Or “Which episode of Doctor Who by Steven Moffat will win this year?”
Of the six nominees in this category, four are Doctor Who or Doctor Who-related. This is simply ridiculous. Even as a Doctor Who fan (albeit not much of a fan of the post-2005 series) the way it dominates the discourse around SF TV makes me feel a little queasy. Surely — surely — there must be other good SF TV?
However, this also means that, despite not having a TV and not really being at all interested in TV made after about 1992 (with the exception of Hannibal, which is wonderful), I’ve seen the majority of the candidates for this because I spent much of last year writing a book about Doctor Who. I won’t be trying to watch the episode of Game of Thrones, not having watched the previous twelve million episodes and thus having no idea what was going on.
Incidentally, trying to get to watch Orphan Black just shows how ridiculous DRM, regional restrictions, and platform-exclusivity actually are for users. I’m a subscriber to Netflix, but it’s not on Netflix, because it’s Amazon-exclusive. Fine, I’m also signed up (without asking) to Amazon Prime Video, since I’m on Amazon Prime and they “upgraded” me without any option. So I check there — it’s watchable on Prime Video in the US, but not in the UK.
However, it is watchable on Amazon Instant Video in the UK, but that costs £1.89 to “buy” a DRM-encumbered version I can only watch on Amazon’s site. Annoying, since I have two separate video streaming services I’m paying for (one of which I don’t even use) but OK. I pay the £1.89. The video won’t play on GNU/Linux (and of course I don’t have a machine with any other OS). However, I do have WiNE set up in the tweaked way you need in order to watch Netflix on this machine, so I try it with Amazon. No luck — it just hangs.
So I end up torrenting a copy. It takes three minutes including time to search for it. The torrent is from a site that is supposedly “blocked” by my ISP, but it was still much, much easier to do than watching a legal copy.
(Note that I did in fact *pay* for a legal copy, before torrenting).
Ranked from top to bottom:
The Five(ish) Doctors Rebooted — Peter Davison’s lovely comedy about the efforts of the surviving actors who played the Doctor in the 1963-89 Doctor Who is the single best thing to have come out of the fiftieth anniversary celebrations. It’s packed full of fannish in-jokes, but accessible enough that my wife, who is someone who quite likes some of the Big Finish audios and a couple of the stories she’s seen on DVD, but certainly wouldn’t know, say, The Seeds of Doom from The Seeds of Death, watched it multiple times. It’s genuinely funny, and suggests that the next Doctor Who spin-off should be Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy starring in a rebooted Last of the Summer Wine.
The Day of the Doctor — This had almost all Steven Moffat’s usual faults, and is in a genre I dislike — the “turn your brain off and look at the pretty explosions” action movie — but thanks largely to the cast (David Tennant did a far better job here than in any episode during his time on the show, and Hurt was as good as one would imagine) managed to just about do the series justice. The fact that this was just voted Best Episode EVAH! in Doctor Who Magazine‘s readers’ poll ranking every episode is an utter joke, of course — it’s a light piece of froth with less actual substance even than the other anniversary specials — but it was fun, and it will win.
Orphan Black episode 6 — this is a perfectly decent programme, as far as I can tell. It’s a series about a group of women who’ve discovered they’re clones of each other (probably connected in some way to a character who appears in this one who is Definitely Not Ray Kurzweil Honest). This episode is a mistaken-identity farce, involving one (with an accent that I think was meant to be English, though it kept going into New Zealand or somewhere) desperately having to cover for another (Generic Midwestern US), along with a subplot involving a third (in Minnesota but sounding just like the other generic midwesterner) meeting NotKurzweil. A perfectly reasonable way to spend forty-five minutes, I suppose, but certainly not deserving of a major award.
An Adventure In Space And Time — this was Mark Gatiss’ attempt at telling the story of the first few years of Doctor Who. Leaving aside the historical inaccuracies, both about Who itself and in general (the dialogue was tin-eared — nobody in the 60s spoke anything like the way these characters did), which are fair enough in something not billing itself as actual fact, the fact remains that this just takes a bunch of situations from the first few years of the show and then sticks them into the exact same template we’ve seen a million times before for this kind of “docu-drama”. It’s a perfectly competent representation of its type, but that’s all it is, no better or worse than all the other BBC3 filler punched out of the same mould, and not deserving of any kind of award.
The Name of the Doctor — Lawrence Miles’ review of this, which consisted of a photo of a naked bottom (presumably his own) was, if anything, a little kind. An incoherent mess.
The only one of the long-form dramas on the ballot that I’ve seen is Gravity, which I thought was pretty good, so that will be the only one I rank.