Saturday, March 30, 2013

Shall I Compare Steven Moffat to a Bloody Diaper? - Part 3

Here we are at last. The Unforgivable Episode. The one that ruined the Doctor.

This was originally going to be its own standalone post, but I felt that I ultimately needed more background to explain why this episode was so maddening and so very, very disappointing. That's why there had to be two preceding segments, Part 1 and Part 2.

I've been re-watching a lot of these episodes to make sure that I have my facts straight and my ducks in a row. I cannot describe to you the sense of dread I experienced sitting down and pressing play on this episode. Hopefully by getting this out, it will begin to hurt less.

So, what was wrong with this episode? Well, not to sound too melodramatic, but everything. Every single premise on which the episode relies is false or flawed.

I'll go in the order of the notes I took while re-watching the episode:

The Weeping Angels are a vastly ancient, mysterious race of beings who bear the physical appearance of angels and involuntarily turn to stone whenever seen. In the episode we see a group of their young, who appear as cherubs. Adorable. That makes sense. However, we also see a mother and child statue that end up being "Angels" and in the beginning of the episode we see that the Statue of Liberty is in fact also an "Angel."

What? No! In no previous episode containing the Angels (all written by Moffat) were they able to infect statues to become animate. The Angels are not statues. They are living beings turned to stone. What I mean is that no one ever sculpted the Angels, they are a biological life form. They're ostensibly fleshy when no one's watching. This "infection" angle is brand new, out of left-field, and once again, as with the Dalek sleeper agents, no one talks about it. In previous episodes, it was always a big deal when we discovered a new ability of theirs, but not this time. None of it makes any sense.

Also, I cannot emphasize enough what a foolish notion it is that the Statue of Liberty is an "Angel." First of all, when is no one looking at it? Second, remember the huge footsteps that would occasionally pause and it turned out it was her all along? Well, the only reason that it would have occasionally paused like that is if someone were looking at it. Which means that people would occasionally notice Lady Liberty creeping through the city on her way to that hotel. And what, then they just looked away long enough for her to continue? A 15-story copper monster can apparently just mosey through 7 million people and no one notices. And remember that whole "That which bears the image of an Angel becomes and Angel" business? That means that all of the tourists through New York, students with textbooks, and maybe even some stamp collectors are all harboring the Angel of Liberty.

Next, the Doctor believes that River has to get a broken wrist because Amy read it in the book that River will write about this adventure, and not doing so would break causality. This is a deeply flawed presumption. Amy read out a couple of lines of dialog, that's it. The only thing that would actually have to happen is the saying of those words. As long River says "Why do you have to break mine?" and the Doctor says "Because Amy read it in a book and now I have no choice," then the prophecy is fulfilled. Nothing actually has to get broken. This whole thing also relies on the belief that the book was 100% accurate. What if River had gotten the line wrong when she wrote it?

So River breaks her wrist getting out and the Doctor uses his Paladin ability "Lay on Hands" in order to heal it... What?! This is not a thing. Why did this happen? The Doctor cannot heal with a touch. If he could, I'm pretty sure we would have seen this before. Well, maybe it only works on other Timelords. Well, if that were the case, I'm pretty sure he would have given it a try when his daughter got shot, or when the Master got shot. Okay, when I said that I wasn't going to bitch about Moffat ignoring anything that came before him, I meant like him not referencing previous characters and plot-lines, not tearing causality a new asshole.

. . .

So, Rory's trapped in a basement with a bunch of Weeping Cherubs. He's holding a match and one of them, in stone form, blows it out. Bullshit. It's never been implied that an Angel simply gets encased in a molecular thin layer of stone when being observed. They turn completely to stone. You can't blow out a match with stone lungs.

But they got him anyway and he gets teleported to the middle of a street somewhere. From there, instead of trying to phone his wife of just staying put until they come and get him, he wanders into the Angel Hotel for no reason whatsoever. Except that it was necessary for the plot to continue. And if the Angels wanted him in the hotel,
why not just teleport him directly inside?

Right, so the Angel Hotel. This is a brilliant idea. However, it's too bad that they got it completely wrong in every way. Here's how it should work: Let's say for sake of argument that the Angels send a person back 50 years whenever they touch them. Let's also say that they built the hotel in 1880. That means that their first victim will pop into existence in 1830, well before the hotel is build and live out their lives. From 1880 until 1930, their crop of first-round victims will be sent back to 1830 to 1880. Their first victim after their 50th anniversary in 1930 will get sent back to 1880 in the hotel, where they will feed on him again and send him back to 1830 with the first guy. So basically, the second that they open their doors in 1880, they're getting not only their first-round victims, but also their victims from 50, 100, 150 years in the future and so on. Interestingly enough, they'll have the most food they'll ever have in the very beginning and all of their victims ever end up in the 50 years before the hotel opens. It's a brilliant idea. The thing is, they get their food from displacing people back in time, so there's absolutely zero benefit from keeping them there and taking care of them until they die of old age. Speaking of which, who the fuck is taking care of them? Who is printing out those name cards? Who is making their food? Is there an Angel in a kitchen somewhere making stew for everyone? It's just ludicrous.

So in the end, an Angel gets Amy and Rory and they get sent back in time. The Doctor can't go back and rescue them because they already lived out their lives and died, which is confirmed by their gravestone. Undoing this outcome would cause another paradox and rip like, everything ever apart.

Except, that is complete foolishness. Like the book dialog, all that it written in stone is their names. There is absolutely nothing keeping the Doctor from going back, grabbing them, and placing a gravestone with their names in the cemetery. Causality would be ensured and Rory and Amy wouldn't have to live and die in old-timey New York. And it doesn't matter that the TARDIS can't go back to 1938 New York (if that's where they went), because even if he can't, there's no reason he can't go to 1938 New Jersey and take a cab. Besides, there shouldn't even be time distortions anymore now that the Angels never had their hotel. And whatever happened to the Angel that got them? What do you even do with a spare, rogue Angel?

The big emotional climax of the half-season arc was how tragic it was that after everything, at the last moment Amy and Rory were taken away in an unavoidable moment of destiny.

Except that, no. Just...

Friday, March 29, 2013

Shall I Compare Steven Moffat to a Bloody Diaper? - Part 2

This is the second of a three part segment in which I explain my negative feelings concerning Steven Moffat. If you missed part one, you can find it here. For the rest of us, let's continue...

Season seven finally rolled around and I was cautiously optimistic. I'm a bit of a fool that way. It was my hope that they had just had a couple of bad moments and that everyone had gotten used to working with each other and were ready to blow my mind.

My excitement was increased when I watched an interview with Moffat in which he talked about the season premier. The Doctor would face off against the Daleks that even the Daleks thought were too mad. The possibilities were enthralling. 

What if they went down and found this compound filled with Dalek prison gangs all fighting for dominance? Since Daleks are a lot like Beholders in that any variation amongst them is seen as inferiority, this could lead to some truly intriguing power struggles. Can you imagine a 12-foot tall, mad, Dalek faction leader with a couple of side mounted missile launchers and symbols carved into its chassis like prison tats? It would be a remarkable opportunity to introduce named, possibly recurring villains and introduce some depth.

Except that instead, they all went down to the Junkyard of the Daleks. It was just a series of old, dusty garages filled with sleeping, rusty Daleks. None of these creatures were portrayed as unique or interesting in any way. The entire thing seemed like a clumsy vehicle to introduce Clara Oswin Oswald, a way-too-smart, pretty young girl that had managed to get herself turned into a Dalek.

What? What the fuck?! Look, I know I said that I wasn't going to refer back to anything that happened pre-Moffat, but I just can't let this go. Back in the season one finale, one of the big reveals was that the Dalek Emperor had rebuilt the his race by cultivating a few worthy cells from millions of kidnapped and processed humans. This dude went through an insane amount of effort to crate Daleks, while these guys can apparently just flip a switch somewhere get a one-to-one Human/Dalek ratio.

Fine, whatever, but the Daleks also have the ability to cover a planet in a nanite cloud that can convert all tissue, living or dead, into Daleks and make sleeper agents out of them and nobody talks about it?! Everybody just goes along like this is something that just happens now. There's nothing to stop the most vicious race of race of xenophobic psychopaths the universe has ever produced from stopping by a world, dropping in a nanite bomb, and leaving with a whole planet of extra soldiers and no one thinks about it? Not even the Daleks? I just... it hurts.

Then Clara decides to kill herself, because life is easier that way.

The Doctor, Rory, Amy, a big game hunter, and Queen Nefertiti try to wrest control of a giant spaceship from the janitor of Hogwarts before it crashes into Earth. The only thing stopping them are a couple of dimwitted killer robots voiced by the always delightful British comedians David Mitchell and Robert Webb. Also, there are dinosaurs. Through a series of trickery and quick thinking, the Doctor slides into victory, but not before allowing the robots to murder an outrageously adorable dog-like triceratops named Tricey.

We all love dinosaurs and spaceships, so it would seem pretty hard to fuck this one up.

Except that they find a way. I think fucking up is to Steven Moffat what life is to Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park: it finds a way.

The absolute only threat in this entire episode is those two robots. Two rusty, old, not-at-all made of wood robots. Also, the Doctor has a sonic screwdriver that is adept at disrupting all kinds of circuitry, especially, say... two rusty, old, not-at-all made of wood robots.

This wouldn't have been a difficult thing to get around. All it would have taken is five seconds of screen time in which he scans the robots and tells us all that they have some sort of "sonic shielding" or some such. I don't care what they call it, but give us some device to tell us that this wouldn't work. It's not even like this technique is unknown to them. They even use it in that very episode for something else. When they accidentally got teleported somewhere on the ship, they couldn't teleport back because some circuit or another had been fried. It didn't matter, it was just a device to get them to run from some pterodactyls and that was fine. Just have the decency to do the same thing in order to protect the central plot of the story.

The scene opens with a guy named Kahler-Mas getting gunned down in the American Southwest by a cyborg in a poncho and a cowboy hat.

The cyborg, Kahler-Tek is hunting down Kahler-Jex, the last of the war criminals responsible for turning him and many others into war machines against their will. However, in the interim, Jex had become a beloved town physician, leading to some conflicts of interest. In the end, the Doctor distracts the cyborg using the plot of "Amigos, Amigos, Amigos" enabling Jex takes a step toward redemption my ending his own life so that no one else has to die and Tek doesn't have to take another life. Touching.

Except... why was the alien space cyborg wearing a poncho and cowboy hat? This may seem like a tiny complaint, but it's just ridiculous. He clearly wasn't trying to blend in and there was no way that his metal scalp was getting sunburned. Why do this at all? Because someone wanted a cybernetic desperado and they didn't care how they got it. It's just one more example of how willing they are to sacrifice the integrity of their story in order to increase its flair.

Also, the name of the alien race is the Kahler. These three names are equivalent to everyone going around saying "Morning, Human-Bob." "Oh, good morning Human-Jim." It's a ludicrously inefficient naming convention, especially when you consider that on a planet of millions, you're bound to run out of one syllable names pretty quick.

Oh, and "Amigos, Amigos, Amigos" was an episode of The Three Amigos in which everyone in town dressed as an Amigo and overwhelmed the villains with distractions, leading to a town victory. You can also see this play out at the end of the movie about the Three Amigos called ¡Three Amigos!. The problem with this was that the cyborg threatened to kill everyone in town if they didn't deliver Jex, so it doesn't seem like a good idea to dress everyone in town like Jex. There's nothing to stop him from shooting everyone, just like he said he would. Except that's not how it happened in the script.

I... I don't really have anything against this episode. It's only one of the season so far that I'm not going to tear up and it felt weird not to mention it.

In the interest of avoiding an anticlimax, I'm going to skip ahead to the Christmas special.

One of the things that I despise most about Moffat's war of Style against Substance is that occasionally I find myself liking it. As much as I loath the degradation of the narrative, some of the style is just plain lovely. This episode is a prime example of it.

The Grumpy Old Doctor is living in the clouds above Christmastime London and has to be coaxed down by a peppy and clever Clara Oswin Oswald (who is inexplicably no longer dead, or a Dalek, or anything), along with a lizard lady, her human wife, and a potato-nurse. The episode was fun, humorous, and lovely. I really do like Clara and I sincerely hope that they do something worthwhile with her.

Except... look, I'm not saying that the Doctor can't live on a cloud above 1890s London, but why would he? This is nothing like anything we've seen him do before. Yes, I'm willing to entertain the notion that he's no kind of man that he's ever been before, but still. And if you want to be alone, why surround yourself with people? Why not go to an uninhabited planet or the depths of space? Sure, he had a subconscious desire to be pulled out of his funk, but why not at least allude to it? Why must I continue to tell the the story to myself?

Here's the thing that really gets my goat about this episode: 

Another smitten girl kisses the Doctor. 

First, can we stop having companions fall in love with the Doctor? Why is this such a thing since the restart? It was nice having that break with Donna Noble, but everyone else can't wait to get their hands on Timelord dong. Well, the ladies that is. Well, the ladies and Jack Harkness.

Second, sure he doesn't kiss her back, but neither does he mention the little fact that he's married. You'd think that kind of thing should come up pretty quickly in this kind of situation. I'm not comfortable with this combined with the instant and powerful emotional connection he's formed with this woman. Sadly, this has forced me to come up with a far-fetched and ridiculous theory in order to explain this away so I don't have to think about a philandering Doctor. I will share this now, though you'd be better off skipping it.

*Conspiracy Theory*
So they've never really dealt with the death of River Song. She's not really dead, you see. Her consciousness is fully intact in a giant computer planet along with a handful of others as seen in the end of "The Forest of the Dead." If only we had a way of getting a computerized copy of a person into a custom fit body. Oh wait, we can, as seen in the aforementioned "The Almost People." All that we have to do is connect those two systems and everyone in the library gets a shiny new body. You do River last, because that's the way she would have it. Then, her quasi-timelord genetics muck up the process. We know that the process worked on the Doctor, but it almost failed. If it did fail on River it could cause her to regenerate, because the process might re-imbue her with regeneration energy. Only something goes terribly wrong and not only does she regenerate, she then gets split up through time, one for each remaining regeneration. And all of them are an amnesia stricken Clara Oswin Oswald. This explains her super intelligence, instant draw to the Doctor, and why I don't have to feel weird about them kissing (or that Alex Kingston is 20 years older than Matt Smith).
*End Conspiracy Theory*

That's all we have for today. Join me next time as I wrap up this series on why 

Steven Moffat :: Doctor Who as The guy pooping on your best friend :: Your best friend

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Shall I Compare Steven Moffat to a Bloody Diaper? - Part 1

People communicate on a very superficial level these days. Last night I posted a link on my Facebook page expressing my complete joy that head writer and executive producer of Doctor Who, Steven Moffat is beginning to consider leaving the show.

Not long after a friend of mine asked me why I was so happy about this. My response wasn't more put together than "because he sucks and I hate him." To which Friend responded, "yes, but why?"

I was a bit stunned. Not that I had never bothered putting to words why I hated Steven Moffat, but that someone bothered to dig deeper than surface Social Media bitching. Well, with points in the ether to be made and the show about to start back up again after its winter break, it seemed like a good opportunity to do some kvetching. make some valid points.

If Doctor Who isn't really your thing, you may be better off coming back in a few days once I've gotten this out of my system. We're about to get super Nerd-Ragey up in this bitch. So, here we go...

Why I'm Pleased that Steven Moffat Will Leave "Who"
Why Steven Moffat can Get Regularly Assaulted by a Diseased-Ridden Rape-Griffin and I'd be Okay with It

There are a few things I feel I need to get out of the way before we get started:

First - I'm coming from a place of love. I remember being a small child and hiding behind my couch from Daleks. When the show rebooted in 2005, I was skeptical. However, it didn't take me long to simply fall in love with the show all over again. The stories were complex, but never came across as contrived. The characters didn't always do what I expected them to, but they were always true to themselves. I didn't always know where the show was going, but they always rewarded my faith by pulling everything together by the end.

Second - I think it's ridiculous that Moffat refuses to interact with anything that came before him, but I'm not going to harp on it in this. I understand that it's nearly impossible to maintain 50 years of continuity, and it would actually take a small amount of effort to factor in what Davies did before him, but I will hold Moffat accountable for the reality he sets up himself.

Third - I want to be thorough enough to get my point across, but brief enough to fit into a post. If you would like to elaborate on anything, let me know and I'll try to find a way to fit it in... giggety.

And I loved me some River Song
When the previous executive producer, Russell T Davies decided to step down and Steven Moffat took his place, I was optimistic even then. Moffat had written a couple of my favorite episodes, including Blink, and Silence in the Library. I wasn't afraid of change, I was excited to see the new direction everything would take. He started the job with every advantage a man could have.

Then slowly, ever so slowly that I wasn't at first at all sure that it was happening, Moffat shat the bed. And he just. Won't. Stop. Shitting.

Season 5 came and went before I was even sure I smelled anything. I believe that the only fair way to do this is by listing particular offending episodes and why they contribute to the loathing.

So the Doctor spends a solid week with this chick who sleeps in a stasis pod which has a number that ticks down every day and she asked about her doctors when they first met. The Doctor noticed the number on the stasis pod, but he can't be expected to remember everything.

Except that's exactly what he does. He puts those little clues together and saves people. Abigail asking if he was one of her doctors was very reminiscent of Amy asking if he was a policeman when they first met. There was every indication that the Doctor was onto the mystery, but then he just... forgot. Besides, there wouldn't be as much of an emotional punch if he had fixed her, right?

I would have been satisfied if he had found the illness, but there just wasn't a cure. The fact that he didn't even check seemed incompetent to the point of out of character. I freely admit that it is difficult to write a character who is smarter than you, but this was the first time that line got crossed for me.

This was the first episode that caused me to scream at the television as I was watching it. The moment when they realized that it was reflective surfaces, not just still water, that allowed the Siren to come through, the Doctor decided it would be best if they through all the treasure overboard, which led to the greedy captain dooming his son by accidentally dropping his purloined crown.

Except that they repeatedly proved that it doesn't just have to be reflective, it has to be actively reflecting. They could have thrown a tarp over the treasure and it would have been perfectly safe, but that wouldn't have caused the captain to lose his son over his own greed, so they glazed over it for storytelling purposes.

Then, for no great reason, the Doctor decides that suicide might end well and they all get sent to the phase-shifted spaceship on the other side of the veil. Sure, whatever. Only they got there just like everyone else, and they didn't get put were everyone else got put. Everyone else was laid down unconscious in life-support while the Doctor, Amy, and the captain got sent to an empty room for no damn reason at all.

Then the episode ends with the Doctor giving a bunch of murderous pirates a spaceship.

Cripes, what a downer. That's okay, sad can be good, but this wasn't.

A whole two-parter has gone by in which we learn all sorts of lessons about what it means to be alive, unique, and human. In the end, the Doctor clone and the foreman clone hold off the monster behind the door to buy time for everyone to get away. They then kill the monster, killing themselves in the process. Quite noble, proving that one's origins does not dictate one's morality.

Except that was the stupidest thing they could have done. There was a point where everyone was gathered around the door and the TARDIS was only 20 feet away. Any two people could have stayed behind to fire the clone-killing weapon, including any of the real versions of the ones who died. They even had time to sit around and talk about it. There was absolutely no reason that those two people had to explod-o-melt except that it made for a more emotional ending.

So far we've been talking about the characters being drastically poor decision makers, which is okay in and of itself, except that here it's an example of writing out of character. This episode introduces an entirely new style of cheap writing.

Remember how Amy grew up ostracized and out of sorts because no one believed her stories about the Doctor? Did you catch that his willingness to believe/indulge her was one of the main reasons that Rory and Amy were able to bond?

Except that Moffat doesn't give a corn-filled turd about you or what you remember, so let's ret-con that shit!

Hey, remember how Amy and Rory grew up with this really ballsy black chick who totally believed in the Doctor, was totally with them all the time, only no one ever mentioned her even once until now? Well, it turns out that was River the whole time! What a twist! Aren't you surprised? I bet you didn't see that one coming!

Creating a brand new element that was supposedly there all the time is cheap. Making that the axis of a major plot point is terrible.

Let me first say that I don't actually dislike this episode, it's just that it's a prime example of a trend that I dislike in Who storytelling.

The thing about the Doctor is that he's just a clever guy. A clever guy with a time machine and a dozen more chances at life that the rest of us, sure... but he's still just a guy. He's not super strong or bullet proof. He doesn't know 50 martial arts, in fact, he's much, much better at running away than anything else. He spends most of his time thwarting villains with nefarious schemes and setting right what once went wrong... The bad guys were mean and scary, but they were usually just guys.

Except now he's psychic and defeats abstract concepts with the power of feels. In the God Complex,
there's a space-minotaur prison warden who feeds on the faith of his victims by trapping them in a 1980's Earth hotel with their greatest fears, and the Doctor defeats him by sending his companion into an existential crisis.

One episode later he saves a chubby house-husband from being forcibly turned into a robot by reminding him of how much he loves his kid. Man, it would have been nice if any of the millions of other victims of cyber-conversion had families to think about (they did - it didn't help).

They had spent 50 years establishing a setting and people got used to what sort of things were possible within the scope of this universe. We know what the TARDIS and sonic screwdriver can do. Psychic paper is all right by me. All these things have limitations. If the Doctor's trapped in a wooden box, we know the screwdriver isn't going to help (it doesn't do wood). But when you add feels to his list of weapons as a vague "I will this to work" tool, it cheapens the rest of it.

So the Doctor that died on the beach was the Doctor shrunken inside of a mechanical Doctor suit the whole time.

Fine. Whatever.

Except that if that's the case, then where did all of the regeneration energy come from after River shot the robot? By the way, River Shot the Robot would be a great album title. There was never any mention of the suit having any holographic capabilities, but that's all it would have taken to explain that away.

I like having a mystery to solve. I don't even care if I'm right in the end, I just need the story to make sure its got its facts straight, or else I'm going to feel like they just pulled it out of their ass. I'm looking at you, entirety of "Lost."

Sure, there's a lot of plot holes and questionable story telling going on around here, but does that warrant a man getting buggered by a syphilitic half-lion half-eagle Greek monster? No, of course not. This is just the beginning.