Now this was interesting. All I was planning to say tonight was that I still don’t understand why this story needed to be a two-parter, and that it’s mostly just fine, if not really engaging, apart from a long, long patch when it gets really mawkish and I wished they’d just get on with it. Then the kid turned on it, with a vengeance. This was very surprising.
Throughout the first half of this series, we keep getting traces of a bigger story behind the scenes. Amy keeps seeing glimpses of a lady wearing an eye patch looking at her wherever they go. She confided in the Doctor at the end of “The Impossible Astronaut” that she was pregnant, but when they got back together, weeks later, she said that she was mistaken. This builds up to a grim little cliffhanger tonight: the real Amy, very pregnant, is being held captive and sedated in some room somewhere, being looked in on by the eye patch lady. The Amy who’s been in the series since they all split up between episodes one and two is a copy who thought she was the real thing. And that’s beside the bigger point that we saw at the outset: somehow, 200 years in his future, this Doctor dies, and Amy and Rory can’t tell “their” Doctor about it.
All of this was too much for the kid, who found it both distasteful and very, very confusing. Later, I clarified with him that he certainly enjoyed the previous series up to this one, even though they had running background storylines like Torchwood or Bad Wolf or the crack in the universe. But he made his point by stomping over to the shelf where I keep the DVDs and Blu-rays of the first twenty-six seasons, and growled “Why can’t the shows be separate like they used to? This is too confusing and it doesn’t make any sense!”
I thought I could point out that even in the “classic” days, Doctor Who did rely on at least some continuity. Unfortunately for me, he chose to illustrate his point by pulling out “The Seeds of Death”, which, other than the Ice Warriors, doesn’t have much of any connection to any previous story, which he rammed right back at me. He wouldn’t budge, and more power to him. He’s absolutely right to say that this series is far, far more intricately built and connected than any previous one, and certainly we’ve never had big upheavals like this one right in the middle of the run, and if it doesn’t work for him, he’s certainly not alone in that opinion.
Doctor Who is kind of unique in that many of its reviewers and commentators, perhaps because they have latent swirlie issues from their own childhoods or are still sore about the show’s cancellation in 1989, will chastise the show for not making sense to the general audience, only the regular fans. “Heaven knows what a casual viewer would think of this,” they often moan, a complaint not lodged against any other program that’s ever been made. (Think about it. Walking Dead reviewers never have to say that.) But with series six, it looks like that sort of complaint has real merit. Doctor Who is, at its core, a program for families. There will always be some stories that don’t work for some viewers, or leave some viewers disappointed or bored. But when the nine year-olds don’t understand what the heck is even happening, then that seems like pretty strong evidence to me that the creators went too far and needed to dial things back.
At least next time, he’ll meet Strax. We think he’ll like Strax, at least.