After what felt like months, (and since I began rewatching this series with my father back in May of last year that’s actually not just felt like months. it was months. nearly a year), I am finally caught up on Doctor Who (unless you count the 2011 Christmas Special which I will be watching Thursday). It’s been a hell of a ride with three different Doctors, two different show runners, and more companions and sidekicks than you could shake a stick at. There have been highs (everything Steven Moffat ever wrote), there have been lows (anything involving the Slitheen), and plenty in between. Still, Seasons 5 and 6 have stuck very closely to the high end of the spectrum, and even when I haven’t loved an episode, they were always very good compared to even the above average episodes of the Russell T. Davies years so my complaints are minor. Season 6 had Steven Moffat introduce intricate and complex myth arcs to the series, several of which that were introduced in the season premiere that didn’t pay off until the finale (with other questions still unanswered), and while I’m not sure how crazy I was about the season finale (it felt slightly anti-climactic as all ret-cons invariably do), it was still an appropriate send-off to what was without question the best season of the show yet.

The Doctor’s final adventures (as he winds his way down to Lake Silencio in Utah [and typing that out, I realize how freaking dumb I am for not recognizing the significance of the lake finally]) lead him to a disparate array of places and yet all of time as well (more on that shortly). We begin with the TARDIS landing in an alien hotel (modeled suspiciously after the Overlook from The Shining) where there’s a room for each person that shows their greatest fears. When a minotaur arrives that feeds off the faith and superstitions of its prey, things can only get worse. After finally saying goodbye to Amy and Rory at the end of the episode, the Doctor begins his “farewell tour” as he faces what he must do (face his own death). Next, the Doctor is drawing his “farewell tour” to a close (it’s only one more day til he’s ready to die) when he decides to drop in on Craig from last season’s “The Lodger“. Craig is now happily domesticated (though not married) to his longtime love Sophia and they have a baby. When Sopia leaves for a weekend to get rest, Craig is in charge and that’s just when the Doctor shows up at his doors which can only mean trouble. Cue the Doctor (who can speak Baby [something we learned when he first met Melody Pond]) stumbling upon a plot by the Cybermen to invade Earth and what was perhaps the only Cybermen story I actually enjoyed. Also, we finally learn where the Doctor got that ridiculous Stetson from the season premiere.

The season finale is a pretty complicated far. We begin in what is supposedly 2011 but there are also steampunk Victorian trains on lightrails, cars being carried through the air by hot air balloons, Charles Dickens is on the telly, Winston Churchill is also Caesar, and there are pterodactyls in the sky. Also, the Doctor looks like Jesus and is referred to as the soothsayer. After finally winding up at Lake Silencio to face his death, River Song’s love for the Doctor makes her not shoot him (because she was the person in the astronaut suit and she was a Manchurian candidate style sleeper agent). This causes time to begin to tear apart and an alternate reality forms where all of time is occurring at once while time slowly dissolves around everyone. In this alternate reality, Amy and River have been trying to come up with a plan to save the Doctor and time all while battling the Silence. The Doctor knows this is futile because his death is a fixed point in time. After marrying River at the top of a pyramid (and supposedly telling her his name), the Doctor and River kiss which causes time to go back to its normal place and River still shoots the Doctor (there’s a timey-wimey aspect that I’m missing but don’t feel like explaining for space reasons). However, as Amy mourns the Doctor’s death, a future version of River appears who tells her that the Doctor isn’t really dead. River didn’t shoot the Doctor on the shore of Lake Silencio. She shot a Tesselecta copy of the Doctor (aka the people from “Let’s Kill Hitler.” This entire time, the fixed point in time wasn’t the Doctor’s death but the Tesselecta being shot and burned. However, the Silence are still around and a blue guy who’s head the Doctor was carrying around in a box (semi-long story) still warns the Doctor that a question remains unanswered and speaks of the “Eleventh’s fall.”

Like many other viewers, I was initially unable to decide whether I thought “The God Complex” was a brilliant deconstruction of the Doctor as a messianic archetype or a shallow, muddled talk about religious faith. It was probably a little bit of both but I think it leaned heavily on the brilliant side so I’ll forgive it. It was pretty freaky and those moments with the Doctor and the minotaur were heartbreaking. Similarly, there was great acting all around (which has thankfully become the standard and not the exception in the Moffat years). “Closing Time” brought back Craig (which always makes me happy. I’m one of the few big, big fans of “The Lodger” apparently), and it managed to be both funny and poignant. The scenes where the clerk at the store kept assuming that the Doctor and Craig were a couple were comedy gold (and I don’t think that Moffat was trying to make homosexuality seem funny. Just the miscommunication plus they teased it so bad when the Doctor was like seducing Craig in the teleport to make him not notice the cybermen everywhere). I really hope that Craig comes back again for at least one last hurrah during Series 7 since that is meant to be the end of the Ponds halfway through. I can only assume it would be the end of Craigs time as well. Also, perhaps because it was barely a Cybermen story (they were the villains but didn’t hog the screen time like they do in all of their adventures in the new series) and was more about what it meant to be a father and the lengths we go to protect our children, I actually loved a Cybermen episode. At best, I have been ambivalent about them in the past.

There were definitely things I really enjoyed about “The Wedding of River Song,” but it has the potential to be my least favorite episode that Steven Moffat has written. His episodes are all exceptional so this episode was still great. It just wasn’t as show-stoppingly brilliant as all of his other episodes are, and that’s mainly because I still find the whole Tesselecta thing to be a bit of a cop-out. The end of the episode just felt rushed, ridiculously rushed, and I believe this episode would have been better suited as a two-parter so that things could have developed more naturally. Still, it was great to see a darker side of Karen Gillan again when Amy cold-bloodedly murdered Madame Kavorian, and the scene where River and the Doctor got married was definitely great (I loved how Rory in this universe seemed to handle learning that he had a wife and a daughter in the span of a couple seconds very well cause he’s a champ). I actually feel really dumb for not guessing the Tesselecta was what died. During the “Almost People”/”Rebel Flesh” episodes, I was always assuming that the Ganger Doctor was going to be the one who died until the Ganger dissolved at the end of the episode. Despite the obvious possibilities with the Tesselecta, that thought never crossed my mind. So maybe it’s less of a cop-out than I think it is. I probably need more time to wrestle with this episode.

I can’t believe that I’m finally caught up with the show. I’m going to stop now because I have a friend coming over shortly for Glee (which finally freaking returns tonight after being gone for what feels like two months) and I want to make sure my apartment is clean before she gets here. Even though I have torn feelings about this season finale, my conviction that this was another superb season under the master hand of Steven Moffat remains unshaken. If you’ve ever questioned watching this series (and are for some reason reading this review despite its massive spoilers), there is no better place to jump into the continuity of Doctor Who than Season 5 and the beginning of the Smith/Moffat era. After two season, I probably still prefer David Tennant as the Doctor though Matt Smith is only trailing him by the width of his bow tie. This is a wonderful show, and I can’t wait for Series 7 to begin so I can finally watch Doctor Who with everyone else for the first time ever.

Final Score: A-

 

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