Yesterday I quit watching the episode “Bad Wolf” from Season 1 of the 2005 re-boot of Doctor Who. There are a number of critical reasons – including setting, dialog, pacing, character development, and enough deus ex machina events to depopulate Mount Olympus for decades – but the real reason is that it sucked. And that’s a shame. It’s the penultimate (I wanted to use that word today) episode of the season and supposedly has a cliffhanger to die for.
If you’re curious, the story is about The Doctor, Rose Tyler, and Captain Jack suddenly finding themselves contestants in sinister game shows of the future. Did it work? No. In fact, the show was so campy it made me long for the carrot-people of Lost in Space. Yeah, it was that bad.
I’m sure I’ll struggle through the damn thing this evening. After all, it’s just a TV show, and it is part of the larger Doctor Who and Torchwood story arcs. How do I know this? By using Google? Reading episode guides? No. I know it’s part of the grander scheme because I’ve been watching the show backwards. After all, it’s about time travel, so the order shouldn’t matter. (Actually, it’d be more accurate to say I’m watching the series sideways, which is pronounced “utra-guh-a-guh” for you Three Stooges fans out there.)
What was it that was so unappealing? As I stared dumbly at the ol’ idiot box, wondering whether the damn thing would ever end, I kept thinking about The Hunger Games. Why? Well, like The Hunger Games, this episode was long, tedious, and weird, with dumbass haircuts, glitter, plastic boobs, and computer-generated voices. That’s when it dawned on me: This is just one more example of dystopian dysfunction that’s gripped entertainment in recent years.
What is the deal with the apocalypse these days? It can’t be the fact that mankind is living through tough times. Hell, we’ve been doing that ever since God told Abraham to carve up his son like a Thanksgiving turkey. I mean, holy bat, cow man, how much of this end times crap do we have to put up with, anyway?
I want normal settings. I want period pieces. And I want something speculative, like an alien, a time machine, or an Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator.
So what led Russell T. Davies – the writer of this episode – to script one of the lowest-rated Doctor Who episodes ever? My guess is that it was a disastrous attempt at humor. That’s where it diverges from The Hunger Games. The latter is a serious attempt at warning young adult readers about the dangers of totalitarianism. I think Davies was trying to write satire. And I fear he failed. Less is more when it comes to yucking it up, and Davies tried to push “more is more” down our throats.
As I told someone on G+ not too long ago, the best humor involves puns, subtlety, and resisting the urge to repeat the punch line ad nauseum. Consider a handful of one-liners that’ve been known to make people laugh:
“I love being a writer. What I can’t stand is the paper work.”
“A Southern man will stagger to the polls to vote dry.”
“You can skydive without a paracute. You just can’t do it twice.”
If Davies were trying to make a satire out of “Bad Wolf” I feel he failed badly. If he were trying to create yet another dysfunctional dystopian soap opera, then he succeeded beyond imagination, unfortunately.
Until next time,
Peace, from Keith
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