Arthur Darvill proves himself more capable than Gillan at making the best of the woefully insubstantial material he’s given, but it’s never enough to sell the idea of Amy and Rory as a couple, an idea that becomes increasingly important as the series goes on. The promo material for The Pandorica Opens talks of “a love story that spans the millennia”, but as with the Tenth Doctor and Madame De Pompadour, Moffat simply asks us to accept they’re in love rather than offering us any evidence to suggest this is the case. This will of course appeal to the type of fan that thinks Doctor Who should be all about the finer details of temporal paradoxes rather than all that relationship stuff; but to make a love story so central to the ongoing plot and then to leave it so ruinously underdeveloped isn’t an aesthetic choice – it’s just lousy storytelling.

Where Are the Villains?

Matt Smith as the Doctor in Victory of the DaleksMoffat’s aversion to character is reflected across the series as a whole – it’s notable that in the whole series, there’s only two episodes that feature proper character villains: the vampires in episode 6 (who were great) and Toby Jones’ brilliant Dream Lord in Amy’s Choice, by far and away the best adversary of the series and one who should make a priority return. But for a series that week in week out used to give us Morbiuses, Magnus Greels, Meddling Monks, Stahlmanns and so on, this is a sorry state of affairs. Too often this year we’ve seen the Doctor fighting off intangible sci-fi concepts rather than people, which has the surface air of cleverness but is sterile and reduces the Doctor to a mere problem solver rather than a hero.

Online fandom seems to have a tendency to crudely factionalise into “anti-Moffat” or “anti-RTD” camps. This is reductive. Much as I hugely enjoyed Russell T Davies’ tenure at the helm, his take on Doctor Who had run its course; by the 2009 specials, he’d run out of new things to say about his once-intriguing “Doctor as a lonely god” concept and was resorting to increasingly ludicrous spectacle and erratic plotting.

Fans quite rightly praise Moffat for his stronger grasp of pace and classical structure (although terms like “intelligence” are bandied around rather too readily: for me, The Big Bang is surely just “things happening in a jumbled up order” than any great work of plotting genius, and the “believe in me and I’ll return” conclusion is as much of a nonsense as the “pray for the Doctor and he’ll save you” resolution to Last of the Time Lords). But in correcting some of the deficiencies of the Davies era, he’s thrown the baby out with the bathwater; Doctor Who may now be plotted in a way that’s superficially smarter, but it lacks the heart and soul of previous years.

So whilst The Big Bang doesn’t contain anything as maddeningly idiotic as the TARDIS towing a planet in Journey’s End, neither does it contain any moments such as the Doctor’s quiet conversation with Wilf and Sylvia whilst Donna sleeps that I’ll want to rewatch again and again.

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