Tuesday 6 November 2012

Reviews in Time & Space: Doctor Who Season Seven Part One - An Overview

Doctor Who Season 7

I know I'm very late to the game writing this, but following my rather strong feelings on Asylum of the Daleks and the fact that the second half of the season won't be airing for a while it seemed appropriate to split this year's Doctor Who review into sections. The two sections also reflect the two different tones the two parts will have, as we say goodbye to Rory and Amy here and say hello to Oswin next year. But enough of that, let's take a look at the episodes one by one.

Doctor Who Season 7 Asylum of the Daleks

I've already said everything that needed to be said about how much I hated the portrayal of the Daleks in Asylum of the Daleks (★★), so in order not to sound like a broken record I'll refrain from repeating. But what I will say is that this episode could have been so much better had it used any other monster in their place. While the introduction and resolution of Amy and Rory's apparent divorce was abrupt and reasonably pointless, the surprise introduction of Oswin was very interesting. While the smarmy, "cleverer than the Doctor" attitude being pushed might not be to everyone's tastes, the twist to her story and how this will affect next season is bound to be a topic of heated discussion. It provided great emotion, but then was spoilt by having the Daleks chant "DOCTOR WHO?" repeatedly.

Doctor Who Season 7 Dinosaurs on a Spaceship

Next came Dinosaurs on a Spaceship (★★★★★), which personally for me was the absolute gem of this half-season. It was a fun Doctor Who romp that blended the two aspects of the series (the historical and the science fiction), but also included a glimpse into the Doctor's dark side. We got an expansion on Rory as a character that didn't involve him dying or using Amy as a crutch, as well as introducing a member of the extended Pond family. Finally it illustrated how much better Who would be using a larger main cast again - new Who has always limited itself to one of two companions, but this episode saw the Doctor travel with a total of five other people. And it worked brilliantly.

Doctor Who Season 7 A Town Called Mercy

A Town Called Mercy (★★★) was the first of this season's obligatory American episodes, despite actually being filmed in Spain. While many might have been salivating at the idea of a Western-themed Who episode, in reality there was very little in this episode that was unique to a Western setting (other than having the alien dressed as a cowboy of course). The story plays with the Doctor's morals a bit, but its all ground that's been covered before and the episode has very little to offer in terms of suspense. The truth behind the Red Dwarf simulant lookalike Gunslinger is revealed reasonably early on, and from that point on its just a case of trundling through the episode to see what they actually do with him.

Doctor Who Season 7 The Power of Three

Every season has some sort of character-driven episode that's relatively low on plot, and season seven's comes in the form of The Power of Three (★★★★). But to lump it in with similar offerings from previous series' would do it somewhat of a disservice, because its a very good episode. The best way to hit your audience hard when a character leaves is to build them up just before it, and here life with the Ponds is at its most comfortable. Just how much time the couple have spent with the Doctor is finally revealed, and the Doctor is at his comical best with his inability to sit still. The slow invasion storyline shows a lot of promise and long time fans will be extremely pleased with the revival of UNIT (including more tributes to the late Nicholas Courtney), but the shoddy resolution really lets down what could have been a flawless episode.

Doctor Who Season 7 The Angels Take Manhattan

Finally we have The Angels Take Manhattan (★★★), which seems to be a culmination of all of Moffat's favourite recurring things he's brought to the show. Amy and Rory? Check. Weeping Angels? Check. And just for good measure he's also thrown in an (unnecessary) dose of River Song. As far as companion farewells go it isn't the worst Who has ever seen but its far from the best either. The angels' inclusion is glossed upon and it only really feels like they're here for what they can do (not to mention the utterly ridiculous Statue of Liberty angel). But the biggest problem with the episode is just how much focus it gives to Amy over Rory. Granted Amy has been a regular member of the show longer but Rory does nothing but suffer in this episode, yet he isn't even granted a proper goodbye scene. Its a massive disservice to the companion that's actually grown in the last two seasons and a half (as opposed to Amy who's just got more annoying) and further proof to the sad realisation that we may never seen a full-time male companion that isn't playing second fiddle to a female lead.

So that's the end of the Ponds, and the end to a very mixed half-season. How exactly the second half will go is anyone's guess, but after seeing the Ponds take most of the limelight away from the Doctor I'm looking forward to things perhaps taking a more traditional approach for a while. As the Christmas special draws ever closer, we won't be much time in the dark about Oswin's origins and potential fate...


ComicGuy89 said...

Funny, I didn't think many others liked The Power of Three. That was an episode I enjoyed thoroughly and I have to admit, I'm loving the UNIT references more and more after exploring some of the older episodes.

I mostly agree with your review on The Angels Take Manhattan, but I thought Amy's farewell was actually handled pretty okay. It's not the best, but it beats Donna's by a mile and a half, at least. It was a bummer Rory never got a proper goodbye, but I guess the show always treated him as an "incidental" companion despite him being a regular for such a long time. At least BBC gave us that storyboard special P.S. which I thought was a nicer ending that Amy's, primarily because I'm still trying to work out the kinks in the revelation that the Doctor came back for Amy the day after he left her as a kid.

One last thing, I'm really not sure if Moffat can use Angels again, they're just not as scary anymore. They don't have that lasting appeal that the Daleks have, for example. I think one problem with Moffat 's approach is his need to make his monsters frightening in a gimmicky sort of way, which was why he gave the Daleks so little attention. His efforts to "spice up" the Daleks didn't really work out very well, a tried and true Dalek story with them doing what they do best would have been far more effective. Daleks don't have to be frightening, but they do have to be overwhelming.

Thanks for writing, would love to hear more of your thoughts in the future.

Alex said...

Yeah, I'll agree there have been worse departures than Amy and Rory but I still think it could have been done better. Much like Mickey was Rory outgrew his initial role as boyfriend/husband and this season seemed to give just as much focus to him (if not more so) than Amy. To see him sidelined right at the very end did left a sour taste. Interesting you should bring up the PS storyboard, I really liked it by I read an blog post which made me realise why they cut it - http://www.sfx.co.uk/2012/11/09/blog-was-doctor-whos-ps-to-brian-really-that-sweet-2/

I'm also with you on the angels part, they're too gimmicky to be used repetitively. "Blink" is still one of the best modern Who stories and "Time of the Angels" was really good, but each appearance just seems to chip away their effectiveness a little more. You're right on the mark with the Daleks though, overwhelming is the perfect word for what they should be.