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Operation Platinum Age: The Final Word

Recently, I wrote a two-part observation of Matt Smith and Steven Moffat’s first eight episodes of Doctor Who (entitled Operation Platinum Age Part 1 and Operation Platinum Age Part 2).  The purpose of the article was to evaluate the season so far, compare it to previous seasons and speculate upon its story arc.

Doctor Who - The Pandorica OpensI concluded that, while the Russell T Davies era had been rightly regarded as Doctor Who’s ‘golden age’, it was becoming apparent that Smith and Moffat were ushering us into something greater.  Now this season has come to a spectacular end, it seems only proper that I should similarly evaluate the final five episodes and question whether that conclusion still holds.

Five stories ago, I was still raving about the new Doctor (and would rave yet more in a subsequent article entitled The Triumph of Doctor Smith).  Frankly, my rave looks as if it may never end.  From the outset, I have believed – and still believe – that Matt Smith is playing the best Doctor we’ve ever had – and what a lovely position for those who love him to be in: to know that the current guy is the best.  Now I know how those David Tennant fans felt!

Of course, many fans continue to adore Tennant, but some take every comparison in Smith’s favour as an attack on something they deem unassailable, but when I suggest that Smith is the best, this is not meant as a dig at ten other quite brilliant incarnations.  However, this non-prescriptive opinion is offered by one who has seen/heard every episode of TV Doctor Who several times over (and heard/read perhaps 75% of the available audios, annuals, comic strips, novels, etc, etc of the last 47 years).  I’ve loved all the Doctors at some time or other, but Smith seems to offer the most precise and realistic portrayal of the character as set down on paper and pared to its basics.

Last time I wrote, my favourite new Doctor moments saw him facing down the new (still gorgeous, sorry) Daleks, jumping out of Rory’s cake (again), and telling the Atraxi fleet to run.  Now I find myself loving his sermon at Stonehenge, where he seemed to channel both John Lydon and Billy Graham in order to tell an even bigger fleet of ships to run.  Add to this his Fez moment and he’s beginning to look unassailable himself – and a lot like the Doctor that River Song described in Silence in the Library.  He looks great and sounds great, and any doubts about his suitability to the role have now, surely, been set to rest.

When I last signed off, my biggest concern about this season was that its middle had been a bit saggy.  I suggested that once any given season gets past the premise of the Doctor showing the wonders of the universe to a single, wide-eyed companion, the concept tends to dilute with the addition of multiple companions.  Don’t get me wrong, Rory is one of the best things about Amy’s Choice and Vampires of Venice, but it seems significant that these are perhaps the weakest stories of the season.  This has nothing to do with Arthur Darvill (who is sublime), but the show seems to work best – unless there’s an epic storyline to be had – with just two leads.

There’s an exuberant joie de vivre to a Doctor/Rose, Doctor/Donna, Doctor/Martha pairing; but that intimacy and togetherness tends to dissipate when someone crashes the party – particularly if that someone is Jealousy.  Maybe the Amy’s Choice and Vampires of Venice were just weak stories, but we’ve seen things fall apart at this stage in previous seasons (The Doctor’s Daughter and The Long Game spring to mind).

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Elton Townend-Jones is a journalist, playwright, actor, theatre producer and philosopher. He does ‘80s zeitgeist at www.25yearstoolate.blogspot.com.

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