I almost want a show that’s all about Rory, and I don’t know what that says about me.

05Oct11

The latest season of Doctor Who came to a close this Saturday, and while it’s not the trainwreck I feared it would be, it’s also not good enough to override the things about the second half of this season, and the season in general, that bothered me.

First off, “Let’s Kill Hitler” was a trainwreck. Just a terrible episode all around, and it did a disservice to every major character except the Doctor, and that’s only because he was half-dead most of the time. So by comparison, the rest of the season could only go uphill. Problem is, the question LKH was supposed to resolve-how the hell a children’s show can get around the monstrous idea of two parents having their newborn baby stolen from them and return to a status quo of jaunting around the galaxy-wasn’t really answered. It just got a very clumsy hand wave of “Stop whining about your kid’s stolen life, she’s fine now, I’m fine, back to crazy fun things!” That meant the next three episodes all felt hollow (some more than others), and characters were deliberately moved away from having to confront that. And yes, putting these expectations on something that’s supposed to be a program the whole family can watch might be going too far, but you could say the same thing about having a baby without your knowledge and watching a decoy baby dissolve in your arms. In other words, they brought in the inappropriate situation, so I’m not buying any defense based on their intended audience.

“Night Terrors” could have done a lot about loving a child even if they’re unfamiliar and strange to you, considering the revelation about River Song, but Rory and Amy were sidelined almost the entire time, and the resolution gave them no chance to comment on it. “The Girl Who Waited” had one neat moment of Rory confronting the Doctor on the unnecessary risk taking in how he travels, but with a plot centered on Amy trying to survive on her own for decades, it’s a disservice to Rory’s character that he never brings up how he guarded Amy inside the Pandorica for 2 millenia. Not the same situation, obviously, since he didn’t have to eat, sleep, drink, or breath during that time…but not even allowing him to mention it seems like a very visible failing on the writer’s part. Then there’s the fact that after waiting for decades, Amy makes no mention of missing her daughter, just hating the Doctor for stranding her there. “Faith and Monsters” at least doesn’t do such a terrible thing to Rory, though the idea that he has no faith in anything is an awfully reductive judgement, and just more belittling of his importance as the voice of reason in the trio.

I’ll admit that “Closing Time” got a lot of credit from me just by bringing back Craig and Sophie. Well, mostly Craig, since Sophie is out for the weekend. It’s a good episode on its own merits, but it also works well by removing Amy and Rory entirely as active characters, which means we don’t get another week of going “What about their unspoken mental trauma? Is this just the extreme endpoint of ‘Keep Calm and Carry On?’ ” Instead we get to see someone who knows the Doctor, in some ways more intimately than almost any other companion, but who doesn’t have to give us some explanation for why he travels with him. Having said that, I’d really like to see Craig as a companion, but I don’t think he’s crazy enough to leave the woman he loves and his newborn son to travel in the TARDIS. I hope not, anyway. He’d lose some of his charm if he was.

Which brings us, finally, to the season finale, which both worked and didn’t work for me. What did work about it? It answered at least some of the questions raised all season. We find out how the Doctor cheats death from the first episode, and I’ll admit that I thought the solution was clever, and covered almost everything about what happened. There’s some explanation of the Silence and what it believes in, and why they would want to kill the Doctor. And we get to see why the Doctor can’t run from his apparent death, because of the terrible consequences of actually averting it.

But what doesn’t work is pretty big, too. The Silence, as I said, gets some explanation. But if they aren’t a major enemy in the next season, then we didn’t get enough explanation. We know the what, where and when of what they want. But we only got a vague idea of the why, and none of the how. If the Silence aren’t an alien race, then where did the aliens in the group come from? Do they have some form of time travel, or a way to track where the Doctor is going that lets them try to kill him? And if their fear is literally about the Doctor somehow bringing down their whole organization, why try to kill him when they could just try to do some self examination and figure out a way to survive whatever the Doctor might do? They’re either so blinded that they can’t understand why the Doctor would destroy them but absolutely believe he will (not an implausible explanation, really, since zealotry means they wouldn’t even think of questioning the why), or they think they’re stuck in a causality loop and have focused their frustration on the man that has trapped/will trap them in it.

On some level, I want to say I’m overthinking it, and that I should set the plot details aside and ask if it was entertaining. But that’s part of the reason the finale isn’t terrible, and is entertaining to a point. I could nitpick about how we didn’t get to see enough of how all of human history was happening at once in England, or why history wasn’t moving but local time passed anyway. But the former made for a great opening and illustration of the consequences of River’s actions, and the latter was necessary for the episode to actually work. Still, some of the entertainment feels derailed when I think about how many of the big, important questions went unanswered.

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