BBC America held a marathon of episodes from the new Dr. Who series with David Tennant this weekend. Though I am not a big fan of the new series, I watched because I eagerly looked forward to the return of Davros, creator of the Daleks, in "The Stolen Earth" and "Journey's End." Julian Bleach did a fine job of portraying Davros in a way that was far more subtle than the screaming performances of Terry Molloy but more emotionally complex than that of Michael Wisher and David Gooderson. It was also good to see Elisabeth Sladen as Sarah Jane Smith, one of the best companions to accompany the doctor across time and space. And, let's not forget the Daleks.
I should have enjoyed the episodes, but I didn't. Despite all the positives, the new series continues to be more action oriented, hence far less sophisticated than the original. Yes, the special effects are light-years ahead of the rubber suits and styrofoam miniaturest of the old one, but the intelligently complex plots of the original more than made up for the low budget sets. The new series, by contrast, is all flash and little substance. It screams at you visually, but lets you down intellectually.
The characters are not very appealing either. I didn't like Christopher Eccleston, who would have made a better companion than the Doctor, and I positive loathe David Tennant whose hammy over-emoting and posturing is just plain annoying. Equally repulsive is the sappy Rose Tyler, played by Billie Piper, whose romance with the Doctor is utterly inappropriate for the character. Indeed, "overdone" aptly describes many of the supporting performances in the new series. Every new companion seems to feel the need to "project" at the expense of actually acting.
As for the plot, it seems that there is a Dalek plot formula which must be followed: Dalek remnant somehow survives destruction of empire, remnant somehow replicates, replicates somehow develop into an empire without anyone noticing, empire threatens to take over the world, Doctor arrives, Doctor destroys empire. Rinse, lather, repeat. I'm tired of it. It's more than just predictable - it's unimaginative. Time to break out of the mold.
I don't know what to think after all of this. Part of me is glad that Dr. Who is on the air again, but another part of me is still waiting for the real Dr. Who to appear. Maybe they will get it right when David Tennant moves on, but that's probably just wishful thinking. Today's science fiction viewers seem to prefer dynamic visuals and action oriented plots to thoughtful ones. Until tastes change, it seems unlikely that a series in the old mold will return.
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