Saturday, 2 January 2010

Let the old Doctor die with a fond goodbye...

The four years of Russell T Davies' tenure as Doctor Who showrunner corresponded to my four years at University. I don't mean they were similar (although if I really analysed it, maybe I might find a few similarities), but the year after I graduated, no Doctor Who series. But now I've started a post-grad at a different university and... guess what! This year there will be a new series of Doctor who with a different showrunner. Not only that, but my postgrad course is at Glasgow Uni, and the new showrunner is Steven Moffat, who comes from very near Glasgow. Incredible!

Even without that personal coinceidental reason, I'm one of the many people who thinks Steven Moffat would be a great choice to take over. His episodes have really made the most of the time-travel element of the series... in "Blink" the Doctor records half a conversation for someone several years in the future who will provide the other side of the conversation. In "The Girl in the Fireplace" he and his companions are on a spaceship where different portals lead to different points in the life of a historical figure. In "Silence in the Library" he meets someone who has already met a later incarnation of him. To be fair, other writers, including Russell T Davies, have also done this to an extent.

But one of Davies' flaws, in my opinion, has been an over-fondness of including scenes where something big is shooting down at people in a city (usually London) as they flee for their lives. "The Next Doctor" was a great episode... but it was let down somewhat by the fact that RTD just had to include that giant Cyberman. (Well... he didn't *have* to. That's the point I'm making.) Steven Moffat, on the other hand, has almost always gone for the simple-but-effective... or maybe that should be the simple-thus-effective: people in gas masks, clockwork androids, living statues which are never seen to move onscreen. Oh, and his episodes are terrifying in a way which only ideas and not in-your-face visuals can be.

In Russell T Davies and Benjamin Cook's "A Writer's Tale", Davies mentions that he wrote the final draft of all episodes except Moffat's, Chris Chibnall's, Stephen Greenhorn's and Matthew Graham's. We therefore can be sure that the Steven Moffat who writes six episodes of the 2010 series will be the same Steven Moffat who brought us those earlier episodes, and that what we have seen before was not a version of his style that was filtered through Davies' own.

We know a bit about some of the other writers who will return, courtesy of wikipedia - Chris Chibnall will write two episodes (one two-part story, perhaps?), as will Gareth Roberts. Chris Chibnall wrote the highly entertaining "42" in the 2007 series, as well as some of Life on Mars, so that should be good. Gareth Roberts' episodes have also been great so far, although "The Unicorn and the Wasp" can feel a little flippant compared to some of the others. Also, as Roberts had been rewritten by Davies for both of his episodes we've seen before, we may be encountering an entirely new Gareth Roberts this year. We don't really know how much of either "The Shakespeare Code" or "The Unicorn and the Wasp" were Roberts' own and how much were Davies'.

And now we come to the big one: Richard Curtis will be writing an episode, apparently including "Vincent Van Gogh stabbing a yellow monster". I'm slightly wary about this. In a BBC interview he mentions that it's "a treat for his children" and that he's glad that families can sit together to watch "something like Doctor Who and the X Factor"... I'm hoping that he isn't only writing for children and fans of the X Factor. It's also a little troublesome for me that he is writing an episode with a historical setting, given that he has previously written a very well known TV series with a historical setting, one where accuracy ranked probably lowest on the list of priorities. But I hope that with Steven Moffat in charge he's not likely to make the same types of Blackadder-esque blunders which have medieval English kings being rulers of "Britain", which includes Scotland...

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