Saturday, November 10, 2012

The End Came and Went: My Thoughts on the first half of Doctor Who Series 7


This post contains spoilers for the first 5 episodes of Doctor Who Series 7. Do NOT read if you haven't already watched each of these episodes and you actually mean to WATCH them. You have been warned! Or you can just read this post for the fun of it because you don't care about SPOILERS.

So after the impressive first episode, "Asylum of the Daleks", opened Series 7 of Doctor Who, I was looking forward to the rest of the final episodes to feature the Ponds. I've since viewed each of them at least twice and I still come to the same conclusion.

It was all a bit MEH, really.

Not to say that the stories featured in these episodes didn't have their merits. It just felt like these were stories that could have been told at any point in the last two series. For the final five episodes of the Ponds, it didn't feel like enough in the end.

And why am I judging these episodes based on their handling of these companions?

Well, everyone KNOWS that they're leaving. The stories feature Amy and Rory attempting to reconcile their 'normal' lives with the existence they have with the Doctor. They're dropping hints about the upcoming break to come. They are talking about the fact that the Doctor has gone off to travel on his own without Amy and Rory and the effect this has on him. And then of course there is the fact that the season has been split in half, with this first part ending with a goodbye to the Ponds. So when you know the ending that's to come, don't you look at what comes before it and analyze the episodes according to that connection?

Let's start with "Asylum of the Daleks." Yes, my previous thoughts on the episode were that it encompassed everything I love about the writing of Doctor Who. HOWEVER, I too agree with those opinions of dissent, which complain about the quick resolve given to Amy and Rory's impending divorce. Having watched "The Pond Life" before the series premiere, the impression was given that it took TIME for the couple to not only become separated but to then get to the point where they were signing divorce papers at the start of this episode. Then we get to the resolution where everything is hunky-dory and Rory moves back home. It's too much snap-your-fingers and voila!, all better. Maybe had they shown some time to have elapsed with them back home, with the Doctor hovering around trying to fix things for them, OR even just the idea of a week passing from the events on Asylum and their return to Earth could have made that feel a bit less TA-DA!! and more feasibly possible in the scheme of things. So there's my irk on that episode. (NOTE:: The same thing was done with the Amy, Rory and baby Melody storyline. We have "A Good Man goes to War," where the Doctor promises to return Amy and Rory's baby to them. Then it's followed by "Let's Kill Hitler," and the audience is just supposed to accept that having Amy and Rory essentially "grow up" with Melody, it's basically the equivalent of raising their daughter. And to this I say NO!, just ugh, no, I don't accept that. The idea that a parent, the role of a parent, their responsibilities and pride in raising their child is just supposed to be supplanted with this just does not work for me. Argh, bleh and phooey.)

And on with "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship". Really, the only big true merit I found in this episode was the introduction of Brian Williams, Rory's dad, played by actor Mark Williams. Other than that, the story felt a bit like a filler episode to me. I enjoyed seeing the interactions with Rory and his dad with the little tells that enabled the viewer to believe that this pair are truly father and son. However, the episode was a little too much on the spot for "lighthearted fun" for this installment in the final run of the Ponds with the Doctor. I understand that the viewers were meant to see that there would be someone else to feel the loss of the Ponds other than the Doctor but the placing of this episode after "Asylum" just didn't mesh with the storyline for me. It's a fun episode on its own and really, I loved the bit about the fact that the Doctor still has a Christmas list, but I was expecting more KA-POW with the pulling of my heartstrings with the rest of these episodes and I didn't get that with this one. We hear that Amy and Rory haven't seen the Doctor in 10 months and it's just chalked up as "time flies", or something. Why the long lapse of time between visits?

The same can be said for "A Town Called Mercy." It's just felt like another story that could have been told at any point with the Doctor and his companions. As a fan of the Ponds, I wanted stories that focused on what they meant to the Eleventh reincarnation of the Doctor. Why were they so important? What makes it necessary for them to be with the Doctor? Instead, we got a few filler episodes that focused on these seemingly random storylines that made me feel like I was left waiting for a development that had yet to come to fruition. There were little hints given of what was to come, there were bits given showing just how far the Doctor's views have changed regarding his treatment of the villains he encounters in both "Dinosaurs" and "Mercy" but I'm left wondering if the change in his choices reflects the fact that he needs a new companion to learn from now. Amy mentions that the Doctor has been off traveling on his own for months and as a viewer I'm thinking WHY did he leave them behind? Why are they going to such lengths to show their home life and how very SEPARATE it is from the Doctor? Is he in a limbo here with the Ponds, where the decisions he's making reflect the fact that it's time for him to grow again, to learn from a new challenge, therefore concluding with the necessary introduction of a new companion? It's all a bit hmph to me.

Finally we get to "The Power of Three" and I'm thinking, here we go, THIS is what I was waiting for. The story focuses on following these characters at the pace of the Ponds, how they deal with things like laundry, spoiled food and managing to make a life for themselves when the Doctor goes off on his own. And now the Doctor has to slow down and wait with the Ponds to figure out the invasion of the cubes. And we get to see Brian Williams again and can I just say, his patience astounds me. But this is what I wanted, a storyline that focuses on just what this couple means to the Doctor. Also, what this Doctor ends up doing when he's not able to run around at some breakneck speed in the face of crazy circumstances is just entertaining on so many levels. The episode had enough here to be poignant, to make the viewer feel like there would be a loss, even if you are NOT a fan of Amy and Rory. Because the Doctor and Brian are going to be feeling a world full of pain once the final episode comes about and that's what is the most necessary component here. Because it needs to feel like a loss. It needs to feel like a change that the Doctor may be needing but he's not ready to move on towards yet. (NOTE: why is it ONLY Brian being shown? where the heck are Amy's parents, you know, the ones that the whole of events in series 5 culminated in the return of a mother and father that Amy should have always had but had somehow lost? and yet nada, so there's a quandary for you.) AN IRK TO NOTE: The resolution to this episode from climax to finish just went way too fast. They get to the hospital, figure out what sent the cubes and the Doctor reverses the signal to save the people of Earth and the feedback from that destroys the ship. Another TA-DA ending. Brilliant (but not really.)

But then we get to "The Angels Take Manhattan" and while the story was developed enough to make the loss of the Ponds and their particular "ending" make sense there were things that I didn't understand about the plot. Like, how the hell is it possible that the Statue of Liberty is a Weeping Angel and NO ONE notices when she walks off? They are the city that never sleeps because apparently its filled to the brim with moving statues and they just somehow manage to take people when its convenient. Fine, some moments gave me the creeps. The idea that the Angels have somehow managed to build a hold over a small haven of theirs in this city is definitely a possibility that I could believe but in the end the logistics about the Angels just didn't make sense to me. In the end I paid more attention to the circumstances involving the loss of Rory and Amy instead of the fact that when I really thought about it, these Angels didn't make a whole lot of sense. Then River Song felt more like an afterthought in this episode because she's only meant to be there because she's Amy and Rory's daughter. For her not to be there for the final possible moments she can spend with her parents would not make those of us who like the familial aspect of this show happy, or at least that's my opinion. She's their daughter, she HAS to be there. But it doesn't necessarily work because she's there more as the woman that married the Doctor instead of the CHILD of his two best friends. So then River is there, she knows whats going on in the plot and she's moving things along a bit but her use as the daughter doesn't come about until the end of the episode and it's only seen with Amy realizing this is her last chance to be with her little girl whereas Rory is taken before he has the chance to realize what he's losing. Phooey.

So after all THAT, I'm ready for Jenna-Louise Coleman to sweep in and wow viewers as the new companion. As much as I love the Ponds, if I want to see the best moments of these characters I'm going to go back and watch episodes like "The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang" or even "The Doctor's Wife" or "A Good Man Goes to War." Episodes that displayed the true strengths to this couple, their pains together and their struggles with the Doctor.

They had a good send-off and I'm glad it was handled with obvious care in the end. But still, oh well. I guess the sad fact is that while I have wholeheartedly believed myself to be a big fan of the Ponds, I've come to the realization that if I had to choose the best companion, I'd choose Donna Noble. She was everything that was truly perfect for a companion, a ferocious woman with a heart of gold who kept the Doctor in check and eventually managed to become ten times more than the companions before her as the DoctorDonna. I find that I'm just not as much of a Pond supporter anymore. Maybe it had a lot to do with these episodes. Maybe it's just that when it comes down to analysis, I'm just not sure I understand the devotion between the Raggedy Man and Amelia Pond at all. At least Amy chose Rory in the end. That's probably the clincher for me, the fact that I actually thought she'd choose the Doctor instead of her husband when it was her and the Angel in that cemetery in those final moments. And that makes me sad.

It's just time for a new companion, pure and simple. May the coming of the new companion and her effects on the Doctor have just as much emotional impacts to offer as the previous companions have had the chance to do in this show.

Rating: 7 Stars Overall

I'm going to keep watching this show. There's no doubt about that. I just hope the new companion has enough oomph to really take the show in a new direction. AND I hope to some day come back and watch these episodes and think it was great storytelling instead of looking at the little IRKS I had with it and focusing on that more.

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