Is it wrong to expect more?

Today is Who day. It’s the first day of a new Doctor and it’s also a brand new series. I was taking a look around online and all I could see was a lot of people proclaiming their excitement. It got me wondering, is it just me, is it wrong to expect more?

Before I go on I want to make myself clear; I’ve enjoyed Dr Who since I was a wee lad and, on occasion, Dr Who still produces some of the finest telly in Britain however, those flashes of brilliance are becoming fewer and further apart. I think that franchise needs some serious … umm … regeneration.

This isn’t however a day for me to car about the series itself but a common opinion I see expressed. The argument normally goes like this:

It’s a family/kids fantasy show – set your expectations appropriately.

i.e. down.

I understand the temptation of the argument but I don’t agree. When it comes to storytelling I think you should treat the audience the same no matter who they are. For example just because your intended audience is kids doesn’t mean that you can skip the internal logic of a story. No, treat your audience with respect and they will appreciate the reward even if they can’t articulate why.

Ah what about the arcs! My reply, “What about them?” Arcs, the little hints of something deeper, are the barest nods to something bigger outside of a single episode. They are a cheap way of telling a wider story and not often successfully. If anything they act as a tease to the audience who are left asking: why this, who is that person, what is the significance of that motif? Whoever is writing should definitely close off the arc satisfactorily because the audience does not enjoy being left hanging or being lied to.

In many ways I think that British drama is lagging American these days. While the Americans are getting over* the “serialisation is bad; episodic is good” mentality we in the UK still seem mired in it. Events happen in one episode have that have little or no impact in the next. The character beaten here is fresh into the battle there and doesn’t bear the scars (at least openly). This is disjointed and unrealistic storytelling.

So I think that no matter the story, no matter who you’re aiming your story at, you should treat them with the same level of respect. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that one audience deserves sub par storytelling because… that’s what that audience can handle. I think we should assume that the audience is demanding and engaged and the storyteller should rise to that challenge. The result can only be a good thing for everyone.

*Ok, this is only partly true but I think their top drawer drama is becoming far superior to ours.