Friday, January 21, 2011

Postclassical Who - "The Doctor Dances"

Possibly the worst title ever given to a Doctor Who story precipitates what is actually a decent resolution to a difficult plot. The cliffhanger save is very good indeed - the Doctor scolding the gas mask zombies like an angry parent is the kind of clever Doctor I like to see. This story also gets bonus points for featuring Glenn Miller's renditions of Moonlight Serenade and In the Mood, two of my personal favourite Big Band pieces. Of course Captain Jack becomes a very competent high-tech good guy extremely quickly but I don't especially mind.
So in the end it turns out that Nancy is actually Jamie's mother, not his sister, and it turns out everyone is being converted by nanobots and they need to recognise a human and so on. It sort of makes sense although the reason the mother's presence helps is not very well explained. There's some other pseudoscientific silliness like the sonic screwdriver mending barbed wire - joining bits seem to materialise from thin air - and Eccly grabbing big handfuls of glowing nanobots like he's using a special move in Street Fighter or something and throwing them at people with some of the cheesiest superpower motions, exclamations of joy and excessive grinning I have ever seen. In fact all this along with the absurdly upbeat music makes the ending feel about as serious as a Disney cartoon and similarly realistic. It's nice to see the Doctor have a day where everybody lives but it doesn't have to be so... sappy. There's also the unimaginably condescending line where the Doctor says something about how the nanobots identifying Nancy as the mother causes a 'software patch' and that it's time to 'email the upgrade' which is presumably for all those durr thick people who wouldn't get what was going on. I think once you have the visual cue of the glowy firefly lights fixing the kid then they could have just flown over all the people and it would have still been completely comprehensible to kids and stupid people that the Doctor had saved the day, but apparently humanity's average intelligence has declined even further than I feared.
The other thing this episode is notorious for is its wealth of innuendo and gay jokes. Moffat loves a good gay joke, and the Doctor certainly has a bit of a dig at Captain Jack for being an 'enlightened fifty-first century guy'. I think it also draws a slightly long bow when Nancy, hiding from the shame of having been a single teen mother in an intolerant age, reveals that the fat dad in the household has been fiddling around with the butcher. It's crass and unnecessary and hampers the realism. Now Moffat would probably tell me I was repressed for finding that irritating, and he may be right, but I still think it's just an excuse for a cheap laugh. I don't want to seem naive but I enjoy Doctor Who for it's escapism and in my opinion sexuality is one of those dull, overexposed, overhyped elements of human life which I enjoy being relieved of through stories like Doctor Who.
Then there's all the stuff about whether the Doctor 'dances'. In this case dancing equals sex, apparently. So the question is, does the Doctor have sex? Well obviously, his first companion was his granddaughter so he's clearly had kids before. And no, I don't subscribe to all this 'Time Lords get birthed from looms' malarkey because it's in like one book and it seems like it was written by people even more repressed than I might be to avoid the Doctor being in any way intimate. It was always my view that the Doctor had a Time Lady wife once upon a time but they either went their separate ways or she died young. Regardless we know the Doctor would have been a sexually involved person once upon a time, but he's not a young man anymore even in Time Lord terms and he has bigger things on his mind. That's why this idea of the elderly Time Lord scientist falling in love with 19 year old human Rose Tyler never made sense to me, although again I still think that for him it's more about recapturing the Joie de Vivre after the horrors of the Time War, which I'm more or less okay with. Don't worry, this will cease to justify it very soon and I will get to complain.
In essence what I'm trying to say is that I'm fine with the Doctor admitting to 'dancing'. Not sure I want him getting involved with his companions (except maybe Romana; I have a soft spot for that notion) but it doesn't bother me too much. I guess I just wish it didn't need so much emphasis. It seems unnecessary and I feel like there could be bigger issues at stake. Regardless the mystery of what is going on is completely lost after the first viewing, and I feel as if this episode, like the one before it, doesn't have too much to offer apart from the initial shocks. There are some good moments though, like the Doctor swapping Jack's sonic gun for a banana and telling him not to drop it because it's a good source of potassium, and when Eccly says "Rose... I'm trying to resonate concrete." Then there are some terrible lines like Jack reminiscing about a 'couple' he slept with who 'kept in touch' because apparently there weren't enough crap jokes already. It's nice that the Doctor rescued Jack and that no one died but really this episode is just slightly above average. That's the problem with this whole series. It hovers around the average mark for ages, sometimes dipping (or diving) below, sometimes peeking above, but never doing something truly special.
Oh, and man oh man I got sick of hearing the phrase "Are you my mummy?" After the thousandth time it's not scary, just annoying. Annoying!

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