Dear Steven Moffat: The Caretaker

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Dear Steven,

Last week, with some prescience, we discussed Clara’s apparent difficulty in balancing her TARDIS life with her moribund career as a secondary school English teacher and her relationship with Danny “Mr” Pink (played in Reservoir Dogs by Steve Buscemi). Though you hijacked his credit, as is now your wont, we discerned from “The Caretaker” that this also preoccupied veteran Doctor Who writer Gareth Roberts. His episode didn’t settle the issue; the Doctor’s still happy to travel with Clara on a piecemeal basis, as he manifestly wasn’t for the duration of the classic series (making it unlikely he’d change his mind in his autumn years); but we gained some understanding as to why the choleric grey head might be prepared to indulge his latest friend. The Doctor wants Clara to be happy, that is snuggled and sexed, and he knows he can’t provide that kind of universal experience, so like a single Dad who’s afraid of an empty nest he’s prepared to give Clara her space, while being suspicious of her boyfriends.

Much of “The Caretaker” was concerned with Clara and Danny’s relationship and whether the Doctor would approve of the union. On paper this was not a story to inspire confidence, as it read like the programme debasing itself with maudlin family drama, but the execution was a great deal more intricate, with Roberts using a variant on the fish out of water setup employed in his old episode, “The Lodger”, to chip away at the dynamic governing the Doctor and Clara’s bond.

The Time Lord’s initial assumption, that Clara was riding the floppy haired, bow tied Adrian, simply because he looked like his former incarnation, was a neat little aside that spoke to the Doctor’s self-regard, while his dismissal of former solider Pink as a cleft-brained grunt, and the assumption that he could only be a physical education teacher, underlined his contempt for violence and those associated with prosecuting it. For her part, Clara craved the Doctor’s approval, a scene in which she thought she had it being gently touching, and it was this shift to a firm Father-Daughter dynamic that leant the episode a little psychological punch.

If you ask me, Steven, the Doctor was right to give Pink a hard time for being allegedly second rate, just for the wrong reason. He concentrated on his apparent lack of brains when in truth he should have rounded on Clara for dating someone with so little personality. Honestly, does he have to be so beige? What does a vivacious and energetic woman like Clara see in this walking yawn? I’ll bet he shaves his pubic hair, doesn’t he? And don’t tell me opposites attract, or that she needs a safe counterpoint to the manic other man in her life, she’d still want to laugh from time to time, wouldn’t she? She’d still want to feel alive? So interesting though the episode’s final flip was, with Danny transmogrified from boyfriend under scrutiny to scrutinising boyfriend, warning Clara that he wouldn’t let the Doctor push her too far (such was his distrust of rousing authority figures), one felt like saying, ‘you should be more interested in keeping Clara interested, mate.’

What did I want to happen, Steven? Did I want Danny to be incinerated by the mechanoid hunter-killer thing, or for Clara to realise at the end that there just wasn’t room for a middle of the road relationship when you had all of time and space to explore? Perhaps both, but if we must have this fucking coupling and attendant issues, then I suppose “The Caretaker” did a good job of fleshing out the problems. Now we know that Clara’s place in the TARDIS is under threat from a protective no mark and the doubt he’s placed in his girlfriend’s mind. It’s just a niggle of course, but it’s reasonable to assume that seed will grow, perhaps paving the way for the character’s exit sometime later. I’m happy to go down this road if it means exploring the new Doctor’s manipulative tendency and his attitude to his companion’s emotional entanglements, but if you want Danny to be something other than Clara’s doubts personified, you’ll need to imbue him with charisma and vitality, fast! Sure, he can somersault, but can he make us care? I’m glad we survived the mechanical threat but I’m less enamoured at the world being saved by the planet’s dullest man. I owe my life to a guy who probably subscribes to the Times Literary Supplement.

So other than the framing story, which wasn’t much of anything, what else is there to say about this episode? Six in and it’s clear that Capaldi’s still getting a handle on his version of the character. This was an important story in that respect, as it allowed the new man to indulge himself a little, underlying his alien credentials and allowing some flashes of temper. I’m all for this Doctor being brash, brutal and rude as it distances him from his student entertainment officer predecessors. I realise he’ll never swear, but couldn’t you let him have just one venomous rant, perhaps drowned out by the sound of the TARDIS’s engines?

Yours in time and cyberspace,

Ed

P.S: Why let that pupil Courtney aboard the TARDIS? Are we showing it to everyone now? I hope the fact she coated the console room in vomit will ensure this kind of casual day tripping ceases.

P.P.S: I enjoyed the fried severed hand. More of this casual violence please.

P.P.P.S: No warning was given that Chris Addison would be in this episode, ahead of transmission.

P.P.P.P.S: Does the policeman’s presence in Missy’s afterlife break the link with other victims, as he wasn’t killed as a direct consequence of the Doctor’s actions, or was the killer robot drawn there because of the TARDIS’s frequent trips to the area? The Doctor alluded to local activity, or some shit. Is that what he meant? I’m sorry if I missed the vital detail, I had to break off as the cat got tangled in my hammock.

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Dear Steven Moffat: Time Heist

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Dear Steven,

Despondency, sluggishness, boredom, confusion, apathy: did you feel any of these co-authoring Stephen Thompson’s time waster, or were these treats reserved for viewers? The kindest thing one can say about “Time Heist” is that will be quietly forgotten. The show was one long memory worm, challenging each and every brain that grappled with it to hold onto a single, salient detail. I made notes, Steven, but I look at them now and struggle to recall when they were written. If that sounds unlikely, given I’ve spent the better part of this paragraph talking about how little I thought of this installment, it’s surely no less ridiculous than a half man, half computer remembering the time he deleted all memory of his friends and family. How would he know?

Look, there was a germ of a good idea here. The villain of the week growing old, regretting their sins and contacting the Doctor to right an historic wrong is a story we can get behind. The conclusion was humane, neatly inverted our expectations of the heist sub-genre, where we typically expect all gains to be ill-gotten. But God damn you and your separatist sympathetic locks, you’ve gone and done it again: you’ve drawn a circle on a piece of blood stained paper, handed it to your collaborator and said, “there’s the shape of your plot, just add details”. Two ontological paradoxes in a row! Surely you can find another way to make these time travel stories work, can’t you? What’s that, you can’t? Well let me turn that frown upside down and explain what you should have done.

The Doctor’s holidaying on the planet Xendaris and he encounters the wizened, embittered form of Madame Karabraxos. She explains that she’s recognized the TARDIS from her people’s big book of cosmic symbols, and wants to know if it’s true that he has the ability to time travel. Initially he fobs her off but she persists, begging him to listen to her story. Eventually, desperate to be alone and salvage some of his break, he relents and lets her tell the tale. From there you proceed much as you did. The Doctor materalises in Clara’s shower as she’s toweling down and forces her to join him on this bank raid, they arrive, act on Karabraxos’s tip off they’ll have to wipe their memories to stay one step ahead of the Teller Beast and your piss-weak pastiche of Hustle plays out, complete with intrusive transition effects and irritating slow motion.

By plotting it this way you lose the illusion that the story’s got a clever shape, because the relationship between cause and effect is straightforward, but crucially the episode would now make sense. Save the Xendaris scene to the end and close with the Doctor stroking the old woman’s hair and promising her that he’ll get to the vault and redeem her slave owning soul, perhaps moments before she croaks, and you’ve got a touching ending. You’d also have a moment of pathos, a dramatic conclusion – you know, something memorable. But fuck all that, you went for your favourite trick and consequently a nation scratches its crotch, wondering how the Doctor could have been recruited to rob a bank by an old woman when she only had the means to contact him because he’d already completed her request. Seriously, man, stop it. Stop it before I go to your next script book signing with a grenade in my pocket.

So the episode was impossible, flat, not particularly compelling, often incoherent and reworked a plot point from Die Hard (namely the vault with multiple locks that needs an external miracle to cut the final circuit) but what really bothered me was this practice of Clara having a life on Earth and travelling with the Doctor at the same time. I don’t like it and I think it brings into question why Clara should be our man’s exclusive companion.

It seems to me that if you’re a TARDIS mate you should commit to it full time. There’s no reason not to really because once it’s over the Doctor can drop you back to whenever you left. Alright, some of your friends and family may wonder why you’ve acquired longer hair and crow’s feet overnight, or perhaps half won’t notice, retrospectively justifying your decision to take an extended universal holiday from them in the first place, but this allows the writers a certain freedom. They don’t need to worry about keeping pace with the companion’s personal life or their career, because the Doctor’s both combined.

Ah, you say, but we’ve never had the opportunity to explore a woman’s attempts to “have it all” on screen before, i.e. juggle a career, love life and adventures in time and space. Yes, and with good reason. The show’s called Doctor Who, not ‘My friend the Time Traveller’. Increasingly the Doctor’s a cockblocker and bad lifestyle guru, showing up at the wrong moment, fluffing reassurance; he’s like an autistic Dad. His universe seemed somehow bigger when he took his companions away from it all and the focus was on him. It was a less a case of “where do you want to go?” more, “this is what’s happening, now look out!” or “where the fuck are we?” In short, the Doctor used to pick up hitchhikers, people who were grateful to be going anywhere at all, now he’s jostling for attention with the rest of their weekly schedule. If his next incarnation looked anything like me it would tell would-be associates, ‘sure we’ll drop in on your home town once in a while, if there’s time’, knowing full well there wouldn’t be.

I like Clara these days but I’m not sure I care about her dates or what’s going on in the staff room. I accept she’s interested and wants a normal life, but that’s not the deal. The deal is that you pack some clothes, get in the Police Box and forget about the humdrum, repetitive, everyday nonsense that weighs down the rest of us. Were I offered a ride in a time machine, you can bet your life there’d be a million places I’d want to visit before I got nostalgic for the pub on the corner and work breaks at Starbucks. But why shouldn’t Clara have a boyfriend, you ask? She should, let her enjoy a full and vibrant sex life I say. It’s just that she’ll have to give up her place on the TARDIS and let someone with no commitments have a go.

The dip in approach begs another question. If the Doctor’s prepared to take time out to pick up and drop off his companion at regular intervals, giving them a parallel existence, why not have ten companions, or twenty? Why not leave Clara for a little while and pick up James Corden for a couple of years, or Bob who the Doctor occasionally visit in space prison, or Maisie, his favourite 17th century Cornish prostitute? Don’t say the Doctor doesn’t have time; he’s got all the time he needs.

So I say the time has come to make Clara choose, Steven. Join Doctor Who as a full time space traveller or settle down to a life of teaching and coupling. I want to enjoy adventures in the farthest reaches of the universe without having to break off to visit Clara’s flat, because she’s due out for dinner and absolutely must have a few hours to get ready beforehand.

Yours in time and cyberspace,

Ed

P.S: I thought I saw a half-second of John Barrowman in tonight’s episode. Please say it ain’t so.

P.P.S: Two naked aliens on a family show? Steven, I’m shocked.

P.P.P.S: “C’mon then, team not dead.” A brief moment of levity in an otherwise dull three quarters of an hour.

P.P.P.P.S: A cyborg who makes a clichéd data processing computer noise when he’s calculating something was flat out idiotic. What next, an episode where the Doctor shows up at Coal Hill as the new caretaker?!

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Alex Salmond’s Letter to the Scottish People on the Eve of the Independence Referendum

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Guid eenin, this is Alex, father of the nation. Well, maybe not yet but it won’t be long now, eh?

As this mendacious campaign comes to an end; I’m proud to say one of the most ever, thanks in no small part to my Machiavellian skills and my deputy, Nicola, whose hair can’t quite be placed in any historic period, being a quick study; I’d like to make one final appeal to you, my special friends.

Downing Street have tried to scare you, lie to you, play you off against one another, but I’m proud to say they’ve been amateurs when contrasted with our own, far slicker campaign of disinformation.

Project Fear met Project Grudge and there could only be one winner. We matched them lie for lie and raised them a colonial complex. All they had to talk about was the economy, the distribution of resources, the Pound, but we could say, “vote no and you’ll be under the Tory yoke forever, ridiculous an idea though that is”, “vote no and every man in the East End of Glasgow will be dead before their 45th birthday”, “vote no and your son, daughter or transgender child could, and surely will, be conscripted to fight in an illegal war”, “vote no and face nuclear annihilation”.

Downing Street tried to divide you but they failed. We did that, and the least you can do is acknowledge it. It was the SNP, under my leadership, that stoked disharmony between us and the fucking English. It was Team Scotland, under my watchful, piggy eye, that consciously and deliberately aggravated historic grievances and pitted man against wife, son against daughter and secret family against polygamous Dad. I made you hate, and I’m not sorry I did. You placid, feckless bastards needed a shakin’! You needed a reminder, that is to say have a thought implanted, that our friends in England, who are our friends, let’s not forget that, are run by a perfidious elite, worse than South Africa’s Apartheid regime, who would make the Scots slaves in their world. I made you think it and realise you’d known it all along.

You’re welcome.

Downing Street wanted to deceive you at every turn, but again we in the Yes camp got in first. We told you that EU membership was a given, that a Yes vote was a mandate for a currency union, that you were already a resident of Dubai North, and that the future would be somehow Scandinavian, despite American levels of taxation. In fact, we trumped lies by expanding the definition to include the lie of omission. We reminded you that UK debt was a trillion pounds, omitting to say that it was Scottish politicians that had failed to protect us with bank regulation. We talked about Iraq, omitting to say the English were against it and our involvement could be attributed, almost exclusively, to a Scots born Prime Minister. We invoked the name of Margaret Thatcher and her long rule, omitting to say that it was the SNP’s decision to withdraw their support for the Callaghan government, that lead to a vote of no confidence in parliament and the general election that brought her to power.

That’s right, my fellow Scots, we’ve beaten Better Together in every department.

Contrast our aggressive, seething message of hope and division with the cynicism from Westminster. See anything you hate?

A Yes vote gives us the chance to radically reform our society. It’s not a chance we’ll take, you understand, as the SNP’s a shadow of what a real social democratic movement looks like, and we’re the furthest to the left you’ve got, but this vote gives us that chance.

A Yes vote gives ensures we’ll build a new relationship with our friends and neighbours in the rest of these islands. Gone will be the archaic sense of living in the same land and enjoying a shared cultural heritage. Instead we’ll rethink this, forcing a separation that will, I hope, foster resentment and bitterness for many decades to come.

But now the head flapping is done.

We’ve had our say and successfully shouted down the other side.

All that remains is you, the people with a vote. You’re the only people that matter. Our fellow Scots, living in England (the cunts) gave up their right to have an opinion when they moved for work or personal reasons. Sure, that means you’ll have to ignore the endorsements of half our celebrity mascots, but try not to think about that. The point is that this is about looking inward, right? Not thinking about the world any further than the end of your street. Put the rest of the UK out of your heads, assuming they were ever there. This is your decision and it will have no zero impact on anyone else. Globalisation is a Better Together myth.

You have all the power now. Please use it and do exactly as I say.

Don’t fuck it up.

I’m counting on you being as pliable as I hope and believe you to be.

Don’t let me down.

Let’s do this.

Let’s destroy a country.

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Dear Steven Moffat: Listen

capaldi-listen

Dear Steven,

Last week, following “Robot of Sherwood”, I lamented the tendency of some episodes to be all concept and no story; empty vessels into which were poured jokes, rusty plot elements, and double cream. The best installments, I said, fingering a glass of ginger wine and smearing the divine nectar across my lips, had to deal the double whammy of being about something and advancing the characters. Apparently you agree, allowing Gatiss to write his Robin Hood episode so “Listen”, your follow up, would look robust by comparison.

In some respects this was your archetypal contribution. Had someone described the episode to me, rather than allowing me to watch it, I’d have punctuated their commentary with cries of “ahh, fuck off” and “again?” Who wanted yet another Moffat special in which character biographies were advanced using the shortcut of time travel, childhood fears were ultilised as plot devices and the story was envisioned as a circle, pivoting on your favourite storytelling fuck up, the ontological paradox? Man, how you love them. They’re your equivalent of my Coke addition.

The Doctor, we learned, had his own monster under the bed experience as a sniveling Gallifreyian junior, an episode that profoundly conditioned his psyche. Thanks to an ankle grab and nocturnal pep talk from Clara, who’s very welcome to hide in my bedroom by the way, our man was inclined to seek out monsters wherever they lay, with a companion by his side: a stand in for the fear he carried with him but had successfully turned into a dragon slaying asset, or something.

That was a neat bit of psychoanalytical gubbins, Steven – the second such excavation following “Deep Breath” (it’s now clear you got The Interpretation of Dreams as a Christmas gift), and it was a character deepening moment, but how and why did Clara get underneath the Doctor’s bed in the first place? The answer, we knew, was because the old man had pondered the question of silent monsters festering in his psyche, dragged Clara into the hunt, plugged her into the TARDIS and had followed the trail, but, and here comes the complaint, such thoughts were only buried in his brain because Clara had put them there. Yet again, effect preceded cause without a self-contained inciting incident. Time’s a line not a circle, Steven – at least, it is if it’s going to make any fucking sense. I held no ambitions to go into politics before tonight, but now I’m inclined to begin my slow march to the office of Prime Minister in whatever’s left of our vandalised country once the imbecilic Scots Nationalists have finished with it, just so I can pass a law forbidding show runners on time travel series from using your gambit.

But this was, as I said, the show on paper. The show on screen was more satisfying. That’s because this 45 minuter treated both the Doctor and Clara as characters who required a little shading and the actors did their bit. Clara’s no longer the hyperactive imp of old, rather a likable, warm woman with plenty of vim and humanising qualities, like insecurity and borderline social retardation. Her disastrous date with the wet but inoffensive Danny nee Rupert Pink, added some depth to her character, foreshadowed her future and put her on a trajectory that showcased her tender and protective side. In short, she’s now officially a person in her own right and one that has a lot more business being around and burning up the valuable minutes of our lives than the walking tub of plot balm from the previous season. Meanwhile the new Doctor has acquired a psyche, and one you’re keen to probe. Granted, most of what you’ve postulated and attempted to force into our minds over the span of this episode and “Deep Breath” sounds a lot like bullshit, and attempting to explain a familiar character’s simple heroic qualities with a trawl through their subconscious is, I hope you realise, the bane of our age, but any project to add layers to the Doctor’s character is broadly welcomed. Just don’t flashback to his toddler-self fingering his heroic anus in a future episode. There are limits.

So “Listen” felt like the most substantial chunk of the series so far because it delved into the vulnerabilities and hang-ups of the Doctor and Clara. Is Danny the new Rory, a flaccid love interest for the main companion set to become a TARDIS regular? Well if he is, Steven, can I suggest you add spunk to this impossibly socially conscientious former grunt, before his placidity bores away two million viewers? He’s a nice idea; a solider who joined up to help others through non-violent means (though I’m inclined to think he should have been an aid worker) – therefore a sort of young, moderately attractive mirror of the Doctor that will allow Clara to fuck a moral crusader after all, but man alive is he dull. Look, we know he’s nervous in these early episodes; I couldn’t take a woman like Clara out and not fuck it up either; but he needs a spine and some personality, fast. That, or we discover in episode 5 that he’s actually a dangerous schizophrenic whose thoughts turn to murder when he’s under intense pressure. I can cope with a metrosexual companion, all I ask is that he turns with the weather and becomes an unstoppable menace within the bowels of the TARDIS. Deal?

Engaging though it was, I’m not sure much of “Listen” made sense. I think you got away with most of it. I couldn’t understand why a creature that devoted its existence to not being seen would be so conspicuous, or for that matter how the TARDIS could travel back to Gallifrey, circa two thousand years ago, if it was in a pocket universe. Isn’t it time-incubated, or something? If the planet of the past is readily available, why didn’t previous Doctors just go there and prevent the Time War, or visit previously in the new Who era? That’s the monster under my bed, Steven. I hope you’ll turn up at some point and help me turn my back on it.

Yours in time and cyberspace,

Ed

P.S: Lots of jokes about Clara’s wide face this week. I like her face, but I accept I’m strange.

P.P.S: The Doctor’s devilish grin is a winner, let’s have more of it.

P.P.P.S: The Doctor’s worn a different outfit in every episode of this series. Is this because he’s finally decided to utilise his whole wardrobe or did the money men ask for it to help sell several action figures?

P.P.P.P.S: No mention of Missy this week, indeed, no one died, unless you count the monster that vanished in a green flash.

P.P.P.P.P.S: Wait a minute, holy shit – that was a real monster! Someone tell kids everywhere. They’re real, Clara lied. She’s a liar. A liar with a wide face!

The Old Adventures: 

The Matt Smith Years: 

The Distant Past:

Deep Time:

 

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Dear Steven Moffat: Robot of Sherwood

Doctor-Who-Robot-of-Sherwood

Dear Steven,

You won’t believe this, but when I said last week that I hoped to see a thieving android in the following episode, I was being waggish, much like your archetypal Merry Man. As Doctor Who’s a sci-fi show that typically involves genre tropes in incongruous settings, I reached for an off the shelf conceit, a throw away Whoniverse cliché. It was the first thing that popped into my head. Little could I have known that Mark Gatiss had sat down to write an episode, a year previously, with that very joke taped to his laptop. I know he’ll say it was all in good fooling; that it was a playful romp, designed to delight younger viewers while showcasing the Doctor’s new caustic personality, but it was as though the episode’s script was a mimesis of its subject. It looked to have been written by a robot.

This Doctor Who Episode Droid (DWED) had clearly been programmed with a library of essential elements, much like the mechanical’s database of English folklore. It knew to include historical figures, an alien plot, a spaceship in disguise, capture, rescue and a sentimental ending. Unfortunately due to an undetected malfunction, the droid’s political philosophy masterfile intruded on the inconsequential forty five minuter subroutine, the former partially overwriting the latter, and consequently there was some intrusive Marxism – all property being theft to our verdant Robin, Hood described as “the opiate of the masses”, and the Doctor’s heroic credentials cemented by his historic renouncing of wealth and privilege.

Of these, perhaps the last was the most interesting, Steven. It could be that Hood was speaking figuratively, that he only meant that the Doctor came from an advanced society and superior caste of beings, relative to many others, or the acid tongued Galifreyan’s shared rather more of his backstory with the increasingly agreeable Clara, than he has with us. Was that why his hair was suddenly longer and bouffant, Steven? Had he spent many months in the TARDIS filling in his companion on his early years on the homeworld, regaling her with tales of the fam?

Look Steven, this shit was fine. There was some nice jokes, good interplay between the characters and I suppose you could say, a story of sorts, even if it was, ahem, mechanically plotted, but I wondered if it was a little early in the run for such froth. What I wanted, and suppose the nation wants, if it looks into its soul and has an honest word with itself, was a tale of substance; a long and deep adventure, both perilous and serious.

What Robot of Sherwood underscored for me, apart from my belief that puns should be illegal in episodic television, was the limitations of the 45 minute format. We’ve spoken of this before, Steven – well I have, and you’ve ignored me, but it’s worth returning to because it’s become a question about the programme’s development. The long and short of it is this: either your writers have to get smarter, making these single episode stories about something, or these adventures have to get longer.

Doctor Who’s great strength is its flexibility. The show can be set anywhere at any time. But too much freedom can be the proverbial stuffed albatross around John Cleese’s neck. In normal TV series, characters are established, relative to a fixed setting or developing scenario, enabling writers to concentrate on the substance of each story, building on those established characters and their satellites as they go. But in Who, each episode is effectively a reset. The two main characters stay the same of course but their environment and everyone in it tends to change. This means that a Who writer must build a world and a fresh set of supporting characters with great economy while trying to think about how the Doctor and his companion can rub up against it and hopefully mature as a consequence.

Perhaps the best exemplar for our purposes is Star Trek: The Next Generation. All iterations of Trek will do, but TNG best illustrates what I think is lacking in Who‘s 45 minuters. Here’s a series that has the bedrock of its characters and setting, namely the Enterprise, with the wild card of new planets, new ships and so on. But TNG’s scribes never forgot that when a new setting came into play it had to test the show’s main characters and, in order that we may invest something in the guest cast, make them central to the show’s theme and/or philosophy. So “The Defector” is about a man who believes in peace whom, it transpires, has been hoodwinked by his duplicitous government into thinking an attack is imminent, to test his loyalty to the regime. Realising he’ll never see his family and home again, and all for nought, he kills himself in a harrowing final act. It’s devastating; a story told in 45 mins, that tests the Enterprise crew’s suspicion of their enemy and reminds the audience how underhanded the Romulans are. By the same token “The Ensigns of Command”, a personal odyssey for Data in which he’s forced to try and convince colonists to abandon a lifetime of wares or face death from above, is about the sanctity of human life; pragmatism over pride and sentimentality. So 45 minutes can be enough, Steven, but those episodes must leave viewers feeling they’ve shared in their heroes’ journey and met people that mattered, if only in the context of that scenario. That’s the TV people remember.

Writers on the classic series didn’t need to fret about time compression too much because they had the serial format in their pocket; a shiny talisman guiding them to the promised land (of which more later). It worked rather well for two reasons. At its best it a) allowed each story to be built around cliffhangers, ensuring momentum and b) allowed time for us to get to know and yes, care about the fresh supporting cast. Now I’m not suggesting that each serial was successful in that regard, we both know some were padded and many of the people the Doctor and his sidekick met were thinly drawn and disposable, but if one were to think of a format that actively encouraged scribes to litter their screed with straw men and women it would be the 45 minute, single story to an episode. One has to be a masterful and economic writer indeed to create a fresh set of memorable characters and an engaging scenario and advance the main cast, all in three quarters of an hour. If we believe Mark Gatiss was indeed the humanoid behind this Robin Hood adventure, it’s clear he wasn’t the penholder the Doctor ordered.

This, surely, is why a meaty Doctor Who might be comprised of feature length adventures, six double episodes perhaps? You may balk at the idea, indeed you may have been told by the money men at the BBC that it is verboten, as the foreign markets (America) prefer stand alone “hours”. But Doctor Who’s unique format lends itself to a different approach. It’s that or you and your writers must get interested in the world and think about what you’d like to say about it in 45 minute chunks. The alternative is throwaway jaunts like Robot of Sherwood; fun while they last but empty, much like a night on the town with John Barrowman.

Yours in time and cyberspace,

Ed

P.S: The Mechanicals were heading for Missy’s promised land before the Doctor killed them. Mind you, this is consistent with previous episodes because if Missy is a time traveller she’d know that by setting them on said course they’d end up dead at the Doctor’s hands. But what was her pitch to them? Has she created the preconditions for all the 12th Doctor’s adventures? And why go to so much trouble, why not just find him and atomise him from behind? What’s going on?

P.P.S: If the Doctor thought Robin Hood was fictional, how would he know when and where to find him? It was rather better than a lucky guess; he managed to pinpoint his location to within ten feet and find him in his pomp.

P.P.P.S: I’m surprised you let the “desiccated man-crone” line though. I’m pretty sure this episode was shot late in the schedule and brought forward but after all that audience managing business in Deep Breath, too soon?

P.P.P.P.S: I know you’ll say you’ve tried to beat the single episode bug in the past by telling multi-part stories out of sequence (The Impossible Astronaut Season) and everyone complained, but the problem there wasn’t your ambition or indeed, your many splintered concept, it was lack of unfolding drama – the absence of a substantial narrative. We love ideas, we like time travel head fucks, but we need to be engaged week on week too.

Old Beginnings: 

The Matt Smith Years: 

The Distant Past:

Deep Time:

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