Reviewer’s Roundtable

Thomas

Doctor Who 2010The major improvement this year is that the series long story arc does not feel tacked on as it has previously, with the whole thing coming to a conclusion in The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang that was very satisfying if you had followed the whole series. Also, the climax of Pandorica was one of the finest cliffhangers in the history of the show, almost the ultimate ‘how’s he going to get out of this one’ moment.

Matt Smith was excellent as the Doctor, despite all the bile thrown at the choice by fandom after the casting choice was revealed. Matt showed an alien essence and otherworldly nature that was a perfect fit and he proved himself capable throughout the series of accurately performing the range of emotion a character like the Doctor displays.

As for the new companion, Karen Gillian was good enough at the start, but I must admit that as time wore on she started to get a bit annoying, and I found myself missing one of the things that Russell T. Davies did do very well, which was to give his main characters a sense of emotion and real life. Neither Amy nor Rory seemed to be as good as Rose and Mickey. Not something I thought I would type a year ago.

Daleks are usually something I look forward to in Doctor Who, but I have to say I’m not too fond of the new design. They look like they were made to be a cereal or a brand of candy in all those colours, and obese ones at that as they now have a huge backside!

All in all not a bad first year but I think there are still a few wrinkles to be worked out.

Thomas reviewed Vampires of Venice.

Paul

Doctor Who 2010We’ve been treated to some quite splendid guest star performances. Top of my list is Tony Curran who gave us such a sensitive and believable portrayal of Vincent Van Gogh – simply stunning casting there. Other highlights for me included Ian McNeice as Churchill (balanced, not remotely hammy or stereotyped), Toby Jones as the Dream Lord (creepy, understated) and Sophie Okonedo as Liz Ten (okay, she was a bit hammy with the cockney bit, but I loved her nevertheless). Semi-regulars Alex Kingston and Arthur Darvill were also both eminently watchable. So performance-wise, I’m a happy bunny.

But I miss Russell. Quite a lot. I miss the big scale thrills of his scripts. The narrative focus has completely shifted in this new era. During the Russell T Davies era, the threat was always global or universal, and we knew it. We’d have television news programmes illustrating the scale of the threat, and Trinity Wells giving us the lowdown. Added to that we’d have big old action scenes – the lovely behind the missile footage in World War Three, the Dalek Fleet in The Parting of the Ways. In series Fnarg, the focus is completely different – we stay close to the principal characters in the story, and while the threat might be far-reaching, we don’t get to see that. And, sadly, I remained dry-eyed far too much.

Here’s my biggest problem with the departure of Russell: Steven Moffat reusing old ideas. That made me rather cross. The Doctor meets and befriends young girl, only to appear many years later when she’s all grown up – The Eleventh Hour/The Girl in the Fireplace. The Doctor scares off the bad guys by telling them to ‘look him up’ – The Eleventh Hour/Forest of the Dead. The Doctor communicates with a dead guy via a communications device – The Time of Angels/Forest of the Dead. This lack of real originality really got up my nose. Furthermore, there’s a lack of consistency – if the beholder of a Weeping Angel becomes an Angel, then how about Larry and Sally? They spent ages gawping at Angels without blinking. That’s just daft, and fails to reward long-time viewers.

On the plus side, the series finale was stupendous, and it’s great to see a two-parter whose component episodes are so very different. The Pandorica Opens was a fanboy’s comic strip of an adventure, all scary tombs, headless Cybermen and a big monster party at the end. Then the more considered, witty, timey-wimey, emotional Big Bang to wind things up. Great stuff.

So despite a very enjoyable series, I have to confess that I’m looking forward to Russell’s new work on the Sarah Jane Adventures (with Matt Smith and Katy Manning! Hurrah!) and Torchwood just a bit more than the 2011 series of Doctor Who. There, I’ve said it now. I’ll sit back and wait for the flak!

Paul reviewed Cold Blood.

Conclusion

The Doctor and Amy PondSo there you have it. All-round hits seem to be Matt Smith and twin companions, Amy’s Legs. Most positively referenced episode is The Eleventh Hour. It would seem fair to say that we’re all missing RTD’s character moments, but everyone seems to enjoy Steven Moffat’s narrative vigour. There’s a mixed response to the smaller scale of settings and ‘global threats’. Unanimity on those awful new Daleks though.

As for the next series… Unanswered narrative questions probably won’t be resolved until the next finale. Everyone here seems optimistic minor production issues will be ironed out, but what’s on your mind? Will The Sarah Jane Adventures be better than Who? Will the Daleks do something interesting? Will Chris Chibnall keep getting commissioned? See you here next year with our opinions on those answers.

In the meantime, feel free to post your comments below.


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