PLEASE BE AWARE OF MASSIVE SPOILERS ON THIS PAGE AS THE EPISODES HAVE ONLY AIRED THIS YEAR...
The Doctor is going to die and nothing can prevent it...series six is the most arc heavy season yet and has produced a split reaction from its audience. This year the Doctor, Amy, Rory and River face the Impossible Astronaut and the Silence, a siren at sea, a sentient asteroid, the rebel flesh, the Headless Monks and Madame Kovarian, a younger, tougher River Song, scary dolls, an older Amy who waited, an offshoot of the Nimon, Cybermen and time itself which is after his death!
The regulars -
The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon written by Steven Moffatt and directed by Toby Haynes
This story in a nutshell: Doctor Who’s take on the moon landing is every bit as riotous as you would expect…
Nutty Professor: So it looks like the Doctor has been having a wealth of solo adventures without Amy and Rory whilst they enjoy their honeymoon. These days he is practically unrecognisable from the sexless geek we travelled with for so many years – not only does he have ladies lusting after him all around the universe but can now be found stark bollock naked beneath a ladies skirt. Imagine that being Hartnell! Love the Doctor waving from inside a Charlie Chaplin movie – his delight dancing away with one of the greats is sublime. Lets not beat around the bush the Doctor suggesting he has had enough of travelling and being murdered and burnt is a massive game change for the series that only comes along once in an era (the Doctor’s introduction, revealing the Time Lords, exiled to Earth, the discovery of the Time War, etc). Who does the Doctor trust more than anybody? I clapped when Matt Smith came innocently strolling out of the restroom with a straw hanging out of his mouth, he is undoubtedly the Doctor. You feel really sorry for the younger Doctor who mournfully sulks when nobody seems to be happy to see him and refuses to be manipulated. Love the Doctor mouthing ‘sorry’ for breaking into Apollo 11 to Nixon. He flirts madly with River throughout but especially when his bad girl is about to slaughter a whole gang of Silence – he really does like a bad girl. As a reward for all his good work he gets his first (and last) snog with River.
Scots Tart: Watch as Amy and Rory are at the bar supping cokes whilst the parents catch up – aww. Kudos to Karen Gillan who is wonderfully emotional at the Doctor’s death scene and manages to make Amy more likable in one scene than she managed in and entire season last year. Amy swearing on fish fingers and custard is a lovely touch. All of the sequences in and around the orphanage are simply the best Amy moments yet especially the shock moment where she discovers the picture of herself holding the baby. Her deathly scream as the door closes on her is disturbingly memorable, the juxtaposition of her being in the child’s bedroom and her shriek of pain suggests the agonising pain of childbirth. Its irresistible to want to talk about future developments revealed in The Almost People but I wont except that Day of the Moon’s Amy scenes takes on a whole new meaning when you understand what is happening.
Loyal Roman: Arthur Darvill has subtly changed his performance as Rory since his character-changing act as the loyal Roman in last season finale. Gone is the ridiculous buffoon who trips into trouble and in steps a mature and engaging Mr Pond. Astonishing that it is Rory who holds it together and sends the Doctor respectfully on his way and not Amy. He walks from the TARDIS a pasty, bony British man begging not to be shot. When Rory turns on the Doctor and tells him that Amy always knows he can hear her and that he will always be coming from her a new understanding builds between them. He has reclaimed his wife now and the Doctor is the outsider. We ache with sympathy for Rory when he listens to what he thinks is Amy telling the Doctor that she loves him. He admits in a quiet moment with the Doctor that he remembers every second of his 2000-year vigil waiting for Amy.
Winding River: I love how River has invisibly become a series regular and her escapes from prison are skipped over so effortlessly. Her cold anger towards the Doctor when he turns up after his death really works and her mastery of the TARDIS consoles makes me laugh every time. The scene between Rory and River is exceptional and all the more powerful because the story stops trying to impress for a second and just enjoys a moment of character between these two. With some horror River realises this is the first time the Doctor has kissed her and that this will be the last time she kisses him. She told Rory she was scared that one day he wont remember her at all and from her perspective that will be their last meeting – she’s off to the library next where the tenth Doctor wont know who he is.
Sparkling Dialogue: ‘A Time Lord’s body is a miracle. Even a dead one.’
‘Even by your standards this is cold…’
‘You were invaded a long time ago. America is occupied.’
‘Welcome to America!’ – Canton pumping lead into a Silence!
‘You’ve just raised an army against yourselves and now for a thousand generations your going to be ordering them to destroy you every day.’
The Good Stuff TIA: The ariel shot following the bus to the sun kissed bliss of Monument Valley is one of the most awe inspiring location shots Doctor Who has ever delivered. Love the astronaut in the water, exactly the sort of conflicting visuals that Doctor Who pulls off so vividly. Steven Moffatt is playing about with the series continuity in a way that is very healthy, daring to give us the Doctor’s death scene as he is shot twice, once to trigger a regeneration and again to murder him during it. The hand held camera work during this sequence is very dramatic giving it an adult edge. The image of the Doctor burning in the boat at dusk is a striking image with the time of day well chosen by the director to shoot. If you are going to have a story set in the White House (and why not – to see Doctor Who aping The West Wing is a personal dream of mine) you need actors as strong as Stuart Milligan and Mark Sheppard in the lead roles and they acquit themselves beautifully. Odd that the long shots of the Silence should be so ineffective because the masks are one of the most butt clenchingly scary things we have ever seen in Doctor Who and the sequence of the American chick being torn to shreds in slow motion remains one of the episodes most potent moments. The idea of a monster that you forget the second you look away is another smashing Moffatt concept to chill the blood – how do you know if this monster is behind you if you cant remember them? The return of the time ship console room from The Lodger is a great moment of continuity and proves that whilst Moffatt doesn’t lay all his cards on the table at once he never forgets anything. The fact that Doctor Who can show a scene of one of the regulars potentially shooting a child is remarkable and shows just how far the show has to go these days to shock its audience. A friend of mine said she was bored in the middle parts of this episode but was gob smacked by that cliffhanger.
The Bad Stuff TIA: I don’t want to sound like I don’t want clever television or being spoon fed a narrative but Steven Moffatt needs to calm down on these location swapping teasers. It was glossy and wonderful in Time of Angels, clever and season gelling in The Pandorica Opens but here it is starting to feel tired and anything this expensive and funny feeling hackneyed is never a good thing. Sometimes I wonder if Moffatt stresses the discontinuity of the Doctor’s life just so he can keep using the phrase timey-wimey – what is wrong with a crisp linear narrative? The sort he employed so successfully in The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances? Can the show be too clever for its own good? I certainly felt during the first episode that the leaping about was squeezing the life from whatever plot was trying to breathe out. To have River’s Time Travellers Wife relationship entangling with the Doctor’s possible death enmeshing with Amy’s potential pregnancy sees a set of distinctive regulars that are twisted up in a bit too much plotting. Whatever happened to simply travelling off to the next destination? All we need is Rory to reveal that he isn’t real and all four regulars are only interesting because of complicated character narratives rather than simply being well written and engaging. There was once a time when Doctor Who was inveigled into plots by the cleverest of means but simply dumping the TARDIS in the Oval Office is unsubtle and the Doctor simply mouthing his way into a position of power is unconvincing. The child on the tape channels the Empty Child but it’s nowhere near as scary. Every single scene in The Impossible Astronaut is trying to have arc significance that the episode itself doesn’t really have an identity of its own.
The Good Stuff DOM: I know this makes me a screaming hypocrite but I love the opening teaser to Day of the Moon despite the fact that it is leaping about like a flea on a griddle once again! It has a narrative drive to it as the Doctor’s friends are captured; some astonishingly gorgeous location work (the swoop over the mountains, the long shot of Rory at the dam) and clever ideas (the prison, River landing in the swimming pool). Doctor Who has never felt more like a movie (even when it was a movie) and it’s glorious to bask in how expensive and epic it all looks. I love stories that suggest the passage of time (Marco Polo, The Romans) and the Doctor’s beard and Rory and Amy on the run suggest a wealth of ‘in between’ adventures. Lets count the wonderfully scary clichés in the orphanage scenes – lashing rain, lightning, a scary old man, bloody writing on the wall, squeaky doors, an empty staircase, a child’s bedroom, a rocking horse rocking on its own… Its fantastically scary stuff. The zoom out from the shuttle with the Doctor enmeshed in its workings is another potent visual. Cutting from Amy entering the room to her covered in black counters justifies the concept of Silence making you forget their existence – it’s a small but undeniably creepy notion. Just how many times has Amy tried to escape that room? Plus the glistening, creaking Silence hanging from the ceiling is one of the ickiest Doctor Who moments ever. Whilst it would take on much more significance later in the season the shot of the eye patch wearing woman saying ‘I think she’s just dreaming’ in the wall is a wonderfully bizarre moment for the time being. I love Nixon being pulled out as a get out clause for every kind of official objection! Moffatt using the Moon Landing media splash to expose the Silence gets a round of applause form me – of all the times for the Silence to make a slip when everybody is fixed watching one historical event! Morally speaking I’m not too sure about River killing so many people but visually it is one hell of an exciting set piece. Two delicious fingers up at all those ‘gay agenda’ ranting Doctor Who fans who are so happy that Russell T Davies has left the series comes when Canton who is probably the most charismatic character the show has ever given us besides the Doctor himself and he turns out to be a gayer! Score one for Moffatt! God knows what is going on with the little girl regenerating at the end but I was left stunned and slack jawed at the closing scene and Simon and I were discussing this development and theories for days.
The Bad Stuff DOM: ‘Night terrors with a hotline to the White House’ – as an explanation for why the President is getting the phone calls from the little this is a daft explanation. The Silence have been influencing human history since the very beginning and I am starting to wonder if we actually achieved anything as a species with all these aliens piling up to take credit for our leaps in evolution (the Daemons, the Jagaroth, the Silence – do they take it in turns?).
Musical Cues: The music for the Matt Smith era continues to impress with a lovely Southern American twang to some of the series themes and some touching chorals during the Doctor’s funeral.
The Shallow Bit: Needless to say Rory and River as the Nixon’s aide and secretary both look gorgeous in their unusually formal clothes.
Result: An expensive attention grabbing two parter with a wealth of beautifully realised and memorable scenes. However its not all perfect and The Impossible Astronaut is unhappily one of the most awkwardly paced and frustratingly plotted Doctor Who episodes of all time that holds its audience at a distance by trying to be too clever for its own good despite the astonishing sequence of the Doctor’s death. Regardless of strong performances and witty lines by the end of the first episode I was distinctly unengaged simply because the plot progression was so haphazard and headache inducing. It almost feels like Steven Moffatt is trying a little too hard to live up to his own reputation of being a clever sod. Day of the Moon is far more attractively written with less emphasis on continuing plot threads and more interested in having its own identity. Amy’s visit to the orphanage is heart stoppingly scary in places and I love pretty much everything about the insanely creepy Silence creatures. Everything builds to an exciting and (here’s that word again) clever conclusion but leaves more questions lingering than the entire series of Twin Peaks. This is a deeply flawed two parter but has too many fantastic scenes to deny that it grabs your interest and hurls you into the new season with some confidence. River is always welcome, Amy seems so much more likable, Arthur Darvill is finally given material that shows what Rory is made of and holding it all together is Matt Smith’s phenomenal performance as the Doctor. The Impossible Astronaut earns a 6 and Day of the Moon a 9 so overall this schizoid stunner gets: 8/10
The Curse of the Black Spot written by Stephen Thompson and directed by Jeremy Webb
This story in a nutshell: Doctor Who and the Pirates!
Nutty Professor: Bonneville aside, Smith is absolutely the best thing about this episode and it surprises me to note that this is the only episode of the entire season that sees him on an entirely unplanned, unconnected adventure from the season long arc. In a way that makes it feel like the sore thumb of the season (even Night Terrors which was supposed to take this episodes place feels weighed down with the news of the Doctor’s inevitable, oncoming death) but in another it is vital because it allows the Doctor to simply travel and have some fun for a change. The result is one of Smith’s loosest performances of the year and this is the sort of gleeful irreverence that I hope to see from his Doctor now the thorny issue of his death has been dealt with. All the pirate clichés are there (from ‘Yo-Ho-Ho!’ to ‘Ooh-argh!’) but coming from Smith they feel fresh and exciting, his smiley eyes delighted that he has wound up in one of the greatest of adventure genres. The Doctor finds that curses are big with humans when they can’t find an explanation for something and that might just be one of the most sensible things he has ever said about the human race. The idea of two great Captain’s coming together in the TARDIS is cute and well worth it to enjoy the Doctor’s pride in his ship and Avery comprehending the basic functions because all ships are practically the same. Bonneville and Smith share some fun chemistry which makes me wish they could have whisked off for a very different sort of adventure altogether. Its odd to see the Eleventh Doctor pouring on the moral indignation (‘Just how much is that treasure worth to you man?’) which would have suited Jon Pertwee to a tee but sounds odd coming from the usually frivolous mouth of Matt Smith. Whilst Amy and Avery are excited to see Rory and Toby in the medical bay, the Doctor gleefully runs over to the TARDIS and kisses her. Its one of those moments when Smith is instantly, unmistakably the Doctor.
Scots Tart: Kudos where it is due, there is a massive attempt to make both Karen Gillan and Amy more likable this season and she really does get into the spirit of things by dressing up as a pirate, swinging through the rigging and wielding a sword! Unfortunately this whole sequence does the character no favour because it is so sloppily directed it literally feels as though it is being staged rather than the very real danger of Amy making it up as she goes along. And actually Amy is far more proficient with a sword than she has any right to be! It would have been much funnier if she had managed to subdue the crew in a slapstick sequence that sees Amy ineptly taking them all down with all manner off accidental thrusts and cuts. You know, Pink Panther on the High Seas, that sort of thing. It probably would have taken far too long to set up and shoot when this slapdash attempt will do. Amy’s vision of Madame Kovarian in the wall is either an intrusive arc moment or an intriguingly mysterious haunting that outshines the rest of the episode. You decide. Almost to confirm our worst suspicions Amy goes from crying at her dead husbands side to ‘I thought I was an excellent pirate’ and ‘goodnight, Doctor’ as soon as she knows he is alive. Even Amy knows that death is irrelevant in the series now and can brush off a near thing with a spring in her step. I don’t find this convincing in the slightest.
Loyal Roman: The Curse of the Black Spot is hardly Arthur Darvill’s finest moment either and I consider him to be the standout performer of the season. His charm is his loyalty to Amy and his ever growing devotion to the Doctor and it scores some of the seasons emotional high points later in the season. His drunken comedy act here (which seems to slip depending on the mood of the scene being absolute delirium one minute and gentle merriness the next) lacks conviction and he winds up looking like an idiot again which is a step backwards after the last four episodes (A Christmas Carol excluded) has really tried to build him up into something much more than the comedy partner. His ‘everything is totally BRILLIANT!’ is one of those hide behind the sofa and cringe moments that turns up in NuWho every now and again. Rory’s near death experiences are starting to feel like a running gag in the ‘Oh my God they killed Kenny!’ style. It was shocking the first time he died but he’s starting to feel like the companion with nine lives now how he leaps back from the grave! There’s absolutely nothing wrong with how Rory’s resuscitation is performed by Karen Gillen and paced by the director but there is a feeling of been there, done that to the dramatic climax that matches much of the episode. By the end of the season death is no longer a dramatic option to keep these characters apart because it is so tired after all these attempts to convince us that Rory really is dead this time. They have to literally manipulate the plot to tear them in two and make it dramatically satisfying (The Girl Who Waited).
Sparkling Dialogue: ‘What kind of rubbish Pirates are you?’
The Good: This is definitely one of those times when you get a celebrity of the week vibe from the main guest star and Hugh Bonneville fresh from the set of Downton Abbey was a massive publicity draw for the series that worked beautifully. Not only did it give the episode some public recognition (because I honestly feel it would vanish into obscurity otherwise) but Bonneville gives a typically masterful performance, quietly understated to give the famous pirate Captain Avery a sense of dignity and honour despite his reputation. The opening scenes have a palpable sense of atmosphere with the gorgeous and deadly siren dragging an injured man into the water. When the Siren makes her presence known it is another of those wonderful fairytale moments that the Moffatt era excels at, a heavenly beautiful woman shining with turquoise exuberance and can transform into a screaming, hissing Devil woman in seconds. The last shot has leapt from a storybook again but this time it the gorgeous juxtaposition of Captain Avery and his pirates flying a spaceship which is a charming place to leave his story. Murray Gold’s exquisite music is going all out to convince us that Amy has failed to save Rory and it’s the best element of that sequence. How comes after six years his music still feels brand new?
The Bad: The Curse of the Black Spot is impressively filmed on an actual ship which genuinely looks the part but the one element that desperately lets the side down (despite the odd CGI shot of the ship sitting lonely in a massive stretch of water) is that I never got the impression it was more than two foot from the shore. There needed to be far more establishing shots to suggest a ship in threat than there was but as it is it feels as though the crew could just leap from a rope to the bank to safety which severely damages the sense of claustrophobia. We needed to hear lapping waves, see the ship rocking in the sea and to hear the wind whistling. The sound FX boys go for absolute silence which kills any sense of atmosphere. Whereas our last excursion with pirates almost half a century ago (no not The Pirate Planet because that subverted all the clichés in a brilliantly technological fashion) managed to juggle the genres clichés into an engaging tale, Black Spot feels like it is literally bringing a kids bedtime story to life and the inclusion of Avery’s stowaway son feels like it is not only tipping its hat to the genre but slavishly copying it without adding a new element. Considering The Smugglers managed to squeeze in a pirate ship (both in the studio and on location), inns, churchyards and some glorious beach filming around Cornwall’s famous caves and bays this is one of those rare times when post 2005 Doctor Who actually feels cheaper than its equivalent story in the classic series – especially one from the black and white years! The TARDIS disappearing is a lovely moment but irrelevant to the plot and it would be handled far more dramatically in the next episode when the scene is repeated. Whilst he gives a respectable performance I really wanted to slap Avery’s son for making so many excuses for his pops when the evidence of his piratical ways are clearly evident. I’m not sure what to make of the storm because it is clearly the work of atmospherics rather than having anything to do with the plot but even on that level it fails because it should have been a wild, unpredictable, death defying ride rather than a touch of rain with the focus on the crown that Avery has held onto. I can’t imagine a more anti-climactic ending than the black spot turning out to be a tissue sample and the Siren a holographic Doctor that has been curing people with a melodic anasethic, not killing them. The entire episode has been built around false tension and that feels like cheating somehow.
Result: A throwaway adventure with far too many faults to be a memorable episode, The Curse of the Black Spot fails to match up to the quality of the previous Pirate stories in seasons four and sixteen. There is too much reliance on storybook clichés, the direction is quite flat and lacks the gumption of a real swashbuckling adventure and there is a real sense of a budget that cannot quite pull this cinematic concept off. Matt Smith feels perfectly at home in this setting and Hugh Bonneville gives a grand turn as Captain Avery but I was very disappointed with both Amy and Rory who feel perfunctory and awkwardly characterised. The episode lurches into a very different story after half an hour which takes all the potential threat of the Siren and gives it the most clinically unsatisfying payoff imaginable. Big Finish pulled off a Pirate adventure which was both tragic and hilarious and in comparison The Curse of the Black Spot is simply average fare, not much substance and not much style. Mildly entertaining in spots but instantly disposable: 4/10
The Doctor’s Wife written by Neil Gaiman and directed by Richard Clark
What’s it about: The Doctor gets to talk to the TARDIS for the first and last time…
Nutty Professor: Matt Smith’s signature episode. This is the eleventh Doctor at his absolute finest. The myriad of emotions and different tones Smith has to pitch his performance at is asking a lot of any actor and he steps up to the plate and pulls it off with absolute conviction. He’s going to get rid of the warning lights because they never stop bothering him! Another renegade Time Lord that the Doctor admired greatly as he was growing up was the Corsair who had the same tattoo in every regeneration, be it male or female. The Doctor burns up TARDIS rooms Christopher H Bidmead style (bye bye swimming pool) in order to leave the universe with just a little touch of Castrovalva. His chin is hilarious! When he realises that there could be lots and lots of Time Lords nearby his reaction is excited but cautious. Amy confronts him about why he has a need to see his people again and he admits that he wants forgiveness but imagine the amount of explaining he would have to do if he ever met one (or go and read the EDA The Gallifrey Chronicles to see how its done). Its so refreshing to see the Doctor’s throwaway admission that he is the last Time Lord finally have some terrifying consequences – maybe he will be a little more careful who he spills that out to in the future. He was given hope and had it snatched away in the worst possible way, by reminding him of the atrocity he committed to his people…God knows what that will do to him. The TARDIS was already a museum piece when the Doctor was young and when he first touched her he said she was the most beautiful thing he had ever known. When the TARDIS dematerialises in front of him he genuinely has no idea what to do and he smiles at that new feeling. Smith goes from confidence to wide eyed embarrassment when the TARDIS reveals his nickname for her. Not reliable, runs around and brings home strays – the TARDIS has him pegged correctly and no mistake! Nephew is another Ood he failed to save. The Doctor goes from being devastatingly aggressive (‘Finish him off girl!’) to the weakest we have ever seen him, tears crawling down his face because he cannot bear to say goodbye to his ship. For an old fanboy like me its too much to take and I fall to pieces every time I watch it. Has the word hello ever been so devastating?
Scots Tart: At this stage Amy knows the Doctor better than anyone and she orders him not to get emotional because that is when he makes mistakes. Interesting that Amy’s worst fear is leaving Rory waiting for 2000 years again and hating her for it. Amy’s reaction to Rory’s corpse and the walls covered in graffiti damning her is horrific, she screams and clutches her stomach as though she is in pain (oooh…).
Rory the Roman: I love Rory’s little Ood impression to Amy. Oh bless Amy knows exactly why the Doctor has locked them in the TARDIS while naïve, trusting Rory is still looking for the jacket.
Lady TARDIS: What’s impossible is that I would never have thought that any single actress would be able to personify the TARDIS and it would be enough for the fans. Suranne Jones received huge plaudits for her performance in this episode and as far as I am concerned she is the TARDIS. She nailed it. The finest character to step from the New Series by a country mile - the female embodiment of the TARDIS and she is delightful, whimsical and slightly mad. She runs up to the Doctor declaring him her ‘thief’ and snogs the face off him before laughing her head off about it! The time travelling nature of the TARDIS has imbued Idris with visions of the future and she can see a moment when the word alive will be so sad because it will be over. Its hilarious how Idris gets all the technical explanations out of the way so the Doctor doesn’t have to…because she has heard him say it in the future…which he doesn’t actually say now! The TARDIS wanted to see the universe so she stole a Time Lord and ran away and the Doctor was the only one mad enough to give it a go. I don’t know if I have seen a more beautiful sight than Idris kissing the console with fire in her eyes. The TARDIS has archived all the old control rooms – she has about 30 now (and wouldn’t it be wonderful to skip through them all?). She always liked it when the Doctor called her old girl.
Sparkling Dialogue: ‘And then we discovered it wasn’t the Robot King after all but the real one. Fortunately I was able to reattach the head.’ Ugh! I’m glad we weren’t present in that adventure!
‘Biting’s excellent! Its like kissing only there’s a winner!’
‘Where’s my thief?’
‘I’m a madman in a box without a box and I’m stuck down a plughole at the end of the universe on a stupid old junkyard!’
‘You didn’t always take me where I wanted to go!’ ‘No but I always took you where I needed to go!’ – that is probably my favourite moment in Doctor Who ever. It struck a chord with my far more than the tears at the end because it was perfect pay off to all of those wayward adventures in the TARDIS that ended up exactly where he was needed.
‘Oh my beautiful idiot. You have what you have always had. You’ve got me.’
‘She’s a woman and she’s the TARDIS!’ ‘Did you wish really hard?’
‘Fear me, I’ve killed hundreds of Time Lords’ ‘Fear me, I’ve killed all of them.’
The Good Stuff: Immediately this feels like it is going to be something a bit different with the very creepy set up of Auntie and Uncle and their pet Ood helping Idris into a machine that is ‘really gonna hurt.’ The teaser scene in the TARDIS is wonderfully affirming for a series that has gone a little plot mad, the Doctor chasing the Time Lord communication box around the console room before declaring ‘I’ve got mail!’ The lighting when the TARDIS has its soul ripped out is very atmospheric – I wish they would turn the lights down more often in that wine lounge console room because it looks so much more moody. The storytelling in the teaser is crystal clear so we see a clear progression of the TARDIS being torn out and shoved into Idris. Its nice to be one step ahead of the Doctor. The junkyard set with the phenomenally menacing rocket engines looming from above is a startling visual – you wont see anything like this on television apart from on Doctor Who. There’s a washing machine, deck chairs and a fish slice! Vintage stuff! Adrian Schiller (‘Sorry about the mad person’) and Elisabeth Berrington (‘Well we’re dying, my love’) deliver wonderfully skewed performances as Auntie and Uncle – they are as dolally as everybody else but with just a hint of sanity. How creepy is the voice of House? Brrr… I love the super spooky visual of the green cloud enveloping the shell of the TARDIS (and the beams of light streaming through the interior windows), it’s the dark fantasy elements of the Moffatt era hitting the spot again. The moment the Doctor discovers the cupboard full of distress boxes I sank into the sofa with horror…the episode suddenly takes a much darker tone as we realises all of the Time Lords lured here have been killed. People made up of bits of long dead Time Lords is deliciously macabre. Simon’s biggest complaint about this series is that with all the money it has these days that they haven’t explored the interior of the TARDIS…he was so excited to get out of the console room into the corridors! The valley of half eaten TARDISes is the sort of genius concept that only comes around every now and again and it should be applauded for its mind bending awesomeness. The scenes of Amy and Rory being menaced through the TARDIS corridors could have felt remarkably cheap but thanks to some claustrophobic direction and lighting they are screaming with tension. Insane Rory is terrifying and the wall of abusive scrawl might just be the mot disturbing thing Doctor Who has ever presented us with. Amy grabbing the Ood tendrils - ugh ugh uggghhhh! Its wonderful to see the old control room and how spacious does it look? Possibly my favourite visual effect ever comes as the TARDIS pours out of Idris and dances around the Doctor dancing around the console room. It works so beautifully because it is both emotionally and visually stunning.
The Bad Stuff: My one tiny complaint is that I would have told the scene where the lights go out in the corridor entirely from Amy’s point of view rather than switching back and forth from light and dark which blunts the mood a tiny bit.
The Shallow Bit: Suranne Jones is beautiful. Enough said.
Result: You find me another show that can feature a living malevolent asteroid that tears the souls out of time ships and personifies them in female form so it can eat the shell of the ship. The Doctor’s Wife is unlike anything we have ever seen in Doctor Who before and it ticked every single box of what I think kicks ass in the series. Its dark, twisted, imaginative, funny, clever, emotional and satisfying. Another thing I love is that the episode looks lavishly expensive and yet it doesn’t pour its money into soulless set pieces but in where it counts; the glorious junkyard on an asteroid, the extra rooms in the TARDIS, the graveyard of TARDISes. Every line is gorgeous, the ideas are brilliant (that Neil Gaiman is a genius) and the music kicks some serious ass. This is the episode where the Doctor manages to build a working TARDIS out of hundreds of different models and he doesn’t care that it is impossible. This is the episode where Amy and Rory are menaced through the ships corridors by a disembodied voice that eats TARDISes. This is the episode where the Doctor gets to talk to his most faithful friend and tell her how much she means to him. Its something to be treasured forever: 10/10
The Rebel Flesh & The Almost People written by Matthew Graham and directed by Julian Simpson
This story in a nutshell: Somehow worse than Fear Her…
Nutty Professor: It looks like the Doctor was about to explain everything to Amy and Rory about the consistently puzzling mediscan of her pregnancy when the TARDIS honker sounds. With so much going on and so many characters to handle Graham practically forgets about the Doctor (and Amy) in The Rebel Flesh. At times he feels like an extra in his own series and not because this is a Doctor-lite episode. When the Ganger Doctor tries to stabilise he starts quoting some of the most well known Doctor lines from the past as though he has been reading one of JNTs fact books from the 80s! There is some cheeky chemistry between the two Doctors that Matt Smith has great fun pulling off, it’s the only light relief in an otherwise moribund two parter. Its only when faced with his own brilliance that he realises how impressive it must be to hang out with him all the time!
Scots Tart: The end of this story does not greet Amy Pond warmly and yet the Doctor gave her the perfect chance to get away before they even have the chance to find out about flesh avatars. Its her own distrust of him that sees her turn into a puddle of milky goo. The Almost People exposes what I thought all along and that is Amy Pond really is as shallow as she looks. Whether she is a Ganger or not, she deliberately shuts out what she thinks is the fake Doctor because she believes there can be only one. It’s a real wake up call when she realises she has been duped and I hope she learns from the lesson but there were several moments where I found her as gormless and distasteful as the rest of the guest cast. The trouble with Amy is that she thinks she knows best and she is closed minded both of which are unlikable traits.
Loyal Roman: Completing the poor use of the regulars is Rory and Graham proves what I have long suspected and that is that he is a pretty empty character unless he has a girl to fuss over. He has no legs to stand up as character in his own right. The girl in question is Amy Pond and transferring that affection from her to Jennifer is just about the worst mistake the writer could have made. Its supposed to noble and brave for him to be the voice that defends the Gangers but falling for someone as manipulative and awful as Jennifer proves him to be a total chump. Frankly they should have chewed him out over this but he seems to walk away from this defection (and change his mind on a whim) Scot free. To prove how entirely unnecessary he is to the narrative Rory vanishes from the story for the first 18 minutes of The Almost People, literally wandering the corridors aimlessly never to be seen. Graham really needs to learn how to give his characters equal and adequate screen time. Its painful to watch him being tricked by the Ganger Jennifer into putting his hand on the scan – she is pure pantomime girlishness that screams of deception. Why are they continually making him look like such a numpty?
· The opening shots as we drift over the sea towards the island and the sudden snapping on of the lights down the corridor promise great things. It doesn’t deliver but the promise is there.
· What would the First Doctor have said about Ian and Barbara treating the console room as a bachelor pad as Amy and Rory do here? Clothes strewn everywhere, rock music blasting through the speakers and a darts tournament! Who cares? Its nice to see the three of them having fun for a change!
· A solar tsunami is a fine new innovation and the effects look glorious as the TARDIS rides the suns waves but what really makes this scene is the ‘assume the bracing position’ promise of a spectacular crash ending in a nervous giggle as the TARDIS touches down with beautiful stabilisation.
· Rory is right…do you know anybody who doesn’t like at least one Dusty Springfield song? I like them all but then I am a gayer.
· I guess every series has its doppelganger episodes and whilst its not a type of science fiction episode that usually excites me (it probably added to my apathy) at least they tried to do something fresh with the idea with the Gangers. Its insane to think that people would agree to make replicas of themselves that are expendable for dangerous work but it’s a situation in which our sympathies are automatically with the doppelgangers and that is original (because nine times out of town they are usually evil counterparts). The thorny subject of the Gangers wanting to go home to their families not because they are evil copies but simply because those are lives they remember having rears its head. I really wished we could have had more intelligent discussion in that vain.
· The Ganger makeup is really effective, its such a memorably unpleasant look and the first time I saw one of them it made me shudder.
· Did anybody else get the hints of the revelatory climax with the Doctor telling Amy to breathe? Neither did I but Emma (who watched the second episode with me) caught on and knew something was up. Its slipped in during exciting moments so you don’t really pay attention but rewards on subsequent viewings.
· There is a very clever moment where the Doctor tosses Amy against the wall and you think he is the fake Doctor railing at the real Amy when the reality is that he is the real Doctor who knows that she is a fake Amy. Its only in hindsight that you realise how smart this scene is and the whole piece could do with more of this kind of playful deception.
· The final revelation that the Amy we have been watching for the past six episodes is a fake and our Amy has been kidnapped and pregnant is awesomely achieved. Its so beautifully done it shits all over the rest of the story. What’s important is that it is rooted in the characters with Amy horrified that the Doctor has suddenly turned on her and Rory choosing to listen to him and back away over his wife’s please for help. The final shot of Amy screaming hysterically as she prepares to give birth is one of the most shocking in Doctor Who’s history. There is a worrying habit this season of average episodes ending with excellent cliffhanging scenes that convince you that you have watched some kind of Doctor Who masterpiece. A Good Man Goes to War is guilty of it and so is Closing Time. This is the clearest example because I finished The Almost People with goosebumps of excitement but it had absolutely nothing to do with the story that played out, it was all the arc related cliffhanger. Still kudos for keeping this surprise hidden and I couldn’t wait to watch the next episode.
· I remember watching The Rebel Flesh with Simon and our friend Ally (a convert since the new series started and number one lover of David Tennant) and we sat through the whole thing very nonplussed. It all began with the teaser which was so messily directed you didn’t get a good look at Buzzer’s face as he melted so when he turned up again in the corridor we didn’t have a clue who he was or why he was moaning about falling into a vat of acid. Sometimes puzzling is fun (Warriors’ Gate) and at other times it is tedious. And this was the latter.
· Shoot me down with a DeMat Gun for saying this because it sounds ungrateful considering they have sought out a grand site in Caerphilly castle to film this story in (and if you watch the Confidential it was filmed during a bad snowfall and all the production team were punished by perishing conditions)…but I really don’t like the location work in this story. Whilst I’m sure this is a glorious old building it lends a story which is already pretty dreary a dour, miserable feel and proves unpleasant to look at after a while. Besides I’m not sure it suits the feel of the story at all which is going for a claustrophobic ‘us versus them’ feel which lacks that base under siege feel when you can get out in the sunny courtyard and wander about in the fresh air.
· Whilst the casting on the whole is excellent in Doctor Who there is one role in this story that is so hideously miscast I couldn’t make any connection with the character whatsoever. Sarah Smart as Jennifer did absolutely nothing for me. Half the time she said her lines as though she would rather be elsewhere and the other half she was playing a particularly stiff baddie cliché. Considering she has the pivotal role of gaining the sympathies of the audience for the Gangers that aspect of the serial flops like a fish out of water. The scenes of her wandering about the courtyard calling for Rory aren’t scary or funny or tense…just weird. I found the scenes where she is telling Rory about her red welly boots painful to watch because this is clearly supposed to be the moment that we feel for her and make the connection that she is exactly the same person as the real Jennifer…and yet all I could think was how retarded she sounded. Isn’t it a bit late to ask for Rory’s help after you have already turned into a massive tentacle headed monster and attacked him? All this donkey shit about the eyes being the last thing to go and making sure you are ask a question in them – who even talks like that? Even Troi from Star Trek TNG would shy away from dismal psychobabble like that! I just cannot buy a single line that comes out of Jennifer’s characters mouth. Her motivations are all over the place as well, either a helpless victim or a revolutionary leader depending on what a particular scene demands of her. Probably the worst ever reading of a line in NuWho is ‘You’re one of us Doctor. Join the revolution!’ Just abysmal.
· What is it about the new series and sticking the Doctor somewhere vertiginous and assailing him with the elements? It might have been fresh in The Idiot’s Lantern (it still felt like a bland climax though) but it wore thin in Evolution of the Daleks and The Vampires of Venice and now it is positively done to death. Not the feel that you are going for during you central set piece in the opening episode!
· The threat of acid leaks (The Keys of Marinus), radiation (The Daleks) and doppelgangers (The Chase, The Android Invasion) this is basically a Terry Nation script for the 2010s and all three of them were a bit passé in the shows first three years. I was really hoping they wouldn’t go for the ‘two characters trying to convince they are the real one’ scenario much loved by Nation but of course Graham surrendered to the cliché.
· What is up with that very odd scene where the Doctor meets Cleaves after the solar tsunami? Clearly she is a Ganger but did they have signpost it that obviously by her complete personality transplant?
· Oh dear, the JenHead (for want of a better name) glooping her way out of the toilet on a tether of flesh and screaming ‘JUST LET US LIVE!’ I think is supposed to be frightening. It is absolutely hilarious, for once a CGI effect that would be perfectly in place a some godawful b-movie (Attack of the Killer Heads?). The mash up of Gangers that Rory discovers is a little better but still rather comical looking for something that should have been really distasteful and revolting to look at. Whereas the eyes in the walls and Jennifer’s grotesquely hanging mouth are just crap – the show is trying assault you with scares that aren’t scary. The Jennifer monster that stalks along the corridors makes the Lazarus creature from series three look phenomenal – it gets my vote as the worst CGI creation since the show came back.
· The ‘Us or Them’ conclusion to the first episode where the two factions go to war might have been more exciting if I gave a damn about any of the characters. Making them all so damn unlikable means I couldn’t care less if they wipe each other out. I was just hoping they would hurry up and wipe each other out so we can move onto something a bit more engaging.
· The most signposted and obvious cliffhanger to date in the new series. Ally said there would be a doppelganger Doctor as soon as he put his hand in the fleshy goo and the numerous ‘trust me…’ left me with no illusion as to where this story as going. I’ve always thought that a cliffhanger should either provide a shock (which it spectacularly failed to do so here) or provide some information that kicks the next episode in a new direction. This cliffhanger has much more success with the latter but still left me thinking ‘meh.’ They could hardly do a better job than The Chase!
· The TARDIS was sinking into the ground just so it could magically fall through underground to their rescue at the last minute? Oh fuck off! A magical blood clot solution? The TARDIS being able to stabilise the Gangers permanently? This story thrives on insulting easy answers.
The Shallow Bit: Scottish, greying, gorgeous eyes and gently spoken – Mark Bonnar can appear in every Doctor Who story! Of the guest cast he is the only one that engages my sympathies – or at least he did until that shamefully manipulative sequence with his kid. Go and watch The Waters of Mars to see how this sort of thing can be done really effectively.
Result: Terry Nation writes a script for the 2010s full of acid leaks, doppelgangers, radiation and fake Doctors! Actually Matthew Graham wrote it but you would forgiven for thinking that somebody associated with the shows early years had been involved because this is old fashioned storytelling, told at an old fashioned pace. The story is crippled immediately by a lack of identifiable characters – none of the regular guest cast appealed to me in the slightest so that left no hope for their Gangers. Jennifer in particular is a hopeless character, atrociously performed and characterised, and dragging Rory into a dead end subplot that makes him look more like an idiot than a hero. Had all this been condensed down into one frantic episode it might have been made to work but dragged out to an hour and a half it plays the same tricks over and over until even (naff) monster effects and (unachieved) paranoia seem uninteresting. Another damaging factor was the direction and editing, some scenes that should have flowed beautifully are discordantly chopped together and there are an amazing amount of scenes with agonisingly long pauses as if they are asking us to pass judgement on how boring it all is. The last scene is such a shocker and is so frighteningly depicted it puts the rest of the story to shame and I really liked the way that they kept the focus on the Ganger Doctor to disguise the fact that this story was actually all about a fake Amy. The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People doesn’t pass any of the criteria that I expect from good Doctor Who – its not funny, imaginative, scary or entertaining. Its an ugly, outdated, unpleasant story which for me proved astonishingly unlikable: 4/10 ( it would have been a 3 if it wasn’t for some mild atmospherics and that knockout of a final scene)
A Good Man Goes To War written by Steven Moffatt and directed by Peter Boar
This story in a nutshell: Its all in the title…
Nutty Professor: What has happened to the Doctor? I don’t know if it is the result of television shows like Buffy, Alias and Heroes but when the show hit our screens again after a prolonged absence there seemed to be a constant need to assert that the Doctor was the greatest hero of all time. I remember bemoaning in several reviews that Russell T Davies (who like Moffatt is an absolute gem of a writer) had diverted from the story for a complete Doctor love in – the ‘I’m the Doctor and I’m going to save everybody on the Titanic!’ in Voyage of the Damned was one butt clenching example and Victorian London applauding the guy in a hot air balloon in The Next Doctor is another. That was why the end of The Waters of Mars was so effective, it was almost a reaction to all this praise that even the Doctor thought that time and space could bend to his design. When Moffatt came along I thought maybe all this hero worship would end and the Doctor could go back to being his old self, a clever, witty wonderful hero who showed us how wonderful he was through his actions without having the script have to point to us and say ‘this guy is really great’ every five minutes. In many ways it has gotten even worse. The scene atop the Pandorica where he starts screaming at an entire menagerie of enemies really gets my teeth grinding because since when has he become this mythological bloke that people are afraid to take on? If I was in one of those ships I would have listened to him railing for a couple of seconds, said ‘oh fuck off’ and sent down the fattest ray gun and turned him into dust. Series six has taken the bold step to frame the entire season with a running arc concerning the Doctor’s death. Cue more hero worship and adoration and with A Good Man Comes To War it reaches its absolute zenith – suddenly the whole universe and his dog knows who the Doctor is and they all scared of him. This is not my kind of hero at all… (Joe Ford would like to add that there are so many things about Christopher Eccleston’s, David Tennant’s and Matt Smith’s characterisation of the Doctor that he does like and this one populist area is the only aspect that really grates his brain).
Apparently 30 seconds of the Doctor are all that ever happened to the Gamma Forests. Really? Nowhere can be that boring that 30 seconds of a man in tweed running is the most exciting thing that ever occurred (perhaps my home town of Eastbourne…). Its just more nonsensical idolization of the Doctor. When has the Doctor ever needed to raise an army to get himself out of a thorny situation (UNIT doesn’t count as it was rather thrust upon him and he never enjoyed the military approach)? This is the man who twirled his way through an army of Cybermen to bring the Nemesis statue to life. The man who prevented the whole universe from being wiped out by the Master. Surely he can waltz into Demons Run, nab Amy and Melody and get out again without needing to call in old debts. The very idea of the Doctor calling in debts means that he expects the people he saves to owe him something and that opens up even bigger can of worms. I remember a time when a good deed was its own reward. They say that an image can conjure a thousand words…well the image of the Doctor silhouetted over Dorian in a threatening manner is the nadir of this episodes veneration to the Doctor. The scrawny runt couldn’t look terrifying in shadow if he tried! Come on guys this just isn’t Doctor Who! I don’t want his arrival to be an ominous threat… A Dark Legend? Zzzzzz… At least Moffatt comments on what the Doctor has become, River asking him that when he went sailing off into the universe all those years ago if he ever thought he would become this.
There are few moments littered about that compensate however. I did love the Doctor admitting that he was angry and that was a new feeling and he didn’t know what would happen as a result. His unrestrained anger at River turning up to the party late also felt very right. But nothing can top his hilarious, naughty (the awesome kissy kissy noises) and absolutely joyful reaction finding out who River really is. Smith gives me goosebumps in that scene as the Doctor is privileged to know who she is a few minutes before we are let in on the secret.
Scots Tart: Amy is the only person who seems to realise that the Doctor isn’t famous. Good on her. This is the first time we get to spend with ‘our Amy’ this year and it appears she hasn’t lost any of the fire in her belly, asking to borrow Lorna’s gun so she can shoot herself if she keeps talking. To give Amy the hope of having her baby back and then to snatch that away at the last minute is just about the cruellest thing Moffatt could have done and this is an emotional highpoint for the character. I have never empathised with her more.
Loyal Roman: I literally have tuck my head between my legs to prevent myself from screaming with frustration at the truly, truly dreadful sequence with Rory dressed up as a Roman and confronting the Cybermen. Firstly Rory isn’t some kind of action hero, that has been well established and giving him lines that would make Sylvester Stallone blush makes him look more like a twat than ever. Sticking him in that Roman costume really makes it look as if he is some kind of Marvel superhero! Apparently it was the Doctor’s idea and Rory knows he looks ridiculous…so why wear it? This scene also completely belittles the Cybermen (why should A Good Man Goes To War be any different, that started around Revenge of the Cybermen) and makes a complete embarrassment out of them. For the sake of spectacle Moffatt has made Rory look like an absolute spack.
The best moment in this entire episode (the cliffhanger aside) is when the Doctor, Rory and Amy are reunited. All that tricks and effects and smart lines are dropped and it is moment of genuine emotion that makes me well up every time I watch it. Rory trying to look cool but crying as he brings back his baby to his wife and ordering the Doctor into the room to enjoy the moment with them is just lovely.
The Missus: I wonder how far in advance Alex Kingston gets to read the scripts because it appears that her whole performance as River has adjusted in the episode where we discover Amy and Rory are her parents. Listen to how she says ‘hello Rory…’ with whispered excitement, she has never treated him with that kind of reverence before.
Sparkling Dialogue: ‘I’m Melody. I’m your daughter.’
The Good: With its functional design, dirty, steaming ambience and focus on all things military there is a real Battlestar Galactica vibe to the early scenes. Madame Vestra is quite an exciting new character, a Silurian hunter patrolling the streets of Victorian London. There is much about her history with the Doctor that we don’t know and I would welcome a story showing how they first met (any chance to hang out with Jago & Litefoot again!). A Sontaran nurse is another intriguing idea and a very funny one at that. Strax turns out to be the most likable Sontaran we have ever met and it is a shame that he is dispatched because he could have made an amusing recurring character. There is a shot of the TARDIS being showered by mud in the battle of Zaruthstra that needs to be turned into a poster – it’s a bold, glorious image. Madam Kovarian has a great look and Frances Barber seems to relish the chance to play a leather clad villainess. It’s a shame her character came to nothing by the end of the season but she makes for a pretty memorable baddie in this episode. The Monks attacking at the climax with their sizzling electric swords (and some great music by Murray Gold) is the most exciting part of the episode. The Melody avatar turning to milky goo and Amy’s hysterical reaction is so well done it puts the rest of the episode to shame – there is something so primal in all of us about the horror of losing a child with this grotesque imagery it really is a disturbing sequence.
The Bad: The editing of the first scene is really awkwardly done with Amy screaming at Madame Kovarian to leave her baby alone which should have been where that scene ends and then we cut back to Amy telling her daughter softly about Rory. ‘We’re the thin fat gay married Anglican Marines…why would we need names as well?’ – I really don’t find that funny but my mum was chuckling about it for days so maybe I have had a sense of humour bypass. I don’t understand why they establish the Thin One and the Fat One as a gay couple only to murder the latter and for it to have no emotional consequences (the former doesn’t even find out). In a script this packed that is time wasting – or rather sensationalist time wasting. How does River know this is the day the Doctor finds out who she is? Why on Earth don’t those soldiers just shoot the Doctor when they have the chance? It make his victory at Demons Run seem even more inconsequential because they are all so bloody stupid. Snapping the lights off an causing the Monks and the soldiers to turn on each might have seemed like a good idea in theory but surely that would mean needless deaths? Besides these scenes are directed without much care, lacking tension and with the universes most hysterical General screaming his head off the episode descends into a frenzied farce for a few minutes. Vestra’s lesbian maid introduces some tasteless inter species flirting. What the hell – Danny Boy from Victory of the Daleks and Captain Avery from The Curse of the Black Spot? I thought that kid couldn’t leave the ship or he would die? Moffatt has absolutely lost the plot! If Amy’s flesh avatar was pretty much our normal Amy in all senses and she experienced everything the avatar did what was the point of it other than to provide a good cliffhanger? You can’t knock us for six with the brave revelation that the Amy with have been travelling with so far in series six isn’t our Amy and then follow that up by saying actually she was Amy. Its packaging something as a shock that isn’t a shock, pretending to be brave storytelling when actually you haven’t the balls to see it through. I still don’t see the point of building up Lorna Bucket as some proto companion character, she really isn’t very interesting and her death scene fails to provoke a response because they push too hard for it to mean something. With the human plus Time Lord DNA were really trying to convince us that this was a union between the Doctor and Amy? Even for just a few moments it is remarkably unsavoury idea. Doctor Who is aiming at the wrong audience to pull off a good beheading henceforth Dorium’s death shies away from being bloody and winds up looking ridiculous.
‘This is the battle of Demons Run. The Doctor’s darkest hour. He’ll rise higher than ever before and then fall so much further…’ You really can’t go around using that kind of dialogue you know. For one thing it clearly isn’t the Doctor’s darkest hour – he’s faced far trickier situations than this. ‘Everybody lives!’ the Doctor exclaimed in The Doctor Dances so we know that the managing to walk away from a situation with everybody intact isn’t a one off so how precisely does he ‘rise higher than ever before’? And losing one baby is hardly the greatest of crimes when he has clearly been hoodwinked. Its just superficial tension building bilge that promises far more than it can deliver.
Result: A noisy, empty, expensive spectacular, A Good Man Goes To War is the TV equivalent of a Doctor Who movie and proves to be as fast paced and shallow as I would expect a big screen bonanza to be. A few moments of choking emotion aside this is all spectacle and bluster, an average piece of storytelling pretending to be something more epic. This is the second episode in a row that hasn’t floated my boat but has concluded on a jaw dropping cliffhanger that has left me with the illusion that I enjoyed it more than I did. It is good telly; sensational, glossy and dramatic but its not the sort of Doctor Who that I want to be watching for all the reasons stated above. My score is mostly for the terrific production values, some quirky new characters and that phenomenal final scene which ranks up there as one of the best revelatory moments the show has ever given us. But then what do I know, Simon and my mum loved it: 5/10
Let’s Kill Hitler written by Steven Moffatt and directed by Richard Senior
This story in a nutshell: The Doctor finally meets the Fuhrer…
Nutty Professor: Its quite satisfying for the Doctor to be able to say ‘spoilers…’ to River before she ever got the chance to say it to him. He looks genuinely apologetic about it though whereas his missus has always loved piling on the enigmatic. Nice to see where she got the slogan that has irritated him for the last couple of years – from him! River was never going to kill the Doctor with a gun. She knows the only kind of warfare you can use against him is love and (almost as if she is working for all the fans that hate this development in the new series) she strikes him down with a kiss. It’s a real joy to see holographic images of Rose, Martha and Donna and to confirm that they haven’t completely left the Davies era behind (I was starting to wonder) and the Doctor going through them all and asking for somebody whose life he hasn’t screwed up yet made me realise just what a dramatic impact he had on all three of their lives and where he left them. The only person the TARDIS can offer him who is still untouched by his presence is young Amelia Pond. His assertion that you should always waste time when you don’t have any is definitively Doctorish. The Doctor knows when and where he is going to die now and as he comments, foreknowledge can be a dangerous thing…
Scots Tart: The flashbacks to Amy and Rory growing up with Mels are adorable – its lovely to think that throughout their childhood Amy was looking after her daughter but she just didn’t know that she was doing. Its even better that you don’t realise this until your second viewing because the twist comes a third into the episode after these scenes. Watching the penny drop as Amy realises that Rory isn’t gay because he has been paying attention to one and only one girl in the last ten years always makes me smile. At their best these two are the cutest couple. The look on Amy’s face when Mels regenerates into River is blissful because she is literally re-writing her entire life to fit in this staggering revelation.
Loyal Roman: Poor lonely, lovely Rory stuck playing hide and seek by himself at Amy’s house and in the playground because the girls don’t want anything to do with him. I love the look they give Arthur Darvill for the moment Amy realises that he isn’t gay (bless him, he would make a very sweet gay guy) with the flattened down hair and tight clothes, he looks like an absolute dweeb and more huggable than ever. Rory does an awesome piss take of Amy’s action and looks rather splendid riding a motorbike through the streets of Berlin.
The Missus: I’m not going to lie I was completely hoodwinked (and totally floored) by the twist that Mels is River and the revelatory scene is scripted and scored to perfection. As soon as Murray Gold’s score kicks in it is the final proof that this really is River to get to share that moment of shock with the Doctor, Amy and Rory is one of the highlights of season six for me. Expertly done, and a real thrill to experience. Her ‘I’m going to wear lots of jumpers!’ might be the rudest line in Doctor Who – actually no that comes at the end of Love & Monsters but this is a pretty close second. When River was first introduced everything she said meant something but I noticed during this episode that every action she takes means nothing because there is always something behind what she is doing (stealing a gun, murdering the Doctor, etc). Has she become a vacuous character devoid of meaning just used for clever stunts? I hope not. I really like River usually but there is something about her smug, superior attitude in this episode that bothers me. Suddenly she leap impossible heights, survive a hail of bullets and is seen riding off through Berlin with machine guns strapped to her back. I just wanted to tie her down so she could talk with her mum and dad rather than this obsession with making her so cool. The enigmatic River Song really suited Alex Kingston, I’m not sure if the rock action chick does. However mentioning that she might take the age down a little to freak people out a bit was gorgeous, explaining how she seems to be getting older the more we head into her past. River losing her regenerations might feel like a cop out but I wouldn’t want them to blunt her end in Forest of the Dead and so it had to happen somehow.
Why Doesn’t She Want Her Baby Back?: I know people have had a real issue with Amy’s reaction to not retrieving her daughter and letting her grow up in her arms. That she just sort of forgets about her. Whilst she might have made a bit more of a song and dance about it (although this really isn’t the show for such soap operatics) the events of The Impossible Planet/Day of the Moon crystallise in this episode and we can see that River is initially brought up by Madame Kovarian and then escapes into America which is where we saw her in the first two parter. She then regenerates into Mels who does grow up with Amy and Rory albeit in a completely anonymous way. So in a way they did grow up with their daughter just not in a way that they ever knew about it and if they did get the baby back River Song as we know her would never exist and things might have worked out very differently to the point where Amy never got together with Rory and the baby was never brought into being (it is Mels who points their obvious attraction to each other). Its such a tangled web it will make you go cross eyed if you get too close but lets just say whilst I would have thought that Amy’s maternal instincts might have been more forceful I am satisfied that if they did get their baby back it could unravel a whole load of stuff that could bring about the end of time and space as we know it. Or at least unravel this seasons worth of adventures and suck everybody into an eternal paradox where they are forced to experience a new alternative reality every five seconds or so. Is it entirely satisfying for Amy to give up on her daughter? No. Could we have a baby on board the TARDIS? Nope. Is this an acceptable compromise? Just about although I have a headache. Does that mean that their friendship with Mels encouraged Amy to call her daughter Melody? Oh giddy gumdrops I feel dizzy.
Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Putting Hitler in the cupboard…’ – that did make me chuckle, especially coming from Rory.
‘Berlin on the eve of war…a whole world about to tear itself apart’ – can’t we watch that story at another juncture?
The Good: The Brigadier uses the Space Time Telegraph, Martha Jones a mobile phone, Donna Noble trails strange happenings and Wilf erects the Silver Cloak! Amy and Rory on the other hand draw a massive crop circle that spells out DOCTOR. Its cute but its starting to feel like this season is far too full of cute touches rather than comprehensible ones. By the end of the season these kind of ‘look at us, we’re cool’ moments have become a little wearisome. Mind you I love the touch of ‘We never did that’ as Mels screams through their handiwork with one final line. The FX shot of Mels tossing the toy TARDIS into the air and it transforming into the real thing cruising through the sky is one of my all time favourites, a great concept and its executed with such fluid precision. Let me just get my head around this because it took me a few minutes to digest just how awesome the concept of the Tesselecta was on my first viewing – a humanoid sized spaceship which can transform into any person and travel through time where its crew find people that history has failed to judge and puts them out of their misery. That is so many kinds of cool I don’t know where to begin. Add to the concept the glorious effect of the Tesselecta transforming (it has the look of a train information board flipping its tiny segments to alter the details) and the clever visual storytelling of walking along the eye and panning outwards to reveal its true nature. Extraordinarily good, we haven’t seen such dizzying imagination since the time of Douglas Adams. I especially like the inference that since the disappearance of the Time Lords all kinds of unlicensed time travel is taking place and people are ‘taking responsibility’ of the timelines. That’s something that might be worth investigating in the future, lots of dramatic potential. Its nice to see the TARDIS making such a dramatic entrance, its been a while.
The Bad: What a waste of a great location. Seriously, the Doctor meets Hitler and this is where we end up? Its comic book Berlin all the way with the Fuhrer being treated as a naughty schoolboy rather than a facist dictator and being thrown into the cupboard eliminating any chance that this might transform into a worthwhile historical adventure. I don’t want to sound like I’m trampling over all the fun but there is clearly a gripping adventure to be had with the Doctor meeting Hitler and this simply isn’t it (BBC Books’ Shadow in the Glass make a great attempt, check it out). Its treated as a subplot, no even that is too kind, he’s basically a walk on extra just there to provide a few laughs. I don’t mind Doctor Who aiming of the funny bone but this screams of lost potential and that really irritates me. The line ‘we cannot of just saved Hitler’ deserves to be the highlight of a morally ambiguous drama and not cheap gag in a ‘River Regenerates’ episode. The lack of blood when Mels was shot guts the scene of any kind of realism, even Midshipman Frame was clutching a bloody wound in Voyager of the Damned! Surely Melody had ample opportunities to kill the Doctor during his very public status during the Davies years (was she out partying the night Harriet Jones made a public plea for his help in The Christmas Invasion?). All the stuff with the gun and the banana doesn’t impress me very much, this was the point where the story needed to knuckle down and explore the revelations it has thrown up but never mind that when it can dazzle you with more clever clever sleight of hand. The Millennium Stadium again? I’m getting bored of seeing those marbled walls!
Result: And breathe. There is literally no moment to pause through Let’s Kill Hitler as we lurch from one incredible set piece to the next, one jaw dropping idea to another. With a few niggly reservations this is far more my cup of tea than A Good Man Goes to War because whilst it once again favours a hip atmosphere over a dramatic one it does give real shape and satisfying development to the story arc and focuses on providing a really good time which is what Saturday nights revel in. Perhaps the story needed more time to explore its exhilarating ideas and its irritating the way its obsession with appearing smart blunts any kind of emotional impact it has. Smith, Gillan and Darvill deliver wonderfully baffled performances and make this piece a bubbly delight to watch although Alex Kingston lets the side down with her unpersuasive portrayal of the rebel River but I fear that has more to do with the writer squeezing her into an unsuitable role. Moffat can marry great ideas and great drama (Forest of the Dead, The Doctor Dances) and it would be wonderful if he could remember the latter but at least he doesn’t seem short of the former which this season thrives on. Let’s Kill Hitler is fast paced, witty and overflowing with creative concepts and I was applauding on its first broadcast. Its only when you sit down and think about that cracks begin to appear but I could never be too hard on something this inventive and confident: 8/10
Night Terrors written by Mark Gatiss and directed by Richard Clark
This story in a nutshell: The Doctor is on the case to banish the monsters from a little boys cupboard…
Nutty Professor: I love the idea of the Doctor jettisoning universal threats and spending an evening dealing with the domestic fear of a little boy who is scared of monsters in his bedroom. Sometimes he can get so caught up in his adventures he forgets that the most frightening thing in the universe is the terror that exists in a little kids room when the lights go out. It does him good to remember it is the people that make the universe so special and to jettison all the noise and bluster and just help one person. Its nice to see the Doctor can’t quite charm everybody, especially not grumpy old dears with bad knees! Matt Smith has never been more likable as he worms his way into Alex’s flat and offers to do his best for George. I really like the scene where the Doctor has to convince himself to open the cupboard and uses Alex as a sounding board, changing his mind three times. It reminded me of a similar scene in The Twin Dilemma (don’t flinch!) when the sixth Doctor was all bravado about saving ‘the children’ and then talks himself out of it and then (with a little help from Peri) decides to soldier on regardless of the danger. Smith plays that manic indecision so well – mind you he practically plays everything so well. Ooh he’s still doing those cute air kisses. Love that.
Scots Tart: It was whilst I was watching this episode that I realised that when we aren’t focussing on their domestic lives (marriage and the birth of their daughter which to be fair does account for a large portion of their time on the show) that Amy and Rory are actually quite dull characters in their own right. This is the first time for an age (The Doctor’s Wife) that they have stepped from the TARDIS and had an adventure that doesn’t affect their personal lives and they have very little to contribute beyond wandering around the dolls house and being a little jumpy. There are no character quirks to rely on, its jut two people walking around in the dark. That might sound a tad harsh but when you compare this to Donna who spent much of the first half of The Silence in the Library wandering around in the dark then Amy and Rory just don’t have the personality to compare. It was the same in the Silurian two parter last year…they didn’t contribute a great deal, they were just sort of there. The most memorable thing Amy does is turn into a rag doll, so only interesting after she can no longer contribute anything. Nice one.
Loyal Roman: Was Rory in this story?
The Good: How nice to start an episode without a ‘previously on…’ two minute recap. It’s a small thing but there was a time when these reminders weren’t necessary and people were just supposed to catch up. With this we know this will be a standalone episode or at least for the most part. A good sign. The director manages to make those flats look at once both artistic and stylish in a cubist kind of way and astonishingly mundane and depressing. The long shots are very impressive because it actually looks like some kind of mirrored special effect whereas good lighting and clever camera positioning makes a very normal location look alien and easy on the eye. I love the tiny OCD touch of the light having to be turned on and off five times because it feels very real. I used to have little rituals like that with my mum when I was younger. Looking at very normal occurrences from a childs point of view, seeing an old lady walking home as a hulking shadow breathing heavily past the window is something episode should have done a lot more of because there is incredible creative mileage in it. The old woman being pulled into the bin bags reminds me strongly of Robert Holmes work at its most playful (Terror of the Autons especially) because the sequence is both very creepy and insanely silly. Full marks for those oversized, lumpy, barely finished dolls heads with ragged hair and terrifying slits for eyes. When you add in the dirty clothes, their unnatural jagged movement and speed and you have a very scary monster that can be mimicked in the playground. The transformation scenes are terrifying, the director stressing the wrongness of the change with the creaking of wood, the sprouting of hair and the little girl giggling to welcome their new mannequin.
The Bad: Some child actors have it (Tommy Knight was exceptional from his first moment in The Sarah Jane Adventures and Lawrence Belcher hit all the right emotional notes in A Christmas Carol) and some don’t and it is pot luck choosing the right ones for particular parts. Unfortunately Jamie Oram is definitely a case of being very sweet but not being able to bring anything to the screen (compounded by this episodes Confidential that showed him boasting about how good he is compared to the adult performers but then we were all little tykes at that age, weren’t we?). Why exactly was there a glass eye in the draw? I feel like such a bastard saying this because after seeing all the work that went into making it happen on Confidential the effect of Purcell being sucked into the carpet looks decidedly naff. Sorry guys. Having the kid turn out to be lost alien from outer space guts the story of its feeling because now it isn’t a stale about the Doctor being drawn to a lost little boy who is scared of the monster its like two aliens being brought together magnetically. For a second George is the menace and not the menaced which makes a mockery of the early scenes. Watching the Doctor and Alex dance about jerkily like Thunderbird puppets whilst George keeps repeating ‘please save me from the monsters’ like he is trying to memorise his times tables is the antithesis of the rubbish bag scene – its not funny or scary, its just a bit embarrassing. Because of their overexposure by the end of the episode all the things that were potentially creepy at the beginning of the episode (the lift, the cupboard) are a little same old, same old. Getting George to face his fears is exactly how the story should have concluded by Gatiss goes one step further by including a woefully smothering dollop of emotional syrup that gets in your every orifice until you are bleeding sugar and literally wretching at the telly. ‘You are my son and I will never, ever send you away!’ What shame that music didn’t die away and they both turned to dolls. What a farcically twee ending. This is exactly the sort of thing the classic series would never have attempted and they did some staged lousy climaxes. Shockingly this isn’t the last time that paternal love saves the day this season and the next example is even more of a joke.
The Shallow Bit: I’m not sure if it is because he playing the very appealing role of a struggling father or just his cherubic, boyish face but there is something very attractive about Daniel Mays as Alex.
Result: This kicks off a run of three relatively standalone high concept episodes and is the weakest of the three because it doesn’t have the emotional kick of The Girl Who Waited or the constant innovation and development of The God Complex. There is a great idea at the heart of Night Terrors (being trapped inside a dolls house) but once that has been revealed it is pretty much all atmosphere and running about and very little substance for the second half of the episode. Low key isn’t always a bad thing but here it feels positively insignificant and matters aren’t help by the choice of child actor who fails to convince in every scene. The director works overtime to create some suspense and to his credit the imagery is very strong, both in and around the flats and especially once we enter the skewed world of the dolls house. Matt Smith’s Doctor is a joy to watch at this stage but Amy and Rory are about as vacuous as they have ever been and are showing signs of having outlived their usefulness. There are some creepy moments in Night Terrors (the dolls are a real fright) but if you skip this one you are hardly missing out on anything special and by the end (especially that vomit inducing injection of twee syrup at the end) I had lost interest: 5/10
The Girl Who Waited written by Tom MacRae and directed by Nick Hurran
This story in a nutshell: Two Amy’s. You would think it would be Rory’s dream come true but it turns into his worst nightmare…
Nutty Professor: The Doctor looks crestfallen that his happy go lucky adventures has driven such a wedge between his best friends. The older Amy criticises his lifestyle and how he forgets what an impact his careless behaviour can have and with results like these you can’t help but agree with her. We can handle the Doctor killing off armies of evil aliens, bringing down villains and even wiping out his own people for the greater good but when he outright lies to his best friend’s face and promises her that she will be able to live knowing it is total fabrication it takes his character into a very dark place that I’m not sure that I like. Paradoxically I really like that I don’t like it because it means he can still surprise me and after nearly 50 years worth of adventures. It opens up the tricky question of how much can we trust the Doctor? It’s ridiculous to even think that the two Amy’s could travel together but what really hurts is that the Doctor gives the older Amy, the one whose spirit he has already crushed, hope and then he snatches it away. Ouch. This is an Amy of his making and he is willing to sacrifice her. When Rory asks if the Doctor always knew that saving both Amy’s was impossible he gives a real cop out of an answer, pushing the attention away from the Amy they killed and onto the one they saved. The final shot of his face as Amy asks where her other self answers the question far more succinctly.
Scots Tart: ‘If anyone can defy predestiny its your wife!’ Its fascinating to see Amy’s central characterisation – the girl who waited – conceptualised in an episode of her own (although to be fair perhaps Rory should take that crown because he waited about 985 years for Amy longer than she did for the Doctor!). The make up for the older Amy is incredibly well done, it can be so easily over exaggerated which I have seen in so many shows but here the worn lines on her face and wrinkled skin really suggest an age of waiting. Karen Gillen jettisons all the smart alec wit that comes with our Amy and chooses a voice that personifies both weariness and fury and the resulting character is worlds away from what we are used to a thoroughly compelling to watch. The way she curls her hair around her ears, insulted that Rory suggests it has been 40 years by the look of her, is a small moment but heartbreaking. Another is when she has to put on the glasses, another indignity after everything she has suffered and the camera lingers on her looking as ridiculous as possible. Its interesting to note that when Donna had the same choice to make in Turn Left that she agreed without argument because she knows that her other self will have a better life, to the point where stepping in front of a car and committing suicide was the only option. Amy’s embittered refusal to help herself feels a trifle selfish in comparison (whilst being completely understandable). Having the two Amy’s together suddenly makes the older version the odd one out and a few seconds of very awkward silence as our Amy and Rory embrace. I love the older Amy’s honesty that she desperately wants to join them in the TARDIS and if Rory opens the door she will step inside without compunction and her brave decision to tell him not to her in for that very reason. That shows some strength of character.
Loyal Roman: ‘You know when you meet someone so beautiful and then you actually talk to them and five minutes later they’re as dull as a brick. And then there’s other people and you think not bad, they’re okay. And then you get to know them and their face sort of becomes them. Like their personality is written all over it and they turn into something so beautiful. Rory’s the most beautiful man I’ve ever met.’ Sometimes I wonder without Amy if Rory would have any character at all but that’s a thought better left to episodes that treat him as superfluous because here the crux of the episode is Amy and Rory’s relationship and how he handles a very difficult situation. When he says that he doesn’t care that Amy is old but that they didn’t grow old together I really believed him. There’s a wonderful moment where Rory realises that the older Amy has named her pet robot after him and I cannot have been the only person to wonder if that was how our Amy sees her husband. We haven’t heard a male companion rail at the Doctor this powerfully since Steven’s dramatic walk out at the end of The Massacre and Rory’s ‘I do not want to travel with you!’ really strikes a chord because he is usually the quiet one. His allegation that the Doctor is trying to turn him into a version of himself has never carried more weight than at the moment he has to choose which of his Amy’s to save.
Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Don’t you lecture me. Blue Box man flying through space on whimsy. All I’ve got, all I’ve had for 36 years is cold hard reality. So no I don’t have a sonic screwdriver because I’m not off on a romp. I call it what it is, a probe. And I call my life what it is…hell.’
‘All those boys chasing me but it was only ever Rory.’
‘I’m going to pull time apart for you.’
‘Amy you always say cooking Christmas dinner you wish there were two of you!’
The Good: The Rory cam glasses are a bit too similar to the contact lenses on Torchwood but I love the fact that they are those retro 70s black rimmed specs! Its all the peripheral details in the yawnsome opening 15 minutes that I like – that piece of artwork with the purple gunge dribbling down it is fantastic and so is the oversized magnifying glass! For a minute you could be forgiven for thinking that you have stepped into Tim Burton’s re-imagining of Alice in Wonderland as Amy steps out into a lush garden filled with delicately carved exotic bushes. The garden serves no purpose but to add some colour to an otherwise clinical looking episode but this is one superfluous addition that is most welcome. The music as older Amy cuts her way through an army of robots to reach the TARDIS is Murray Gold at his exciting, uplifting best. This episode is all about those last few shattering minutes when older Amy watches Rory carrying her younger self into the safety of the TARDIS and wonders if she should follow before the overwhelming urge to escape takes over and she rushes for the shelter of the ship. There could be no better visualisation of the Doctor’s deception than him literally slamming the door in her face. Amy and Rory are on either side of the TARDIS doors railing at the Doctor and almost cruelly he steps aside and makes the choice there’s. The hand at the window is a tear jerking image. Arthur Darvill will absolutely break your heart during this scene – Simon and I were in tears, so was my mum and my mate Emma. I always associate moments of overwhelming emotion with the Davies era but this is one of best examples of the emotive approach to Doctor Who seen in six years.
The Bad: The stark simplicity of the design and the fact that it just comes down to the press of two different buttons exposes the limited plotting of this episode for what it is, an excuse to split up Amy and Rory. Nothing more, nothing less. This was never going to be a story in its own right. This location was specifically designed to drive a massive crowbar between our two companions and it has absolutely no use beyond that. I object to that because there are far more imaginative (and far less convoluted) ways to get the same result without completely exposing the worthlessness of the location in any other kind of story. Two rooms running parallel but at different time streams where you can interact with each other at certain points – an idea that is wasted by hoping forwards to the older Amy so quickly. Imagine if they had had the guts to run this entire episode in these two rooms with Amy gaining years every time they spoke to her. Is it just me or are these the cheapest, least effective looking robots since the Mr Many Claws contraption from Terminus? They shuffle forwards in an not very menacing fashion, holding up their hands because the face aint listening and look as sparse and as unmemorable as the rest of the design. I love the way they arrive in a blob of quicksilver and their open head poison dart facility is pretty nifty but in their basic form they make a cheap episode look cheaper. Doesn’t the Two Streams facility look awfully like the hospital from New Earth that the Doctor and Rose visited a few years back? Have they run out places to film? Its odd because the classic series managed to film in the same location twice – say Stargroves in Pyramids of Mars and The Seeds of Doom – and yet make it look completely different both times. For some reason BBC Wales cannot make the Millennium Centre in Cardiff look like anything other than the Millennium Centre in Cardiff. The trouble is you know that the first fifteen minutes is all set up because not one of the characters shows the slightest sign of characterisation until the older Amy shows up (Rory’s breast obsession aside) – they are simply functions of the plot until it reaches the point where it wants them to emote. I know he was busy feeling up an invisible wall and everything but could Rory really not hear that robot coming up behind him? You know the one with the servos which hiss with every footstep! If she had been stuck at Two Streams for over three decades then wouldn’t Amy have acclimatised to her surroundings a little bit? Her objections to leaving seem to be all about hurting the Doctor and preventing herself from ever existing but mightn’t she object on the grounds that she has actually lived her longer than anywhere else in her life and simply wants to stay? Wouldn’t Amy’s hair have gone grey?
Result: Such a weird episode and I don’t know how to judge it. The first third is the most boring 15 minutes of season six because it is all overly complicated set up for the last ten minutes of drama. You can literally hear the plotting gears grinding into place to get the Doctor, Amy and Rory where they need to be to provide that humdinger of an emotional climax. Whether by design (it is supposed to be a sterile medical facility) or because they were saving money for Moffatt’s expensive finale it is also one of the few new series episodes that feels cheap (that bloody Millennium Centre again). Interesting ideas are tossed in the air but jettisoned in favour of the characters although there is an awful lot of dull running around to be had too. However when The Girl Who Waited gets it right it gets it really right and the horrific choice that falls on Rory at the conclusion grabs hold of your heart and crushes it until your eyes bleed with tears. The older Amy is a great character, bitter and angry and unwilling to give the Doctor any more chances which is what makes his decision to slam the door in her face when she tosses all that resentment aside and decide to leave with them all the more heartbreaking. Darvill, Smith and Gillen have never been better than at that moment and its great to see them hitting such an emotional high when they are about to be split up permanently. How to rate an episode that tests my patience this much and yet manages to score such a coup with its characters in its closing third? It feels unfair to score an episode that hits the series’ emotional high point (The Doctor’s Wife excepted) this low but there are too many surrounding details that let it down: 6/10
The God Complex written by Toby Whithouse and directed by Nick Hurran
This story in a nutshell: The Hotel…of Death!
Nutty Professor: Only the Doctor could get this excited at landing in a gaudy hotel in the middle of nowhere – like the seventh Doctor in Delta and the Bannermen he finds tawdry locations a delight because all the most interesting people hang out there. Give the Doctor a whopping great mystery, some snappy dialogue and fun characters to interact with and he is in his element. Rory makes the awesome observation that the Doctor has forgotten that not all victories are about saving the universe. Sometimes they can just be smaller, but no less impressive, personal battles that are won. Then that is topped by an even more skilful observation by Rita that the Doctor has quite a God complex in thinking it is down to him to save everybody. All this makes sense when you realise where they are taking the Doctor at the end of the season, realising that he has been too noisy and observable in his epic encounters and heads off to a place where smaller, more personal battles really count. It really does seem that all of his personality flaws are catching up with him and vocalised in The God Complex and to round off this character assassination the Doctor realises that he has completely misjudged the situation and because of his advice two, possibly three people have lost their lives. No wonder he decides to set Amy and Rory up in a nice new house at the episodes climax to keep them safe, he can see that proximity to his adventures can brew up a whirlwind of peril. There is a large gap between this episode and the next and I can imagine the Doctor heading out into the universe and trying to find himself again before finally accepting that it is his time to die. The Doctor opens the door to his room to hear the TARDIS cloister bell that leaves so much open to interpretation it’ll keep the fanboys debating for years! What does he fear? The TARDIS dying? His own death? Is he scared of himself ala The Dream Lord? The Valeyard? Who knows but I’m really glad we didn’t get to see it because not knowing is much more fun. He doesn’t like to lose and he certainly doesn’t like to be wrong and hearing the words ‘goodbye Doctor and thank you for trying’ touches him somewhere very deep that he flies into a violent fury of destruction. Saying goodbye to Amy is clearly very distressing for him and he manages to keep most of his pain inside, he just lets out a little yelp of emotion when embracing her. Yet he knows he has made the right decision because he cannot bear the thought of saying goodbye to her over her grave which is what will happen eventually. The Doctor looks so forlorn standing alone in the TARDIS I desperately wanted to give him a big hug. Sniff, sniff.
Scots Tart: Amy cleverly gives Gibbis a potted history of her character so that any new viewers will understand exactly what is going when it comes to her facing her worst fear and losing her faith in the Doctor. Its dressed up smartly as a moment of comfort. Its perfect the way the episode ties into the overall story of the Doctor and Amy and how her faith in him was what brought them there. The worst thing Amy can imagine is losing her faith in the Doctor and when he admits that he has lead her to her death and he knew it would happen because it always happens is heartbreaking. He is trying to get them out of this situation but I can’t help but wonder if there is a great deal of truth behind his words. Between them both Karen Gillan and Caitlin Moran reduce me to tears with their silent reactions to the Doctor’s confession. Unlike The Girl Who Waited they don’t need to do anything cruel to the characters in order to make you feel something. In The God Complex it is grounded in the shows mythology that has been building since the beginning of last season and it brings Amy’s story to a very satisfactory end. Time to stop waiting and get on with her life. Their goodbye scene when it comes is everything I hoped it would be – understated, heart-warming and loaded with genuine sentiment.
Loyal Roman: Every time the Doctor gets close to somebody Rory gets a sudden urge to inform their next of kin. That is quite a statement from somebody who is supposed to be the Doctor’s companion but after the shocking events of the last episode who can blame him. As Tegan Jovanka said when you stop enjoying it give it up (just about the only sensible thing she did say mind) and this and his powerful statement that the Doctor is trying to turn him into a younger version of himself paves the way for his departure at the end of this episode. He cannot find a room for himself because after travelling the in the TARDIS he figures there is little left to be scared of and saying that in the past tense reveals what his decision would be given a half a chance.
Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Did you just say its okay we’re nice?’
‘The most invaded planet in the galaxy! Our anthem is “Glory to…insert name here”’
‘We’re lining all the highways with trees so the invading forces can march in the shade with is nice for them…’ – that’s the most Douglas Adams line not written by Douglas Adams that I have ever heard!
‘This is a cup of tea’ ‘Of course, I’m British. This is how we cope with trauma. That and tutting’ – Simon says something similar all the time, at least about the tea.
‘Offer a child a suitcase of sweets and they’ll take it. Offer someone all of time and space and they’ll take that too. Which is why you shouldn’t.’
‘I took you with me because I was vain. Because I wanted to be adored. Look at you – the glorious Pond. The girl who waited for me. I’m not a hero. I really am just a madman in a box. And its time we saw each other as we really are. Amy Williams its time to stop waiting’ – Smith will break your heart with this scene.
The Good: It looks like Russell T Davies’ plot of being stuck in the hotel from hell has finally made it to the screen! Whoever’s decision it was to make this the story’s location it was a great call because within seconds it is such an instantly recognisable setting but filmed in such an off kilter fashion it becomes something far more sinister. Its that horrid patterned carpet and the fact that all the corridors look the same (chortle chortle), its so depressingly normal and yet utterly jarring in context to the story. The vertiginous camera angles, snappy editing and unusual techniques (speeding up the writing filling the notebook, low angle tracking shots, rapid POVs) all combine to make the teaser a memorable one and a sign that this is going to be a deliciously oddball piece. I love the LOST/Cube atmosphere of a bunch of disparate people thrown together in an unknown setting, it’s a set up that will always work as long as you keep the characters interesting (which they do) and the location surprising (yadda). You would think with corridors twisting and stretching very much like a maze with a Minotaur in the middle that would be enough to keep this episode challenging but the concept of everybody having a room with their worst fear locked inside is absolute genius. Simon and I spent ages afterwards talking about what our rooms would contain. I love the imagery of the doors and windows being opened to find more walls behind them, it is such an immediately arresting visual that stresses that they are trapped inside. My mum (bless her) said she was appalled that that barely bothered to disguise David Walliams and how he was phoning in a performance as himself – yes that’s right he always looks bald, has chiselled teeth, a squashed nose and floppy ears and goes around in a insidiously cowardly fashion. Well I don’t know about the last bit but as for the rest its one of those times when my mum is so wide of the mark I can’t quite muster the enthusiasm to debate it with her. He is recognisable because it would be no point casting him otherwise but this is actually a creepy compromise and its wonderful to see a celebrity who has relished the show since childhood and spoken so fondly of it getting the chance to take part in it. That look of uncomfortable distaste when the Doctor tells him that his cowardice isn’t brave, its sly, really drives home how insidious these apparently harmless creatures are. The constant cuts to the black and white CCTV cameras must have been an editing nightmare but it keeps the show visually arresting throughout. Simon is literally petrified of ventriloquist dummies (I could tell you about one agonisingly hilarious time when we went to the pictures and he screamed ‘What the fuck is that?’ with such passion in a completely silent auditorium when a doll came to life and attacked some hapless victim) so you can imagine how much joy I had when we cut to the scene of the lobby filled with them shivering with laughter!Their creaking heads all turning towards the Doctor had him scrabbling for my hand…aww. Our glances into the rooms offer a terrific chance to get into the heads of the guest characters and Howie’s stuttering embarrassment in the face of pretty girls laughter is probably one of the most identifiable moment for fans of this series this year. I found the staggering close ups of the character switching moods rapidly to be deeply uncomfortable, there is something so emotionally discordant about it its probably the most disturbing imagery of the year for me. I think it says a lot about me that monsters are tenapenny but this kind of schizophrenic hit really messes me up. I love the appearance of the Weeping Angels, they really have become embedded as one of the greatest success of the shows recent years. With clever camera trickery (how clever is that POV shot of the Doctor’s as he dives from one identical stretch to another?) the director manages to convince that the corridors in this hotel from hell really are infinite. The very small but vital ‘You’re a Muslim’ ‘Don’t be frightened’ exchange is another example of this silly, crazy show of ours making a very worthwhile statement without shouting it out. Amara Karan gives a superb performance which under any other circumstances would have been ripe for the picking as a companion – its amazing how fresh her interaction with the Doctor feels after two years with Amy. Her death where she begs the Doctor to let her be robbed of her faith in private is very moving and it is all thanks to Karan’s beautifully understated performance. Only revealing part of the Bull creature at a time was a very wise move because the overall creature doesn’t quite convince but by the time they show it in its entirety Whithouse has injected it with a huge dose of pathos which leaps over the hurdle and convinces us it is real. Own up – who guessed that the hotel was a prison for the creature and the people who were beamed there were being primed as emotional sustenance for the prisoner? It’s a great concept and it comes completely out of the blue. I was convinced this was all being done for some evil purpose (as is the way with Doctor Who) but to turn it into a tragic tale of a dying prisoner that wants to commit suicide to prevent any more people being killed because it can’t fight its instincts is really very poignant. Distant cousins of the Nimon (squee) that set themselves up to be worshipped (very Horns of Nimon) but clearly they picked on a race far more powerful than the Skonnons this time. Love the Star Trek holodeck style effects work at the climax. This story brings Amy’s story to such a beautiful closure it seems a shame that she is back in The Wedding of River Song. But considering she and Rory only make a cameo in Closing Time and then are alternative versions of the characters we know in the finale nothing is backtracked. The last scene of the season sees them reunited with their daughter (finally) and all of them laughing together. Seriously, I cannot imagine a better way to leave the Ponds. Don’t bring Amy back just because.
Result: Oddball is a label that has been directed at any kind of Doctor Who story that deviates from the normality of ‘aliens trying to invade Earth’ and the ‘Doctor interferes with history’ and tries to explore something a bit more creative and offbeat. The God Complex certainly falls into that category an takes its place amongst the successes of the genre (The Mind Robber, The Greatest Show in the Galaxy) rather than its failures (The Celestial Toymaker, Paradise Towers). It just goes to show what a creative director can bring to the show because with its single location and fairly naff monster this is clearly the cheapie episode of the year but cut together this fast and cleverly it is extremely easy on the eye and the time flies by. It’s a clever premise that allows for moments of psychology, some really bouncy dialogue and a wrenching twist that knocks the Doctor for six. Oddly considering it is the one episode that isn’t dealing with the ominous foreshadowing of his death this is to my mind the best portrayal of Smith’s Doctor since the last complete standalone (The Doctor’s Wife) and a lot of the criticisms of his character make a lot of good sense. I much prefer this to the previous high concept episode because it doesn’t have to needlessly complicate its set up in order to cash in the emotional payoff and it winds up being a whole lot more vibrant and pleasurable to watch. It starts off as a standalone but turns out to be the most satisfying arc story of the whole season. A superbly performed ensemble piece that stands up very well to repeated viewing and I would be very happy to see more intelligent, emotive tales of this standard next year: 9/10
Closing Time written by Gareth Roberts and directed by Steve Hughes
This story in a nutshell: Craig is back and so are the Cybermen. One rocks and the other sucks…
Nutty Professor: How many people watching this wished they had the Doctor’s magical ability to stop a baby crying in an instant? There is a brilliant moment where Matt Smith seems to be channelling Tom Baker’s quirky performance and picks up a pepper grinder and starts grinding it over Craig’s back for no apparent reason. There’s no point in the Doctor telling himself not to notice things and just go…he is attracted to a mystery like a moth to a flame. Once the scientific advisor to the most powerful military force in the world, now the Doctor is an assistant in the toy section of a department store. Pleasingly he seems much more at home in the latter. It’s a gratifying sign of the times that this story can feature the Doctor giving a man a back massage and then flirt outrageously with him to take his mind away from the fact that he has just been teleported away. Also that the Doctor’s affection with Craig makes Lynda Baron’s character think they are a gay couple. I know some people will be horrified that this sort of material can be transmitted on a family TV show (the sort of people that blanch at the though of Hartnell doing this sort of thing) but sending a positive message about homosexuality, getting kids to laugh about it in a positive way is bold and uncompromising and makes me proud to be a Doctor Who fan. The Doctor admitting that people talk if you have a baby and that is why he takes a human around with him is hilarious. The Doctor finally gets to pour his heart out to a worthy recipient – Stormageddon! You would be hard pressed to find a scene more heart-warming than the one where he lights up the baby’s room with the star scape. When he was younger he used to look up at the stars and he managed to get out there and live his dream. This is actually a pivotal moment for the Doctor, one where he states that he has lived a full life and grown so old doing it.
Flatmate: Given the success of last years episode The Lodger it makes perfect sense that they decided to bring back Craig for another show and I have to admit I was quite excited when I saw the trailer because James Corden brought out the absolute best in Matt Smith last year. There’s was an unconventional bromance that dazzled because Corden got to play the straight man against Smith’s batty Time Lord and by the episodes close I was rooting for Craig and Daisy to skip into the TARDIS and the Doctor to kick Amy out.
Sparkling Dialogue: ‘Alright don’t have a go me just because I don’t know the names!’ – I don’t know why that made me laugh so much, I think its Corden’s sulky delivery.
The Good: I tried to resist for as long as I could but in the end he wore me down with his irresistible charms…Stormageddon is so bloody cute I just want to cuddle him all over! Whether he is jut being cute or he can really talk baby the shows best gags come when the Doctor translates Alfie’s gurgles and the idea that he calls all people either ‘not mum’ or peasants is a riot! Craig tries singing to Stormy when he is crying and the baby thinks that his dad is crying too! This is far funnier than I remember with a gorgeous gag about missing people being relegated to the middle pages of a newspaper because the latest contestant to be kicked off Britain’s Got Talent dominates the first page. Am I the only person who gets s giddy thrill at seeing Lynda Baron return to Doctor Who? Captain Wrack has hung up her cutlass and entered the perfumery business! It’s a lovely turn by Baron who isn’t called on to do much but share some enjoyable scenes with Matt Smith. The chavvy shop girl promises to be an incredibly annoying character until you realise that she is the punchline of the underdeveloped shhing joke and that made me grin from ear to ear. Amy and Rory make a nice cameo (on our first watch I think this was the only point Simon paid attention) and the advertising board had some lovely touches (Petrichor from The Doctor’s Wife especially) although seeing them reminded me precisely of what I wasn’t missing. Craig tears down the fourth wall by saying what we have always through about the Cybermats, that they are damn cute! Cue horrid yellow smokers teeth emerging from the metal casing! The Doctor is finally down with the kids, stating ‘don’t worry I have an app for that!’ Sometimes it is impossible not to love Doctor Who and any show that offers up two grown men trying to fight a tiny metal rat with a frying pan and a baby is one of those moments – its absurdly silly and quite wonderful. I think I would have been far more forgiving of the Cyber element of this episode had it just been about the Cybermats. It’s a light episode so it needs a light plot and they could have had great fun playing about with the idea of these cute metal toys being taken into kids homes and turning nasty. Perhaps that would put parents off buying them for Christmas but it would be great fun preying on consumerism so playfully. I told a lie there was one other point where Simon got quite excited and that was when he thought that Craig was going to be converted into a Cyberman and it is a genuinely tense sequence. I never thought they would go as far as they did and the Doctor’s hysterical confession about his death was saved for exactly the right. Unfortunately this led to its solution which you can read my thoughts on if you skip over to the Bad section. And I lied for a third time because Simon also loved the last scene that sees River being put into place to kill the Doctor at Lake Silencia. What a wonderfully foreboding sequence (and Frances Barber is outstanding) but wedged on the end of Closing Time goes to show how arc related this season has become. Casual viewers are expected to know how this is related to the 40 minutes of Cyber action they have just seen. This is the first time that the new series hasn’t made its penultimate episode a staggeringly dramatic lead in to the finale and perhaps that was a mistake because this does feel completely out of place with the rest of the episode (and I would have happily have sacrificed Night Terrors to slip this episode in that slot!).
The Bad: Repeating the gag of Craig repeating a mantra as he opens the door to find the Doctor standing there was a bad sign – was this going to be a duplication of last years gags? Could there possibly be a clearly example of a marketing strategy than featuring a toy Cybermat zooming through a toy store? If they aren’t on the shelves at Christmas I’ll eat my hat! What a shame that these desperate, body snatching Cybermen look scarcely different to the usual sort. A bit of grease around the eyes and the odd wire hanging out was all I noticed when I hoped for some decent body horror. Its odd that the last three stories promoted that proximity to the Doctor leads to suffering and death and yet Closing Time takes the complete opposite approach with Craig suggesting those who stay close live. Which is it to be? That is the most inept guard ever seen in Doctor Who (and that is a much sought after title!) as Craig and the Doctor are clearly visible and audible when he walks past them after closing time! Its when you start dealing with crashed Cyber spaceships under a department store that this episode starts misjudging its tone. This is the second time in season six where parental love has been used as a deux ex machina (literally interpreted means ‘a seemingly inextricable problem is suddenly and abruptly solved with the contrived and unexpected intervention’) and this is even more gut poisoning than the first attempt in Night Terrors. The Cybermen have proven vulnerable to gold, badges for mathematical excellence, coins, arrows and now to add to the list…fatherly love! I apreciate the sentiment but it is applied in such a way that I felt as though somebody had forced me to eat a whole tin of treacle.
Result: Cybermen in the fitting room, the Doctor in a gay relationship and a baby that wants to take over the world – we are definitely in Doctor Who sitcom territory here! Closing Time turned out to be the biggest revelation of my rewatch of season six because I didn’t think much of it upon transmission but with the benefit of hindsight there is actually plenty to enjoy in this episode. Unlike much of the season it is a light affair and its packed full of jokes and great lines that are far funnier the second time around. Stripped off Amy and Rory the Doctor is a joy to be around, witty and wonderful as he translates baby speak and flirts with Craig and Smith’s chemistry with Corden is once again a delight to watch. The only thing that really annoyed me was how totally rubbish the Cybermen were but lets be honest they have long since been the butt of Doctor Who’s joke. One of these days somebody will write a scary, psychological masterpiece for the Cybermen but when he is squeezing them into an episode full of cutie wutie babies and jokes about Britain’s Got Talent Gareth Robert’s mind is clearly on other things. It’s a shame that their dreadful treatment should put such a dent in the episode because otherwise this is exactly what we needed, an amusing breather before the dramatic finale. Closing Time is flawed but I was surprised at how much this sitcom style Who kept me smiling and although he is probably too busy I certainly wouldn’t object to him being a full time companion: 7/10
The Wedding of River Song written by Steven Moffatt and directed by Jeremy Webb
This story in a nutshell: Time has gone batty because the Doctor hasn’t died…
Geeky Hero: The Doctor is even worshipping himself these days by calling himself the ‘face of the devil’ to a Dalek. Get over yourself man and get on with your adventures! I was unsure about the Doctor’s willingness to just roll over and let himself die in Closing Time and was really happy to see that his fighting spirit had returned here. The Monks don’t want to kill the Doctor; they just don’t want him alive because he is a man with a long and dangerous past. It transpires that the Silence wanted to kill the Doctor because at some point the question of his name will be asked. Big deal! Ace asked that question in Silver Nemesis and the universe didn’t end! The series did but the universe didn’t. Are we heading for a big revelation at the 50th Anniversary that answers the question of Doctor Who? If so, it could be another anchor point in the shows mythology like revealing The Time Lords at the climax of The War Games. Alternatively it could completely demystify the character and prove that the mystery surrounding his past on Gallifrey really was never worth hearing. Dangerous business but the show hasn’t remained at the top of its game for this long by playing safe. If he had to die he didn’t have to die alone which explains why he invited his friends to watch him croak it. It makes perfect sense that the Doctor as the Tesselecta would forgive River for murdering him because she isn’t in control of the spacesuit but do you know what? I think even if it had been him he would have forgiven her anyway – I know the Doctor and he isn’t the sort of person who would go to his death baring a grudge. Maybe the Doctor does have a degree of modesty left because he finds the idea that River would send out a distress beacon to the people of the universe to aid him stupid and that it wouldn’t mean anything to anybody. He’s decided that the universe is better off without him but the universe doesn’t agree – this is veering dangerously close to the sort of hero worship that Davies employed (‘I can’t let you die without knowing that you are loved!’) but at least it isn’t as bad as the uncomfortable mythologizing of the character in A Good Man Goes to War. However the big coup for this episode and of series six in general (because this is clearly where the series has been heading) is the Doctor’s realisation that he has been far too noisy of late, too omnipresent and approaching something that people consider to be a benevolent God. Now the universe thinks that he is dead he can go back to his simple life of adventuring and keep his head down. I was literally leaping around my front room as he made this decision and Simon was quietly phoning the nearest asylum from the sofa.
Scots Tart: I genuinely feel that where Amy and Rory have been left now is the perfect stopping off point for their characters. I didn’t warm to her at all in her first series but given the torture she has been through this year I couldn’t help but change my opinion. I’m still not sure about her being satisfied with her baby growing up with mercenaries but then I guess she did grow up with her daughter in a way (Mels, try not to think about it too hard or you’ll give yourself a hernia). Dropping Amy and Rory off and giving them a house and a car so they are safe and settled is just about the perfect ending and with the two parents and their daughter reunited at the climax of this tale and laughing together at the Doctor’s ingenious escape, this could happily be the last time we see any of them. What else can be done with Amy? She’s met the Doctor, waited for him, met him again, waited for him again, met him again, had the culture shock of the TARDIS, tried to get in the Doctor’s knickers, travelled with her husband, lost her husband from all time and space, got him back again, got married, regained her parents, had a baby, lost her baby, grew up with her baby, discovered who her baby is, grown old waiting for the Doctor and Rory to save her, prevented that and finally been forced to leave the TARDIS to keep her safe. Taking the character beyond all this madness would feel like treading water which parts of The Wedding of River Song already does since it features a parallel Amy who has once again lost her husband (this is getting sloppy now Amy. Look down the back of the sofa, that’s where things usually are). Amy has felt fresh and interesting this year (whereas last year she felt like a backstabbing wench) but she’s pretty much been done to death and I feel it is now time to try out a new dynamic with the 11th Doctor. Her murder of Madame Kovarian does surprise but it leaves me feeling kind of ambivalent towards the character again – perhaps River would have turned out to be a psychopath anyway? Amy realising that the Doctor is her son in law is just about the perfect closing line she could have asked for.
Loyal Roman: The man who dies and dies again, as the Silence call him. Poor sod. Is that how is going to be remembered?
The Missus: Hell in High Heels is how the Doctor describes River. So it turns out that the climactic face off that we saw in The Impossible Astronaut was in fact a piece of theatre masterfully played by both the Doctor and River – him as the Tesselecta and her knowing full well that she will drain the suit of power. River breaks down at the thought of having to murder the Doctor and cannot let him go without letting him know that nobody in the universe loves him more than she does. Its shocking to think that the scene in the garden is the first time that we get to witness a proper conversation between Amy and River as mother and daughter and the chemistry between them is completely different.
Sparkling Dialogue: ‘He always made us pour an extra brandy in case you came round one of these days.’
‘My friends have always been the best of me.’
‘She would like to go out with you for texting and scones.’
‘You embarrass me!’
· I have a very good friend who has thoroughly enjoyed the show since it has been back on the air (the lure of Chris Eccleston as the Doctor was too much for her to resist) and we have had many wonderful chats about the show, especially in the last year with the tangled web of River Song’s timeline to unthread and comprehend. One opinion of hers is that the show cannot match the production values of American sci-fi (I think she said it has a ‘Doctor Who look’) but I cannot disagree with that more if I tried. What strikes me about American sci-fi in general is that there are standard sets that the show takes place in but Doctor Who conjures up a dazzling new environment every single week. As for the effects I think that this show is at the cutting edge of CGI with some stunning landscapes and monsters being brought to life. What I am leading to is the beginning of this episode which opens with a stunning madcap landscape that sees steam trains screaming out of the gherkin in London, cars flying in the sky and pterodactyls screaming overhead and swooping down to steal food from children looks spectacular. I wouldn’t expect better from a movie.
· Lovely details in the universe crunched into one time period – a Roman waiting at traffic lights, The War of the Roses enters its second year, Charles Dickens rewriting A Christmas Carol to fit the current temporal insanity (a superb cameo by Simon Callow), the Buckingham Senate and Silurian Doctors.
· Its always a pleasure to see Ian McNiece back as Winston Churchill and I have heard people complain about his constant reappearances but each time there has been a perfectly rational explanation for it and it gives the series a pleasing sense of continuity. He’s such a charming actor you know you are in for some delightful scenes.
· The scuttling, carnivorous piranha skulls stripping a man of his flesh is such a gloriously old school bit of camp menace that I fell instantly in love with it. For such an absurd concept they sends a chill down the spine. It’s a lovely detail to add to the legacy of the Headless Monks, beheading their victims alive and turning their skulls into vicious little vermin.
· The tribute to Nicholas Courtney’s death within the show really took my by surprise and I must have audibly sighed because Simon took my hand and squeezed it! Its beautifully done with the Doctor declaring that time has never laid a glove on him and receiving the devastating news that the Brigadier has slipped away in bed. Smith looks physically pained by the news and then a sense of euphoria sweeps over him. It’s like a universe without the Brigadier is not one that he wants to live in and he suddenly declares that he is ready to face his death. Never before has their relationship been felt so keenly and I have never wanted to hug the Doctor more than at that moment.
· We have been learning about fixed points in time and space since The Fires of Pompeii (The Waters of Mars is another great example) - actually even though they weren’t described as such the concept has been in place ever since The Aztecs when the Doctor growled ‘You can’t rewrite history! Not one line!’ It is nice to finally see the consequences if you do alter a fixed point in time – it stops and every time period exists at the same time. Absolute madness. No wonder the first Doctor sounded so furious.
· The Silence are one of the most ghoulish Doctor Who monsters and having visited the Doctor Who Experience in London I can report they are just as creepy in the flesh! That horrible sucking noise chills my blood and their screaming, puckered faces are enough to give me nightmares. They are easily the best monster to come out series six.
· Love the cheeky and playful version of the already cheeky and playful Eleventh Doctor’s theme when he spots the tributes to the ‘Raggedy Doctor’ in Amelia’s train cart.
· The episode very cleverly fools you into thinking the Doctor is willing to be killed and force the issue by touching River and hopping back to Lake Silencia. Bring forth the hero worship as we all admire him for sacrificing his life to put things back on track. Given the truth of who he is it is probably the most manipulative Moffatt has ever been and the most devious and I really admire him for that.
· ‘Tick-Tock goes the clock now prison waits for River…’ – everything as far back as The Time of Angels has now been explained satisfactorily. The Doctor was the ‘greatest man she has ever known’ that River killed and the reason she is imprisoned in a Storm Cage. Very nicely done.
· Hands up time – I didn’t guess that the Doctor was the Tesselecta the whole time even though it was staring me in the face. Neither did Simon. We were both pretty slack jawed if I’m honest. And whilst it was a cheat (and as a consequence so was the whole arc) it was still a surprise we both enjoyed.
· One thing that really bugs me these days is that the show is a complete sell out when it comes to the episode titles. Moffatt has gone on record himself saying that there are better titles for the episodes but going for ratings drawers like The Doctor’s Wife, Lets Kill Hitler and The Wedding of River Song attracts more people to the show. Is that the sort of legacy you want? Not one of integrity but one of popularity? I understand this approach even if I don’t like it and I think it’s a shame because there would be some fantastic alternative titles to these episodes. Looking at the episode listing for series six is like looking at the chapters in a soap opera.
· The LIVE CHESS sequence is brilliantly realised and looks grungy and dangerous…wasted on one scene. I bet there could be an awesome adventure set in that location.
· Is Dorium Maldovar as a head in a box a step too far? I love the actor and the character (what little we have seen of him) but I don’t know if we are straying into parody now. Mind you the ‘how bad are my injuries?’ gag is brilliant. The head in the box feels gratuitously out of place during the tribute to the Brigadier.
· ‘What’s so dangerous about my future?’ ‘At the fields of Trensalor, at the fall of the Eleventh…’ – this arc isn’t even over yet and Moffatt is already preparing for the next! I hope this isn’t more false promises because we were guaranteed to witness the Doctor’s greatest fall at Demons Run (we didn’t by a long shot) and then we were also promised his death (again false). ‘The fall of the Eleventh’ – sounds like another dreary death threat.
· Were the new scenes at Lake Silencia filmed during the American sojourn because they look like fixed close ups with unconvincing lake backdrops?
· ‘And I turned around and they were all wearing eye patches!’ – the tribute scene was lovely but once again we are plunging off a cliff into the parody universe.
· A powerful monster tries to put the Doctor out of the way as the universe comes to an end, Amy forgets all about Rory and River turns up to save the day. Comparisons with The Big Bang are fair but in context it feels completely different.
· Madame Kovarian has been one of the highlights of this year even though she has had precious little screen time. What a pity then that she should once again be reduced to a cameo and dispatched without much thought. We were promised great things with this character but they all came to nothing. I do hope we get to see her again somehow because Frances Barber is so good in the role.
· I still don’t understand why the Doctor marries River. Or whatever that pathetic excuse for a ceremony was. Was it just to give this episode its naff title?
· If you are really pernickety you could pull the logic, the continuity and the surprises of this story to pieces. But lets leave that to the people who care about such things… Mind you I have just written 3500 words on this episode but considering the fact that I (mostly) enjoyed it I hope I shall be forgiven.
Should Doctor Who have such a heavily structured arc playing out over a season? Does the show lose some of its identity when telling one long story rather than individual ones? Or does the show feel out of date when telling standalone adventures without some over arcing momentum to keep viewers watching? All very good questions and I’m not sure where I fit in to it all. Series six has been such an oddity for me. At times it has touched on absolute genius (The Doctor’s Wife) and at others it has felt as if it is losing its magic because it wants to be flashy/geewhizz/smart all the time and doesn’t give itself time to breath and tell stories that allow its performers to act (because anybody can act like a smart ass). Despite that I have been intrigued in how the central arc has played out with some knockout shocks along the way (the end of A Good Man Goes to War and the River twist in Lets Kill Hitler certainly qualify) and the sense that the show was building to something momentous. I’m not sure that with this episode they pulled that off but I certainly cannot fault the ambition of Steven Moffatt and his writing team. Simon has found himself drifting away from the series in the standalone episodes (he couldn’t bear Night Terrors or Closing Time) but was on the edge of his seat during the arc pieces (he loved the opening two parter, the middle two parter and this episode). I had the opposite effect finding the Steven Moffatt scripts my least favourite of the year and wishing the show would wrap the arc so it can get on with telling good stories as it has done week in week out for over 40 years. I find that the arcs were just about perfect during Davies time with emphasis on the running storylines woven into the standalone adventures but not so much that they dominate them (the bees, the planets disappearing and Doctor/Donna were all great examples in series four). I also find that Moffatt’s stories written during the Davies era are my favourites of his (the Angel two parter is the only exception) and rather than focussing on telling a good story he is far more interested in hopping about all over the place, telling non linear narratives, throwing away inspired concepts on one scene wonders and being a bit too smart (and by that I mean stylish rather than intelligent) for his own good. He’s a fantastic storyteller but seems to have gotten it into his head that a story cannot be told unless it encompasses hundreds of locations, time periods and lots cocky dialogue. Every one of his stories is full of standout moments this year but I don’t think a single one holds together as a piece of storytelling. Whoops, I have gone well off tangent. My point is that there is so much detail that you have to keep up with this year that if you miss one of the pivotal episodes you are pretty much screwed. There are rapid clips at the beginning of this episode trying to keep you up to speed but they go past so quickly you’ll give yourself a headache trying to take in a years worth of plot in a minute). Its unfair on those who want to dip in and out of the series. I know plenty of people who gave up this year (hardcore fans and casual viewers) simply because the show became too unwieldy to handle and that’s a shame because there is great stuff in here. I don’t want to rant because I don’t think Doctor Who has ever looked as good as it has this year and with Matt Smith and Arthur Darvill giving standout performances (in some places despite the material) and the story has always been worth following (if you have the stomach for it) but I just feel that the focus now needs to be on good old fashioned storytelling (some decent historicals would be nice) and less of the schizophrenic Doctor worshipping approach. And judging by the Doctor’s comments at the end of this episode (which I really appreciated) I think that might be the case.
The Shallow Bit: The Doctor does look hot in that hat Simon, you’re right. The beard on the other hand is a definite no-no. And the hippy hair has to go!
Result: What a curious beast The Wedding of River Song is (hate that title!) because it fails to be the climactic finale that was promised whilst still telling an enjoyable story. Mind you I remember a time when all a season finale had to be was an entertaining story so it doesn’t do anything wrong on that score but considering what we have been promised over an entire season I can understand if people found this…anti climactic. Although you have to remain alert this is a very nicely structured piece with the Doctor relaying his story to Churchill through its first half until we reach the point where all of time stopped which paradoxically kick starts our story from the point of the Doctor’s death and its aftermath. As usual Moffatt is juggling 400 ideas and has seemed to have taken a gentle dose of mind altering drugs before sitting down at the keyboard but this time we are talking about the Doctor’s death (or what was supposed to be the Doctor’s death) and if weird shit didn’t coalesce around his demise it would feel as though the universe had shrugged away our hero. Besides, it is entertaining weird shit with some startling imagery (a steam train heading into a pyramid adorned with AREA 51 on a sun kissed desert) and imaginative world building. This is pretty much the epitome of Moffatt madness with him getting so many things spot on (goodbye Brigadier) and a few (not irredeemably bad) things wrong but on the whole providing an energetic, colourful and creative finale. Let the madness end now though and lets get back to some good drama: 7/10