Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Year in Doctor Who

I was thinking of doing a countdown/reassessment of the Doctor Who episodes of the year, but my opinons haven't really changed and a simple countdown is pretty boring*. So instead I'm offering an overview of the Year in Who.

In terms of the main show, it was quite a year. In fact, I struggle to think of a season of Doctor Who that has ever been as consistently good as this one. There was only one real clunker, and even some of the filler episodes were minor classics in their own right. I mean, a few years ago the slots held by The Girl Who Waited and The God Complex were represented by the likes of Love and Monsters and Fear Her. And it is one of the filler episodes - one of the few not dominated in some way by the overall story arc - that wins my award for the best episode of the year - The Doctor's Wife was an incredible, moving and inventive episode of Doctor Who. I would love to see Neil Gaiman writing another episode on the future.

And there were some brilliant performances in this season. Karen Gillan deserves a lot of praise for The Girl Who Waited, which is a startling rejoinder to those critics who have commented that she is more there for her looks rather than her acting ability. Likewise, Let's Kill Hitler finally gave some great lines to Arthur Darvil, who has perfected his bemused everyman routine. It also allowed Alex Kingston to play a very different version of River Song. But the best performer of the season was the star. Matt Smith has shown his versatility across 2011, and his performance in A Good Man Goes To War showed his incredible range across just forty-five minutes. Watch the Colonel Runaway conversation for a restrained yet compelling anger from the Doctor. Or watch the scene when he realises that Madame Kovarian has actually stolen Melody from under his nose. This year has shown one of the most talented actors the show has ever had as its star at the very height of his powers.

We also got some great monsters this season. The dolls in Night Terrors might have been derivative. but they were very creepy. The Minotaur of The God Complex was also derivative but striking; the nightmare maze it inhabited has probably entered the psyche and the nightmares of many a child. But the Silence were the monsters of the year; it would be good to see more of them and fully explore what they are about.

But while almost everything was well in the parent show, the same can not be said for Doctor Who's various spin-offs. The Sarah Jane Adventures ended as it really had to, given the circumstances, but at least it ended on a high. The Curse of Clyde Langer was a great instalment of that show, and a story that puts to shame many of the stories in the parent show.

Torchwood may have ended, or it may be back. But if it does end, then it effectively committed suicide. Miracle Day was a bloated mess of a series - about 50% longer than it should have been, it was turgid, bloated nonsense that took an interesting premise and then did nothing with it across the course of circa ten hours. The sole truly interesting moment was when a character met a fiery end in the camps; aside from that, it was a colossal waste of time and a massive step back from the really rather good Children of Earth. As I say, I don't know whether this was the last series of Torchwood, but the truth is that they don't deserve another series even if they happen to get one.

And last but by no means least, any review of the year in the Doctor Who universe has to note that said universe lost two of its most important figures last year - Nicholas Courtney and Elisabeth Sladen. Short of the eleven actors who have played the lead role, it is difficult to think of any other actors who have been quite so important to the series. They deserved the accolades that made up their obituaries, and their deaths are deeply saddening. And their is a real poignancy in watching a story like Planet of the Spiders, and noting that the three protagonists are no longer with us. Rest in peace, Lis and Nick.

And what about next year? Well, we've got quite the wait until the good Doctor returns to our screens. When he does, we've been promised the tragic end to the story of the Ponds and a new friend for the Doctor. How will it end for the Ponds? I suspect that Moffat will stop short of killing them off, but I do think that there will be something very final about their departure. And the whole series is gearing up to the 50th anniversary and the fall of the eleventh - I suspect that either 2012 or 2013 will see the end of the Eleventh Doctor. So much to look forward to... even if it isn't coming for a while.

*Oh, alright, if you insists - here's the countdown:

14: The Curse of The Black Spot
13: The Rebel Flesh
12: Closing Time
11: Night Terrors
10: The Almost People
9: A Good Man Goes To War
8: Day of the Moon
7: The Impossible Astronaut
6: The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe
5: The God Complex
4: The Girl Who Waited
3: Let's Kill Hitler
2: The Wedding of River Song
1: The Doctor's Wife

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At 5:17 pm , Blogger TonyF said...

I have to agree, especially about Torchwood. It would be best if it were quietly buried.

At 8:32 pm , Blogger Rob F said...

"Take Hitler, and put him in the cupboard!" has to be one of the funniest lines I've heard in a long time.


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