Because it's all about the writing

Previous Entry Share Next Entry
First meta (of the new year)
Found on a Doctor Who community (RTD refers to Russell T. Davies, one of the show’s producers): “I feel quite happy to critique RTD's plotting and writing without having to offer an alternative.”

That statement bothers me. Not the bit about RTD’s writing; certainly, the poster is welcome to his opinions, whether I agree with them or not. No, the real problem in that sentence is the bit about not offering an alternative.

Maybe it’s the writer in me, but I always figured that if you thought something was bad, you instinctively knew what would have made it good. Otherwise, what basis would you use for comparison? “Man, that really sucked.” “Okay, what would have made it not suck?” “I dunno, just… something else.”

Does. Not. Compute.

When I negatively review an episode of one of my series, I have reasons for disliking it: “Red Sky” was bad because they ignored both scientific reality and SG’s own canon; “That Which Is Lost” was bad because neither Ed nor Al learned anything of value; “Love and Monsters” was bad because the Doctor and Rose were treated like secondary characters. In all three cases the alternative (at least one of them) is fairly obvious.

So, my questions are: is it okay to just say “New Who sucks, the last episode sucked, RTD’s writing sucks,” without going any further or giving any reasons? Is my brain the only one that automatically says, “they shouldn’t have done that, they should have done _x_ instead?” And, could I really write a better episode of SG than “Red Sky?”

Don't know about the others, but on that last one, I’d have to say, “yeah.” :)

  • 1
Is it okay? Sure, why not? Sometimes you just want to say "yuck, I didn't like that." I don't think it's a good conversation-starter, but I don't think not liking something obligates you to understand why.

(I suppose there's a line between "I didn't like that" and "that was bad," and I grant you if you're saying something was bad you should be prepared to possibly defend your position.)

I see what you're saying, and you're right, it's perfectly okay to just say, "I didn't like that episode" without going into, or even knowing, why. (My brain never stops there, but then, I'm weird.)

However, if you're doing a critique, especially a specific one, should you be able to say "that (episode, season, writer, actor) sucks" without going into more detail? How do you know the writing is bad if you don't know what would have been better? How can you claim an actor or producer needs to be replaced, if you can't point out where they went wrong?

Maybe I wasn't clear enough in my post. Or, maybe we disagree on this point. Either way, thanks for the response.

(Very late reply)

I think... part of what you may be running into here, and I don't know you well enough to be sure but hey, is that sometimes... I don't know. This is something I run into a lot with my mother and brother; they're debaters by nature, and I'm not. Sometimes I feel like, damn, can't I just have a conversation without having to have my data ready at every moment? It's not a logical response, it's an emotional one. If I had to be prepared to back up every opinion I ever had, it would crush me and I'd never say anything again, you know?

I suspect I more or less agree with you on the specific examples you gave here, though. Certainly if you're going to complain about a particular writer being bad, or something, it's reasonable to expect you to have a reason for thinking that. (Acting, for me, is more difficult; at some level, what I'm often saying when I say I think an actor fell short is that their performance didn't work for me, and I simply don't know enough about the craft to get more specific than that.)

  • 1

Log in