Because I review a whole tv series rather than individual episodes, there is a chance of spoilers, so if you haven’t watched the whole series yet, stop reading now!
“All flash and very little substance” is becoming the best way to describe Moffat’s tenure as Doctor Who showrunner. He has put a lot of effort into huge, spectacle stories, which have a great central idea or are built around a particular scene or even a show title. This has left some episodes feeling a bit shallow though and the season unfortunately begins with exactly that type of issue.
One major problem with the first part of season 7 was how the episodes, and the problems the Doctor and his companions found themselves in, resolved themselves. Episodes such as The Power of Three were resolved with a solution that didn’t fit or do justice to the huge build-up that had been planted through the first thirty-five minutes. Unfortunately, this isn’t an issue that has disappeared and it rears its ugly head in the first episode.
Introducing Clara and building a massive, London-wide problem that seems insurmountable is completely undercut by the “easy-fix” the Doctor presents us with at the end. The rest of the episode is fantastic and full of great moments and very cool monsters, but it feels like Moffat doesn’t know how to end the episodes he has created.
This isn’t the only episode that suffers. Cold War is a great return for the Ice Warriors and gives us a Doctor Who episode that has a lot in common with Alien. It’s genuinely scary and claustrophobic but undoes all this tension with a rushed ending which doesn’t do the rest of the episode justice.
That isn’t to say that there aren’t some amazing episodes. Journey to the Center of the Tardis delivers on some of the promise of the episode title, even though the ending is a jumbled, confused mess. Hide has one of the most terrifying Doctor Who openings ever and manages to keep a complex story under control and entertaining. Nightmare in Silver is the biggest disappointment of the best episodes of the season. Neil Gaiman delivered the greatest ever episode of Doctor Who (The Doctor’s Wife) but this was far from that standard. It was a confident and able return for the Cybermen though.
Season 7 gave us the standard Doctor Who fare – mixed quality in the episodes but a good, intriguing, overall story-arc. Moffat has failed to answer some of the questions he has posed, even two season ago (who blew up the Tardis?) but he doesn’t disappoint here. Clara’s story is a great one and the resolution to the mystery was fantastic. The opening of the season finale was a Doctor Who Geek’s dream and I can’t have been the only one to instantly rewind and watch, spotting each Doctor.
In fact, Clara is the triumph of this half of season 7. Jenna Coleman has thrown herself into a confident, smart and feisty companion that gives The Doctor someone to truly “bounce off.” I hope she gets a few seasons, like Amy or Rose, rather than being quickly replaced like Donna or Martha. She is definitely one of the best companions yet and has a good backstory to develop from.
That isn’t to say there weren’t some disappointing aspects to the finale. It was called The Name of the Doctor, which got me excited enough, and although I understand why they didn’t make good on that promise, it was still an underhand blow. It also felt like a prelude to a bigger, better story. The revelation of John Hurt at the end was great but it did feel like we had seen the first chapter in a larger story and that isn’t the best way to end a season.
I still have confidence in Moffat for the 50th Anniversary and knowing that Tennant and Piper are back does bring back some of the Doctor Who excitement I have lost over the past few years. I just hope it’s not going to suffer from the same issues the most recent season has, with huge build-ups and poor climaxes to great stories.
Overall, the second part of season 7 showed great promise and had fantastic potential. They introduced a great new companion, demonstrated that Doctor Who can still do amazing stories and set-up what should be a fantastic anniversary. It’s just a shame that the quality of the worst episodes in the season are showing a noticeable drop compared to what has gone before.
Best Episode – Journey to the Center of the Tardis: A great title and a great way of exploring a key part of Doctor Who, even if the ending was slightly “silly.”
Best performance – Matt Smith as The Doctor
Should there be another season? – Yes, regardless of how much the quality is beginning to drop, Doctor Who has got years of life left in it yet.
Season Rating – 3
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)