So after a disappointing finale, and a couple of major announcements about the series, a number of fans can hear the sounds of Fonzie readying a pair of water ski’s… All of this is more amazing following on mere weeks from the triumphs that were Human Nature, Family of Blood and Blink.
So what has brought the turnaround? Firstly there was the finale of the series. As I said at the time, Utopia was about one thing, bringing back the Master, and once it got to that point it was pretty gripping. The following two episodes The Sound of Drums and Last of the Time Lords were successively more disappointing with Last of the Time Lords being the first to poll more people being dissatisfied with the episode than liking it in the Behind the Sofa poll – looking at the table you can see Human Nature, Family of Blood and Blink polling 94%, 95% and 97% respectively.
Towards the end of this blog posting condensing the plot of the three series so far, there is a comment that sums things up well:
R. T. Davies: Hello. I am R. T. Davies and I am excellent. I apologise for the interruption, but I have run out of ideas on how to finish this storyline. Instead, I shall steal elements from Greek mythology, Superman, Douglas Adams, Batman, the Carry On films and …err… Flash Gordon and hope nobody notices the complete dog’s dinner I’ve made of what was, until I got my hands on it, a rather excellent series. Sorry. All sorted. Happy ending. I’ll be off now.
Certainly the big reset button resolution can work, although it is always seen as a bit of a disappointing cop out – the Star Trek Voyager episodes Year of Hell being a good example, however as has been pointed out numerous times on Behind the Sofa, things didn’t reset – time rolled back to the point where the billions of Toclofane appeared, but totally forgot the four that were there already. Alongside this, the whole Face of Boe/Jack thing doesn’t stand up to the scrutiny of watching the previous appearances of the Face of Boe in The End of the World in particular.
Following on from this we had confirmation of the casting of Kylie Minogue in the upcoming Christmas special Voyage of the Damned. This produced some light-hearted puns in news stories based on Kylie’s hits, but nothing too negative – fans seemed to be used to a bit of celebrity casting at Christmas. However all of that was obliterated by the massive negative reaction to the news that last years bit of celebrity Christmas casting, Catherine Tate who played Donna, is to be introduced as a full time companion next year. The reaction seems to be almost universal – you only need to listen to this news item take a look through the angry comments on Have Your Say to establish that. A point raised by many of the comments is that in terms of recent guest stars there is another, much better possibility for a new companion in the form of Carey Mulligan and the character Sally Sparrow that she played in Blink.
Having said that, lets not forget that this isn’t the first negative reaction to a casting decision, nor accusation of celebrity casting. The choice of Billie Piper raise a few eyebrows back in 2005, and more notably there was a similar outcry to what has happened this week when Bonnie Langford was cast as Melanie Bush in the series back in 1986.
So is the show about to Jump the Shark? Although the last couple of episodes were disappointing, and the casting of Catherine Tate has come as somewhat of a shock I think not. Over the past three years it has become clear that although Russell T Davies should certainly get the credit for spearheading the return of the series, he is not the best of the writers. Perhaps because he does write the majority of the episodes, and despite the fact that he has produced some relatively good episodes in the past, he does seem to have been responsible for the majority of the absolute clunkers. Other writers such as Paul Cornell and Steven Moffat are the ones who have won the awards, but it is worth remembering that they are only contributing one or two episodes compared to the four or five that Davies produces. Rumour has it that Davies (along perhaps with David Tennant) will leave the series at the end of season 4.
The thing to bear in mind is that the programme has by many peoples definition already Jumpped the Shark and recovered. Although there is debate over the later Sylvester McCoy stories most people seem to think that the programme hit a low patch during the eighties, similarly shown by the falling ratings and ultimate axing of the show. Even before that there have been points where due to falling ratings it was in danger and radical changes were made, a prime example being in 1969 when amidst falling ratings and an unhappy star, Derrick Sherwin took the decision to make the next season earth-bound and brought in the characters and massive change of style of the UNIT era. Currently ratings look strong, and it remains to be seen whether the initial opposition this week translates into falling ratings next year. Even if that happens, the BBC have certainly discovered what a massive money-spinner a well funded Doctor Who can be, so I don’t doubt that if that happens the series will transform again, and like other era’s we’ll be looking back on the Russell T Davies era and looking forward to something else…