Reader Poll Roundup: Series Eight Edition

Nov
26

I have been fascinated with the results of this year's reader polls, especially as I compare them to last year's. My data sets aren't completely parallel, since Series Seven had thirteen episodes with a Christmas Special in the middle (for a total of fourteen) while Series Eight only had twelve, but I think the comparisons are interesting nevertheless.

As last year, I'm going to start with the average (mean) ratings of episodes in chronological order. For any given episode, each star rating (e.g., 5 stars) was multiplied by the number of votes it got, the results added, and the sum divided by the total number of votes. Here's how the ratings looked for Series Eight:

Honestly, I was surprised by how low some of these scores were, as the series was my favorite of Moffat's tenure. Clearly, YMMV. What I find stands out though, is the sharp difference from episode to episode, especially the ratings plummet between episodes nine and ten.

Confession #68: I've Found "The" Doctor

Nov
19

There have been some wildly varying reactions to Series Eight both around "t3h Intarwebz" and here on the blog. (A big "thank you!", by the way, to everyone who's taken the time to vote in the reader polls or comment on a post. I love hearing from you!) I've heard pretty much everything from "Moffat must go!" to "Best. Series. Evar!", not to mention quite a few opinions in between.

This wild variation could be seen in microcosm for almost every episode, too. Next week, when I post the aggregate results of the reader polls for this series, I'll go into more detail, but suffice it to say, several stories with lots of 5-star votes also got a lot of 0-star votes. Anecdotal evidence from online conversations bears out this love-it-or-hate-it reaction to much of the series.

The one thing I haven't really seen, though, is Capaldi hate.

Of course, there's always someone; no Doctor—no person—has universal appeal. And perhaps it's just due to the particular corners of the Internet that I frequent (I'll admit that it's rather insular, by design) that I haven't seen angry fans frothing for Capaldi's immediate removal. But I've been pleased (though not surprised, thanks to personal bias) that even when people ranted about the hyper-stinkitude of this or that episode, and called for other heads (particularly Moffat's), there's been no sense that Capaldi's to blame for any perceived shortcomings in the series.

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Fandom in Purgatory

Nov
12

Review of Death in Heaven
Warning: This review contains episode-specific spoilers and wild speculation about future episodes.

I'm always wary going into a Moffat finale. His tendency toward emotional manipulation and complex story arcs concluded without full closure generally grate on me. Death in Heaven delivered as expected, with plot holes and saccharine scenes galore, and though it had enough enjoyable content to keep me from hating it entirely, I'm not in a rush to watch it again.

Having resolved one of the major questions of the series at the end of last week's episode ("who is Missy?"), the story's focus shifted to ferreting out her Master plan (sorry; couldn't help myself). I have to admit, it turns out less rubbish than her track record would suggest, but I have problems with the whole "Cyber-pollen" thing on several levels.

To begin, since when has "every tiny particle of a Cyberman contain[ed] the plans to make another Cyberman"? (I believe, Mr. Moffat, you're thinking of Borg nanoprobes...) Now granted, the idea that they can now assimilate convert dead bodies into new Cybermen is super creepy—kudos on that one—but I'm still scratching my head over some of the logistics.

I mean, we're told every dead person around the world is undergoing Cyber-conversion, but we've also heard that cremation is "pretty much the default these days," at least in the UK. [Content advisory: if you found Cyber-conversion of the dead personally troubling for any reason, you may want to skip the next four paragraphs.] At what point is there not enough identifiably once-sentient organic matter left? If, for example, someone was cremated and then their ashes scattered, would the Cyberpollen still activate any of that material? Would each speck become another Cyberman, or would the pollen somehow "know" only to activate a single Cyberman per former individual?

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Masterpiece

Nov
05

Review of Dark Water
Warning: This review contains episode-specific spoilers and wild speculation about future episodes.

I'll say this much for Dark Water: it's certainly getting a reaction from fandom.

Although the story itself had a fair number of twists, I think it's fair to say that the main thrust of the first part of the Series Eight finale was giving the audience an answer to the most obvious question posed by the series arc: who is Missy?

In addition to the boring way Missy conforms to Moffat's archetype of one-note "bad gals," her character has not interested me until now. I've become so jaded by Moffat's convoluted (and often unsatisfactorily resolved) plot arcs, that I've stopped even trying to figure out what he's up to. Missy's identity was the only puzzle I felt up to taking a stab at, and I have to say I'm pleased that what seemed to me the most likely possibility turned out to be it.

But that reveal... Well, I'll get to the reveal later. Let's back up and look at the storyline.

Given the melodramatic feel of the first ten minutes, I can't help but wonder if poor Danny was added to the cast this year just to provide the setup for this episode. I suppose I should've seen it coming, what with all the deaths leading to Missy's realm all series. Regardless, I have no expectation that he'll remain completely and irretrievably deceased, given Moffat's inability to kill anyone, or let anyone suffer real, character-developing consequences.

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Tyger Tyger, Fizzling Out

Oct
29

Review of In the Forest of the Night
Warning: This review contains episode-specific spoilers and wild speculation about future episodes.

Based on comments I've seen around the Internet and results of this week's reader poll, In the Forest of the Night is the most universally reviled episode of Series Eight. I'd be lying if I said I thoroughly enjoyed it, but—though I can see a few similarities—I don't think it comes anywhere close to earning the "Fear Her 2" label some have given it.

Perhaps it's the heavy reliance on a fairy tale aesthetic that got in folks' craws here. While it was well publicized that Moffat's entire take on the Matt Smith era was based in the idea of Doctor Who as fairy tale, Series Eight has taken a sharp turn away from that conceit (much to its benefit, in my opinion). So a story that doesn't just hint at the fairy tale style (even so blatantly as A Christmas Carol's "Peter Pan" theme or The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe's riff on the C.S. Lewis classic did) but outright states the connection to one ("Hansel & Gretel") and makes only vaguely veiled reference to others ("Sleeping Beauty" and "Red Riding Hood") may be putting fans of the more recent style of storytelling off their feed.

There's also a similar problem with the plotting here as in Kill the Moon. Taking liberties with what we know of science is part and parcel of science fiction writing, but when things are set here on Earth, basic laws of physics still need to apply (or have a damn good explanation for why they are plausibly different from our daily experience), or the audience's willing suspension of disbelief will be broken. A few weeks ago, it was gravity and mass conservation. This time, it's the overnight appearance (and subsequent disappearance) of billions upon billions of trees across the entire planet (including areas that can't support such life, like, err... the oceans).

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