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Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Bad Wolf vs. the Impossible Girl

I've been getting an earful recently the arc this series and how it's meant there's no overarching story even though, y'know, there totally is, and it's the Doctor and the mystery of Clara.

And it keeps getting put up against Series 1 and "Bad Wolf" for some reason, even though that really wasn't much of a story arc. People happened to be using the words, it got pointed out to us in the penultimate episode, and then in the last episode we found out why and we pretended it made sense. Even when there were two-parters they really didn't elaborate or expand on the season plot.

And so it was with Series 2 and Series 3 and Series 4. "Torchwood Torchwood Torchwood OH HEY TORCHWOOD IS A GOVERNMENT ORGANIZATION." "Saxon Saxon Saxon OH HEY SAXON IS THE MASTER AND ALSO MP." "Planets bees planets bees planets bees OH HEY THE PLANETS WERE SWIPED BY DALEKS AND THE BEES WERE A BEACON." No substance. Just repetition followed by elaboration.

It's very much the same thing here. Each episode the Doctor will allude to Clara's impossibility, and the rest of the episode will be wholly unrelated to that. I mean, it's slightly better here, because there's emotional stakes--at least, there are in "Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS" and "Nightmare in Silver", with the Doctor's secretive nature being brought to the forefront and Clara's mounting frustration with it, coupled with the Doctor's increasing fear that Clara is a deception of some sort.

I think the real problem here is that Moffat kind of raised our expectations with Series 5--which is probably the best continuous string of episodes any season of Who has ever managed. It, unlike other series of new Who, actually had progression in its arc. It wasn't just "crack crack crack OH HEY THE TARDIS BLEW UP AND TOOK REALITY WITH IT", we found out things in stages. It was gradually revealed to us that the cracks could alternatively serve as portals or memory saps, we found out midway through the series that the TARDIS had something to do with it all, and Rory's arrival and subsequent disappearance put things in flux and gave us serious, tangible emotional stakes.

Series 6 worked similarly, although it rushed things in places and cut a few corners. Rather than have important arc things happen in different one-offs, it made the conscious decision to put aside entire episodes for the arc.  It didn't quite work, but I admire the fact that they tried and the plot itself was actually pretty good. The action rise and fell and we found out things about River gradually rather than all at once in the finale.

I wouldn't be surprised if the Impossible Girl was compared favorably to Bad Wolf, but it's not, which is odd because they're neigh-identical in execution. This whole half-series has been a return to the Davies-era of arc plotting if I ever saw one.  Simply repeat the basic premise until the finale comes and the basic premise is explained in full.

So tell me, people--what's your beef? What makes Series 1 superior besides a mounting feeling of nostalgia (in which case, Season 9 clearly has the best story arc)? Answer in the comments section! I'm genuinely curious!