I could say that Dark Water is wholly derivative of Army of Ghosts, trading Daleks for the Master, who somehow managed to escape the Time War. It even sets up a second battle of Canary Wharf.
Oh, and I really don’t give a shit about spoilers. There were two incredibly obvious ways Missy could have played out, and a regenerated Master, divorced as it is from common fucking sense, was one of them. It’s been 48 hours, and that’s the statute of limitations I feel I need to observe in this case.
I could say that Moffat has one archetype for writing female characters, and they almost always have a vaguely-dominatrix vibe to them.
I could say that “shut up” has become the laziest dialogue gimmick I’ve seen outside of a 3 camera sitcom.
I could say that Clara is a terrible character, who lacks any sense of wonder or terror for the universe at large. Despite everything she has seen and done with the Doctor, Clara treats travelling through time and space with the casual interest one might devote to a seasonal part-time job.
I could say all of these things, but what’s the point?
I feel like trying to deal with this show in a critical way is all but impossible. Conversations about the shortcomings of Doctor Who take on the tone of arguing about religion. No matter how much a person wants to talk about narrative structure, pacing, directing, or character development i.e. the things which make a given work of fiction measurably strong or weak, there’s an assumption that Doctor Who is somehow beyond those trifles. The discourse seems to begin and end at the quality of the call backs to the pre-reboot series, or an episode’s nods to other such ephemera, therein.
There’s always an excuse as to why a critical discourse can’t or shouldn’t be applied to Doctor Who. I’ve read there is a master plan which might take episodes, a season, or multiple seasons to reveal itself; thus shitty episodes are only as shitty as the handwaving which may or may not occur later. I’m literally being told to “have faith” in something that is as air tight as sponge. This year has seen countless attempts to foist a subtext on to something that is vapid and insipid. The worst offender is the presumption that Kill the Moon is a story about abortion. Every honest attempt to approach these shortcomings seems to be met with straw men or an ad hominums (how many TV shows have you written?) waiting to de-rail what is ultimately a very tangible and very important point: Doctor Who is capable of doing better.
I am not a Russell T. Davies fan boy; he had his good episodes and bad episodes.
I am not bereft of imagination or a sense of joy.
I do believe that something can be fun, and light, and not a massive insult to the audience’s intelligence.
I think that Doctor Who can do better.
All that said, I don’t even know if there’s a point to writing about this series, anymore. One of the first rules of criticism is to not write about something that you are predisposed to dislike. I dare say this season has dragged my expectations about the series down to an all-time low. I’ll watch next week’s finale, and I’ll likely keep watching the series after that, but unless somebody wants to pay me, I really don’t see the point of devoting airtime to Doctor Who.
In the immortal, but slightly adapted, words of Dr. Zoidberg, I say to Steven Moffat, “Your writing is bad and you should feel bad.”