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My LiveJournal Letter to Steven Moffat [Apr. 18th, 2010|11:28 pm]
dalekboy
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[mood |sillysilly]

I'm not talking about any particular dalek story here. The latest one has mainly been a catalyst for making me want to put these thoughts out there again. Naturally Steven reads my LJ, and values my opinion, so I'll be expecting a reply from him any day now.

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Dear Mr. Moffat, I'm not going to beat around the bush here - I love the Daleks. They are my favourite villains. So I would like to request fewer Dalek stories in Doctor Who, please.

I'm not going to talk about Victory of the Daleks here. It has things I like and things I don't like. And my feelings about less is more with regards to the Daleks were firmly in place before this story. I'm going to be telling you lots of stuff you already know, but I feel it needs restating.

Right, here we go!

The Daleks are Event Villains. They work best after a bit of a gap. Hold off on showing them and you build expectation. Hold off on using them and you can take the time to put together a cracking story, one that holds together without gaping plot holes, silly ultimate plans, or deus ex machina endings.

And being Event Villains means that you don't have to make every story a huge one. Cleverness is way better than scale. Having both now and again would be nice, but if I need to choose between an army of 10,000 Daleks or a very small group of Daleks being very clever or desperate, then give me the latter.

Now, as a rule, the Doctor has to win. And that's cool, he's the hero. But if every time the Daleks have a big, huge, universe-shaking plan it gets defeated, it makes them look a bit useless. Play the small group of Daleks against a much bigger conflict, a galactic war, whatever. Have the opposing forces on the ropes but fighting back, and a small squad of Daleks up to something that will break the back of their enemy, and have the Doctor beat those Daleks. The war is still continuing, the losses will still be appalling, but by the end of the story, the good guys have a chance against the enemy.

Have them being full of guile and cunning, have the twists and surprises, make their plans clever, without stupid resolutions or ways of defeating them. Make the Doctor work really hard to beat them. If the Doctor can talk a Dalek to death, that's a rubbish enemy.

But, and I can't stress this highly enough, don't bring them back until you think you have a story worthy of the Doctor's greatest foe. Don't sit there and say, "What are we going to do with the Daleks this year?" Instead start talking to writers, nutting out storylines, and when you feel you've got one that is going to be an absolute ball-tearer, then schedule the thing. Quality, not quantity. If it takes two or three years to come up with a story that has people glued to the screen, biting their knuckles, wracking their brains, or hiding behind the sofa, do you really think they'll complain about having had to wait?

Yes, I know, the Beeb likes the Daleks. There's bums on seats, merchandise, and so on. But in the end, if the Daleks become less of an enemy through overuse, that hurts all those things too.

Personally, I'd rather have not had a Dalek story for the third season, than get the Daleks in Manhatten two parter. I'd have been happy without The Chase, or Day of the Daleks for that matter. Don't get me wrong, these stories all have things I like about them, but are they genuinely good Dalek stories? Not really.

The Eleventh Doctor has had his Dalek story. Now maybe you've already got one in the can for later this year, or you've started the planning on one for next year. That's great. But then can we please have a break? Give me enough time to make me happy that there's another story coming rather than hearing one's coming and wishing it wasn't.

That was my first reaction on hearing Matt had a Dalek story, which is sort of a shame.

Thanks for taking on the world's most impossible show. It's a tough job, and I'm glad you're the one doing it, because I have faith in you to do it right.

Cheers,
Danny

PS Oh, and everything I wrote above, goes for the Cybermen, too.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: fuschia17
2010-04-18 02:38 pm (UTC)
I pretty much agree with you about less is more in regards to these recurring foes. I have not yet seen the upcoming Dalek episode, though I will be watching it shortly. I am not going to avoid it, but I am going to "sit through it" rather than pay attention. They and the Cybermen don't do much for me.
They are both pretty much one dimensional, one trick ponies aren't they?

Another boring adversary I really am beginning to hate is the Master, not because of what he did to the Doctor but because, as usual, nothing much happens. Lots of bluster, lots of threats, lots of the Doctor talking, but, really, nothing much. The Christmas specials did nothing to convince me otherwise of this and that's sad. Combined with the absolute gaping plot holes they were a rather sad finish to David's otherwise mostly pleasing Who.

In the realm of Dr Who, I am pretty guarantee-ably bored every other episode, usually. I am not your die-hard fan. I appreciated David Tennant's tenure as the doctor, but still haven't forgiven him for not being Christopher Ecceleston; mostly every time that I saw Russell T Davies' name tied to an episode I would groan very, very loudly. Usually that name was tied to the most pedestrian and predictable episodes, mostly with Daleks and Cybermen. These are episodes to sit through because you would be ripping yourself off if you didn't complete your Dr Who experience.
Russell's theory of getting through the episode is some kind of light show, a grandiose promise of a threat, but not much follow through. As you say, the Doctor mostly talks the villain to death.
In the end, as far as getting a truly meaty story, it's the modern day equivalent of being over processed with all of the truly healthy and nutritious bits removed.

So far though, I don't hate Matt Smith. My reaction to David Tennant was mostly - "you're good, I can sit through your seasons but, you're not HIM".
I also don't mind Amy which surprises me a lot. I loved Martha from the get go, Rose took a while but she grew on me.
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[User Picture]From: dalekboy
2010-04-19 12:55 am (UTC)
They are both pretty much one dimensional, one trick ponies aren't they? Yes and no. They can be standard inter-changeable villains, or you can do great things with them. Dalek Invasion of Earth, Death to the Daleks, and Power of the Daleks (which only exists on audio) all show different aspects of them - ruthlessness, ingenuity, and cunning. Tomb of the Cybermen, The Invasion, and Earthshock all show different aspects of the Cybermen.

The problem tends to be that any villain with too much exposure starts to suffer. In new Who, the Daleks in Journey's End are much less interesting than the one in Dalek. Also less threatening. We're told in Dalek that someone touching the casing with a bare hand got fried, but they're getting pushed around all over the place at the end of Journey's.

You can see the same degeneration with the Borg. First two stories, solid. Then we get Hugh the cuddly Borg and it all starts to go downhill, as they try for a Borg story every season.

Loved Martha at the start, but the moment she started pining after the Doctor, and then started moping after him almost every story, they killed the character for me.
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[User Picture]From: angriest
2010-04-18 09:32 pm (UTC)
One thought I've had regarding this weekend's episode (which I will review properly at some point) is that if you're going to obviously draw some inspiration from "The Power of the Daleks" (like Gatiss has), you've got to realise that your episode is going to be compared to "The Power of the Daleks", and that's a pretty high-pressure thing to do to yourself since "Power" is to my mind possibly the best Dalek story ever.
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[User Picture]From: dalekboy
2010-04-18 11:12 pm (UTC)
It's one of the main reasons I thought Victory needed to be longer. One of the strengths of Power is that it plays on the fact that the Doctor and the audience are the only ones who know the Daleks are up to no good.
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[User Picture]From: ghoath
2010-04-19 12:37 am (UTC)
agreed.
Throughout Dr Who history, there has been plenty of Dalek stories, and as you said they have been used to affect to revive the series at times.

But now it is boring because you know they will show up, everyone will run around screaning and then the Doctor will defeat them...boring.

BTW: As much as I used to be a fan of Dr Who, nothing and no one has convinced me to sit down and watch all the new ones, despite them being thrust in my direction by numerous sources i.e. it's not the fact that it is difficult for me, it's that I honestly can't be bothered. I believe that this is because, as far as a sci-fi event goes, from what I can tell we're not pushing new ground, just playing with modern special affects etc. I'm nog going to watch something *new* just because it is Doctor Who, because there is plenty of other good Doctor Who stuff to consume, that you nkow will be of value.
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[User Picture]From: dalekboy
2010-04-19 01:13 am (UTC)
With the new series, there is some truly good stuff. Best thing to do is take advantage of the people you know with similar tastes and say, "So which ones are the must sees?"

My quick and dirty list of what's worth a look would be -

Rose
The End of the World
Dalek
Empty Child/Doctor Dances
Bad Wolf/Parting of the Ways
Christmas Invasion
New Earth
Tooth and Claw
School Reunion
Girl in the Fireplace
Rise of the Cybermen/Age of Steel
Impossible Planet/Satan Pit
Army of Ghosts/Doomsday
Runaway Bride
Smith and Jones
Gridlock
Human Nature/Family of Blood
Blink
Partners in Crime
Fires of Pompeii
Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead
Midnight
Turn Left
Stolen Earth/Journey's End
Waters of Mars
(so long as you stop it the moment the crucial shot is fired, it's good)
Eleventh Hour
Beast Below


You can skip Victory of the Daleks. And naturally, there will be those that disagree with this list :)
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[User Picture]From: ghoath
2010-04-19 01:53 am (UTC)
In the interestes of full disclosure, I should also mention that in what I have seen, I've never been able to accept Rose as a fair dinkum companion, which makes it pretty hard to accept the start of things, and by the time I had recovered, she was back again.

Speaking of which, they managed to make Sarah Jane somehow love struck starry eyed which I was disappointed with. Granted, I can appreciate why the companions would fall in love, but they don't have to all be pathetic by default, especially Sarah Jane. I suspect it was an attempt to be obvious about something, which made things look too squishy. Maybe I came in on some weird bias or had missed some context, as it was one of those this is what's on the tv therefore I'm seeing it moments.

Thanks for the encouragement. I know you must think some of it is worth it, if you are bothering to make a list.
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[User Picture]From: dalekboy
2010-04-19 07:13 am (UTC)
Over all, I still prefer the original series. I usually didn't spot the plot holes in the old one until after the episode had finished. I often find them to be glaring in the new show, and spotting plot holes the first time I'm watching will always lessen my enjoyment.
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