Old Memes is where we'll catch up with items from earlier in the summer. As such, there's going to be spoilers here. Just thought I should warn you. First off, everybody's two favorite juggernauts of faux-medical mischief. Two different doctors, and very different stories, but one common problem: both faltered at the end.
It was harder to escape Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, seeing as how it was a joint by OMFG TEH JOSS, the first one since Serenity, if you weren't already reading his work on Astonishing X-Men, and the new Buffy and Angel comics.
Add all that expectation and a healthy dose of NPH, and it's a wonder as many people enjoyed this musical as much as they did. The problem, for me, was that though it focused the best aspects of Once More With Feeling, it also reinforced, non-surprisingly, Joss' favorite trope: Love Never Lasts. While I get why Penny had to die -- personally, I would've written her to upend both Doctor Horrible and Captain Hammer and emerged as Penny Dreadful, supervillainess extraordinaire -- the fact that I read the same trope in Astonishing literally less than a week before watching the Horrible finale left me more frustrated than "saddened," not because it was "tragic" but because I'd seen this trope played out by the same creator for the past few years. And in Penny's case it came perilously close to making her another Girlfriend In The Refrigerator. Judging by the response, perhaps it was worth it. But, as Whedonites prepare for Dollhouse and hope it doesn't get canceled before the opening credits, one has to wonder how many more times the Unhappy Ending can get foisted upon us.
Conversely, Doctor Who brought the Feel-Good for its' own season ending -- and suffered for it.
Would anybody have complained if The Stolen Earth, with the best cliffhanger this side of Heroes Season One, ended the year? With a whole country and Whovians the world over wondering if Russell T. Davies and crew had the stones to pull the trigger on D. Tennant? I watched the episode alongside a native Briton and she screamed almost as loudly as I did when the Dalek shot The Doctor at the worst possible, Whedon-worthy moment. That, fellow geeks, is how you pull off tragic romances. The ending was just the topper to an hour that played like the best fanfic you never wrote: everybody showed up, seemingly every arcane bit of space lingo was explained, all the little character bits and nods to continuity, Jack Harkness somehow able to pull off being a PG-13 manwhore (again), a genuinely creepy Davros, and Rose F'ing Tyler back in the game, and then that ending ...
... Unfortunately, there had to be another episode following it. Worse yet, it was Journey's End, which nearly topped last season's "Last Of The Time Lords" for cheesiness. I'm not saying it killed the series, as some others have, but you have to wonder if the original title wasn't "Dalek Ex Machina," the way this episode stumbled around, drunk on its' own attempts on giddyness and Gotchas. This was like watching that really bad fanfic you did write make it on to the screen.
My big problem with the episode was, unfortunately, Donna Noble. Not Catherine Tate; her performance only got better as the season went on, culminating in Turn Left, which took "It's A Wonderful Life" for a dark, dark ride. But, aside from that episode, the writers' constant positioning of Donna as The Most Important Person In The Universe rang hollow. It's as if they were overcompensating for both Rose and Martha Jones. So when she was able to "regenerate," thus creating the Alternate Doctor (Doctor2? Doctor Lite?) and making herself into a sort-of Doctor, it fell flatter still.
For her character arc to be truly paid off, Donna needed to die, and not that "death of personality" we got handed at the end of the series. She could have had a grand death, a heroic death, one that might have justified her role as the fulcrum of seemingly the whole season. Instead, we got another cop-out. That's two years in a row; can Stephen Moffat prevent a hat trick?
As far as next year goes, I'm looking forward to the truncated Torchwood season, presumably with Mickey and Martha on the team. And I'm intrigued by the final shot we saw of the Doctor this year: alone, tired, confronting his own legacy. Will perhaps the greatest Doctor of them all get the exit he deserves?
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