Since my review of Doctor Who series 5 is still seemingly so popular over a year on, and since the sixth series of the time-travelling sci-fi institution is over, I’ve decided that I’ll stage another review of the whole series. And, without resorting to any River Song jokes, this review will contain spoilers.
To recap where we are as of the end of series 5, the Doctor (along with Amy, Rory and River) has saved the universe from destruction at the hands of an exploding TARDIS, but still doesn’t know what caused it to explode in the first place. Rory and Amy have gotten married, before whizzing off with the Doctor for more adventures (including their honeymoon, as depicted in A Christmas Carol, the 2010 Christmas special). We also know that River Song is married, and is in prison for killing “the best man I’ve ever known”.
Now, come along reader. We have a series to review! Geronimo!
The Doctor is back with a bang. Literally. After seeing an older Doctor die at the hands of a mysterious astronaut on the shores of Lake Silencio, Amy, Rory and River join their Doctor on a trip to 1969, following a series of cryptic clues. This was a good opener, with a particularly powerful opening gambit. Killing off main characters in the opening episode isn’t an unusual move, but killing off the main character is new. The joke about Americans and guns made me giggled (again, sorry) and showed that the usual DW wit is alive and well. One of the particular highlights of this episodes is a Richard Nixon which puts the play-dough version in Watchmen to shame.
Following directly on from The Impossible Astronaut, this episode sees the Doctor and his usual companions- joined by Canton Everett Delaware III, who eagle-eyed sci-fiers will recognise as Romo Lampkin of BSG fame- waging a revolution against the mysterious Silence. The Silence are a fantastic idea, creepy figures standing in the background of forever unable to be remembered. They’re up there with the Weeping Angels in the downright creepy stakes. This was another brilliant episode, opening the season with a cracking two part story. And the regenerating girl at the end was a superb touch.
- The Curse of the Black Spot
From the brilliant, to the not so brilliant. There wasn’t anything exactly wrong with this episode, but coming after the The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon two-parter, it feels very flat. The pirate romp idea has been shoehorned into a Doctor Who story, and one expects that it’s only in order to show Karen Gillian in a pirate outfit. And not enough was made of Lily Cole, whose perfectly spherical head made her excellently suited to being a much more alien monster than she played. Probably the only real filler episode of the series.
Having said that The Curse of the Black Spot was the only filler episode, I do feel that if this episode wasn’t magnificently good, it would dispute that title. Written by the brilliant Neil Gaiman, it adds nothing to the overall story arc, but really is so good. The Doctor follows a Time Lord distress call to a TARDIS-eating asteroid creature, where the TARDIS enters a human body. Cue endless witty exchanges!
The Doctor, Amy and Rory land smack bang in the middle of a showdown on an island between a group of acid miners and their “flesh” duplicates, formerly merely tools, now sentient. This is classic DW fare, with the Doctor desperately trying to keep two peoples from going to war. See last season’s Silurian two-parter. It’s good enough, but doesn’t really come into its own until the second part.
And here we are. With a flesh duplicate of the Doctor running around too, things were always going to be more fun. Everything goes to hell in a handbasket when one of the Flesh duplicates goes a little monstery. Lots of running around and shouting, until at the end Amy goes into labour, and is revealed to be a Flesh duplicate herself. This was a cliffhanger and a half. Moffatt knows how to keep an audience watching, and this is it.
Back to the main storyline we go. The Doctor and Rory gather an army to rescue Amy (plus her daughter). This was an episode that should have been great, and that knew it should have been great. The problem was that it overreached a bit. The Doctor winning the battle without any bloodshed was a good touch, but when it went wrong (as we knew it would) it just felt a bit too…obvious, for the Doctor to fall for. The reveal of River Song’s identity (She’s Amy and Rory’s baby. Also, part Time Lord. Don’t ask) was made entirely too obvious, but the performances of Matt Smith and Alex Kingston in the last few minutes save it.
It’s not filler, but it’s not good. The addition of Hitler was wholly unnecessary (he spends all but the first five minutes of the episode in the bloody cupboard), and frankly was probably only for the jaw dropping title at the end of A Good Man Goes to War. The whole point of the episode was to show Melody Pond “becoming” River Song, via a shapeshifting robot (the teselecta) crewed by mini-people. Which seemed unrealistic and entirely too sudden. And so the Doctor would know the date of his death. All of which could have been achieved without Hitler. My least favourite episode of the series.
The Doctor helps a frightened child, and ends up trapped in a dolls’ house filled with very creepy dolls. This feels very close to the Tennant/Ecclestone episodes that RTD used to write. Not in a bad way. It’s creepy, and endearing, and explores the Doctor’s character surprisingly well.
The best episode of the series. Really, truly, fantastically made. The Doctor and Rory try to rescue Amy from a different “time stream” which is moving faster, and end up finding a bitter, angry Amy who has been waiting for them for decades. More Doctor characterisation, but this time vicariously, through his effects on other people. RTD tried for this a number of times, most notably in the series 4 finale, but never managed it as effectively as The Girl Who Waited.
Another very good examination of the Doctor’s character through his relationship with others. The gang become trapped with a bunch of other randomers in a hotel, in which there is a room somewhere containing each person’s greatest fear. It’s a nice use of the Room 101 idea, and a particularly nice twist at the end which sees the Doctor have to break Amy’s faith in him. The ending, with Rory and Amy leaving the TARDIS, came straight out of left field, though it’s a bit dampened by knowing that they will certainly be back in the series finale. The question you’re left wanting answers for, though, is what was in the Doctor’s room?
James Corden and Cybermen. Oh joy. One is the silver enemy of the Doctor who I have never found scary (sorry, I know that’s heresy, but it’s true). The other is a man I very much want to dislike, but keep catch myself giggling at. It wasn’t a bad episode, even despite my prejudices. And actually, placing it 200 years on for the Doctor, and just before the events at the beginning of The Impossible Astronaut, was a good touch. The best part was at the end, when the Doctor is finally ready to go to Lake Silencio.
- The Wedding of River Song
This is an episode which has divided opinion, but which I loved. The Doctor searches for the reason that he has to die (he will answer the first question), before going to Lake Silencio. There, a younger River in the astronaut suit fails to kill him, causing time to “all happen at once”. This episode has some lovely scenes, including Emperor Winston Churchill, and a steam train into an Egyptian pyramid. The Doctor convinces River that she has to kill him, in order to save the universe (for a change) and she does.
Except she doesn’t. Face it, we all knew that the Doctor would survive. He always does- that’s half the fun of it! The use of the teselecta was something a lot of people guessed, but I admittedly didn’t.
The resounding theme of this series was the Doctor, facing who he is and his own demise. It did that very well, particularly with the Doctor’s realisation in A Good Man Goes to War of the effect his fame was having on the universe. The end of The Wedding of River Song has the Doctor very much alive, but with only a handful of people aware of that fact (and the fixed point in time thing does make sense, it’s all a matter of perspective). It’s an excellent lead into the seventh series, which will be the 50th anniversary of the show.
As for the future? I think we had a fairly large hint from Dorium Maldovar (who still looks like the fat Zahn from Farscape episode John Quixote) with that business about the fall of the Eleventh, on the fields of Trenzalore. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the big hurrah Moffat has planned for the anniversary.
River Song’s story, too, isn’t as finished as everyone else seems to think it is. In Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead, River knows the Doctor’s name. But he hasn’t told her yet (when he said he had told her his name, he’d told her to look into his eye). I think we’ve more to see of Alex Kingston.
Finally, in the break between A Good Man Goes to War and Let’s Kill Hitler (whoever came up with that break idea really does deserve something painful to happen to them) a teaser trailer was released. It showed a skeleton, holding a dying sonic screwdriver. I don’t think it was a teaser trailer for Let’s Kill Hitler. I think Moffat is playing the long game with us.