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

Operation Platinum Age: The Final Word

The final episode of the season was similar to the second part of the Silurian story in that it didn’t quite pay off in the way expected.  This time it mattered less, though, because what we were given was a timey-wimey space romp of roller coaster proportions.  Last time I wrote, I wished for more Caitlin Blackwood as Young Amy and I was rewarded here.  What a talent, I had thought – and still do – but now I much preferred Grown Up Amy (happy now?).

Doctor Who - The Pandorica OpensThis is not the place to go too deeply into the sheer wall of plot and unplot we had thrust upon us in The Big Bang, but, as much as I thoroughly loved it, it was the reset button all over again, wasn’t it?  Admittedly it was the best such button we’ve had this century, but one year – just one year – the people who run this magnificent show won’t paint themselves into such a corner that they have to pretend they never did or, better still, they’ll have the courage of their convictions and run with a shifted paradigm.

Looking back at the last third of the season, I think we were treated not only to some excellent visual effects/images (Vincent’s starry night, the upstairs TARDIS and the spaceships over Stonehenge, the scariest reading of the Cybermen since 1966 – perhaps ever), but also some of the series’ most golden moments (Vincent, the Doctor and Amy under the stars, ‘It’s a Fez, I wear a Fez now’, the Pandorica cliffhanger, the Stone Dalek begging River for mercy, the alien alliance – oh, and all of The Lodger).  A few months ago my Top Three directors were Adam Smith, Andrew Gunn and Ashley Way.  I still think Adam Smith should take top spot but, following the season finale, Toby Haynes has nudged Andrew Gunn into third place.  I’m no longer sure about Way.

At the end of the last article I speculated on what might be happening ‘arc-wise’ and where we might be led.  The sense I got from the first eight episodes was that they sought to question our perception of ‘reality’, inviting us to doubt the boundary between what was real and what was not; this would prove to be a thematic rather than a literal matter.  I made much of Amy’s missing memories (but didn’t we all?) and memory did in fact prove to be the key to the season.  I was right (to some small extent) that the cracks would prove to be a paradox caused by the Doctor’s attempts to prevent their ever occurring.

However, I was not able to predict quite how, nor had I factored River Song into the final equation.  My obsessive attention to the use of eyes in the narratives proved to be much less accurate.  I also suggested that the finale might not be a Dalek story, predicting that Christmas Day would see their next big outing.  While I do not count the finale as a Dalek story (the production team were careful not to show much of them – cowed by their detractors, perhaps?), it now seems likely that we shan’t be seeing them at Christmas, either.  Gosh, they would have been delicious baubles on a BBC Christmas tree ident, wouldn’t they?  Oh well.  I only hope that when we see them next, it will be for something very epic and Dalek-centric.


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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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