A beginning, a muddle and an end?*


The doctor who doesn’t seem to care about the narrative

Now All Change Please! is not exactly stupid. It even has a number of your actual original, authentic Gold Standard O levels and A levels, taken in the days before they were supposedly dumbed down and made so easy that a child of five could pass them. Not to mention a proper degree from a time long ago when there were real lectures and weekly tutorials to attend, even if you didn’t.

But despite all this, it still has problems making any sense at all of the plot of Doctor Who, which has itself been recently (and fairly enough) dumbed down to make it more of an adventure story for younger viewers. Except for the stories to work it throws in references to some highly sophisticated and completely unexplained notions of time and space, and of the nature of artificial intelligence and self-consciousness.

Take last week’s episode (Series 7, Part 5). The TARDIS (which apparently, like the rest of us, seems to have some serious reservations about the Doctor’s new companion) somehow gets dragged on board a passing space ship and is seriously damaged. A mysterious pair of legs are identified sticking out from under some debris, but are never referred to again. In an attempt to repair the TARDIS, despite lengthy and emotional protestations from the Doctor, some essential parts of its workings are stolen, but after a while this plot line simply disappears. Next, a character who ‘believed’ he was a robot discovers he is actually a real person, and yet seems to have no problem walking round a few minutes later having had his left entire arm amputated. Finally after meeting themselves from the future the Doctor throws a mysterious gizmo with a message on it through a rift in time back to himself at the start of the episode, somehow enabling him to prevent everything happening in the first place. Maybe there’s a 5 year-old out there somewhere who could kindly explain it all to me?

But of course it’s not just Dr Who where such liberties are taken. These days it’s all special FX and dynamic quick-cut editing that seems to count the most. It really doesn’t seem to matter whose shooting Who provided it’s visually dramatic enough. Meanwhile car chases have become sequences random incoherent and shots vehicles colliding of speeding seemingly of, or to put it the old-fashioned way, incoherent sequences of shots of seemingly random speeding and colliding vehicles. And, when the dialogue is actually audible, it’s usually not worth listening to.

Now All Change Please! hates to be a fuddy-duddy old killjoy of a Gove-sounding supporter who thinks we should get back to making movies and TV drama the way they did in the 1950s, but nonetheless it has to admit, in this respect at least, it is. It thinks children – and their parents – deserve better than this. Whether the stories are told backwards, forwards or inside out, all it wants is a half-decent plot where all the clues, red-herrings and loose ends are neatly tied up, with everything reasonably explained and edited together in a coherent richly-worded narrative that represents something more than just a beginning, a muddle and an end. With perhaps even the odd unexpected plot-twist or a ‘Or did they?’ thrown after the essential ‘They all lived happily ever after…’ finale.

While new interactive and personalised digital narratives will undoubtedly change the nature of storytelling in the future, it is important that new media companies continue to provide quality content. And more than ever before, teaching and learning media literacy is needed, yet it remains conspicuously absent from the National Curriculum. Somewhere along the lines the government seems to have lost the plot too. Perhaps someone should call for the Doctor?

Or maybe not?

*Possibly attributed to C E Lombard

Image credit: BowBelle51