Top of the Docs: Series 5 (2010)

With David Tennant gone and no established companion for a new series, the future of Doctor Who was in as mysterious a place as any TARDIS landing.  But Stephen Moffat was taking over as showrunner so there was hope.  Smith himself was relatively unknown at the time and his finger twirling interview made me wonder what he’d be like.  The question on our minds was soon to be answered: was Doctor Who in safe hands or would this be the end?  Hopefully Matt, Karen and Stephen Moffat would make a big bang in the life of the Doctor.

series 5

The Eleventh Hour

RP: 9 – A massive departure from everything that went before. A new companion who isn’t grounded in family life, and doesn’t come from the inner city. Almost nothing familiar from the previous era. The Doctor through the eyes of a child, with the TARDIS acting as a magic door in the best children’s family fiction traditions. All this, and it’s also huge fun!

ML: 9 – The Doctor’s finest post-regenerative hour.  Smith is immediately likable.  Amy and Rory are a fun pair as well.  The episode has a lot of heart, and most importantly, the Doctor is our hero!  Great return, though not quite at the epic level of some stories.

The Beast Below

RP: 8 – Reels us in with a creepy mystery and then slaps us round the face with a horrible tale of exploitation and human failings. Instead of getting preachy, Moffat shows the Doctor angry but helpless in a very human way, and it takes Amy, the companion who steps through the magic doors of the TARDIS into the world of children’s fiction, to identify the route to the happy ending. Uncomfortable to watch at times, but an ideal vehicle for the new companion.

ML: 7 – Definitely deserves to be in the above average category, because to give it anything below that would be beastly.  The Doctor’s attitude definitely reminds the audience that he is an alien and cares about beings besides humans.  The story is carried by Smith and Gillen and while the concept is a bit weak, it’s imaginative and perhaps as quirky as the Doctor himself.  A fun story.

Victory of the Daleks

RP: 4 – A bit of a bizarre moment in Doctor Who’s history, with an episode that clearly pandered to the fans far more than anything else this series, and yet missed the mark horribly. The WW2 stuff is competent but takes a comic book approach to Churchill and the war. A bit of a mess.

ML: 1 – This is about as weak as Doctor Who gets, hitting the bottom of the barrel.  The only redeeming bit is the characters of Churchill and Bracewell, but the plot of the story is just dreadful.  I’m sick of Daleks at this point and they can’t seem to come up with a good strategy for world conquest.  One wonders how they became the most dangerous race in the universe.  The Daleks may have achieved victory by being the rainbow colored catalyst of the lowest score of the season.

The Time of Angels / Flesh and Stone

RP: 7 – A huge misstep, taking almost everything that made the Angels so great in their debut and then changing it all, which diminishes them as a monster. The one thing that really works well is the idea of the image of an Angel becoming an Angel. An exciting story, and if it weren’t a sequel to one of the best Doctor Who episodes ever made it wouldn’t seem like quite such a disappointment. Some acts just can’t be followed.

ML: 5 – Oh.  Moffat gave us a great species that doesn’t kill you… until the next time we meet them where they kill you.  Sorta lost that momentum in one not-so-angelic swoop.  The Angels are a generic monster now dropping the potential score pretty low.  Lower if one counts that the Doctor can’t count as high as 2 when he realizes all the statues have one head on a planet where he expects people with 2 heads.  Even River can’t save that.  But the excitement and the stop motion do give something back.  Frankly, I find this a pretty disappointing story anyway and my feelings towards the Angels dropped like a stone.

The Vampires of Venice

RP: 6 – Cherry picks bits of the vampire myth and that ends up working quite well. A good story to cement Rory as a companion, allowing him to be heroic, but his character development comes at the expense of the Doctor’s, who acts like an idiot at times and is trying to determine the course of Amy’s life, instead of letting her determine it herself.

ML: 8 – Loads of fun with this non-Vampire story.  Love the sea-creature element of it and there are some great spooky visuals.  Just good fun overall.  And I love the library card!  This episode definitely did not suck.

Amy’s Choice

RP: 9 – I have huge admiration for any writer who uses the dream argument to question the nature of a series, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bad example of that. It’s always brave and exciting. This doesn’t quite hit the heights of most other examples in different sci-fi shows, mainly due to a weak ending, but it’s still a top notch episode.

ML: 8 – As much as I love ontology, and this is a thought provoking episode, it never strikes me as a classic.  Toby Jones makes an incredible villain but depressingly, this never goes anywhere.  Had real potential to be more, but never followed up which, in the end, diminishes it a bit.  To be or not to be a classic?  I give this an 8.

The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood

RP: 6 – Better than most of Chibnall’s pre-showrunner efforts, but that statement doesn’t carry the weight it would with Moffatt! A decent story, but not really his story. It’s basically a remake of Doctor Who and the Silurians, with some elements of Inferno thrown into the mix. Rescued by some great performances, and the fact that Matt Smith can rescue just about anything.

ML: 5 – Another middle of the road story.  You can tell this isn’t a Moffat story by the opening with future Amy and Rory waving, only to be for nothing later on as Rory is erased out of history.  Should have been more, but never manifests, no matter how good the Silurians look now.  It left me feeling cold.

Vincent and the Doctor

RP: 10 – Now this illustrates perfectly how a skilled writer, even with little experience in sci-fi, can write successfully for the series, by simply writing about what interests them and then weaving a few sci-fi trappings into the mix. A deeply moving portrayal of mental illness, which manages to find joy and triumph even in the midst of tragedy. I described this in my review as “perfection”, and I still stand by that.

ML: 10 – Such an emotionally powerful episode and an utterly beautiful ending.  Unexpected with the silly monster of the week, but the story around Vincent is absolutely top notch.  One of the finest episodes of Doctor Who.  A work of art!

The Lodger

RP: 6 – I don’t like football.

ML: 8 – Not only do I find this episode loads of fun, even thought the monster of the “weak” is … well, weak, but it spawned a delightful song by a group called Chameleon Circuit called Kiss the Girl and Craig reminds me too much of one of my best friends, so it’s impossible for me to give this anything lower than an 8.  (I can’t let this one get a 9 though because the threat is sort of ridiculous!) 

The Pandorica Opens / The Big Bang

RP: 8 – Pays off a lot of threads from earlier in the series, throws in loads of monsters, and gives us the cliffhanger to end all cliffhangers. Then for the second half it basically turns into The Curse of Fatal Death, messing with time for fun. Doctor Who has never been quite this crazy before and probably never will be again. I suppose the best word to sum it up is “fun”.

ML: 8 – I find the first half pretty weak until a surprise ending, but the second half brings Moffat’s “timey-wimey” skills to bear and we get that big bang of an episode that we were hoping for.  The music is spot on too, and River adds to this one beautifully.  

A Christmas Carol

RP: 8 – The first Christmas special where Christmas is intrinsic to the plot rather than being scene dressing. A fairly straightforward retelling of the original story is elevated by the casting of Michael Gambon, and the recognition that A Christmas Carol is not just about miserliness, but is instead an examination of miserliness as a symptom of loneliness. Where it steps too far away from the original is that Kazran can only be saved by changing his past and therefore fundamentally changing who he is, whereas Scrooge found redemption as himself.

ML: 9 – I think this is a beautiful retelling of the classic and I’m probably punching the score higher because Abigail’s Song was superb.  (Shared that with my dad too, and glad to say he loved it.)  Doesn’t make a lot of sense, but who cares, this is Doctor Who after all.  Plus there’s a valuable message about treasuring the moments we have.  But the season is over now… bah, humbug!  

Although I’d say this was a pretty average start for a Doctor, some of the highs are intensely memorable.  Smith seems to be a very capable Doctor and full of life and energy.  Amy makes for a great companion and the friendship is powerful.  Moffat also is still running hot, although maybe not as good as when he was doing one story per season, but the future felt like it was in safe hands.  And thankfully, that would continue for a bit longer!  ML

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1 Response to Top of the Docs: Series 5 (2010)

  1. scifimike70 says:

    Doctor Who, with the exception of River Song’s timely return, felt like it was born anew with a new producer, new Doctor and new companions. Moffat had better success than Chibnall in this regard and considering Chibnall’s arguably best contribution here with bringing back the Silurians, this of course is even more surprisingly where Matt Smith’s formidable seriousness for the Doctor found a great first foothold. Considering the history of the Silurians in Dr. Who, Chibnall clearly knew how to be Whoniversally faithful enough in that regard, even if borrowing from obvious familiarities.

    For the TARDIS team of the 11th Doctor, Amy, Rory and intermittently River Song, which would lead to the best story arcs so far in the modern series, Season 5 would be proof that Dr. Who would be as successful as before under a new producer’s reign. Vincent & The Doctor earns a prize for how this century’s Dr. Who would so heartfully dramatize some important issues. And The Pandorica Opens paved the way for Arthur’s prequel/spinoff reprisal for Rory in Big Finish’s The Lone Centurion. So thankfully Dr. Who was off to a very promising start in the 2010s.

    Thank you both for this latest chapter in the Top of the Docs.

    Liked by 1 person

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