Sunday 24 August 2014

A Doctor for Who?

I watched Doctor Who last night for the first time in... decades? I gave up on the series ages ago, after they tried to go all flash to reel us in. In fact I've practically given up on television. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind a bit of flash when it's part of the way a real person decides to express themselves in the world. I just hate plastic flash, the kind that's created by marketing divisions to try to persuade us they're IT. Any fool can tell the difference.

I was expecting Peter Capaldi to be an improvement over recent installments of the Doctor. His face has personality. I haven't quite got to grips with the rest of him yet but when he gets over his disorientation he might settle down into something watchable. Maybe.

Sadly, my well-tuned sense of the shenanigans of marketing departments is blaring like a bull-horn and telling me he's a Doctor made for the American market. He hits 'Britishness' buttons all over the place in a way never seen on any actual British person, but which seems to correspond to how many Americans see the British. And I mean come on, the first episode was Downton Abbey with a steampunk edge! You can just smell what they're doing. The consequence is that it's inevitably going to be content- and personality-free vanilla candy-floss with no teeth. Nothing else will span the trans-Atlantic cultural divide. And it is looking that way already. The character's opened and shut their mouths and noise came out.

I can't blame the BBC for aiming at a big market but it's been worrying me for some time that what we're doing in film and television has been taken over by a trend towards marketing 'Britishness' abroad. When a culture become 'museummified' in this way, it's basically dead on the branch. A postcard for tourists... with love from the marketing department of UK Incorporated! I might give the new Doctor a chance but I have serious misgivings. It's quite probable that I'll invest my time and energy elsewhere.

Grammar fiends: I'm aware of the fact that the title of this post should be 'A Doctor for Whom?'

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