After a 3 month gap since the Christmas episode and an even bigger gap since the departure of the Ponds, Doctor Who was finally back on our screens! Matt Smith returns as our favourite Time Lord – bow tie and all, and Jenna-Louise Colman is fully unleashed as the new companion after appearing in two previous episodes.
After some initial reservations of Series 7 Part 1 of Doctor Who, I ended up completely loving its small run towards the end of 2012 – the stories were exciting, gripping and it was a fantastic send-off for Amy Pond and Rory Williams. I approached this run of episodes with the same level of trepidation but I have to say, I was largely disappointed.
Some might say the reason for this might be the change in companions, but honestly, I love Jenna-Louise Colman as Clara Oswald. She’s intriguing, exciting, funny and spunky and my personal highlight for this run of episodes. I think the main problem for me were the storylines for each episode not being exciting enough – I only watched one episode when it aired live which says a lot considering I never used to miss an episode.
The opener to the second half of the series The Bells of St John, packed a lot into its 45 minutes, and while Jenna and Matt had excellent chemistry which made it seem they had been working together for years, the story for me fell short. The Rings of Akhaten’s overall storyline was quite poor, but you felt emotionally involved with Clara as she explored her first alien world which has become somewhat a rite of passage for every new companion. The third episode The Cold War despite re-booting The Ice Warriors for the modern-era Doctor Who, the storyline was again quite weak; it wasn’t until Hide that the show started hitting its stride for me. A creepy, haunted house was the back-drop for the week’s episode, and coupled with a couple of love stories inter-woven through, it seemed Who was back on track.
The TARDIS centric episode Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS certainly wasn’t as stand-out as The Doctor’s Wife, but it gave us a deeper look into the inside of the TARDIS, its numerous corridors and a library with a particularly interesting book, revealing the Doctor’s name. The strongest episode by far out of the bunch was The Crimson Horror starring screen legend Dame Diana Rigg and her real-life daughter Rachel Stirling. It also saw the welcome return of Strax, Madame Vastra and Jenny who are fast becoming a firm fan favourite. They are certainly Smith’s equivalent of figures such as Captain Jack from the Tennant era and bring humour and heart to the episodes they’re in. The storyline was an intriguing mystery, and real-life mother and daughter were on excellent form as an on-screen mother and daughter. Another small highlight was Matt Smith pulling off a cracking Yorkshire accent, but all in all The Crimson Horror was a solid return to form for the Doctor Who team.
The penultimate episode Nightmare in Silver again was a particularly strong episode with Neil Gaiman hoping to recreate the success of his first episode, by bringing back the Cybermen. The Cybermen have been absent from Doctor Who for quite a while, and they certainly seemed like a dominant threat throughout this episode. There were quite a few highlights from Clara taking charge of the troops, to the genius casting of Warwick Davis and the fantastic work of Matt Smith during the chess game scenes, as he plays the Doctor and a Borg version of himself.
This leads us to the season finale: the episode title The Name of the Doctor led fans to believe that the Doctor’s greatest secret was perhaps just inches away from being revealed. Add to this the fact that Strax, Vastra and Jenny were back and we get to see the fabulous Alex Kingston reprise her role as River Song, and you get a finale that is simply mouth-watering for fans. Of course when it comes to Steven Moffat, nothing is ever straightforward and the name of the Doctor was never revealed, although it didn’t stop the episode from being a fantastic way to end the season. The episode did give us a resolution to the mystery that was Clara however, and it actually made sense! As she jumps into the Doctor’s timeline, she suddenly appears throughout his life-span, and having Jenna-Louise Colman appear in archive footage was a great geeky moment. It also cleverly explains how the Doctor had met her twice previously; the phrase “Run you clever boy” has well and truly being coined by Clara Oswald. On a side note, the episode also felt like an ending of a chapter for the character of River Song. She is the last remnant of the Pond era, and it felt appropriate to bring her back for one last episode to give some closure.
The end of the episode also brought a massive reveal which set up the 50thanniversary brilliantly. A shadowy figure that’s seen in the distance and the reveal that he was the one that had broken the promise of the name of the Doctor leads none other than John Hurt to turn around and be revealed as another face of the Doctor. The fact that this was kept largely under wraps is a brilliant coup for the Doctor Who team and it just leads to major speculation about how John Hurt fits into the equation. Is he a Doctor from the past that we’ve never met? How did he break his promise and what exactly did he do?
My own personal theory on the matter is that this could be the half human half Doctor version of the Doctor, who we last saw at the end of Journey’s End played by David Tennant. John Hurt could well be the older version of that character…
The Name of the Doctor was certainly the most satisfying, exciting and all-round entertaining finale Moffat has provided us with through his run as exec producer. The episode resolved a few strands that run through the series, but also set up the 50th anniversary special in November, which promises to be an absolute classic. As well as Matt Smith, Jenna-Louise Colman and John Hurt we’ll also have David returning as the 10th Doctor and Billie Piper returning to her role as Rose Tyler. November cannot come quick enough!
As I’ve been writing this post, it has been announced that Matt Smith will be leaving Doctor Who after the Christmas Special and that the search is already underway for the next actor to play the Doctor. The names being thrown around by the press are all interesting ones – some quite high profile and some more obscure names, but until the announcement has been made official, I’m keeping an open mind.
I first became a fan of Doctor Who through David Tennant’s 10th incarnation of The Doctor. I had seen one or two episodes of Chris Eccleston’s series (and did go back and watch them after becoming a fan), but it was certainly Tennant’s charm, wit, humour, passion and “Allonsy” that made me fall in love with Doctor Who. I’ve never watched any of the older series of Doctor Who pre- Russell T. Davies era and I don’t mind that I’m considered to be a fan of the “new Who”. When Tennant announced that he was leaving, I was devastated – I literally sobbed my way through his final episode, and cried again during Doctor Who Confidential. However, I adapted well to change, and Matt Smith is a brilliant incarnation of the Doctor – he has the same zany qualities as Tennant, but seems to have more fire in his belly, a sense of adventure and a more child-like quality to his Doctor. Even though he’s a lot younger than Tennant, he does a brilliant job in portraying someone who’s a lot older and you sense The Doctor has been through a lot. Smith delivers The Doctor’s epic speeches with a sense of wisdom, authority and insistence that The Doctor can fix any problem (one such instance being in the second episode of this run The Rings of Akhaten). But I would be otherwise lying if I didn’t say that MY Doctor was David Tennant so therefore I wasn’t weeping in a corner when it was announced that he was leaving.
I’ve mostly enjoyed where Doctor Who has gone in terms of its creative path – I’ve loved the introduction of characters, and the arcs that it has gone through, and I do think that Steven Moffat is a force to be reckoned with it terms of his writing skills and pure mind-boggling plot twists. But that’s the part that bothers me about Doctor Who now – has the show grown too complex? First and foremost Doctor Who has always prided itself as being appropriate for children and for families, but if adults are finding it difficult to follow the show and its twisting plot lines, then how is a child going to understand it? I first started to notice it last year, and the gripe has kept with me since then. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m not a fan of the direction the show has gone in, I just wish it wasn’t so mind-numbing all the time –sometimes simple stories are also incredibly enjoyable.
Matt Smith will certainly be missed by many when he hangs up his jacket come December; even though the rumours had been rife for a while, I thought he would have one more season in him before he left for pastures new. His new role in a Ryan Gosling directed film is a huge boost for his career, and he truly deserves it. This run of Doctor Who has been slightly underwhelming for me, and I only really started to enjoy it through the 3 last episodes of the run, but I will miss Matt Smith when he leaves. For now though, the countdown in my calendar is on until the 50th anniversary special airs in November and my inner geek is unleashed – Tennant and Smith? Let the fan-girl squealing commence!
“Oh no! Not the one with the gigantic head?
It’s hair, Strax”
(The Name of the Doctor, Doctor Who)