Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Doctor Who: Is that it?

I realise I am taking my life in my hands - this is the Lib Dem blogosphere - but I have not been impressed by the recent series of Doctor Who.

My problem is not so much the content as the format. When I was young the show was broadcast in four-past series. It would just be getting exciting, a Dalek would appear in the doorway and then there would be that wonderful music and you would have to wait a whole week before you found out what happened next.

These days the whole thing has to be over in 45 minutes. So last Saturday's episode involving Agatha Christie had all sorts of interesting possibilities - as a whodunit, science fiction or a period drama - but the limited time did not allow any of these to be developed properly.

Incidentally, I found the idea of Christie worrying about how she would be remembered a little odd. She enjoyed enormous success in her lifetime and I suspect she was well aware that she was not writing great literature.

I wonder what the change from multi-part stories to single episodes tells us about society today.

Is it that the television audience is now so fragmented that you will never get them back the next week if you do not give them the whole show at one sitting? Or do we have an attention-deficit society where no one can bear to wait for anything any more?

5 comments:

Andy said...

Actually, I completely agree with you. 45 minutes is simply not enough time to really paint a picture of a complete world, certainly not to build up any sense of mystery or "what the hell's going on?" about a story - which in the olden days was what part 1 was all about.

I can remember the gut-feeling of relief and satisfaction I got last series when Human Nature rolled around and finally we had a story prepared to move at its own pace and not assume the audience was going to get bored and wander off.

Well, we can but wait for this season's surefire treat, The Moffatt Two Parter (the week after Eurovision).

Richard said...

I think M'Lord Bonkers is slightly generalising from a single instance.

I would agree that this story could have done with longer, but equally the feature length "Poirot" are generally better than the older 50-minute episodes.

"The Doctor's Daughter", "Planet of the Ood" and "Fires of Pompeii" all very successfully drew an "alien" world and told a story within their running time because the modern TV audience doesn't need spoon feeding every moment of exposition.

In contrast, the Sontaran two-parter felt bloated and hollow, for all its spectacle, without enough plot to justify 90 minutes and a week’s wait between.

Besides, if you’re hankering for a cliffhanger, that’s why the production team have included those pre-title teasers and next time trailers

:)

Ian Thorpe said...

The Agatha Christie story was a bit weak, but things must progress and harking back nostalgically to wobbly scenery, even wobblier plots and Daleks made out of egg trays smacks of closet NIMBYism to me.

The old Dr. Who would never have given us Billie Piper or Freema Agyeman and my wife and daughter say David Tennant is very acceptable eye candy for them.

We Lib Dems and Greens should be the first to embrace change if we want people to believe we represent the politics of the future.

Pejar said...

I'm no particular fan of Doctor Who, but I'm thoroughly unconvinced by this. Granted, 45 minutes can be limiting. But stretching a whodunnit over multiple weeks is surely heresy - how is one supposed to remember all the intricate clues which lead up to the conclusion?

And while Doctor Who tends towards single episode stories (although it does not lack for two-parters), the immensely popular 'Heroes' is serialised and does not suffer for it. I think you generalise too far.

Salvius said...

I suspect you're suffering a bit from a case of Nostalgia Filter: Everything always looks better in hindsight, because you only remember the good bits.

I recently re-watched "The Talons of Weng-Chiang", one of my favorites of the old classics, and while I do think it stands up well, it is almost appallingly slow-paced by modern standards (as is virtually anything produced in the '70s and '80s, up to and including the original Star Wars). As Richard said, modern audiences are capable of processing more information more quickly, so the running times can safely be shorter.