This was a strange season seemingly made up of 2 parts. There was the first half that premiered in September of 2012, paused until Christmas, then leapt over to April and May to give us a cliffhanger that would have to wait until November for a payoff, then come in with a finale for Christmas. A strange break up indeed but was it able to hold the audiences attention? More importantly, how would it honor the series celebrating its 50 year anniversary?
RP: 8 – The idea of a Dalek asylum is really creepy. A Dalek parliament is less so. The episode leans heavily on the viewer’s foreknowledge of Jenna Coleman playing the new companion, and then pulls the rug out from under us at the end. A good start for Jenna.
ML: 9 – Despite massive lapses in logic, this episode is tremendous fun. Jenna looks utterly amazing, the asylum is genuinely frightening, and the surprise ending was really a surprise. Having said that, it probably should get a lower score for those huge gaps in storytelling and logic. The very idea that Clara is in a Dalek casing should have been evident the moment she spoke, long before the visual reveal. I reserve my right to offer this one asylum from a bad grade due to idiotic ideas because it was just so much fun!
RP: 3 – A story that borrows from the 1970s in more ways than it should, with Chibnall continuing to prove that he’s the last person who should ever be considered for the showrunner job. A few great performances save his bacon. Brian is brilliant.
ML: 4 – This episode has a certain charm to it and it gives us David Bradley as Solomon. But I make no bones about it, this episode isn’t exactly “out of this world”. It gets a low average score (rather than below average) simply for being charming and giving us an old school ending with Brian. I know I must be getting a bit long in the tooth though when I complain that Chibnall just doesn’t have the same writing skill as Moffat or RTD.
RP: 3 – That’s quite enough questioning of whether the Doctor is a good person or not, thank you very much. It has already been done to death. The Western setting is a novelty, although I hate Westerns with a passion. Thankfully many of the Western clichés are avoided. Some thought-provoking ideas save this one from being a total stinker.
ML: 3 – As much as I want to be merciful, I can’t really say this deserves to be in the average category. I do like the morality questions that rise up but I hate that the Doctor shows signs of violence. Is this because he’s in America that he feels he needs to carry a gun? Ben Browder does add something, but that’s rapidly taken away by the Doctor’s ability to speak horse… My eyes are rolling like tumbleweed!
RP 7 – Switch your brain off for this one, because none of it makes one iota of sense, but it’s still a lot of fun. Ironically for a story that is supposed to showcase the strength of the main group of three friends, it is elevated hugely by Brian and the newly introduced Kate Stewart. The Power of Five.
ML: 3 – It seems only appropriate to give this a three and then even there I’m not sure it deserves that high a score; it is certainly below average. It takes a moderately decent look at duality, and introduces us to Kate Lethbridge Stewart, so it certainly has some redeeming qualities, but the story is extremely weak, the villain never really seems menacing, and worst of all, most of the story is boring. Not a powerful recommendation at all.
RP: 8 – Probably the best and most effective companion departure there has ever been, killing them off but in a nice way. The Angels are of course the perfect way to do that, although by now they’ve lost much of their ability to scare. A bit of silliness drags the episode down a notch, but only a little.
ML: 8 – Unlike Asylum, I have a harder time giving this one a 9 even though the ending is pretty incredible. Utterly heartbreaking and beautifully acted, but can’t take away from the silliness of the Statue of Liberty being an Angel; which then changes the rules again about an angel manifesting through one’s eyes. The only thing the Angels take is some getting used to…
RP: 10 – A strong contender for the best ever Christmas episode. The monsters are great, it works really well as a second introduction to the enigmatic Clara, and it plays brilliantly within the nostalgic world of children’s fantasy fiction. Full of mystery and magic.
ML: 3 – I know Roger and I were on different ends of the spectrum here. I think this episode is barely watchable but the Paternoster gang does bring this up a bit. Unfortunately, even then it has its weak moments and even the Great Intelligence and the lunchbox of the London Underground can’t elevate this. I’m still a bit frosty toward this one!
RP: 7 – The story itself is forgettable, but that doesn’t really matter because it’s just there as a showcase for Clara and she’s amazing. Doctor Who feels like a show that’s full of mystery, for the first time in a while.
ML: 1 – Easily the weakest thing this season, but that’s not saying a lot yet as I was not loving the way things were progressing. Spoonheads and vertical driving motorcycles are just the start. Clara doesn’t make sense in the world she supposedly inhabits. It attempts to be big and exciting but nothing big or exciting ring any bells to me!
RP: 10 – One of the most thematically rich episodes of Doctor Who ever made, packed full of interesting ideas, commonly detested by the hard of thinking who like to make nasty comments about a child’s singing abilities. If you didn’t like this the first time round, watch it again and open your mind to the ideas being explored here.
ML: 7 – I do have to give this one high marks for a GLORIOUS piece of music sung so nicely by that young lady. It’s a visual treat at least. Unfortunately, I think Clara is very unimpressed by her travels, is a little too cocky about them, and ends up being a repeat of every other companion before as the one to save the day. I think modern Doctor Who writers forget who the hero is supposed to be. The companion runs rings around the Doctor once again saving the day while the Doctor almost saves it! (You’d think all the people standing around doing nothing also had people who died in their lives that lost out on potential, but I guess not on Akhaten!)
RP: 8 – A love letter to the Troughton era, this is a tightly contained, claustrophobic, base-under-siege. The unmasking of the Ice Warrior is the only bit that really doesn’t work. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you necessarily should.
ML: 9 – Classic base (or sub) under siege, David Warner, and Ice Warriors all boost this one very high for me. Coupled with an enemy that is honorable and not out to destroy everything, it feels like a retelling of The Ice Warriors for a modern audience. Nothing to have cold feet over; this one is hugely exciting.
RP: 9 – A good, straightforward psychological horror, which Doctor Who doesn’t do enough of. But also, Neil Cross does some very clever things with the genre, subverting ghost story traditions and blending them with pseudoscience.
ML: 9 – In the tradition of so many classic “horror” movies, this one is both utterly unnerving and surprisingly beautiful. A ghost story, romance, and science fiction rolled beautifully into one. Don’t hide from this one; it’s worth watching.
Journey to the Center of the Tardis
RP: 1 – Everybody is a mystery rather than a person (and in one particular case an absurd mystery), the acting is atrocious, and the rarely seen depths of the TARDIS are every bit as disappointing as a hospital corridor. I would rather see a CSO shot of somebody’s living room with a pair of wellies in the doorway.
ML: 5 – On first viewing I really enjoyed this episode but on a second outing, it falls flatter than it should. It fails to really explore the TARDIS and even while it does so, it fails to make a lot of sense. Having played with a VR tour of the TARDIS, this episode is surprisingly light on story; the idea worked better with a headset. Still, can’t deny some of the moments of exploration in the TARDIS but ultimately it’s just a journey to the center of the road for this one.
RP: 5 – This feels like it should be a pilot episode for a Paternoster Gang spinoff. Where’s our Paternoster Gang spinoff, eh, BBC? A passable attempt at Doctor Who doing a penny dreadful story, but the Doctor behaves in a decidedly dodgy way on a couple of occasions, which is thoroughly out of character.
ML: 4 – This one really is below average in story and threat but has to be raised to an average score just because of the Paternoster Gang. Vastra is a female Sherlock Holmes, which I love, Jenny gets prettier with each episode and is a fantastic character to boot and Strax is hilarious. But that doesn’t change that this is an episode going dangerously close to the red for horribly tedious.
RP: 8 – Neil Gaiman does more than any writer since the 60s to make the Cybermen scary again. It’s a shame his request to do away with the stomping was ignored, but the mites, ultra-fast movement and upgrading to deal with new threats are all brilliant. Gaiman did such a good job that almost everything he did was subsequently abandoned. Go figure. It’s just a shame he didn’t seem to understand the character of the Doctor quite as well as he understood the Cybermen.
ML: 8 – Neil Gaiman makes the Cybermen really scary and Matt Smith does an incredible job as a half-converted Time Lord. Sadly, it loses something the moment the episode is over: the Cybermen will never be this scary again and that is a huge loss. The Maitland kids bring this episode to its knees though and only a writer with Gaiman’s skill could bring this back up to an above average score. Otherwise this would have been a Nightmare in Babysitting!
RP: 9 – Wraps up the mystery of Clara in a very clever way, makes good use of an old enemy, and celebrates Doctor Who’s past beautifully (although a couple of body doubles don’t really work very well). Nobody will forget the creepy image of the TARDIS grave in a hurry.
ML: 8 – This episode has a reveal to end all reveals with the announcement of a hidden Doctor played by John Hurt and giving us one heck of a cliffhanger. Unfortunately it breaks a lot for the future… if Doctor Who cared at all about writing that made sense. Plus a giant gravestone TARDIS was about as idiotic as a crack in a person’s timeline that Clara could step into, see everything, then not understand anything about her traveling companion after that. Ultimately loads of fun and at the end of the day, that’s the name of the game!
RP: 10 – What a lovely bonus this was! It accomplishes so much in just a few minutes, it really is an amazing piece of writing and acting. Quite why the BBC never capitalised on its success and did more internet episodes with McGann is one of the great mysteries of the universe.
ML: 10 – Too short, but really tremendous fun and a great surprise seeing McGann regenerate. Love the references to the audio companions as well. This was one night that went too fast!
RP: 10 – This was never going to be able to be the multi-Doctor spectacular the fans wanted, but seeing Tennant and Smith together is great fun, and John Hurt is instantly brilliant as the War Doctor. The Doctor’s Time War wounds needed healing because we had all had enough of the angsty Doctor, and that is done here in the most wonderful way possible. And then the baker puts the icing on the cake…
ML: 10 – Truly deserving a score higher than 10, this is possibly the best Doctor Who episode ever written bringing together all the Doctors in a very clever way and still having that outstanding banter we love, this time with Hurt, Tennant and Smith. This is the Day Moffat proved he could really do the series proud.
RP: 9 – A clever way to avoid a repeat of the Doctor not wanting to go and the viewers feeling robbed – make him incredibly long lived so his time really has come. It also makes the episode feel suitably epic, and the question of whether the Doctor will regenerate or not adds an extra special something to this one. A fitting end to a great era of Doctor Who.
ML: 4 – When this episode came along, it deserved a 1. It’s moronic, relies on crude humor, and shoehorns in monsters and things just to put them in, hoping to pull a similar stunt to what RTD did at the end of Tennant’s era and failing miserably. There are too many complaints to list in a short blurb but the reason I have to give it a 4 is because the last 10 minutes are so incredibly beautiful that it can’t stay in the below average category. No, not enough to make the first 50 minutes good, but definitely enough to make the story palatable. But I was convinced more than ever it was the time of the next writer…
This was a season of real highs and real lows but some of those lows did have redeeming items that helped. I think this is also one of those seasons where Roger and I were on very different pages for a number of the stories. Still, Smith proved to be a very capable Doctor and would be a tough act to follow. And it would be a while before we’d get a Doctor who could do the character justice but for a 50th anniversary year, Smith did deliver some truly inspiring episodes. We will always remember when the Doctor was Smith! ML
When we reflect quite happily on the 50th Anniversary, we can consequently reflect all the more sadly on the downhill slide that Dr. Who has slowly taken since then. When you’ve finally gotten the best praise for a specific anniversary year and the most pivotally impacting stories, fans may expect things to get even better and, as far as significantly good stories are concerned, we can all thank Moffat and Capaldi enough for what they could occasionally build upon. The demands for continuations after a great anniversary can often be strenuous. Certainly for the classic Dr. Who after its 20th and for the Star Trek universe after its 30th.
But the 50th for Dr. Who remains successful with the marks made by both Paul McGann and Sir John Hurt helping to make more headway for Big Finish. So whether we look upon all the glory from 2013 somewhat differently or not, it continually serves fans best as a reminder of how the magic of a science-fiction treasure can always find the best ways to inspire us.
Thank you both for your Top of the Docs: Series 7
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Sir John Hurt’s War Doctor may have started a most significantly new trends for the modern Dr. Who, considering how Chibnall built upon the notion of previously hidden or unknown Doctors with Jo Martin. Like many things throughout Dr. Who that become creatively reusable, fans are particularly excited when the surprise involves an iconic casting choice for a new Doctor. It can affirm that Hurt’s career in sci-fi roles, that began with Alien and 1984, had come full circle. I’m just hoping as are we all that Chibnall’s Timeless Child gamble hasn’t done too much damage. It may somehow be resolved two years from now with the 60th Anniversary.
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