Saturday, July 3, 2010

Doctor Who - Series 5 Review

Wow, Series 5 of Doctor Who has come and gone a week now, and I'm already really missing it.

So after 13 episodes, viewed and reviewed, now is the time to look back on Steven Moffat's first year as Doctor Who showrunner and see how it stands up.

Series 5 was really particular because it was brand new on so many levels; just like Series 1 was in 2005. Series 5 boasted a new showrunner, new Doctor, new Tardis, new companions, new screwdriver, new theme song, new directors, and some new writers. Everything was new.

Lets start with first things first, the big man himself:

Steven Moffat

When Steven Moffat took the reins from Russell T. Davies as the new Doctor Who showrunner, everyone just let out a big sigh of relief.

After all, this was the man who provided new Who with some of the most iconic episodes of the new era with The Empty Child, The Doctor Dances, The Girl in the Fireplace, Blink, Silence in the Library and Forests of the Dead!

So there was a lot of expectations riding on the Moff’s back but I think that ultimately, Steven Moffat managed to pass the test with flying colors, making series 5 one of the most complex and mind bending series of Doctor Who yet. His crafting of the entire season (and I believe at the minimum the next one as well) is inspired and had many fans scratching their heads to try and understand what was happening.

Not only that, but his decision to pick Matt Smith as the new Doctor was an inspired one, in my opinion, which brings me to:

Matt Smith

The 27 year old actor had a LOT to prove in the wake of David Tennant's departure. Smith was following in the footsteps of the most popular Doctor ever, and surely it must have felt like a huge task for the young actor to rise up to.

Everyone doubted Moffat's choice; everyone thought Matt Smith was too young and perhaps too green for the role. After all, hadn't Moffat already admitted that he wanted someone a bit older to play the role?

Well lo and behold, not only has Matt Smith proven that he could hold his own as the Doctor, despite being the youngest actor ever to play the legendary Time Lord, but he did so admirably.

Smith was savvy enough to know that his performance shouldn't be a copy of Tennant's and it certainly wasn't. Where Tennant's Doctor exuded a certain assurance mixed with manic energy and a lot of verbose skills, Smith's Doctor is quieter, more subdued, and with a streak of something that's just a bit off; you never exactly know how he will react. Even physically Smith has his Doctor walk and stand a different way. The actor developped his own mannerism for him, including a lot of 'fingering.'

Still, for me, Matt Smith has yet to offer an iconic performance much like David Tennant did in Midnight, which is the perfect example of Tennant's acting abilities.

I can see that Smith hasn't been offered that chance yet because it's still “early days” for him, but I'm certain that there will be an occasion when Steven Moffat (or any other Who writer) will make use of his already impressive acting abilities.

But make no mistake, Matt Smith absolutely shines as the Doctor and he's been absolutely brilliant in all the episodes of the series so far.

Now lets move on to the companions:

Karen Gillan (Amy Pond)

Though I do like Karen Gillan, and she's really pretty (I don’t know what else to say ha ha), I think she's not quite yet there as an actress. She needs more years to mature, because I feel that she has the same bland and surprised expressions over and over again in each episode.

One problem I had with Karen's performance was that I just couldn't quite connect with Amy, which we the viewers are supposed to do. After all, the companions are our windows into the Doctor's world.

Another problem I had early on in the series was that she was always the one with the solution and I have to say that it irked me to no end. But after episode 3, things got a bit better on that front.

And isn't that funny that when I keep reading about her, it seems that all people can say about her character is that she's the sexiest companion yet? There should be much more than that to say about her.

She is my only little disappointment thus far but still, I feel that Amy definitely works best as a companion when she is with Rory.

Arthur Darvill (Rory Williams)

I've said it before and I say it again: I LOVE Arthur Darvill's Rory Williams. Rory, the steadfast, loyal, and loving fiancee of Amy Pond. He doesn't fear standing up to the Doctor and calling him on what he does and how he does it.

And what a season it has been for the character! From dying to becoming an Auton replica to finally marrying the girl of his dreams after waiting for her for 1 894 years, Rory has gone through a lot. And we can expect more from him in series 6.

I think Arthur Darvill has simply made Rory one of my favourite companions ever, which is no small feat.

Alex Kingston (River Song)

Alex Kingston had a tough, tough job to do. She plays a character we actually know nothing about, who may or may not be the Doctor's wife, and who is a complete mystery.

She does it admirably well and brings a lot of fun to the series. Though not a full time companion, her appearances in four episodes this season were fantastic, and I'm just really happy to know that we'll see more of her next series.

I don't know about you but I think that River Song may be one of Steven Moffat's best character creation yet.

The Tardis

I Looooooooove the new Tardis! So alive! So full of colours! And it got it's own little episode in which it was kind of the star with Amy's Choice!

Plus I have to say that in HD, it looks absolutely stunning. I think the Tardis had been due for a refit and the new version is very well done.

The Sonic Screwdriver

New Doctor, new screwdriver! It's bigger and it's got a green light! Did I say it's bigger? Again, clean thoughts everyone. But alas, it still doesn’t do wood or deadlocks.

The New Theme Song

I have to admit that at first the new, or should I say re-arranged, theme song was a bit jarring. But after only a few episodes, it grew on me and I was happy with it. It retained the same spirit as the original and it's a Murray Gold arrangement, so for me, WIN!

Series 5 as a whole

Series 5 was certainly great but I'm not saying it was perfect. There were good episodes, great episodes and less great ones.

Of the weaker episodes, in retrospect I have to point to The Beast Below, Victory of the Daleks, and The Hungry Earth as my least favourite ones. I don't think it's one or two things in particular that make these episodes weaker for me, it's more the whole.

The episodes that were surprising - simply because I didn't think I would like them that much  - were Amy's Choice (simply awesome), Vincent and The Doctor (moving, with a standout performance from guest-star Tony Curran), and The Lodger (Okay, that whole almost naked scene did play in role in my liking it but it still was a fun episode. After all, when do we get to see the Doctor let his towel hair down like that?)

The ones that have been brilliant were mostly the two parters written by Steven Moffat: The Time of Angels / Flesh and Stone and The Pandorica Opens / The Big Bang.

The Eleventh Hour and The Vampires of Venice float somewhere in that happy place called great episodes but perhaps not instant classics.

Steven Moffat has said since the beginning that Doctor Who was a fairy tale. The whole atmosphere of the new series certainly reflects that; certainly even more so than the Russell T. Davies era. Some people thought that it would be a plot point, but it hasn't played out yet, and maybe it never will.

Series 5 also experienced a definite shift in tone and form – gone is the running (something that was mentioned a few times to funny effects in series 5), and gone are the long expositions that David Tennant often had to make as the Doctor. 

It's evident that Steven Moffat wanted to dissociate his series from his predecessor's. Perhaps that's one of the reasons why the Doctor has never mentioned any of his former companions yet?

Sure, we had a lot of references to former Doctors, especially the first Doctor. But you would think that the Doctor would have mentioned Rose, to whom he had been so much attached, or even his best friend, Donna Noble, to Amy? Not so, not once. It's fine that Moffat wants to steer a bit clear of the Davies era but I also felt that the series seemed detached from the five preceding years because of it.

Series 5 also saw the return of old and new enemies alike. Victory of the Daleks, for example, brought back the Daleks in a new, but I'm not sure if it's improved, way. Only time will tell. The Time of Angels and Flesh and Stone brought back the Weeping Angels in a big way for the first time since their introduction in Blink, and Moffat significantly extended the mythology of the very popular monsters. And the Silurians made a successful and long awaited return in The Hungry Earth and Cold Blood. But who can forget The Pandorica Opens which brought back many of the Doctor's enemies in a visual extravaganza!

On the downside, the quality of the special effects has rather been a mixed bag; some of the effects were fantastic (just look at the last two episodes of the series to know what I mean), and others were more sub-par (for example prisoner Zero in The Eleventh Hour). I know that Doctor Who has experienced a budget cut from the BBC, but I hope that they will find a way to make the effects a bit better for the next year.

The triumph of this series has, without a doubt, been its overarching story arc about the Crack and the Silence (the latter has yet to be resolved and according to Moffat it will be in series 6). It caused a lot of head scratching and probably a few brain aneurysms here and there because of it (just kidding). And the discovery that there was indeed a future Doctor running around at some point was also pure genius.

With a complex storyline and an ending that only partially satisfied the many questions people have had all season, Steven Moffat is firmly keeping us on a hook for a full and long nine months. Who is River Song, and who or what is the Silence will both be resolved in series 6 and will no doubt leave us pondering the possible answers in the meanwhile.

My rating for Series 5:  8.5/10


  1. I read somewhere that Moffat had no intention on bringing back aliens of old from the RTD/Tennant seasons, so Victory of the Daleks caught me off guard just a little bit. At least until the end, when Dalek Rangers zoomed off to go start over somewhere (which I -NOW- hope will be brought up). But the Alliance at the Pandorica really marked the end (beginning?) of all the "traditional" enemies of The Doctor, so I guess those doors can officially be closed.


  2. I hope not though. I don't think that cutting oneself off from what came before is a good idea. I find it jarring to say the least and that's one thing that disconnected me a bit from series 5. Maybe Moffat will change his mind again?

  3. I can understand when Moffat says he wants to stay away from Davies's DW but he can't forget DW is on since 1963, that it's a ongoing show, that's a piece of British culture and he just can't steer away from that. We won't let him do it! Moffat's DW is almost like a completely new show.
    On another note, Doctor Who is still proving that great stories and great acting is way more important than huge Hollywood budgets.
    Season 5 was full of everything new and we too need to adjust.
    I love DW to bits.

  4. Doctor Who World Cup at - the final 32!

  5. I have enjoyed the 13 episodes of series 5 so far, they have been really interesting and different. The first episode was funny, when you see the Doctor for the first time. Though he improves as the series go on. He's a funny Doctor, he gets amazed by little things, he's also clumsy, but I think that works for him. The new companion Amy Pond is really unique. She's always asking questions and she reacts to things in a funny way. I can't wait until the Christmas Special. I really want to see it. It's going to be great to see Doctor Who S5 again :D

  6. So far, I am ambivalent about season 5. I love the new Tardis, Amy is ok, and River Song is awesome. I still cannot quite get my head around the new doctor, or some of the rehashes: the daleks AGAIN? Saving the world AGAIN? And so forth AGAIN. Hmmmmmm.

  7. All four main characters in series 5 are awesome actors. I was quickly drawn to their attitude.

    and yes, I love the new background theme and the sonic screwdriver XD

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