*Spoiler Alert*Heads up readers, if you are a Doctor Who fan but are not fully up to date then you may consider some of the following as spoilers and I would recommend you don’t carry on reading if you want to be surprised.
“I don’t want to go”
On January 1st 2010 the Whoniverse wept as the 10th Doctor delivered his final line. What followed was a regeneration scene worthy of a fan favourite, a destroyed T.A.R.D.I.S interior and the introduction of the youngest ever Doctor, a little known actor named Matt Smith.
Whilst the media and non-whovians were focused on the now infamous “Still not a ginger” frenzy the rest of us were mourning the loss of arguably the best Doctor since the shows inception. Who was this newcomer? And how could he possibly live up to Tennant’s Doctor? We had to wait more than three months before we would have our answer.
“Bow ties are cool”
“The Eleventh Hour“, a new theme remix, a new show-runner in Steven Moffat, a new companion in Amy Pond and above all we are introduced to a new Doctor. Whilst the T.A.R.D.I.S. is recovering from an explosive opening sequence our newly regenerated 11th Doctor is left in a quiet English country town with a set up for a series long story arc surrounding his new companion Amy.
The lack of the T.A.R.D.I.S. for most of the episode and the introduction of an all new cast was somewhat reminiscent of Ecclestone’s first outing “Rose“. The episode gave us a chance to learn a bit about the new Doctor and the actor that played him. Matt Smith shone through with grace, comic timing and gave us a taste of some of his Doctor’s unique eccentricities. All hail the new Smith era of Doctor Who.
The quality continued throughout series 5 and we were treated to a number of fantastic stories in addition to continuing an interesting story arc. The episodes ranged from dramatic and deeply emotional (“Amy’s choice“, “Vincent and the Doctor“) to lighthearted fun (“The Lodger“). And then something went wrong.
“The Pandorica Opens” ended on one hell of a cliffhanger, the Universe quite literally dying, Amy dead and the Doctor imprisoned for eternity. Now my wife will tell you that I HATE cliffhangers with a passion and she’d be right, mainly because of my lack of patience when I’m in the middle of the story but Moffat had the chance to do something truly special by ending a series in spectacular fashion with the Doctor helpless. Sadly “The Big Bang” turned out to be a disappointment, not because of Matt Smith, yet again he kept up his side of the bargain but I felt cheated. A 45 minute episode just seemed too short a time to fix everything that the previous episode had destroyed and as a result the story suffered, seemed rushed and a few questions were left unanswered.
Despite my negative opinion of the climax, series 5 was a success. The 11th Doctor had established himself as one of the best but what did series 6 have in store for us? The Whoniverse was screaming for more and we wouldn’t have to wait very long.
Albus Dumbledore himself, Michael Gambon, was next to take on the Doctor in a sci-fi spin on a Dickens’ classic playing the Scrooge of the story. Moffat and Smith turned a story of redemption into a life long love story with a bit of Time Lord science. The story was a fitting end to a good year for the Doctor and the only place to be for all your flying shark needs.
Now before I go any further I would like to point out that, to me, series 6 was the most inconsistent series of nuWho. In my life long fans view I feel the show lost it’s appeal to the older generation and focused purely on it’s younger audience. The stories lost their adult tones and charm. For me one of the biggest failings during the Smith era has been the reliance on River Song for a major story arc. A character introduced during one of my favourite David Tennant two-parters which left us guessing who she was and what she meant to the Doctor. At this point, she was intriguing as a woman who knew the Doctor’s name and was supposed to be in the Doctor’s future. Then suddenly Steven Moffat is put in charge and brings her back as a recurring character who turns series 6 into what many whovians have nicknamed “River Who” as the entire series is focused on her identity.
Seven of the thirteen episodes from series 6 dealt with elements of the River Song story line. The mistake here was cramming the entire story arc into one series, forcing many episodes to include excessive exposition. Inevitable plot holes were created by the narrative’s inability to slow down long enough for explanations leaving many of Rivers actions seemingly rushed or forced. The switch from “Trained from birth to kill the Doctor” to the Doctors one true love was at such a pace that there was something ironically alien about it.
With the River Song ranting over I would like to mention that the series did benefit from three episodes which in any other series would have been the talk of the year. Unfortunately these episodes (“Night Terrors“, “The Girl Who Waited“, “The God Complex“) were overshadowed by a need to prove to the world that River Songs story was worth the wait.
And then Christmas came and we were given a break from the Ponds and their wibbly wobbly timey wimey family tree. “The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe” followed on from last years modern twist on a literary classic but this time it was Narnia to get the sci-fi treatment, being replaced by a alien planet populated by a sentient forest. Yet again Matt Smith delivered a story which succeeded in being an enjoyable seasonal episode for the whole family. Sometimes the best episodes are those with the simplest stories to tell. No flying sharks this year but Bill Bailey was a pleasant addition.
“Run you clever boy… and remember”
A series of two halves, literally. Moffat’s commitments to Sherlock meant that everyone’s favourite Time Lord had to take a back seat and as a result we were left with half a season and no real story to tell much in the same way that David Tennant spent a year doing specials rather than a full series. Out of the five stories we were shown two really stood out for me as truly great.
The first was “Asylum of the Daleks” which had a lot of us whovians a little confused. Weeks before the start of this series there had been a lot of media hype surrounding a new companion who would take over from the Ponds and by this episode were we all reasonably familiar with who Jenna-Louise Coleman was. So when we were immediately introduced to a character played by the actress at the beginning of the episode it was clear that the Ponds were on their way out.
In typical Moffat style however this assumption was tipped on it’s back and thrown away as we learn that Oswin is in fact a Dalek and, in essence, beyond the Doctor’s power to save. First stroke of genius, killing off a companion before she has become a companion leaving everyone scratching their heads and wanting more. The next stroke of genius was the clean slate as Oswin wipes all record of the Doctor from the Dalek databases. This was more about Moffat taking the Doctor back to the beginning ready for the 50th Anniversary and breathing new life into old foes which would usually run screaming at the mere mention of him. This could prove to be a potential game changer if handled correctly and it became an interesting twist following the series 5 penultimate episode which named the Doctor as the most feared being in all the cosmos.
The other episode that stood out was “The Angels Take Manhattan” which brought back one of nuWhos most interesting bad guys, the Weeping Angels. First introduced in the Tennant episode “Blink“, the Weeping Angels have always been a source of a good story and this episode didn’t let us down. I’m not sure what the appeal is but some of my favourite episodes with the Pond’s have been those where Rory dies, something that happens no less than two times in this episode alone.
So why is this episode so great? Well for one, the story allows us to have both a happy and sad ending at the same time. Moffat manages to kill off two companions but allowing them to live full and happy lives in the past, a complete ending that felt perfect. We also get a bit more information on the Weeping Angels and learn about their offspring, possibly the creepiest babies in all of creation. But it’s the mixture of true emotion and action that makes this my favourite episode of series 7 part I.
Just a side note to any Stargate SG1 and Farscape fans – you might want to take a look at another episode from this half of series 7, “A Town Called Mercy“. The story itself isn’t one of the Doctor’s best but it’s the guest appearance by Ben Browder of Farscape fame that I thoroughly enjoyed, even if it is short lived.
So what would Christmas 2012 have in store for us? What’s this about Jenna-Louise Coleman coming back, playing the same character? In Victorian London? Crazy talk surely.
Richard E. Grant was 2012’s high profile guest star and I have to say that man plays sinister well. What seemed like a normal independent Christmas special episode would later turn out to be the foundation for part II of series 7. As Coleman’s character is killed off yet again we’re left asking more questions and without any explanation from Moffat and his writing team. Sadly no flying sharks in this episode either.
“The most important leaf in human history”
After months of speculation over the unanswered questions of Clara Oswald part II began by introducing us to a third incarnation of Jenna-Louise Coleman’s character, this time in modern day London. Now a regular companion, Clara Oswald became an integral part of the eight episodes of the series half. Although the first four episodes were all high quality episodes in their own right, they didn’t do much to answer the questions that had made the internet buzz since Christmas.
It wasn’t until “Journey to the Centre of the T.A.R.D.I.S.” that things started to pick up and we could see something special over the horizon for the series finale. This episode gave us a better look into the T.A.R.D.I.S., we finally saw the swimming pool and library that the Doctor keeps mentioning. The biggest reveal though was Clara stumbling upon a book on the History of the Time War, was this a hint at the 50th Anniversary? Were we finally going to find out what the Doctor did to destroy both the Time Lords and the Daleks?
“The Crimson Horror” followed with a very Doctor light episode, something that we haven’t really seen since the days of David Tennant. After the moody drama set by the last few stories it was a nice change of pace to have a lighthearted story. Sadly there is always one elephant in the room despite this run of episodes being so strong – “Nightmare in Silver“. The story was interesting and Matt Smith done a fantastic job playing a bizarro version of the Doctor in the form of the Cybermen intelligence in his mind. The Cybermen are always a strong force for evil and the threat kept us in suspense throughout BUT the whole episode was brought down by the introduction of two of the most annoying child characters ever to join the Whoniverse. Their only real reason for being part of the episode was to give the Doctor an excuse to visit a theme park (though I’m sure the 20 something Clara wouldn’t have said no).
Then came the most anticipated series finale of Doctor Who since Christopher Eccleston put on his leather coat and convinced a 19 year old blonde to join him in his time machine – “The Name of the Doctor“. Now before the episode aired there were three assumptions that I had made:
- This episode would lead up to the 50th Anniversary so expect some big reveal or set up in the last minute of the episode.
- We would finally find out who the impossible girl really was.
- The one thing we were almost guaranteed not to hear was the name of the Doctor.
How right I was! The sneaky way Moffat got around the Doctor’s name did annoy but also pleased me – after all, there are some things we don’t need to know until right at the very end (which in my opinion shouldn’t be for at least another 50 years). My less than favourite character even made a reappearance as we got a post-library River Song back from the dead. In my opinion this went along way to help with River’s redemption following her story arc in series 6 though I still hope that this is the last we see of her.
Richard E. Grant reprises his role as the Great Intelligence vehicle and the lead antagonist of the episode but it was the past Doctor montage with Clara’s story arc coming to a close that really made the episode more than just special for me. It was such a nice touch with the impending 50th Anniversary celebrations that they found a way to include every Doctor in the episode, as a life long fan I was giddy to say the least.
Then the big reveal and set up for the special anniversary episode and for the first time in my life as a whovian I was truly in awe.
“What I did, I did without choice, in the name of peace and sanity”
Now every hardcore Whovian had read the media about John Hurt being part of the anniversary episode but nobody expected what happened in the last 30 seconds of “The Name of the Doctor“. A cryptic speech was followed by the now infamous “Introducing John Hurt….As The Doctor”. To say this episode ended the series in epic fashion would be an understatement.
The episode neatly answered a number of questions that we have had since right back in the first episode of part I whilst keeping the mystery alive, giving the programme a much needed overhaul and setting up for a multi-doctor story which we now know will contain at least three Doctors (Tennant, Smith and the newly introduced John Hurt).
Now we are left wondering who this newly discovered Doctor is and where he fits in the canon timeline. The internet is ablaze with speculation ranging from a forgotten regeneration between the 8th and 9th Doctor to an implanted false memory. There’s only a select few who actually know and I doubt any of them are going to spoil such a significant event for us fans. We will just have to wait until November to see if the excitement is worth the wait.
In many ways Matt Smith’s Doctor has followed a similar character arc to my childhood Doctor, Sylvester McCoy. During the 7th Doctor’s tenure we saw an eccentric man with a silly disposition develop into a much darker and ruthless character showing a much deeper emotional side to the Doctor, something that we have seen throughout the series 7 with Matt Smith.
As early as “The Eleventh Hour” we saw that the 11th Doctor was more aimed at the younger audience and was therefore something of the clown that some of us remember from the early McCoy days. Fast forward to halfway through series 7 and we see a very different side to the Time Lord, a man feeling the loss of everyone he leaves behind, a man with reget. I think this makes the introduction of John Hurt and his emotional speech that much more powerful. Here we have a man who is falling apart emotionally, still mourning the loss of his best friend (Amy) and his wife (River) whilst trying to save his newest companion from his own past and now he is face to face with what is likely to be his biggest regret, powerful stuff for a 45 minute weekly family entertainment show.
Like many fans I thought that Matt Smith would be the end of Who for me, I thought that the show would lose it’s appeal after such an amazing Doctor as David Tennant. Lucky for me I was wrong, Colin Baker (considered by many to be the worst of the Doctors incarnations) he was not, this was a talented actor who has been handed one of the most difficult, complicated and most interesting stories that Doctor Who has ever tried to tell and he walked through it with pride. I never thought I’d say this but I am extremely sad to see him go, he has really grown on me as a character and I’m looking forward to seeing him in his last two outings for the 50th Anniversary in November and the Christmas special on Christmas Day as usual.
”The universe is big. It’s vast and complicated and ridiculous. And sometimes—very rarely—impossible things just happen and we call them miracles.”
And so we wait, wait to see who will be number 12. Whovians of the world I offer one piece of food for thought –
Most of us had the same feelings when David Tennant decided to leave the show along with Russell T Davis and we had many worries about what the show would become and where it was heading. I hope like me that you believe that Steven Moffat and Matt Smith have proven themselves worthy over the last few years and whether it was straight away from episode 1 of series 5 or 2 minutes before the end of series 7, that you now have faith that the show is in safe hands. All of this should lead you to believe that the next Doctor could be something special.
I would like to thank Matt Smith for bringing a Doctor to the screen that was likable, easy to relate to, more interesting, emotionally diverse and thoroughly entertaining. There were a few hit and misses during series 6 but the show runners redeemed themselves and gave the 11th Doctor the stories he deserved. Roll on November…..
Knowing that opinions on the 11th Doctor are varied I’d like to open up the floor to you guys. Do you agree? What was your favourite moment? Who is John Hurts doctor? Bring on the speculation and debate.