New Beginnings: Comparing Companion Entrances (Part 2)
Guest contributor Ben Strachan concludes his comparison of the companion entrance stories of new Who.
In October, I wrote an article about companion closing stories. This is the second of a two-part article that is its polar opposite, one that discusses the openings of New Who. I will express my first opinions on the companion, how they measure up to the previous one, and write an analysis of the episode.
4. Professor River Song – ‘Silence in the Library‘
This introduction can be described in one word: unorthodox. This is because it isn’t just an opener for the character; it’s also a concluding story. One that was not right for River, she deserved better. However, I think entirely different of the story as an companion opener, I think it’s perfect. The episode took place during Donna’s tenure; instead of at the beginning of the Ponds’. For the first time in New Who, the new companion is seen in the same episode as the preceding one, making it easier to compare the two. There was the insecure Donna who needed a façade to make sure no one discovered her uncertainty. However, she has a heart of gold and cared for everyone. And then there was the mysterious, flirting River, who, just as much as Donna, cared for everyone and seemed to be the Doctor’s match. At the time I couldn’t decide on my favourite, but I soon discovered River’s quality decreased every appearance, so Donna narrowly wins.
This episode revealed a River fully developed by the Doctor. She is caring; we discovered this side to her when Miss Evangelista died. She is comical and flirtatious, a favourite part for many fans of the character, however, also one of the main reasons she is loathed by haters. She also had a layer of mystery to her, much like the one the Doctor has maintained over the last 50 years. With every previous companion, we learnt all the basics in their opener, not with River. We didn’t even find out what species she was until ‘A Good Man Goes to War’, three years later. ‘Silence in the Library’ began a mystery that kept fans glued to their screens for two series, which no other opener has done since or before, however ‘Asylum of the Daleks’ could be one to break tradition.
As far as I’m aware, this two-part story is one of the most beloved of not just Series 4, but the whole of New Who. After first viewing, I couldn’t understand why, I found it too complicated. However, now I am older, my enjoyment of the episode has been amplified too much higher levels. This episode had many great scenes. The ‘C.A.L reveal’ was unexpected and clever, as was the real meaning behind the phrase: 4022 people saved; no survivors. Overall, ‘Silence in the Library’ is a fantastic episode that took a while to grow on me, but I am glad it did. And as an opener for River Song: faultless.
5. The Ponds – ‘The Eleventh Hour’
‘The Eleventh Hour’ is the first Doctor Who story since ‘Spearhead from Space’ to change near enough everything about the show: production team, titles, and the actors to play the Doctor and his companions. So naturally this episode wasn’t just hyped up to see how Matt fared as the 11th Doctor, though it was a vast majority of it. Fans desired to see the new companions as well, but did they deliver?
Even though I love both companions equally at the time of their conclusion, I originally liked Rory better than Amy. He showed initiative and investigated to the best of his abilities the reasons why coma patients were suddenly walking around the village. I find his sarcastic comments hilarious: such as the quote, “did he just save the world from aliens, and then bring all the aliens back again?!” Then there was Amy: an annoying kiss-o-gram who was willing to leave her future husband for the Doctor, on her Wedding’s Eve! At least Moffat made her eventually realise who she really loved, and made the audience realise this wasn’t Rose 2.0, but instead an excellent companion to the Doctor. When I first watched this episode, my first impressions of them weren’t good. I feared we would be getting another ‘Rose-Mickey’ type couple, where either would leave the other faster than you can blink. At the time, one Donna was better than the two Ponds, which shows as an opener for them; ‘The Eleventh Hour’ was futile.
It may have been a bad opening for the two longest running companions of New Who, although I am certain that ‘The Eleventh Hour’ isn’t just adored by me. It was an action-driven, entertaining episode that introduced the 11th Doctor perfectly. My favourite story arc, the Cracks in Time, was interwoven wonderfully in to this episode. The villain, Prisoner Zero, was pretty average for Moffat, but it was still cleverly executed. I love how the people in a coma were only in them because Zero had created a psychic link with them.
The resolution of this episode is my favourite to any Doctor Who episode I have ever watched! The way the virus that led the Atraxi to Zero was created on a phone with pictures of all of Zero’s forms was so smart, you would think the Doctor wrote the script, not Moffat. This was followed by my favourite scene: when the Doctor terrifies the Atraxi just by quizzing them on the rooftop. It is such a standout scene that shows how powerful the Doctor has become. In conclusion, ‘The Eleventh Hour’ was the perfect opening for the new Doctor, and showed the audience this new production team were up to the job, but it wasn’t triumphant in opening the Ponds in the way they deserved.
6. Oswin Oswald – ‘Asylum of the Daleks’
Which episode is Clara/Oswin’s opener: ‘Asylum of the Daleks,’ ‘The Snowmen,’ or the upcoming ‘The Bells of Saint John’ (title TBC)? That’s the big question. In fact, it is highly implied we will be getting a different Clara/Oswin every episode. Therefore, I am going to review the episode that she first appeared in and the one that started this big mystery: ‘Asylum of the Daleks’.
Oswin is in many ways similar to River Song. Both are flirtatious, quick-witted, and incredibly bright. However, Oswin has two features that make her more of a pleasure to watch: her consistency and her way with words. Her consistency is a bonus because River Song could’ve been my favourite, but became less and less like the character she was in ‘Silence in the Library’. If we are getting the same Oswin every episode, theoretically she will always stay great. However, this could get boring; therefore I hope if she does die again after ‘The Snowmen’, it happens during ‘The Last Cyberman.’ Even though the Ponds were excellent companions and it was devastating to see them go because they were in the show for so long; Oswin appearing in ‘Asylum of the Daleks’ was a breath of fresh air. Maybe it’s just a novelty, but at this present time, I prefer Oswin to the Ponds.
‘Asylum of the Daleks’ is an episode crammed with plotholes. Some that come to mind is how a human spaceship got through an impenetrable force-field that even the Daleks couldn’t get through. Or if the Daleks never wanted the insane to escape, why would they make a force-field that can be broken from the inside? Nevertheless, I still enjoyed this episode so much; the plotholes weren’t the big deal they should’ve been. My only complaint in this episode that didn’t involve the phrase ‘plothole’ was the divorce subplot. It was resolved to quickly and the reasons given weren’t satisfactory.
However, the settings looked fantastic and very ambitious, and were perfect for this adventurous episode. The Daleks were restored to the scary, unstoppable beings they were in ‘Dalek’; the new Parliament of the Daleks reinforced the idea they were powerful again. I am glad this happened, because they lost their uniqueness in Ten’s era, when they were just normal invaders. Although Oswin being a Dalek was a great twist, I fear the Daleks are becoming humanised. They shouldn’t regularly, as it could become downgrading. In a nutshell, this story introduced the character perfectly, in addition to being a very pleasurable episode. However, it would be nice if the plothole levels weren’t so high.
The difference between my favourite episode and the best opener is an important one; they are unlike each other. Because this is an article primarily about how good it was as an introductory episode, I will list my preferred order in that way. The said list, Number 1 being the best, would go like this:
- Oswin Oswald – Asylum of the Daleks
- River Song – Silence in the Library
- Martha Jones – Smith and Jones
- Rose Tyler – Rose
- The Ponds – The Eleventh Hour
- Donna Noble – The Runaway Bride
I hope you have enjoyed reading both of my articles. If you haven’t already, please discuss which your favourite is, as always I will enjoy reading them.