All just stories in the end
A discussion has sprung up on The Guardian site in about three different places and it is one which regularly pops up.
As it interests me greatly, and it is directly relevant to Memories, I thought I might steal the relevant posts and put them here so see if anyone here wanted to have a safe discussion on this, to me anyway, most interesting of topics.
I know @JimTheFish has ideas about this, as I have seen him express them, but I did not want to cobble together a few of his posts, preferring rather to let him add anything he wanted his own way.
How can it be ‘rose-tinted’ when […] anyone can watch old episodes of Who […] any time we like and be greeted with it as it actually was, warts and all.”
That’s true as far as it goes, but there’s a selection bias at work there – the stories that people actually choose to re-watch naturally tend to be the stories that they like the most, the ones that stand the test of time. Sure, it’s theoretically possible to watch all of the surviving stories in order from the beginning, but that is a massive investment of time and money, so realistically, most people choose to watch the best stories more often that the worst, thus giving them a rose-tinted vision of the overall quality of the era under consideration.
In fact, I think I’ve observed the same phenomenon happening with the RTD era already…
@Branfish – Yes, but ‘rose-tinted’ means something which is preserved in non-verifiable and sentimentalised memory, not to something which is readily accessible at any time by most people with a dvd player or computer. It’s just not the right term in this context. You don’t really need to watch every single surviving old Who story to form a general opinion on the classic run -you could watch a handful of stories from each period/era to get a reasonable idea of what the series used to be like. Say half a dozen stories from each seven Doctors (maybe a dozen to cover Tom Baker’s epic run). I don’t quite see, truly, how that would be a ‘massive investment of time and money’…
I mean, the amount of time many nu Who fans spend speculating about season arcs on threads such as these, and re-watching and analysing each new episode several times over (even though, in my opinion, most modern episodes aren’t made for re-viewings but are geared more at surface appeal), many of them could have by now watched probably at least a quarter of the original series, if not more. I’m not sure I understand the point about money either: as far as I’m aware, most old Who stories can be viewed on Youtube for free, plus there’s UK Gold (if one has it), plus the DVDs, some of which can be hired from libraries if needs be. I know these are very straitened times for all of us, but this argument feels really quite incredible to me: you talk as if we’re still in the 80s when Who videos, such as there were, cost about £20 a time to buy and that was the only means to watch them -with Youtube etc. we have more ‘free’ (discounting broadband cost or whatever) access to old Who and other old series than before
@Branfish – p.s. I’m no fan of the RTD era btw, disliked at least 50% of it, if not more than that, though I do think there were a handful of genuinely v strong stories -Unquiet Dead, Dalek, Girl in the Fireplace, Human Nature, Utopia, Blink and several others. The weird thing about the RTD period was that while much of it was brash in-your-face and rather camp, when there was a good episode/story, it could be very good indeed. It was a very split-personality period in terms of stylistic approaches. But I do feel current Moffatt Who is lapsing into similar excesses -for instance, Strax and Vastra, for me, are straight out of the RTD bag of comic-book tricks
@Branfish – The one issue that keeps being overlooked in discussions such as these is that it is just not possible, at all, in any realistic way, to watch now a Doctor Who story from the original run and understand it as it was meant to be understood when it was broadcast first. If you saw it when it was broadcast, you can relive the experience perhaps. But otherwise, you are assessing if out of time.
If you joined for Rose and then wanted to go back, even the classics which most agree are classics look slow and padded and different. Even Talons of Weng Chiang and Caves of Androzani, both of which I admire greatly, I constantly hear people who see them now for the first time refer to them as boring and slow. Or worse, stupid.
They are not any of those things, in my view, but the fact is the post-Star Wars generations are likely to think they are if they are seeing them now for the first time.
Comparisons between the way Doctor Who is made now and the way it was made then are very difficult because of this singular factor. Everything about how television is made and why it is made and who controls the content is different now to when Unearthly Child aired.
That is why it is, ultimately, pointless to say that Silver Nightmare was or was not better than, say, Invasion. (Unless, maybe, if you were there to see Invasion go out originally and you remember how you felt – some of us here are old enough for that.)
They are different stories, made under different pressures, at different times,with different audiences in mind.
It is and has always been possible to skewer the logic or plotting of most Doctor Who stories – and sometimes a Doctor or companion or producer will not be to your individual taste – but that does not stop the series being compulsory and/or compulsive viewing.
@HTPBDET – Equally, you can use the same argument for how it is difficult to assess a story so close to it having been transmitted for the first time: those who like the modern style of the show will automatically like most of what they see, but this is, as yet, a taste of the moment, the present.
The big question is, will those who praise much of nu Who now be saying the same things in twenty years’ time when they watch them again? The big test of old Who is that for many many people the majority of it stands the test of time so well, and this is, in my view, because it was made with much more integrity and conviction, belief in its own concept as a kind of rolling mythology -as opposed to the post-modern, ‘knowingly’ flippant way it’s often produced today- and benefited from having, in my opinion (and of most other modern viewers I’ve spoken to) superior writers (and actors).
The problem with the ‘post-modern’ mindset is its’ reticence to take anything too seriously -everything should somehow always end in a laugh or a quip. But by not taking itself seriously enough, the modern series risks not being taken seriously any longer by many who have persevered with it over the past few years.
For many people, old Who has largely stood the test of time and many of its stories are endurable and endlessly re-watchable -and that is because they were made with such care and craft and attention to detail (not all of them of course, but I’d say, the vast majority). I never grow tired of old Who -yet how is it I grow tired of many modern episodes even before they’ve finished being broadcast…?
I’d say fans of nu Who may need to step back in a few years and then re-watch these episodes and see how they feel about them then. Will they prove ultimately to be -in the main- so much of their time and zeitgeist, so ‘of the moment’ and not made or written sufficiently richly or deeply for repeated viewing (not allof them, but many of them), that they lack the durability and sustained fascination in decades to come that much of the original run has been proven itself to have..? Bar the very best nu episodes, I think many of them will not stand the test of time, because I think too many episodes lack sufficient
thought and richness in the writing to stand up to more than a second viewing. But then, none of us can truly answer this now I suppose.
@asgill – No, I don’t think that is right.
I judged the stories as they played out from the beginning. The ones I liked then I still like, the ones I was indifferent about I am still indifferent about and the ones I didn’t like have not, like red wine, improved with age and proper storage.
The only re-evaluation that I have undergone in relation to Doctor Who concerns Pertwee and then only because I hated him until Three Doctors for replacing Troughton. But that evaluation was about his Doctor, not the adventures or the stories or they way they were made.
Why can’t Nu-Who watchers make determinations now on how they feel? Of course they can. Just as you do.
I like the modern style of the show – since the reboot – as much as I liked Verity Lambert’s or Innes Lloyd’s or Barry Letts’ or Graham Williams’ or anyone else’s – but that does not mean that I like everything about it. As it happens I have grave reservations about Moffat’s era, certainly the Pond era.
And it is nonsense to suggest Classic Who was made with much more integrity and conviction, belief in its own concept as a kind of rolling mythology – no one knew what it would become when it started and, really, it was not until Pertwee’s tenure and Three Doctors that any sense of “mythology” came into play.
And early Doctor Who often ended with a joke or a quip – look at, say, Feast of Steven or Highlanders or Abominable Snowman. Even Marco Polo ended on a light note.
It will be as Doctor Who ever was going forwards – those who see it when it was intended for first broadcast it will judge it as they saw it and, by and large, will stick to those views.
It has, pretty much, ever been thus – not just with Doctor Who but other series as well. The Avengers, Prisoner, Callan, Six Wives of Henry VIII, I,Claudius – all were greatly admired in their time and if you saw them in their time you, most likely, will still admire them. Not for nostalgic reasons (i.e. everything was better back then) but because you actually can remember the feelings you had and the thoughts you thought when you first saw it.
So current Nu-Who watchers will, I expect, always love the episodes they love, just as I expect to always love the episodes of Classic and Nu-Who I have always loved.
I have re-watched dozens of Ecclestone and Tennant stories, even the odd Smith story (all of the Clara stories I have seen at least five times now), and vastly enjoyed them on repeat, sometimes, perhaps often, more than I did on first viewing. Just as it ever was with Classic Who.
Of course, there is an entirely different category of viewer of Doctor Who – the late starter, the person who first watched, say, Tom Baker or Peter Davision or David Tennant and has gradually discovered the earlier Doctors without the benefit of seeing their full runs played out in the intended order. I can’t speak for them because I am not one of them. I don’t know how those people can, seriously, express an opinion about Classic Who which they have never seen or, at least, never saw as intended.
They can say what they like about how they react to seeing Classic Who out of its time, but that assessment seems to me to be not the one you are discussing.
But, obviously, they can speak about all of the episodes which they have seen go out as intended – and they are entitled to their views whatever they are and however much at odds they appear to your of my view.
Standing the test of time will, as it always has been, a matter of subjective taste.
Reading these pages, at times, suggests that rather than the episodes lacking “sufficient thought”, it is the viewer who does not approach the episodes with “sufficient thought”. There appears too much rejection in absolute terms of a programme that regularly garners viewers in excess of 7 million (including I-player) just in the UK.
And I doubt that very many of that 7 million watch to see if it has got better or just to hate it. Mostly, they find something to like – just as it ever was.
And that is where it presently rests.
So – if anyone is interested in contributing, please do. In this anniversary year, it seems to be a great topic: does it matter how are Doctor Who memories formed?
Also, I think that it was @PhaseShift who mentioned a dislike of the expressions “Classic Who” and “Nu-Who”. I agree entirely. But how should we differentiate them?
Pre-Rose and Post-Rose?