May 29, 2013

Doctor Who: Final Thoughts on Season 7

Now that "The Name of the Doctor" has been aired, discussed and digested, it's probably a good time to look over Season 7 of Doctor Who as a whole: how is the series going?

The first thing that occurs is how difficult it is to consider this one season and not two: not only did the season get split over two years - six episodes in 2012, eight in 2013 - but each half felt completely different thanks to the change in companions. In many ways the five 2012 episodes leading up to the departure of Amy and Rory felt like an add-on to 2011's Season 6, and Season 7 only really got started with "The Snowmen" on Christmas Day. Couple that with the six-month delay from when we expected Season 7 to start (Easter 2012) to when it did start (September 2012), and the overwhelming feeling I've developed is that Doctor Who has lost a lot of momentum. Seasons 5 and 6 seemed to rattle on from one to the other, with the developing story of the Silence and attempts to kill the Doctor, and then-

Quite frankly not a lot. There was a continuing story arc to Season 7 but it felt disconnected from Seasons 5 and 6. It's somewhat like the James Bond films in recent years, where a continuing storyline developed in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, and just when you'd expect the narrative would come to a rousing conclusion in Skyfall it all gets ignored for some guff about a rogue agent with a mother fixation.
Individually the episodes of Season 7 were rather brilliant. In the end there were only two episodes I didn't particularly like: "Cold War" and "The Crimson Horror". When examined as a cumulative whole, however, I think Season 7 fails to hold up as its two predecessors did. The deliberate attempt to make each episode a self-contained mini-movie may have resulted in some great individual episodes, but it was at the expense of a more satisfying season.

At some point Steven Moffat needs to sit down and work out a cohesive, sensible climax to everything he's been writing over the past three seasons. Who are the Silence? What were they trying to prevent the Doctor from doing? What actually happens at Trenzalore? At the moment it's all feeling more than a little woolly. The ideas make sense, but the stuff that links them all together seems to be missing.

On an episode-by-episode basis, however, this was a great year for Doctor Who. Looking back, I think the five best episodes were (in broadcast order):
  • "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship"
  • "The Angels Take Manhattan"
  • "Hide"
  • "Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS"
  • "The Name of the Doctor"
The other big shift for the season was, of course, the departure of Amy and Rory after two-and-a-half years, and the introduction of new companion Clara Oswald. I love Amy and Rory to bits, and thought they were written out of the series in a highly satisfying way. As for their replacement, however, I remain ambivalent.

There's nothing innately wrong with the character, but Jenna-Louise Coleman's performance isn't quite satisfying enough. As a former actor and drama school graduate, I can't help but notice a string of quirks and foibles to Coleman's performance that smack of inexperienced acting: she talks so fast that she regularly garbles her words, she sometimes emphasizes the wrong word in a sentence, and she always comes across as ridiculously theatrical in a manner not seen since the days of Bonnie Langford (a brilliant musical theatre performer who never gelled for me in television drama).

Now the wait for 23 November, and the 50th anniversary special, can begin, and after that another Christmas special and then Season 8 some time in 2014.

1 comment:

  1. I miss Rory, but was heartily sick and tired of Amy Pond long before they finally got rid of her. My biggest problem with Clara is that I simply don't care. She's nowhere near as interesting as the doctor finds her, and I can't see why he would be so bothered. She's shallow, annoying, and quite honestly, I wouldn't shed a tear if she was obliterated.


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