Channel: BBC One
Recurring cast: Matt Smith, Karen Gillian, Arthur Darvill
The seventh season of Doctor Who is pretty much a game of two halves, so I thought for this one time, I would review each half separately. The second half of the season (from the Christmas special onwards), will be posted later today. Also, this review will be the only review where I shall be openly discussing the spoilers at the end, mainly because they are so publicly known that even the writers went into the episode, assuming we all knew how it would end. If you are one of the only people who haven’t, read no further than this paragraph.
I do think that this is one of the downsides to Doctor Who. The moment the actor playing the Doctor or the companion announces that they are quitting, it seems to be all over the news in moments, meaning that all of the big twists – in this instance, the death of Amy and Rory – are never as big a surprise as they should be. This has always hurt the series, although in the instance of the five opening episodes of the seventh season of Doctor Who, there were far worst things hurting the season this time around.
A bit of background. Stephen Moffat, top writer and now head of the franchise, was told that he was losing the two companions, so he decided to make these five episodes a carefree celebration of the trio’s adventures. He managed to get together a massive budget for each of the five episodes and kept telling fans in interviews that the crew were approaching each story as an individual film, to make the content even more exciting. This really hurt the season. One, we were instantly given high hopes that were difficult to meet. Two, these episodes are so carefree that there is no overlying story that usually makes the stakes high throughout the series, which is the main reason they are usually so enjoyable. I always have enjoyed a bigger plot hidden in the background of the season (especially when even the Doctor doesn’t know it’s there: Bad Wolf). Without it, there seemed little reason to tune in each week.
It kicked off strong. Asylum of the Daleks was the best episode of the season, which was surprising, as the writers haven’t pulled the Daleks off successfully for some time now. It was tense, set up the Oswin storyline for the Christmas special and gave us what it promised: Doctor Who with a bigger budget. The second episode, Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, was OK, but it highlighted all of the problems I have had with Doctor Who, in general. The writers pack so much story into one 40 minute block and it can only ever scratch the surface of all of the themes it wants to explore. We were lined up with some terrific characters, only for them to play side-roles to the story. We didn’t even really get enough dinosaurs.
I don’t really want to review each episode individually, as that will take up too much time. However, the entire season felt shallow. Without any deeper story, it was just the Doctor running around for a few minutes, madly, which is alright in itself, but I was always craving more. The odd thing was, seeing as Amy and Rory were meant to be the focus of these five episodes, for half of the season, they played a background role. Again, when so many themes were thrown into the pot, nothing was really explored, but I thought that the companions would at least get some good story to handle, as it was their farewell. It wasn’t until the final two episodes that Amy and Rory were allowed to loan centre-stage from Matt Smith for a while.
The actual death of Amy and Rory was very poorly done. Part of this was the fact that it piled River, the Weeping Angels and their deaths into the same episode, meaning that there never was much focus. It would have been preferable to see a smaller episode, where we could really focus on the high emotions. Also, in the words of a friend, I am sick of these not-deaths, where the characters die, but not really, for whatever reason. It was done fantastic with Rose, and I quite like how Donna’s character ended up – there is a good story waiting there, if the writers ever feel like pursuing it. But there was a big sense of ‘not again’ this time around. There was a real chance to do something great here: an emotional death, sending the Doctor into a dark, downward spiral. We kind of got that, but it felt somewhat hollow, compared to past exploits. Moffat tried an old trick, but it didn’t work out as he had hoped. It was a flat end to the season.
I have reeled off the bad points here, but it was still an enjoyable season. The good thing about Doctor Who is that, even when we are given a dud episode, there is still enough fun and action to keep it watchable, so we are never treated to an awful instalment. However, no matter how on the ball Matt Smith is, and he really is a marvel to watch, there was a sense of missed opportunity here. Something amazing could have been done with that big budget and sadly, we didn’t get that.
Final verdict: A hollow season with a terrible send-off for two great characters. We should have had so much better.