I’ve tried to make this post spoiler free, talking more about the mechanics than the specifics of the current season of Doctor Who. So if you haven’t seen it, and are considering watching, it should be safe.
Way back near the beginning of this blog, in April, I confessed my obsession with British sci-fi in general, and Doctor Who specifically. I’d just finished Season 4, the end of David Tennant’s reign, and wasn’t sure I could learn to love another Doctor.
Dorothy, in addition to offering a lovely list of suggestions to fill my sci-fi void (check out the comments in the post), assured me that Matt Smith becomes the Doctor just as they all have.
I was skeptical.
She was right.
While I spent most of Season 5 enthralled with the writing (more on the writing below; while the actors on that show are fantastic, and make for great limbs and a fabulous smile, the writing forms the internal organs, and you have no life without it), I was not enthralled with Matt Smith. He’s too young, I thought, to carry the weight of the Doctor. He just felt not right, too gangly, awkward but not Doctor awkward. I loved Karen Gillan as the Doctor’s companion, Amelia Pond, and even her wonderfully geeky boyfriend, Rory, played by Arthur Darvill, but Matt Smith did nothing for me. Well, Matt Smith (and Dorothy), I have to give you credit, now that I have seen the Season 6 mid-season finale. He wasn’t a poor fit for the Doctor.
He was subtle.
And not “subtle” in that way that people say when they themselves don’t really know what they mean, but feel that there has to be some type of distinguishing factor. No, he is subtle in that he knew from the beginning that he would settle into the role, hovering outside of it a bit and then shifting his weight and gently moving until it fit him as though cut for him. He played the complexities of a regenerated Doctor adjusting to his regeneration while still acting as, being, himself.
But I promised to talk about the writing.
The lead writer, Steven Moffat, clearly had an overarching vision, knowing where he would start, where he would end, and what steps he needed to get logically, believably, and suspensefully to where he wanted to go.
As a writer, I am not a planner. I’ve found that if I try too hard to decide where something is going to go, I don’t want to get there. My characters take on lives of their own, they have their own agendas, they have their own ideas. Margaret, for example, my main character in Aunty Ida, was impossible to work with (you’ll see, if you read the book). She was iron-willed and utterly uncooperative. Amber, from The Great Paradox, on the other hand, wasn’t forthcoming at all. In both cases those personality traits of the characters shaped the stories.
That is the reason I admire someone like Moffat. He takes his threads and weaves them, crisscrosses them, knots them and unknots them, and brings you to the place he intended all along. I finished last night’s episode “A Good Man Goes to War,” feeling utterly entertained, perfectly entertained, like at the end of a delicious meal where you’ve had not too much, not too little, but exactly the right amount.
It is difficult to surprise an audience steeped in a particular genre, and after reading some of the message boards this morning, many viewers felt, perhaps, that Doctor Who didn’t pull it off.
But as an unrelenting plot-guesser, I have to say that the twists were both obvious and mind-bending, and maybe they didn’t get anyone else, but they certainly got me.
So thanks, Dorothy, for telling me to give him a chance, because I’ll be biding my time until the second half of the season airs.