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Brilliant revision of a beloved series
Safe, but sharp – Tennant fans should give it a shot It’s a huge pet peeve of mine when people review Doctor Who based on their tastes rather than the objective standards on the show. Doctor Who as a show has changed so often and so radically that there will ALWAYS be parts of the show that, whether or not they are good, just don’t appeal to people. If you want darkness and grit, try Season 7. If you want space exploration, avoid it. And so on, and so on.For this reason, I’m going to start with OBJECTIVE commentary – standards of writing, storytelling, etc. – and then proceed to the SUBJECTIVE, as in my personal take on the direction of the show, the style, and the acting.First the objective.THE PLOTSOverall, this is a more tightly written series than the four which preceded it. There’s a little more attention to plotting and logic, which is due in no small part to Moffat’s talent for writing puzzlebox stories. In past seasons, you always knew you had to suspend a lot of your logical faculties to enjoy the season finales; this time around, it’s much more acceptable on that front. There are still exceptions, specifically Victory of the Daleks, but in terms of plot this series is hitting higher peaks and just maintaining a higher average.THE PRODUCTION VALUESThis is something I’m least inclined to give importance, since Doctor Who was always enjoyable regardless of its production, but the effects have definitely improved from the last season. Part of it comes from less overt reliance on CGI for the most part. You certainly don’t get anything on the level of the TARDIS towing a planet. Additionally, the locations are substantially more effective and interesting. The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone, Vincent and the Doctor, Vampires of Venice, and the finale all have examples of great, tactile locations that you could almost believe were real locations.THE SOUNDTRACKAlthough it’s still Murray Gold in charge of the music, the tone of the soundtrack has shifted considerably along with the rest of the show. The music tends to be more upbeat, faster and more overtly heroic, as well as a lot more catchy. It’s just a lot easier to hum the music you hear in the show.THE CHARACTERS(Note: this is in terms of the writing, not the performances.)There were certain innovations in the cast which I thought were quite interesting, and perhaps necessary. For one thing, we have a male companion who is neither wholly incompetent nor utterly dumped by his girlfriend. Rory does start out in much the same position as Mickey, but unlike him he grows substantially as a character – proving his worth and truly earning his place on the TARDIS by the last episode – and Amy does not abandon him the way Rose abandoned Mickey. As a result, while the two relationships start out on similar pages, this most recent one ends up in a much more palatable place.In terms of writing, Amy Pond is how Rose’s character should have been treated in Series 2. Both start out as fairly selfish, obsessed with the Doctor to the point of being rather bratty. In Series 2, however, Rose never grows out of this condition, and the problem is instead solved by having the plot conveniently get her out of the way. In Series 5, however, Amy becomes substantially aware of her own brattiness and takes steps to change. The implied romantic subtext that made the Ten/Rose relationship so thoroughly creepy (please – a nine-hundred-year-old and a nineteen-year-old? Don’t insult my intelligence.) threatens to resume here, but…well, let’s say the writers knew what they were doing on that score.The Doctor here is largely without a character arc, in sharp contrast to his immediate predecessors. I would be quick to explain to viewers who haven’t experienced the Eleventh Doctor, however, that this is a consequence of the change in showrunners. It was Moffat’s intention to have a “safe” series to which viewers could adjust before ramping up his own style. As a result, we see aspects of the Doctor’s future arcs and conflicts foreshadowed, but emotionally speaking the series is not so much about him, but more about his companions.The supporting cast is fairly strong – nothing particularly better- or worse-written than in previous seasons. Memorable characters include Winston Churchill, Rosanna Calvierri, and Liz Ten. River Song also appears in two stories, and given that it’s her creator who’s writing her character she’s hardly mischaracterized.THE BADDIESThe antagonists are all over the map. Standouts are the still-effective Weeping Angels, the Dream Lord, the…shall we say…baddies of the finale. The Earth Reptiles, the Vampires, and the Smilers are middling – decently written, but not necessarily memorable. The Atraxi, the new Daleks, and the Krafayis are less memorable – none of them are given a chance to be truly threatening. Overall, this kind of distribution is basically the…
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