Anyone who has talked to me about Doctor Who knows that I do not particularly like Steven Moffat. He has written some brilliant episodes, but I am of the firm belief that he should stick to writing stand-alone episodes, and not giant seasonal arcs. The whole River Song/Amy/Eleven clusterfuck is the prime example of this – I actually don’t really understand or remember anything of that season because it was so convoluted and twisty that it was extremely difficult to follow.
In my mind, the heart of Doctor Who lies in its ability to comment on the vices and virtues of the human condition. There is a reason why the Doctor loves the human race. Our ingenuity, stupidity, capacity to love and hate all in the same breath; our desire to learn and to drive ourselves into destruction. In a world full of weird and wonderful aliens, there is still something very special about our tiny colony of humans.
There is a saying that all the stories in the world have already been written, that we cannot produce anything truly original any more. I could go on about all the postmodern theory that is associated with this notion, but I won’t, because honestly, it’s a little bit bleak and boring if you aren’t interested in that side of things. Anyway, the point is – it’s what you bring or add to these stories that matters, and I think this last episode tried and failed to do so in a massively spectacular manner.
I genuinely thought the idea behind the episode was quite clever. A mad professor had invented a machine that condensed the human sleep cycle into five minutes. I had to suspend my beliefs to accept this premise, because my science brain automatically started to do all kinds of flips and tricks, but after that settled down I was all right. By creating this machine (Morpheus), the professor had inadvertently (but not really, ha! PLOT TWIST #4!) created a bunch of monsters that were made of sleep – the annoying bit of build up that you sometimes get in the corner of your eye when you wake up.
This was only introduced halfway through the episode. Because as soon as it started, I immediately saw that it was an amalgamation of ideas from at least three other Doctor Who episodes. And quite honestly, it just kept getting worse.
The references to the Sandman were rough, clunky, and mishandled, the ‘being trapped in a room with no way out!’ trope has been way overused this season, the concept of a message imbedded in a video was an allusion to Blink and the Silence, there was an almost verbatim quote about “something in the corner of your eye” that was eerily similar to Prisoner Zero/Amy/Eleven/invisible door with that creepy worm thing, there seems to be an obsession with the build up to Clara leaving. I could go on, but I won’t.
I still have mixed feelings about Twelve. Sometimes he is very much the Doctor, but other times not so much. The sonic glasses thing needs to go – I concede that it has been used in quite interesting ways (i.e. erasing memories, etc), but it’s also clearly Moffat trying to put his own spin onto something that should probably not be changed. I don’t know if I long for Ten’s broodiness mixed with hope or Eleven’s quirkiness combined with that unknowable, deep sadness, but Twelve sometimes hits it for me, and sometimes he doesn’t. (Capaldi is great, by the way – the writing is letting him – and everyone else – down).
In any case, I am just waiting for Neil Gaiman to announce that he is taking over the role of head writer before I rest easy again. I just feel like the essence of Doctor Who is no longer there. It’s no longer about the best and the worst of humankind – it’s now about how clever Moffat can be and how many people he can confuse.
(By the way, I do know that it was Gatiss that wrote this episode but Moffat is still an EP and head writer and I blame him, not just for this, but the whole ridiculous River/Amy/Eleven wife/daughter/mother debacle).