And when I say “caught up” I don’t just mean on the last few episodes. I mean I’ve caught up on ALL of them. (Well, all of them since the show returned in 2005, that is.)
Warning: There are some broad spoilers below.
A few years ago, during the David Tennant run as the doctor, I gave it a try, I watched a few episodes, but it didn’t stick. The show’s direction was a little too wayward for my tastes. The humor was never quite funny enough. The stakes never felt real enough. But the worst offense — the sci-fi just wasn’t that engaging. There was simply too much “fi” and not enough “sci.” In every episode I saw (albeit, only a handful), The Doctor’s solutions came across more as “magic” than anything else. And as much as I love magic (and I really do), it’s a terrible way to bring proper closure to a climactic story. “Deus ex machina” is a metaphorical term applied to a lot of stories with forced, unsatisfying endings, but in the case of the few Doctor Who episodes I watched, the term could be applied literally. Very literally. More than one episode ended with the Doctor’s Tardis (a “machina”) literally having some god-like power (a “deus”) that turned out to be just what the Doctor needed to extricate himself from a particularly hairy situation. I watched it. I gave it my full attention. I decided it wasn’t for me.
Up until January of this year, I’d been working with TV producers who had two shows on the air. And then suddenly both their shows got cancelled in practically the same week. Suffice it to say, I suddenly had a lot of free time. So I decided to give Doctor Who another chance. This time I’d start with the very first episode of the revived series (“Rose“) and keep going until I absolutely couldn’t take it any longer. The show has a huge following worldwide, so all those millions of people can’t be wrong… can they?
Tennant was a treat, but, overall, I found the Davies-scripted era to be a slog. Even his best episodes still had too much hokum for me. But I have to admit… It was all worth it to get to the Moffat era. I can’t say enough good things about these episodes. Sure, there are still times that the Doctor seems to have a magic button he just has to press to make the monsters/aliens/temporal paradoxes go away, but like Lost and Fringe, the show is now presenting its magic buttons in much more convincing ways.
Also gone: Davies’s tendency to continually put the fate of modern-day Earth in jeopardy in VERY public ways. By the end of series 4 (his last as showrunner), the Earth was completely unrecognizable as our own. It was now some parallel earth with parallel earthlings who had witnessed and survived multiple widespread, planetary alien attacks. The fun of believing the Doctor could be really amongst us — could really be interacting with our history and our future — was gone. The Doctor was amongst them. He interacted with their history and their future. They were simply not us.
Maybe the smartest decision Moffat made was to hit his own magical button: the delete key on his keyboard. When The Doctor first meets Amy Pond, he marvels at her inability to remember any of those recent attacks on Earth. Finally, the audience has a surrogate again. Someone who feels like one of us. That crack in the wall of Amy’s bedroom — a crack-in-time that erased certain persons and events from history — was perfect. I chose to believe that the crack in time was big enough that everyone had forgotten about the numerous world-threatening events of the Davies era.
Now, the Moffat era isn’t perfect. For example, the crack-in-time was fixed at the end of series 5 and I still don’t know who remembers what about whom. I have no idea how the real Rory can share memories with the robot Rory. And I’d really like an explanation why the Doctor can’t just travel to mid-20th Century Manhattan and pay a quick visit to his “lost” companions. (I’ll buy that he can’t bring them back to the present without creating yet another paradox — even though all of series 6 was about circumnavigating paradoxes — but the Doctor explicitly says he can’t he even see them again.) Those quibbles aside, on a whole, it’s been really great television. I’m really glad I gave it my time.*
*okay, you can groan at that