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Russell, please just shut up now.,,22877-2407543.html

Blimey, I don't know where to begin with this. I've happily defended Russell Davies in the past - I genuinely think he is a good writer, and it was his enthusiasm which brought Doctor Who back to the mainstream after all - but then he comes out with some total arse like this, and it makes me wonder why I bother.

I've never liked fantasy. I get very put off by elves and dwarves and any sort of Middle-earth fantasy land. I can't stand The Lord of the Rings. Science fiction, to me, is quite different. More rational, closer to the real world. My homemade definition of science fiction is that it deals in rational, scientific rules, rather than fantasy's world of magic. That's my distinction...If there was a Doctor Who story in which magic occurred, I simply wouldn't allow it.

Aside from the fact that this seems to expose a worrying lack of imagination on his part, I have a serious problem with what Davies is saying here. When you get down to it, the central concept of Doctor Who is, essentially, magic. Just look at the premise of the series when it first began: a mysterious old man, travelling through time and space in a box which is bigger on the inside than the outside. No further explanation was needed at the time, regardless of whatever technobabble may've been used to retroactively explain it. It certainly wasn't based on any kind of real science that I'm aware of. What I'm trying to say is, despite the science-fiction trappings, Doctor Who has always had a strong fantastical element, and to deny that is to fundamentally misunderstand the nature of the show.

Also, it's a bit fucking ludicrous for the man who wrote the script for "New Earth" - in which a group of plague zombies infected with all known disease are miraculously healed by the Doctor making a magic potion - to claim that his sci-fi is based on "rational, scientific rules". Who's he trying to kid?

Television was younger when Doctor Who was in its first heyday. All sorts of fantastic shows that lack emotional resonance from back then; Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased), Danger Man, even The Prisoner, acclaimed as it was, even, dare I say The Avengers, the wittiest programme made; you couldn't make them like that now. People have to be more involved.

This is just silly. Just because Number Six didn't pop home every week to visit his nan or John Steed wasn't constantly moaning about his father issues, does that mean we weren't emotionally involved in what happened to them? Of course it doesn't. Now, I'm not for one moment arguing against emotion-driven storylines or complex character interactions(I'm a Buffy fan after all) but shoe-horning these elements into shows which don't necessarily need them is precisely the reason so much TV drama is bland and homogenised these days. Just look at what happened to The Bill; the police procedural stuff which was once the show's raison d'etre has become secondary to a ludicrously convoluted tangle of relationships and back-story - Eastenders with badges, basically. Conversely, it's also the reason CSI was so refreshing when it started - it was the cases that mattered, and the character's personal lives were kept strictly in the background.

You have to look at what is being served elsewhere on television. These days there are 500 shows, good and bad, which have fleets of spaceships and monsters all creeping on what used to be Doctor Who’s preserve. So, in looking for scripts, you have to think, well, Battlestar Galactica’s got the big spaceships and Buffy’s got the fantasy and the vampires, what have we got that’s unique? And it’s the real world.

Surely the unique element of Doctor Who is the Doctor himself? Also, I think he's quite wrong, there aren't really any shows doing what Doctor Who does, or used to do, at least not on such a broad scale. And for god's sake, just because other shows have had a go at vampires and spaceships it doesn't make them forbidden territory. Most of the best stories in the old series were cribbed from one source or another, be it from Quatermass or Hammer films or wherever. Half the fun was seeing what unique spin the Who version would put on those old stories.

Defining "real life" as being the show's running theme is problematic, and here's the reason why: Doctor Who fundamentally isn't about the mundane and the ordinary. It should be about fantastic adventures and worlds beyond imagination, not gritty urban realism and kitchen-sink drama.

And here's another: the "Alien invasion right on your doorstep" was just one story trope in the old series. And it was good one, but after the first two Jon Pertwee seasons it was pretty much played out, and they had to send the Doctor out into space again. The writers back then knew they could only keep on rehashing the same Earth invasion storylines for so long, and surely at some point Davies and his team are going to realise the same thing. That's not to say they haven't done interesting and clever things within the limits of this format, but it's a limited format all the same and it doesn't need to be.

Earth-based adventures are all very well for a couple of seasons, but the longer it goes on, viewers may start to question why the Doctor has a machine that can travel anywhere in time and space, but can't leave the the same bloody planet alone for two minutes.

Davies lacks the courage of his convictions. He knows he's making a family sci-fi show but keeps trying to dress it up as something else, something more like "proper" drama. He also freely admits to dumbing down some of his more outrageous ideas to avoid confusing the plebs. It seems almost like he's scared to make it as good as he knows it could be for fear of alienating a few of the precious viewers, and that's a real shame.

It's interesting how we've warmed up over the decades. Take Columbo, in which all you ever saw of him was him doing his job. But actually what we loved best about Columbo were the references to his wife. Even though we never actually saw her. The more stuff that got made, the more people learned to seek out the emotional content.

Excuse the tangent, but I'm pretty sure that's not why people used to watch Columbo. That show's appeal was all down to which big name guest star was on this week, and just how the Lieutenant was going to take them down. Referring to his wife was just one of the methods he used to psych out his opponents("My wife, she's a very big fan of yours..."), and half the time you weren't even sure whether he even had a wife. I don't think anyone has ever watched Columbo for the "emotional content", it's just not that kind of show.

About this entry


I agree with Russell in that the best shows have great 'emotional content' and you just couldn't get away with doing things a different way now. What you've got to laugh at though is how he obviously thinks his Who is more 'real' than other shows and that's what it's got going for it. That's complete and utter bollocks. Battlestar Galactica feels much more real and relevant and look at it's setting.

By performingmonkey
November 04, 2006 @ 6:44 am

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Whereas almost every week Who has a 'magic' solution which is usually 100% fantasy. He even uses lines like 'magic door' and 'invisible lift'... His Who is easily as fantastical as Lord of the Rings, if not moreso. Gandalf is a wizard, right? Tolkien keeps things quite real with his world though, the extent of Gandalf's fantasy powers is blasting some light out of his staff. When he does that at least it isn't some kind of deus ex machina fuckaroo like the Doctor blasting the Tardis energy at the Cybermen at the beginning of Age of Steel. And I assume he thinks the Doctor having a sword fight with the leader of an alien race high above London on a giant rock-shaped ship, having his hand cut off and it regrowing, isn't fantasy either?

Anyway, this all boils down to the ongoing argument about Who and some people wanting it to turn into a big fanwank sci-fi and none of this namby-pamby family stuff. Personally, I think they've reached a happy medium on several occasions (e.g. 'Dalek', some decent sci-fi, Who fanwank, modern family drama all rolled into one SUCFUCKINGCESSFULLY).

I can't be fucked to type anymore. That's IT from me for a good while you'll be pleased to know, I'm now going to watch a GREAT show called Battlestar Galactica and YES it has fucking 'emotional content' but WAIT it's also got spaceships flying around and officers in uniforms being serious and shit so I guess I'm not going to hell for the moment, which is what some people think you will if you watch this show which they say is more like a soap than a sci-fi. Well, I remember RTD saying something along the lines of 'there's a big difference between soap and drama' and Galactica is a sci-fi DRAMA, which is code for a good drama that happens to be in a sci-fi setting, much like Red Dwarf was a good comedy that happened to be in a sci-fi setting. Take 'Marooned' for instance, where do the laughs come from? Stories about the characters losing their virginity, someone eating some dog food, two people stranded together - it doesn't really matter that they're in a spaceship, they could be on an island somewhere in the Pacific (except without Evangeline Lilly to look at, damn) who gives two flying fucks, it's great and that's all that matters.

Anyway, the bullshit must end. Sayonara, you utter utter idiot twats.

By performingmonkey
November 04, 2006 @ 7:31 am

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>I’m not terribly interested in depicting sex and violence;

Could've fooled me if the first few episodes of 'Torchwood' were anything to go by.

>they can be so sixth-form if you don’t do them correctly

As, indeed, the sex in the second episodes of 'Torchwood' was. And the crude joke at the end of 'Love and Monsters' (which would've benefitted so much more if the hero had lost his first love forever, not got her back as a stupid concrete slab that could talk. Tsk).

As for Columbo, well I had no interest in his wife whatsoever. I usually watched it because a) I was off school sick and it was the only thing on telly in the afternoon and b) I enjoyed knowing from the start who the killer was, but watching him work it out as the programme went on.

One of the things that bored me most about the last series of Doctor Who was all the emotional stuff, in particular the lovey-dovey stuff between the Doctor and Rose which I thought was utterly inappropriate to the Doctor's character (by which I mean the character that has been built up over previous years of series, not just RTD's idea of what the Doctor's character is). Ok, so the constant re-visting to Rose's family was part of the larger story arc that led to the conclusive final episode, and that's fine for one series, but if RTD intends to carry on in the same vein in the next series, I suspect I will end up giving up on watching it. Also continually coming back to earth (London and Cardiff in particular) begins to get boring after a while. Surely the point of Doctor Who is that he travels through time and space, not that he keeps popping back to present-day Earth?

By Sue
November 04, 2006 @ 12:07 pm

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That's IT from me for a good while you'll be pleased to know

Thank fuck.

By John Hoare
November 04, 2006 @ 1:38 pm

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Cor someone who rants as much as me. I agree with, well pretty much all of this. Nice ranting.

By Karl
November 07, 2006 @ 2:33 am

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