Doctor Who blog, Doctor Who season 5
Doctor Who Blog

Saturdays at 9:00 EST on BBC America

More TV Series Blogs / TV Home / Bullz-Eye Home

Post your blog comments at Premium Hollywood!



Doctor Who 5.13 - The Big Bang

And so we come to yet another season finale of the greatest science fiction series ever created. This is the recap I’ve been both anticipating and dreading writing in equal parts since first seeing “The Big Bang” some weeks ago; anticipating because of how much I adored this finale, and dreading because there’s no way I can do it justice in a mere recap. It’s not even an issue of space or time (or is it?), it’s a matter of the story, as well as the 12 episodes prior to it, being too dense to dissect thoroughly. You’ll have to forgive that this doesn’t resemble a recap proper, and I instead ramble on about other issues.

I didn’t go into “The Pandorica Opens” and “The Big Bang” expecting a whole lot, conditioned as I am on Russell T Davies’s extravagant-yet-ultimately-lightweight season finales. Don’t get me wrong, they were most always a great deal of fun, but they most always left me somewhat wanting - excepting Season Three’s Master trilogy, although I’m not sure that’s in line with popular opinion. Oh, and “The Parting of the Ways.” Wait a minute…I loved most of his finales! But I often felt as if they didn’t go as far as they could. Part of the way through the current season the Pandoricrack, as I’ve come to call it, started to annoy me, and I began not so much resenting the thread, but rather simply dismissing it – assuming that whatever it was about wouldn’t be terribly thrilling. It turned out to be not only thrilling, but strange and deep and stimulating. This was Steven Moffat’s trademark “Wibbly-Wobbly, Timey-Wimey” taken up to 11. (Maybe next year will go to 12?) This two-part finale forces viewers to go back and reexamine most of the season, and that isn’t something that can really be said for the Davies finales, which isn’t to imply they’re inferior. More on that later…

Here’s the thing, as great and complex as this finale (as well as the season) was, I don’t think there’s any way this could have been executed and accepted by the average BBC TV viewer five years ago when Davies unveiled his first season. It took five years worth of the less complex Davies structure, as well as him introducing and reintroducing all the ideas that make up this series, to get the show to a point where someone like Steven Moffat could come along and attempt something this elaborate. And make no mistake – it elaborate, not to mention confusing. (One need only to get an idea of how complexly structured the two-part finale is. Another great piece of reading is ) But this doesn’t come as a huge surprise. Even before he started working his magic on “Doctor Who,” as far back as “Coupling,” Moffat showed how skilled he was at twisting narrative structure around, and in that show he didn’t have the benefit of time travel as a means to accomplish it. So even though I’ve had issues from time to time with some of the choices Davies made during his tenure, I give him several warm rounds of applause for being the guy whose choices allowed for Steven Moffat to step up to the plate and give it a go. great that happens with “Doctor Who” in the coming years owes a huge debt to the groundwork laid by Russell T Davies.

Moffat is also clearly able to indulge in ludicrous flights of fancy in the same way Davies did. “If something can be remembered, it can come back.” What the fuck is all that about? It has no basis in science, not even wacky “Doctor Who” science, and yet it’s immensely pivotal to the story. There’s a poetry to it, no doubt, but it’s strictly fantasy, and really has no more business being a component of this series than the mumbo-jumbo sprinkled liberally throughout “The End of Time.” But “Doctor Who” is an ever-evolving beast, and it has to be to survive. These are the kind of ideas that it pulls out to assert its place in the TV universe. No other sci-fi series would dare display something so baroque, and ultimately its peculiar bits and bobs such as that are quickly becoming hallmarks of this show. Nevermind that Philip Hinchcliffe wouldn’t have dared try something of that ilk; the fact is Steven Moffat and it somehow works.

One of the serious ideas Moffat has brought to the series is the notion that “time can be rewritten,” which is in stark contrast to Davies use of “fixed points.” Fixed points indicate rules and structure; time can be rewritten means all bets are off. Now this isn’t necessarily a brilliant move on Moffat’s part, as much as it is a bold one. It says, “I’m not going to play by the rules. Instead I’m going to invent some new ones.” Steven Moffat’s style of writing practically begged for this development, as I suspect he’d have felt stifled by hanging onto the old rules. For some this could be considered heresy, but ultimately that’s what any good showrunner will do with this series. He or she will find a way – their way – to reinvent it. What’s interesting is how this is quite logically an extension of what was going on in the last few Davies specials, starting with “The Waters of Mars,” and the Doctor’s trashing of the fixed point at Bowie Base One, because as far as he was concerned, the Laws of Time were now his to play with. Furthermore, everything that went down with the Time Lords in “The End of Time” could easily have exacerbated this attitude in the Doctor. Whether Moffat and Davies ever discussed this we do not know, but it’s worked out beautifully, and it’s taken the series to a whole new, exciting level. Whether or not the Doctor will someday have to pay the piper remains to be seen, but for now it sure seems that his abilities to see through and manipulate time are at an all time high.

I also conjectured a while back that Moffat had a longer-range plan in mind than just the components of this season, and sure enough, we were left with numerous, important dangling threads. What is The Silence? Whose nasty, ugly voice is uttering those words? Who ‘sploded the TARDIS? Exactly how different is the rebooted universe of Big Bang 2? Oh, and pretty much everything about River Song, who remains almost as much of a mystery as she did when we first met her in Season Four. If time can be rewritten, does that mean it’s possible that River’s death will not be in the Library after all? (By the way, Alex Kingston was especially strong in this hour.) Exactly how far does Moffat plan to take this idea? This show can seemingly go anywhere it wants at this point. I suppose that’s always been the case, but it’s feeling unusually fresh at the moment. Moffat had a very tough job putting his stamp on “Who” after the Davies renaissance, but now he’s got an entire season under his belt, and I’d like to believe that Season Six will be considerably tighter. For the time being though, just the seasonal arc as presented in “The Eleventh Hour”, the Weeping Angels two-parter, and the two part season finale is a five hour testament to what Moffat’s capable of doing with this series.

Finally we come to Matt Smith. Taking over from David Tennant’s near-unanimously beloved portrayal was never going to be an easy task for any actor. When Smith was announced it was very easy to be skeptical about what he could bring to the table. Right off the bat, his age seemed as if it could work against him. The fact that he was a total unknown didn’t seem to help matters. And yet he somehow projects all the hundreds of years the Doctor has lived seemingly effortlessly. Back before there ever was a new series, I think every “Doctor Who” fan had his or her idea of what they thought a new Doctor should be like. Matt Smith is almost alarmingly close to what I’d always thought a modern Doctor should be like – a heroic fogey trying desperately to get with the times; someone who’s equal parts clueless and clued in. Christopher Eccleston and Tennant were both great Doctor’s as well, but neither of them had a true sense of the alien about them. They sort of tried to chisel it into Eccleston, but there was so much going on with reinventing the series at the time, I don’t think it was the kind of thing that anyone really concentrated on. (Who knows what Eccleston may have done with the character had he done another season?) Tennant never seemed even remotely alien, and that’s fine. Not every Doctor must project that (Peter Davison certainly didn’t, and he was a great Doctor). Smith loses himself in the alien nature of this character. It’s a gorgeous thing to behold, and I imagine he’ll only get stronger and stranger as time moves on. The man is a fine actor and this series is lucky to have him.

If you’ve been reading throughout this season, I’d like to extend a thank you to you – and then an even bigger thank you to those of you who took time out to drop some comments my way. That really makes my day, when a reader takes the time to write a few words. I hope you’ve enjoyed this season as much as I have, and until Christmas, I think it’s time to say goodbye. So, goodbyyyyyyyye!

_____________________________________________

No DVDs to recommend this week. Instead I want to recommend a book: . I finally just found a copy of it myself today, and I’ve been paging through it and it appears to be every bit as good as everyone says it is. If you really want to have a better understanding of what it takes to put this series together, there is no better text. Make sure and pick up the edition subtitled “The Final Chapter,” as that includes an extra 300 pages worth of material that wasn’t in the previous edition.

(Thanks as always to for the screencaps.)

Doctor Who 5.12 - The Pandorica Opens

Doctor Who 5.11 - The Lodger

Each season of the new “Doctor Who” has one or two “experimental” episodes - stories that just don’t feel like anything that’s come before. Thus far, most - if not all - of these stories have been successes. and have arguably been highlights in each of their seasons. It’s noteworthy that all but one of those was written by Russell T. Davies (and of course the one that wasn’t, “Blink,” was written by Steven Moffat). Davies seemed to be giving himself chances to think outside the [police?] box, and do something radical and different with the series on each occasion. I’m still not sure whether (which, like this one, was also directed by Catherine Moreshead) should be lumped into this group, but surely “The Lodger” is oddball enough to add to the list. So how does it stack up?

Well, it’s worth pondering why the story was made in the first place. For starters, it was very likely a chance to save some money. Aside from the episode’s climax, most of this tale is just people involved in seemingly everyday situations. But I think maybe there was more to it than just saving cash. Aside from “Boom Town,” the aforementioned stories were all designed to give the lead actors breaks. Given that this was the inaugural season of a new era for the show, it probably would have been a risky move to write the Doctor and Amy out for the bulk of a story, so instead what “The Lodger” does is remove Karen Gillan for most of the episode, while allowing Matt Smith the chance to chill out and just banter with () for an hour. Oh, and he also gets to play football, but since Smith has a history with the game, that probably wasn’t too taxing for him – the guy looks like he had a blast in that scene. Yes, for those of you who don’t know, Matt Smith once upon a time had dreams of being footballer, but a back injury led to him taking up acting instead.

Unlike Davies however, Moffat handed the oddball story over to Gareth Roberts, who has a long and winding history with “Doctor Who.” He’s one of “those” writers who’s been tied to it in one form or another for seemingly forever. I’m not familiar with the prose work he’s done over the years, so I can only really judge him on the scripts he’s written for the series, most of which haven’t been any great shakes. I quite liked back when it was broadcast, but time hasn’t been too kind to my opinion of it. The following year he did which I hated then, and hate only slightly less now. A recent viewing of it on BBC America led me to take it less seriously than I did a couple years ago, and hence, I was able to laugh at it a little more. The ending and the idea behind it is still pants though.

Then Roberts co-wrote with Davies, and we all know – the visuals aside – how underwhelming that one was. On the other hand, and to play fair, Roberts has also written for “The Sarah Jane Adventures,” and typically the best episodes of that show have been his – although that isn’t saying much when you consider the generally dire quality of the stories produced for that series. Then again, I’m not really the show’s target audience. I originally believed it was made for fans of Lis Sladen & Sarah Jane Smith, but it’s not. It’s for kids obsessed with the new series that can’t wait a whole year for the next season, so “Sarah Jane” comes along in the autumn to tide them over. In any case, I’ve seen numerous interviews with the man, and he seems like a really good, intelligent, thoughtful guy, and I’m sure we’d get along great provided he didn’t ask me what I thought of his “Doctor Who” stories.

Ahem, clearly I have digressed. My apologies. Back to “The Lodger,” which is about a half a good episode, and half not so much. The domestic stuff between the Doctor, Craig (Corden) and Sophie () is wonderful – really, really fun material that’s the best thing Roberts has yet to contribute to the series. The sci-fi stuff with the alien timeship upstairs is – you guessed it – pants. From the start, the Doctor moving in and renting a room from Craig is ripe with possibility. Craig and Sophie have this mutual unrequited love, and the Doctor steps smack in the middle of it. He’s supposed to be concentrating on what’s upstairs, and yet he’s hesitant to confront whatever it is head on – going so far as to not use the sonic screwdriver, as he doesn’t want to alert the presence upstairs. This strikes me as very hollow.

He’s separated from his TARDIS and clearly somebody’s screwing with time, so why doesn’t he just confront whatever’s upstairs? People are dying, right under his very nose (although admittedly he seems unaware of this fact). It’s very out of character for the Doctor to not just take the situation in hand. Or is it his chance to, even for a few days, live a normal life that keeps him distracted? It’s never explicitly stated in the episode, but he seems far more interested in what’s going on with Craig and Sophie than he does in getting to the bottom of his problem. In order for this episode to work, you almost have to give yourself over to the notion that the chance to just be a guy for a few days is far more interesting to him than the nightmare above. He’s mentioned this in the past numerous times – how people get to live lives that he isn’t able to. Here, for a few days, he lives one of those lives, and he really basks in it, so perhaps that’s the only way to read the episode.

The relationship between the Doctor and Craig is lovely, due to two great performances from the leads. We already know Smith is great, but having never seen an episode of “Gavin & Stacey,” I didn’t know what to expect from Corden. I had a vibe that he’d be playing a more boisterous character, not someone as withdrawn as Craig is. His friendship with the Doctor is like two little boys learning how to play together. I really felt for the guy and his failure to tell Sophie how he feels. In particular, the shot of him standing alone on the grass once the Doctor has stolen all the thunder in the football game is sad and pathetic and it works. I feel like I’ve seen that happen before. In fact, I was probably that guy.

Later on, when the Doctor takes Craig’s place at work (after saving his life), he really starts to lose it, and when he thinks the Doctor’s moving in on Sophie, it’s just too much for him to take. Funny thing is, the Doctor is oblivious to all of this. One thing that’s been played up with the Eleventh Doctor is how out of touch he is with humans and their feelings, and how he simply doesn’t see the smallest things. Case in point: when he first moves in, and Craig is trying to explain to him that should he want to bring someone around, arrangements can be made so that he can have privacy…and the Doctor (much as he didn’t get Amy hitting on him at the end of ). It’s hilarious to watch stuff like this, and it’s one of only many reasons I’m so taken with Smith’s alien portrayal.

There’s a bunch of other great, little stuff littered throughout the episode, too: The Doctor wearing a #11 jersey for the football game; the head butting scene in which the Doctor imparts the entirety of who he is on Craig; the van Gogh exhibit postcard on the refrigerator; the contraption the Doctor builds in his room (he built a much smaller version of this thing in “The Time Monster”); the implication that at some point after the story the Doctor and Amy both travel to points and fix things so the events we see here can work out properly; the rot on the ceiling, which is not unlike the Pandoricrack in concept; the Doctor spitting his wine back into his glass; Amy finding the ring in the final moments; and no doubt many viewers enjoyed watching Smith prance around in only a towel for one scene, as well as him mistakenly think an electric toothbrush was the sonic screwdriver.

But unfortunately most everything that happens when the story comes to a head is very boring, or at least not as good as all that came before it. We never find out exactly who was behind the ship, which leaves the episode feeling incomplete, and don’t get me started on the perception filter. Some people may be tired of the sonic screwdriver, but I’m sick and tired of perception filters. And in this case – and please correct me if I’m wrong – this perception filter somehow has the ability to build a flight of stairs that doesn’t actually exist, and yet characters and cats are able to run up and down them? I don’t get it. It’s just this gigantic hole in the story that makes everything on that top floor (which is actually the roof of the building) seem really phony. And frankly, as novel as the head butting scene is, I can’t help but think Craig’s head would have exploded having been saddled with all that information, but maybe I’m over thinking it all. “The Lodger” is good, but not great, and certainly not as groundbreaking as the episodes I mentioned at the top of the recap. But perhaps it’s unfair to make that comparison, since we’re in a whole new era, and there’s a much different approach being taken with this season than the Davies seasons that came before it.

Lastly, “The Lodger” was based on that was also written by Gareth Roberts for the Tenth Doctor and Rose, while Mickey stood in for Craig. I’ve not read the comic, but would certainly be interested in giving it a look, and apparently you can find it in , or in the graphic novel collection (what a title!).

__________________________________________________ All hell is going to break loose when “The Pandorica Opens,” in the first half of the two-part season finale. You don’t want to miss this one, folks.

Since I mentioned it in the review, I might as well go ahead and recommend the just released starring Jon Pertwee, Katy Manning and Roger Delgado. Or if this isn't up your alley, maybe you should check out where you see Peter Davison playing cricket with as much fervor as Smith plays football.

(Thanks as always to for the screencaps.)

Doctor Who 5.10 - Vincent and the Doctor

Doctor Who: 5.8 - The Hungry Earth / 5.9 - Cold Blood

Last week I posted a quick update saying that I would wait until this week to write about both of these episodes, but that “The Hungry Earth” was a “very setup.” Having had a week to reflect on that, I’m not so sure that’s the case, and yet I still think “The Hungry Earth” is a very or at least reasonably good episode, but perhaps not an effective setup for “Cold Blood,” unless you enjoy bait and switch. The tone and feel of “The Hungry Earth” is vastly different than “Cold Blood” (how about from here on out I refer to the episodes as and respectively?), and a fairly inconsequential amount of the information the episode delivers has much of anything to do with the second half. Probably the single most important bit that carries over from one episode to the next is the Doctor, Amy, and Rory seeing future versions of Amy and Rory off in the distance at the very start, but we’ll get to that in due course.

plays like one part spooky horror story and one part scientific fiasco. It’s a clear homage not so much to the classic series Silurians tales, but other stories from the Jon Pertwee era like “Inferno” and “The Daemons.” Heck, even the earth swallowing people up takes me back to Peter Davison’s “Frontios.” One of the things that I’ve really enjoyed about this season is the conscious decision to go for more rural settings, as opposed to the urban backdrops which so dominated the Davies era. It’s given the season a much different texture, and one that’s a welcome change, and you can’t get much more rural than the countryside, an old church and graveyard, and a tiny cast. In so many ways both and are perhaps the closest to classic “Doctor Who” the new series has yet produced, which I’m not entirely sure is a good thing, because trying to hammer an old formula into a new box is an often dicey proposition, and I quite honestly am not sure if it works all that well here. The best episodes of the new series have been the ones that did something with “Doctor Who” that we’ve never seen before, and if the new series has proven anything, it’s that it’s best to keep moving forward.

And yet there were numerous great moments in . One of them was the scene where Amy woke up encased in a Silurian briefcase. That gave me the cold shivers, which is something that “Doctor Who” often aims to do, but (at least for me) rarely succeeds at. The second was the scene where the Doctor “lost” Elliot (Samuel Davies), and the fallout from him doing so. The Doctor looked so beaten in that moment, as if he’d really failed. Speaking of Elliot, here’s another kid, which you may recall earlier this season. Thing is, I really, really liked Elliot in , but by the time we got to , he could’ve been any character of any age, and his only function seemed to be that the young are the most open-minded people on the planet, which is a nice, and perhaps truthful sentiment, but not one I needed or cared to see hammered home. The final reveal of the underground Silurian city is another great moment, but it’s also one whose promise isn’t really met in . It looks as though we’re going to be getting something monumental in that we ultimately never get. I’d never go so far as to call these two episodes “bad” or to say I didn’t like them, but when compared to the previous “second two-parters of the season” (think, “The Empty Child,” “The Impossible Planet,” and “Human Nature”), this seems to be lacking in ambition and scope. I had really high expectations for this 90-minute block – expectations that ultimately weren’t met.

The Silurians (or whatever we are or aren’t calling them at this point) were one of the great concepts in classic “Doctor Who.” Instead of the two old sci-fi standards of “they come to us” or “we go to them,” the idea was that “they” were here long before “us.” Humans became the invaders on their own soil. Writer Malcolm Hulke did a solid job filling out and exploring these ideas in Jon Pertwee’s second serial, “Doctor Who and the Silurians,” and then he came back a few years later with “The Sea Devils,” in which the Doctor met the aquatic relatives of the Silurians, and then 10 or so years later Peter Davison encountered both races in the year 2084 in the lackluster tale “Warriors of the Deep” (which wasn’t written by Hulke). All three tales are available on DVD in the , and each of these stories amounted to a moral dilemma for the Doctor, as he tried desperately to broker peace between the two species, and they always ended badly, with no clear winners. This new two-parter (or at least ) tells the same story, once again, which isn’t a problem for anyone who hasn’t seen all the old serials, but for those of us who have, when all is said and done, there’s bound to be a “That’s it?” as the final credits roll.

Well, maybe not, as finished off with a one-two punch that has little to do with the story, and more to do with seasonal Pandorica arc (there seems to be a lot of that this season). The ending of is such a narrative shock that it leaves one forgetting how rote much of what came before really was - again, at least for old school fans, and since I am one, I can’t write from any other perspective. The only major difference between this tale and the serials of old is that it ends on a considerably happier note, and instead of some mass slaughter, the Silurians go into hibernation for another thousand years. Really what the story feels like is, ironically enough, a setup for the return of Silurians, presumably next season, which I welcome, because there surely must be a great deal of untapped potential in this concept provided someone actually takes us there. So much of the dialogue and so many of the situations in this story seem inspired by or ripped directly from all the previous homo reptilia tales, that I’m surprised Malcolm Hulke didn’t get a co-writing credit next to Chris Chibnall. But I’m loath to hold any of this against the story, because the concept needed to be re-established for modern audiences unfamiliar with the originals, and Hulke did such a bang-up job back in the ‘70s, that maybe there was almost no other way to accomplish this than by going back to the concept’s roots, given how original it is as sci-fi concepts go. The Silurians are a fascinating enough race that they deserve to get the same kind of returning screentime that the Daleks and the Cybermen do. This could go on for a long time on this series, with all kinds of twists and turns along the way.

Probably the most frustrating aspect of in particular is the Doctor’s ongoing insistence at brokering peace between the two species. On three occasions he’s learned that this doesn’t work, so why would he possibly think it would be a success this time? Why is he so optimistic? The human race seems worse than ever before, so why is he being so fucking blind to the truth? Once again, for anyone who’s seen the classic serials, this just makes no sense. I’m very interested to hear opinions from fans that’ve never seen the classic serials, so by all means, fill up the comments section below with your thoughts on this story.

Finally, we must cover the one-two punch. The death of Rory – the real death of Rory, instead of the bogus one we got in It’s a well played scene, with the Pandoricrack erasing him from time itself - and Amy's memory - afterwards. Really, really great stuff from all parties involved, and a real punch to the gut, as is the wraparound bit where Amy is now standing solo in the distance. All that said, there’s no fucking way this guy is gone from the series. This was a massive fakeout if ever I’ve seen one, and I’m quite sure he’ll somehow come back to life in the two-part season finale. (Perhaps Rory will become the “Doctor Who” equivalent of “South Park’s” Kenny?) And then there’s that chunk of the TARDIS the Doctor pulled out of the Pandoricrack. What the hell is going on there? I get bored with speculating and much prefer to let this series wash over me, but I always love hearing what others think is around the corner, so let’s hear it, kids. Since Part One of the finale is playing in the U.K. this weekend, keep your comments relevant to what’s been shown in the U.S. No cheating or spoiling if you’re ahead of the game.

Oh yeah – one last thing. A couple of my “Doctor Who” peeps and I came up with a Facebook group recently. It’s called and I think the name of the group is fairly self-explanatory in a Betty White/SNL kind of way. If you agree with the idea, please join this group, and suggest it to as many people as you can. Don’t worry, it’s a quiet group, and we won’t bombard your FB page with all sorts of nonsense. We just want to see the member count grow and grow, until Steven Moffat has no choice but to offer Mr. Barker a shot at writing an episode of “Doctor Who.” __________________________________________________ The Doctor meets Vincent Van Gogh, in the Richard Curtis penned episode “Vincent and the Doctor.” Having already seen this episode, I will boldly proclaim it unquestionably the best episode of the season, so by all means don’t miss out. I honestly can’t recall if I’ve ever recommended the final story of the ‘60s, before, but I’m recommending it now if for no other reason than because it’s an important story that everyone needs to see (well, the final episode of its 10-part girth is anyway).

(Thanks as always to for the screencaps.)

The "Doctor Who" blog is taking the week off

Doctor Who 5.7 - Amy's Choice

Here we are, more or less mid-season, and as someone who’s recapping this block of episodes week in and out, as well as someone who’s been deconstructing this series for years now, I’m frankly a bit flummoxed by Steven Moffat’s inaugural year. It’s starting to feel as if the season is only going to make total sense once it’s over and done with. Some time ago, long before the season began, Moffat was saying that he wanted the season to be referred to as Season One, rather than Season Five, and that’s starting to make a whole lot more sense. Aside from the occasional references to the past, everything about this year feels as if some kind of reset button has been hit, and yet it remains difficult to watch without bringing the baggage of the last five years into the equation, even though I’m fairly certain Moffat would prefer that we didn’t. I mean, it’s hard to picture a character like Mickey Smith, for instance, fitting into any part of this narrative in any kind of believable manner, and yet you almost want somebody like him to turn up in a scene just to remind you that you’re still watching the same show.

I continue to want to compare this material to stuff from seasons’ past, and yet this nagging feeling keeps telling me that’s just an unfair thing to do. I wonder if Moffat’s even got some kind of grand master plan that extends beyond this block of 13 episodes? None of this means I’m not enjoying the season, just that it’s a much different kind of enjoyment than what I’ve become accustomed to during the Davies years, which began feeling predictable about three years in. Say what you will about this season, but, at least at this stage, it is most certainly not predictable. In some ways watching this season is as disorienting as the predicament in which our heroes find themselves in this week’s episode. As viewers, we’re experiencing a new reality of the series, while we keep thinking back on what we came to know prior to this season’s start. Which is the real “Doctor Who?” The Davies or the Moffat era? Both, or maybe neither? I’ll likely elaborate on all of this further during the final recap of the season.

Moving on to “Amy’s Choice,” which is a story that seems primarily designed to screw with your head. It seemingly takes place in two different realities – one is set five years in Amy and Rory’s future, and the other is set in the TARDIS of the present, assuming the word present can ever be used in relation to the TARDIS, anyway. In the future storyline, Amy and Rory have long since left the Doctor behind, and they’re living in Leadworth, married and expecting a child. A surprise visit from the Doctor leads to bad things, as is to be expected, and the trio discover that an alien race called the Eknodine are disguised as the elderly townsfolk, and these creatures have the ability to kill simply by breathing on people. In the other reality, the trio is stranded in a dead TARDIS, which is drifting toward a burning, frozen star.

The Dream Lord appears, played by , an actor who’s becoming a ubiquitous screen presence, which is odd to say the least, as he’s a very funny looking little man, whom one might assume would have trouble finding work based on his appearance alone. That doesn’t seem to be the case though, as he even managed to land a villainous role in the upcoming “Captain America” movie. The Dream Lord, who at first is dressed like the Doctor, appears to be operating on several levels. On the surface is the dilemma of the two realities which he’s presented to the crew, but beneath that resides something more sinister and complex. He seems hell bent on causing a rift amongst the TARDIS trio, by exposing the weaknesses of each character.

Once again, the idea that either the Doctor or Rory is an interloper in Amy’s life is a theme, although this is clearly the hardest the point has been hit home yet. It’s certainly an interesting proposition, because even though the Doctor is the main character of the series, and the one with whom our sympathies naturally lay, I think we want to believe he’s the since he’s the one who’s interrupted Amy’s life time and again since she was a child. And again, because we know the drama of this series in a way that Amy does not, we as viewers are well aware of how south events could possibly go for Amy should she continue on with the Doctor and his travels. But then again, hasn’t the Doctor been a more important part of her psyche for a longer period of time than Rory? Why Rory the interloper here? The conundrum is much like the episode itself. Surely the Leadworth storyline is the false reality, and the TARDIS scenario is the truth? Or is it? Both scenarios fit in equally well within the universe of “Who,” and both are presented as equally real. Eventually, the Dream Lord turns the situation into Amy’s choice, hence the title. Which reality would she rather live in? Soon enough, the decision is practically made for her when Rory is turned to dust in the Leadworth scenario, and she chooses the TARDIS reality in lieu of losing Rory forever, based on the idea that life isn’t worth living without him.

Back in the frozen TARDIS - which, by the way, is a lovely sight to behold - all three characters wake up. Clearly this was correct choice, right? Well, assuming you’ve seen the episode, and I can’t imagine you’d be reading this if you haven’t, you also know that there are two final twists in “Amy’s Choice.” The first is that realities were the result of some psychic pollen that got stuck in the TARDIS console, and the second is that the Dream Lord was some sort of psychic projection of the Doctor himself, an idea which really takes the entire episode to a whole different, malevolent level: Some twisted, self-loathing part of the Doctor’s persona caused all of this.

This is an idea that was previously explored back during the Colin Baker era, in the , with the character of the Valeyard, who was said to be an amalgam of the darkest sides of the Doctor’s persona, that came from somewhere in between his twelfth and final incarnations. Of course, the new series has yet to ever mention the previously established 12-regeneration limit, and since the term Valeyard was never used here we can’t be sure it’s the same creature, but the Dream Lord sure seemed comparable to the Valeyard, and even the way he flitted around by disappearing and reappearing was identical to how the Valeyard moved in the final episodes of the Baker serial. Further, the fact that the Doctor knew who the Dream Lord was all along would seem to lend the idea that they’re one and the same some credence. I’d like to see more of this being and hopefully this isn’t the last of him, as the idea seems ripe with possibility. Hopefully Toby Jones doesn’t become so immensely popular that he doesn’t have time to return to the part should the situation arise.

“Amy’s Choice” is a deceptively tight episode. How good it is doesn’t really come home until the final moments. It was written by , who’s best known in the U.K. as the creator of the classic sitcom Of course you wouldn’t know that this was written by a comedy writer any more than you’d know that “Blink” was written by the same man who wrote “Coupling,” such is the versatility of the people who work on this show. While “Amy’s Choice” does have some humor (all the stuff with the old folks was hilarious), it remains a fairly dark and disturbing, highly emotional episode, loaded with character. Granted, the birdsong that signaled the switching of realities as well as the crew falling asleep and waking up got a tad repetitive after a while, but such is the nature of a piece of TV like this. The overall idea behind the episode isn’t terribly original and in fact when it was all over and done with, I couldn’t help but think back on it and feel that the whole thing smacked of fanfic (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing), but ultimately the execution of it was done well enough to justify having made the episode in the first place.

__________________________________________________ It’s the return of a classic “Who” race known as The Silurians, in “The Hungry Earth.” Do I or do I not recommend ? I think I do. It stars Jon Pertwee and it rocks, even at seven episodes.

(Thanks as always to for the screencaps.)

Doctor Who 5.6 - The Vampires of Venice

Doctor Who 5.5 - Flesh and Stone

Now I’d had a little bit to drink – OK, a lot to drink – before I watched “Flesh and Stone,” and when it was over I swore it was the best episode of new “Who” ever. Upon sobering up, I watched it again. It was not the best episode of new “Who” ever…but it was still pretty damn great, and certainly both parts of this story combined make for one helluva sterling example of what makes the new series tick. Indeed, from now on, when I want to turn somebody on to this show, it may very well be through this two-parter.

, which essentially boils down to “the resolve is rarely as good as the hang.” In this case that probably still holds, but Moffat came awfully close to equaling the hang by delivering a way out of an impossible situation that was surprising and fun. I’m not sure it made a whole lot of sense – the destruction of the gravity globe gave them an updraft? They must make this shit up as they go along (of course, how else do you do it?). The shifting of the camera turning around to show the group on ceiling was gorgeous and great little reveal. But the save is short-lived, and the Angels are restoring themselves via the power of the Byzantium. Everybody follows the Doctor into the ship, and once again, the camera has a lot of fun here – the shot of the Doctor standing upright as Amy looks down the hole at him.

Then the story shifts into an action flick. The Angels attack in the dark in a thrilling, claustrophobic sequence, peppered with further tension between River (Alex Kingston) and Octavian (Iain Glen). What is this woman hiding? It’s within this sequence that we first hear Amy says the number 10. There’s really so much going on in the action arena in this section of the episode that it’d be pointlessly drab to recap it, and yet it’s amazing to watch. Once they discover the forest within the ship, the story pulls back on the action, but not the tension. It just keeps building. The gimmick of Amy counting down heightens, and during the conversation with Angel Bob, the Doctor finally snaps, and gets to the bottom of what’s going on with the countdown, and it appears Amy looks into the eyes of the videotaped Angel for a tad too long in the previous episode. And as if not enough is going on by this point, the crack from Amy’s wall makes another appearance, only this time everyone sees it. Octavian leads the group away from the crack and into the forest while the Doctor stays behind to investigate the crack. While he’s doing so, the Angels mount yet another attack, this time against the Doctor solo. Particularly effective is the shot of the Angel grabbing the Doctor’s jacket. He manages to worm his way out of his jacket while talking to the Angels about the crack and runs off into the forest.

Again, most of this stuff makes for a lousy recap, but it’s so much damn fun to watch. It’s like trying to explain why “Die Hard” is great action movie by telling someone who hasn’t seen it about John McClane tying himself to a fire hose and jumping off a building in his bare feet. There’s no substitute for the real thing, and it’s rather silly to break it all down, because it wasn’t written to be deconstructed - it was written and directed to be a thrill ride. So kudos to Steven Moffat for writing a cracking screenplay that Adam Smith then proceeded to direct the hell out of. With this two-parter, Moffat has really redeemed himself as both a writer and a showrunner. This is the kind of fare I expected from him but wasn’t getting in 5.2 and 5.3. Adding to that, if this is Moffat’s version of the action-packed two-parters that always featured early in the Davies era, then blow me down. This is scads better than stuff like “Rise of the Cybermen” and “The Sontaran Strategem.” It’s not that those stories were bad, but they always felt like the bubblegum installments of their seasons, whereas this may also be bubblegum, but it’s bubblegum that keeps its flavor for a long, long time; in the midst of all this action, there’s room for great character development, stellar acting and strong drama. Oh, you know what else is mildly noteworthy? As I understand it, these two episodes were the first of the season that were shot, so it’s fascinating to note how firm a grasp Matt Smith and Karen Gillan had on not only their roles, but also the concept of the series at this early stage in the game. I’d speculate on what it must have been like to work through the lame scripts for “The Beast Below” and “Victory of the Daleks” after shooting fare like this first, but I’d best not. Surely these two actors had the time of their lives while making this season no matter how weak any given script may have been.

The worsening of Amy’s condition is another episode highlight. The Doctor doesn’t put on the kid gloves either, which is alien to say the least. That’s a side of the Doctor we didn’t get a whole lot of with Tennant. He matter of factly tells her she dying and to shut up! Loved the moment of rage the Doctor feels when Angel Bob tells him that the countdown is for fun, and the Doctor throws the communicator at the ground. Smith has a way of flitting back and forth between comedy and drama that’s just mesmerizing. I hope I never come to predict what he’s going to do next, as that would be a huge shame. Right now, everything he does is so perfectly played it’s as if he’s not even acting. I’ve bitched a fair amount about Amy’s lack of character in recent times, but in this story she shines. She’s so vulnerable in these scenes with her eyes closed. I particularly liked her delivery of the line “You always say that,” which in its own way makes all the time they’ve spent apart onscreen so far kinda sorta OK.

One moment that’s seems to have gotten fandom all flustered involves the bit where the Doctor comes back to Amy and holds her hand after he’s already seemingly walked away. First off, it must be said that theories like this are precisely why I hate reading fan ramblings, because all too often they make a very good case, and yet they still end up being wrong, which can be very frustrating for those of us who go ahead and get in our heads that they must be right. In this instance, the theory is driven by the fact that the Doctor, in extreme close-up, appears to be wearing his jacket, when he clearly lost it several scenes back with the Angels. The idea proposed here is that this is some Doctor from a future part of the season who’s come back to help Amy through this tough time. The jacket aside, it makes a certain sort of sense what with the way the scene is shot and played. It’s very different in tone than what precedes it. Of course, there are Clerics standing around – wouldn’t they notice this second Doctor popping in? Of course if you take the jacket out of the equation, I’m not sure the theory holds up. It could just be a continuity error. Go back and check it out.

The crack, which we actually learn very little about here, seems to have the ability to swallow people up, as well as screw with the memories of those in the vicinity. I’m sure we’ll learn much more about the crack as the season progresses. Octavian’s death scene is outstanding, as is the dialogue the Doctor has with him prior to his passing. Wow. That was incredible. And then there’s the scene where Amy must navigate her way through the Angels with her eyes closed, all while pretending they’re open. Does this work or not? It contradicts everything we’ve been told about the Angels thus far. I vote for yes it does, because in order for these enemies to remain an effective foe, there are always going to have to be new angles through which they’re explored. We finally get to see the Angels moving, which is truly creepy. And in the end, they all get sucked away by the Doctor turning off the gravity, which sort of takes me back to the climax of “Doomsday.”

Actually, that’s not the ending – no, the ending sees the Doctor taking Amy back to her home so she can show him the wedding dress, and explain about her upcoming wedding to Rory, at which point she attacks him in a fit of lust! My, how “Doctor Who” has changed over the years! I loved this scene, as it puts a finer point on their relationship, and not one that I think anyone saw coming. We had loads of romance in the Davies years but here it’s just sex – sex that the Doctor wants no part of! It’s hilarious. The scene seemingly caused some controversy over in Britain where some deemed it too salty for a family series. To those people I say get a grip, or perhaps get laid. If you can’t have fun with this scene, I’ve a feeling the rest of the season may not set well with you either. I doubt this was an isolated incident as far as sexuality goes in Moffat’s vision of the show, and while I don’t think we’re ever going to see anything truly offensive or over the line, I suspect this is an angle he’s going to play around with in his era. He is, after all, the guy who wrote “Coupling.” But then again, this is also the last Moffat-written script we're going to get this season until the two-part finale. Here's to hoping for some great, distinctive voices coming out of the woodwork in his absence.

__________________________________________________ Take a trip with the Doctor, Amy and Rory to 15th century Italy in “Vampires in Venice” which is written by Toby Whithouse, who wrote "School Reunion" in Season Two, and is also the creator of "Being Human," so we can assume he knows a thing or two about fangs. Just in time to get you ready for next week’s episode is the recently released Tom Baker/Elisabeth Sladen classic, which also takes place in 15th century Italy!

(Thanks as always to for the screencaps.)

Doctor Who 5.4 – The Time of Angels

Visit Premium Hollywood for more episode blogs!

You can follow us on Twitter and Facebook for content updates. Also, sign up for our email list for weekly updates and check us out on Google+ as well.

Around the Web
ENTERTAINMENT NEWS