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Published on August 8th, 2010 | by Elton Townend Jones

Operation Platinum Age: The Final Word

Speaking of which, in The Lodger we got to see the Doctor without Amy, and were treated to something so special that the idea of any permanent companion seemed suddenly superfluous. A prompt re-evaluation of the David Tennant specials reminded me that this was not necessarily the case.  Even so, this standalone episode was perhaps the best character study of the Doctor we’ve ever seen and a perfect showcase within which to restate Smith’s abundant talent.

Where the Doctor had seemed restricted by Amy (or Smith by Gillan?) in the previous episode, here he was quite off the leash.  What a joy it was to see him settling into a domestic situation with warmth and charm, popping up from behind the sofa, cooking Craig’s breakfast every day and singing ‘something Italian’ to the tune of La Donne Mobile.  I’m not the biggest James Corden fan, either, but wasn’t he just beautiful as Craig?  Gareth Roberts excelled himself with this utterly delicious episode, which was possibly the best of the season.  It’s obvious now that Roberts should take the post of ‘second-writer-in-command’ – and then perhaps that of the series’ next showrunner?

It’s obvious now that Roberts should take the post of ‘second-writer-in-command’ – and then perhaps that of the series’ next showrunner?

When the final two-parter came it was a staggering epic, full of fanboy thrills and incredible wonders.  From the various times and places of the opening sequence, it was obvious we were in for a treat.  Having watched it a couple of times since, I must admit that while it stands up beautifully as a Doctor Who movie, the plot still doesn’t quite add up.  Not really.  Fortunately, it doesn’t quite add up in a way that doesn’t quite matter and we engage with it on its own terms, but some of the sheer coincidence required to make things turn out well scarcely bears thinking about.

It’s all very tenuous.  But didn’t it look great, speeding along with a delirious self-confidence that we’ve never really seen before?  Yes, it was blindingly obvious to the attentive that ‘the trickster’ in the Pandorica legend was the Doctor (very BBC Books’ Alien Bodies), but the way in which that legend became manifest was truly shocking.  All kinds of theories raced through my mind: would the Doctor actually be in the box?  Was this his tomb?  Would it be a dead Eleventh Doctor?  A future Doctor?  A past Doctor?  Nothing prepared me for the notion that he wasn’t even in there yet.  Very Wicker Man.  And the alliance of aliens!  Wow!  I never saw that coming.  You did, though, didn’t you?  Probably because you saw last week’s Next Week trailer, or heard something on Confidential.

Take my word for it as someone who tried it this year: avoid the Next Week trailers, they never give the whole game away but they always ruin three or four potential surprises.  And Doctor Who Confidential, quite innocently, has a habit of dictating your reading of the show.  The amount of party line, agenda and prescriptive reading that comes from this wonderful little show is staggering.  If you want to feel the wonder of Doctor Who, save these up until the season’s finished.  You’ll thank yourself.

But I digress.


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About the Author


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

2 Responses to Operation Platinum Age: The Final Word

  1. “What I do know is that – in spite of some bumps in the road – this has been the most consistent and tonally coherent season of Doctor Who since about 1964. Whether or not it is ‘the best’ is a matter of personal opinion, but the perfect fusion of a wonderful Doctor, some cracking stories and an atmosphere entirely its own have shown us that Doctor Who is in very good hands.”

    That’s where I have to respectfully disagree. I agree that it’s up to the individual as to whether it was “the best”, and indeed I would never suggest the programme was “wrong” to do as it did given the audience reception was very strong. But to me, I found it decidedly the opposite of being “consistent and tonally coherent”.

    I agree Smith is a brilliant casting, nicely different to Tennant as Davison was to Baker, but the season itself felt very messy and uncertain.

    With RTD, while one can question their preference to his style, his strong editorial involvement meant it felt consistent. With this series, I didn’t feel Moffat barely at all aside from in his own stories – and even then I found little coherency.

    And then down to the characters.. the Doctor shrugs off the TARDIS in the attic.. surely a momumental discovery.. he seems to forget about the cracked TARDIS until its narratively relevant. His attack on the Daleks didn’t feel like a man who’d previously feared one so much he was banging at the doors to escape.. It didn’t feel that there was much consistency at all. And coherency? The rushed monster Alliance seemed to carry no real narrative relevance – a big jump for the audience to swallow with no justification and in the end, no bearing on the overall plot. Amy seemed to be swings and roundabouts in terms of character, losing her good start in the first two episodes.. it didn’t seem coherent at all. The Doctor jumping out the cake? Does that really work with his character? Does that have any rational motivation behind it aside being “quirky”? If he is as Moffat says, the same character in a different body, does that rather cruel scene jar?

    Smith is brilliant, and The Beast Below and Vincent and the Doctor are some of the most stunning Who episodes.. but while Smith and Rory made this season, and I commend Moffat for the three in the TARDIS.. overall, I think this was a wishy washy series 5.. I hope it finds the coherency and consistency I personally feel it was lacking for series 6.

  2. avatar 23skidoo says:

    Well, I’m on the reviewer’s side. I think Series 5 worked fine, and was coherent both in tone and in storytelling. And what made it brilliant was the fact a lot of stuff didn’t make sense until the end of the season AND it was made plain as day that there’s more stuff that won’t make sense till the end of NEXT season. People who have been conditioned into having self-contained storylines, or even seasons as was the case under RTD, might not care for it. I think it’s brilliant. Put another way, depending what happens in Season 6 I might well begin considering Season 5 and 6 as one 26-episode (or 27 including the Christmas special) season/arc. That’s the equivalent of 52-53 episodes of the original half-hour series. We’ve never seen that attempted before and there is potential here that we could be in the midst of the first Doctor Who telenovel. I just came off watching the 90-chapter telenovel called Farscape and lots of people just finished the telenovel called Lost. Yes, there’s plenty of risk in such a long-form format (Galactica and Lost both lost the plot at some point) but I think it’s an experiment worth attempting in Doctor Who.

    I don’t agree with the criticism levelled at Karen Gillan and Amy Pond. I think she’s been remarkable all the way through. The only time I felt otherwise was the “love a squaddie” line in Victory of the Daleks which sounded like a leftover from a Donna Noble episode. I also like the idea of having a second companion, simply because the show may work best with one, but it needs to change up the formula occasionally. Lots of fans consider the Doctor-Ian-Barbara-Susan team the best the show ever had. I side with Doctor-Sarah Jane-Harry, myself. And once again Moffat is doing something never attempted before by having a married couple as the companions. Not only will that shut up for a while the (frankly immature) fans who think the Doctor should be a monk, but it opens all new doors of storytelling possibilities. A little voice in my head is telling me, though, that it’s not going to end well.

    One additional note made by the reviewer is worth commenting on. I also find it sad that there seems to be disappointment that Matt Smith is BETTER than Tennant in many ways. A lot of that I think come from people who “only came to the party for the beer”, so to speak. Those of us who have been around for 20-30 years as fans accept that the Doctor changes and if the new Doctor is better than the one that came before, then that’s something to be appreciated with a sigh of relief. I wouldn’t have wanted to see Matt Smith declared a dud, or “worst Doctor ever”. The show must always improve. Same with Moffatt. I loved RTD’s era to bits (lots of people hated it, I know). I want Moffat to blow RTD out of the water, because if a show doesn’t improve, it dies. We saw that in the 80s. Whoever takes over from Moffat in 3-4 years I hope blows him out of the water. I hope whoever gets cast as the Twelfth Doctor leaves us all saying “Matt Who?” It’s all good.

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