And it is done. My initial run with Matt Smith in his first season as the Doctor has come to a close (I actually finished this season on Sunday but I’m just now getting around to doing the write-up. Sorry.) I’ve spent the last two days pondering over this excellent season (and trying to forget the terrible episode of The Walking Dead from Sunday but more on that when I review it later and ponder why the hell I’m still watching that trainwreck). Anyways, I traveled the length and breadth of the cosmos with the eleventh incarnation of the Doctor as well as the stunning Amy and the surprisingly heroic Rory, and now that the fifth season is over, I can without pause declare it the single best season of the show bar none and it actually colors the rest of the series in such a negative light that were it not for the presence of David Tennant and Christopher Eccleston (as well as the occasional Steven Moffat episode), I would wonder how I was able to sit down and watch it in the first place when everything else pales so much in comparison to the incredibly strong and (most importantly) consistent writing of Season 5. Throw in arguably the best season finale of the series yet, and it’s no shock that Doctor Who has never been this good. Can Steven Moffat be the head writer from now til eternity?
The disc begins with the lightest (but by no means weakest) episode of the season when the TARDIS goes nuts and locks the Doctor out and keeps Amy in, and the Doctor becomes the new lodger at the home of a man named Craig (James Corden) who is in love with his best friend Sophie (Daisy Haggard) while some menacing shape-shifting alien also lives in the top floor of the house and lures people passing by the house to his room where they never return. The real meat of the disc (though apparently “The Lodger” becomes more important in Series 6) occurs when we finally learn the meaning of the cracks in the universe and the mysterious Pandorica that has been alluded to all season. After receiving another message from River Song (this time thousands and thousands of years in the past), the Doctor and Amy rush to ancient Britain during the era where it was occupied by Roman soldiers where they discover that the Pandorica is below Stonehenge (after a painting made by Vincent Van Gogh informs River that the TARDIS will soon be exploding). Rory is alive (though actually a robot of sorts) and a Roman Centurion, and it turns out that the Pandorica was actually built by a legion of the Doctor’s many enemies (Dalek, Cybermen, Slitheen, Sontaran, etc) to imprison him and stop the TARDIS from destroying the universe though it actually helps to cause the event they were trying to stop. Without wanting to spoil any more details of the two-part finale, let it not be said that Rory isn’t the most heroic of all the companions and that there’s a limit on how many stable time loops you can create in one episode of Doctor Who before it becomes too ridiculous (or at least the limit doesn’t exist when your name is Steven Moffat).
“The Lodger” is sort of a “love it or hate it” episode though still not nearly as polarizing as “Love and Monsters” (which I seem to be one of the few people in the fandom that will admit to enjoying it). I thought it was brilliant and for the first time in the series (the new series at least. I don’t know a ton about the old series), it really took the opportunity to explore how the Doctor would react in a social setting. His true alien nature come out even more than normal as he was placed in such a domestic setting, and I know Doctor Who is supposed to be an epic sci-fi tale, but I like the moments when it experiments with structure and it tries to deliver a wryly humorous tale like this (though it had plenty of dark moments). Matt Smith and James Corden just owned up the episode for me. “The Pandorica Opens”/”The Big Bang” actually was able to deliver a season finale that was both satisfying on an emotional level as well as a plot level (where the finales generally suffer). Steven Moffat has never been content to just make stories where characters time travel. He will make stories about time travel itself and trying to guess how all of his stable time loops would be resolved before you figured out what caused them was great fun and there was a perfect match of humor (Matt Smith in a fez. Just Matt Smith in a fez) and thrills to keep the action propelled forward and Rory’s sacrifice to continue to protect Amy was one of the most emotionally rewarding moments in the series. Also, the fact that the episode was able to pull off its massive retcon at the end without feeling like a cheap deus ex machina is another testament to Steven Moffat’s unparalleled helmsmanship at the head of this show.
If you’ve ever had any concerns about starting Matt Smith’s run as the Doctor (just like I did before I began), leave them at the door. He’s not the best Doctor ever, but I think he was even better than Christopher Eccleston (though to be fair, the writing during Christopher Eccleston’s run was never all that good and he can’t be blamed for that) and he was a worthy heir to the legacy left by David Tennant. Doctor Who will never be serious science fiction like Lost or Battlestar Galactica but that’s okay. Most “serious” sci-fi is boring and preachy. Doctor Who would prefer to work in the vein of the great Joss Whedon programs of the past with cheeky, self-aware humor but the ability to tell genuinely engaging and interesting stories and there’s just no denying that Steven Moffat is better than everyone else making science fiction on television right now (especially since Lost is off the air). If we’re going to name the successor to Joss Whedon’s throne as the king of smart, nerdy TV (since he has had a pretty terrible run of luck about his show’s lasting any time at all before being cancelled lately), then it’s Steven Moffat and I’m happy to be watching his legacy unfurl.
Final Score: A