In addendum to previous post, The Zygon Invasion was blast, but then, I’ve always been a sucker for invasion stories. If there’s one thing the New Who can do, it’s invasion stories – at least the first half. Yes, let me amend previous commendation to: if there’s one thing New Who can do, it’s set up invasion stories. Because if there is one thing New can definitely not do, is resolve invasion stories. Just as I’ve generally enjoyed the first half of every invasion story they’ve ever thrown at me, I’ve almost never enjoyed the second half. Maybe the Silence. Which makes me highly nervous, if not entirely reluctant, to watch the second half of Zygon Invasion. Maybe I should just skip it, and let my imagination fill in the gaps. Leave the memory intact, and the illusion in place. The illusion? That Doctor Who has never changed, and continues to be the garden of unearthly delights it’s always been.
Sometimes it’s close. Sometimes, usually during the first half of any invasion story, the illusion is achieved. But there is always something, some teen-tiny little thing, usually in the second half, to ruin it. A bad joke. A dumb plot twist. A blatant violation of internal logic. Something.
They almost always bugger up the second half. They go cheap on the cliff-hanger, embrace the cop-out, invoke the Deus ex Machina, and throw in a few bad jokes just to wreck any lingering tension that might remain. Usually though, a cheap short cut any grade-school story writer could have avoided, leaving the impression the writer either ran out of time, or imagination, or more probably both.
I’m talking about Rose Tyler waving her hand and magically making the Dalek fleet disappear. Or the Doctor giggling and gibbering as the Cybermen massacre millions of people outside the window. Or the whole population of earth ridding themselves of the Master just by going outside at lunch and shouting the Doctor’s name at the sky (Presumably the scene of them all singing Kumbai ya was cut). How about taking a whole episode to establish what an inescapable prison the Pandoricon was, and then in the next episode – get this – casually escaping from it before the credits have even rolled!
Short cuts, cop-outs and deus ex-machina. The unholy-trinity of the unimaginative writer. But even more than a lack of time or creativity, such things scream a lack of effort. Not just that the writer hasn’t considered these things, but that he just doesn’t care.
And no, I don’t buy into the cheap excuse – that many of you eat up by the bucket load, admit it – that these are only concerns for the ultra-nerd of geek. Producers like to spit out such sentiments to justify substandard work. These are matters of story-telling, which is the duty of every writer to take seriously. Years ago, when some smart alec asked Harlan Ellison what a reader, or audience, could demand from a writer, he answered (and I paraphrase) “his best effort”. No more. And no less. When I am fed these watered down cast off endings, I feel like I’ve not been given the writer’s best effort. That they just didn’t care enough to do better.
So yeah, I’m a little nervous about the next episode. I’ve been encouraged and let down too many times to go into it without trepidation.
But I’m still gonna watch it. It’s Doctor Who. What can you do?