Saturday, June 26, 2010

Doctor Who Series 5: semiotically successful?

Series 5 has abandoned the warm and golden key lighting, the rosy lit closeups, the scenery chewing leading man and the gay agenda. None of those things being central to the Who experience, the audience has remained.

There have been serious and continuous questions, about falling audiences. The simple answer is that Who is getting pretty much the same size total audience... But nothing like the same number of viewers watching it on first broadcast. This is attributable to the constantly shifting time slot, the summer season, and perhaps partly to the loss of the Christmas tinsel dumbed down approachability of the first four seasons? The jury is out. Clearly if the overnight viewership had remained as high as earlier halcyon times there would be no need to include timeshift figures or any of the other new arcanabula to explain to the doubting or the positively committed to failure critics that the audience is still there... Just watching when it suits them.

There are strong rumours of companion changes in Series 6, adding extra companions because this is to the taste of the new showrunner Steven Moffat. Given the lean efficiency of Doctor plus one agog young female companion it seems extremely unwise to give in to that particular nostalgia trip, especially since the post 2005 show is a very different animal to the classic series. Messing with the dynamic duo in the middle of the story is not sensible. It isn't what the broad church of modern fandom expects or, in most cases, wants. Constantly reappearing Mary Sue characters are one thing, and bad enough, but messing with the duality aspect of the new show is going to violate the old saw- if it isn't broken, don't fix it.

Series 5 broke new ground in some areas. Its Vincent and the Doctor was very adult, in a good way, and its Silurian two parter was 'new' for the nu Who era by being so very firmly planted in classic Who's sensibilities and storytelling style. Not successful enough to be repeated though.

The new daleks have come in for stern criticism from anyone old enough to care, although doubtless popular with the very young.

And the new Cybermen, at least in the canonical Blood of the Cybermen game, finally have disposed of the god awful cybus parallel world symbol, and appeared as the original series monsters native to our own universe. Stealing back what Star Trek stole from Who, the Blood of the Cybermen game is VERY similar to Borg episodes of Star Trek. But then, so what. Trek plagiarised the Cybermen and Daleks in all ways other than appearance, and Doctor Who has every right to take it back and do it better, which I personally think they have.

It's gratifying to see the adventure game format make a roaring comeback with these Doctor Who games, too, especially since it blows away the crap masquerading as "the best" adventure games out there without really trying. Hopefully the latest iteration of FPSC will beef up its adventure game credentials and we can start making some ourselves!