Review: Doctor Who – Series 7 – First Half
Matt Smith and Steven Moffat‘s third series of the Doctor Who franchise kicked off with Asylum Of The Daleks. We had much to expect from this new series. It had already been revealed that Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) and Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill) would be leaving the show at this point. But, we didn’t know to what capacity, would they be killed, lost or just get fed up of travelling. The last series took a real toil on the couple. They had a baby, which is stressful enough in the most normal of situations. But this was no ordinary child. It was a time baby and as we found out their child turned out to be River Song (Alex Kingston). I’ve always had mixed feelings about Rory and Amy as companions. In one sense I liked the throwback to original classic Doctor Who with multiple companions. However, I found Amy highly irritating and somewhat cocky. Rory I do like, however, so in some sense I will be sad to see him go.
The mini online prequel episodes to this series called “Pond Life” suggested difficulties in Amy and Rorys’ marriage. This was confirmed in episode 1 when we see the two arguing and preparing to sign papers for divorce. Episode 1 threw us right into the action. The Doctor, Rory and Amy in the centre of The Dalek Parliament. All, however, was not how it seemed. The Daleks needed their help. And so the trio beamed down to the planet that the Daleks used as an insane asylum. So we have a classic ‘who’ set up, the gang thrown into a world they know little about with only a set time to save the day. The main surprise of this episode was the unveiling of The Doctor’s new assistant to take over from Amy and Rory. Boy what a great introduction she had. Oswin (Jenna-Louise Coleman) was bright, energetic, quick witted, full of life and someone who looks like she’ll give The Doctor a run for his money. On a personal note, I fell in love with her a bit, as I suspect a lot of the audience did. The way the episode ended left a lot for us to wonder and look forward to in the future, with a lot of mystery still surrounding the new assistant.
At this point, I feel I should congratulate the press and bloggers out there for keeping the secret of the new assistant in this episode a surprise. It was initially announced that she would debut in the christmas episode. Bloggers, reviewers and the press had seen the episode in advance and didn’t report on her inclusion after Moffat pleaded with them not to. I love the fact that we are still able to have a surprise these days. I hate that so much is given away in trailers about future episodes and films. Can we not have trailers with a bit of mystery still? Overall, I really enjoyed this episode, however, there were a few things that were unexplained and irritating. For example, where did all these Daleks come from? since when have they been able to create human versions of Daleks? (It’s an interesting development but we haven’t seen it before and makes you think why didn’t use it in the past)
Showrunner Moffat promised that the final episodes of Amy and Rory’s span as companions would be Doctor Who meets a genre every week. This week was Dinosaurs. I don’t need to explain this episode the title does it for me. Overall, the episode was a bit all over the place. There didn’t seem much of a structure to it. The bits I liked first. Rory’s Dad (Mark Williams) was a nice touch. One of the things I’ve always loved about Doctor Who is its ability to thrust the most ordinary of people into the most extraordinary situations. He, of course, provided a well needed bit of humour as well. The scene at the end in particular where he looked over the Earth eating his sandwiches was a lovely and very human moment. David Mitchell and Robert Webb as the fumbling robots were also a joy to watch and I would have liked to have seen more of them actually. Now the bad bits and parts that don’t make sense. Firstly, The Doctor greets Rory’s Dad like he has never met him before. We saw The Doctor attend their wedding, in quite dramatic style at the end of series 5. Surely they met already? The beach scene also annoyed me because of the sheer laziness from the location scouts. We have seen the beach used countless times in recent Doctor Who episodes, The Time of Angels is a recent episode that comes to mind. Morally, this episode raised a few questions. Specifically in regards to sending Solomon (David Bradley) off to his death. These issues of morality would turn out to be a theme in the coming series.
The genre we see Doctor Who take in this episode was the western. I love westerns, my favourite probably being The Magnificent Seven. This episode, however, wasn’t great I’m afraid. The basic story of this is The Doctor, Amy and Rory arrive in a little town which is being plagued by a mysterious outlaw. We soon find out that this outlaw, referred to as the gunslinger, is an alien cyborg here to hunt down the person who created him. His creator Kahler Jex (Adrian Scarborough) created the cyborg to fight in a war and is now essentially a war criminal. Since he crashed on Earth though he has done good and as a result the town were reluctant to hand him over to the cyborg. However, the cyborg will start killing humans if they don’t. The episode plays a lot on morals and conscience. Like the previous episode we see questions of The Doctor’s motives. In this episode we see nearly see him hand over the war criminal to end the entire situation. I find the whole The Doctor feels guilty idea a bit tedious and repetitive. To sum up my thoughts on this I’ll quote a comment on unpopcult : ”I’m getting a bit tired with the this whole, look into your soul Doctor, thing. He saves the universe about 10 times a year. Yes, there’s casualties along they way. Would random aliens please stop getting on their high horses about this? He’s a good guy.”. Overall then, I was disappointed with this episode. The highly impressive visuals and scenery courtesy of the western town set in Spain, (where many a famous western has been shot over the years) was let down by an average script. There we some good gags in this episode though, the one with the horse and about the tea were my favourites. I also thought Adrian Scarboroughs’ performance was really good.
This episode did bring about an interesting theory about Amy’s relationship with The Doctor that I thought I would share. Again to quote a comment by author CJ Cregg on unpopcult suggesting Amy is like Wendy in Peter Pan
” As she grows up, Peter’s visits to her become less and less frequent and she becomes less keen on flying away with him to Never Never Land, until ultimately she outgrows her childhood and him completely. And of course he, as the boy who never grows up, then finds a companion in her daughter, then her granddaughter, ad infinitem. The parallels with the Doctor’s relationship with the Pond-Williamses are definitely there, especially as it’s been made clear to us in every episode this season that his visits to them are becoming further and further apart. And Amy prefers to go home to suburbia at the end of each one, rather than flying off into the stars again. The Moff is always exploring childhood themes, so I wonder if Amy and Rory’s arc this season is really about them growing up and putting aside childish things? Including the Raggedy Man”
Back to vintage Doctor Who this week as we see The Doctor battle aliens on Earth in a modern era. This episode saw little cubes invade the Earth with The Doctor unable to figure out what they are there for. After a lot of build up and tense moments it is revealed these boxes are essentially sent by an alien race to kill humans to reach a certain tally to make up for what humanity will do in the future. Throughout this episode we see continued suggestions that Amy and Rory are ready to move on from their time with The Doctor, only for them to go on another adventure with him at the end. I have to say, I loved this episode. For me this was vintage modern era Doctor Who. We had celebrity cameos and excerpts from real life TV in the shape of Alan Sugar, Brian Cox and the BBC news readers. Kate Stewart (Jemma Redgrave) was a welcome addition to cast this week. She also provided a throwback to classic Doctor Who with her ties to U.N.I.T and being the daughter of The Brigadier (Nicholas Courtney). These type of references to original Doctor Who is something I love to see. I was also pleased to see Rorys’ Dad return. The gags involving the Wii and The Doctor having to be kept busy summed up Matt Smith’s Doctor beautifully. I also liked the use of embedded title effects in this episode to tell us what month we were in. The technique is frequently seen in U.S series Fringe and it was also seen in the opening title sequences of Panic Room.
This episode was not flawless though. Two points raised by Tim on unpopcult in particular are worth noting “let’s ignore the fact that cardiac arrest is only survivable if treated in the first few minutes after it occurs (and the Doctor had to go from UNIT to the hospital to the Shakri ship in that time), but what about all the thousands of other deaths that would have occurred as a result of mass cardiac arrest? Plane, train & car crashes? Fatal falls? People drowning in baths, swimming pools etc Did no one watch FlashForward?!? (Okay, I know the answer to that last one: it was just me.)”. Firstly, the cardiac arrest point. We saw in The Shakespeare code that The Doctor was able to restart his heart with a good thump to his chest so the ‘drama’ about only having 1 heart was minimal really. And to address Tim directly, I watched Flashforward and the same point occurred to me. More generally the ending of this episode felt rushed. It was a very quick fix and we see physical action from the aliens themselves. This quick fix is becoming all too common in Doctor Who. We’ve seen before in episodes with The Master (John Simm) that they have been able to simply reverse time a whole year so it never happened (Last Of The Time Lords) or break the genetic template so everyone is back to normal (The End Of Time: Part Two). I almost felt like this episode could have been a two parter, one with the cube invasion, one fighting the aliens behind it. Also I may have missed something here but did they explain why they were taking humans on to the alien ship to experiment?
After this episode a theory I had been working on was all but confirmed. The theory is that these episodes are happening in reverse order. The easiest way to explain this is through these images. I look forward to seeing the reasoning behind this move. If this theory is correct it would explain why Rory and Amys’ relationship seems fine since episode 1. Likewise, it would also confirm a theory I have about Oswin. My theory is that somehow The Doctor is responsible for her being on the Dalek planet in episode 1. Oswin becomes companion, maybe for a series or 2, doesn’t know about the Dalek thing, then a series finishes with her and The Doctor arriving on the Dalek prison planet, with only the doctor knowing the significance of it. Oswin making fun of The Doctor’s chin in episode 1 could also be a continuing gag or term of endearment between the pair (much like River Song calling him ‘sweetie’).
Firstly, let me point out there I have kept my previous theory in this post despite the fact episode 5 would seem to disprove it to an extent. I’m keeping it in for 2 reasons. 1) Because I am standing by my honesty, not going to pretend I predicted it all perfectly just because of hindsight. 2) The reasoning for my theory is logical and as the images mentioned previously show ,there is something in it . It is possible this will be explained later in some way, I certainly hope so.
New York, The Weeping Angels and River Song. On paper this should have been brilliant when combined with Amy and Rory’s departure but this episode fell short. The story was all over the place, jumping about without any clear structure. It was great to see them actually filming in New York, even if the scenes were somewhat generic and parts of New York we’ve seen a billion times over. There was also some odd jumps. Now I’ve never been to New York but I know enough to know you can’t walk from Time Square to the opposite side of Manhattan bridge in the space of one sentence. You could see some bits were still filmed in Cardiff but it was certainly a much better attempt at Doctor Who in New York than previous episode Daleks in Manhattan. It was a bold decision to shoot over there and I’m sure it confirms Doctor Who’s status in the television hierarchy by the fact they were able to do it. However, I didn’t feel there was a justifiable reason for the story to be based there. That story could have happened anywhere really. Yes the statue of liberty wouldn’t have worked anywhere else I grant you that. But, I thought that moment was very obvious, somewhat naff and generally didn’t work (someone is always likely to be looking at so it shouldn’t be able to move). Other things that irritated me in this episode was the fact there were a lot of complex time and space things that were brushed off. Previous rules and things that The Doctor said shouldn’t happen before happened in this episode without anyone batting an eyelid. Let’s finish on the plus points. River Song, great return, love her as the detective and her relationship with The Doctor. Her relationship with her parents (Amy and Rory) I don’t think has ever been believable or really explored in any depth. Overall, I didn’t enjoy this episode and I felt let down. Not just for myself but the characters of Amy and Rory. They deserved a better send off than that, they dragged out their exit and tried to make it emotional when we’ve already seen these two thought each other were dead several times before.
The Mid Season Break
So now we have the break in the middle of the series. Note that I say series here and season in the subtitle. This is because the whole concept is a very a American TV idea which I’m not sure I like. Doctor Who is British not American. Yes, there are many aspects of American TV we can admire and adopt but I don’t think this idea should be top of the list. It works just about in America for shows that have 24 episodes in a series. Not quite sure its necessary for a 14 episode series to have a break. No doubt its a marketing thing to give us a good build up to the second part of the series and the new assistant, much like the hype we get with the start of a new series. If it helps keeps Doctor Who on our screens in the midsts of BBC cuts then I’m happy to sit and wait.
Onwards and upwards to the Christmas special and the return of the beautiful Jenna-Louise Coleman.
Posted on September 30, 2012, in Television and tagged Amy Pond, Arthur Darvill, Asylum of The Daleks, Dalek, Doctor, Doctor Who, Jenna-Louise Coleman, Power of Three, Rory Williams, Sonic Screwdriver, Steven Moffat, Tardis, The Angels Take Manhattan. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.