Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Dr Who Plotholes

I love Dr Who, although since the man who revived it Russell T Davies left the job of producer, I've been less enamoured of it, mainly because the writing has been patchy. The show uses so any different writers , parcelling out episodes to different people, this is perhaps inevitable. And sure it's light-hearted family entertainment with legions of devotees who will gladly receive everything with critical faculties suspended, that perhaps the show shouldn't be put through any analytical wringer. But I'm a writer and I just can't help it. Equally the show currently has such an outstanding central cast I can't bear to see their talents wasted on leaden scripts. The current series has had a couple of excellent episodes, a couple of meh ones and some really terrible ones. But the penultimate and first in a two-part season conclusion was pretty good. The addition of Michelle Goes to an already stellar cast made this pure joy for e to watch. Well almost pure...

Since it was full of plotholes, or at least seemed to be, seeing as some of these might be resolved with the second and final instalment. Now normally I am not in the least bit bothered by plotholes, since plot itself is the least interesting thing to me as a writer. So for me to be aggravated by deficiencies in the logic of events, they must have been pretty glaring (and blaring). See if you agree with me.

1) Danny Pink - Dead!?
He's been killed in a road traffic accident. (Nice touch that it was Clara dropping the 'ILY' bombshell that inadvertently killed him). Okay, the premise was there's a waiting station in Limbo called the Nethersphere, because the dead can still communicate and hold conversations if you care to visit them. So Danny is dead, but still negotiating the terms of his post-life existence (with a wonderfully oily Chris Addison as his sales rep). All this is fine because it's really a front for harvesting bodies to turn into Cybermen.

1a) Do Cybermen require still living bodies to convert, or can they process corpses? The delete option Danny was fretting over seemed to suggest the former, since 'delete' is as we know the first step in the cybernetic process, to remove human emotion. In which case how is Danny alive? If he was put into a coma by the car impact, why isn't he hooked up to tubes and drips in a hospital?

1b) The hoax front is to maintain the fiction that the dead don't die, and if telepathy is used to achieve the impression that they're still sentient in some way, who is the telepathy being transmitted to in convincing us that the dead Danny Pink is still hanging on in there at some level? Because we are inevitably going to get a happy ending, Danny Pink isn't likely to be dead, so that takes up back to the car crash. Did Missy somehow stage it, convince all and sundry DP was deceased, just to capture hi so as to lure in Clara & The Doctor to her lair?

2) The scale of death:
Missy makes the wonderful observation that the shortcoming of the human race is that the dead outnumber the living. Lots of corpses to turn into Cybermen for her fiendish plan then (suggesting that the answer to plothole 1 is that they are in fact dead and only trick projections suggest they are still alive). All well and good, but how do all the dead fit into the crypts of St Paul's Cathedral and how do they get there? We only see about eight Cybermen come down the steps, hardly the whole host of humans past now is it? How extensive were the dark water tanks and again I ask, where and how did they all fit into the architecture of St Paul's? Maybe St Paul's is Missy's Tardis, bigger on the inside etc... When Danny P & his salesman/minder/psychopomp Addison pop out on the balcony for a breather to get DP's head straight, the Nethersphere scape is suggested to be never-ending (as initially established by the view through a porthole). Now London, the city that houses St Paul's is big, but that weren't no London vista through the window. Presumably the Nethersphere too is just a projection.

3) Kids, always a tear-jerker plot device:
Danny Pink is reacquainted with the kid - aka unarmed non-hostile - he shot in Afghanistan. Nice bit of conflict and personal redemption issues there served up in a trice. But why is the kid there at all? He's too short for being converted into anything but a mini-me Cyberman. Why has he been kept alive all this time that has seen DP establish himself in a second career as a schoolteacher? So this swings the pendulum back into it being a telepathic projection into Danny's noggin, that he isn't dead at all, but just having his melon messed with. Chris Addison informs us it's very unusual for such a confrontation in the Nethersphere, while Doctor Chang tells Clara it's equally rare to receive a call on the inside when Danny P is calling her. I hear a plot clunking with the sound of a bolted on solution.

So I'm none the wiser as to how the episode holds together logically. Maybe it will be resolved next week. Sorry but a nerd orgasm induced by the echo of a 1960's Cybermen iconic image on the steps of St Paul's couldn't induce e to overlook all the bits that don't hang together for me.

I stand back and await y lapidation...


Virginia Moffatt said...

Here's my take on it:

1a) and b) Missy is downloading people's consciousness into the sphere that was floating about it in the mausoleum, which the Doc said was a cybermatrix. When they have chosen to delete their emotions (as Danny is about to) They are relaunched into a dead body in one of the tanks. This was explained for me by the Doc saying cybermen were being created from cyberspace. Whether it's their dead body or another one, isn't really clear.

2. I think the inside of St Pauls is Missy's Tardis and I think the Nethersphere is probably in the sphere above (particularly if that's how you spell the name, would be a typical Moffatism)Timelord technology would allow it to be massive inside.

3. If they can download consciousnesses they might have saved the boy for this moment to test Danny in some way. I suspect it may be due to whatever plans Missy has for Clara (I thought it would be about hypnotism but now I think it's Danny being a trap of some kind. There's an impossible choice looming apparently and all series we've had Doc or Danny, suppose Clara has to choose the life of one above the other?)

So I think there may be a logic to it. Alternatively, it is all virtual, which suggests Clara and the Doc are in a virtual world too. Given that we started with a fake volcano, that is entirely possible... I'm looking forward to finding out :-)

As to Moffat's era, overall it has been patchy. Series 5 was the best. Series 6 was hampered by the break which has never been properly explained, but had some cracking episodes. Series 7 was a mess because of the break and because Clara was so poorly written (& actually if you look at it, mainly by other writers rather than Moffat). Think this series has been much more consistent and apart from the Forest one, the second half has been very strong. I think script editing isn't Moffat's strong point, though it was RTDs' and they definitely need some women writers as it's got too much male gaze, but on the strength of this, I have high hopes for Series 9.

Sulci Collective said...

Thanks Virginia, yes what you say about the Neversphere makes sense. Can't help feeling that Missy/Master probably lost their Tardis in some episode in the dim and distant past. Don't remember John Sim having one, but maybe he did.

I really liked Time Heist & Flatline. Despite the plotholes I really liked Dark Water. Mummy on The Orient Express & series opener were okay. The rest have been really poor in my opinion.

Virginia Moffatt said...

John Simm never had a Tardis - he nicked the Doctor's in Utopia and turned it into a Paradox machine... (spot the nerd). I'm sure Missy has a Tardis somewhere this time. Will be interested to know how she got it and escaped the Time Lock where I think she went.

My favourites this series have been in this order Flatline/Mummy/Dark Water/Listen. I quite liked Time Heist & Kill the Moon (though had to suspend a lot of disbelief about the egg) The Dalek one, Caretaker, and Deep Breath were OK (DB would have been better if it had been a lot shorter). The Robin Hood one and Forest one were the clunkers for me. Interesting series in that people seem to have very different reactions to it. Overall, I think it's been stronger than 7 though.