For those of you completely out of touch with the BBC: Doctor Who recently changed bodies, as he tends to every few years. Instead of looking like David Tennant, he now looks like Matt Smith (right). When the news was first announced, I was skeptical on purely aesthetic grounds—too primatial—but I was willing to keep an open mind. Smith got off to a rough start, though, essentially doing a David Tennant impression, which only double underlined (a bad idea!) that he was not David Tennant. But he’s shaping up to be a fine Doctor in his own right, I suppose. That is, it’s not Smith’s fault that the show has become so disappointing.
There had been high hopes around this season among my British-TV-loving friends: Tennant was unfortunately out, but Steven Moffat was in as show runner, and he had written some of the Russel T. Davies years’ strongest episodes, like “Blink” and “Silence in the Library”. Mythology introduced in both of those episodes surfaced in this weekend’s “The Time of Angels” and, well, was expanded on to the point of ruination. Doctor Who is getting dumber.
Davies once told the Guardian that he never rewrote a word of Moffat’s scripts, but you couldn’t tell from the way the new season’s jokes have been more juvenile, its plot points more spelled out: like, vague intimations were made in “Silence in the Library” that Prof. Song was the Doctor’s future wife; in “Time of Angels,” they did everything but make her wear a sign that indicated such. (Also: notice that, now, the Stone Angels can “talk” to the Doctor? Grooooan.) Either Davies used to edit the hell out of Moffat’s scripts and he was being Britishly polite in his Guardian interview, or Moffat’s bowing to pressure from the network.
The problem with Doctor Who this season has been its rebranding: it seems now like a show for 15-year-olds—and kinda dumb ones, at that. Even though the Doctor looks younger now than he did last season, the character should actually be a little older—and, say, not putting up with the whiny and sarcastic self-importance of his cute young companion. He could do better: he has done so many times in the past! Doctor Who is starting a feel a lot more like The Young Doctor Who Chronicles than a continuation of the same old series.