Friday, May 24, 2013

"Impossible!" — Thoughts on Series Seven of Doctor Who

(Please be aware that this contains spoilers for most, if not all, parts of Series Seven of Doctor Who.  If you haven't seen it yet, AVOID THIS POST AT ALL COSTS.)

Last Saturday, Doctor Who's Series Seven finished with a flourish.  The hype was pretty big, I'll admit, and the name of the finale episode helped: "The Name of the Doctor".  The final words of the episode left everyone reeling:

SILHOUETTE:  "What I did, I did in the name of peace and sanity."
DOCTOR: "But not in the name of the Doctor."

The last shot revealed the silhouette's face, and words materialized beside the profile: INTRODUCING JOHN HURT AS—THE DOCTOR.

Speculations flew almost as fast as a Moffat plot.  Who was this Doctor?  An unknown regeneration between Eight and Nine, as some leaks seem to hint?  A regeneration before the First Doctor?  The Valeyard from Old Who?

Right now, the likeliest idea is that this sorta-Doctor is a post-Eight pre-Nine regeneration.  Besides the dubious articles running about the Net supporting this theory, the thing that this Doctor "did" is most likely a reference to the Moment that ended the Time War.  This has been greeted with mixed feelings by most.

My own thoughts are this: it CAN be pulled off, if Steven Moffat (head writer of Doctor Who) is very, very clever.  And usually Moffat is.  However, there are some things that worry me:

1) Series Seven was not as good as Moffat's previous seasons.  It seems like the great Whovian may finally be running out of steam.  While he promises that the fiftieth anniversary special will be explosive (and Whovians are ready to believe it, since the Tenth Doctor is returning to reprise his role), this season seemed like "butter scraped over too much bread", to quote the venerable Bilbo Baggins.  While "Asylum of the Daleks" and "The Name of the Doctor" complimented each other, the essential question that was asked in "The Snowmen" —who is Clara Oswald, the impossible girl?—had little resolution until the final episode.  In fact, it could very well have been introduced throughout the season (without Clara becoming a companion) and then resolved in a two-parter, or even a packed one-parter.  (I think the lack of two-part episodes was one of the reasons this season suffered.)  They tried to stretch a shorter plot (Clara's identity) over a long season and it didn't quite work.

(I've heard rumors that Series Eight will be Moffat's last season as head writer.  Is it true?  Who knows.  But I'd definitely consider it as a good change if Moffat doesn't shape up—and if a suitable writer is found to take up the mantle.)

2) There hasn't been half as much resolution as there needs to be.  We essentially had another "Wedding of River Song" cliffhanger—resolving one mystery while introducing yet another.  I think, however, that there are even more loose ends than that episode: the Silence have not been resolved, River Song is still a wild card, and now we have an unknown Doctor on the loose.  "The Doctor doesn't like endings"—and apparently Moffat doesn't either.  The key to a truly satisfying story is introducing a certain amount of resolution in the end, even if there are loose ends, but I think Moffat went a little too far.

That being said, I think that the 50th Anniversary special has a LOT of potential.  (And we need a trailer soon.  Thor:  The Dark World is coming out in November, too, and it's had a trailer out for weeks.)  If Moffat pulls himself together, it could be incredible.

And now, as for Series Seven as a whole, here are my thoughts:

You know, it was a good season.  There weren't any episodes that were really boring.  "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship" was about as close as it got, and what it lacked in plot it made up for in hilarity.  But compared to the groundbreaking stuff in Series Five and Series Six, it wasn't as good.  "The Bells of Saint John" and "The Name of the Doctor" just don't compare to "The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon" and "The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang" as premiers/finales, in terms of plot and theme and character.  Moffat still has some fantastic scenes—the one with River and the Doctor in "The Name of the Doctor" was incredibly good, and the introduction of Hurt's Doctor was stunning—but the nonstop action of his previous episodes was somewhat lacking in these.  And compared to the theme and character moments of stuff as far back as Series One and Series Three, it was lacking there too.

With this year being the 50th Anniversary year, there's a lot of nods to Old Who: Cybermen and Daleks both made appearances, as well as the Martian fellow in "Cold War".  And some catch-phrases were reintroduced, most notably "Geronimo!" but also, more subtly, River Song's "sweetie" and the way the Doctor straightens his bow tie.  (That occurred in episodes like "Asylum of the Daleks", "The Snowmen", and "The Rings of Akhaten".  It's one of the gestures of the show that gives quite a bit of meaning: it means that the Doctor is staring down a problem and that he's going to fix it—looking dapper.)

And one thing I really loved about "The Name of the Doctor" is that we got to see most, if not all, Eleven Doctors.

Some highlights on the season:

Best scene of the season was definitely the Doctor's speech in "The Rings of Akhaten".  In fact, I think that's my favorite scene of the Eleventh Doctor's entire run thus far.  The emotion is incredible - combine that with the music and it's deeply moving.

Coming in second would be the Doctor/River scene in "The Name of the Doctor".  While I'm a bit miffed that we missed Eleven's last goodbye to River before the Library, that scene made up for it entirely.

Best episode of the season was probably "Asylum of the Daleks".  It's fast, well written, and makes the Daleks scary again.  There are very few things I can say kept me on the "edge of my seat".   "Asylum of the Daleks" was one of them.  And the final scene is just brilliant.

"Nightmare in Silver" comes in a very close second.  After Neil Gaiman wrote "The Doctor's Wife" (an episode I dislike), I was hesitant about him writing another episode.  Luckily, "Nightmare in Silver" was fantastic.

Best dialogue of the season was basically all of the Doctor/CyberDoctor stuff in "Nightmare in Silver".  Very well written, very entertaining, and very, very nerve-wracking.  "I'll call myself...Mr. Clever!"

Best minor character of the season (basically non-recurring characters) was probably the unknown morgue fellow in "The Crimson Horror".  He made me laugh.  "I call it...the Crimson 'Orrah."

Worst part of the season was probably that the Doctor kissed five different people.  Seriously.  At least the only one he kissed for romantic purposes was his wife.

Weirdest part of the season was when the Doctor pulled a doll out of his pocket.  Double take!

In summary: this season was really good, with some fantastic moments, but it could have been better.  If Moffat kicks his brain into gear, then this year has a lot of potential left.

What about you?  Have any favorites or least favorites for this season?  What's your opinion on Series Seven?

Whatever you think, I'm sure all Whovians can agree that the wait till November will be excruciating!



  1. How ironic that you'd do a Doctor Who post on this day... Oh. Wait. Not really -- season seven just ended. :) I'm a relatively new Whovian myself, having only started watching... what? Two-ish weeks ago? I half-skimmed your post because I'm trying to stay as spoiler-free as possible (I began season five this afternoon), but I've bookmarked it to read in more detail once I've reached the end of season seven. My only observation at this point is that it seems everyone I've run across has loved "Asylum of the Daleks"; I can hardly wait to reach that episode.

    I could go on a massive DW rave in this comment, since it's my latest... obsession sounds too negative. Pass time? Writing reference? Inspiration? The thing that loves to scramble my emotions into something wonderful and painful? Eh, something like that. If you want to chat about DW, feel free to email me. My email's still eldrafromdaremo. :)

    Oh, and you make a good point about the trailer -- although... they'll probably keep us on the edge of our seats for as long as humanly possible.


  2. I agree with pretty much everything you have here... I wasn't impressed with several of the episodes, the Silent Invasion, and Dinosaurs on a Spaceship being the two most notable episodes I disliked. I was definitely impressed with Asylum of the Daleks, but I absolutely LOVED the Jekyll/Hyde effect in Nightmare in Silver. I also really enjoyed "The Name of the Doctor", though there are other things I definitely wish could have been addressed, and I'm still sort of upset that River Song is (supposedly) gone, even though, like you said, in all honesty she's still a wild card...

    Speaking of which, a friend of mine suggested the other day that perhaps Clara goes back in time and saves River, rather than having the Doctor save her, which would cause to many problems in the long run... I mean, after all, if the Doctor's time stream is basically being rewritten by Clara, why couldn't that be effected as well? ;) Just a thought, anyway... and it leaves me hope that we will be seeing more (hopefully much more) of River Song, as she has become one of my favorite characters. ^_^

    Anyway, I'm totally excited about the 50th anniversary episode, and waiting for November is going to be absolutely AGONIZING. :P