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Published on July 21st, 2010 | by James Colvin

12

Reviewer’s Roundtable

Jonathan

Hell of a step down. This is why:

Death. Death no longer has any meaning. In this kind of genre show, we know that most of the time, the characters are in no real danger: they’ll come through at the end of the episode. So to maintain fear, when someone dies, they need to stay dead. We need to not see them again. This has been undermined, first by being coy about what dead is (alternate universe, amnesia), secondly be backtracking (but they’re here and still themselves, so that’s alright) and most recently by undermining the back-up (he’s erased from all of time and space forever, so we really mean it this time. Unless they’re still in a photo, you can remember them after all, and they turn out to be an Auton).

Doctor Who 2010Character. As fellow Kasterborous contributor Elton Townend Jones has already argued (Whatever Happened to Amy Pond?), Amy Pond disappeared. Her first couple of episodes established her potential: a back-story revolving around time travel and the Doctor. In every episode since (with the notable exception of Amy’s Choice), there has been no development of this and we’ve learned nothing more about her. Worse, she’s barely had a line of dialogue that doesn’t fit squarely in the generic ‘feisty heroine’ peg.

Ethos. For me, the whole thing felt cynical. I’d cite the Van Gogh episode as a low. It was deferential to ‘great art’, in a way that felt out of place in the show. Why was Van Gogh so great, Bill Nighy? “Oh… his use of colour… er… beauty from depression…” So how did you get this curator post? The Shakespeare Code had the decency to present a ‘great artist’ as a Liam Gallagher-loudmouth. City of Death suggested it’s your appreciation of the art that matters, not the canonical ‘greatness’ of the thing. Vincent and the Doctor says ‘art is for everyone’, whilst placing ‘great art’ on a pedestal for you to unquestioningly conform your intellect to.

And if the Doctor defeats one more alien threat by shrieking words to the effect of ‘don’t you know who I am?’…

Comment box below. Enjoy yourselves.

Jonathan reviewed The Beast Below.

Neil

It’s perhaps inevitable that Steven Moffat’s first season, though effective, wasn’t the ground-up reboot some people may have wished for. Instead, rather than reinventing the wheel, Moffat successfully added the much-vaunted fairytale veneer to the general format developed by Russell T Davies.

Doctor Who 2010Despite its overall success, it is telling that the stories this series did fumble were its most traditional. It’s not unreasonable to hope this might give the new production team the confidence to further develop their own take on the program. This would be particularly gratifying not least because after the near-perfect pilot of The Eleventh Hour, the series didn’t follow up the elements it put in place. Veering away from what seemed like the inevitable use of Leadworth and the inhabitants we encounter in that story as a Stockbridge or Allen Road-like home from home, it feels like there’s an alternate version of this series where those elements were more central.

An alternate version, it must be said, where perhaps certain problems with Amy may have been better dealt with, by giving her more of a grounding in domesticity and the opportunity to respond to her experiences. There’s been a slightly disappointing old series-style assumption that her thoughts should be implicit with the audience, so at least some level of self-awareness would be welcome.

That aside, where the series most comes into its own is in its treatment of the kind of ‘magical’ elements which have previously proved so contentious in previous end-of-season stories. By comparison to the Doctor’s I-do-believe-in-fairies moment in Last of the Time Lords, similar moments in The Big Bang seem much more sympathetic to the storybook tone of the season at large.

The underlying tenets of this approach to Doctor Who are supremely beguiling and largely effective, seeming both novel and entirely apposite. As a result, I am looking forward to Christmas and series six with excitement rather than apprehension.

Neil reviewed Victory of the Daleks and The Lodger, and writes the Doctor Who reviews page ‘Shall We Destroy?’

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12 Responses to Reviewer’s Roundtable

  1. avatar castellanspandrell says:

    “Death. Death no longer has any meaning.”

    -Jonathan, you’ve hit the nail on the head, son.

    Thinking particularly of Rory coming back, here. I like him and wasn’t displeased to see him turn up as a Roman centurion, but part of me wished he would’ve stayed dead when the universe was reset- let the kids know that once you’re gone, you’re not coming back. And it kinda makes pants of the previously powerful ‘being erased from history’ thing.

    Then there’s Amy getting shot dead, only for us to be told ‘She’s just a bit dead.’

    Let’s not even get to the Dr vanishing through the cracks in the universe, only to reappear because Amy remembered him. I understand why they can’t kill off the lead character, but why even get to that ridiculous point in the first place, whereby the writer has to to resort to a total mouse of an idea to make the Dr ‘undead’?

  2. avatar Carn says:

    apart from a couple minor quibbles it’s been my favorite season ever, and i actually feel that sense of joy and excitement again just hearing the current theme tune start up. i love it. best show on tv by far. actually it’s one of the few things i bother even having a tv for. wish i could write on my tv license application ‘give all my money to doctor who production, cheers’

  3. avatar bluebox444 says:

    Well, it seems like Kasterborous’ response is positive overall. So is mine. The “fairy-tale” theme to the series was perhaps its strongest point. Gone were the cringe-inducing appearances of aliens composed of fat, farting green monsters, and amorous paving slabs (sorry, RTD – you’re never going to live that one down). The main story arc was quite brilliant, I thought, culminating in a truly beautiful climax in “The Big Bang”. It did feel a bit like something out of a Disney movie, but then, I like Disney movies. I don’t think this series was for everyone. Maybe the fanbase in Doctor Who is going to change a bit. I think those who haven’t been die-hard fans since ’05 actually responded more positively to this series than those who have been. All in all, Moffat’s first year was more like what I’ve been wanting to see out of Doctor Who (and in fact, a bit more like the classic Doctor Who) than anything that’s come out of the revived series thus far. And I think nearly all of us agree that Matt Smith was truly magnificent as the Eleventh Doctor.

    A few thoughts on Amy Pond: I do like her. And not just because she’s attractive. I think Karen Gillan is a very skilled actress. That being said, there were times when she wasn’t given much to work with in the character of Amy. Amy’s best moments came in the episodes Moffat himself wrote and in “Amy’s Choice”. Elsewhere, she did at times seem to be something of a Donna-clone. I fell in love with Amy in “The Eleventh Hour” when she mentioned having bitten four psychiatrists. I wish the development of her character had continued steadily on from there, but it really didn’t. The series has ended, and she’s still something of an enigma. (And I really didn’t care for her seduction scene in “Flesh and Stone” – it jarred with the rest of the series.) It’s hard to say clearly what sets her apart from companions who have gone before. But still, I wouldn’t call her “annoying” – I think it’s only RTD fans determined to dislike her who find her annoying. Despite all this, she was very enjoyable as a companion, and I’m glad she’s staying on for another year. I really do believe that Moffat will continue to add more layers to her character as time goes on. To those who hate her, I say, give her a chance. She does have a lot of potential.

  4. avatar bluebox444 says:

    I should add that I loved Rory. Moffat definitely did a good job with him.

  5. avatar Paul Cavanagh says:

    There was cake? Why didn’t I get any cake? ;-)

    For the record: we’re not unanimous on the new Daleks. I quite like ‘em. Ok, so they look like they’ve eaten too many pies, granted, but I’ll get used to that. That’ll put the Cheetah People amongst the Krillitane!

  6. avatar bobbygaga says:

    I’ve said this before, but I’ll take this season and all it’s flaws over RTD’s mawkish panto years.

  7. avatar Jez Noir says:

    Please please please no more Chibnall! He’s had more than enough chances and just isn’t up to the job. God knows there must be plenty of promising young sci-fi writers desperate to get their ideas into a Who episode! Ot they could bring back Marc Platt!

  8. avatar Paul Cavanagh says:

    I’m sorry to say, I have to agree with Jez. Chibnall has now written two of my least favourite stories within a series. 42 remains my most disliked story since the series returned in 2005, and The Hungry Earth was easily the worst episode of Series fnarg. Of all the great writers who have contributed, it eludes me why Chibnall was invited back. More from Toby Whithouse and/or Paul Cornell please!

  9. avatar Rick714 says:

    Enjoyed “Eleventh Hour” immensely. Smith begins a fantastic run as the Doctor.

    I think that “Beast” is being treated unfairly, primarily because I think it continues on from EH quite nicely and here’s where we first see Smith in regular action. Them landing on the tongue was hilarious and one of the few episodes where I though Gillan was on track as opposed to being annoying.

    Victory of the Daleks was a rehash of Power of the Daleks and may be best served as a set up for future Dalek eps, period. Low point of the season.

    The Angels two parter was very enjoyable and River Song just gets better with each appearance.

    “Vampires of Venice”, okay, not the best but a great opening.

    “Amy choice” was another one that seems to be unfairly treated, I thought it was one of the highlights, mostly because of Smith’s eccentricities.

    The silurian two parter was disappointing as yet another rehash of the original story, not the worst of the season, though.

    “Vincent” was perhaps the highpoint, talk about positive and life-affirming….the reviewer who said the series was cynical with vincent as the low point….I’m not sure he knows what the word “cynical” means.

    “Lodger” was also great fun, again, primarily because of smith. He’s carrying most of the episodes far better than I could have hoped for.

    Pandorica/Big Bang was a great series ender and unlike BTTF 2, it did NOT give me a headache.

    A very good season and here’s to four more years of Moffat and Smith.

  10. avatar bluebox444 says:

    I, for one, loved “The Hungry Earth”, if only for the highly entertaining character of Nasreen Chaundry. Overall, I felt the episode echoed the classic series in many enjoyable ways. Nothing particularly new or ground-breaking about it, but it was good fun for a long-term fan.

  11. avatar cat says:

    Actually I liked ’42′ a lot – sorry and all that! However, ‘Hungry Earth’ did have a problem, which was lack of people – when Nasreen said that the Doctor was the only one who had made sense of the events for her it would have been nice if we had thought there was anyone else around offering an explanation. Also, I am a bit fed up of the Doctor in ‘Nu-who’ PROMISING people that he will save them (in this case promising to save someone’s father, but you can see what I mean) when it is by no means certain he will. The first one to go after being ‘promised’ was Lynda with a Y, but the Doctor didn’t learn by this and has been promising all and sundry ever since. It is really annoying.

    I too was a bit disturbed by death no longer being final in this series, but Steven Moffat did say he was aiming for a fairytale feel, and in fairy tales people do come back to life from the most unpromising situations (a quick trawl through Andrew Lang’s twelve Fairy Books would give a hefty number of these), so I suppose it is fair enough. I hope he doesn’t keep on doing it over and over again, though, even though I was delighted to see Rory come back.

    I have been watching Dr Who regularly since 1968, and saw a few episodes before then as well, and Matt Smith is right up there with my favourite Doctors (Patrick Troughton being THE Doctor for me). This series has been a pleasure to watch just to see him in action. Not to say anything against Doctors 9 and 10, who were both excellent, but Matt Smith has that something extra as far as I am concerned. And quit knocking Karen Gillan, folks, she is fine. And, being female myself (yes, long term and nerdy fans of the series can be female too) I’m not saying that because of the short skirts and long legs – and my daughter thinks she’s great as well.

  12. avatar Leosw4 says:

    Briefly:
    Favourite eps: The Lodger (astonishing outcome given Corden), Amy Choice, Vincent and the Doctor.
    Enjoyed: Angel two parter, The Eleventh Hour
    So so about: Pandorica two parter,Victory of the Daleks (now used to Dalek story not delivering since 2007 so perhaps immune to total dislike-please Mr M prove me wrong next time)
    Not keen on:Vampires, The Beast Below
    Did not like:The Silurian two parter for the reasons outlined above.

    Loving Matt and Rory. Sort of like Amy.

    Overall an enjoyable season, but not my favourite of the new era. Some episodes failed to deliver but hey thats been the case since 1977 (and once or twice before-Destiny of the Daleks remains the all time champ in that regard :(…..)

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