There’s been something strange creeping into my approach to serial storytelling over the last few years that has finally (and fully?) nested in my viewing habits of Doctor Who.
Anyone growing up reading comics in the 1970s and 1980s knows the joy of having long-running, mostly coherent storytelling at your fingertips. The work of Chris Claremont on Uncanny X-Men (which he wrote for 17 years) is the perfect example of this. Even when Claremont kept a plot thread dangling for years (which was often), you knew that it was part of a larger tapestry. Near the end of Claremont’s run (well, maybe a little earlier than that), the idea of the mega-crossover took hold of the industry. Instead of having a story of lasting consequence run almost entirely in a single series (or a second, as would occasionally happen), suddenly multiple series from various “families” of a publishers slate would be involved. Which is all well and good. What happens over time, and what has definitely happened over the last few years in the comics medium is the unspoken acknowledgment that only mega-narrative stories matter. Because it’s the mega-narrative that sells the most. (It’s more popularly called event story-telling, I suppose, but there’s more to it than that.)
For most of the 21st century continuation of the Doctor Who story, I was regularly invested in each episode. Sure, some more than others. But over time, we went from things like “Bad Wolf” to through-lines that crossed over multiple characters and multiple seasons that made some episodes significantly “more important” than others. When that trend solidifies, fans who feel on the outs with a show tend to check in when something big happens (or when the promise of something big is made). And so with this (shortened) season of Doctor Who, I’ve mostly only tuned in to the episodes that involved known villains and that pointed towards the season finale. And so of the ten episodes of the series, I’ve only really paid attention to six with no real desire to go back and watch what I’ve missed. It’s an unfortunate trend, especially if you love serial storytelling.
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Now that we’re up to the two-episode season finale, I am, of course, deeply interested in the series again. Much has been hinted at concerning “the timeless child” and what is going on with the return of the Master at the season’s beginning and the revelation that Gallifrey had been destroyed (and had deserved it). And while I’m expecting an awful lot of forced social commentary in whatever happens next, I’m still hopeful that that we get a rollicking space-fueled finale to the season. Here’s the trailer for tomorrow’s episode:
And here’s an extended scene from the same: