About the Same-Making of Sherlock and Doctor Who

WTF’s happening on Doctor Who?

So, I got all caught up on Doctor Who in time for the new season but, in case you understandably bailed, this is where we are:

  • The Doctor with the bowtie died in a really protracted, sentimental way where a robot head became his Wilson and then he hallucinated that Amy Pond was there and didn’t seem to think about his dead wife, River Song, at all, but maybe River was a religious alien who got turned into a Dalek – that part of the show was confusing
  • Now, there’s a new Doctor and he’s old and pissed off at everyone
  • The Doctor’s companion is still Clara Oswald – you may remember her from the episode where she first appeared and was totally fucking awesome. Try to remember her like that always, because she’s never had a personality since then
  • Except when her awesome boyfriend Mr. Pink got hit by a car and she was angry at the futility of human life. Then she had a personality, for a little while
  • And she dresses like a six-year-old; it’s really strange
  • ANYWAY, the new Doctor is all tortured about how he’s a bad person masquerading as a good person or something, in a way that is more than a little bit reminiscent of Sherlock on Sherlock, and he’s also mean and drives people away by being rude to them and it’s a recurring joke that he’s gruff and has no social skills
  • Which is extremely different from the last three Doctors we’ve seen, who had a goofy sense of humour and were loving and warm toward their friends
  • This one just yells at everyone like House
  • And there’s a funny joke where we see that Clara made him flashcards telling him what to say to people when he needs to display empathy, but it’s a joke that you could literally drop right into Sherlock and it would work just as well
  • And Clara is now an adrenaline junkie who gets off on the danger and intrigue of travelling with the Doctor because she has nothing else to live for, like a certain army doctor who follows around a detective
  • But the best and worst and most amazing part is that the Doctor’s best frenemy, the Master, is still alive and regenerated as a woman named Missy who is both hilarious and terrifying and the most exciting, entertaining thing to happen to the show in years and years and years
  • And, in the final episode of season eight, where we learn her true identity, the actress, Michelle Gomez, gives more or less the same performance that Andrew Scott gave as Moriarty on Sherlock – like, beat for beat, it’s very similar – but holy shit does the show suddenly get fun to watch
  • And her whole message is exactly the same as the message of Moriarty’s relationship with Sherlock – which is, you’re just like me; we’re both special and dark and messed-up, and you can choose to go with me and be free or you can hang out with your lame-o friends and be a hero
  • And then, in the first two episodes of season nine, the writers indulge my every wish by having Missy hang around and be the Doctor’s funny-yet-murderous-and-unreliable frenemy, which is something that can’t be sustained for longer than that, but is amazing
  • And she pushes Clara off a ledge because Clara is stupid and trusts her. That’s a really great part
  • Having Missy there also adds another layer to the story, because the Doctor’s whole deal is that he’s the last of his species, except for the Master – and he hates everything the Master stands for but also loves the Master because the Master is the only other Time Lord he has to talk to, and it is so interesting whenever the two of them are together
  • So, while I am disturbed by how much this show is turning into Sherlock and following the exact same story beats and jokes, I also can’t say I don’t like this New Moriarty thing it has going
  • End bullets

Look, I know you know this, but just to affirm that I’m not an insane person making up conspiracies: the same guy writes both Doctor Who and Sherlock, now. It makes a certain kind of sense that he would have one story he’s good at telling and start telling it both places.

But it’s also weird and unpleasant, because Doctor Who has – or had – a very different sensibility and emotional palette than Sherlock and, while I like both shows, part of what makes Doctor Who so fun is that it has a sense of levity and wonder. What makes the Doctor a fun character is that he’s really excited to be alive and meet aliens and solve puzzles and encounter things he’s never seen, and he cares about people and wants the best for them – he encourages them to be their best selves through example. Except not anymore, because now he’s mad at everyone for no apparent reason and incapable of empathy or excitement.

He also doesn’t even have a sonic screwdriver. He’s got some lame-ass sunglasses, he dresses normally, he has a chip on his shoulder, and he hates everything. And while I relate to that more, it’s not what I expect to see when I watch this show. I’d actually rather watch a show about Missy where she just travels around and kills everyone because at least she’s having fun.

And, the thing is, I think that, on some level, the producers already know that. I just read a bunch of articles about how weird it is that Michelle Gomez went on the press tour for season nine, but if she was more entertaining in one episode than the whole season she was in, it makes a lot of sense. (Also, it turns out Michelle Gomez is really smart and quick and delightful in interviews, and I encourage you to go watch her on YouTube.)

In conclusion, I approve of this new villain, and I’m looking forward to next season of Sherlock, but I don’t need Doctor Who to be the next season of Sherlock.

Image: Doctor Who; BBC | October 23, 2015