Sunday, July 26, 2015

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

Hello, Doctor Who people! 

This week we move forward to look back at the second half of series 7 which is part 9 of my series of posts looking at 10 Years of Doctor Who Reborn.

Did everyone keep track of that?

No? We're moving onward anyway. 

(But first, if you missed it, here's part one of Series 7 from last week.) 

#11 Journey to the Center of the TARDIS **

I know, you expected The Rings of Akahten to start off the countdown but in my final analysis, I had to give the bottom slot to this, the most disappointing episode of Series 7 Part Two. Oh, there was so much to look forward to with a full on exploration of the TARDIS but somehow it came up a bit lacking. Maybe my expectations were too high.

Ultimately the episode is undermined by an absurd plot twist involving some rather unlikable characters and a lack of really being wowed by our journey through the TARDIS.  

#10 The Rings of Akahten **

What hurts this episode is a very strong lack of investment in the stakes. A being of god-like power threatens entire worlds, billions of lives and I just don't feel it. There's a lot spectacle here and it looks, well, spectacular. But at the heart of a good Doctor Who story is just that, heart. We have to have a strong point of view to help us understand this world and culture, help us feel what's truly at stake.  

What saves this episode from the basement is Matt Smith's bravura performance as the Doctor confronts the god creature. And it really us a very well realized truly alien setting.

#9 Nightmare In Silver ***

All the hail the return of Neil Gaiman who vowed we would be wowed by the Cybermen again. Eh, not so much. It didn't help that the story was saddled with two of the most unlikeable kids on Doctor Who since Adric and Chloe Webber. Major killjoy for me. The Doctor's all frantic to save Clara's nanny charges from a cyber fate worse than cyber death and I'm thinking, "Let the Cybermen have them already." Speaking of the Cybermen, they apparently have super speed now which actually doesn't do much for me, scary-wise. What makes the Cybermen scary is that they can catch you even if they're slow and what horrible things they'll do to you once they do. If you're lucky, they'll kill you.

On the plus side we get a really great guest star turn from Warrick Davis as Porridge, the little man with a big secret. And the big headliner for this episode: The Doctor vs. Cyber Doctor with powerful performances from Matt Smith AND Matt Smith.

#8 Hide ***

Neil Cross' follow up to The Rings of Akhaten is a much stronger entry with the Doctor and Clara teaming up with a pair of ghost hunters from 1974. It's a taunt thriller with great guest characters (Dougray Scott and Jessica Raine doing some really good work here) and our pair of regulars as Clara is still trying to make sense of this mad man she's travelling through time and space with while the Doctor keeps her at arms length, still pondering the mystery of the Impossible Girl.

The episode is undermined by the Doctor's journey through time in the middle of the story. It's a big sci-fi timey-whimey thing in the middle of an otherwise dark, scary, nerve racking adventure.  

#7 Cold War ***

The vast tableau of nations caught in the icy grip of dread over the concept of nuclear war gets distilled down to a submarine trapped under the sea with an alien with nothing left to lose and the Doctor running out of options to stop him. The deux ex machina ending notwithstanding, this episode is very scary and exciting adventure, a strong comeback for Mark Gatiss after the disappointing Night Terrors from 2011.

It marked a fantastic return for a classic Doctor Who alien, the Ice Warrior. And Kudos to David Warner's quirky and engaging turn as the Soviet scientist with the Western pop culture fixation.

#6 The Name of the Doctor ***

The story turns into itself too much. Yes, it's a pay off for a series arc that began when we first heard the words "Run, you clever boy, and remember" but there's too much fanboy like navel gazing. Any episode that seems rushed yet dragged down by excessive expository dialogue at the same time is in a bit of a pickle.

The answer to the mystery of Clara, the Impossible Girl is a bit rushed. She does this amazing thing that saves the Doctor in various incarnations along his time line and splinters herself into many different versions. Amazing yet the full nature of the threat to the Doctor and the depth of Clara's sacrifice are not fully conveyed. It all seems a bit rushed.

Still I rate this as high as I do simply because of the fan boy squee I experienced at seeing classic Doctors flitting about on the screen and the admittedly unique angle of having the Doctor visit his own grave site. And another appearance from the Great Intelligence, brought once more to sinister life by Richard E. Grant. And the Doctor finally says goodbye to River. (Feels!)

#5 The Crimson Horror ****

Diana Rigg's performance as the wicked Mrs. Gillyflower is a major highlight of the episode but props to her daughter Rachel Sterling who portray's Gillyflower's blind daughter with a deep sense of pain and pathos. A fun turn once more from the Paternoster Gang. And some inventive storytelling tweeks (I loved the montage showing how the Doctor and Clara were investigating the mystery and their terrible fates before they were discovered and rescued.)  

#4 The Bells of St. John  ****

The Doctor meets Clara: Part Three. For this Clara Oswald, its meeting the Doctor for the first time who shows up at her door, babbling madly (in other words, being himself) while dressed as monk. The Great Intelligence pops up again with spoonhead robots sucking people's souls into the Wi-Fi (which really screws up accessing You Tube). The Doctor stops a plane crash, rides a motorcycle up the side of the Shard and enjoys a lovely breakfast on a rooftop café.

#3 The Snowmen ****

After the loss of Amy and Rory, the Doctor's in a funk, living in his TARDIS which he has parked on a cloud over Victorian London. He's decided the universe doesn't care so why should he? The Paternoster Gang of Lady Vestra, Jenny and Strax make their debut here, doing what they can to renew the Doctor's interest in things. One of those things turns out to be intelligent snow that can turn itself into killer snowmen with teeth. (Once more: MOFFAT IS EVIL!). Into this mix enters a vivacious young woman named Clara, part barmaid, part nanny, all wonderfully brought to life by Jenna Coleman.

This is an engaging story filled with action, humor, pathos, adventure and drama. And we learn there is a mysterious connection between this Victorian Clara and the woman we know as Oswin from the future in the Dalek asylum. Even in the darkness of death that falls over the finale, the epilogue finds the Doctor renewed once more by a mystery, the mystery of the Impossible Girl.

#2 The Time of the Doctor *****

When an actor decides to finish his time as the Doctor, the pressure is on to deliver a major epic finale. Perhaps a bit overstuffed, still I think The Time of the Doctor delivers perfectly on what we expect from a Doctor's swan song. From the comedic sublime (the Doctor meets Clara's family wearing clothes only Clara can see!) to the depths of sadness (alas, poor Handles) to the momentous sweep of the truly epic (to save a single planet from an army, the Doctor stands alone across the centuries until his dying day), this story stands tall among other finales across the history of Doctor Who.  

For more of what I thought about The Time of the Doctor, click here.

#1 The Day of the Doctor *****

There was so much riding on this special. The 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who. A special that would be seen around the world, even in movie theaters. I wonder if Steven Moffat's wearing a wig now because I can't help but think he was pulling his hair out trying to figure out how to make this work. 

There is so much that goes right with the episode that it's almost hard to fathom. And it's been gushed about so many people that I think to review all this all over again here would just be the epitome of redundancy. Suffice to say, The Day of the Doctor needed to deliver. And it did. Big time!

OK, if you want more insight from me than that, click here.


While I would prefer to view the separate sections of Series 7 as two completely different entities, all the episodes that aired over 2012 and 2013 were part of this one big whole. So as a complete unit, how did the episodes of Series 7 rank when consider all together?

The Day of the Doctor *****
The Time of the Doctor *****
Asylum of the Daleks *****
The Snowmen ****
The Bells of St. John  ****
The Angels Take Manhattan ****
The Crimson Horror ***
Dinosaurs on a Spaceship  ***
A Town Called Mercy ***
The Name of the Doctor ***
Cold War ***
The Doctor, Widow and the Wardrobe ***
Hide ***
Nightmare In Silver ***
The Rings of Akaten **
Journey to the Center of the TARDIS *
The Power of Three *


Next week, I finish my season by season look back at 10 Years Of Doctor Who Reborn with Series 8 and the debut of the 12th Doctor, Peter Capaldi.

The week after that, 10 Years Of Doctor Who Reborn concludes as I look at the total 10 year package and offer my picks on the best of the best.

In three weeks, leading us up to the debut of the real deal itself, Series 9 of Doctor Who, a new fan fiction begins.

  • Clara faces a deadly and inescapable fate!
  • The Doctor....on trial!
  • The return of the Monk!
  • And with the Monk is someone who more than anyone wants the Doctor...dead!
  • And if the Doctor can rewrite the Time War, can the Daleks do the same?

From the events of The Time of the Dominion, The Son of the Master and The Crucible of Eternity comes the epic finale I call...

Prisoners of the Daleks

Until next time, everyone be good to one another.  

I'm So Glad My Suffering Amuses You

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