As the build up to the first part of this year’s series begins, I thought I would cast my mind back to last series; as I did I realised that there was a lot I didn’t really like. Whether it was trying too hard to shake off the RTD era, simply stamp out its own identity or something else I am not sure (though might speculate). There was definitely a lot of style and some great moments but also a sense of seeking a new direction and taking time to settle.
Not that it was all bad, it just wasn’t all good…
Having made some notes on all the episodes (below) I think the series tried too hard to weave dramatic story arcs, which don’t get well explained. It would benefit from a less is more approach, allowing the great casting to shine with some great performances. What is the whole crack / silence thing? One arc or two? Please calm down, it isn’t enough to have great CGI, lots of running and shouting and a naff TARDIS console!
The Eleventh Hour: The new Doctor launches and quickly stamps an identity slightly more oriented to children though the new companion has more overt sexuality than has hither to been the case. Some new production ideas (the memory zoom sequence) though that only lasts one more episode as it is presumably time consuming to create. A random monster, new outfit and setting some elements of a story arc. We overlook ‘what has the monster been doing in Amy’s house all these years’ as the Doctor is back, though the TARDIS console goes beyond steampunk into stupid
The Beast Below: a very British episode, London in space (why was Amy floating at the beginning) and the great Liz 10 along with all sorts of imagery, the mind’s eye sequence, re-use of the shop from from Idiot’s Lantern and the ‘she’s good’ line for Amy (which we soon grow bored of)
Victory of the Daleks: More British values, and why not Churchill? The previous relationship between the Doctor and Churchill is nice, the android scientist a very good touch and servile Daleks are great. Why though does no-one exterminate the Doctor when he confronts them with a doughnut? Spitfires in space, nice imagery but what about received history? More cracks in the wall following the TARDIS. I didn’t over object to the new Dalek design either.
The Time of Angels / Flesh and Stone: now the series starts to go downhill for me. River Song and the clerics are wonderful but what has Moffat done to his Angels? A small group are sinister in the dark, thousands in caves are an example of over-inflation at its worst. We get introduced to the airbrushing from history and this is used as the worst deus ex machina ending (until the end of series that is). Then Amy tries it on with the Doctor and the whole Amy’s wedding / end of universe motif tries to happen
Vampires of Venice: surprisingly bringing Rory to the fore re-balances the show for a while. Venice works well as a setting for the Doctor and the vampires are sultry and scary at the same time. Apart from the ‘silence’ piece at the very end this is fine
Amy’s Choice: and a nice quirky which reality is real story introducing some nice ideas, the Dream Lord, a pregnant Amy and her realising that Rory is the one for her. Almost as though he might be about to get written out!
The Hungry Earth / Cold Blood: And now a decent two parter in which Silurians nearly come back to the surface of the Earth but get delayed to allow time for humanity to get ready for them. The story has action and ethical dilemma and ends with Rory getting airbrushed out by the crack in reality. Serious stuff!
Vincent and the Doctor: One of the the two best episodes for me, visually stunning and the performance of Vincent was incredible. The actual monster / art gallery parts were weak, and the whole Eleventh Doctor mythos seems to allow more going back in time to set up events in a paradoxical fashion than used to be the case. As an aside the novel Runaway Train really suffers due to that IMHO
The Lodger: and as a complete contrast a small episode with an odd alien a psuedo-TARDIS and a wonderful performance by James Corden. The story was contrived too far for me by the sticking Amy in the TARDIS to get her out of the way and the post-hoc putting notes in the newsagents to make the whole piece happen. Still very enjoyable nonetheless
The Pandorica Opens / The Big Bang: and now it all falls apart as the show tries to outdo the previous season endings by wiping out the entire universe. Amongst the many holes there is:
- Rory back – why? Why not any other characters? Is it as Amy is god?
- Why does a TARDIS have the ability to wipe the universe?
- Why does the TARDIS explode? River is a better driver than the Doctor
- All these enemies work together. Really? They capture the doctor and just lock him up. Really? This is the worst kind of James Bond super-villain doesn’t kill the hero mess. I think the idea was ‘all the foes in one room’
- Reset the whole of existence from the TARDIS / Pandorica – don’t get me started (and don’t mention Stonehenge either)
- River Song survives. How?
- Amy recreates the Doctor / TARDIS – more nonsense I am afraid.
There were some strong points before you ask, such as:
- Amy in the Pandorica – nice
- Rory kills Amy and indeed Rory in general
- Not much else (I am in a glass half-empty mood today).
I avoided mentioning the Christmas special above; this worked better for me as it didn’t save any universes (though how the TARDIS can move a planet but not be able to stop a spaceship from crashing eludes me) and Matt Smith seemed more comfortable. Fingers crossed for Easter weekend!