by William Hohmeister
Doctor Who, series 8, is due out August 23 starring Peter Capaldi as the Doctor, after three seasons with Matt Smith as the Eleventh Doctor. Steven Moffat, who took over as head writer and executive producer after Russell T. Davies left the show at the end of series 4, continues on as the “show runner.”
I recently watched series 2-4, starring David Tennant as the Tenth Doctor, and there I stopped. I need a break between Doctors, or I resent the incoming actor. I wanted to watch Matt Smith as Eleven without any prejudice.
It’s been a few months; I decided to watch series 5-7, the entirety of Matt Smith’s tenure as the Doctor, and review the series’ as I went along. I hope this acts as both an interesting talk about the Eleventh Doctor, a refresher for returning Whovians, and an introduction for new folks. When series 8 arrives, I’ll also be reviewing it here.
The Eleventh Hour
The first episode of series 5 is well done and serves two purposes: to separate the 11th Doctor from the 10th, and to establish the theme of the new series. It fulfills both while telling an interesting story and setting up a potential series story arc.
Eleven is more boisterous than Ten; the first scene he’s in shows him hanging out of the Tardis and nearly colliding with Big Ben. The Doctor clambers back inside and crashes into Amelia Pond’s garden.
Amelia Pond, an orphan left alone in a too-big house, prays to Santa for someone to help her with a scary crack in her wall. This crack is actually a Crack in reality. She stops praying when she hears the Tardis and rushes outside to meet the Doctor.
The relationship between Amelia and the Doctor is strange and interesting from the start. I had never seen the Doctor with a child Companion before. I was surprised at how rude and unsympathetic he seems. Amelia rolls with him well, serving him food that he spits all over her kitchen until he finally drains a bowl full of custard.
The Doctor examines the Crack briefly and meets an eyeball that claims “Prisoner Zero has escaped”. The Doctor closes the Crack, but has to leave when the Tardis blares an alarm. He promises to return for Amelia in five minutes and take her with him. He leaves, she packs and waits outside all night. She does not see him for 12 years. When the Doctor returns he is knocked out by an older Amy Pond. When he wakes he doesn’t recognize her, but tells her about the hidden room in the house, hidden behind a perception filter; Prisoner Zero, a shapeshifter who escaped through the Crack in the wall 12 years before, has been living there in secret the entire time. When Prisoner Zero confronts them the sonic screwdriver breaks; the hero’s sword is sundered.
This is the point when I see Eleven set himself apart from the previous Doctors; Amy Pond reveals who she is and the Doctor blames her for the time that has passed. He never apologizes or admits fault. Eleven is a jerk, but I like him. He still acts like the Doctor, but he’s not nice about it, and that is an interesting change.
Shortly after Amy and the Doctor reunite we meet Rory Williams, a nurse and Amy’s boyfriend. Prisoner Zero shifts its form by placing humans in a coma and using their dreams. Rory notices that the supposed coma patients he works with often wander around town. His photos help the Doctor solve the mystery; the Doctor tells Amy and Rory to get to the hospital while he enacts a plan. In the end, after Prisoner Zero steals Amy Pond’s form (it appears as the Doctor holding young Amelia Pond’s hand, which is great and sad), the Doctor tricks it into appearing in its own form. The jailers, who have been threatening to incinerate the earth, take the prisoner back and prepare to leave. The Doctor calls them back.
The climactic scene both sets the Doctor up as his own new man and establishes the theme of the episode as fairy tales. When he first met Amelia the Doctor even commented that she had a “fairy tale name”. Amelia is a little orphan girl with a magical friend who fell out of the sky, is in love with the simple village boy, confronts a monster that borrows from the changeling legend and the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale, and is about to embark on an adventure. The Doctor’s old screwdriver breaks, but the Tardis forges a new one. The only thing left is to establish the Doctor’s role as the hero, the most important part of every fairy tale; each character has to play a role.
The episode ends with the Doctor confronting the jailers, chastising them, and telling them to look him up. A hologram of every previous Doctor plays. Eleven steps forward when it reaches Ten, literally and symbolically stepping into the role of the hero. This roles has rules, responsibilities, and also benefits, as he chases the jailers off by saying: “I’m the Doctor. Basically… run.”
Next up is The Beast Below. I won’t review each episode, but I do intend to review those I think are really good, really bad, or are at least interesting and important. If you’d like to watch along, Netflix has all seven series, but you’ll have to be fast if you want to watch series 8 and haven’t seen much Doctor Who yet. If there’s an episode that you think deserves a review, leave a comment below.