Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Horrible Doctor Who: Five Episodes that Shame Time and Space

Warning: Content contains spoilers. Please read with caution. If unwanted spoiler gets in eye, rinse head thoroughly under water until burning rage subsides. If symptoms continue, please Google issue and then proceed with care.

My name is KC and according to the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, I'm "mostly harmless." And in parentheses, it says "see, Anomaly."

I would say I'm a pretty devoted Doctor Who fan. After all, Doctor Who was the vehicle that opened my eyes to my inner geek. Time travel, space adventures, interesting characters, romance, horror, drama, comedy... for a family show, it seems to have it all!

About a month ago, I recorded a Skype-cast with Meds and Kenny for Treks in Sci-Fi, all about the most recent series (or "season") of Doctor Who. When the episode was released, we all received an email from Jen. She let us know that we all did an awesome job and that our love of the series made her "really want to revisit the series." She said she had started with series one... but she had to stop after the aliens invaded London.

I, being a huge fan of the series, do not blame her one bit. If I had started with the first series and saw the episode she spoke of, I would have abandoned Doctor Who myself. There are fantastic episodes of the series, but every now and then, there are terrible ones.

Jen received three different replies from Meds, Kenny and I about which episodes to watch. I had a color coded list ready to send, and then I thought of something. There are plenty of lists out there about which episodes of Doctor Who are the best. Anyone can get those anywhere, and they could miss some underrated episodes if they go by these lists alone. Even some mediocre and bad episodes have their merits. However, not a lot of articles cover the poor quality ones. And you know what? The best thing about these stories is you can skip them and you will not miss a lot!

I have compiled a list of five episodes from the new series that are absolutely abysmal. (This show is nearly fifty years old, I'm not going that in depth!) I will give credit where credit is due and I write why the episode might be worth watching. That being said, the episodes I have listed are bad and I point out why they are bad. Big emphasis on bad.

Take note that these are merely my opinions and mine alone. I'm also more than willing to be a hypocrite and change my opinions if I magically get a job working with the Doctor Who creative team. Until that extremely unlikely day, my apologies to the Doctor Who powers that be.

"Aliens of London/World War Three" (Series One, Episodes 4 & 5)
Reason for Skipability: Aliens known as the Slitheen are masquerading as humans. That's fine with me because some of the best science fiction has at least one story like this. The problem is that the Slitheen are gigantic green monsters that have to compress their forms into a tiny human suit. Therefore the tell-tale sign that they're aliens is that they experience moments where... you know what, they fart. Yes, you heard me. A television show about time and space resorts to fart jokes. Why, Russell T. Davies? Why?
Dang It: A character named Harriet Jones is introduced in this episode, and she occurs two more times in the show. She's probably the only good part of this two-parter. Plus, her portrayer, Penelope Wilton, can be recognized as Simon Pegg's mom in Shaun of the Dead.

"Boom Town" (Series One, Episode 11)
Why it's bad: The farting aliens return! Well, one of them. The episode itself is gets pretty lost and can never find its tone. In fact, I'm not even sure if this episode wants to be a science fiction story. It's really a back and forth about why this deadly woman-alien should or shouldn't be sent to her home, who will execute upon her return. I could watch a better version of this plot on Law and Order or Star Trek.
Dang It: In two ways, it connects to the following last episodes of the first series. Missing this episode won't ruin anything though.

"New Earth" (Series Two, Episode One)
Reason for Skipability: This episode has interesting basic ideas. Seemingly utopian future, dark secrets about utopia's hospital system, humanoid cat nuns--I can dig it. But the episode itself was poorly executed in terms of story. It didn't need elements like a returning villain or a theme about living forever... the whole episode just fell flat. Also, if I had to get onto "Aliens in London" and "Boom Town" for the fartiness, I have to get onto this episode for it's immature use of hidden swear words. Cutting to another shot before someone curses doesn't make you clever. Fourth graders will laugh at it now, but they will not when they grow up.
Dang It: There are a few good parts in here. As in four. 1) The first minute is beatifully shot. 2) Big fat spoiler--Rose kisses the Doctor. Sure, she's possessed by another female entity, but it's a pretty good kiss. 3) The Doctor gets possessed and then proceeds to act as a woman. It's amusing. 4) The last few minutes of the episode are, again, beautifully shot. Oh! And a bonus: you get to see the Face of Boe. But that's it.

"Love and Monsters" (Series Two, Episode 10)
Reason for Skipability: I must admit that I liked this episode the first time around. But I may or may not have had a glass of wine that night, because the next time I watched it, I could not believe how ridiculous it was. I have to admit that I like the format of the episode where it's an outsider talking to the webisphere about experience with the Doctor, and cutting clips in of Elton John and ELO. And the actors do a good job. But the story, dialogue, and direction are all over the place. It has some major A.D.D., and not in an interesting, Terry Gilliam kind of way. I mean a let's-give-a-five-year-old-a-cup-of-coffee-and-have-him-write-the-episode kind of way.
Dang It: I got nothing. Just skip it.

"The Voyage of the Damned" (2008 Christmas Special)
Reason for Skipability: This is probably one of the worst Christmas specials ever. And is it just me, or do most of the Christmas episodes have nothing to do with Christmas? This is basically a combo between Poseidon and B-movie, which is never a good combination. You are introduced to characters that you never come to care for, and the explosions are the kind that only Michael Bay could love.
Dang It: A character named Wilfred Mott is introduced in this episode, and he becomes pretty important later on. And there is one moving moment of the special near the end between the one-off companion Astrid (Kylie Minogue) and the Doctor, but I don't know if it's worth watching the entire thing.

I will admit that I would probably like these episodes if I were much younger. However, I'm an older viewer and I think that the only faults of this intelligent show are when it loses its maturity. But I still adore Doctor Who, and that's what true love is.

Alright, Who fans. We all love the show, but which episodes would you warn others about? Why do you think they're terrible? What are they're saving graces? Comment with your answers!

Staff Writer for Anomaly
Co-Host of Anomaly Supplemental
Subscribe to Anomaly on iTunes


Jen said...

Yeah! Thank you for the list of "Who Don'ts". I will make sure to avoid the rest. I did begin your list of "Who Do's". I started with "Girl in the Fireplace". Good one. :)

You and Sue should do a "Worst of Who" on Anomaly Supplemental. It would be the perfect companion to our "Worst of Trek" series. :D

Sarah and Andrew said...

Wow great post!!! Love your points and can understand all of them. I seriously have to think on that one and get back to you about my worsts list....but as for bests...you DID like Blink right? :)

kaseycleon said...

Thanks, Jen! I'm glad you liked Girl in the Fireplace. That's my favorite--it makes me feel girly and happy. :)

For a show that has been on and off the air for fifty years, I'm sure there's plenty of material for a Worst of Who. But I also want to get in some time about the awesome ones, especially those that I consider underrated.

I'm glad you enjoyed the post and that it might assist you in a more enjoyable watching experience. ;)

Geekyfanboy said...

Hmmm I agree with you on 2 of the 5.. The Slitheen are horrible characters.. I understand why they were there because Doctor Who has always been a family show and I'm sure the kids loved the farting aliens.. but to me they were annoying.

As for New Earth, Love and Monsters, and Voyage of the Damned I enjoyed each of those for different reasons, but I wouldn't watch them over and over again..or put them on a top 20 list, with exception to Voyage of the Damned.I really enjoyed the characters and thought the story was fun. I could watch this one over and over.

It's tough picking the 'worse' Doctor Who episodes and the ones you choose I would agree are on the bottom of my list, with exception to Voyage. But honestly any Who is good Who when you compare it to other TV shows. :)

kaseycleon said...

Sarah and Andrew, I loved Blink! Basically all of the Steven Moffat episodes are some of the best of the show. Girl in the Fireplace, Blink, Empty Child/Doctor Dances, A Christmas Carol... all of them.

Kenny, I can totally understand that. And I agree that the episodes have their good points--New Earth bothers me, but it has some beautiful lighting and cinematography in there. For me, the good points of these episodes are few and far between. But you're right. Doctor Who is a lot better than some other TV shows out there, and even with the bad episodes, I love it to pieces.

At least you agree with me on the Slitheen, though. Farting aliens? No, no. ;)

Hawkeyemeds said...

Well i agree with every single one of those and excellent reasons for all. Love and Monsters is terrible to the point I nearly resigned and handed in my tardis key. Thats what you get when you set a competition for a child to design a character and have Peter kay turn up to play it. Get me a bucket quickly.
Being a fan from 1979 and have watched every single available episode there are some ghastly episodes but that comes with any long running series and as Dr Who is the longest running Sci Fi show ever its going to have some ball busters.
Great blog KC and yup I agree with Jen, you have to do a supplimental very soon.

Jen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jen said...

Okay, but what about those of us who aren't Who fans? I can't say that all Who is good. The Farting aliens episode made me stop watching. :D I was like "WHAT? REALLY? This stinks!" No pun intended.
I really want to like Who...

I know you guys love it, but take a few step back and look again at these weaker eps. Don't worry, no one will take away your Who Fan Club Membership if you say there are a few that are not that great. You can still like a series, even if you think there are a few bad shows mixed in. :)

kaseycleon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
kaseycleon said...

Meds, I do not blame you. I don't care how gifted your child is, he better submit his CV with a thorough list of experience before pitching an alien for Doctor Who. I'm sure he's a cute kid--well, teenager now, I'm sure--but that was a bad move.

Jen, you are totally right, and that's kind of why I wanted to write this blog. Everyone writes about why you should watch Doctor Who and they tell you which ones you need to watch and they guarantee you'll love it. But sometimes you have to be honest about your favorite series and say, "You know... that episode was pretty bad. And that might be an understatement." Other successful shows have this issue, like Trek and Buffy and Farscape.

At the same time, what is great about the Who-niverse is that everybody has very different opinions. I dislike episodes my friends like, I like episodes other friends don't like, I strongly dislike one of the companion characters that I everyone seems to love, etc. Everyone's thoughts are so varied and I love it.

That being said, all of my opinions are right. :P

I'm just kidding... maybe...

Neil said...

I'd personally still rather watch 'Voyage of the Damned' than 'The next Doctor' which feels like the Christmas Special which should never have been made (and nearly wasn't, if you read RTD's The Writer's Tale)

kaseycleon said...

Thank you for the comment, Neil! I really like The Next Doctor, actually. It's not my favorite, but it's still fun and David Morrisey and David Tennant share some great moments. Plus, the costumes are, like, really really pretty! Oh... is my girly side showing? Sorry about that. :P

I still need to read RTD's book! It's unlikely, but maybe I'll be in luck at a library. Are you a member of the forums? If so, you should start a thread on it. We'd love to hear your thoughts on it. Have you read Chicks Dig Time Lords?

Thanks again for the comment!

Jen said...

Oh, I forgot to say how much I love your "I am an Anomaly" lead in! Gamma Quadrant Golf Clap!

qimster said...

Thanks so much for posting Kasey, I always love learning about how others feel/think about the Whoverse! I am glad someone else used the Micheal Bay description to the Voyage of the Damned episode. The explosions at the end were really annoying! However I felt the chemistry between the Doctor and Kylie Minoue (sp) was great. Anyway I loved the dialogue your post has forced to the surface and hearing what episodes other people love too.

ricdude said...

I've been a fan of the show since the late 70's, and have to agree that this is (generally) an *amazing* show. Episodes such as the romantic "Girl in the Fireplace", the terrifying "Blink", the real-time action-packed "42", and the character study "Midnight" are shining examples of what this show has to offer. The one-upping banter between the Daleks and the Cybermen is nothing short of hysterical. Based on the recommendee's personal preferences, I'd recommend new viewers check out one of those episodes.

However, I will freely admit that, as with most long-running series with a wide variety of authors, some episodes, well, suck. "Love and Monsters" tops my "won't watch again" list. I mean, the concept of telling the story from the outside was cool (it worked for "Blink"), but the monster was fundamentally silly, and the "whodunnit" factor that I love in so many other episodes was totally non-existent here. The Slitheen don't annoy me as much as others, despite the flatulence, maybe because I was introduced to them when showing my kids the Sarah Jane Adventures. I kind of liked "New Earth" for the Zombie motif.

Other episodes to avoid, unless you're in a completist mood: "Father's Day" - cool concept, reminiscent of King's Langoliers, but never dealt with in any other "parallel choice" episodes. The entire "Return of The Master" trilogy - one of Who's coolest villians ever (at least in the Pertwee years), reduced to an adolescent sadist, instead of a truly fearsome foe - Meh.

Looking forward to more detailed analysis via supplemental!

Anonymous said...

Ok, I don't like the Slitheen. They fart and do all that stuff, but the episode was pretty good. If the Slitheen were replaced by a different monster, the episode would easily be one of my favorites.

Also, I thought Boom Town, while the plot was mixed up, was clever and funny.