You may have heard this one before

The trouble with having a Doctor Who finale that was less than stellar is that then you get pieces like this one in the Telegraph, which assume it represents the show’s best and reacts accordingly.

And indeed the show did transport me to another place. At the critical point, possibly where the Master was attempting to establish a new Gallifrey at the heart of a billion-year inter-galactic empire, or where the Doctor was interrupting the Archangel network’s telepathic signal by aligning his black-hole converter, I drifted off to the land of nod, dozing happily on the sofa as a load of old cosmic screwdrivers washed over me.

No, wait: the trouble is that these pieces extrapolate from one datapoint to a sweeping conclusion. Jim White, author of the article, seems unfamiliar with the concept of “science fiction” (cf Gareth McLean’s Guardian piece last week), and places Who in the same box as fantasy (though you could argue that’s really where it belongs), a box not to his taste:

But then, had Davies been in possession of the annual expenditure of the Ministry of Defence and had his denouement featured a set the size of Torquay and enough pyrotechnics to match the Northern Lights, plus a script written by Tom Stoppard in collaboration with the team behind The Simpsons, I still wouldn’t have been much moved. […] For some people such a confession is the cultural equivalent of heresy. But the fact is, you either get fantasy or you don’t. It either sets your imagination soaring or leaves you earthbound. There is no such thing as someone who quite likes The Lord of the Rings, or thinks His Dark Materials is all right to pass the time of day. With fantasy, you either take it, fully formed and in its entirety, or leave it, and get on with your life unencumbered by Orcs and cosmic dust.

You know, I’m pretty sure (a) there are plenty of people lukewarm about The Lord of the Rings and His Dark Materials, and (b) that liking one fantasy doesn’t oblige you to like all other fantasy. Of course, given White’s parting shot —

There is, though, one easy shorthand for working out where someone stands across the fantasy gap: if she is a woman, she can generally manage without it. Which is maybe what was happening as I snoozed through the Doctor: I was being put in touch with my feminine side.

— it’s hard not to conclude that his generalisations about taste are, shall we say, a load of Torchwood.

5 thoughts on “You may have heard this one before

  1. What on earth…? This is why I generally avoid newspaper articles on anything having to do with fantasy. The journalists pretend to write about folks like me but the descriptions are never, ever familiar. I’m off to buy out the fantasy section at the local book store: I’ve been shirking my duty as a fantasy reader. (I do rate The Silmarillion above LOTR — that may be what has messed up my female circuits.)

    At least I have an excuse for not trying any SF yet — the Nazis killed it! (Unless Frankenstein counts. Does it count?)

  2. Not to mention the fact that, as one of the commenters over on the Telegraph site points out, he mentions watching a video of two fangirls squeeing earlier in the piece.

  3. Is ‘less than stellar’ a posh literary criticism term meaning ‘utter shite’ then?

  4. That’s rather a typical lazy, opinionated, unjustified review. No wonder journalists fear the rise of blogging.

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