Because I love Doctor Who so much, I’ve been meaning to review it here for a while…Ever since it was on. But I haven’t, so this may be later than most, but I’m determined to share my opinion. Warning, there are spoilers a ‘plenty below.
Episode 6: The Bells of Saint John
Summary: A corporation of mind-controlled people are using WiFi technology and cloud infrastructure, along with some crazy futuristic Wi-Fi droids to suck the mind and soul of people, and store them in the cloud. For some reason, Clara’s on their hit-list, and after accidently contacting the Doctor, he saves her which only serves to infuriate them into doing anything they can to get her. One thing leads to another, and the Doctor shuts them down and saves the world mainly just as a by-product of saving Clara.
As a IT geek, It pained me to see such crazy misinformation and bizarre illogicality surrounding technology like WiFi and cloud computing. The whole “soul uploaded to the internet” idea isn’t even original! Too much of the story just doesn’t make sense, like the characters in the name of the weird WiFi network wouldn’t be part of any font or character set on your computer, so how would it be able to display it? Also, “I don’t know where I am” is not really a logical default phrase for a trapped soul. Plus, it’s not nearly as cool as “Hey, who turned out the lights?” or “Are you my mommy?”. And why in the world does everyone have a HP laptop, yet they’re running some sort of ultra-slick minimalist Linux distro. To a tech-head like me, it just doesn’t make sense.
That said, I still enjoyed the classic 11th Doctor quirky/zany/ kooky -ness of it all.
Episode 7: The Rings of Akhaten
Summary: First we get to see how Clara came to be, i.e. how her parents met, and get a glimpse into what kind of person she is. The Doctor turns up and, as per her request, takes her to see “something awesome”. Next thing she knows, Clara’s got herself emotionally attached to a young girl destined for live sacrifice and singing. Clara and the Doctor take it upon themselves to interrupt this religious ceremony, and “save her” to fix everything, but they really just make things a lot worse before anything gets better.
This episode starts promisingly. I love the charming story of how a leaf lead to a love which lead to Clara. And even if they do overstate the importance of that leaf, it’s understandable that, for them, it is the most important thing in human history.
However, pretty much everything that follows, I utterly disliked. The thing that I hated the most would have to be the Doctor’s self-aggrandising, egotistic speech that he gives towards the end in the hope of talking the villain down, or into sacrificing himself or something… It’s really unclear what he though was going to happen, and how this was going to save everybody. All I know is that it does not work, and he has to be saved by Clara, leaving him looking like a lofty windbag. This is NOT what the Doctor is suppose to be like!! By the end of the episode, Clara’s lost a swag of stuff that were sentimentally significant to her and her mother, and the Doctor’s just dancing around, playing the pompous fool.
Also, why in the world has the TARDIS’ translation circuit stopped working? It works great in the next episode. Arh! It’s stuff like this that really angers me!
Episode 8: Cold War
Summary: Through the Doctor’s terrible TARDIS driving, he and Clara find themselves on a sinking Soviet submarine. The reason it’s sinking is because the Martian Ice Warrior that the Russians dug out of the ice has been freed from his block. Of course, the Russians had no idea what they had come across, so now the Doctor has to convince them that he can help them, so as to stop the Ice Warrior from calling in his buddies to wipe out all of humanity. Why is he going to do this? Well, because he is the ‘greatest [Ice Warrior] hero of them all’, and he was greatly insulted and disrespected when those stupid Russians attacked him with a cattle-prod, and pointed their guns at him. A lot of arguing, lurking in shadows, negotiating, and confrontation ensues. And right at the end, we get a deus ex machina.
There’s really little else to say about this episode. It’s pretty much the same as any other Doctor Who episode of its type. Out of all the songs to use, I don’t know why the chose “Hungry Like The Wolf”, but other than that I have no other real complaints. The writing isn’t great, but it seems to just be par for the course with this season.
Episode 9: Hide
Summary: The Doctor decides to gatecrash a ghost-hunting party of some guy whom he seems to be a big fan of. He burst in with Clara, spilling spoilers and secrets without a care, much to the confusion of the man and woman (with psychic powers) who are busy trying to “free” this ghost. They all potter together around the mansion they’re in for a while, having chats about ghosts, and life, and love, and stuff, while waiting for the ghosts to appear again. After an appearance by said ghost and a quick trip in the TARDIS with a camera, the Doctor works out the ghost is actually a woman stuck in a “pocket” or bubble universe, and he know exactly who she is. He devises a way to open a portal to pull her out, using the psychic powered-woman. He dives in and find her, and pulls her out, but not without getting lost first. However he gets left behind. Clara convinces the psychic to reopen the portal, even though she’s knackered from the first time, but is too impatient so she demands the TARDIS bring her to save the Doctor. Meanwhile the Doctor puts on a bit of a show about being very scared by some ugly monster chasing him around, when Clara turns up in the nick of time, and between the portal and the TARDIS, they get out of there A-OK. The Doctor then proceeds to drop some parting spoilers about the rest of their lives, and realises a way to save that monster thing.
There are a few quite funny moments in this episode between Clara and the Doctor as they flex their relationship muscle. They’re slowly starting to ease into a jokey familiarity, just as you’d expect. I also like seeing the relationship that Clara is developing with the TARDIS (or Idris, or Sexy, if you’d rather), and although I think she treats her a bit harshly, it makes for some funny moments.
The real problem here is what could’ve been a really suspenseful, spooky and intriguing adventure is destroyed by the Doctor’s own spoilerific intelligence and knowledge. Instead of stumbling across this odd situation, he seems to seek it out specifically. Instead of being cautiously spooked and piecing together the answer to this mystery aloud so the viewer (and Clara) can join in, he goes from ‘go to whoa’ in his head, with little external acknowledgement. Of course, this wouldn’t have been as quick, but what was the time spent doing instead? And that’s what this whole episode comes down to: it’s treated simply as a vehicle for the development of the Doctor & Clara’s relationship/friendship, with a few foreboding words of warning thrown in there for good measure. This is what we’ve come to; burning potentially good, interesting, spooky stories to perpetuate what should be a side effect of such adventures: the Doctor-companion relationship. And to add insult to injury, it isn’t even done well! For the whole season, in fact, it’s like this. What should be fantastic, fun and exciting feels forced, fake and boring. And yet, you always hold onto that glimmer of hope that it’ll get better because you can still see that Clara is a fantastic character; she’s just been given rubbish lines and directions.
And that’s not to mention the backstory around these characters that the Doctor sort of just rattles off, without much exploration or explanation. There’s definitely a story there, and there’s definitely something we missed out on here.
Episode 10: Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS
Summary: Clara takes the TARDIS for a spin and it ends up getting caught up in a space scrap-salvage net, which throws it into havoc. She gets thrown deep into its bowls, while the Doctor gets thrown out. He convinces the3-man salvage team to help him find Clara inside the TARDIS, promising the “salvage of a lifetime”. They run around trying to steal the most valuable things they can find; meanwhile Clara’s wandering the TARDIS, running from some crazy monster. Eventually they find her, mostly despite the efforts of the salvage team. However the TARDIS has been badly damaged, and is going to explode, so they head to its centre to see if they can fix it. Instead, they nearly get killed, so much so, the only solution is for the Doctor to walk through a crack in the fabric of time (like on Amy’s wall) and provide himself at the start of the episode with a literal reset button (‘deus ex machina’ much?).
I was quite excited when I saw the preview for this episode, because I really LOVE the TARDIS (even more since The Doctor’s Wife), and was hoping we would get a bit of a proper look around. Unfortunatly, it was all a bit of a rushed muddle, however this was understandable within the context of the story being told. What they do mention doesn’t really make a lot of sense. Like, why does the TARDIS have fuel cells, and rods like a nuclear reactor? I thought it was a living being!
I didn’t think it was a great episode, but I didn’t hate it. It pained me to see them treating the TARDIS the way they were, but it could’ve been much worse, and it was all undone at the end anyway. The other thing that annoyed me in this episode was the harmful carelessness the Doctor started to show towards those around him, which he usually known for opposing. People are getting hurt and killed, and he doesn’t really care much at all. This is NOT the Doctor I know and love! And he doesn’t have any excuse like the battle-scarred 9th Doctor; he just acting recklessly aloof and unsympathetic.
Episode 11: The Crimson Horror
Summary: Back in Victorian London, Lizard Lady & Associates are asked to investigate another death in a series whereby they are found with bright red skin. On the eye of the dead man, the last image he saw is preserved: the Doctor’s face. Turns out, he too was investigating with Clara, but they got caught out. Luckily for the Doctor, the red venom doesn’t quite work on him, except for paralysing him and he is taken in as a pet by the blind daughter of the woman masterminding this crazy scheme. With the help of Jenny, he frees himself and Clara, and they work out the rest of the crazy old lady’s plan. But she is undeterred and takes her daughter hostage so that she can launch a rocket to cover everyone in said venom. A little shootout ensues and the Doctor watches on in delighted indifference as she falls to her death. Much the same happens as the blind daughter bashes the parasite which caused her mother to do what she did. And it raps up with the kids that Clara babysits discovering that she’s a time traveller.
Strax is as hilarious as ever, and always provides a good few laughs. The story is well told,3although it is lacking a bit of buildup. It refreshing to have the initial focus moved away from the Doctor, and onto our other crime-fighting friends. Overall, it’s a fairly standard fare.
The only thing I really didn’t like was the way the Doctor reacted to the two deaths towards the end. Again, we see a unsympathetic aloofness whereby he just lets these people die without a second thought. He doesn’t show compassion or sorrow at their passing, and even though they were the bad guys, it’s out of character for him.
Episode 12: Nightmare in Silver
Summary: As a result of the kids Clara babysits finding out she’s a time traveller, the Doctor and she take them to an amusement park. However, as usual with the Doctor, its already closed down so there’s not much fun to be had. In wandering around, they find an array of weird characters and have a bit of fun. The children are ready to go home, but the Doctor has noticed some weird Cyber-bugs. Turns out, a war against the Cyberman had been waged here, and now they’re coming back. The children wander off, and get upgraded, and before he knows it, the Doctor’s got a Cyberman in his head. He puts Clara in charge of the platoon of bumbling soldiers which are stationed in the abandoned amusement park, so they can fight the Cybermen, while he bets control of his mind on a game of chess with the Cybermen in his head called the Cyber-Planner (or Mr Clever, as he likes to be known). Fighting and self-arguing ensues, and eventually the Doctor defeats the Cyber-Planner by forcing him to use the processing power of all the other Cybermen to try and solve a chess problem. They end up blowing up the planet, and getting out of there just in time. Oh, and the Emperor of the universe proposes to Clara, but she turns him down.
Matt Smith does a great job of the whole split-personality thing. It’s really entertaining and quite convincing. We get a glimpse of what it could be like to have a evil Doctor (although isn’t that what the Master’s suppose to be?). Meanwhile, Clara’s finally left to shine, showing her cunning, smarts and vigour. One of the kids, Artie, has a funnily deliberate style to his speech, which is strangely entertaining. It’s like someone said to him “You need to speak really clearly. Project! Enunciate!”.
Episode 13: The Name of the Doctor
Summary: A man on death row gives Lizard Lady a riddle concerning the Doctor’s secret and his grave. She organises an out-of-body meeting with Clara, River and the rest of her crime-fighting crew. The meeting is interrupted when Jenny is attacked in the real world. Clara tells the Doctor what she saw and was told. He works out what they’re talking about, and that the co-ordinates that came with the riddle are those of his grave. Despite stating that it is a place he must never go, he goes there all the same, in the hope of saving Jenny, Vastra, and Strax. The TARDIS doesn’t want to go, but it gets close enough. The coordinates point to a battleground: the final battle of the Doctor at Trenzalore. They find a fake River Song grave, which leads them through a tunnel into an oversized TARDIS, where the others are waiting along with the Great Intelligence. They all stand at the door of the Doctor’s tomb. To open it, one simply need speak his true name. However, he refuses to, unsurprisingly. Fortunately/unfortunately River, who is there via mental link with Clara, is much more obliging. Inside glows a beam of light : the Doctor’s “own personal time tunnel” representing his part through time and space, from birth to death. The Great Intelligence declares that he will turn every one of the Doctor’s victories into defeat, and enters the time tunnel, scattering across the whole of the doctor’s existence. The Doctor call out for someone to stop him, but no one does and he fall down in agony. The Great Intelligence’s changes are starting to take effect, as things around them begin changing. The Doctor screams out in pain for someone to save him, so Clara does the only thing she can think to do; she too enters the time stream, so that she can be everywhere to save the Doctor every time. Everything is restored, and the Doctor is well again, but Clara is gone. He is determined to save her. River is shouting at him, even though she doesn’t think he can hear her, but then he responds. They have an emotional scene, husband & wife together for the last time. And then he jumps into his own time stream so that he can pull out Clara. He reaches her, but before he can get her out she faints, and we see something we never seen before. A Doctor from before the Doctor was the Doctor.
As much as I feared this episode could just totally destroy all the lore and wonder of the Doctor’s name and past and whatever else we may not know, it turned out really well. It’s intriguing, emotional and utterly heart racing. I actually chocked up when River tried to slap him. Oh MAN, it’s good! It’s much better, and much more enjoyable, than some of the other cliff-hanger stories we’ve been subjected to in recent years.
I really hope Clara gets through this, because her character’s got so much more potential than this season has shown. She’s a feisty, intelligent character, and I just don’t think she’s been given the room to show that off properly. She sort of reminds me of Donna, in the way she takes no prisoners when she’s taking to the Doctor, and she’s always willing and ready to question what he says. And when you’re travelling the universe with an alien you know little about, that’s an important quality.
So, yeah. I really do love Doctor Who, but this half-season hasn’t been the best. It’s had lots of potential, but the writing has mostly fallen flat somehow. On watching it through again, as part of this review, it’s been a bit better, but it’s still not anything revolutionary (bar The Name of the Doctor). It feels burnt out, like it trying too hard to be what it is, rather than just being it. I’m not saying Clara’s bad nor the Doctor. I just think he’s been out of sorts recently. He’s not acting like himself, he’s constantly being saved by Clara or someone else, or having to just reset the situation altogether. But that last episode really had me on the edge of my seat, and I can’t wait to see what happens next. I really hope it’s something that takes into consideration all the lore that comes before it and will flow on from it. That’s all you can ask really…
Well, the other thing I’m asking for is an episode written by Anthony Horowitz or John Green.
Anyway, that’s a rundown, and what I thought of the second half of Doctor Who Series 7. Did you see Doctor Who Series 7? What did you think? What do you think of it as a whole (all 13 episodes)? Are you a long-term Whovian? Did it live up to your expectations? Have I said anything you disagree with? Tell me & everyone else who passes through here what you think in the comment below.
To Infinity and Beyond,
P.S. I’ve got exams, so that’s why I’m behind schedule posting this…