Retrospective: Series 7 – Part One (2012)

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Guest contributor David Selby gives an overview on the first 5 episodes of Series 7.

After being disappointed by Series 6, I can’t deny that I was wary of Series 7. However, nor can I deny that I’d been looking forward to it ever since I heard the title, “Asylum of the Daleks”. The trailers got better one-by-one, but I couldn’t help secretly hoping that it wasn’t the same case as last year – when I preferred the trailers to the actual episode.

And of course, as Asylum of the Daleks neared, I discovered that I was in for a big surprise, shortly after the titles rolled. But I didn’t know how big it was going to be…

Asylum of the Daleks

The opening sequence of Asylum of the Daleks is up there with all my favourites – The Pandorica Opens, The Impossible Astronaut, The Angels Take Manhattan and The End of the World – and I was convinced that the directing through the episode was going to be superb – and evidently, I wasn’t mistaken. My first reaction after the titles went something like, “That title looked like the ‘Live at the Apollo Sign’! Hang on a second… is that… Jenna-Louise Coleman?” I won’t lie to you; it took me a minute to work out who she actually was. But her character seemed completely unique, and I instantly fell in love with her. The plot was brilliant, as was the asylum itself, and the resolution was marvellous, surprising and unexpected – and also raised a lot of questions.

Despite this, I did have some issues with the episode. The Dalek parliament could have been explored further (idea for a future story maybe?) and towards the end Oswin was becoming a bit too similar to River for my liking. There were also a couple of parts which were never explained, but after the Series 6 arc I was more than happy with the resolution.

My final rating: 9/10

Dinosaurs on a Spaceship

“Dinosaurs… on a spaceship!”

Much like the previous episode, I was looking forward most of all to seeing the actual monster – in the case of Asylum of the Daleks it was the Daleks and for Dinosaurs on a Spaceship it was the dinosaurs. Yet for me, they weren’t the best bits of the episodes. The Dinosaurs were used perfectly – not overused, but they were in it as much as they needed to. We had a T-Rex (even if it was sleeping), a Pterodactyl chase (on a beach!), a Raptor fight and even a triceratops ride! But the highlights as you would expect were the characters.

Unlike many, I like ‘Neffi’; she was feisty, funny, and flirty – OK, another River-y character, but still entertaining nevertheless and as she isn’t the new companion, that isn’t an issue. Riddell wasn’t used much but was still a nice addition, and of course my favourite one-off companion was Brian. He had a couple of hilarious scenes, but his final scene was one of my favourites in the episode – what better way to see the earth than sitting above it with a cup of tea and your lunch? I was also pleased that he managed to overcome his fear of travelling and see the world.

The Doctor’s out-of-character actions in this episode didn’t bother me in the slightest – especially as Solomon deserved it, after that heart-breaking Dino-death scene. I wanted to cry – although I didn’t. But the point is, I didn’t really have any problems with the episode. In fact, I loved it as much as Asylum of the Daleks in some aspects.

My final rating: 9/10

A Town Called Mercy

I don’t think I could go wrong in saying that A Town Called Mercy was the best episode of the series (so far). The Doctor’s pacifistic outlook on life was first introduced briefly in The Sensorites – which really gives you an idea of how long it’s guided the show for.

However, this wasn’t the first time the Doctor’s morality was explored in the new series. In the first series, we were introduced to a surprisingly harsh Doctor who seemed to let villains die on a fairly regular basis. This, of course, was to be expected, giving as he had suffered the events of the time war – and this was similar to Series 7, for it was revealed that the force behind this newly found rage was the fact that he missed Amy and Rory, and was travelling on his own. This was basically confirmed in The Power of Three and The Angels Take Manhattan

The casting for the episode as stellar to say the least, with the Doctor becoming the most intriguing character. For once, the eleventh Doctor wasn’t portrayed as the ‘silly’ or one-dimensional character we’d seen far too many times before. It’s fair to say that each actor had their forte – for Christopher Ecclestone, it was playing an enigmatic, sinister Doctor, for David Tennant it was playing a romantic and slightly ‘bonkers’ Doctor, and as I discovered after watching a Town Called Mercy, Matt Smith’s best portrayal of the Doctor is when he is at his darkest; his most vulnerable and dangerous points in life.

As for the other characters, apart from Rory they all had their good points – Amy came across as a far more well-meaning character than usual, and Kahler-Jex was an even more interesting character to analyse, reminding me in many ways of Torchwood’s Oswald Danes – you could hate him with all your heart, yet somewhere inside you, you sort of cared for his character in his final moments.

I had very few issues, apart from the fact that the Doctor’s moral difficulties seemed to mysteriously vanish half way through the episode. But overall, A Town Called Mercy was simply yet another terrific episode by Toby Whithouse!

My final rating: 9.5/10

The Power of Three

No matter how good Chris Chibnall’s script for the episode was going to be, The Power of Three was always going to be overshadowed by the upcoming episode, The Angels Take Manhattan – and if the episode wasn’t good enough, it was at the unlucky disadvantage of being forgotten about by fans.

But of course, the episode was so unique that it wasn’t. Despite the fact that I wasn’t enamoured the first time around, the episode grew on me later on to become one of my favourites of the series so far.

The cubes were an interesting idea to say the least, whether they were used to their fullest throughout the episode was another matter, however the various shots of them in every-day life reassured me that they couldn’t have done much better.

I liked the setup of the episode, although I felt a little let down by the ending. I loved the idea behind the Shakri, the Tally and Judgement Day/The Reckoning, yet the resolution was a little too easy and convenient. Not worrying about brain death, the hearts began again as if by magic and the Doctor quite happily left a ship full of innocent humans to eat a nice meal and swing on… swings. Despite this, the ending of the episode was lovely, and meant a lot if you knew where this came in the filming schedule.

My final rating: 9/10

The Angels Take Manhattan

It would be pointless for me to ramble on about how good this episode is; that it is the best of the series and one of the best send-offs yet, or that it is one of the best NuWho stories, or that it was one of the most heartfelt and suspenseful endings in the show’s entire history – it would be pointless for me to say that Matt Smith’s acting was the best it has ever been, and that River Song has improved vastly since The Wedding of River Song – if the episode didn’t deserve the recognition it got. Only it did; so therefore I am going to.

The Angels didn’t play a huge part in the episode, but were considerably better than they were in their most recent story, Flesh and Stone. Although it does seem as if the Angels contradict their nature and mythology whenever they turn up, this time being able to move whilst being observed which despite defeating the point of them, didn’t ruin the episode in any way.

The lonely assassins retained their fear factor straight off, and for some reason seemed scarier than they were all the way back in their 2007 debut story, Blink. Steven Moffat was right; the Weeping Angels and New York just seem to ‘go’.

Winter Quay was arguably the most terrifying idea since Toby’s possession and the Beast in The Impossible Planet. Just the sheer thought of the fact that in another reality, Rory was wasting away, trapped in an old and unnerving apartment block, on his own, being put through God knows what by the Weeping Angels. And that’s why the Angels should never speak as they did in Flesh and Stone, for it is from their differences to humanity and their unreasonable evil which we fear them.

River Song was far more mature than she had been in her previous stories, and played a sympathetic character who you could actually feel sorry for. Her lines were meaningful, and borught out a new side to Matt Smith’s character. They really feel like a married couple now.

Amy and Rory’s departure was simply beautiful. The roof scene was easily the most emotional Pond scene ever, and I would have actually been happy for them to leave right there. It did feel a little childish when they popped back up, and reminded me that Doctor Who is still primarily aimed at children. However, the ending was very, very, sad still, and brought out an outstanding performance from Matt Smith, with that devastating “No!” as Amy chose her life with Rory over the Doctor.

Of course, such an astonishing episode didn’t go without its faults. Most of these can be ignored, apart from the Statue of Liberty. She is made of copper. She is being observed by thousands of people. She is completely hollow on the inside. So yes, that needed a little more thought.

Apart from that, however, The Angels Take Manhattan was one of the most well-thought and beautiful episodes of Doctor Who ever to be commissioned.

My final rating: 10/10

So overall, series 7 is looking to possibly be the best Doctor Who series to date. And giving as I haven’t yet mentioned it, I must point out that the music in this series has been top-notch, and has proved that Murray Gold was made for westerns.

And on that note, I leave you to your discussions on this wonderful series!