- Game of Thrones
- The Leftovers
- American Horror Story
- The Walking Dead
- Penny Dreadful
- True Detective
- Orphan Black
- Ripper Street
- Breaking Bad
- Game of Thrones
- The Returned
- American Horror Story
- Bates Motel
- The Fall
It’s a fez. I wear a fez now.
There were times when I thought that the new series of Doctor Who would never kick in. Maybe you could call it Steven Moffat nerves, where it felt it was taking far too long to gain any faith in the new helm of the show. Then there was Matt Smith, likeable from the outset although I still wanted to move away from uncertain mutterings about him to the point where I was hanging on his every word. Now after watching the final episode The Big Bang I can relax in the knowledge that it was brilliant, glad that I didn’t post any unfavourable posts in the last thirteen weeks that I’d have to go back and rewrite (something in the Doctor Who world of complex timelines I probably would have been allowed to do).
It probably wasn’t until the two parter The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone that I began to relax with this season. The return of The Weeping Angels and Alex Kingston as River Song made Moffat’s epic tale deliver all that it promised. It wasn’t a return to Blink territory that many may have expected, although the writer had hinted that this was like “Aliens” following “Alien”. Taking the original premise and multiplying it several fold; Weeping Angel lore was gloriously played around with, most notably the legendary “don’t blink” being turned around into “don’t open your eyes”. There were many clever aspects to this. When Amy Pond first sees the Weeping Angels she instinctively doesn’t look away. There was also the notion of “the angel’s image becoming the angel”, and that we first see the Angels on a tv screen, which was a subtle reminder of the Doctor being on a screen himself throughout much of Blink. Perhaps I was over-analysing, but I’d say evidence that Mr Moffat had been really thinking about this one.
And of course River Song. The development of the River Song character is tantalising and intriguing. Is she The Doctor’s mother? Future wife? (“she’s far too old for him” bemoaned a friend until I reminded that The Doctor was hundreds of years old). Moffat is going to run with this character and her relationship with The Doctor, possibly to the point where our heads explode (I’ve already had to draw a graph, attempting to chart the sequence of their encounters). Presumably Alex Kingston is now fully committed to future seasons (or is that past seasons?)
Other season highlights were The Lodger, where I realised I wasn’t quite sick of too much James Corden, and this episode drew out the very alien side of The Doctor, particularly in the hilarious scenes where he attempts to bed down to human normality. Vincent and The Doctor also worked for me, overcoming early reservations about Richard Curtis. Less appealing was Amy’s Choice (it was all a dream! And another dream!), Vampires in Venice (simply tedious) and the Silurian two-parter, although this one helped me to reassess Rory. After thinking of him as a Mickey Mark II (and therefore an unnecessary addition) his sudden demise was very moving, and set up his return in The Pandorica Opens rather cleverly. And even if you think that the idea of Rory as a Roman Centurion guarding Amy for two thousand years was a little too far fetched .. well .. where’s the romantic in you? The best by far was the concluding episodes, and Arthur Darvill as Rory exceeded all expectations. For The Doctor, Amy and the viewer.
What was surprising was how the series as a whole, appearing a little shaky at times, suddenly pulled together towards its end, making it clear that this was indeed a cleverly devised story arc. The opening scene of The Pandorica Opens linking Winston Churchill to Van Gogh was a masterstroke that set the pace where Doctor Who‘s timey wimey theme was pushed to the limit, most beautifully achieved in the scene where The Doctor scrolls back through past episodes, finding himself once again in the forest of Flesh and Stone. The fairy tale theme, set up skilfully in the opening episode, played out rather beautifully at the end, my favourite sequence being The Doctor carrying the sleeping child Amy up to her room. And Moffat thankfully steered away from the bombastic season finales of old, where perhaps his predecessor may have given in to a full scale Dalek/Cyberman/Sontaran freak out. The little things won us over.
So the answer is yes: I was hanging on Matt Smith’s every word by the time we got to The Big Bang. He really does suit the part, the odd thing being I’m not really sure why. Perhaps it’s the sheer potential of him; now that the future writers are lined up they can work with much more of a brief than wears a bow tie, talks quickly, floppy hair. Smith’s confidence also appeared to grow at a noticeable pace this series. Is he a better Doctor than David Tennant? Thinking about the previously penned Moffat episodes, Blink and Silence in the Library in particular, I think that he always wrote for his view of how the Doctor should be. There’s a scene in Silence in the Library where Donna and River are discussing him, The Doctor busy in the background; crouching down, peering into the darkness, adjusting his sonic screwdriver. Acting rationally in his own mind but receiving rolled eyes from others. That’s very much Matt Smith’s take on The Doctor.
But they should have let him keep the fez.
My plan to review every single episode of Doctor Who Season Five was dashed early by my disappointment with the second story The Beast Below. Rather than deliver a moany post about how the much anticipated Moffat has appeared to take up the reins of the worst of Russell T. Davies’ traits (the constant time loop of the human race, or specifically the English, on a spaceship again and again in the distant future), I’m moving swiftly on to episode 3, Victory of the Daleks.
Since their very first “return” when they invaded the London of the future in 1964 the Daleks have graced several Radio Times covers. Menacing The Doctor in black and white or colour, hiding behind The Ogrons or being ordered about by an increasingly tetchy Davros, they’ve remained more or less the same. Dav … I mean Terry Nation’s original blueprint had the stamp of genius. We know them, and we know what they’re after. Their means and the setting change slightly. And if it ain’t broke … well, we’ll come to that.
The latest Dalek return was penned by Mark Gatiss, a writer I’m particularly fond of since his League of Gentlemen days and more recently the wonderful Crooked House. Gatiss was responsible for Season One’s The Unquiet Dead which featured Simon Callow as Charles Dickens and The Idiot’s Lantern from Season Two. In Season Three he took an acting role in The Lazarus Experiment. Victory of the Daleks marks a promotion for him in being handed control of the Daleks or, as referred to in this episode, Bracewell’s Ironsides.
For me, Victory of the Daleks was where the jury returned to deliver its verdict on the new Doctor Who. Any good, m’lud? Well, the episode was noisy and bombastic, in particular with the excrutiating background music that accompanies every scene. There are no quiet moments in Season Five, and it is particularly irritating that the softly spoken Matt Smith is often drowned out. The 40s setting was novel, but perhaps not novel enough as memories of the superior The Empty Child , which introduced Captain Jack in his iconic Word War Two coat, are still fresh in the mind. Ian McNeice made an interesting, although unconvincing, Winston Churchill. Bill Paterson provided better support as Dr Bracewell.
As for continuing Dalek folklore, Gatiss dealt well with the increasingly awkward business of resurrecting our favourite nasties, who just won’t stay away. On a graph of Dalek resurrections, Victory of the Daleks was on par with the Davros episodes of 2008 but far below the Ninth Doctor’s encounters with them in 2005 and the 2006 Dalek vs Cybermen story that ended Season Three with Doomsday. Victory of the Daleks was very much Dalek lite, bringing them back to pave the way for future encounters. Although I must say the dashing of the just when you thought all the Daleks were gone comfort zone is becoming a bit of a cliché.
Worryingly however, the rather charming British Army Issue Daleks, garbed in khaki drills, were exterminated by their successors; a parade of brightly coloured and deeper voiced Daleks. It appears that Nation’s blueprint has been tinkered with, and this design option reminded of the Peter Cushing films of the mid 60s, where multi-coloured and almost gaudy Daleks were thought necessary to escape the monochrome studio-bound original episodes and offer bright and startling full colour Dalek-Orama. Or did I make that up…
Well I liked it. I like him. I like her. Moffat didn’t muff it. What more can I say?
Although I feel I ought to say more about Matt Smith’s debut as The Doctor in The Eleventh Hour and how Steven Moffat, writer of the now legendary Blink, fares as the top man. But after watching The Eleventh Hour last Saturday and following it with celebratory tweets and emails, and now doubtless left behind by hundreds of other blog posts I’m finding it hard to think of anything original to say.
What I liked about it? Matt Smith of course, who still managed to exceed expectations despite the anticipation lasting since Christmas 2008. He’s good, and may turn out to be very good, The Eleventh Hour being perhaps the best Doctor Who “changeover” episode in my memory. (I can only compare as far back as Robot with Tom Baker in 1974 where I recall him getting stuck in to a battle between UNIT and a giant Tin Machine, and later Peter Davison being rather wimpy and fainting a lot through his regeneration).
As long as Smith can curb the wackiness I think there is a real danger and edginess beyond the fringe. He’s followed David Tennant admirably, although maybe the 10th Doc’s soppy eyed staring into space had begun to grate and this is going to be an easier job than anticipated. That 10th incarnation did feel sorry for himself! Karen Gillan is very agreeable as Amy Pond, although she didn’t actually do a lot. Not really. But she carries a version of a WPC uniform with aplomb. And the final scene of her stepping gingerly into the Tardis was very endearing. Perhaps I am finally succumbing to a Doctor’s companion for “the Dads” (although it’s about time. I’m sorry but Rose, Martha and Donna didn’t really do it for me).
What I didn’t like? Only perhaps that Steven Moffat played a little safe. The structure of The Eleventh Hour did remind of The Girl in the Fireplace with the jumping through time premise to visit key stages in a young woman’s life. Whilst the fairytale element of the story was intriguing, introducing The Doctor as Amy’s brief childhood friend, I felt that Moffat shortchanged us somewhat as he’s covered this theme before. With River Song and the Weeping Angels both returning later in the new series, there’s the danger that he might cling to the edge a wee bit ideas wise and not take a running jump and plunge into the infinite possibilities of the Who universe. And call it first episode nerves, but Moffat also revealed the worrying tendency to dip into Russell T. Davies territory. Clips of all previous Doctors (from The Next Doctor), a companion with a gormless boyfriend (echoes of Mickey Smith), some fumbled plot (the coma victims and alien as man-with-barking-dog were very RTD) and the general overblown bombastic storyline (The Doctor arriving on the scene by fire engine) were a little too reminiscent of the over energetic exploits I hoped had been left behind after last Christmas. Moffat only really hinted at his earlier greatness in the Sapphire and Steel like premise of the hidden doorway in a spooky house theme.
And what’s to come over the next 12 weeks? Mark Gatiss pens a Dalek story set during the Blitz that could be interesting, although again this might appear a little too close to the 30s-set Daleks in Manhatten. There’s a vampire story, and Richard Curtis delivers an encounter with Vincent Van Gogh. But it’s all really too early to tell. Like the 11th Doctor shrugging himself into his new body or the Tardis renewing itself somewhat haphazardly, this series might need a little while to bed itself in.