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The Joy of Outrage

April 24, 2022

I haven’t posted anything about the Easter DR WHO special for two reasons.

The first was that Eastercon wiped me out a bit. I’m going to have to take more care about taking advantage of the facilities for aging and unfit persons if I’m going to make conventions fun in the future. I’m thinking a shopping trolley for All My Stuff because carrying a shoulder bag sent the entire weight of the planet directly to my back. Or maybe one of the walkers that my mum had in her old age because they provide a place to sit down. The chairs in convention function rooms are not designed for comfort: the chairs in the bars are.

The second was that I didn’t have a lot to say. It was a perfectly adequate piece of co-production, producing a cross between a DR WHO episode and a 1980s Chinese Martial arts movie. There was flash, bang and wallop. There was fan service and a revived monster-of-the-week. It wasn’t bad.

Which isn’t to say that it was actually good but at this stage in Chris Chibnall’s tenure I’m prepared to settle for Not Bad. I am, let it be clearly understood, dreading his final program. He still wants to do the Grand Reboot that he has been hinting at and I am fearful he will wipe the series continuity just to show he can and leave things in a terrible mess.

But my wishy-washy and easy-going attitude has not been dupilicated on the Internet or at least not on the subset of it that I watch. Rage, rage against the total betrayal of their favourite (?) show no longer being as good as it once was. (Look, I remember Kandyman and that was when I was cheering because they were giving Sylvester McCoy better scripts than Colin Baker.) It’s not just the Doctor, the bile and invective about PICARD is just as ludicrous.

Is it age hitting the generation that was young in the 80s? Is it just the maddening effect of the Intertubes? Is it people channeling their other disappointments into fannish issues? I cannot tell but I don’t like it.

Or is it just that they like the feeling? Does being angry give them a charge which the rest of their life isn’t providing? I must admit that I’m getting more disagreeable as I get older. I sat in some of the panel items at the Eastercon and while some of my wrath must be ascribed to the pains in my back, my hips and my knees there was also a strain of thinking “This person is young and therefore wrong!” Or it could be that there has been a noticeable drop in the ability of panelists to come up with coherent and interesting material at short notice. An increase in sententiousness and poor sentence structure. A tendency to open their mouths and speak without knowing where the sentence is going to end.

Bah, I say, and likewise humbug. I’m going to have to be careful: outrage and judgementalism is a terrible drug.

I am also dreading RTD’s decision about the next Doctor (which is being played impressively close to the chest so far). I want the next Doctor to also be female, just to show that it can be done better. Well, yes having the heads of some of the nay-sayers explode is attractive to me but it’s really a side issue. I even have a candidate: Aisling Bea.

I know, I know but two previous Doctors have appeared in the show before being regenerated into the title character and we know that Romana managed to copy someone’s appearance. It’s perfectly rational and canon. Trust me on this.

I don’t (for once) envy the DR WHO showrunner. I must be getting old.

  1. It is very easy to shift from “I have more experience than these young people” to “I am right and these young people are wrong”. I suspect this is part of why so many people get more conservative (and indeed Conservative) as they get older. For myself, I don’t have the experiences that they have.

    Do not forget that even in the 1980s there were Who fans who complained that the program was not as good as it was when they were little. Well, they weren’t little any more, and neither are you, and it is a program for children – and lacking really competent scriptwriters, the staff don’t have the ability to make it worth watching by adults at the same time.

    Chris Chibnall was one of the young fans who were telling the BBC they were doing it all wrong, back in the 1980s. Having re-watched all that survives of the old series in order, I feel very strongly that the show is at its best when it is being produced not by people who Care About Who, not by people who know all the old stories, but by people who want to make a good television programme, because that is their job. Fans should not get a look in, because whenever they do they make it worse. (See most of the last few years of the old series, and the majority of the new one.)

    Doctor Who canon is bunk. It is a great error to “bring back” a tired old monster with nothing to say, just to pep up the ratings. Much better to get a scriptie with some original ideas, if you can find one. (Though I think we could do with bringing back the old rule that the producer – “showrunner” in modern parlance, I suppose – wasn’t allowed to commission more than one of their own scripts a year. That way they might have time to do their actual job rather than just letting any old rubbish through.)

  2. Whereas I tend to think (being an arrogant sod) ‘They don’t have the experiences I have had’.

    I may be suffering from the same rose-tinted memories some people have about DR WHO but applied to SF con events. I recall pleasures that I don’t experience now. And being at these events when I didn’t have the amount of discomfort I have now.

    The problem I’m having with Chibnall isn’t that he remembers too much of the past but that he is tone deaf when it comes to pointing the program towards changes for the future. You can’t be reverential towards the past but you have to change and adapt the formula gradually or the consumers will tell you it doesn’t taste the same and stop watching the way I did during the Colin Baker years.

    With the degree of change that the Flux and other new plot elements imply soon it will be like changing the dish from fish and chips to chicken risotto. The canon, though bunk, is all the flavouring that makes it something people recognise. If you change it enough then you might as well stop making DR WHO and start something brand new. Which in many ways would be a good thing.

    Oh, god I’m sounding as old fogeyish and grumpy as Andrew Rilstone! (Excellent chap in many ways but I think he’s got the market in being Andrew Rilstone tied up tight.)

    • I mean, it’s as daft as changing it from a show about a crotchety old rebel having adventures all over time and space to a show about a dashing chap with a glamorous assistant helping the Army to fight alien invasions and mad scientists on modern-day Earth. Couldn’t possibly work.

      It’s not for me any more, but I’m not asking that it should be. It’s not as though there were a shortage of things I wanted to watch, read, etc.

  3. Jon Hancock permalink

    Who has always been nonsense, usually produced in a hurry and on the cheap. Reviews and (perhaps more usefully) comments from older people who watched it unfold Back In The Day and thought it was utter tosh then are perhaps more useful than the opinions of the kids who adored it and grew up to be the adults who can only moan about it. I’m not suggesting that Kenneth Williams is an ideal candidate for a balanced observer, but the show famously receives unfavourable comments in his diaries.

    For the children, of course, Who was magical. I met Tom Baker once and was dumbstruck, utterly in awe, which was an unexpected feeling for a thirty year old and not one I’ve experienced with other actors and celebrities. It didn’t matter that it had been rushed because the union was shutting off the lights whether filming was done or not. It didn’t matter that we could see the zips and watch the scenery wobble. It mattered that the slow parts were funny or dramatic and the other bits were exciting or scary or wondrous. The wait for the next part of the story was a vital part of that, I feel.

    Canon and rabid fans never truly help anything. Give me instead the enthusiastic fan who cheerfully invents a reason why those two utterly contradictory incidents from the show’s history actually make sense, or the viewer who can smile and wave it aside because the story was great and they’ll make allowance. It’s supposed to be entertainment, after all.

    Recently I’ve been exercising remarkable restraint in not jumping up and down on the keyboard and telling the young’uns that the RPG innovation they’re all shouting about was done before by this or that game decades ago, or that no item manufactured during my lifetime should be sold as “vintage”, so maybe I’m learning. We’ve all heard much of this stuff before, so finding enjoyment in hearing it rehashed is tricky, but I try. Or failing that, I gracefully withdraw. I tell myself that I’m probably mentally editing what I heard in the past and cherrypicking the finest moments and clearest arguments, that perhaps what I remember as unassailable wit and wisdom was no better than what is offered now.

    Them I read some of the articles and letters from my favourite 80s gaming magazines and get angry again about kids today.

    • Well, it was done cheaply and quickly before the restart. Done without the benefit of anyone caring about canon or continuity beyond making sure Tom Baker was wearing the same scarf in succeeding shots.

      What I’m afraid of is that what the current incarnation is going to suffer is the introduction of a universe crashing climax to Chris Chibnall’s tenancy which will wipe out the inherited ‘flavour’ of the series so that it ceases to be ‘backwards compatible’ to any extent. I remember the brilliant way DC did the CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS. I really appreciated it at the time. But not only do I not think Chris Chibnall is that good I also remember that it lead to Bog knows how many more Crises and the New 52 because the writers discovered how much they liked ‘re-imagining’ the whole thing and how much it boosted their sales figures for a while.

      Actually, there’s a horrible thought. What if they are going to destroy the whole Whoniverse and re-start it. What if RTD is going to start with a story about two schoolteachers going for a home visit with the guardian of a pupil who seems to have an intimate knowledge of Robspierre’s breakfast preferences….

      I find that saying gently to the enthusiastic young people in the RPG field something like: “Ah yes! They tried that in a game published by Chaosium in 1987, if I recall correctly….” is a lot more effective and boosts my sense of my own superiority much more.

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