Dec 26, 2013

[TV] The New Doctor Who - Series 7

Given the rather extended manner in which recent Doctor Who serials have been broadcast, I end up forgetting to post reviews. Case in point, this seventh series of the new Doctor Who ran from 2012 to 2013 in two distinct parts. My intention to review the entire series got somewhat lost in the frenzied build-up to the 50th anniversary of the show as a whole.

So here I am trying to play catch-up in terms of my reviews just as the world is waiting for the Christmas special to air and Matt Smith's run as the Doctor finally come to an end. On a somewhat similar note, this seventh serial of the series also brings us to the end of Amy Pond and Rory Williams being companions for our dear Doctor and introducing his newest companion Clara. But we'll get into those details once we're in the review proper.

This may not be the best season for the show, but it was certainly an interesting one. And given the fact that the 50th anniversary lay in the show's future as it was being aired, I can totally understand the need to use this season as a way to get to that point and the larger plans for the Doctor as a whole. The 50th anniversary special certainly gave us a new direction and this season of the series contributed significantly to that greater effort.

Synopsis: Doctor Who is pretty much the world's longest running science fiction TV series. It's present incarnation is the result of a revival effort in 2005 and currently the program's showrunner is Steven Moffat.

The first half of this season is really just a scant 5 episodes. It had already been announced prior that this would cover the last episodes of Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) and Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill), but I don't think any of us were truly prepared for how things were carried out. Even with so limited time, they manage to cover a  number adventures that involve the Daleks, the Silurians and even a cyborg in the wild west. And while the ending episode of this arc, "The Angels Take Manhattan", had it's hokey moments, on the whole it was still a pretty good piece of writing and a nice send-off for Amy and Rory.

The second half of this season can be traced back to the 2012 Christmas special where we're introduced to Clara (Jenna Coleman) as a potential new companion. But given how the Christmas Special ended, it does present for a most interesting story for this character and her seemingly random involvement with the Doctor that of course is not so random in the end. This was a classic example of Moffat trying to be clever and yet also creative - definitely not a bad thing indeed.

One of the best elements introduced into this series was the expanded role for the Silurian Madame Vastra (Neve McIntosh), Jenny Flint (Carin Stewart), and the Sontaran Strax (Dan Starkey) as recurring characters in the show. They had first appeared in the series 6 episode, "A Good Man Goes to War" and become significant companions for the Doctor after he deals with the "departure" of Amy and Rory. They're a most unusual trio but they make for excellent characters. Plus there's the inter-species same-sex marriage between Vasra and Jenny that really endears them to audiences even further.

The return of The Great Intelligence was certainly a key highlight for long term Doctor Who fans and an interesting villain to reintroduced to the revamped series as a whole. Given the lengths the Intelligence has gone in the past to advance his goals, he's definitely a worthy adversary for the Doctor. And Moffat certainly weaves in the story of the Great Intelligence into the overall narrative in a manner that still makes sense.

This season also toyed around with a number of key elements in the Doctor Who mythos as a whole. I suppose the best example of this is the fact that the title of the season finale is called "The Name of the Doctor" - something that had been alluded to earlier on in "Journey to the Center of the TARDIS" but of course many fans were not looking forward to hearing, so to speak. The Doctor's true name is one of the better kept secrets in the fandom and not one that any of us are eager to discover. It adds an interesting degree of mystery to things that I personally feel are a key part of the Doctor's identity. And yes, I totally get the irony in that sentence.

The seventh season of Doctor Who managed to do the most with what it had to deal with including departing characters, a new meta-plot to attack and of course the fact that it had to somehow lead up to the 50th anniversary special. And given those diverse goals, it's still pretty laudable that they were able to get things done in a manner accepted to fans old and new. Thus the season as a whole rates a good 4 books used to deliver messages in time out of a possible 5.

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