If you’re a Doctor Who fan (and even if you aren’t, because fucking Doctor Who fans), you might be aware that the scripts for the first five episodes of the next season (or series, if you’re English) have leaked. This is a bigger deal than it usually is, because the next season is extra highly-anticipated for being the first that will star Peter Capaldi as the new, twelfth Doctor. If you have no idea what I’m talking about by this point, this post probably isn’t for you.
Even if you do know what I’m talking about, this post might still not be for you. Because I read the leaked script of the first episode, and I’d like to talk about it quite frankly. Usually I’m a very anti-spoiler sort of person. I hate ruining surprises for myself, and I like the anticipation. So why did I break this habit and read the leaked scripts ahead of time?
Because, as of late, Doctor Who has been garbage.
I’m one of the few people who actually liked the sixth season, and I will still defend it to this day. But I quickly stopped caring during the seventh season. Quite a lot happened during the seventh season. Story-wise, the eleventh Doctor’s long-term companions Amy and Rory were written out halfway through the season, and replaced with the blander, yet identical, Clara Oswald. Behind the scenes, head writer Steven Moffat continued his power-crazy dive into utter wank. Buoyed by the success of his earlier work with Doctor Who and the smash hit Sherlock (which was also completely ruined in its most recent season), Moffat seemed to get full of himself. Plots became more and more complicated and eventually stopped even remotely making any logical sense.
Much, much worse, Doctor Who got more and more sexist and became a sad male power fantasy. Every single female character, without fail, was a spunky, sexy, snarky woman mindlessly doting over the Doctor, who developed a tendency to brood over his repressed feelings in self-imposed isolation. The types got old fast, and by the time we got to the Eleventh Doctor’s final episode, we had an episode that changed its narrative every ten minutes and stuck the Doctor on a random planet in self-imposed isolation for centuries to showcase the great, unparalleled capacity of male sadness.
It was, as I somewhat colorfully described the episode to a friend, the televisual equivalent of Steven Moffat jizzing into a cup.
While the BBC has been freaking out over the leaked scripts, begging fans not to spoil the new episodes for themselves or for other fans, I immediately sought them out to see if they would confirm my fears that the show would remain this clusterfuck of nonsensical storytelling and misogynist drivel. I mean, hey, I’d rather waste half an hour reading something shitty on the internet than watch a full hour-plus episode of it. So I read it. And now I have thoughts. And that being said…
This Post Contains Spoilers
I’ll do my best to keep spoilers to a minimum and only discuss matters concerning my criticisms as described above, but if you do not want to learn details about the upcoming Doctor Who episodes, do not continue reading. Because we’re going to talk about this:
Seriously, It’s Spoiler-Town After This Point
Everyone here still sure they want to do this? Sweet. Let’s go.
Is The Story So Complicated That It Stops Making Logical Sense?
So this is just based on the first episode, and it’s not like Moffat can’t still pull out a single good episode from time to time (thank god the 50th anniversary episode was watchable), but IT MADE SENSE. Let’s compare:
Plot of Eleventh Doctor’s Last Episode
- The Doctor is going to Clara’s for Christmas (why not)
- The Doctor is investigating a planet surrounded by warships
- The Doctor goes to a… space warrior church?
- The Doctor defends a town where it is Christmas every day (why not) for actual centuries
- This also happens because the entire Time Lord race which was placed in a pocket universe for safe keeping in a previous episode is coming back on the Christmas planet surrounded by every Doctor Who monster ever and also the space warrior church which I guess is still doing something?
- The Doctor accepts the stalemate and spends actual centuries defending Christmas planet
- Then he dies
- But he dies for good because he’s on his last life
- But then he’s not
- The Doctor shoots magic rays of light out of his arms to destroy the warships surrounding the planet (WHY NOT)
- I have no fucking clue what happened to space warrior church
Plot of Twelfth Doctor’s First Episode
- The Doctor and Clara return to London with a dinosaur (on accident)
- There is a mysterious figure going around stealing people’s body parts
- The Doctor and Clara investigate what’s going on and resolve the problem
Holy shit! See how easy that was? You can follow that shit, because it makes sense! There is focus and direction and it doesn’t sound like the writer never actually settled on an idea.
But How Are The Subplots?
Okay, well, they do bog it down.
Once again there is entirely too much time devoted to establishing “a darker doctor”. Like the last season. And the season before that. Is Steven Moffat just continually forgetting that every season he’s touting a new, darker side of the Doctor? Is there an admission in there somewhere that it keeps failing?
Series 7 was especially bad for this, because it didn’t properly contextualize anything that was going on, like one day the Doctor just woke up and decided, “Fuck it. I’m gonna murder some bitches.” It’s done a little better here (albeit again, like we’re supposed to think it’s new or something), mostly framed through Clara’s unfamiliarity with the new Doctor and through some genuine ambiguity in other instances.
But once again, there’s this lingering element of sad male power fantasy. The Doctor sort of just disappears for a while (because of regeneration troubles), leaving Clara (and Vastra and Jenny, there to bring up the spunky, sexy, snarky Moffat-woman count up to three) behind to… wait for a man to do things. There’s this weirdly lengthy-feeling scene where the three of them just sort of go through normal life doing nothing but wait for the Doctor to show up again. Thankfully, it’s not for centuries this time, but it’s a little annoying we have to keep going through this same song and dance.
In an interesting way, this actually feels reminiscent of the Ninth Doctor’s tenure, where the emotional center of the show was really centered in his human companion by means of playing the audience surrogate rather than, you know, witty eye candy. I have no idea if it will actually translate like that from the page to the actual episode, but it would be an improvement to see Clara make the audience feel things because of Clara, rather than because of what Clara does for the Doctor.
So Let’s Talk About Clara And Misogyny Now
It’s not really a spoiler to say that Clara is still the worst part of the show, is it? Because, I mean… Clara.
To clarify, this is not a criticism against Jenna Coleman, but against the character that Steven Moffat continues to incompetently write. Like I was worried about, an absolutely painful part of the episode (especially in the first half) is dedicated to Clara’s feelings towards the Doctor, now complicated by the fact that he’s suddenly an old man.
Clara: You said, ‘renewed.’ He doesn’t look renewed. He looks… older.
Vastra: You thought he was young?
Clara: He looked young.
Vastra: He looked like your dashing young gentleman friend. Your lover, even.
Clara: Shut up!
And it’s worse, because they’ve sort of retconned the Doctor to have been in on it.
The Doctor: I have made many mistakes, and it’s about time I did something about that. Starting right now. Clara, I am not your boyfriend.
Clara: I never thought you were.
The Doctor: I never said it was your mistake.
Hopefully this means that we’re done with this forever now, because OH MY GOD THIS IS PAINFUL
Other Various Misogyny, Because Steven Moffat
Once again, female characters cannot exist if they don’t flirt with the Doctor at least once:
The Doctor: You want to psychic link with me? The size of my brain… it would be like dropping a piano on you.
Vastra: Be gentle, then.
And remember all that controversy over the nudity jokes from Matt Smith’s final episode? Where the Doctor was “accidentally” naked in front of Clara’s family, which was just stupid, but then actually managed to get offensive with another nudity joke later when the Doctor didn’t tell Clara he was projecting her appearance into the church (long story) as nude. It was a stupid joke, certainly (Clara looked like she was wearing clothes and thought she was, when to everyone around her, she looked naked! What humorous juxtaposition!), made even worse by the non-consensual nature of it, stripping Clara of her agency.
The reason why I bring this all up again is because Steven Moffat chose a really weird thing to stick to his guns to.
Clara: What are you looking at?
Strax: Your subconscious. […] A lot of muscular young men doing sport. […] It could be sport.
Clara: Well, stop looking.
Strax: Oh, you’re going to do quite well. […] Put your clothes back on.
Clara: They are on.
I feel like I remember reading another uncomfortable nudity joke later on in the script, but I don’t feel like looking for it again.
Okay, Well, It Doesn’t Do Anything REALLY Stupid, Like, Mention Handles Or Some Shit
Are You Fucking Serious
The Doctor: (To Clara) I remember you! You’re Handles! You used to be a little… a little robot head, and now…
Sure, it’s not the worst callback. But Handles was the worst.
…Please Explain Half a Year After The Fact Why You Hated Handles So Much, Matthew
Remember that time (Waters of Mars) the Tenth Doctor said this?
GADGET: Gadget gadget.
DOCTOR: Does it have to keep saying that?
ROMAN: I think it’s funny.
DOCTOR: I hate funny robots.
And then remember that time (Day of the Doctor) the Eleventh Doctor said this?
HANDLES: Attention. Emergency. Attention.
DOCTOR: Handles, what is it? What’s wrong?
HANDLES: Urgent action required. You must patch the telephone device back through the console unit.
(Handles’ lights go out.)
DOCTOR: Come back. Handles?
I’m just saying, we went from “ugh, funny robots?” to “HANDLES WAS MUH BEST FREND. THIS IS A SCENE WE’RE SUPPOSED TO BE SAD ABOUT.”
Got That Out Of Your System?
…So How’s The New Doctor?
Ah! Well, that’s the real wild card in all of this, because the one thing the leaked scripts can’t tell us is the one thing we really want to know: how’s Peter Capaldi’s Doctor?
Based on the dialogue, at least, I think we’re looking at a cross between the Eleventh Doctor and the Ninth Doctor. He’s got a similar sort of scatterbrained insanity to the Eleventh (Moffat’s still writing, after all), but a weird disdain for humanity akin to the Ninth. And he was absolutely my favorite part of the script:
The Doctor: Oh, that’s Scots… I’m Scot’s… I’ve gone a bit Scottish, haven’t I?
(A fragment of a newspaper – we can see the headline: “Fourth case of spontaneous combustion.”)
[Minor Character]: What devilry is this, sir?
The Doctor: I don’t know. But I probably blame the English.
Although I took no notes on this and I’m struggling to remember what my favorite jokes were from him, but I do recall I was really enjoying the new Doctor’s lines, and it reminded me why I even liked this show at all: it’s fun.
Clara: Hang on, she called the police? We never do that, we should start.
The Doctor: (To the villain) You see? Destroy us if you will, they’re still going to close your restaurant. (A beat) That was going to sound better.
He probably won’t come entirely to life as his own Doctor (I couldn’t begin to compare 9, 10, and 11, but I’m seeing threads of them in 12) until we actually see the episode, but it does have me rather excited to see it.
Based on the script for the first episode, the new Doctor Who seems like an improvement over its most recent season. It’s still got a lot of the increasingly usual problematic Moffat bullshit, and that could just as quickly bring it back the show back down to its inane, worthless lows. I’m not even entirely optimistic this won’t happen, given how bad Moffat’s other shows (Sherlock) have gotten, and that he can turn around a good episode (“Day of the Doctor”) even amidst his worst spells of offensive, nonsensical drivel.
But reading the script, I was actually excited, and that’s more than I could say of how I’ve felt while experiencing most of the show’s most recent episodes. It’s not 100% promising, but it’s better than I was expecting.
So Wanna Talk About The Big Emotional Surprise?
Guys, this is like a super spoiler. I really wanna freak out about the ending of the first episode, but I also want you to really think about if you want to ruin this for yourselves.
Seriously, This Is On A Whole Other Level Of Spoilers After This Point
Okay Crazy Spoiler Times Over Here
The episode ends with a huge surprise I would never have expected coming. The Eleventh Doctor.
(Clara pulls out her phone)
Clara: Hello? Hello…
(A familiar voice.)
The Eleventh Doctor: (Off Screen) … it’s me.
The previous Doctor calls the companion to assure them that the new Doctor still needs them. This has never been done before.
(Clara glances round – to see the Twelfth Doctor, leaning out of his TARDIS. The Eleventh Doctor hears the other voice.)
The Eleventh Doctor (OS): Is that the Doctor?
The Twelfth Doctor: Is that the Doctor?
You could argue that this really cheapens the transition from one to the other, if you immediately bring back what what just replaced when you’re telling the audience to get ready for change. Personally, the Eleventh Doctor’s last episode was such a mishandled, shoddy, insultingly bad farewell for Matt Smith, I love seeing the opportunity for him to get one last goodbye.
Even if it is for Clara, because, ugh, Clara.