Saturday’s Doctor Who turns out to be a highly controversial episode, and not for the reasons I thought it would be. (We thought it was oddly paced, but upon watching it a second time, we liked it a lot more, for reasons laid out in this week’s video.) No, the point of contention is putting the Doctor in an environment where he’s painting fences, playing with a soccer ball (and showing off Matt Smith’s skills) and playing with a Wii. The critic for the Vulture hated it:
A problem with “Three,” and the Craig episodes before it, is that Doctor Who is all about crouching behind the couch in fear, not sitting on it, bored out of your skull. This is a series with a pretty flexible format, but these lounging-about-the-flat episodes are exactly the sort of places it shouldn’t go – and certainly not three times over in as many seasons.
In sum, the detractors thought the episode was boring, and resented having to watch an episode about how time works for humans that aren’t currently riding around space and time in a TARDIS, i.e. one day at a time and filled with mundanities like playing games, washing dishes, doing jobs, and livening things up with parties. But supporters, a group that I align myself with, thought it was neat and forcing the Doctor to endure life lived as the humans he loves so much live added fear and tension to the episode.
I like the more domestic episodes for another reason, which is that they demonstrate ably that the show is as much about characters as it is about plot. I enjoy spending time with these characters even when it’s at a slower pace. Rory particularly was easier to take in his everyday environment; seeing him actually go to work and do a job where he’s useful instead of haranguing Amy for attention made him a lot more fun. Of course, this episode showed how much Rory has leveled up. Old Rory would have run screaming upon finding a portal to a spaceship in a freight elevator, but this Rory just unhesitatingly walks on through.
The episode was also more evidence of my theory that we’re supposed to read the Ponds as the Doctor’s adoptive parents as much as his friends. His long stay with them had the feel of an adult child visiting his parents: doing some chores, finding ways to screw around while staying out of their way, being kind of bored while they go about their business. Marc makes some good points in the video about how the pacing somewhat detracts from the domestic side of the Pond life and the importance of their active choice in the narrative. Nonetheless, I think seeing the Doctor and the Ponds just hanging out doing nothing like a family is going to make their departure that much sadder.
What do you think? For or against these kinds of episodes? Did you think the cubes were as cool as we did? Who’s right about humanity: the Doctor when arguing for the neatness of humans or the Shakri when arguing that humans are a pestilence?