and fury...

And I am tired of the idea of a season-long arc and something like the crack. GAAAA!! Enough already. If the characters have a memory from one adventure to another that's fine with me.
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#24

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Posted Apr 28, 2010 @ 4:58 PM

And I am tired of the idea of a season-long arc and something like the crack. GAAAA!! Enough already. If the characters have a memory from one adventure to another that's fine with me.


See, this is something I love in my TV, and one of the things I'm most excited about for this season is seeing where the overarching plot is going. I do think they've been a little blatant about the crack thing (the crack of doooom at the end of both 5x02 and 5x03 is a bit much), and I won't be able to make a final call until I see how the whole thing goes, but I like that the season is building to something.

Of course, everyone's milage varies on that kind of thing, and I do hope character arcs don't take too much of a back seat to the plot.
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#25

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Posted Apr 28, 2010 @ 5:20 PM

I like the idea of an overarching arc, as long as each individual episode makes sense on its own. I hate the idea that hey, if Amy's character doesn't feel fleshed out, maybe it's because it will be revealed that she's actually a fembot! Amy should feel like a real person, or we should have strong indications that she's not. Anything else is laziness, not a season arc.
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#26

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Posted Apr 29, 2010 @ 3:45 AM

A series arc is a good thing I think. However, I think they could be a bit more inventive. The monster that comes along and for no good reason knows something and instead of blurting it out directly says something cryptic about songs or silence or whatever has been done a couple of times now.

A better arc might have been Daleks set off to create havoc across the Universe and while chasing them down the Doctor has adventures along the way. Or, there is a crack in the skin of the Universe and it is replicating itself in various different places which we need to track down and fix (and have adventures along the way).

Still, since we don't yet know where the story is going I'll keep an open mind.

Edited for grammar

Edited by pxc, Apr 29, 2010 @ 3:47 AM.

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#27

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Posted Apr 29, 2010 @ 4:51 AM

Maybe I'm just on a high from what I consider a near perfect episode in Time of Angels but I'm 'getting' this season much more (or How I've learned to stop worrying and love the Moffat). Love it or hate it, this season will be a much remarked and debated one, which is a good thing to my mind.

I still feel like The Beast Below and Victory of the Daleks were both episodes that were placed in the wrong part of the season. Were they later, I think how jarringly different from the last few seasons in tone would have been more patatable and the plot holes forgiven more easily. Still directed too stage-ly. Have Adam Smith re-direct them for the DVD release!

I like the idea of an overarching arc, as long as each individual episode makes sense on its own.


Honestly, I like the arc idea as a little reward from being a loyal watcher, but I bearly remember them when I think of favorite episodes. You couldn't pay me to tell you what 'Bad Wolf' was about without looking it up.

Edited by Still Ill, Apr 29, 2010 @ 4:56 AM.

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#28

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Posted Apr 29, 2010 @ 8:09 AM

the Doctor is really just an average bloke who succeeds because he's a bit of a charlatan who has the gift of the gab.


This is exactly what I'm getting from this season/series (although I'm on the US pace, so it might change), and it may be why I'm just not excited about things. I don't want the Doctor to be an intergalactic time-travelling Professor Harold Hill.
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#29

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Posted Apr 29, 2010 @ 8:34 AM

On the arc theme, one thing that has me encouraged is the trailer for Flesh and Stone; it seems the Doctor and Amy get to face The Crack dead-on and discuss its significance. So hopefully we'll get some midseason movement on that, rather than just letting it continually pop up with no analysis.
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#30

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Posted Apr 29, 2010 @ 12:31 PM

In 'Time of Angels', SM has successfully integrated his wild ideas into a credible narrative -- a 1st for this season. I mean, you have to make the trapped group something. Why not soldier priests? Most writers would have just made them plain soldiers, and we would never have noticed how lazy a solution that would have been.

The video-Angel is a bit of a set-piece, granted, and is not needed plot-wise, but it's fun and smoothly integrated into the story. Overall state-of-the-art scripting, imo.
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