I’m now about six episodes in. Just watched the one with the not-vampires. I’m liking the show pretty well, though, alas, I have to like it out of continuity. Let’s introduce a metaphor to show what I mean, maybe. My wife and I have a six-year-old boy. The boy LOVES pizza. Lately it’s been cheese pizza, though up until about two weeks ago it was peperoni pizza. Now it’s cheese. Typically, and for reasons which have nothing to do with the fact that Thursdays used to be the Night of the Sit-com, in our house, if we have pizza, it’s usually a Thursday. Through a bizarre confluence of events best not gone into here, last week pizza night extended from Wednesday through Saturday, at least for the boy.
In our town there are six places to get pizza. Three of them are fancy-pants places, with wood-fired ovens, goat cheese, and pine nuts. Not pizza for a six-year-old. The other three offer pizzas from standard-issue pizza ovens on fairly doughy crusts, bland sauces, and ordinary toppings. Essentially, pizzas from this set of three places are indistinguishable, although the boy has a preference. (There’s actually one other place in town to get a pizza, but it’s only available on the kid’s menu, and it’s a frozen pizza from a food service commissary–doughy, and bland, with no toppings.) The pizzas from the other set, while fancier, are all trying oh, so hard to be Distinguished Pizzas, and wind up being indistinguishable from one another, too.
The boy loved every pizza; each night he loved the pizza. My wife and I were very happy to have soup on Saturday, but he loved the Saturday Pizza just as much as the Wednesday Pizza. This has more to do with the variety of available pizzas than with the Law of Diminishing Returns, so don’t think that way. It’s not that Friday’s pizza was less satisfying than Wednesday’s pizza, so much as it was that what my wife and I were looking for that night in a pizza was a very thin crust, an almost-not-sweet sauce, plenty of cheese, and some ham and mushrooms.
What does this have to do with Doctor Who? I can hear you asking that. It’s not that the pizzas are bland, exactly. It’s more that the pizzas, particularly the indistinguishable pizzas, are mostly good in isolation from the continuity of pizza options. So far in this current season, I have mostly felt as if I’m watching Doctor Who pizzas best taken without thinking too much about the pizzas that came before.
First, let me stress that I’m enjoying this season. The characters are good, the writing is good, the scenarios are good. But, aside from the Doctor, there doesn’t feel like a lot of energy–and his energy is mainly him talking things through to himself. The doing of things is sort of an afterthought.
However, despite the fact that I like it, as I’ve mentioned before, we’re regularly being introduced to the idea of the show, the idea of the Doctor, and seeing the tropes of the series played out. Knowingly. At one point in the not-vampires episode, the Doctor says, “I like the bit where someone says it’s bigger on the inside.” And, as I mentioned with the end of David Tennant’s run, there’s a feeling of running down well-worn paths. There’s a universe-shattering something going on, threatening the whole of existence, it’s going to take the entire season to resolve, and booga-booga-booga! And there’s a companion with ties that bind her back home, and this companion is threatening to get all gooey for the Doctor (in a pretty hard-core way at one point), and she’s the MOST IMPORTANT PIZZA IN THE UNIVERSE. Just so long as you forget about the other pizzas, including Rose, Donna, and (reaching back a bit) the sixth segment of the Key to Time, to name just a few.
There are a couple of neat things I went to mention. Stand-alone things. In the space-whale episode, I felt like I was seeing a good Doctor Who stand-alone episode. The Doctor and Amy drop in on an isolated location in humanity’s far-future, diagnose the dystopic problem, and move things along by fixing the perception problem. There were some unresolved plot threads (I’m thinking mainly of why is it a police state, and what are those things in the booth, really?). I also like that the show looked like an episode of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, in a sort of plasticy, cartoony way. I liked the second part of the weeping angels story, especially the way the character of the Bishop developed. River is far-and-away more irritating than she was before, which is good. This was an all-around good episode–good characterizations (particularly with a particular characteristic of this Doctor I’ll get to sometime), a good story, and good looking design. All of that. Right up until Amy’s status as the most important pizza was reasserted right at the end.