And then, of course, his signature barrage of bluster, the “Hello, Stonehenge” speech from “The Pandorica Opens.” Since we, the audience, know that he’s ultimately going to prevail, these repeated instances of the 11th Doctor bragging on himself to a sky full of alien menace (which happens again in his farewell Christmas special) come off as bullying.
So, he’s a swaggering bully—who also withholds vital information from the people about whom he supposedly cares the most. During the first season, when Rory dies and gets swallowed up by the Crack in the Universe, thus ceasing ever to have existed, the Doctor remembers Rory, but Amy, Rory’s fiancé, doesn’t. Does the Doctor say, “Amy, listen to me, I know you don’t remember, but you had this fiancé, and you’d actually decided to go through with the wedding after that time you sexually assaulted me, but he got drawn into the Crack in your wall—and I know that it’s got something to do with me. Look, here’s a piece of the TARDIS I pulled out of the Crack! With your help, we’re going to fix this, I promise. And we definitely will not start off two of the next three episodes by going to museums. Come along, Pond!”
No, he doesn’t, and they do start off two of the next three episodes by going to museums. And then they find Rory again for no good reason, other than that Arthur Darvill is incredible (watch Broadchurch ASAP) and every show on TV needs more Arthur Darvill in it.
The entirety of Season Six is when Moffat’s fascination for plot twists and open-ended mysteries (in our house, we describe this unfortunate tendency as “plotty-wotty”) took over the show, and the whole product suffered. As for the Doctor himself, in Season Six he: didn’t tell Amy or Rory about the anomalous readings he was getting about her pregnancy (and why was he pregnancy-testing her, anyway?); hypnotized humanity into becoming a race of killers (but the Silence are creepy, so screw them, right?); and invited all of his “loved ones” to stand unwitting and unwilling witness to his own faked death.
Smith and his fellow cast members, along with the stirring score, were doing their damnedest to convince us that this was all very moving. But even their best performances couldn’t paper over the hollowness of the characters and their relationships.
The first half of Season Seven was worse, with Smith whipsawing back and forth between his most manic, slapsticky tics—especially in “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” and “The Power of Three”—and Tennant-esque brooding, and it all felt somewhat desperate. The second half of the season, with new companion Clara Oswald, was similarly soulless, with the Doctor up to his old tricks of withholding key information from his fellow traveler, and with the pretty, plucky sidekick turning out to be a walking, talking plot device who sacrifices herself to save the Doctor because … the Doctor is Awesome. As The Atlantic’s Christopher Orr said of Peter Jackson’s indulgent, boring Hobbit movies, it’s like watching big-budget, poorly written fanfic.