Tuesday, 29 June 2010

The Ultimate Who Review: Series 5

Why Moffat’s reinvention of Britain’s greatest TV show is the best it’s ever been…

Okay I’ll be the first to admit it, when Matt Smith’s Doctor burst on to our screens on new year’s day in the crashing TARDIS, I was more than apprehensive about his ability to take on the reigns of such an iconic character, especially after everyone’s love an devotion to Tennant’s brilliant portrayal of our favourite Time Lord. Even after three episodes (as you may have seen in one of my previous posts) I remained unconvinced that letting RTD and Tennant leave was a good idea. It’s true, this series had a slightly rocky start, but there have been so many brilliant episodes and since the disappointing narrative of ‘Victory of the Daleks’ the show has just gone from strength to strength. I never could have imagined that after my great love for David Tennant’s Doctor that I would be so impressed and so fond of our new 11th regeneration.

Matt Smith’s Doctor reverts himself back to the attitude of older Doctors like Pertwee’s third incarnation – fiery in temper, head strong, traditional fondness of peculiar dress, animated and exciting to a level where we can’t predict any moves he makes. It’s thanks to Matt’s performance and personal adaption of the character that we see older traditions of Doctor Who colliding with new ones; which is particularly interesting as he’s the youngest actor to play our time travelling hero. Each Doctor seems to have something about him that follows his character through everything he does, a central theme that can sum up his journey through seasons. Eccleston's was his loss of Gallifrey, the haunting of the Time War, the fact he was ‘born in battle and bloodshed’ as Tennant put it. Tennant’s Doctor expanded on this theme but in the end it was all about Rose and it was all about love. Our Tenth Doctor was so unlucky in love on so many levels that we felt for him so much, and after his first season he never got the chance to fulfil that yearning for love – all the way up to his regeneration, which is why we felt so bad to see our lonely Doctor go without giving his full potential; “so much more” as he said. However, Matt Smith’s Doctor has completely dropped that theme, maybe Moffat isn’t such a fan of it, as we never see the Eleventh Doctor even try anything with Amy, despite her numerous attempts to get past his suspenders and into his pants. In stead, he remains clear headed in his intentions and it is only River Song who we see him taking a real fondness to at the very end of the season.

Speaking of other characters, the companions of this series were brilliant. Amy is not only attractive but funny, sparky and flamboyant – she takes the  idea of the Doctor’s sidekick to a whole new level. Though the fiery red head is seen as the Doctor’s companion in this series, but Rory’s character appears in so many episodes that he can be karen_gillan_01_1024seen as one too, and his true importance shines through right to the end, which was really nice to see; even though his character is by no means easy to stomach at the best of times. The return of River Song was a welcoming flashback to season 4 and keeps us connected to earlier events…or future events in her view I guess. Either way, her performances get stronger and stronger – which is reassuring for her future performances.

It’s important to recognise that not only did the characters change completely when we saw Tennant go (the entire reasoning behind ‘The End of Time’ was simply to say goodbye to all those RTD characters, which is what made it a bit disappointing) but the entire way the show is created has changed too. From a production point of view, the show looks so much more real, the filming style is grittier and more dramatic – with a slower frame rate that gives it that cinematic feel. It was always my opinion that, despite how much I loved the Eccleston and Tennant years, they remained very cartoony. Davies had managed to reignite that camp and silly look of classic Doctor Who with the rubber suits and bad puppetry, which in effect kept it very British and very much within its own theme, but Moffat has taken those sparks of subtle CGI use in earlier seasons and vamped them up to their full potential – meaning a very small use of rubber masks. In fact, the only classical use of this is in The Pandorica Opens, where we’re reunited with the Judoon, Sontarans and many other villains of previous years, but this is for about 5 minutes, compared to the amazing CGI display of their warships above Stonehenge just moments before. Yes, it seems very clear, that Moffat is striving to bring a whole new kind of visual performance to the show, and good on him. Some classic Who fans would argue that this is taking away the true essence of what Doctor Who is, and I can see where they are coming from, but as audiences evolve and technology moves forward, it’s a shame to admit that we can’t stay in 1976 forever. Even the new Silurians had a much more dignified feel to them, which I’m sure we can all appreciate.

Episode Rating Run Down

Episode Name                             Reno Rating (/10)

The Eleventh Hour                       10

The Beast Below                         7

Victory of the Daleks                   5.5

The Time of Angels                     7.5

Flesh and Stone                          8

Vampires of Venice                     7

Amy’s Choice                              7.5

The Hungry Earth                        7

Cold Blood                                  8.5

Vincent and the Doctor              8.5

The Lodger                                 7.5

The Pandorica Opens               10

The Big Bang                             9


Cracks in the Universe and Silence Will Fall

The cracks in time were a brilliant and intriguing story arc this year, they imposed a constant visual reminder of the impending mysterious finale, instead of relying solely on hearsay and other characters, much like Bad Wolf in the first of the new series, though less subtle than the hints of Harold Saxon in series 3. On top of this, the idea of silence falling  (said or mentioned by many characters) was combined to give us an even more outstanding question about what was going to happen. We all knew from the start that there was going to be an explosion in the future that would threaten all of time and space – the Doctor said it himself – but I don’t think any of us could have expected what we were given in the end. The 2 part finale was brilliant, bold, exciting, intense and so utterly confusing that I’m still trying to get my head around it 4 days on. The inclusion of every major foe from the last 5 seasons was a great idea and something I think Who fans have been waiting for for a long time.

Questions remain as to who said “Silence Will Fall” in the TARDIS late into The Pandorica Opens (as well as who actually caused the cracks and made the TARDIS land/explode on that date). The truth is, we still don’t know and we probably won’t know until the end of season 6 – if not later. RTD always did us a favour by wrapping everything up into a nice little bundle and sealing it off for us, resolved and done with – whereas Moffat has clearly left the questions unanswered and even cut off the Doctor’s urgency to find out who said it when they introduced the beginning of the Christmas special for later this year; no doubt we’ll get some clues then too. There are many theories floating around the web, including the reintroduction of the Valeyard from the fifth Doctor’s time or even the most powerful Time Lord of them all; Omega (who I’m personally hoping for). Either way, it’s unconventional and very refreshing to have a faceless villain in a finale – one who doesn’t bathe in everyone knowing who he is, instead he sits back and lets chaos happen. I’m looking forward to finding out who he/it is – bring on next July!


In the end this series was better than any other because it removed the cartoony feel of earlier seasons and made it REAL. It was so much more real, so much more believable (if there is such a thing when talking about a time travelling alien) and it was so much more entertaining. The only thing missing from this season was a real involvement with people. For some reason, Moffat decided to keep heavily populated areas out of this season, whereas RTD saw his Doctor landing in London and Cardiff regularly, as well as world wide invasions by Sontarans and Daleks, humanity enslaved by the Master and Cybermen trying to delete absolutely everything with international reactions as they happened – but we don’t see any of that this time, it’s very localised and very closed off, which is a bit of a shame in my opinion.

1 comment:

  1. A very thorough review which echoes my own thoughts on this season. Interestingly, I see the 11th Doctor more as shades of Patrick Troughton, although I see where you're coming from with the Pertwee comparison.

    It is the intricacy of Moffat's plotting which has made this season for me. Simultaneously insanely ambitious and yet fundamentally very simple, on more than one occasion in the finale I was both crying and punching the air at the same time.

    Smith and Gillan have been wonderful too. Matt Smith never fails to remind you with his portrayal that the Doctor is (a) not quite human and (b) just a man, not the demigod RTD tended to portray him as.

    If you're interested, I've attached a link to my own season review below. I would welcome your views - and roll on Christmas special!