New Who: The Story Thus Far – Series 5 (Episodes 7-13)

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John Hussey continues his series analysing the revival, this time with Series 5.

‘Amy’s Choice’

dream-lord-amys-choiceSeries Five continued with ‘Amy’s Choice’, a brilliant storyline centred around the idea of dreams and people’s inner-wishes. It is perhaps unfair to say it was a wholly Amy-centric story as the story affected the trio as a whole and certainly contained a lot of bitter delves into the mind of our favourite Time Lord. ‘Amy’s Choice’ was essentially a filler episode from the ongoing ‘silence will fall arc’ and acted as a little settle down where the newly formed trio could find their roots and bind them together to formulate the foundations they would have in future episodes. Rory was still unsure about his place within the TARDIS and Amy’s life. Amy was still caught between forever being with the man she loves or the mad man she can never have. Then of course there’s the Eleventh Doctor simply caught in the middle.

The end result was that Rory found his place on the TARDIS, was shown to be respected by the Eleventh Doctor, and better still, was shown that Amy would always choose him. It was a massive step for Amy and the Eleventh Doctor. The Eleventh Doctor had to let Amy go just as much as Amy had to let him go. They realised that they could be good friends and that Amy could also have Rory as well. Amy’s choice wasn’t as obvious as first thought: it was about her coming to the conclusion that she could have both if she made everything work. The reality question created by the Dream Lord (Toby Jones) was most interesting to watch and to see the trio make their decisions clearly to counteract both deadly dangers. The revelation about the Dream Lord being the Doctor’s inner-demons was a nice surprise and re-watching the episode made it all the more clear. Above all of the Doctor’s greatest enemies in the universe there was no one who hated him more than himself. It’s episodes like these I enjoy to watch the most as we see the Time Lord for who he really is and get to see him tackle against himself and share his thoughts upon himself.

‘The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood’

Doctor-Who-Hungry-Earth-(9)The trait of the new series bringing back classic monsters didn’t end with Series Five. Moffat decided to delve further into the past to find different enemies that weren’t necessarily as well known to the newer fandom. The Silurians finally saw a return to screen after their last appearance in ‘Warriors of the Deep’ back in 1984. After only having two appearances on the show they still remained an iconic member of the Time Lord’s baddy list. Chris Chibnall, who wrote ‘42’, was called in to grant them their return within ‘The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood’. I will happily go on record and say this wasn’t the best episode in the universe, far from it. The concepts and ideas were all there but I find the execution lacking that extra something which I can’t quite put my finger on. In some respects it was a little dull and off-putting (even upon re-watches). Nevertheless it was a great return for the Silurians and concreted their place within the new series.

Unlike with previous Silurian stories we weren’t placed with a global scaled catastrophe, nor were any militaristic elements added to provoke the ideas of warfare. Normal everyday people were caught in the cross-fire this time and added some interesting elements as to why a war between humanity and the Silurians would erupt. Ambrose (Nia Roberts) was provoked due to feeling her family were under-threat and this was used numerous times to showcase humanities weaknesses when it came to rash and panicked thinking. Ambrose nearly brought about the utter destruction of humanity and any chances of the Eleventh Doctor finally bringing peace between the two species. It is fair to say I find her character completely annoying. I understand her motives but disagree completely with her methods and somewhat selfish attitude. But at least this time round the Silurians were given hope in returning to the surface with all the bad Silurians getting their just-dessert.

The story itself was filled with many aspects of the ‘silence will fall arc’ that became very important for future stories. A Time Crack appeared at the most inconvenient moment and the Time Lord’s curiosity got the better of him resulting in the death of his companion Rory Williams. This was a truly sad moment upon first watching the episode as I’d grown really fond of Rory and enjoyed his character development. His death was just truly unfair. Amy had finally come to terms with her feelings for him in ‘Amy’s Choice’ and now he was to be no more. Not only that, Amy would forget all knowledge of him due to him being swallowed up by the Time Crack. This really kicked us in the gut just when we were already down. It’s no wonder the Doctor has moments of truly hating himself due to his actions because sometimes this is what happens: his curiosity brings despair to those around him. The biggest shocker concerning the Time Cracks was the revealing that they were caused by the TARDIS exploding.

‘Vincent and the Doctor’

Doctor-Who-Vincent-and-the-Doctor-Trailer-(2)‘Vincent and the Doctor’ was a bit different from the average Doctor Who plotline by being almost completely centred on character development, attachment and their emotional baggage. This concentration meant that the inclusion of an alien menace or villainous presence was pushed to the side and wasn’t the main problem (as such). The story of ‘Vincent and the Doctor’ included a second historical character for Series Five in the form of Vincent van Gogh (Tony Curran). Not being much of an arty person I didn’t know who Vincent was so this story was a great delve into history as it really seemed to grant him character and deliver a fair and accurate description of the man’s personality. Unlike with past historical character stories, this went about writing a story fully centred on them and their behavioural patterns rather than injecting fantastical elements to their supposed personality. Vincent created a unique direction within the storytelling of the episodes plot in the sense of his predicament mentally. It’s not often (or at all) in Doctor Who that a character full of depression is shown within a story and ‘Vincent and the Doctor’ worked incredibly well in showing Vincent’s pain and suffering through his depression, isolation and his mere doubt within himself and his work. Not only that but there’s the clear implication of his suicide which is a true event in history.

It was certainly an emotional journey which affected Amy in a strong way due to her devotion to Vincent’s work and her share sadness in his move of taking his own life. Like what Mark Gatiss did with Charles Dickens in ‘The Unquiet Dead’ Richard Curtis tried injecting some fan-fictional ideas of how it would be nice to shine a little light on the doom and gloom of their chosen historical character. This time it was done through the Eleventh Doctor taking Vincent to the future and showing him his accomplishments and what people truly thought of his work. That was a beautiful scene indeed. It was nice also to have Bill Nighy onboard for a story. Shame he wasn’t in it for a bigger part and that he was uncredited but I live in hope he’ll return again one day as he’s a great actor. The Krafayis was an interesting adversary in the sense it was a mindless creature rather than an intellectual villain. Its story was sad and added to the emotional journey the plot took. ‘Vincent and the Doctor’ served merely as another filler episode to develop our heroes and their connection with each other. The only true element to the ongoing storyline seen within the story was the mentioning of Rory’s death through Amy’s unknown sadness (which Vincent picked up on) and the Eleventh Doctor being extra kind to her to make up for his blundering.

‘The Lodger’

Doctor Who The Lodger PicsSeries Five reached its penultimate story and we received another filler episode with completely bonkers ideas that placed the Eleventh Doctor in hilarious circumstances. ‘The Lodger’ had the Time Lord become a flatmate and perform normal everyday human activities. This came about after the TARDIS was sent out of control due to time ruptures created by the unknown owner of the flat above Craig Owens (James Corden). Though the ideas and implications of ‘The Lodger’ were fun and interesting to see, I find it really undermined the Doctor’s character and deemed him to be quite ridiculous for unknown reasoning. The Doctor should surely know by now how humans think and act so why does he get everything so cocked up? Then again I guess this was all for the fun spirit of the episode and the fact they wanted to make the Doctor as alien as possible with his thinking and behaviour of understanding how humans do things. Plus the Eleventh Doctor could be without a doubt a massive idiot. Needless to say though I find ‘The Lodger’ to be a little irritating from time to time and too silly for my own personal taste.

Craig Owen’s character wasn’t anything too special, a light character who formed a good bond with the Eleventh Doctor and created a nice tale of friendship. It was interesting to see how his character worked into the resolution. The whole idea that the emergency holographic program only needing people who wished to escape in order to try and bump-start the spaceship worked well in having Owen and Sophie’s (Daisy Haggard) characters stopping its plans through their ideas of staying put for one another. Alas though, the episode didn’t serve for much real purpose other than giving off cheap jokes and laughs over the Eleventh Doctor’s incapability to be ‘normal’. The only important elements of the story was the introduction of the spaceship (which would later be revealed to belong to the Silence), the appearance of the Time Crack at the end and Amy finding her engagement ring from Rory.

‘The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang’

Pandorica-Timeline-(8)Moffat and Smith’s first series came to a climatic ending with ‘The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang’. I will happily admit I’m not as fond of this two-parter as most fans are, but I don’t disagree that it was a classic filled with many brilliant moments and twists leading to a very satisfying conclusion to Series Five. All the major plot points, including the mentions of the Pandorica, the Time Cracks and the Silence, were all brought together for a massive revelation. Through the ingenious idea of incorporating all the major supporting characters throughout Series Five, Vincent van Gogh, Winston Churchill (Ian McNeice), Professor Bracewell (Bill Patterson), Liz 10 (Sophie Okonedo) and River Song (Alex Kingston), the meaning behind the Pandorica was brought before the Eleventh Doctor. It was a very clever sequence. Said sequence also introduced us to Dorium Maldovar (Simeon Fisher-Becker) who became a more significant character within Series Six. Needless to say Moffat takes care in his writing, plot-threads and characters by using them all wisely to bring together important information.

The Pandorica’s true nature was the puzzling piece for the first part of ‘The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang’ and made us really question what was going on within the story. At first it was believed to be the prison to a mighty warrior which was slowly opening from the inside whilst the Time Lord’s greatest enemies attempted to take claim of this unknown power. The twist of the hour was that the Doctor’s enemies had now formed the Alliance and the Pandorica was built by them to imprison the Eleventh Doctor. This was due to them fearing that the Eleventh Doctor was the cause of the Time Cracks and wished to prevent him destroying the universe. This seemed to be all a part of a greater scheme formulated by the Silence (who were unseen at this point). The TARDIS was sent on a collision cause by the Silence and caused to explode on the accumulated date of Amy and Rory’s wedding. Meanwhile, due to the Alliance using Amy’s imagination to construct the perfect trap for the Eleventh Doctor, Rory was brought back as a Nestene duplicate. These events all led to the most shocking cliff-hanger of all time. It was a ‘what the hell’ moment that truly left me puzzled as to what would happen next.

Of course the Eleventh Doctor saved the day. This was done through a series of timey-wimey events by misusing time travel to his own ends. He went back to tell Rory to let him out of the Pandorica with his own Sonic Screwdriver, before returning to tell him to slip the Sonic Screwdriver into Amy’s pocket so that when she awakened in the future the Eleventh Doctor could reclaim his device. Very complicated just how Moffat loves it. Similar things are done to attract Amelia Pond (Caitlin Blackwood) to the National British Museum to help awaken Amy.

‘The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang’ was a unique finale in the sense it had no true enemy. Time itself was the threat and formulated a race against the clock before the entire universe fell apart due to the catastrophe at hand. The Pandorica ended up becoming the key to everyone’s salvation with it holding an imprint of the universe prior to its collapse. The Eleventh Doctor ultimately sacrificed himself by flying the device into his exploding TARDIS in order to reboot the universe with a secondary Big Bang. This act of sacrifice meant he would become trapped on the opposite sides of the Time Cracks upon them closing up for good. The Eleventh Doctor prevented his erased existence by planting Amelia with a series of information to remember him by and Amy used this to remember him back into existence. Her ability to do this was because her life was complicated due to the presence of a Time Crack eating away at her life, taking her parents away in the process. The restored universe brought them back to her (although this was an almost insignificant point as their characters aren’t seen again after this story).

‘The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang’ was an inventive way to end Series Five. The story gave further clues into who the Silence are and who River Song really is. Moffat cleverly though decided to take a different route to Russell T Davies by having an ongoing story-arc rather than a one-off story-arc for each series. This meant that things weren’t over yet and more events concerning both the Silence and River Song would occur in Series Six. The ‘silence will fall arc’ continued to sharp and develop throughout Smith’s era in ways we probably didn’t see coming.

My Verdict

‘Amy’s Choice’ – 10/10
‘The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood’ – 7/10
  • ‘Vincent and the Doctor’ – 9/10
  • ‘The Lodger’ – 6/10
‘The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang’ – 9/10

Continues later in the month with Series 6.