Monday, 28 June 2010

The Big Fizzle

Wow! Doctor Who, eh? WOW! What an adventure! What a thrill ride! What a brain-melting complex yet elegantly simple resolution! My reptile brain is fizzing! My cortex is aflame! My hippocampus is even more wiggly than I assume it previously was!



Gasp! An intruder! And... a Devilishly handsome one, as well. Who are you, oh impeccably manicured interloper?

It is I! Future SpaceSquid! I have returned to the Earth Year 2010 to stop you making a horrible mistake! Do not write about how much you enjoyed the Doctor Who finale! It was bollocks and you'll regret saying otherwise!

But... but... it was so brilliantly written! Rory guarding the Pandorica; River taunting that Dalek; "I wear a fez now". It all felt right, didn't it? The execution was exceptional.

But the concept was total arse. How is two thousand years without stars going to get us to the same present day? How did people navigate the oceans, for a start?

That's a bit picky. I mean -

And how is the whole universe destroyed immediately, but Earth survives exactly long enough for Amy to be the same age as when the Doctor met her and no longer.

Well, yes, that's weird, but -

And how are we supposed to believe you can extrapolate the entire universe from one box?

That's a nod to Douglas Adams, though. You can't object to a nod to Douglas Adams.

What about the nod to Bill and Ted? A film specifically designed to make time travel as ridiculous as possible. How can the Doctor ever be in trouble again, huh? At this point, every single time he ends up in mortal danger he himself can just show up and get himself out again.

That would make the show pretty boring.

Yes it would, but that's not the point. The point is that to get anywhere with Who from this point on you'll have to deliberately repress what happened this time around. The Doctor just got given the ultimate Get Out Of Jail card and you're going to have to spend every minute of every episode of Season Six onwards pretending he can't use it.

Maybe he can't, though. Maybe it was something inherent in River's bracelet -

So 51st Century human tech beats a TARDIS? Plus, let's not forget that the show has explicitly stated that time travellers can't return to somewhere they've already visited without risking horrible consequences.

What makes you think that?

Well, there was that episode with the Reapers showing up to eat the universe. Plus, the line in "The Girl In The Fireplace" about not being able to use time travel to reset things when they weren't going to your liking.

Really? Which idiot wrote that?

That would be Moffat.

...Ah. Then how come you're here?

We're not working by his rules. We're working by yours. And you've planned this through properly.

Yeah, I'm pretty smart.

You'll regret that cockiness during the First Science Wars.

Really? When's that happening?

I wouldn't have signed off on that new flat.

Eek! Anyway, to return to the subject at hand. If there's no universe, then there's no Reapers, right?

Maybe. Who knows what they are, exactly.

So maybe that means that time-loops are OK now. Even if they still make no sense.

Well, that's just about possible. But, see, now you're having to sit down and find a justification for what happened. You're having to search for loopholes. That's not the sign of a good story. As a matter of fact, it's the sign of a terrible story. Especially one that was set up as a mystery. How will the Doctor stop the cracks in reality? How will he save his TARDIS? What will happen when the Pandorica opens? You can't just deal with all of that by introducing something we've every reason to believe is possible without paving the way first. It's Chekov's Gun, Younger Me; if you're going to change the way time travel works in the show you need to signpost the change early on. I'm not sure the show fits the mystery format at all, to be honest, but once you've gone down that road you have a cardinal rule to follow. Your mystery can and should fool the audience. It cannot lie to them. Then you've got the Doctor zipping backwards in time after he seals the cracks.

I thought that was really well done, actually. That scene with poor blind Amy finally made sense.

Did it? Or did it just transform from unexplained to nonsensical? Why would the crack sealing knock the Doctor back in time?

Why do we need to know that?

Because everything depends on it. Aside from it being a comedy, and thus playing by different rules in any case, when Bill and Ted use the trashcan to escape Ted's father it isn't objectionable because the whole film wasn't building up to them needing to escape from Ted's father. It's a cheat, but it's so incidental to the film that it doesn't matter. Whereas here, we're being asked to believe that the hero of the show can be erased from existence - after twelve weeks of dire portents, as usual - but that he can come back if someone remembers him.

That was the theme of the whole season, though.

And as a metaphor it's perfectly fine. But whilst the show has been chuntering on about the importance of memory, it's also been telling a story. What good is staying consistent with the former if it blows the latter out of the water? Why make it literal?

Was there anything I'll like about the episode by this time last week?

Sure there is. A lot of the characterisation was pretty good. The above problems aside, the Doctor pretending to die to allow his earlier self to act as a diversion was brilliant. As I say, the metaphor itself worked really well. It's just that all of that is bolted on to a totally ludicrous, unworkable frame. And given how well-done everything else was, that's just a huge bloody shame, and that's what you're going to remember.

Oh. Well, thank you, Future Me. You've saved me from a hideously embarrassing blog post.

No problem, Past Me. You'll do the same for Extra Past Me. And My Future Me did the same for Actual Me, who you know as Me, Future Me.

...Time travel gives me a headache.

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