Spoiler Alert. If you haven’t watched the mid-season finale of Doctor Who and are a fan that somehow didn’t already know this was supposed to be their last episode as companions), stop reading this right now. Usually, for my Song of the Day posts, the post image is of the person performing the song. So, today’s post should usually be Peter Gabriel. I’m making a huge exception right here. In the offchance that I’m still making this blog ten years down the line when I finally get married (if it ever happens. it could happen sooner, later, or never), I wanted to reserve this song for my Wedding day. I want this to be my Wedding song. My wife can pick everything else about the wedding, but I want this song to be the official Wedding song. “The Book of Love” as performed by Peter Gabriel (originally done by the Magnetic Fields) is my favorite love song of all time. It even edges out “God Only Knows.” I’m going to sacrifice my desire to use the song in a romantic context for myself and instead bestow it upon the Ponds who made their farewell from the Doctor Who universe last night on the BBC. They’re one of my favorite fictional romances of all time. Rory is my favorite companion in series history, and I bawled like an absolute baby when they left the series. Like Toy Story 3 final scene crying. It was a massive sobfest in my room. I love these two, and the show isn’t going to be the same without them.
Tag Archive: Doctor Who
It’s time like these when I wish I had access to the Greybeards from Skyrim (yeah, I can make a post about Doctor Who nerdier than it already would be). I need their ability to use the Thu’un to shout across the land “It. Is. Done.” (I don’t know what that would sound like in the Dragontongue). After nearly a year, I have watched all 6 seasons of Doctor Who! And all of the various holiday specials! I finished Season 6 proper just yesterday, and all I had left was the 2011 Christmas special until I was finally completely up to date on the adventures of my favorite lone survivor of Gallifrey. Written by Steven Moffat (because I guess it’s an unwritten [or perhaps written. what the fuck do I know about the backstage processes of the BBC] rule that the showrunner writes the Christmas episode), 2011’s Christmas special continues the tradition set by “A Christmas Carol” in 2010 of making a very loose adaptation of a beloved children’s story, (this timeThe Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe). While I may not have enjoyed “The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe” quite as much as “A Christmas Carol,” it was still leagues better than any of the Russell T. Davies specials, so I won’t complain.
Under unexplained circumstances (which I love that they put no effort into telling us why the hell what was happening was happening), the Doctor is jettisoned by an exploding spaceship and hurtles towards the Earth. He manages to latch onto a spacesuit and falls to the Earth. He somehow survives a maximum velocity plummet to Earth because (I’m not really sure why) but the spacesuit is healing him so that’s part of it. He’s helped by a middle-aged British woman (on the eve of World War II) named Madge. He tells her if he can ever repay the favor to just make a wish. Cue three years later and her husband, a pilot, is believed to be shot down over the English Channel. Madge can’t bring it upon herself to tell her children (because it’s Christmas and she doesn’t want to ruin Christmas for the rest of their lives) even after they’re eventually forced out of London during the blitz to stay with friends of the family. When they arrive at the estate though, the original caretaker is gone and he’s been replaced by none other than the Doctor (who Madge doesn’t recognize because when she first met him, his space helmet was on backwards). The Doctor’s fixed up the house (which means making it completely anachronistic to the setting with plenty of sci-fi doodads), but things go wrong when the son, Cyril, climbs through a hole in space and time that’s wrapped as a present that takes him to a forest where the trees are suddenly coming to life.
I enjoyed the episode. I thought there were wasted moments (mainly very shallow characterization for the children as compared to the rich emotion with Kazran last year), but it still shows just how wildly imaginative Steven Moffat. There are obvious allusions to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe throughout the episode (the Blitz, the Doctor as the professor, the freaking snowy forest, the Doctor calls his TARDIS a wardrobe, and even a lampost), but Steven Moffat manages to make it a completely different story and knowing C. S. Lewis, he wouldn’t have minded one bit. I loved the fact that the beginning of the episode was basically a giant take-that at the Christmas stories of the Davies years (which were all “Save the entire Earth from Aliens” affairs), and the scene at the end of the episode where the Doctor sees Amy and Rory finally to tell them that he wasn’t really dead (even though River already told them) definitely got me choked up. Matt Smith was fantastic, but when isn’t he?
I’m very excited. Now that I’m all caught up with both Doctor Who and Dexter (which I’m really wondering if I should even bother watching the latter when it comes back on since season 6 of Dexter was so god-awful) I can finally begin two new series to watch. One of them is definitely going to be Mad Men since I’ve already reviewed the first Season and I want to start watching it before I wind up 5 seasons behind on it as well. I’m leaning towards Angel as the second show to watch while I take breaks between seasons of Mad Men. I meant to start Angel as soon as I finished with Buffy last semester but I decided to wait so that I wouldn’t burn myself out on Joss Whedon, and enough time has definitely passed since I finished the epic series finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. So, perhaps its time to return to a world of Slayers, demons, and vampires with souls when I need a rest from the soulless denizens of Sterling Cooper.
Final Score: A-
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-
Damn. Steven Moffat. Just damn. When I think the show can’t get any better, you’re simple response has to be (at least in your own head while we carry on this imaginary dialogue), “Oh, Don Saas. You ain’t seen nothing yet.” I am quickly coming to the conclusion that the Steven Moffat years of this show are going to end up defining the creative apex of “popcorn” television. I’ve been giving this season an “A” for every single disc, but that obviously doesn’t mean I think the show is as artistically significant as Mad Men, Breaking Bad, or Game of Thrones. Instead, it means that for a show which purports to be a children’s show and is concerned more about stand-alone adventures than serialized storytelling, it is the best at this form that I can think of. The only other program I’ve watched which has done non-serious TV this well was Buffy the Vampire Slayer but Buffy often suffered from a general absence of Joss Whedon’s presence in the series (in later seasons, he would write at most two or three episodes of 22). Even the episodes from this season that Moffat didn’t write have his thumbprint all over them, and I am continually astounded by how superior this season of the show has been not just to past seasons of Doctor Who but by all “popcorn” sci-fi shows before.
The disc begins with Amy and Rory trying to get the Doctor’s attention after he had been AWOL for several months (looking for Melody Pond). Amy and Rory created a crop circle as a sign for the Doctor to arrive. Just as he arrives and has to tell Amy that he still hasn’t found Melody, Amy’s friend Mel shows up with the cops hot on her heels (because she stole a car). She points a gun at the Doctor and demands he take her anywhere in the universe, specifically they should go back in time and kill Hitler. Apparently, her entire life, Amy has told Mel about the Doctor and time travel. Mel doesn’t understand that whole “fixed point in time business” though and she thinks the Doctor should be able to go back and change whatever he pleases. This has gotten her into trouble her whole life. When Mel gets in the TARDIS, she shoots the console and the TARDIS crashes into the office of none other than the Fuhrer himself in 1938. However, besides the whole time paradox at play, things are complicated because an alien race who go back in time and punish criminals who would have otherwise escaped justice or executing their own plot to erase Hitler (though they realize a little too late that they’re 7 years early). Hitler tries to shoot the body double they’re using (they use a body as a transport/base of operations called the Tesselecta) and instead he hits Mel. Rory punches out Hitler (cause he’s the greatest companion EVER!). As they try to comfort their dying friend, her arms suddenly start glowing like she’s a Time Lord. We learn that Mel’s name is Melody (Rory and Amy named their daughter after her) and suddenly Mel regenerates into River Song because she was in fact a regenerated form of Melody Pond. She poisons the Doctor although by the episode’s end, she uses every last one of her regenerations in order to save the Doctor’s life when she realizes who she really is and what she’s meant to become. It was all very timey-wimey.
The other two episodes were stand-alone (“Let’s Kill Hitler” is technically the second part of “A Good Man Goes to War” but the two are pretty self-contained considering they aired months apart). In the disc’s second episode, a young boy who is scared of everything manages to send a distress signal that cuts across time and space to find the Doctor in the TARDIS to tell the Doctor to “save him from the monsters.” When the Doctor shows up, it is quickly apparent that the monsters this boy fears aren’t just a figment of his terrified imagination but something much more real. When the other residents of the apartment complex start disappearing and being chased by terrifying wooden dolls, time is running out for the Doctor to make the boy face his fears. In the last episode, Amy, Rory, and the Doctor attempt to visit the second most beautiful planet in the universe (because the Doctor says its too cliche to visit the most beautiful planet). However, it’s under a quarantine that would kill the Doctor in a day if he stayed. Amy gets separated from the Doctor and Rory and enters a room that is another time stream than the one Rory and the Doctor are experiencing. The two men try to use the TARDIS to reach Amy’s time stream but when they find her, it’s been 36 years. When the Doctor finds a way to bring Amy into the current timeline (before she had to wait 36 years by herself being chased by killer robots), Rory must choose which version of his wife to save in order to not create a time paradox.
“Let’s Kill Hitler” was (like every single Steven Moffat episode I can think of) simply brilliant. I mean, Jesus, this guy is good. I knew that they weren’t going to have an actual episode that was entirely about the group trying to kill Hitler, and the way that they certainly subverted every single possible direction you thought the episode could go in was brilliant. Also, Alex Kingston was a force of nature in this episode. I love River song, and Alex Kingston has a lot to do with that. And she was as brilliant to watch in this as James Marston was in early episodes of Buffy as Spike. The plotting was wonderfully paced and it was great how many questions were finally answered in this episode. Between this and “A Good Man Goes to War” I finally feel like I know what I need to know about River. I just want to see her romance with the Doctor in full bloom now. “Night Terrors” was a wonderfully terrifying episode of Doctor Who. It’s an old joke that you watch Doctor Who from behind your couch and episodes like “Night Terrors” (which wound up being about fear itself, which creates the most frightening TV in the first place) was certainly one of those episodes. Those dolls were almost as scary as the Silence. “The Girl Who Waited” was great if for no other reason than Arthur Darvill. He’s without question my favorite Companion by leagues, and Arthur Darvill’s comic timing and dramatic chops are pretty much unparalleled in the entire cast of the new series.
I can’t believe I only have one disc of this season left. I’m actually kind of sad. Once I finish that disc (which should be at some point this week I imagine), I will only have the Christmas special to watch (which I believe is a Chronicles of Narnia parody akin to the last one which was based around A Christmas Carol) and I will finally be completely caught up with Doctor Who. This means that I’ll actually get to watch the new episodes as they air which will be awesome. I’ll finally be able to be a part of the Doctor Who conversation as its happening rather than years and years behind everyone else. I’m excited. I write a blog now. Blogs are cool.
Final Score: A
I have done an absurd amount of writing today and I haven’t actually consumed any pop culture since I woke up. Here’s a quick enumeration. I did a review for work of the new album by Icelandic indie folk/pop band Of Monsters and Men, My Head Is An Animal (which I recommend checking out), I finished up an interview with Canadian rock band Zeus for work (which should be up tomorrow or so), I reviewed The Hunger Games, and I reviewed a volume of the manga Elfen Lied. That’s not even counting all of the writing I did last night either after I finally finished watching Game of Thrones at around 8 PM or so. This particlular review has been nearly a week in the making, and I’m ashamed that I keep allowing myself to fall behind like this. But it’s only days off like Tuesday and Friday that I seem to be able to find the time to do any blogging any more (well personal blogging. I still do plenty of work blogging). My other days off, the weekend, are usually spent having an actual social life. Oh well, I guess I just have to use today’s like this to catch up and hopefully not allow myself to fall behind this ridiculously ever again. And without further ado, let’s return to this twist-filled disc of Doctor Who.
The Doctor, Amy, and Rory land outside a Scottish castle. Amy thinks they’re in the far past, but when Rory hears the distant tunes of a Dusty Springfield song, he guesses they’re in the present. It turns out they’re both wrong as they are in the future at a secret government factory that mines a certain type of acid or liquid because it has the ability to be shaped into any matter whatsoever. It’s actually being used to create a race of disposable slave labor known as Dopplegangers, that have all of the memories and emotions of the human beings they’ve essentially been cloned from. When a solar storm momentarily knocks out the power at the factory (and knocks everyone inside unconscious), all of the Gangers have gotten free, and no one in the factory is able to tell for sure whether they are a Ganger or a real human. It’s like being a Cylon and not realizing it til you’re remotely activated except none of the Gangers are evil (except for one who’s gone insane). They’re just carbon copies of the human who are being forced to realize that they aren’t real people. There’s even a Ganger of the Doctor. That’s a two-parter. The last part of the disc is the first episode of another “two-parter” because at the end of the last one, it turns out that Amy really has been pregnant this whole time and her real body is being held in another location and the Doctor has to assemble an Army to get her back. I don’t feel like recapping the whole thing, but let’s just say the Doctor finds Amy, but they aren’t able to rescue her daughter yet, but it turns out that River Song is Amy and Rory’s daughter!
Probably because I wound up making an immediate comparison to Battlestar Galactica, I wasn’t completely crazy about “The Rebel Flesh”/”The Almost People” until the last episode when they started adding more emotional gravitas to what was happening. However, all of the scenes where there were two Doctors in the same room were brilliant and the twist at the end where we found out that Amy wasn’t really there was pretty brutal. Rory got plenty of great scenes in these two episodes (and even more in the disc-ender), and every episode I watch, he becomes my favorite Companion in the history of the new series. I’m realizing how weird my standards for this season of Doctor Who have become when I say I’m not crazy about something that was better than 75% of the episodes that were made during the Russell T. Davies years. However, “A Good Man Goes to War” was practically perfect with a huge twist, clever writing, memorable lines, and the Doctor at one of his most bad-ass moments. This season is, so far, chock full of episodes that have blown away nearly everything else from previous seasons and “The Doctor Goes To War” is just another example of this. The River/Doctor romance has been one of the best parts of the last two and a half seasons and this is just another example of how this is true.
I could write so much more but I watched these episodes nearly a week ago like seemingly everything else I’ve reviewed these last two evenings, so I’m just going to stop. Season 6 so far has blown every single other season of Doctor Who out of the water (and that includes the stellar Season 5). It’s taking the show down a darker more mature road, and I know that alienated some of the series fans, but I’ve really enjoyed this more grown-up direction. Steven Moffat is officially a member of the Joss Whedon Genius of Television Sci-Fi club that only also includes Joss Whedon (obviously), J. J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse. He’s that good of a showrunner.
Final Score: A
Man. I was not expecting this. I loved Season 5 of Doctor Who. And I don’t mean I loved it in the same way that that I’ve always “loved” Doctor Who. For the first time in the series history, I never felt like I needed qualifiers or caveats to explain the pleasure of the show. I never felt like I was slogging my way through several mediocre episodes in a row just to get to the good Steven Moffat episodes or the rare good episode written by Russel T. Davies. No, from the moment that the Eleventh Doctor crash-landed into Amy Pond’s garden, Doctor Who became an entirely new series and the increased level of quality, whether this was in the writing, acting, or general world-building, was apparent from the get go. There was exactly one episode the entire season that I wasn’t simply crazy about it so Steven Moffat’s tenure as the lead writer of the series seemingly transferred his stellar writing abilities to the entire staff. Season 6 has been even better… You’re reading that correctly. I’m only four episodes in (five technically since I have already seen the first episode of the next disc) and Steven Moffat has managed to raise the stakes again, and even more than last season, this has truly felt like his Doctor Who once and for all.
The Doctor, Amy, and Rory begin the season having spent an indeterminate amount of time apart when Amy and Rory start to notice the Doctor popping up in all sorts of completely inappropriate places (like Three Stooges DVDs). The Doctor sends mysterious invitations to Rory, Amy, and River to meet him in America (where of course, he’s wearing a cowboy hat cause “Stetson’s are cool”). After spending a day or so reminiscing about old times, a mysterious old man appears on the edge of a lake where our heroes are meeting and not long after, a figure in a NASA spacesuit walks out of a lake. Amy sees a mysterious figure on a mountaintop but forgets it as soon as she walks away. The Doctor tells River, Amy, and Rory not to interrupt whatever is about to happen and he walks off to speak with the figure in the spacesuit. The spacesuit zaps the Doctor and as he’s regenerating, it zaps him again and kills him before he can regenerate. Thus, the Doctor is dead for good. Oh Shit! The old man turns out to have also received a letter from the Doctor and he has a gas can with him. River realizes they have to burn the Doctor’s body so that every hostile alien race in the universe doesn’t descend upon Earth to tear the planet apart to get his body. This all happens within essentially the first twenty minutes of the season premiere. It turns out there was one more letter sent out and as River, Amy, and Rory mourn the loss of the Doctor, they discover that the fourth letter was sent to a past version of the Doctor. Realizing that they can’t tell the Doctor about his impending death, the group finds itself whisked away on a trip to 1969 where they uncover an alien race known as the Silent who have been controlling humanity from behind the scenes for our entire existence thanks to an even better defense mechanism than the Weeping Angels, you forget they ever existed as soon as you aren’t looking at them.
After spending months being chased by the U.S. government (though not really because it was a ploy to confuse and trick the Silent), the Doctor, Amy, Rory, River and their new friend (FBI Agent and serious bad-ass Canton Delaware III) try to strike back at the Silent by launching a message on TV of a Silent telling Canton that humanity should kill every Silent they see because they are essentially the Silent’s slaves. They play this message during the Apollo moon landing so nearly every person on the planet saw it and will see it for ages to come. The episode ends with River and the Doctor sharing their first kiss (well the Doctor’s first kiss with River. It will be River’s last kiss with the Doctor cause… timey wimey). The other two episodes involve a marooned pirate ship where a Siren seemingly kills and marks every man who gets even the smallest cut (cooler than it sounds. I swear), and the last finds the Doctor, Amy, and Rory visiting a bubble universe to find a distress signal from another possibly living Time Lord, and the Doctor meets the human incarnation of the TARDIS.
“The Impossible Astronaut”/”Day of the Moon” managed to be an even more impressive way to start off the season than “The Eleventh Hour” was last season. It now gets the award for best possible way to start off a season. I mean for God’s sake, they KILLED THE FREAKING DOCTOR at the beginning of the episode. I know he won’t be dead for good cause that would like mean the end of the series. So even if they find some way to massively retcon it out of existence, it’s still going to affect the way this whole season plays out and I applaud Moffat’s ability to try and shock the audience. That alone would have been ballsy, but what makes the episode truly memorable will be the Silent. They are without a doubt the most terrifying monsters that I have ever seen in the Whoniverse, and this includes the Weeping Angels and the Vashta Narada (all Moffat creations, not surprisingly). They are paranoia incarnate and the scene in the orphanage where Amy encounters their nest was pure high octane nightmare fuel. Steven Moffat is pretty peerless when it comes to creating terrifying creatures (and having it never involve blood or gore), and the Silence may be the pinnacle of his scaring the shit out of British children career.
“The Curse of the Black Spot” was quite good if not quite as phenomenal as the disc’s other three episodes. However, the cinematography was as flawless as this whole disc has been. The show looks different than it ever has. There’s a certain moodiness and darkness hinting in the background except when they’re simply trying to achieve pure beauty like the many shots of the desert in “The Impossible Astronaut.” The show is trying to achieve cinematic ambitions and it is certainly starting to succeed. I did love the way that the episode certainly subverted my expectations on where the story was going and at times, it reminded me structurally of “The Girl in the Fireplace.” “The Doctor’s Wife” though. Boy. What a thing of beauty. It was written by my all-time favorite author, Neil Gaiman (American Gods, Sandman, Anansi Boys), and just adding in the human personification of the TARDIS would have been mind-blowing enough (let alone the fact that the episode felt like Tim Burton’s take on the Whoniverse). Add in an appearance by the always terrifying Ood as well and the very creepy scenes where HOUSE is tormenting Amy and Rory for his own amusement and you have an episode ofDoctor Who that both explores an unstated relationship of the series and manages to scare the hell out of you with its sheer imagination. I really hope that Gaiman ends up writing more episodes of the series.
Ok, I’ll stop rambling now about how fantastic this season has been so far. Needless to say though, Steven Moffat seems to only bring his A game as the showrunner for the series and he expects the same from the rest of his writing staff. I’m excited to be able to finally be finishing this series because the new season should actually be starting sort of soon. Actually, I just looked that up. I don’t think they have an air date for the season premiere so that means this new season will be airing at a different pace than usual. Oh well. Regardless, I’ve been on a very long journey with the Doctor now, and while it’s had its ups and downs, ever since Steven Moffat took over, the highs have been much higher and more often, and Season 6 is looking to be the best season yet.
Final Score: A
After what feels like forever (mainly because slogging through the sixth season of Dexter was a pain), I am back onboard the TARDIS to adventure through time and space with my favorite Time Lord and his two newly married companions. Seriously though, Season 5 of Doctor Who was without question, the single best season of the new series to date (I can’t comment on the quality of the old series cause I’ve never watched it). None of the other seasons even came close to matching just how good it was. There was only one episode in the entire season that I didn’t pretty much completely love (the first one involving the lizard people below the Earth’s surface). If the Christmas special for this sixth season is going to be any indication, this season of Doctor Who could be even better (and I’ve already seen the official season premiere, “The Impossible Astronaut,” and it is amazing). I normally don’t like the series Christmas specials at all, but this wasn’t just easily one of the best Christmas specials of the whole show, it’s also easily a top ten episode of the entire new series.
A spaceship where Amy and Rory are celebrating their honeymoon (and apparently indulging in sexual roleplaying games that involve Amy’s kissogram cop outfit and Rory’s Roman centurion uniform) suddenly begins to crash into the atmosphere of an unnamed planet (I think they never said its name. The Doctor isn’t on the same ship as them but regardless, he somehow knows to show up in the nick of time to save them. The only way to save them is to convince an unpleasant business man (who keeps human beings frozen as collateral against loans) to use his machinery which controls the atmosphere of the planet (because this planets cloud cover is home to flying fishes and sharks [it’s cooler than it sounds. i swear]). However, Kazran Sardick (Harry Potter‘s Michael Gambon, aka Albus “Motherf***ing” Dumbledore) is a regular Ebenezer Scrooge and can’t be bothered to save the 4000 people who might die on that ship. When Kazran nearly strikes a child but at the last moment decides not to, the Doctor realizes there’s more than meets the eye here. Breaking his own rules about rewriting time, the Doctor jumps back to Kazran’s childhood to try and befriend this scared, lonely child so he wouldn’t become a bitter, angry old man. I don’t want to spoil anything about the episode but needless to say it’s a thrilling and incredibly emotional tearjerker that pays homage to Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol while still managing to come up with plenty of original material.
This episode reminded me of how stale and unimaginative every single Russel T. Davies Christmas special was (with the possible exception of the original one, which I only look back fondly on because it introduced me to David Tennant). It seems like Stephen Moffat is taking the easy way out by making a sci-fi adaptation of a beloved Christmas story, and then he makes it a heartbreaking meditation on time-travel, loss, and sacrifice that recalls my favorite episode of the entire series, Moffat’s earlier “The Girl in the Fireplace.” There are things I can’t talk about concerning the episode’s plot without feeling like I’m ruining things, so I just want to say that the episode made me cry like a little schoolgirl and for a nominally science-fiction children’s show, that’s always an accomplishment. It’s especially impressive since the tears weren’t shed for characters that I’ve become attached to for an entire season(s) like a Companion or a form of the Doctor, but instead it was about a simple love story between two characters I’ve only gotten to know for an hour. That’s Steven Moffat in a nutshell. He turns sci-fi conventions on their head and places emotionally impactful storytelling ahead of genre staples.
Like I seem to be saying with every review I’ve written so far today (this is number three), I could probably write a lot more, but I still have to write a review for two episodes of Justified so that I am finally completely caught up with my blogging. That will be a massive weight off my shoulder. Especially so I can sit back, relax, and enjoy the rest of my weekend. I’m going to a concert tomorrow and then hanging out with a friend afterwards. I really don’t want to spend the rest of this awesome weekend wondering if I have any blogging left do. One of the reasons I started this blog is because I didn’t have a real social life so I needed some constructive way to direct my free time. Suddenly, I actually have friends again and I live in a city where there is a never ending supply of fun things for me to do. I’d apologize for my blog suffering, but I do this work for me, and I’ve never been happier than I have these last two months (and especially these last two or three weeks).
Final Score: A
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
Well, after I finish this review, I will only have one disc of the superlative fifth season of Doctor Who to write about before this season draws to a close (and I’ve already watched the first episode of that disc. and it’s a good one). I had such massive reservations about beginning this season. I literally feared beginning it because I was worried that it was going to ruin the show forever because while the switch from Christopher Eccleston to David Tennant was easy to swallow, I spent much more time growing attached to David Tennant and the cynic inside of me just worried that we’d have to eventually get an inadequate Doctor eventually. Thank God that I couldn’t have been more wrong. With just two episodes left to go, unless they manage to screw the finale up royally, this has been without question the best season of the series yet. There’s not even any competition because the previous holder of that title (season 3) had its share of weak episodes.There hasn’t been a single weak episode this season, and I am an official convert of the Matt Smith/Steven Moffat years of Doctor Who.
After the Doctor lands in England in the 2020’s (after promising Rory and Amy a trip to Rio), the Doctor stumbles upon an impending invasion from a species known as the Silurians (a sentient lizard-race that had inhabited the Earth before humanity but have been exiled into caves in the center of the earth ever since losing the surface) after a drilling project nearly destroys their current home. When Amy and several members of the drilling team are taken hostage by the Silurians, the Doctor takes a hostage of his own to negotiate the release of his friends and to create a peace between the humans and Silurians. The Doctor tasks the remaining humans (led by Rory) to keep the hostage alive and “to be the best of humanity” but when one of the drillers is stung by the hostage and dying, his daughter tortures the Silurian to death when she won’t divulge the cure to her father’s poison. In the Silurian city, one of their generals has gone rogue in her wish to create a war with humanity and the murder of one of her soldiers (who is also her sister) is all it takes for the peace talks to fracture. As the Doctor, Amy, and Rory try to escape the Silurian city, Rory is killed (!!!!!!!!!!!!) saving Amy’s life and one of the cracks in times erases him from existence causing Amy to forget he even existed. The next episode involves Amy and the Doctor going to Holland in the 1890’s to meet Vincent Van Gogh as a mysterious monster that only Van Gogh can see is murdering the local population.
“The Hungry Earth”/”Cold Blood” was good if not quite as memorable as everything else so far (though the special effects work struck a wonderful chord between modern effects and the cheesiness of the original series) until we got to its truly shocking ending. Had I not known that Rory is actually still alive I would have been very, very upset although I’m actually a little more upset that the series didn’t have the stones to kill off such a major character permanently. With the exception of the Silurian Emperor (or whatever he was) and the scientist, the Silurian were all pretty one-dimensional but that was okay in the end because the episode didn’t really paint humanity in a much better light. I like it when the show isn’t afraid to capture that “humans are bastards” theme. Of course, I like my television morally ambiguous and cynical so I’m probably going to be disappointed in what is essentially a children’s show when it tries to be optimistic. The scenes where Rory dies and Amy is trying to hold on to her memories of him were wonderfully acted and some of the best dramatic moments of the series. “Vincent and the Doctor” now edges out “The Shakespeare Code” as my favorite historical figure episode of the series and one of my favorite episodes of this season. The man playing Vincent Van Gogh was stellar, and it was a highly emotional and surprisingly both dark and hopeful moment for the series. I could have done without the Brit-pop at the end but whatever. It’s a small complaint.
I can’t believe how quickly I’ve watched this season. It’s only going to end up taking me a little over a week to fly through it. I think I started it a week ago, and I’m going to finish it tomorrow. It’s just been spectacular. Doctor Who has been without fail the series that causes me to take extraordinarily long hiatuses between episodes because there’s nothing serialized happening to make me need to see what happens next. While there aren’t still a lot of serialized things happening this season, it’s done a phenomenal job of introducing the cracks stories into the alien of the week tales (it freaking erased Rory from existence!!) and the writing has just been so strong and imaginative that I haven’t cared that each weeks story is almost entirely self-contained. I can pretty well guarantee that I’m going to finish the season tomorrow. I’m going to start the sixth season of Dexter so that I can get right to the most recent season of Doctor Who and be all prepared for Series 7 when it begins this spring. It’s supposed to be Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill (Rory)’s last season as companions though not Matt Smith’s last season as the Doctor so he will surpass David Tennant in number of years helming the TARDIS.
Final Score: A-
I am just breezing right through this fifth season of Doctor Who, and I am beginning to have quite heretical thoughts about where it stands in the pantheon of the series. I’m still sick as I’m writing this post (and the fact that I ate some Cool Ranch Dorito’s has only made me sicker. I am, to put it politely, a dumbass sometimes) so it may not be especially involved because I just don’t want to spend a lot of time with my computer in my lap pushing against my upset stomach. Sorry all loyal readers (that means like 3 of you. I still don’t know how the hell the rest of my 250 views a day gets here), but we’ll have to wait til I’m better. I’ve actually been sick nearly the entire time that I’ve been here in NYC one way or the other. I’m sort of a sickly kid to begin with but this is getting sort of ridiculous. I have a friend in the city who is also from WV who tells me that she was sick for like the first six months she moved up here and that’s a common experience for all NY new-comers, and if that’s the case, I’m in for an unfortunate time (though my overall experience here has been so amazing that I’ll trade being sick here over being healthy in WV anyday). Anyways, back to Doctor Who!
The disc picks up mere seconds after the last one ended with the Doctor (and Amy, River, and the soldiers) surrounded by an army of Weeping Angels. The Doctor shot something on the spaceship which turned the anti-gravity back on and the crew were able to escape (even if ultimately, only the Doctor, River, and Amy survived the whole episode). Amy slowly starts to turn into an angel and the Doctor and Amy both realize that the crack from Amy’s wall (and every other episode of the season) has been showing up all over the universe. The Doctor uses the crack (which erases time itself) to defeat the Angels, but we know it won’t be the last we see of these cracks. After Amy tries to make the sexy time with the Doctor, the Doctor sets up Rory and Amy on a romantic date in 1580’s Venice, Italy, that quickly spirals out of control in classic Doctor fashion when it turns out that there are what appear to be vampires feeding on young women in the city. In the next episode, the Doctor, Rory, and Amy keep going back and forth between two different realities where they’re years in the future and Amy and Rory are married and Amy’s pregnant and then a reality where the TARDIS is dying and they’re slowly shuttling toward a “cold star” as a mysterious figure known as the Dream Lord tells them one reality is real and the other fake and they must die in the fake reality to ever wake up.
Like I said, I’m still a little on the sick side so I’m going to keep my assessments pretty short. “Flesh and Stone” was a marvelous way to end what began with “The Time of Angels,” and contained one of the best self-sacrifice moments of the series so far from the guy that plays Jorah Mormont on Game of Thrones as well as some truly genuinely terrifying moments when Amy was unable to open her eyes lest she become an Angel. Also, the way the episode integrated the story about the cracks in the universe into the actual plot was just brilliant. No other big bad of a season has fitted into an episode of Doctor Who (that wasn’t part of the season finale) as naturally as they did in “Flesh and Stone.” “Vampires in Venice” was good if not exceptional though it provided plenty of great comic moments. The Doctor jumping out of a cake at Rory’s stag party goes down as one of the first truly classic comic moments of Matt Smith’s tenure as the Doctor. And the psychic paper saying that Rory was Amy’s eunuch was pretty hilarious as well (and further proof of how terribly Amy had treated Rory up to this point). “Amy’s Choice” may have been the sleeper best of the disc especially in how I thought I knew the answer the whole episode and then the show confirmed my answer and then smacked me in the face at the last second and told me I was wrong. It had a superb mix of surrealist comedy (old people trying to break into a house for some reason made me think of the village scenes of Resident Evil 4 but in a hilarious light) and actually horrific moments. What makes DoctorWho work for me when I find myself outgrowing so much other science fiction is the tongue-in-cheek, intentionally campy (but self-aware) nature of the program and on “Amy’s Choice,” it really embraced the more bizarre aspects of the show.
Some quick thoughts before I go (and lie back down on my couch to watch Hugo which I have at home from Netflix!). I was glad to finally see Amy treat Rory with the love and respect that he deserves. He was starting to get more abused by Amy than Mickey was by Rose (because at least Rose was never Mickey’s fiancee), but it seems like Amy’s finally realized she loves Rory. It was very awkward (but hilarious) when Amy tried to make out with the Doctor, and I’m going to be honest. Had I been in the Doctor’s shoes at that moment, I wouldn’t have been able to turn down her feminine charms. Karen Gillan pretty much makes me say “damn” every time I see her. I can’t believe I’m already over half-way through the season. I’ve only got two discs left and I’m fairly certain I only started watching this season Sunday. Obviously, I’m enjoying it quite a bit, and I have no qualms saying that at this point, it’s the best season of the show. I’d choose David Tennant as the Doctor any day, but the writing has never been half as good as it is right now. Sorry Russel T. Davies. Steven Moffat is in a different league than you.
Final Score: A-