Sunday, July 19, 2015

10 Years of Doctor Who Reborn: Series Seven - Part One

Hi there! It's Sunday here on the blog thing I call I'm So Glad My Suffering Amuses You, your internet source for caffeine infused mozzarella cheese. Since it's Sunday and this is my blog, the logical assumption is this must be a Doctor Who post.

And you would be correct. 

Today is another installment of my weekly blog post, 10 Years of Doctor Who Reborn which is looking back over the decade since Doctor Who returned to our screens back in 2005. Today's post brings us to Series 7 and interesting crossroads for both Doctor Who and this blog series.

Officially, Series 7 aired over a two year period, 2012 and 2013. Yet it is very hard to see Series 7 as a single thing. Compare the two years.

  • Different companions.
  • Different costume for the Doctor.
  • Redesigned TARDIS interior.
  • Redesigned opening credits.
  • Modified them music.

In short, the two parts of Series 7 could have, should have been labeled as two separate seasons.

Since these two parts are so different, here's what I'm going to do. Today, I will review episodes from the 2011 Christmas Special to the 5 episodes that aired in 2012. Next week, I will review everything else from the 2012 Christmas special to Matt Smith's last episode as of Christmas 2013. 

But because these two very different entities are referred to as one single season, at the end of next week's post, I will merge the two lists for a comprehensive view of the entirety of Series 7.

Got that? No? OK, I'll go forward with this anyway

#6 - The Power of Three *
If there was ever a story that was brought low by it's ending, it's this one. At the half way point, I would've rated this episode a solid 3. And there was so much working for it. 

  • The mysterious cubes
  • Rory's dad
  • Rory and Amy trying to live a normal life outside of the Doctor
  • The Doctor's interference with that life
  • The return of UNIT
  • The debut of Kate Stewart

But then things fall apart and they fall apart badly. The cubes turn out to be sinister after all (well, duh!) with an extremely unsettling threat (seriously, world wide heart attacks? Really?) and coupled with a ham-handed effort to tie the big bad into some arcane piece of Time Lord mythology that absolutely made no sense whatsover. Like Love and Monsters back in Series 2, its like the writer and producers behind The Power of Three did not trust the material they developed up front and felt compelled to tack a hard left into sci-fi horror territory on the back end of the story, completely undermining all that had come before. 

#5 - The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe ***
If the previous year's Christmas special was a near perfect holiday spectacle, this installment was perhaps Steven Moffat trying too hard to craft a yuletide fantasy. The Doctor hopping around a castle like a mad Christmas elf showing off all his preposterous toys and gadgets loads on the sugar coating a bit much. The Doctor's childlike enthusiasm is less inspiring and more grating. 

And we have alien trees. 

Alien. Trees.

And the miracle power of a wife and mother willing a whole race to safety and snatching a life back from death? So that's a thing that happened. 

That being said, I do give this episode 3 stars instead of 2 because if you can't have an impossible whimsical episode at Christmas, when can you? I enjoy this story while I'm watching it but like most sugary confections, it just doesn't satisfy afterwards.

#4 - A Town Called Mercy ***
Doctor Who and the American West have been on uneasy ground since the 1st Doctor and crew landed in Tombstone in The Gunfighters. It's not regarded as a high point of the series so any effort to return Doctor Who to this genre would be met with trepidation.

A Town Called Mercy delivers a strong installment centered around some heady concepts such as redemption, forgiveness and vengeance.

Ben Browder (Farscape) is perfect as the town sheriff who possess a wit and perspective that goes beyond most men of his time and place. And Adrian Scarborough is fantastic as Kahler-Jex, a scientist of war looking for some measure of redemption. And at the center of it all, Matt Smith takes the Doctor on an emotional journey as he tries to reconcile how he regards Kahler-Jex against his own past actions in the Time War.  

#3 - Dinosaurs on a Spaceship ***
I struggled with this one. I actually view A Town Called Mercy as a stronger episode but ultimately I give Dinosaurs the edge just for the sheer insanity of everything tossed at the wall and seeing how much of it actually sticks.
  • Queen Nefertiti from Egypt 1334 BC 
  • Big game hunter and explorer John Riddell from 1902 AD
  • The introduction of Rory's father, Brian
  • A spaceship crashing towards Earth in 2367 AD
  • Wacky robots
  • And, of course, dinosaurs!

Like The Power of Three (also written by Chris Chibnall), this episode takes a decided dark and nasty turn in the denouement of the plot. It's a bit disconcerting given all that has occurred to set this story up but the story is not completely derailed like it is in Power

Ultimately, a lot of this story is just an excuse to hang as much as possible on the premise of the title. But what a title! And what a premise! 


On a spaceship!    

#2 - The Angels Take Manhattan ****
Amy and Rory had become so ingrained a part of the TARDIS crew that anything short of a dramatic earthquake to mark their departure would have been a major disappointment. And Steven Moffat delivers a time twisted tale as the Weeping Angels have a hotel turned into a battery of captured souls living their lives to death. It's a mind shocking concept, no more so when Rory Williams enters a room to see the final living moments of...Rory Williams, his older self.

The emotional beats of the story are strong as the Doctor, Amy, Rory and River Song fight to stay ahead of a very dangerous pack of Angels while caught in a tightening web of inescapable fate. If this story falls down, its under the weight of its own plot device to get everyone into this fix. OK, the Statue of Liberty is a Weeping Angel. That's cool. But how does that work? (I mean, I know how it works but if you're spending time trying to resolve that in your head instead of following the action, that's not a good thing.) 

Scenes were actually shot in New York City which adds a bit to the squee factor. But in the end, its an emotional story that leads us to a loss we cannot avoid. Ultimately Amy and Rory are gone in a way that is both heartbreaking and reaffirming.

 #1 - Asylum of the Daleks *****
This installment is simply epic. Every Dalek ever in one episode facing something scares even them: their own kind, driven insane, locked on a Dalek asylum world. So the Doctor, Amy and Rory are recruited by the Daleks to deal with their crazy brethren because, hey, Daleks ain't stupid to go facing off with their kill crazy cast offs. Get the Doctor to do it.

Now the arc of Amy and Rory's relationship does provide a nice counterpoint to the epic stuff going on but it is a very, very hard to make leap to imagine those two as splitting up. The reason for the rift between the two is a terrible thing that does indeed cause fissures in a marriage so it makes sense to a certain extent. But Amy and Rory signing divorce papers? Really? It gets that far? Thankfully that's sorted out by the end but that misstep kind of gets on my nerves.

But the big story here in Asylum is the appearance of Oswin Oswald, an extremely smart, clever and drop dead sexy young woman trapped at the heart of the Dalek asylum. Before the episode aired, fans knew Jenna Coleman had been signed to play a new companion after Amy and Rory left the show. But we weren't expecting to see Jenna on screen until the next year. With no warning, however, there she was, on screen, helping the Doctor fight the Daleks.

Except all is not as it seems. And the revelation of who Oswin really is has got to be one of the most heart wrenching reveals in the history of Doctor Who. Over the course of the episode, viewers had grown quite fond of Oswin Oswald. And then Steven Moffat yanks that out from under us.

Moffat is EVIL!


So that's that for this week. Next Sunday, 10 Years of Doctor Who Reborn looks at the other, totally different part of Series 7 with a new look for everything including a new companion. 

After next Sunday there are two more installments of 10 Years of Doctor Who Reborn and then...

August 16, 2015
Episode One
Prisoners of the Daleks 

Be good to one another, everybody! 

I'm So Glad My Suffering Amuses You

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