Thursday, March 17, 2011

Doctor Who Series Five: An Overview


Now that A Christmas Carol is now relegated to the ghosts of Christmases past, I think we can pause for a moment to look back at the first series of the Eleventh Doctor, aka Matt Smith. To his credit as an actor, I think Smith has overcome whatever trepidation there might have been in thinking that no one could possibly follow David Tennant. He stayed on for three years, which is by no means a record but is the longest so far of the revived series. He left his stamp on Doctor Who, and any actor following him would have a daunting task. There was also concern that Smith, at 27, was far too young for such a part.

I think Smith has been generally successful with his interpretation of The Doctor. He is more gleeful, more manic, and certainly less despairing than Tennant in his final adventures. However, it is now time to have our own Season Five review. I present the nominees in various categories with winners in red with an asterisk.


Sophie Okonedo (The Beast Below)
Helen McCrory (The Vampires of Venice)*
Toby Jones (Amy's Choice)
Alex Kingston (The Big Bang Parts 1 & 2)

This was a tough choice. Each of them was wonderful. What got me to select McCrory was the fact that she gave a brilliant performance in a truly awful story. Her Lady Calvierri was frightening throughout The Vampires of Venice, and her delivery of the lines was in turns arrogant, menacing, and even mournful. I was spoiled for choice, but given McCrory was the best thing in something so weak as The Vampires of Venice shouldn't disqualify her from being recognized for her work.


The Weeping Angels (The Time of Angels Parts 1 & 2)
Lady Calvierri (The Vampires of Venice)
The Dream Lord (Amy's Choice)*
Restac (Cold Blood Part 2: Cold Blood)
Kazran Sardick (A Christmas Carol)

The Dream Lord was a perfectly menacing being, always keeping us guessing as to his true identity. It could have degenerated to camp, but Jones kept it perfectly straight--even when dressed as a butcher.


The montage of previous Doctors (The Eleventh Hour)*
Amy floating above the universe (The Beast Below)
Rory's First Death (Amy's Choice)
Dr. Chaudry electing to stay behind (Cold Blood Part 2)
The Doctor challenging all aliens at Stonehenge (The Big Bang Part 1)

Each of these moments are what make Doctor Who so special. I thought about which one was the one that stuck within my memory the most, which had the biggest visual impact, and which had the most emotional impact. Each has an element of one or the other, but seeing all the Doctors and so many of his enemies flash before my eyes fit into all three categories.


Winston Churchill being menaced by a Dalek's shadow (The Beast Below)
Cleric Bob speaking from beyond the grave (The Time of Angels Part 1)*
Elliot held captive (Cold Blood Part 2)
The Doctor gets boxed in (The Big Bang Part 1)
Rory dumping Amy in the worst way (The Big Bang Part 1)

What pushed the fear factor in The Time of Angels Part 1 was the fact that Cleric Bob spoke so gently while speaking words of terror. It sent chills to hear such a gentle, soothing, almost innocent voice tell the Doctor and those with him they were basically going to die. Even more effective, it was only Cleric Bob's voice. The lack of visuals made it more intense in terror.


The Vampires of Venice
Amy's Choice*
Cold Blood Parts 1 & 2
The Big Bang Parts 1 & 2 
A Christmas Carol

While The Vampires of Venice would appear to have a lock on this category, the frozen TARDIS sets of Amy's Choice were to my mind the most impressive all season. Given that they were only one set and that they still had a powerful impact, it makes it even more impressive.


The Beast Below
The Vampires of Venice*
Amy's Choice
The Big Bang Part 1
A Christmas Carol

This was a no-brainer. The Vampires of Venice clearly is a costume-driven episode, but we had a wide variety: not just the lavish Venetian wardrobe of the Lady Calvierri and her Court, but the shrouds of her minions and the stag shirts for Rory and Company. In other words, there had to be a wide variety of clothes, and each worked (although when the Venetian had to wear Rory's t-shirt, it didn't work).


Adam Smith (The Time of Angels Part 1)
Catherine Morshead (Amy's Choice)
Ashley Way (Cold Blood Parts 1 & 2)*
Jonny Campbell (Vincent & The Doctor)
Toby Haynes (The Big Bang Part 1)

It might not be fair to say Way had his way in this category because he was considered for Parts 1 & 2 while everyone else was considered for only one part or one story. However, unlike Smith or Haynes, he managed to avoid having the Part 2 Slump (where the story either loses steam or interest or even logic). He kept things going so well through two parts that he earned his win.


Stephen Moffat (The Eleventh Hour)
Stephen Moffat (The Time of Angels Part 1)
Simon Nye (Amy's Choice)*
Chris Chibnall (Cold Blood Parts 1 & 2)
Stephen Moffat (The Big Bang Part 1)

Nye kept us perpetually guessing throughout Amy's Choice as to the true nature of The Dream Lord and while it was at least clear to me which was the Real World and which the Dream World, there was always a hint that we could be wrong.


The Eleventh Hour*
Amy's Choice
Cold Blood Parts 1 & 2
Vincent & The Doctor

The Eleventh Hour had the unenviable task of establishing a new Doctor and Companion while having to be another Doctor Who story. It did it so well, matched with great performances, beautiful moments, and an interesting premise. Granted, I wasn't overwhelmed with the monster in this one, but there was enough good to overcome whatever bad there was in it.

However, none of this is to indicate everything within Series/Season Five of Doctor Who 2.0 was perfect. I think it will be instructive to go over some really awful moments.


Overweight & Multicolored Daleks (Victory of the Daleks)
The "true" reason for the 'whoosing' of the TARDIS (The Time of Angels Part 1)
The Doctor pulling out a lightsaber from the front of his pants (The Vampires of Venice)
Amy's attempted rape of The Doctor (The Time of Angels Part 2)*
The Doctor fighting an alien with an electric toothbrush while wearing only a towel (The Lodger)

I flipped long and hard between a bad moment in The Time of Angels Part 1 and a bad moment in The Time of Angels Part 2. Each is particularly atrocious because it is so unnecessary. After a lot of thought, I opted that having one of the leads attempt to force sexual intercourse on the other lead trumped one of the worst jokes to make it onto the screen (which was soon forgotten since the 'whooshing' of the TARDIS will always remain).


The Smilers (The Beast Below)
The Saturnyians (The Vampires of Venice)*
The Krafayis (Vincent & The Doctor)
The Beast Above (The Lodger)
Kazran Sardick (A Christmas Carol)

It might come off as inconsistent that I nominated Kazran as both Best Monster and Worst Monster. How can that be? Quite simple: Gambon's performance made him a great villain, but Stephen Moffat's script made him almost a silly one (I can still hear Gambon growling 'Why are they singing?' a la Grinch). Fortunately for us, he wasn't either the best OR the worst. That dishonor goes to whatever the hell the creatures in The Vampires of Venice were. Officially listed as Saturnyians, they were at various times vampires or fish or spiders. One never really knew what exactly they were, but whatever they were, I hated them.


The Beast Below
Victory of The Daleks
The Vampires of Venice*
The Lodger
A Christmas Carol

Again, how could I have Victory of the Daleks as Best AND Worst? Here's a few clues: fat Daleks! The RAF In Space! Did I mention Fat Daleks--and multi-colored at that! Even then, there were good things within it. Indeed, there were good things in every one of the Worst Story nominees, but for sheer awfullness, nothing beats The Vampires of Venice. Yes, it's won two awards, but nothing blinds me to just how dumb the whole thing was.

Well, there it is: Series/Season Five of Doctor Who covered. I have Series/Season Six on my mind, eagerly waiting to be thrilled by new adventures, and hoping to avoid more cracks.

Next Story: Day of the Moon Parts 1 & 2 (The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon)

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