Monday, November 30, 2015

Waiting for Godot with the Doctor (On New Doctor Who)

Waiting for Godot with the Doctor

***Spoiler Alert!***

Heaven Sent is mistitled. Moffat obviously hasn't done his research into Roman Catholic tradition. His story is set in Purgatory, the place between life on Earth and eternal life in Heaven, and the Doctor is being punished for his sins, or at least he's being tortured until he makes a confession. Of course, we won't know who is doing the punishing until the very last scene, so let's hope his torture chamber is at least an interesting place to spend an hour, right?

Alas, this simply isn't the case. With a beautiful setting of a Baltic-styled castle that can rotate its rooms and floors about like a gear-work clock and the dapper Peter Capaldi--dressed elegantly once again without the black hoodie under the velvet jacket--you'd think you could spend an hour gazing into the Doctor's handsome face easily and not grow bored. How I wish I could say this was true. The predictability of the inevitable ending only brought back memories of boring theater coursework in college and being forced to sit through a performance of Waiting for Godot. If you've never seen the play, don't worry. You have much better things to do with your time.

So, we have a Time Lord all by himself who can "live forever" taking an eternity to figure out what needs to be done to get out of his own personal hell--designed with his childhood phobias in mind. As a short story, the premise might have had more punch, but as an hour-long television program the energy lagged almost from the start. The over-orchestrated soundtrack gave an early clue to the story's weaknesses of pacing and tension. The music seemed to say, "Stay awake! This is supposed to be exciting!" But how exciting can something be if you have to be hit over the head with loud music and told that it is?

The entire season seems devoid of emotional connection that one felt in the RTD days. (Who didn't cry when Donna Noble had to have her memory of the Doctor blanked?) Heaven Sent comes across more like a video game with the Doctor being your "first person shooter" as he goes from room to room or level to level. When your shooter "dies" of course you can always continue on with the game--you have more "lives" saved up, right? Dramatic tension is pretty much not expected or needed in video games, and if you get stuck on a level oftentimes you can hit a button to give you verbal or printed helpful hints to help you get to the next level. Sound familiar? (The faceless Clara at the chalkboard is playing the hints giver.)

So, like a video game, I give points for the lovely photography and intriguing sets, and points to the gorgeously photographed Peter Capaldi as the Doctor who gives it his all, but not many points to a weak script lacking in emotional resonance. Last season gave us the stronger scripts of Flatline, Mummy on the Orient Express and even the enjoyable frivolity of Robots of Sherwood. This year we're stuck with the dust in which the Doctor scribbles clues to himself in his haunted castle. Let's hope the season finale isn't any drier.

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

Face the Raven  
Sleep No More
The Zygon Inversion (or Inversion of the Zygons)
The Zygon Invasion


A J said...

I've stopped watching the modern take on Doctor Who, contenting myself instead with the Classic series airing on Retro TV. It's too depressing to see something once so good turned into a fatuous soap-opera. These days I anticipate the new season of The Musketeers far more than Who.

Cynthianna said...

Yes, The Musketeers are a lot of fun. The energy, the fast-paced scripts, the fantastic fight choreography, the gorgeous costuming, the luscious settings of middle Europe... I really enjoyed Peter Capaldi as Cardinal Richelieu in the first season of The Musketeers, too. I wish he could return to the role. He made one sexy, bad-ass villain. ;)

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