Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Dr Who Series 5

I have been really crap at blogging this year, I am not entirely sure why, but it's the reason I haven't blogged AT ALL about Dr Who apart from my very excited response to Episode 1 here (and I never got onto the Ashes to Ashes finale which I loved, sigh.)
So to make up for it I thought I'd round up my thoughts in general about the new series of Dr Who and how I've coped without David Tennant (sob).






The answer to that is, pretty well, actually. Considering how much in love with DT's Doctor I was, Matt Smith has done a brilliant job of coming up with something new & different from Tennant's Doctor. It doesn't always work - he wasn't very convincing in the Daleks episode for instance, and sometimes I long for the more emotional version of the Doc we had from David Tennant, but for his enthusiasm, bonkersness, and sheer chutzpah, I am really loving this version of the Doctor. It's also great to have him paired with a companion as mad as Amy Pond is, who apart from that brief flirtation when she tried to snog him (oh and yes, as pointed out by Medium Rob her rather callous attempts to do so again on her wedding day, tut, tut, Amy), isn't really interested him, and he isn't at all interested in her, except as the girl who doesn't make sense. This doctor is a bit more detached, and well alien then the previous version, and I rather like him for that.

After the dazzlingly brilliant start to the series, there was I suppose an inevitablity that not even the Moff could keep up that pace (I have to add here, that as not only do I share my maiden name with the writer, barring an extra T, I also share my married name with one of the characters. I am therefore, obliged to love this version of Who(-:), and at times it was rather uneven. As others have pointed out, Moff could really do with editing the scripts he hasn't written better - Amy was poorly served by one or two other writers - Chris Chibnail I am looking at you - and turned at times into a cipher who just did a lot of girly screaming and not much else. She (and we) deserve a lot better then that.

I didn't mind the Daleks episode, which seems on the whole to have been universally loathed, but it wasn't as good as the rest. The Daleks revealed their hand way too soon, and it would have been more fun to have the Doctor trying to persuade everyone they were evil for longer (I did LOVE the Dalek offering tea), plus the guy who played Churchill was a bit crap, so not one of the series' better efforts. I was also not wildly keen on the Silurian double parter, but that was because it was penned by Chris Chibnail who wrote the inexecrably awful first series of Torchwood - and considering that it wasn't as bad as it could have been.

However, I pretty much loved the rest of the series, from Sophie Okenedo's fabulous Liz 10, to Toby Whithouse's vampires in Venice (Vampires? Venice? Written by Toby "Being Human" Whithouse? I couldn't fail to like that one), it's been inventive, fun, and as the Moff has said had a fairytale quality to it.

One thing that didn't quite work initially, as Rory's relationship with Amy - the main questions being why would feisty Amy settle for such a wimp, and why would he stay with someone who is being so horrible to him - which lacked chemistry at the beginning, and until he apparently died in Amy's Choice (another cracking episode - hugely helped by Toby Jones' masterful depiction of the Dream Lord) I didn't think Amy cared a jot about him. However after that point, it was clear that the relationship was deeper then it appeared & his second "death" though it felt a bit repetitive at the time gained extra significance as the series drew to a close. Particularly poignant was the moment in Vincent (crap monster, but otherwise another brilliant & incredibly moving episode), when Van Gogh asks her why she's crying and she doesn't know, and she knows she's forgotten something important but can't remember what, which paralleled with the Doctor's reactions to her forgetting gave a pathos that was much needed. I love Steven Moffat's writing, but I agree again with Medium Rob he doesn't always get the emotional depth that RTD did, and while it has been a nice change to have more restrained emotions, there are moments when RTD would have given it more and Steven Moffat failed to do so, which has meant that at times things have felt flatter then they should.

Having said that, the emotion ratchetted up beautifully for the series finale. Oh God how I loved the series finale. It was such a roller coaster of a ride, and for the first time in a two parter, with Amy shot by Rory, Rory really an Auton, River stuck in the Tardis, and the Doctor locked in the Pandorica I really did believe there was a possibility that this time the Doc might not be able to sort it out. I felt sure Rory wasn't going to live to tell the tale for a third time, at least... I also loved the Rory/Amy storyline - Rory realising Amy had forgotten her, Amy remembering at the point that Rory realises he isn't human, Rory shooting Amy, Rory waiting 2000 years for Amy - Why are you so - human? asks the Doctor, Because right now I'm not, fantastic! - them being reunited in time to forget the Doctor. Wonderful, heart rending, touching stuff.

I know it was a huge cheat for the Doc to get out of the Pandorica with such ease, but oh, the sheer fun of all the time hopping, and the madness of the Fez, and the Pandorica opening in front of Amelia (Caitlin Blackwood was awesome as Amelia, hope she can come back somehow!) and Amy being inside, meant that I didn't care really. Because despite the cheats, and the Doctor being dead, but not really because he was lying, Steven Moffat tied up the loose ends and the odd bits (like the Doctor coming back to Amy in Flesh and Stone - a scene I found really touching first time around seeing it from Amy's pov, but had such added resonance when we realised what the Doctor was actually saying to her & why it was so important for her to remember what he'd told her when she was seven. Just realised I haven't mentioned The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone - two of my favourite episodes this series, for a) having River Song in them,let's here it for River! and b) bringing the angels back and making them scarier), and also left some things unresolved. So we still don't know why silence will fall or who is saying it (I don't know why, but I keep thinking of poor mad Dalek Caan, sounds like the sort of thing he'd say, if he hasn't been rewritten in this new improved universe), nor do we know why the Tardis exploded. And from what River said to the Doctor at the end, it sounds like we're going to find out who she really is, tantalisingly soon.

River Song has been one of the best bits of this new series for me - she's a match for the Doctor, the witty repartee between them is top notch (I loved the Honey, I'm Home/You're late exchange, fabulous!), and as the series drew to an end I think their relationship has deepened and become more interesting. I can't wait to find out what's going on there.

So, while I still miss David Tennant, and I am at times finding the tone of the new series so different from the old as to be a bit jarring, overall I think this has been my favourite series so far. There were some misses, but not many, it could do with more emotion, and I hope they get the script editing sorted next time, but it was fun, it was exciting, it felt different and new again.

Do I really have to wait till Christmas to see Matt Smith in action again?

Dammit, I do.

PS The proof of the pudding is that the kids who were so attached to David Tennant they were threatening not to watch the new series have been totally blown away too. Top marks Mr Moffat, top marks...


MediumRob said...

I would pretty much agree with all of that. Correct thinking - well done!

Stevie has promised that next year, we will find out who blew up the TARDIS and who River Song really is. Now there's a man who knows not only how to come up with good ideas, but also not to string them out too much.

Jane Henry said...

Oh wow. Approval from Medium Rob, I'm honoured(-: Yes I saw that. I think he has to resolve the River Song thing soon as otherwise it's going to be harder & harder to make her younger self credible. I am dying to know her story!!

MediumRob said...

I'm harsh but fair. Credit where credit is due. ;-)

It's going to be harder and harder to tell a straight narrative with River Song, too! At what point is she going to meet the Doctor for the first time? Will we ever meet her husband (if we haven't already...)?

Lisa Rullsenberg said...

Great review!!!!

Yes: get the script editing sorted (and beg steal or borrow a bit more budget), and bring in a tiny bit more of the emotional stuff and we'll be HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY.

But yeah, the winning over of the Tennant generation has been a triumph.

Gorilla Bananas said...

A Dalek offered tea?? What is the world coming to? That would never have happened when Patrick Troughton was the Doctor.

MediumRob said...

I'm assuming Gorilla Bananas was being ironic, what with the whole first half of Victory being an "homage" (typical Gatiss) to the first Patrick Troughton story, "Power of the Daleks": "We are your servants!"

Nic said...

Now you see, i loved the Dalek episode, precisely because the idea of a Dalek offering tea freaked me out! My Year 3 pupils, who would have laid down their lives for Dacvid Tennant are TOTALLY converted. Me - took me all of ... three minutes of the first episode?

Loved the whole series!

Virginia Moffatt said...

I pretty much agree with most of this.

The Churchill episode was the worst. The actor was crap, the reveal the Daleks were really bad came way too soon (I loved the tea drinking, we're here to please)& I thought the spitfires in space ridiculous.I wonder whether this would have been better as a 2 parter and the Silurian episode 1 (had nice bits but felt a bit dragged out).The Beast Below worked metaphorically but again the pacing was all wrong.The Vampires, Lodger, Silurians OK, nothing to write home about.

Great points are:Matt Smith is a Fantastic Doctor.Does the old/young thing so well and is growing emotionally. Karen Gillan a great companion.Strongwilled. Spiky. Damaged. I don't get why people don't like her. Of course she was traumatised by her encounter with the Doc. He told her grown ups promise things will be all right but they aren't. He promised to come back but took 12 yrs. Who wouldn't be f*** up after that? I love the fact that she gives him hell. I always saw her bitchy commments in her relationship with Rory & the Doc being about her fragility. I always thought she loved Rory and when she realised how much in Amy's Choice I was so happy. I love Arthur Darvill as Rory.Funny,sweet, romantic,brave and so strong.Waiting 2,000 yrs. Wonderful.

Other great moments. Moffat scripts (apart from Beast Below)
The Vincent Van Gogh episode was great too (some feat cos I hate Richard Curtis)The best stand alone episode was Amy's Choice. I did NOT see the double dream thing coming and I loved the Dream Lord as the Doc's dark side.

The jury is still out on:All the timey wimey escaping from the Pandorica. RTD would have been SLAUGHTERED for doing that, but the Moff gets away with it because he makes it so amusing. I enjoyed it but Hmm.

Amy remembering him back into existence. Yes I get it was signalled (Oh so many times before, even makes sense of the Daleks episode with Bracewell).But it still has a touch of magic about it. I prefer to take it on the metaphorical level, about believing in something enough to make it true. (Which is also why I can forgive Last of the Time Lords it's cheesiness - I love the metaphor of a tyrant not being able to stop people thinking for themselves)

Also questioning the logic of River Song, in places. See, I think Moffat wrote Silence in the Library with the thought that Tennant would be in the part after RTD left. Remember River saying "it's early in the timeline. Have we done Crash of the Byzantium yet?" I know there was a sleight of hand in Time of Angels where she says she has picutres of all his incarnations, but that question doesn't make sense. How could she have met DT and wondered whether it was him or MS on that beach? Hmm again.

Having said that I LOVE River. I LOVE her dynamic with the Doc which is getting warmer, but I fear is about to get cold for a while. I can't think but she is going to get manipulated by the bad guy. I don't think she is bad through and through. I think it is too obvious that she would kill the Doc, but I could see her killing Jack (or appearing to) because they are the same era; or the Bad Guy in the next series who she thinks is good but is betrayed by; or someone else good but is manipulated too. Another thing her last incarnation says to DT is she didn't take his sonic from his dead and dying hand.

But then again Steven Moffat is a master story teller so he may well be able to turn it all on it's head.

Overall 8/10 not quite up with Series 1,3 or 4 for me but definitely better than 2. Can only get better from here.

Virginia Moffatt said...

PS No need to wait till Christmas for Matt Smith's return. He's in the Sarah Jane Adventures. Penned by RTD, entitled, "The Death of the Doctor" AND Jo Grant is in it too...
I look at far too many internet sites for my own good.

MediumRob said...

@Virginia: Stevie says that the 10th Doctor had further meetings with River before he regenerated - we just didn't get to see them, that's all. Who knows what he got up to post-Donna, pre-regeneration?

Actually, anyone think it was sad he didn't get to visit River during his prolonged goodbye at the end of End of Time?

Jane Henry said...

Thank you Gorilla Bananas/Medium Rob for sharing your encyclopaedic knowledge of Dr Who. I am not worthy(-: But I still liked the Dalek making tea.

Lisa knew you'd like it too(-:
Nic, I think the fact they've taken the kids with them has been a real triumph of this series. Unlike all the grown ups mine thought new style daleks really cool - eldest who is obsessed with orange was particularly pleased they had an orange one. She has also taken to saying Bow ties/Fezzes/take your pick are cool. So Matt Smith has clearly worked for her!

Gin I knew we wouldn't agree on everything(-: I loved Bracewell in the Daleks episode, so I'm glad that remembering bit had a purpose.
Good point about Amy's vulnerability, but on the timey wimey stuff I really don't care. I love timey wimey stuff, and the one leap and his out was too easy, but it led to such fun with him jumping back and forth I didn't mind. And yes RTD WOULD have got crucified for that but at least the Moff tied everything up apart from the bits left deliberately hanging.

I knew Jo Grant was coming back, but unless they revamp her the way they have SJS I don't think I can bear to watch. She is my least favourite companion EVER.

Medium Rob - yes it would have been good to have seen DT say goodbye to River wouldn't it - probably another thing RTD didn't think through, or maybe he didn't care cos River wasn't his creation...

Rachael said...

Cor, I am astoundingly crap at keeping up with blogs. Yes, yes, and yes to everything you've said. You've summed up my feelings perfectly. Not long till Christmas. But I still think the tortured, passionate, intense DT Doctor is *my* doctor. (If only. Swoon.)