Doctor Who Needs to Step Up It’s Game

So, the new trailer for the new season of Doctor Who has aired. And with the new trailer lies something that has become a problem for me with this series.

First off, I’ll throw this disclaimer out there that I absolutely love Doctor Who. As an aspiring screen writer Doctor Who allows you to write in any point in time and space and be as funny, dramatic, and/or action packed as you please and you can get away with damn near anything.

The problem is that while that should apply to the writing, it should not apply to the special effects. The writing on the show, for better or for worse, has evolved since it’s confused start in 2005 when they didn’t know what audience they were making the show for. But the special effects have not.

Now, for most shows I understand. But not Doctor Who. Doctor Who makes bank. An incredible amount. This is the show that could afford to have it’s 50th anniversary episode aired in theaters world wide in 3D. That’s not cheap. But why aren’t we seeing that budget go into the special effects? I’ll be honest. As much as I love Doctor Who, it’s special effects are a giant pile of Playstation 2 awfulness. To this day they still look like SyFy original series special effects while having an incredible budget and MORE than enough time to fix. No other show could take as many production breaks as Doctor Who and get away with it.

Let’s look at this screenshot from the new trailer with the Leviathan looking thing peeks in the door:

Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 2.09.57 PM

This thing busts through the door and has absolutely no solid detailing what so ever. It doesn’t seem scaly or wet or anything. And it’s eyes are just dead. Pause it wherever and see that the eyes are always in the same position. They’re just static. It’s awful. If you’re going to work giant monsters into the mix and make them a plot point, tweak it. We live in a world where colleges are teaching people CGI en masse, you can find someone to do it and if not, hit me up BBC, I know a few people.

Let’s take a look at something else from the trailer:

Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 7.12.06 PM

Oh good lord. In 2015 there is still a show that is doing the old special effect of filming the character from the side so we don’t see the pipe shooting the flame? Are you kidding me? This is the special effect that SNL uses to make people vomit. This is wholly unnecessary. It’s such a hokey thing and I bet you don’t even need them breathing fire to be necessary to the plot because when I saw this I laughed. It doesn’t look intimidating.

When I saw this, all I could think of was “This looks like that scene from Merlin’s Shop of Mystical Wonders when that guy breaths fire.”


When your special effects are constantly comparable to movies they’ve covered in Mystery Science Theater 3000, you NEED to step your game up.

Final thoughts. Listen, Doctor Who. I love you, I love you so fucking much. You’re one of my favorite shows and I enjoy you so much and you work with Neil Gaiman and you did so many wonderful things like important things like writing characters who weren’t straight who weren’t over the top archtypes to little things like adding so much whimsy to the world. And it’s because of this that I can’t hate you for the special effects, but it’s also because of this that I want you to get better. It’s a little embarrassing now. When you were little it was cute, but the whole world’s watching now and your flies down and your dick’s out. Please, for all of us. Put it away.


9 thoughts on “Doctor Who Needs to Step Up It’s Game

  1. The British, and the BBC in particular, seem to hace a distaste for special effects (and to a lesser extent, fight choreography). I’m guessing that it springs from England having theater at its cultural forefront for centuries. Since the US has had cinema for half its life, that’s the medium through which we are most comfortable telling and being told stories. Even American television and stage productions hew pretty closely to movie-style storytelling. Britain’s TV and movies are much more stage-influenced in concept, production, presentation, and even promotion.

    And so, special effects more sophisticated than (or of no relevance to) those found in stage plays are, I believe, prioritized much lower than almost every other element of storytelling. I suppose that extensive, or sophisticated special effects are, on a tangible level, seen as crutches to disguise subpar acting, or lackluster direction, or just plain bad writing. And while they’re not entirely wrong (I’m told the FX in the new Fantastic Four failapalooza are excellent), their continually displayed contempt for good effects is far more limiting than it is protective.

    Here’s just one example, and it isn’t even super–contemporary: Starting in 1984, England’s ITV aired Granada Television’s excellent _Adventures of Sherlock Holmes_ series, starring Jeremy Brett as Holmes. The series was huge, Brett’s portrayal of Holmes was lauded by casual viewers and hardcore Holmesians alike, and by Sep. of 1985, everyone was looking forward to the series’ finalé, _The Final Problem._ After all (as most folks knew), that was he episode where Holmes has his final battle with Moriarty. Though Holmes dies at the end, the entire production had already been signed to do 12 more episodes in _The Return of Sherlock Holmes_ the following year.

    So! At the (excellent) episode’s end, we see Holmes and Moriarty have a knock-down, drag-out fight high on the crags of Reichenbach Falls. They grapple, struggle, and then they fall off the ledge, plummeting into the falls… and you can clearly see the wires that lowered the stuntmen from the ledge. They’re plain as day, thick black cables in sharp relief against the white spray of the falls. Now, this wasn’t the era of effortless digital manipulation, but it was 1985, a year after Return of the Jedi. And all it would have taken was someone with an eraser to have removed the wires from view, (on film) or a bit of primitive video editing equipment (on videotape)– either way, less than 30 min. from start to finish. But they didn’t do even that to fix the series finalé of a hit show, featuring the most dramatic moment in the entire Holmes canon.

    That’s because Granada knew its audience wouldn’t care, having been trained to ignore such shortcomings by Britain’s theatrical tradition. And while you’d think that audiences would have evolved some in the 30 years since, the BBC is an institution that’s notorious for its hidebound traditionalism. Add in its lack of profit-making motivation, and you get an audience that expects bad or mediocre effects, which is served by an institution with no incentive whatsoever to improve its SFX capabilities.

    • While I understand that and, for the most part, agree with you. Doctor Who seems to pride itself off it’s special effects and seems to be very proud of even it’s worst looking stuff. They made a show that straight up requires special effects and I think they could polish it if they just tried harder.

  2. Us, the Uk tv licence payer fronts the bill for BBC production costs. That’s everything, drama, quiz shows, talent shows, sport coverage, radio stations, internet sites, the whole shebang from the executives through to the cleaners, all paid for by the licence fee. That fee works out at around 40p a day per person. That’s 62 cents.
    If all the UK population paid the fee (which a large percentage don’t) that would amount to about £25m ($39m) to pay for everything the BBC does as a company.
    Doctor Who only gets a small cut of that total fee, coupled with the high cost of filming in the UK, this is why a lot of the FX for the show suffer. In short, they just don’t have the budget to pay for better production.

      • Yup, I agree, however, that cash gets diluted amongst the whole corporation.

        The worst is yet to come. The current government want to cut the licence fee (google the reasons, as it’s too big to explain here), as a result, the BBC’s budget will most likely shrink and programming will suffer the brunt. Shows will get axed. BBC3 has been given the chop, which is a real shame.

        Anyway, yup, sadly Doctor Who just can’t afford better SFX.
        It really is a simple as that.

      • I just wish they’d write accordingly. Normally when these episodes have giant monsters like the T-Rex in Peter’s first real episode, or the lava monsters in Pompeii, or those weird tentacles in that space whale episode, they’re usually unnecessary to the plot and could be easily avoided and be just as good if not better.

    • Not only that, I think the problem is, they’ve had a lot of the same people working their special effects since the reboot in 2005 and it shows. I go to school with people that can shoot out much better special effects and would do the show for practically nothing but a chance to have it on their resume.

      • It could be that the BBC can’t afford to pay for a larger mumber of staff to get better FX done in the time frame they have to film the series?
        US shows do seem to have a better look to the CGI, but is that due to a bigger budget employing more staff to work on the finer details?

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