… when fans don’t think critically. When they don’t like something and it doesn’t occur to them that maybe the author intended they be disturbed/annoyed by what they see. Some folks - I wish I could say this is a small minority but I honestly just don’t know anymore - just keep bringing up a few topics in Doctor Who that I used to think were so obvious and crystal clear that they barely merited discussion:
* Ten’s emotional outburst in The End of Time
—- common complaint: “He never had an outburst like that before! That’s not Doctor-like and I don’t like it”
—- What I thought was obvious: Ten is someone who showed tremendous stoicism whenever things would go wrong - he lost a lot of people, including the woman he loved and a family that was rapidly becoming his own, he lost Gallifrey AGAIN in The End of Time, he lost the Master again. This was one of the only times he let himself break down and rage at the injustice the universe had showed him for years. If it was any one of us, we would be throwing tantrums left and right — he had ONE. Just one. It’s SUPPOSED to stand out and be meaningful and out of character and memorable.
* Time Lord Victorious
—- common complaint: “I don’t like him — that’s not what I want the Doctor to be!!”
—- What I thought was obvious: viewers were supposed to have had enough when he became Time Lord Victorious - that was the entire point of the episode. It was supposed to show that Ten had ‘gone too far’ (that’s even in the dialogue) and was not only violating the rules of time, but his own ethics (like when he refers to the crew as the ‘little people’ in the same moment he’s showing his typical childlike delight over snowfall). It’s supposed to raise the question of if he is beyond fixing, if he needs to regenerate - and darker yet, if these thoughts and actions were always there, lurking and brewing under the surface (this is brought up again in The End of Time, when he refers to Wilf as merely ‘ordinary’ and rages at having to save him). Viewers were supposed to be disturbed and upset about it.
* The Master’s “sacrifice” in The End of Time
—- common complaint: “He doesn’t do it for the right reasons! He does it out of anger!”
—- What I thought was obvious: That’s the point. It’s supposed to be an ambiguous “redemption” - is he really being redeemed, or was the saving of the Doctor’s life completely incidental to him acting out his revenge on Rassilon? It certainly seems like the latter, and it’s SUPPOSED to! Good writing can raise more questions than answers sometimes.
* The religious themes in s3
—- common complaint: “It makes the Doctor seem like a godlike figure. I don’t like thinking of the Doctor as a God =(“
—- What I thought was obvious: That’s the point. He makes a crappy God and it’s dangerous to think of him as such. That season arc was authored by Davies, an atheist who much more openly refers to the dangers of religion in some of his more adult shows like Torchwood. Doctor Who is a family show - this was the farthest he could really go here, but the point remains the same.
* Martha being unappreciated by Ten
—- super super super common complaint: “Martha didn’t really get a fair shake from Ten. He wasn’t fair to her as a companion and I don’t see why he wasn’t nicer to her.”
—- What I thought was obvious: That’s the point. Her entire arc was about being underappreciated by everyone, put in the middle of her family’s drama and having her needs second to everyone else’s. Then she falls in love with an emotionally unavailable Time Lord who has just lost the woman he loves - and the emotional baggage he unwittingly heaps on her is horrible. It’s supposed to be horrible. He’s supposed to make her feel second best - this was designed as an allegory for how Davies thought fans themselves might feel about any replacement for the very popular Rose. Her arc was about learning to overcome this chronic underappreciation in her life and realize her own specialness, and that she deserved more than what was being offered to her. That’s what makes her final scene as companion - when she walks away - so empowering (which was intended, per The Writer’s Tale).
* Donna’s ending
—- one of the most common complaints out there: “Her ending undid EVERYTHING and I hate RTD for it”
—- What I thought was obvious: That’s the point. It’s NOT fair. It puts her back at square one - she’s brilliant and has no knowledge of this anymore. It’s an allegory for everyman!fans - we all have our inner light and brilliance, and most of us don’t know it. Donna WAS us, reaches the stars … and then becomes like us again once more. Does that make her any less brilliant? Of course not - it means that she has the same struggle that she did back then, just like any one of us. It’s hugely tragic and yet almost inspiring at the same time - we can ALL be brilliant, and just not know it.
* Rose’s selfishness
—- omg this complaint is ungodly common, among her detractors as well as some of her fans: “She was selfish and jealous and it makes me uncomfortable!”
—- What I thought was obvious: That’s. The. Point. Her selfishness is balanced by her selflessness, and those latter moments are when she shines (in fact, that’s almost a direct quote from RTD’s very description of her character in The Writer’s Tale). She’s supposed to be selfish - she’s young and wants a better life for herself, it gives her drive. But paradoxically, so does her selflessness, and in that she finds true meaning - she finds the better life she sought, that’s from the script of Parting of the Ways. Jealousy is one of the ways she expresses this - it’s subtext for “she cares” in the scripts, from s1 through s4, and this was completely intentional as well by RTD and was done to complement the aspect of her selfishness he mentioned.
…. feel free to add to this list. I’m so done.