Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Verdict: Doctor Who Series 7 Part 1

Doctorin' the TARDIS: Rory, The Doctor and Amy

Matt Smith, Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill return for a third trip aboard the TARDIS as The Doctor, Amy Pond and Rory Williams in the five episodes kicking off Series 7, before the latter two bid farewell to the show. With the series once again split down into two (unequal) halves, I took time out after the first 5 episodes to weigh up on the show's 2012 return.

Asylum of the Daleks - 8/10

An episode penned by show front-runner Steven Moffat, Asylum of the Daleks was a ballsy and bold return for The Doctor and his companions. In a bid to make the Doctor's fiercest enemies scary again (and not cute and comical), Moffat upped the scale and the 'wow' factor. The opening shots of Skaro, the unending Dalek parliament and the Asylum itself was grand on scale.

Add to this the shock twist of the Pond's relationship troubles and the supposed future fate of a upcoming character, Asylum of the Daleks pulled out all the stops to kick off Season 7 in style; I thought it was a much stronger opener than The Impossible Astronaut that, whilst being wickedly clever, asked to many questions.

Dinosaurs on a Spaceship - 9/10

A completely wacky and absurd premise, Dinosaurs on a Spaceship had all the right ingredients to make a brilliant Doctor Who episode; it had a interesting setting, a slight twist (being the Silurian connection), it had funny, witty dialogue and some fresh faces (Rory's dad, Queen Nefertiti and Riddell).

It also continued down the intriguing path of showing the Eleventh Doctor's darker side; leaving Solomon to die at the end of the episode was similar to how the Doctor killed numerous Daleks in episode one. It's great to see the character grow and alter between incarnations - Moffat and co. aren't afraid to steer Smith's Doctor into darker territory.

A Town Called Mercy - 5/10

In my mind, the weakest Doctor Who episode for quite some time (probably since Victory of the Daleks in 2010), A Town Called Mercy really lacked that dash of magic the show has been drenched in for the last couple of years. The Western concept is a great one for the show to explore, it was just poorly carried out. If only the beautifully picturesque setting could have been carried over into the scripting and pacing. 

It felt drawn out and overly wordy whilst characters like Kahler-Jex and the Gunslinger were just tools used to bring the focus back on the Doctor's ever expanding darker side and morality. 

The Power of Three - 7/10

An intriguing premise similar to that of Closing Time or The Lodger, The Doctor moves into the home, this time of Amy and Rory to investigate the mysterious appearance of small, black cubes across the world. Again, much like the episode that preceded it, the narrative devices in this episode (the cubes, the Shakri) felt like they were really just second-rate compared with the over-arching story of Amy and Rory torn between their real-life and their 'Doctor life'. I particularly liked the way in which the story showed the disjointed nature of the couple's home life as a result of travels with the Doctor. 

The Power of Three however worked fairly well, the humour drawn from the Doctor's domestication being thoroughly entertaining, as well as Rory's Dad again being a welcome addition. The ending might have been a little rushed and anti-climatic but the main premise of the episode was to explore the changing attitudes that Amy and Rory has towards travelling with the Doctor; in this sense, the episode worked very well, being a brilliant blend of a clever and witty. 

The Angels Take Manhattan - 8/10

One of the most surprising episodes in a long while, episode five saw the departure of Amy and Rory following an encounter with the Weeping Angels in New York City. First off, plus points for this episode include the overall story; the way in which the book had the group's future laid out but they couldn't read ahead for fear of sealing their own fate was very clever. Also, the Angels were made seriously scary again, after something of an underwhelming outing last time in Series 5. The final scenes the Doctor shared with Amy and Rory were suitably heartbreaking, moving and left me guessing. 

One small complaint was the pacing of the Pond's final story; this episode could easily been stretched across two, with little time attributed to some aspects of the Pond's farewell. For example, at the end of Series 2, Rose's farewell was suitably drawn out and tied up in a nice little bow. Here, we were given scant information of the Pond's life once they arrived wherever they arrived. Add to this that Amy and Rory's family (especially his Dad) were never visited by the Doctor to apologise, and overall, the ending felt a little...rushed; not a good thing for characters who have been around for two and a half seasons. 

Based on what we got however, The Angels Take Manhattan was again a clever and twisting piece of narrative from Steven Moffat. If only it had been padded out a little, resolved a little neater, it would rate higher.

Final Thoughts - 7.4/10 (mean average)

Overall, the first half of Season 7 is fairly strong, solid collection of Doctor Who adventures. So far, the series has been at its best when it felt audacious, witty, adventurous and snappy, such as the opening duo of episodes. Asylum and Dinosaurs were great ideas carried out confidently and they really set the bar high for single, stand alone episodes. It was when the time to say farewell came around that the story felt a little rushed. The Pond's farewell was emotional and suspenseful but at the same time underwhelming through the rapid pace of the final episodes. 

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