Exile on TV – Doctor Who – Series 5 – Follow Me…
**Warning – If you are currently watching Doctor Who on BBC America, there may be some spoilers**
At the Eleventh Hour, Prisoner Zero tried to escape.
A new Paradigm of Daleks arrived, victorious.
The Byzantium crashed and the Angels still weep for time.
Amy made her choice, but the Earth still hungered
The Pandorica was opened and…
It’s been 4 months since Doctor Who returned to our screens. A Doctor, who’s adventures for the first time were not under the watchful eyes of Russell T. Davies (Queer as Folk, Casanova). A Doctor, not played by David Tennant. The series is now under the watchful eye of Steven Moffat (Jekyll, Coupling), who during the past five years had written many of the most popular episodes of the past 5 years (Blink, The Girl in the Fireplace) He also had a hand in creating Jack Harkness and River Song. So it would’ve seem that the show is in safe hands. Then came the announcement that Matt Smith, a 26 year old unknown would be the 11th Doctor. That news was a little worrying…. The Doctor played by an actor younger than me?
So what was the result?
A Madman with a box.
And that is not a bad thing at all. It was uneven start, though. An over the top entrance (fish custard) with a great, and simple finish (“I’m the Doctor, basically, run“) But the next couple of stories were average at best. Even the introduction of the Skittle Daleks (Taste the Rainbow, Exterminate the Rainbow) was a bit disappointing. But the strands of a great story arc was there, The cracks in time… Why didn’t Amy recognize the Daleks? But then the return of River Song and the Weeping Angels (two of Moffat’s creations) in one story. A trip to Venice is always nice, but, Amy’s Choice seems rather polarizing. It didn’t do much for me. And while I thought the story was great, I was underwhelmed by the “homo reptilia” re-imagining. I much prefer the three eyed version. But the ending, the unexpected ending all help ramp up the series for the big finish.
First a emotional visit with Vincent Van Gogh (with a surprise visit with Bill Nighy!) Then a mad cap fish out of water (or Time Lord out of TARDIS story) with the Lodger. All the time cracks in time and space showing up everywhere the TARDIS goes (should have been a clue). All the events of the past year begin to come together as the universe itself tears itself apart in a story so big and yet at the same time so small, with an ending about friendship and love.
But not all the mysteries are revealed. I don’t think Rory is a Auton anymore (but it’s never made clear, Hey I said there may be spoilers) We never did find out who’s voice that was in the TARDIS cackling about the silence falling, could Moffat actually have a multi-year arc planned? It would seem ambitious and not at all in with the way he presents his thoughts about the show. He clearly has big ideas, but he tends to temper them with the thought that most people are not like himself. (or me, or you for that matter, reading this blog) He says he is creating a show for everyone not just the hardcore 10% of the audience that is, shall we say “fanatical”. I think he has created a something with very broad appeal.
Matt Smith’s Doctor is ancient and young at the same time, so alien, more so than ever before (There were times when he was so oblivious than Sheldon Cooper from the the Big Bang Theory) but at times so personable and engaged. The scene in Flesh and Stone, with the blinded Amy, takes on a whole new meaning with the Big Bang. His concern for life and what is right is his overwhelming impulse. This Doctor is more quixotic than he has been since the mid 70′s, when Tom Baker was at his most indomitable, collecting keys to time and defacing the works or Leonardo DiVinci. After the somber tone of the David Tennant specials last year, this series returned the Doctor’s joie de vive. Tennant’s Doctor started out with such exuberance, the thrill seeker who went to New New York, and Queen Victoria exiled from the United Kingdom for finding the reckless way he and Rose faced the terrors, but as time went on he was worn down by the loss of friends until he isolated himself. A new face was just what he needed.
Steven, like Matt Smith, brought a lighter tone and freshness to the Doctor, that had been lacking since near the end of the second series. There were some weak episodes in the middle, (Amy’s Choice springs to mind, and I was a little let down by the modern take on the Silurians). At times I felt the desire to be “out there” and “fantastic” interfered with the larger narrative, but I did not let it get in the way of enjoying the stories. And now that the end has come I have found myself already upset that it won’t be until Christmas before we see him again, taking on an Egyptian Goddess on the Orient Express… in space!. (Oh wait, Matt Smith will appear on the Sarah Jane Adventures, along with Katy Manning a/k/a Jo Grant companion to the 3rd Doctor, really looking forward to that! And there is new Torchwood coming, hopefully it won’t be too Americanized.)
I do hope the show continues to build on it’s long history and take risks. While I know it’s unlikely that we will ever see another event like Time Crash, but I wouldn’t mind seeing a few more old friends, the Brig would be great, maybe a run in with Peri or Ace. Or if they really want to be brave maybe see if Paul McGann would be interested and popping by.
Come on Steve, you know you want to do it.
Series 5 – B+
The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang - A-