This year was always going to be a big deal for Doctor Who. RTD had been show runner since it came back, and David Tennant was an amazingly successful Doctor. So the prospect of a new series, with a new show runner, a new vision and a new Doctor was a daunting one. Would audiences accept the change? And how noticeable would Steven Moffat’s vision be in the final product versus RTD’s?
Up until this year, I would probably say series 4 was my favourite. David Tennant had playing the 10th Doctor down to a fine art, and in Donna there was a companion who I found a much better match for Tennant’s Doctor than either Rose or Martha. The episodes by and large I found consistently good and the return of Davros, the icing on the cake.
So Steven Moffat certainly had a lot to live up to. And straight from the Eleventh Hour, the new series hit the ground running, with possibly the best series opener yet.
For me, the real stand-out thing of the whole series was undoubtedly Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor. The youngest actor in the role, and pretty much an unknown (not that David Tennant was really a household name prior to getting the role) there had been a fair amount of worry in fandom about how he would be in the role. But it quickly became obvious why Steven Moffat had had so much confidence in him. The initial scenes with Amelia won me over quickly, and over the course of the series he continued to impress, pitching his Doctor as much more of a mad professor than his predecessor, this portrayal really struck a chord with me, aided no doubt by the great quotable lines Steven Moffat kept feeding him, and his brilliant delivery of them. “Its a fez, I wear a fez now. Fez’s are cool.”
This series also showed a willingness to experiment a little, obviously a sign of the new production team finding their feet. The arc plot was greatly expanded in comparison to previous years, with the scene in Flesh and Stone that was later revisited in the finale, and the cracks appearing throughout the show. The overarching threat of the Silence was left unresolved, and instead set things up for next year. However we also had the Van Gogh episode. An episode that could’ve so easily been a pure historical, focused solely on Van Gogh and his mental issues. These were brave moves, and for me paid off. Whether the more general audience bought into it I don’t know, but at least with the overarching plot, they’re promised a resolution next year, so don’t have too long to wait.
In Amy and Rory, again Steven Moffat took what RTD had done previously and built on it. In some ways you can easily draw parallels to Rose and Mickey in the Christopher Eccleston series, but here things play out very differently. Rose was obviously not as attached to Mickey as Amy is to Rory, and where the former couple ended up separating over Rose’s travels with the Doctor, here the Doctor gets actively involved in trying to help the couple, bringing Rory onboard the TARDIS and taking them away for a romantic getaway (how was he supposed to know there’d be evil fish-vampires there?). This provided the middle of the series with a nice boost, and gave Amy a strong character arc for the series as she realises how much she loves Rory, only to lose him again in Cold Blood. All this means that when he comes back in an Auton body, only to near-fatally wound Amy and then spend 2000 years guarding her in the Pandorica, its all the more powerful, and it all culminates nicely in their wedding.
Not just the actors and writers changed this year though, with various pieces of design getting make overs as well. The new TARDIS console room went down very well with me. I’m not a huge fan of the actual console itself (I’ve never been a massive fan of the bric-a-brac look), especially the central column which I think looks too cluttered making it hard to make out features like the blown-glass sculpture at the centre. However the room is brilliant. I love the multi-level aspect that’s been increased from the previous version, and it was really nice to see a return of the big viewscreen that was completely absent in the Eccleston/Tennant console. The fact there’s various corridors and doors heading off really leads me to hope that at somepoint we’re going to finally explore more of the TARDIS in the new series.
The one makeover though that didn’t work for me, was the new Daleks. They’ve been discussed to death in most places, but suffice to say, I greatly preferred the RTD versions. I do though like the idea of the specific Daleks in certain roles marked out by their colour, and what role the Eternal will come to play should be interesting (my assumption is that it’ll end up like the Cult of Skaro, working separately from the others on its own projects to ensure the Dalek race continues and thrives).
Overall, this series has definitely been a big success for me. I’m actually slightly surprised at just how much Matt Smith has won me over so quickly. If I were doing a “best Doctors” list, he’d almost certainly be near the top. Steven Moffat’s ambitious scripting paid off massively for me, and the high points of the series (The Eleventh Hour, Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone and The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang) probably, for me, were even higher than those set by previous series.
I find myself eagerly awaiting the Christmas Special and series 6, but in the meantime we’ve got Matt Smith’s appearance in Sarah Jane Adventures to look forward to. Sure to be interesting as Sarah and Jo meet the new Doctor, but also as we have Russell T Davies scripting the Eleventh Doctor for the first time, something I’m very much looking forward to.