One explanation for this lies in the much-publicised budget cut that Doctor Who suffered this year. Fans have often, quite rightly, claimed that lack of money was no barrier to good stories in the past, but this year itâ€™s really impinged the storytelling. Although the series has aspired to a wider variety of settings than previous years, the limited range of locations and lack of supporting cast have left every episode looking and feeling more or less the same. Episodes 6 to 11, for example, supposedly take in Venice, Leadworth, Wales, France and Colchester, yet all feel pretty much identical (even the much vaunted Croatian shooting doesnâ€™t seem to have made much difference).
The tiny number of additional characters in each episode mean that each story has the same scope and scale, irrespective of setting or situation; this reaches its nadir in The Hungry Earth, which purports to show one of the planetâ€™s biggest ever drilling projects, yet appears to be run by two people in a hut with a laptop. Even the Pertwee era mustered a far greater sense of scale by employing a few extras to wander around in the back of shot. So whilst any given 45 minutes may be enjoyable on its own terms, the lack of differentiation in the stories means that the whole middle run of the series merges into one in the memory, with – with a couple of notable exceptions – few characters who linger in the mind.
Achilles’ Last Stand
Character, is unfortunately, Steven Moffatâ€™s Achilles’ heel, and itâ€™s a thread that once you start picking at, it causes much of his other work to unravel. In previous series, his greatest original characters were always the result of first-rate performances. Blinkâ€™s Sally Sparrow, hailed by fans as the greatest companion who never was, is entirely a creation of Carey Mulliganâ€™s premier league performance; the script gives her very little to be going on. The chemistry between the Tenth Doctor and Madame De Pompadour in The Girl in the Fireplace exists because Tennant and Myles were genuinely falling in love: the script mandates, of all things, a clunky mind meld to get them fancying each other.
The same is true of Series 5, and in the case of Amy Pond, disastrously so. As written, Amy is a fairly interesting concept, but in no way is she a fully fledged character; she has back story and plot-related baggage, but no personality. Whereas the likes of Donna, Rose and even Mickey were allowed to develop as people, Moffat characterises Amy as â€œthe sassy oneâ€, and not much more. Karen Gillan does her best, but sheâ€™s not enough of an actress to add flesh and blood to the paper-thin material sheâ€™s given; as a result, Amy comes off as simply snappy and significantly less likable than many of the other female supporting characters Matt Smith is paired with, especially Meera Syalâ€™s Nasreen (in The Hungry Earth), Alex Kingstonâ€™s River Song or even Caitlin Blackwoodâ€™s young Amelia, all of whom you feel would be more engaging companions.
Amy begins to come to life in the episodes that advance her arc somewhat (namely The Eleventh Hour, the Angels two-parter and the finale) but in the remaining episodes sheâ€™s held in a sort of holding pattern, left to bark sarcastic one-liners and get in trouble occasionally.