Tuesday, August 12, 2014

[Eleventh Doctor Rewatch] Doctor Who: Series 5

Having finished rewatching the Eleventh Doctor's first season - both in preparation for Series 8 and to keep the Eleventh's voice fresh in my mind for the Doctor Who/Evangelion fanfic I'm working on - I thought I'd write a brief post about my thoughts on Series 5 after revisiting it.

Looking back, I still feel that Series 5 was a strong introductory season for Matt Smith's 11th Doctor. In the first episode it felt like he was just a reskinned 10th, but the new Doctor solidified a distinct identity for himself over the course of the season. He was a lot more alien than the 10th, for starters, not always knowing how to relate to his human companions. He didn't dwell as much on his past as his most recent predecessors either, even being referred to in The Day Of The Doctor as 'the one who forgets'. He was showed more of a grumpy side, which was just one of the ways that the Eleventh's characterisation portrays the fact that - no matter how young he might appear - the Doctor really is an impossibly old man.

Not only did it introduce a new Doctor, but it introduced a new companion in Amy Pond. Frankly, I was more than a little disappointed when it turned out she wasn't really going to be a policewoman and was only in costume as a kissogram. In spite of that, Amy turned out to be a fairly strong and likeable character; perhaps a bit too strong in her first couple of adventures in the TARDIS, saving the day in both cases, but I suppose that was to establish her capability as a companion.

Rory, too, quickly grew on me. Despite being a bit wet in his first adventure (reminding me too much of Mickey in his earliest appearances), he soon stepped up and showed himself capable of taking responsibility and, albiet reluctantly, displayed bravery when things got hairy. Rory started off an underdog in this series, but that didn't stop him being awesome when it counted, and I love that in characters.

Then there was the series arc. Gone were the days of randomly dropped hints in the background; word or name drops like Bad Wolf, Torchwood, or Mr Saxon. Here, the arc plot elements were in the foreground, the Doctor was aware of them and trying to work them out throughout the season. Not to mention a craftily planted 'timey wimey' element in one of the earlier episodes which could easily be dismissed as a continuity blip until the finale. Sadly, not all threads were tied up by the end, and even back in 2010 I recall being concerned about the show trying to do a multi-season arc, and as it turns out my concerns were valid ones.

The individual episodes themselves weren't bad either, though several weren't without their faults. Victory Of The Daleks' romanticised portrayal of World War II was a bit discomforting, as was the titular choice of Amy's Choice. In The Beast Below, the Doctor and Amy tackle one issue but seemingly ignore another: remember what Starship UK does to protesters and 'citizens of limited value'? Why the hell did the Doctor let that slide? But in spite of these flaws, none of the episodes fails to entertain, and it's followed one of the best Christmas episodes the show has ever had.

Overall, the Eleventh Doctor's first season set a high standard and offered a lot of promise for future seasons...promises that, unfortunately, aren't fulfilled as satisfactorily as one might have hoped over the next couple of seasons.

Regardless, I'll try and rewatch Series 6 and 7 before the new series starts on the 23rd. I'm going to be cutting things pretty close, I think.

P.S. By the way, is it just me, or did anyone else think there were a lot of callouts to Star Wars in this season?

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