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Sunday, November 26, 2023

Chris sees Doctor Who's "The Star Beast" so you don't have to

"Doctor... I let you go."

~ final words of the Twelfth Doctor


 Oh dear Lord.  It was so much worse than I was ready for.

I keep hearing Peter Capaldi's last words as The Doctor, now several minutes after watching "The Star Beast": the first of the three hour-long specials "celebrating" the sixtieth anniversary of Doctor Who.  

Because that is what I'm feeling now.

This GIF that I made a few years ago, taken from the Mel Brooks film Silent Movie, somehow expresses the disgust and sense of being let down that I'm experiencing at this hour:


I had been a fan of Doctor Who ever since I was six years old, and sneaking in watching it WAY past my bedtime when WFMY in Greensboro aired episodes of it after the 11 o'clock news on Sunday nights.  Those were mostly from the Tom Baker era, and I'll never forget the first time I heard that theme by Ron Grainer.  Then I discovered that PBS ran Doctor Who at respectable hours on Saturday afternoons, and I got to see those and not have to worry about Dad catching me out of bed.

I was an on-and-off fan of Who throughout childhood and adolescence, and then came the day when a lady from PBS (standing in front of a graphic of the TARDIS) announced that there would be no further broadcasts of Doctor Who on public television.

So began the show's "time in the wilderness", apart from the "Dimensions In Time" 3-D special for Children in Need, when there was no new Who.  It seemed the show had finally run its course.  But I never lost my appreciation for it.

And then one night in the fall of 1994, I was logged into the bulletin board system run by a friend.  His BBS featured FidoNET, which was sort of a USENET (remember that?) connected to bulletin boards all around the world.  And there was a group on it called the Doctor Who Echo.

It was like that scene in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, where everyone realized they've had similar experiences with the UFOs.  It was finding others, out there, who were just as much Doctor Who fans as I was and indeed many who were much more Whovian than I thought possible.

A few months later I got Internet access for the first time.  Rec.Arts.SciFi.DoctorWho was one of the first newsgroups I subscribed to.  Using the Netscape Navigator browser I found (and bookmarked) the Doctor Who Home Page and discovered reams of text files of not only serious information but also bloopers, a "drinking game", just gobs of humor that had my sides hurting from laughter (literally!).

January 1996.  I had just gotten my first apartment.  My roomie was off in England as part of Elon's winter term.  Days before I was going to get seriously started moving in there threatened to be a fierce winter storm.  Mom convinced me to take the bare essentials and some clothing on to the apartment, 45 minutes away.  On the way I stopped at the mall in Burlington, looking for some entertainment.  I found the Doctor Who 1983 special "The Five Doctors" on VHS.  I bought it, got my things into the apartment and watched that tape while eating pizza from Little Caesar's.  I felt like I was king of the world, or at least my little corner of it.  I watched "The Five Doctors" a few more times while being iced in with nowhere to go.  It has become a tradition: every first night I spend in a new home, I've watched "The Five Doctors" while dining on pizza.

Then came the buildup to the premiere of the 1996 Doctor Who television movie, starring Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor (regenerating from Sylvester McCoy's previous Doctor).  Some were disappointed in the TV movie.  I thought it showed great promise and it was a let-down that it gained no further traction.

But true to form, The Doctor refused to die.

I need not go into the return of the Doctor Who series in 2005.  Even if you're fairly new to Who you probably know something about how long its "Nu Who" incarnation has been around, beginning with Christopher Eccleston as the Ninth Doctor.

Russell T. Davies was the showrunner then.  And I thought he pulled off a magnificent job in bringing the show back.  Oh sure, there were some fits and starts.  There were a few rough edges.  And maybe a little "progressiveness", but that never overwhelmed how amazing the new series was.  I was willing to overlook those.  The first of the new episodes I saw was "Dalek", featuring the return of The Doctor's most classic enemy.  And then some weeks later I downloaded (the revived series was strictly on the British side of the pond, not legally available in the States) the two-part story "The Empty Child"/"The Doctor Dances", written by a chap named Steven Moffat.  That tale completely blew me away with its awesomeness.  And when Moffat brought us "The Girl in the Fireplace" during the following season, David Tennant's first as the Tenth Doctor...

...that one genuinely brought on the tears.  I couldn't remember any television story that had so moved me.

I could go on.  But I wanted to establish my credentials first.  If I haven't driven home the point yet, here it is: I GET Doctor Who.  Arguably better than many if not most modern fans can.

When it was announced that after Peter Capaldi's time in the role ended, that The Doctor would regenerate into his/their first female incarnation as Jodie Whittaker in the role, well... I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't cautiously optimistic.  I was willing to give her a chance.  But such a change was fraught with risk, and I'll say something here that I've said many times in the past few years: there is a dynamic at work throughout the Doctor Who franchise, between The Doctor and his companions, and that should never be "tinkered" with.

But I still was willing to let Whittaker, and new showrunner Chris Chibnall, prove themselves.

Folks, I will readily admit to being one of the Chibnall era's biggest detractors.  For the first time it was readily obvious that THE MESSAGE(tm) really was seriously becoming more important in the show than... GASP!... actual character and plot.  And then there was the "Timeless Child" notion that completely obliterated most of the canon about The Doctor's very existence.  Strangely I don't blame Whittaker herself.  She was just playing the role, she had no say in what the show's execs intended for her time as The Doctor.  I absolutely believe that in better hands she could have been an amazing Doctor.

But that wasn't to be.

And then it was announced over a year ago that Russell T. Davies was coming back to helm Doctor Who.  And again, I found myself cautiously optimistic.  Ideally it would be Steven Moffat, who took over the reins following Davies' first tenure, as THE ONE who would restore order to the Whoniverse.  But it seems that is not going to ever happen again, leaving Moffat's era - which encompassed Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi's respective Doctors - a brilliant diamond forever shining bright across the annals of the television medium.

"Cautiously optimistic".  I really was.

Then came the past few weeks, and Davies' insane changes to much-beloved villain Davros.  One fan posted an eloquent defense of the original Davros design on X/Twitter.  Davies replied: "Tough".  Which was definitely not an act becoming a conscientious and responsible steward of the Doctor Who mythos.

And then the advance word of "The Star Beast" special started filtering down.  And even the BBC admitted that the special was being driven by "The Message".

Much like what happened that night on the Doctor Who Echo on FidoNET nearly three decades ago, I began finding other devoted Who fans, who were becoming increasingly rattled by these developments and Davies' attitude.  Some serious dissent was brewing across the Intertubes.

It all came to a head yesterday, with the premiere on BBC and on Disney+ (yes, Disney is now partly running Doctor Who, which may explain some things) of "The Star Beast".  And X/Twitter's most trending topic for most of the day was "RIP Doctor Who".

I read a lot of those tweets.  I made a few of my own also, sharing some thoughts about how liberalism corrupts and destroys everything it touches (it really does).  And could it be that liberalism has now brought down Doctor Who?

Well, I made up my mind as I was working throughout most of the day.  I had to see "The Star Beast" for myself.  And make up my own mind about it.  A longtime reader of this blog made it available to me.

I just spent an hour watching "The Star Beast".

People, it's impossible to shine a turd.  But it can sure have lots of glitter thrown at it, in the desperate hope that some of it will actually stick.  However in the end all you're left with is glittery sh-t.

Words cannot possibly contain or convey how much I absolutely hate this "special".  It was so much WORSE than anything I was braced for.  So many times I wanted to give up, but noooooo I had to ride it out.  Had to be willing to give it a chance to redeem itself.

There is no redemption for "The Star Beast" and it's glaringly evident that there is no redemption for the Doctor Who franchise in Russell T. Davies' grip.

Yes, THE MESSAGE does loom large.  Like the atrocious Absorbaloff from the reprehensible "Love & Monsters" episode (don't go looking for that, please), it gobbles up and dissolves into nothing everything it touches.  The only people who are apparently crazy about this hour-long chapter are hardcore leftists, the sexually deviant and trans-activists of the kind that lately stalk J.K. Rowling like so many rabid hyenas.  Not even the return of David Tennant and Catherine Tate to the saga can raise hopes that the Davies era is going to be anything but "progressive" in your face as long as he's in the big chair.

("Binary gender" is now a superpower.  And The Doctor must now take care not to tread wrongly and "mis-gender" anyone.  Just two of the atrocities committed during the running time of this... thing.)

I have a theory.  I've shared it on X/Twitter a few times.  Here it is: Russell T. Davis has become aware that he is mortal.  That one day he will shuffle off his mortal coil.  As a homosexual man he has no children.  He has no posterity, other than his body of work.  But that's not enough to satisfy him.  Davies is suddenly aware of the ingrained NEED to perpetuate himself.  And that's what is driving him most with his return to Doctor Who.  Russell T. Davies of 2005 was not like this.  THAT Russell T. Davies also had no issue with bringing Davros back in his classic form.  But TODAY's Russell T. Davies is now cognizant of the reality that he will DIE someday, and maybe sooner than later.  So he is now hell-bent on proliferating his sexual politics and hard-left agenda through Doctor Who and impose that upon generations to come.

Perpetuating himself through his creations, which are only meant to tear apart and destroy.

Clearly, Russel T. Davies has become that which he claims to hate.  Davies has become Davros.

I feel like I'm just getting started with how much "The Star Beast" let me down.  And apparently it let a lot of other people down also.  Broadcast figures from its premiere indicated that only about 5 million or so people tuned in.  Definitely not the ratings that "The Day of the Doctor" special ten years ago on the fiftieth anniversary earned.

The next special, "The Wild Blue Yonder", transmits this coming Saturday.  Followed by "The Giggle" and then the Christmas special that sees Ncuti Gatwa becoming the Fifteenth Doctor.  I have to wonder what these upcoming specials will gain in terms of viewership... if they gain anything substantial at all.  I kind of feel sorry for Gatwa.  I've seen some of his work and he would make an outstanding Doctor... but then again, Whittaker could have been an outstanding Doctor already, had it not been for The Message(tm) having the priority over everything else.

Okay, that's it.  I'm done with Doctor Who.  Maybe forever.  This show died in that blinding white light at the end of the Twelfth Doctor's regeneration.  Nothing since has been up to snuff and it sure looks like nothing yet to come is going to be proper Who either.

Incidentally, I spent Thanksgiving Day afternoon - the sixtieth anniversary of "An Unearthly Child", the very first Doctor Who episode - watching some of my many DVDs of the show's classic era.  First was the Fourth Doctor story "The Deadly Assassin" and then there was "The Five Doctors".  I celebrated The Doctor and everything good that he has stood for, for decades.  I'm very thankful for those DVDs (and I still have that VHS tape of "The Five Doctors").

To me, there is no more Doctor Who now.  It began with "An Unearthly Child" in 1963 and it ended with the final Peter Capaldi episode.  Everything since has been about nothing but forwarding THE AGENDA.  Doctor Who is now in the hands of people who do not now and might never have truly appreciated The Doctor and his universe.

But as Russell T. Davies put it so beautifully: "Tough".

Let us be grateful that we had The Doctor and his companions and their adventures for as long as we did.  And for now, there is still physical media of the classic series (and even many of the revived show) that can be purchased and archived away.  I recommend that you do that now, before Disney+ becomes the only means of watching the show at least here in America.  There is some genuine value in physical DVDs and Blu-rays and even videocassettes.

But as for what Doctor Who has now become?

Maybe there is some value in what the show is turning into.  Perhaps people better than I will look at what Doctor Who is morphing toward, and politely tell Davies and his woke minions that "oh yes that's nice!" when secretly they loathe it.  Kind of like a grown-up looking at the mad scribblings in crayon of a five-year old, who insists that it's a beautiful work of art.  And maybe the drawing will be put on a refrigerator door, before eventually being taken down and relocated to the basement.  Where rats and roaches will finally chew up its fading paper.

Let it fade.


Jeff in Seattle said...

Excellent article.

Budo said...

"I have a theory. I've shared it on X/Twitter a few times. Here it is: Russell T. Davis has become aware that he is mortal. That one day he will shuffle off his mortal coil. As a homosexual man he has no children. He has no posterity, other than his body of work. But that's not enough to satisfy him. Davies is suddenly aware of the ingrained NEED to perpetuate himself. And that's what is driving him most with his return to Doctor Who. Russell T. Davies of 2005 was not like this. THAT Russell T. Davies also had no issue with bringing Davros back in his classic form. But TODAY's Russell T. Davies is now cognizant of the reality that he will DIE someday, and maybe sooner than later. So he is now hell-bent on proliferating his sexual politics and hard-left agenda through Doctor Who and impose that upon generations to come.

Perpetuating himself through his creations, which are only meant to tear apart and destroy."

You may not realize it but you've just described the motivation of Big-L Liberalism.

Thank you for writing this. I stupidly signed up for Disney+ to watch these so called specials. You put into words the anger I've had all weekend.

Solomon Grundy said...

This follows much like what every other sensible person who's seen it is saying. Doctor Who never needed "transgenders" during the classic show and it doesn't need them now.

"Representation" is death by a thousand cuts.

Chris Knight said...

Budo, that's something I've definitely thought for awhile now. There is "little l" classic liberalism. And then there is full-bore BIG L leftism. It is the latter that is so horribly corrupting and destroying all that is beautiful in this world. LIBERALISM is how people with no talent make their mark upon the world: by destroying that which is already wonderful. LIBERALS destroyed Dr. Seuss. LIBERALS destroy statues of truly great people. LIBERALS change the names of streets to honor murderers. LIBERALS wiped out Apu, one of THE best characters The Simpsons ever had. LIBERALS had already long gone after Doctor Who but they have gone absolutely full-blown tyrant over it now.

I doubt very much that this is what Sydney Newman had in mind when he first created Doctor Who in the early Sixties.

Geoff Gentry xforce11 said...

The whole Male Presenting Timelord line was awful. It does not work on any level. They are saying, "It does not matter how much time you spent as a Female Timelord. Because you present now as a Male Timelord, you can't understand." So it negates any learning and insight the person of the Doctor gained by experiencing life a a female. So having male genitalia = negates insight into females. Yet on the other side of the argument Rose understands because she presents as female. I'm scratching my head here. Would they say that a genetic female who presents as male would not understand the female condition? The Doctor was female and had romantic love for a female. But that does not count. I know trying to reason things out is not logical. But I cannot see how both the traditional and LGBTQ+ communities would not be offended by that line. The pronouns thing I can overlook (although I don't think it was needed when). But that line by Donna & Rose was awful.

Bronsky said...

Good piece Chris.

Unstable said...

Lets see what Wild Blue Yonder and The Giggle are like. I'm figuring they'll be more of the same, and in general I like Neil Patrick Harris but I thought Star Beast would be fairly good. I do _not_ think Ncuti Gatwa will be a good Doctor. He's already said in interviews that he'll play a "black Doctor" and that role is not supposed to be about skin color at all.

Chris Knight said...

I've generally liked Neil Patrick Harris also. But if this third special is anything like the first, not even he will be able to salvage it.

The BBC should work up the guts to reset Doctor Who to the moment immediately after Capaldi's regeneration scene. Make everything that's happened into a dream sequence, like what Dallas did with the "Bobby Ewing is in the shower" gimmick. It did kinda work for Dallas, it would be no problem for Doctor Who either.

Chris Knight said...

Last night I found myself watching some Doctor Who clips. This scene from "The Magician's Apprentice" came to mind. This is the Davros that Davies has now destroyed, and it's a damn crime against art. This kind of interaction will forever be impossible if Davies has his way.