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The Time of the Doctor – Episode Review

This entry started out as a comment on Michael Ray Johnson’s blog, Of Dice and Pen, however proved to be too long for the comment form to accept, so I decided to post it here.

This episode struck me as an “epilogue” to Matt Smith’s storyline, and just as with the last few episodes of Babylon 5′s Season 5, it seemed more like the writer told he needed fill an hour of TV, but not really have any ideas to build a story with.

Epilogues are great, when used effectively. Here, as you say, there was just way too much going on crammed in and stuck together. The town’s name, Christmas, was clearly contrived for use in the Christmas Special. A bit like, “oh, we’re writing a Christmas Special, we’d better make a note of that fact, but we’ve got a Doctor to kill off, a cliff hanger to wrap up, and a new actor to introduce. We’re swamped!” … “Oh wait, let’s call the town Christmas and bake a turkey in the TARDIS!” … “YEAH!”

The story does have parts going for it. Bringing back Amy Pond for a quick “bye bye” was a nice touch, as was removing the bow tie (bow ties are cool), and as Christopher says above – the snap to the new Doctor was brilliant (“do you know how to fly this thing?” was an AWESOME line).

Eventually, the fact that the Doctor was going to run out of lives was going to have to be dealt with. There’s no reason for this needing to be a huge deal, because regeneration as it stands is a huge deal anyway. It just keeps going, and now, fortunately, and given that it took the BBC 50 years to go through the initial 12 regenerations (admittedly through a little bit of a back-door excuse thrown in by Moffat for the fun of it) I think it’s fair to say we don’t need to worry about this again for, oh I don’t know, another 50 years*.

I also don’t agree with the accusations of sexism levelled against Moffat. So, he smacks Amy on the butt? Yeah, it’s inappropriate for a guy to do that to someone in a professional setting, but let’s face it – the Doctor and Amy aren’t in a professional setting. They’re, by that point, very close friends having a lot of fun together and, because of the nature of their adventures, they have a very intimate life together. It’s not a marriage, or sexual, since Amy’s with Rory, but still, when two people spend as much time together as the Doctor and Amy do, and become that comfortable with each other, it’s something that I can see happening.

I could have done without the doctor flashing Clara’s family. It was a moment that was obviously thrown in for a bit of a laugh, but it fell totally flat. There was no need to build in a necessity for nudity as a show of respect to the Papal Mainframe, but since Moffat did put that bit in there, having the Doctor naked on the TARDIS made sense. Projecting clothes into Clara’s mind when preparing to go to see her family? Silly to the extreme – but sexist? No; just dumb.

I think Moffat is getting unfair treatment when it comes to the so-called social issues. So, he downplayed LBGTTQWHATEVEROTHERLETTERSTHEYDECIDETOADDTHISWEEK
characters? There’s not a complete lack of them, like one blogger posted. Canton Everett Delaware III shows up in The Impossible Astronaut and The Day of the Moon, and as well, there’s the rather unusual relationship of Vastra and Jenny, who are, not only both female, but completely different species!

There’s “inclusiveness”, and there’s “tokenism”. Inclusiveness puts a trait, such as homosexuality, into a character, and leaves it alone unless it’s crucial to the plot. Canton Everett is a good example of this – he reveals, at the end of The Day of the Moon that he wants to get married, to another man. It’s just there and stands alone, for itself. It makes for a nice humourous end to that particular character’s storyline without beating the viewer over the head with it. Tokenism, on the other hand, is exactly that – beating the user over the head with it. Tokenism takes a character, puts in a trait, and then makes it blatantly obvious that it’s there deliberately, intentionally, and says to the viewer, LOOK!! RIGHT HERE! WE’VE GOT THE GAY CHARACTER! SEE?! LOOK HOW INCLUSIVE WE ARE! WE’RE GOOD, INCLUSIVE PRODUCERS AREN’T WE? And so on.

Not only is it very annoying to the viewer when this gets done, it’s also insulting to the very community that the producers are trying to include! If it seems forced, it usually is, and produces a very cynical response. As John Barrowman said at Calgary Expo last Spring: “I’m a man who happens to like other men.” He doesn’t define himself by his sexual orientation, and neither should we. He made it very clear that he is comfortable with who he is, and that’s all that matters.

Doctor Who’s showrunners, both Moffat and Davies before him, have done an excellent job of being inclusive without resorting to tokenism.

*Average time spent playing The Doctor = 3.5 years * 13 lives = 45 years:
Doctor Harnell: 4 Years
Doctor Troughton: 3 Years
Doctor Pertwee: 3 Years
Doctor T. Baker: 7 Years
Doctor Davison: 3 Years
Doctor C. Baker: 2 Years
Doctor McCoy: 3 Years (Dammit, Jim, I’m a Time Lord, not a physician!)
Doctor McGann: (Not counted due to one full-length story and one brief appearance)
Doctor Hurt: (Not counted for the same reason)
Doctor Eccleston: 1 Year
Doctor Tennant: 4 Years
Doctor Smith: 3 Years

About Steven Britton

Steve is a freelance programmer, partial billionaire, dad, Recovering Atheist, Conservative, and occasionally prolific blogger.
  • https://www.facebook.com/doron.grossmannaples Doron Grossman-Naples

    I would actually consider Canton to be, if not tokenism, harmful to the view of the LGBTQ community. You write that it makes a “nice humorous end” to his character. Why is it humorous? Because it relies on our expectation that main characters are straight. I also wouldn’t consider it inclusiveness, as it isn’t even known until the last minute that he’s shown, and is used as a gag.

    As for the Doctor slapping Clara’s butt, that’s completely inappropriate, even among close friends, unless one has said it’s okay, and we have no reason to believe that Clara has, considering that she hides her crush on the Doctor, and that it seems to make her uncomfortable (similar to the Doctor flashing her).

    As for the inclusion of gay characters in general, I think the biggest issue with this is that Moffat has had six gay characters in his time as showrunner (not counting River, who is only Bi due to Word of God): the soldiers from A Good Man Goes To War, who are a fair representation in my opinion; Canton, whose problems I explain above; Oswin in Asylum of the Daleks, whose possible bisexuality is used as a gag (“it was just a phase”); and Jenny and Vastra, whose relationship is good in some places, but also used for gags and sometimes completely ignored.

    I agree that tokenism is unfortunate; however, what we want is not tokenism, but a realistic representation of LGBTQ characters in an awesome show. Think about it: six characters in three seasons plus specials, only two of whom are recurring. They’re much rarer in DW than they are in real life (although less so than many other TV shows), and Moffat has said that he adds gay characters because he thinks they’re “exciting” (or something of that sort) which isn’t the type of thing that makes realistic characters.

    • http://scbritton.wordpress.com Steven Britton

      What is a “realistic representation?” Forcing sexual orientation into a storyline simply for the sake of doing so? I hope not – that would be gratuitous and worthy of accusations of “jumping the shark.”

      Consider Ellen. The show was really good at first, until Ellen came out. Then it went downhill. The majority of viewers agree that it because all about being gay and not about being a sitcom. This was unfortunate.

      The issue around Canton ending the episode by mentioning he wanted to marry his love – and Nixon telling him that they weren’t quite ready for that – it’s well within character for Nixon, and also well within the cultural context of 1963, so I think it’s a perfectly reasonable and fair portrayal.

      I stand by my point about the Doctor and Clara – yes, he slapped her butt. what we don’t know is how long they’ve been together at that point, what they’ve been through, and so on. The relationship between the Doctor and his companions is always a complex one – and in the context of a close intimate relationship, the boundaries – such as butt-slapping get lowered. In an office environment between two co-workers, or worse, boss-employee, you’re absolutely right – except when you’re dealing with real-world, real-life situations. Consider the film, Disclosure, which deals precisely with this. At the beginning of the film, Michael Douglas’ character slaps one of his subordinates on the butt as she walks away. During the course of the story, as the plot develops, it’s revealed she didn’t appreciate it, didn’t like it, but also didn’t think it meant any more than him being friendly – which it was also very clear it was. As the film wrapped up, she brought it up. He cut her off, saying, “you’re absolutely right about that. It was inappropriate, and I apologize.” She said, “fine,” and, as he waked away, she smacked him on the butt with her papers.

      My point: The Doctor and Clara have developed a comfortable, intimate friendship. No, it’s not sexual, but it is still a very close relationship. They’re comfortable and relaxed around each other, and things like the butt-slap are completely in character for the youth of the characters – and let’s be honest, while the Doctor is chronologically ancient, the personality is very child-like.)

      If you want LGBTQ issues to be advanced, then LGBTQ needs to be treated the same and equally as everyone else gets treated. Face it – the LGBTQ population is in the minority, and, if, say, 5 percent of the worlds population is LGBTQ, then any given character would have a 5 percent chance of being LGBTQ. So therefore, realistically, if there’s a need to raise a character’s sexual orientation (and there usually isn’t – gay or straight) then you’d be fair to say that 5 times out of 100 that it’s needed to be raised, 5 characters would be LGBTQ.

      Don’t create characters that are gay for the sake of being gay, create good, strong, decent characters who may, if needed, happen to be gay. It’s crazy to define people by their sexual orientation in the real world, so why do it on TV?

      • https://www.facebook.com/doron.grossmannaples Doron Grossman-Naples

        “What is a “realistic representation?” Forcing sexual orientation into a storyline simply for the sake of doing so? I hope not – that would be gratuitous and worthy of accusations of “jumping the shark.””

        No, realistic representation would be making about 5% of the characters just happen to be gay, about the same as in the real world. It wouldn’t have to have anything to do with the plot, they just would be gay.

        And slapping someone’s butt, even in such an intimate relationship, is inappropriate to do when you first meet your friend/girlfriend’s family, I’m sure you’ll agree.

        And once again, you misunderstand. Nowhere did I say that we should create characters that are gay “for the sake of being gay”. We should take characters we already have, and make 5% of them gay.

        “Consider Ellen. The show was really good at first, until Ellen came out. Then it went downhill. The majority of viewers agree that it because all about being gay and not about being a sitcom. This was unfortunate.”

        That’s because her homosexuality was handled badly. Making characters gay doesn’t in any way mean their story has to be about being gay.

        One good example is the character Renly Baratheon from Game of Thrones. He’s definitely gay, but his story has almost nothing to do with that. His storyline is all about his attempt to become king. His sexual orientation only comes into it when he’s expected to have kids with his wife, and it’s a fairly minor plot point.

        • http://scbritton.wordpress.com Steven Britton

          How can you tell a character is gay just by looking at them? You can’t? You’d have to drop something into the dialog or story where it’s made blatantly obvious that they’re gay – like they did for Renly Baratheon in Game of Thrones in the scene where his lover was shaving him. The scene with his lover, and, later, his scene with Natalie Portman were simply excuses to have some T&A on the show. Both scenes could have been deal with without the slurping and/or dialogue with a topless Natalie. His being gay is important – because he can’t get excited about being with his wife, yes – and that’s where it all comes together, of course. I have no issue with that at all.

          In the context of Doctor Who, though, really, who cares? Unless it’s a critical element to the plot – like with Renly in Game of Thrones – what does it matter if someone is gay or not? None of the storylines have needed a gay character, so, unless you have a character say, “by the way, look at me, I’m gay,” you have no way of knowing who is gay and who is straight, and, by the way, dropping a line in like that would seem so contrived and gratuitous, that it would do more harm to the storyline than good. So, just as in reality, as you walk down the street a percentage of the people you see are likely to be gay. But unless it’s critical for you to know – such as you’re interested in a relationship with one of them – you probably never will.

          When I was attending the election night wrap up party for Calgary’s civic election last October, I found myself chatting with two very nice people; one was a jewish lady who was sharing some interesting stories. The other was a guy who had just started working for the City of Calgary. I never asked, because it wasn’t relevent to the discussion, but he was clearly, obviously, by the way he was speaking and acting, gay. I couldn’t, by the way, care less about it. It’s just not important. So if it’s not important in real life, let’s not force it into fiction, either by making 5% of the characters gay or deliberately creating gay characters. If a storyline comes up where a character needs to be gay, then it can be dealt with, and if someone writes a storyline where that happens, then fine, but to just drop it in there, as I said, is pointless.

          Now, as for that infamous butt-slapp… remember – Clara introduced The Doctor as her boyfriend. He was playing the part of her boyfriend, and doing it badly. That was the whole point. It was meant to be awkward.

          All in all, it was a pretty lame episode, but there are enough things to criticize it for other than some perceived sexism and, possibly homophobia on the part of Steven Moffat.

  • https://www.facebook.com/doron.grossmannaples Doron Grossman-Naples

    The problem is that Steven Moffat writes lots of couples, but except for the soldiers and Jenny and Vastra, they’re straight. All of them. Just dropping in a gay or lesbian couple every so often when there’s a reason for a couple to be there. Like, for instance, there are plenty of one-off characters who just happen to have a boyfriend/girlfriend or spouse—that one character from “The Rebel Flesh” and “The Almost People” who’s a dad, for example. At one point he’s talking to his son on the phone and says something along the lines of “say hi to mommy for me”. Characters like that just show up occasionally. For example, if Moffat had decided he wanted to throw in a gay character occasionally and decided “why not this guy”. He could have just changed the line to “say hi to daddy for me”. Simple as that. Not a huge deal, and not shoehorning either.

    “Now, as for that infamous butt-slapp… remember – Clara introduced The Doctor as her boyfriend. He was playing the part of her boyfriend, and doing it badly. That was the whole point. It was meant to be awkward.”

    Yes, but that’s not the point. There are plenty of other ways for the Doctor to be awkward, and any type of inappropriate contact without consent is not okay, no matter what, even if they’re very close friends or even in a relationship.

    • http://scbritton.wordpress.com Steven Britton

      I’m going to call an end to this conversation here – we’re simply repeating our existing points, and it all boils down to a matter of perception over what’s appropriate and what isn’t. I say it was within character. You say it wasn’t. The viewers can each decide for themselves.

      The only other conclusion I can make here is I think you’re searching for reasons to dislike Steven Moffat, and I think, regardless of what he does, you’ll be unhappy about something. I think that, if Steven Moffat had 5 gay characters in one episode, you’d be upset he didn’t have six.

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