Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Inconsistencies in Tone (in New Doctor Who)

A great actor in need of a better script.

Inconsistencies in Tone (in New Doctor Who)

***Spoiler Alert!***

Face the Raven is presented as a "swan song" for the character of Clara Oswald, without the pay-off of being one. There is a genuinely interesting mystery happening at the first and it sucks the Doctor and us in immediately. Rigsy (a nice young man from last year's strongly written episode Flatline) is now grown up and a daddy to an adorable baby girl. Unfortunately, he's missing an entire day from his memory and discovers a macabre tattoo that acts like a bomb countdown on the back of his neck. He, of course, contacts the Doctor for help. 

After all, that's what characters do on Doctor Who--they look to the Doctor for solutions to their problems. Right?

The Doctor, Clara and Rigsy trace Rigsy's last known whereabouts before his amnesia kicked in and discover all isn't as it appears. The  "alien refugee camp" hidden in plain sight in the middle of London is a very cool setting, and the rag-tag lot of aliens who dwell in its Tudor-like maze of shops are all visualized nicely. Once again, the Doctor encounters the immortal Viking girl Ashildr (Madame Me) and finds she's been doing the dirty work for some unknown villains. The script has a creepy Edgar Allen Poe feel to it up to this point, and it comes complete with ravens that punish capital offenders by stealing their lives away. (Quoth the raven: Nevermore!)

The acting is good, the costuming inventive. The horror set-up seems to be working well--but then everything goes off the rails with a seemingly tacked on "death scene." It just doesn't fit the tone of the rest of the story. In classic Doctor Who, the Doctor solves the mystery and saves the day and rights wrongs, but in this tale he just steps back and allows the "Impossible Girl" Clara to die because she's foolishly traded places with Rigsy and taken his "killer tattoo" as her own. 
What's a stasis chamber for?

What about sticking countdown Clara into the stasis chamber standing which held the apparently dead Janus woman who Rigsy was accused of murdering? What about hopping into the TARDIS and going back in time to stop Clara from acting foolishly or to put her into another stasis-type situation to stop the clock? What about implanting an immortality chip into Clara, the chip Doctor gave to Ashildr to prevent her from dying earlier this season? There are no good explanations for the Doctor's passivity in the situation given other than we're suppose to see Clara die.

As I recall, the Doctor saw Clara as an old woman in the future in the 2014 Christmas special, but she's not going to live this long now because...? In the 50th Anniversary special year, Clara was shown to have lived throughout the Doctor's twelve (thirteen) lives, being there since the day he stole the TARDIS. She seems immortal as Ashildr. She's been a  girl in the future (turned into a Dalek), and she's been a Victorian-era nanny (who also died). But now we the viewers are to take it that Clara is finally dead and gone because they needed to write Jenna Coleman out of the series. That's the only explanation that works really.

The inconsistencies in tone in the new Who series are troublesome. At least the fifth Doctor's companion Adric was written out in a very noble way--he blew up when the spaceship crashed into Earth, saving the lives of others, and there was no logical sci-fi way to bring Adric back after the ship crashed. But Clara Oswald--love her or leave her--has been given a "rebirth" several times in the Moffat era. We're suppose to think she's used up all her nine lives now? 

Nope, doesn't make sense really. So, I suspect we'll see Clara again soon in some other incarnation. It would make the most sense in a fantasy universe, after all, one where heroes have held the power over of life and death on numerous occasions. Or we won't see her again. She's finally as dead as her late boyfriend Danny is, who may or may not be dead, either, if he's a Cyberman. 

Confused? I know I am! Inconsistent plot points abound in Moffat's Doctor Who. Why didn't the script editor check the "series bible" to make sure they all added up?
Let's forget we're all intelligent for a moment, shall we?

The teen-angst, soap opera tone of Clara's drawn-out death scene brings the entire episode down and ruined the first part of it for me. I like science fiction/fantasy adventure because the heroes usually can change the laws of time, physics and life/death itself so the viewers can enjoy a satisfying ending. Sure, the "logic" is made up at times (since we've yet to discover time travelers or travel faster than the speed of light), but at least it's consistent within its own fantasy universe rules. And usually the Doctor's companions have left the TARDIS alive and on their own terms--for instance, Barbara and Ian, Jo Grant, Romana, and Martha Jones.

If the character of the Doctor has the knowledge of time travel and advanced science, then of course he can save Clara by sticking her in a stasis chamber conveniently located in the same room she's standing in when she's "dying." He's not an idiot, is he? But once again, in Face the Raven inconsistencies strike. Clara is no longer the "Impossible Girl" and the Doctor is not quite as clever as one would expect him to be in the situation.

I see why my British husband has stopped watching the new series altogether. He started watching the show when the first Doctor, William Hartnell, was on the air. The charm of the sci-fi/fantasy adventure has been bled away and replaced with dreary inconsistencies of a daytime drama. What could have been an interesting mystery story full of fascinating alien creatures languishes in the end with a downer demise of a controversial character who was never quite one thing or the other. The hero has become yet another soap opera character battered in the seas of angst, unable to engage his brain and come up with a solution when a challenges arises before the next commercial break.

It all leaves a bad taste in your mouth. Oh, well, perhaps when we hear the news the series is being moved to a daytime slot (next to the other soap operas) it won't hit us quite so hard.

What do you think? Please leave your comments below. And check out my reviews of earlier episodes of this season of Doctor Who:

Sleep No More
The Zygon Invasion


Michael T said...

I believe the Doctor cannot put her in the stasis pod because of 2 reasons; 1. They said they can give the chronolock to someone else but cannot cheat death, once she is released the raven will still be there, if it doesn't penetrate the field itself anyway. and 2. He's about to be sent away and Me promised the shade a soul and would probably be forced to drop the field when he was transported away anyway.

As for going back in time and making her not take the chronolock or changing that aspect; it is cannon that the doctor cannot go back into his own timeline once he has become involved in events.

Finally for the matter of Clara, seeing an old Clara in the future during the 2014 Christmas special, that was when the Doctor was still under the influence of the dream crab and was just a dream, not actually the future; and any future incarnations the doctor saw of Clara were shards of her that were split into the doctors life when she jumped into his timestream. They were not actually her, as those incarnations died too as we saw with the Victorian era one.

Cynthianna said...

And with a little bit of "hand-wave-ium" the Doctor couldn't fix things? ;)

If we're writing in a fantasy universe, we can make the rules work the way the plot logic dictates. As the great writing gurus say, if you place a revolver on the mantelpiece in the first act of a mystery story, you'd better used it by act three. If Clara has to "die" then make sure there's no "handwavium" allowed. But since the Doctor has gone back on his own timeline a few times in the past, nothing really is disallowed in this fantasy universe. And the stasis chamber? It's the revolver on the mantelpiece. Not using it is pretty poor plotting, don't you think?

Maybe next week we'll see how it's used. That would make the most logical sense, would it not? ;)

And when has the Doctor ever NOT fought against "impossible odds" and won? He's told time and time again he can't do such-and-such, and yet he uses his intellect to turn those impossible odds into the possible. When did the Doctor become such a fatalist? Oh, when he became a soap opera character and not a sci-fi/fantasy hero, right?

I much prefer him as a hero and not a fatalist. Don't you?

Anonymous said...

interesting that the person who wrote this doesn't seem to have watched the rest of the series..and as for inconsistencies in tone I thought It went from a mystery to one of the cleverest and made sense ' death ' of a companion

1 ) The immortality chip was given to the Rufus Hound character in the second part of maisies 2 that's gone
2 ) They have been building to the part where Clara 'is ' the doctor and thinks she can take control and take things into her own hands by accepting Rigsys tattoo she thinks she has cleverly outwitted Maisee..but didn't listen to the whole ' you can pass it on but you cant cheat it '...maisees deal with the Shade was to save Rigsy..
3 ) One of the best setups to a story I have seen...who in London is now not going to look down these narrow streets looking for Aliens

A great story and season , not so keen on the second part of Under the Lake and the Sleep no more had issues..but on a rewatch was still ok...

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