New Who: The Story Thus Far – Series 6 (Specials, Episodes 1-7)

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John Hussey continues his series analysing the revival, this time with Series 6.

Doctor-Who-amy-rory-doctor-series-6

‘A Christmas Carol’.

doctor-who-a-christmas-carol-promo-picAs far as Christmas Specials had gone within Russell T Davies’ era they were either a masterpiece of entertainment or simply could’ve been better, so it was interesting to see how Steven Moffat did on his first go. Answer: fantastically. The idea of basing a Doctor Who story off the wonderful works of Charles Dickens was somewhat unfavourable in my eyes to begin with as it seemed unimaginative to rip off other people’s work. But as soon as the trailer kicked in I saw the potential and looked forward to the special. ‘A Christmas Carol’ in fact wowed me beyond all belief and for a while was my favourite Christmas special for its clever concepts and intriguing storyline.

Kazran Sardick (Michael Gambon) formed as the Scrooge character that despised Christmas and brought a bleak atmosphere to the people around him, in this case the inhabitants of Sardick Town. The meaning behind changing Kazran’s ways became a more personal matter as it determined the fate of Amy Pond (Karan Gillan) and Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill) who were among the many passengers on the plummeting star-liner in the skies above. The way in which the Eleventh Doctor went about changing Kazran was just inspiring. By using time travel to his advantage he managed to become the ‘Ghost of Christmas Past’. Instead of showing Kazran his past and where his life had changed for the worst, the Time Lord instead simply changed his childhood to create a better future through changed memories. Kazran did slowly become a better person through the Eleventh Doctor’s adventures and of course from slowly falling in love with Abigail (Katherine Jenkins). This however became also his new downfall into becoming a humbug by receiving a broken heart knowing he could only see Abigail one more day before she died.

It was an emotional journey that became even more emotional by Amy becoming the ‘Ghost of Christmas Present’ and trying desperately to persuade the yet changed Kazran to save them. The man simply didn’t care and gloated in their faces that it was simply their turn to be snuffed out by the cold hand of death. The Eleventh Doctor took one final bold move and turned young Kazran (Laurence Belcher) into the Ghost of Christmas Future with the two of them seeing what Kazran had become. This act finally made Kazran the better man but not without one final obstacle. His good nature changed the future too much and made it so Kazran could no longer use the machine that his father would’ve given him to control the skies of Sardick Town. Amazingly Abigail’s beautiful melodies were actually written into the story for good use by becoming the means to resolve the star-liner’s destruction. The song and scene was executed in such a magical way that just really showed off the heart of the story and why it was so amazing. Amy and Rory were saved, the Eleventh Doctor had to deal with his apparent false marriage to Marilyn Monroe and Kazran got to spend his final day with Abigail.

‘Time/Space’

comic-relief-2011-promo-2The Comic Relief special was just a massive romp on Moffat’s part. The idea of having the outside of the TARDIS trapped on the inside to create a never ending time trap was inventive for all the wrong reasons. It’s a ‘what the hell?’ moment but at the same time you just go with it because it’s a barmy little title all in good humour. I mean you only have to look at the reasoning behind the incident: Rory dropped the thermal couplings because he was mesmerised by his wife’s body through a see-through glass floor up her skirt. Enough said! Needless to say it was fun seeing them all parading backwards and forwards through the different doors giving their different selves foreshadowing’s to events that had yet happened and yet were already happening. It was a mad mess of fun for Comic Relief and I think it served its purpose. Even the resolution was at least decent and made sense and didn’t feel too cheapened. Moffat still took it seriously whilst at all times presenting a huge sense of fun and laughs.

‘The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon’

Impossible Astronaut Spoiler pics (2)With the festive season and Comic Relief out of the way Series Six brought out the big guns with the return of the ‘silence will fall arc’ and one of the biggest turning points ever witnessed for a season opener. This began with a chilling prequel that had President Nixon (Stuart Milligan) being called up by a mysterious child (Sydney Wade) who warned him about the spaceman and the thing that was standing behind him. Unknown to the President, a Silent stood behind him watching over him.

‘The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon’ saw Amy, Rory, River Song (Alex Kingston) and the mysterious Canton Delaware III (William Morgan Sheppard) being called in by the Eleventh Doctor to witness his own fixed death upon Lake Silencio at the hands of the Astronaut. Things got stranger still when a younger Eleventh Doctor turned up without any knowledge of his death or the reasoning why he was summoned to America. The greatest part about all this was the fact that Moffat incorporated foreknowledge that certain characters held against the other in order to protect them. This idea continued throughout the series and simply made the twists and turns all the more darker. Amy, Rory and River used their future knowledge to lead the now Eleventh Doctor onto their next journey which took them to 1969 America where they found a younger Canton (Mark Sheppard) who was being briefed by President Nixon. The President was being haunted by strange phone calls by a child that can contact him wherever he goes, warning him about the spaceman (as seen with ‘The Impossible Astronaut Prequel’). The Eleventh Doctor easily deciphered the location of the child and took Canton with him to investigate. Before this however we gazed upon our first true sighting of the Silence, who had plagued the Eleventh Doctor throughout Series Five. These creatures had the ability to make everyone forget about their existence upon them averting their gaze.

Things started to unravel further throughout the course of the story as we discovered the Silence were the owners of the prototype-TARDIS seen within ‘The Lodger’ and they too were responsible for the Astronaut. The revelations became that bit more sinister when it was discovered the child was in fact inside the Astronaut suit. Three long months passed as the Eleventh Doctor spent his time skulking away in Area 51 while his friends wondered America in search for information on the Silence. Canton acted as a double agent in order to conceal all of this information and when the time was right they finally reunited in order to try and once and for all put an end to the Silence’s long grip over the Earth. Due to their long influence over Earth through the means of hypnotic-suggestion the Eleventh Doctor had to think carefully in order to defeat his deadly foe, which he eventually realised where the ones spoken about throughout Series Five upon one of the Silents stating “silence will fall”.

Amy was eventually captured by the Silence whilst trying to find the location of the child and in the process discovered the little girl had a picture of Amy holding a new-born baby. This revelation was indeed confusing and continued the unsettling dark tones that Series Six brought about and pushed forward even more twists and turns for our heroes to face. The creepier thing about this kidnapping was the Silence declaring Amy would bring the silence with her part soon to be over. The Eleventh Doctor strode in and saved the day with the brilliant plan of using Neil Armstrong’s message upon his Moon landing to transmit a message from one of the Silents (which was recorded by Canton through Amy’s phone) which had humanity ordered to kill them upon gazing them. The Silence were finally defeated, it seemed at the time. This, at first, was a massive disappointment to me and what felt like a wasted opportunity as it appeared that after the long build-up of their arrival they were discarded after a mere two-part opener of the following series. But as it turned out the ‘silence will fall arc’ was far from over.

It was interesting to have a few moments of doubt for Rory and the audience over Amy’s loyalties but I was very glad to see that Amy was still very much loyal to Rory. It was also sad to see River first witnessing that her and the Doctor’s paths where going in the opposite direction and upon her next encounter with him she would be one step away from him whilst he was step closer. The dark idea that the day she feared most was the Doctor never knowing who she is was in fact the first time we saw her within ‘Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead’. The final revelation of the first story was the showcasing of the child’s regeneration which just left us thinking “what the hell?!” ‘The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon’ certainly got Series Six off on the right start and left us with too many questions to count which we’d slowly get the answers to over the course of the series.

‘The Curse of the Black Spot’

curse siren cole (1)It has always been a neat idea having pirates incorporated into Doctor Who. We’ve had a few already in the Classic Series with the likes of ‘The Smugglers’, ‘The Space Pirates’, ‘The Pirate Planet’ and ‘Enlightenment’ but how did this new instalment compare in comparison? In all fairness ‘The Curse of the Black Spot’ wasn’t the worst episode of all time but its lack of imagination and storytelling let it slip hard from being a classic and memorable story. When there’s the likes of ‘The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon’ and ‘The Doctor’s Wife’ right next door to steal all the glory it made this little tale even harder to get across its full potential. It was a neat little idea at best but nothing more that.

The Siren (Lily Cole) was incorporated well and gave the legendary myth within Pirate folk-lore a nice little spin with the addition of it being an alien nurse. Though to a certain degree this revelation was somewhat silly and kicked the story in the teeth. It should’ve stuck to being a Pirate story, or if the science-fiction elements were to be incorporated, it should’ve been handled better instead of turning the supposed villain into a woman of medicine. Captain Henry Avery was used fairly well and added some nice elements to the story. Steve Thompson had the ideas in the right places but just failed to entwine them in a unique way. At best it served as a nice easy going ride between two heavy plotlines. The parts that mattered most were of course the references to the ongoing ‘silence will fall arc’ that continued the idea of Amy worrying about the Eleventh Doctor’s fixed death whilst he on the other (as first indicated at the end of ‘Day of the Moon’) was secretly worrying about Amy’s apparent pregnancy. The other reference was of course the second appearance of Madame Kovarian (Frances Barber) who first appeared before Amy in ‘Day of the Moon’. I will admit the part where Rory nearly died was a saddening moment and for a split second I was made to believe we had lost him again. A tense few moments which I’m glad resulted in him being fine and well.

‘The Doctor’s Wife’

4 The Doctors Wife promo (2)The next instalment of Series Six was an episode free from the heavy ‘silence will fall arc’ but at the same time remained a brilliant story that most consider the gem of the series. The idea of removing the TARDIS’ Matrix from the TARDIS itself and placing it within a human body was just genius on Neil Gaiman’s part. It allowed for a very unique experience which will probably never happen again. Idris (Suranne Jones) was just amazing at playing the TARDIS and interacting with the Eleventh Doctor. Deep down the story incorporated so much reference to the core of the show and that is the Doctor and the TARDIS’ never-ending relationship. In those 45 minutes we were shown exactly what they thought of each other and it just felt special. It was fan pleasing and really gave everyone something new to chew on.

The enemy of House (voiced by Michael Sheen) was just chilling to the bone. The idea of the creature eating TARDISes and then reducing the Time Lord owners into a donor for the twisted Uncle (Adrian Schiller) and Auntie (Elizabeth Berrington) was just grim. There was of course a nice little nod to Russell T Davies’ era with the inclusion of an Ood which once again was made to be the baddy through manipulation. Along with this was the return of the old Console Room. The mind games that House played on Amy in the darkened corridors of the TARDIS were just cruel and truly insidious. The wrath of the Doctor in the end destroyed the creature that boasted about its victories over hundreds of Time Lords to which the Eleventh Doctor could beat having killed all of them. It’s always sad having to watch the farewell scene between Idris and the Eleventh Doctor and brings a nice emotional closure to the rollercoaster journey. ‘The Doctor’s Wife’ is without a doubt a true masterpiece that will stay with us for all the right reasons.

‘The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People’

rebel-flesh-promo-pics-(5)‘The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People’ was certainly the turning point of Series Six and by the end left most fans speechless, by both its cliff-hanger and concepts. The Gangers are a chilling concept that developed a very dark situation that calls back to the villainous nature of humanity. Humans happily created the Flesh to serve as a substitute for them and poured all of their humanity into it and didn’t consider the possibility that things could go wrong. They were very quick to judge the Gangers as imposters and monsters but in reality they themselves were the real monsters for causing these creatures so much pain and suffering. It was one of those stories that remained dark throughout and the humans got their just deserts by dying and being replaced by their Gangers (accept for Buzzer (Marshall Lancester) who lost both his life and his Ganger). It had so many morals and twists that kept you entertained and on the edge of your seats. The thing that let it down was the feeling it dragged on and felt padded in places or not quite enough was happening to keep your mind occupied. Apart from this little niggle it was a great idea.

The ending itself gave many surprises like with how many of the characters actually didn’t survive (as mentioned above). Only Cleaves (Raquel Cassidy) made it out alive as herself, while Jimmy (Mark Bonnar) and Dicken’s (Leon Vickers) Ganger took on the originals lives. It was nice to see by the end of the story that things were sorted but just a little too late as characters had already met with horrific outcomes, with the worst being Jimmy never able to see his son Adam (Edmond Moulton) again. Jennifer’s (Sarah Smart) served as the psychotic member of the Gangers and slowly developed strong feelings of revolution in the grimmest way possible and eventually lost her sanity to the point of losing her human form and transforming into a deformed beast.

The added psychological element was thrown in with the Eleventh Doctor’s Ganger as he tested Amy on how she would respond to the Ganger. As it turned out, the clever Time Lord swiped the rug from under everyone’s feet with the revealing that he’d switched identities around and who we thought was the Ganger and the real Eleventh Doctor was in fact the opposite way round. This experiment only went towards revealing the darker truths going on under the scene. Not only did the Eleventh Doctor learn more about the events of ‘The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon’, i.e. his death, we as an audience discovered that this whole time Amy was in fact a Ganger and the trip to the Acid Factory was little more than a reconnaissance mission for the Eleventh Doctor to learn more about the Flesh in order to understand it. Cutting off Amy’s link with the duplicate made her awaken in Demons Run where Madame Kovarian watched over sinisterly as Amy gave birth. ‘WTF!’ is the best way to describe this gobsmacking cliff-hanger.

‘A Good Man Goes to War’

a-good-man-goes-to-war-promo-pics-(1)Doctor Who entered a different route with the implication of more American-styled formatting which had the show go on a short break after a mind-blowing mid-season finale. This kicked off with the ‘A Good Man Goes to War Prequel’ entailing Dorium’s (Simon Fisher-Becker) deal with the mysterious Headless Monks. Dorium ended the note with a warning of a terrible storm of rage that will be brought to their doorstep due to the kidnapping of Amy. All of this build-up brought about a story in which the Doctor nearly broke his promise.

The ‘silence will fall arc’ kicked off again and saw Madame Kovarian, a member of the Silence (though not fully known at the time), and her army of Clerics stealing Amy’s new born child Melody Pond for their own sick twisted means. The Eleventh Doctor unleashed his anger across the course of the story starting with an attack on a Cybermen’s fleet in order to gain information on Amy’s whereabouts whilst also sending a clear message to her kidnappers: the Doctor is coming. This scene, along with the entire episode, really gave Rory great material to work with that showed him as a strong heroic determined to save his wife no matter the cost. The idea of the Time Lord building a small army was a new terrifying idea which had not really been seen before. It brought about his cold, manipulative side and perhaps the dangerous codes that were developed during the Time War. Long had passed the days of optimism that his previous incarnation tried to uphold.

It was a chilling and exciting episode to see how far the Eleventh Doctor would go. By humiliating his enemy through taking them out almost single handily, infiltrating their base without their knowing and insulting Colonel Manton (Danny Sapani) through the means of making him disarm his men and the comments of “Colonel Runaway” just showcased a side to the Time Lord that is alien and somewhat uneasy. To me this is when the Doctor is at his most interesting because we discover a side to him we don’t fully understand and somewhat shows what he is really like underneath all his childish and adventuring nature.

Madame Kovarian served as a unique villain by testing the Eleventh Doctor’s patience and morals. She was manipulative and was determined to achieve her goals of destroying the Time Lord due to an unknown (at the time) endless, bitter war. A nice bit of mystery went around her character and it wouldn’t be discovered until ‘The Time of the Doctor’. I also found the Headless Monks to be a chilling adversary but it was a massive shame they didn’t become anything bigger.

In the introduction of Madame Vastra (Neve McIntosh), Jenny Flint (Catrin Stewart) and Commander Strax (Dan Starkey), (who would be later known as the Paternoster Gang), formed a nice little trio of inventive and unique characters. You had the serious detective, her trusty assistant and the clownish side-kick which formed a nice dynamic of characters for the Doctor to interact with.

‘A Good Man Goes to War’ went about to send a clear message that the Doctor had grown too powerful and needed to be warned that if his actions continued then who knows what would happen. The word ‘doctor’ for example had come to mean warrior by Lorna Bucket (Christina Chong) and her own race. The situation that unfolded within the dark twisted story resulted in the Eleventh Doctor’s actions and lifestyle to bring about the separation of Melody Pond from her parents in the cruel manner of being blinded by the same trick twice. Those around him were greatly affected by loss and death and these dark themes represented the episode in a clever way. Though not all was lost as the arrival of River Song meant that something good had come about and the Eleventh Doctor whisked off with the promise of finding Melody. This merely lead to one hell of a cliff-hanger (two on the trot, damn you Moffat and your teasing) which finally revealed who River was: Amy and Rory’s child. Yet again Moffat left us with a ‘WTF’ moment but this time we had to wait the entire summer holidays to find out what would happen next…

My Verdict

  • 
‘A Christmas Carol’ – 10/10
  • ‘Time/Space’ – 10/10
  • 
‘The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon’ – 10/10
  • ‘The Curse of the Black Spot’ – 7/10
  • ‘The Doctor’s Wife’ – 10/10
  • ‘The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People’ – 9/10
  • ‘A Good Man Goes to War’ – 10/10

Continues tomorrow with Series 6 Part 2.