Series 1-7 Face-Off: Episode 7
Doctor Who TV is running new series pitting all the revival episodes against each other to decide your dream run. This will be done on an episode by episode basis. Today we continue with the 7th episode of each of the seven series so far.
Note: Splits are not counted and specials will have their own categories at the end.
Introduction by Connor Johnston.
- The Long Game by Russell T Davies (2005)
- The Idiot’s Lantern by Mark Gatiss (2006)
- 42 by Chris Chibnall (2007)
- The Unicorn and the Wasp by Gareth Roberts (2008)
- Amy’s Choice by Simon Nye (2010)
- A Good Man Goes to War by Steven Moffat (2011)
- The Rings of Akhaten by Neil Cross (2013)
What makes a Good Episode Seven?
You’re in the midst of a brand new series of Doctor Who! Isn’t it wonderful!? After starting out full throttle, all your anticipation and attention boils upon the oncoming, undoubtedly EPIC series finale that’s only a few weeks away! EEP!! And so what do you have to quench your finale thirsts? Plain old non-finale episode 7s.
It’s a well-known fact that in an uninterrupted series (no splits), the episodes in the middle suffer from the curse of the “mid-series ratings slump,” as Russell T Davies deemed in his Production Letter attached to the Series 4 DVD box set a few years ago. This is what makes episodes 7s so important and so great, that there needs to be an extra effort made by the production team to keep the audience hooked with a brilliant standalone (usually) episode, that’s heavy on character development and light on arc clues and secrets (usually). You may have noticed above, where the episodes are listed, we’ve chosen to do things a little bit differently today by including the writer’s name as well. That is because the Episode 7 of each series is the only episode spot that has been allocated to a different writer every series. Every Episode 7 is something different, an experiment, a roller-coaster ride! Episode 7’s are risky though they always have big treats for characters, memorable moments, exceptional plots and some stunning dialog. It’s a big job to even start comparing these stories… I pity those who have to vote for only one!
Going completely against my earlier description (keep an eye on those ‘usuallys’) , Steven Moffat’s introduction of a series split ensured that Series 6’s episode 7 had a very different feel to previous episodes from this slot – All of a sudden “plain old episode 7” became EPIC-AWESOME-MID-SERIES FINALE! Regardless of any criticism towards the choice of splitting Series 6 and 7, one cannot deny that decisions to send out 13 episodes in 2 short sharp bursts of energy meant that the wonderful goosebumps that inhabit our bodies when a series starts and ends would occur 4 times per series – as opposed to the usual 2. Steven Moffat’s “A Good Man Goes to War” is a roller-coaster ride for Whovians, with some sensational depth in Matt Smith’s acting as we are introduced this very strange, very different, dark and angry Doctor. The subplot of this episode is great – the realization that the Doctor is one of the most feared people in the whole universe, that the very name ‘Doctor’ is the word for warrior in some civilizations – it gives some motivation to why the Doctor makes the impossible choice to recluse into the shadows towards the second half of Series 6 and the better part of Series 7 (see the mini-episode “The Inforarium “for some more explanation). It’s these dark themes, excellent plot, and not to mention the EPIC, reveals of the episode (MELODY SONG/RIVER POND… AHH) that makes this episode so popular with fans, shown by its high ranking in the recent “Best of Matt Smith” polls, and leads me to predict “A Good Man Goes to War” will take out the prize for this episode stand off!
The Dark Horse
Series 4 is undoubtedly one of my favorite seasons of Doctor Who out of all the 33, and Gareth Roberts’ “The Unicorn and the Wasp” is one sensational romp that is severely underrated by fans worldwide. The highlight of the episode (besides from the script) is the cast, with both regular and guest stars shining from start to finish! Catherine Tate flexes her capabilities in her natural element of comedy with several hilarious moments possibly making it the funniest Doctor Who episode to date! And if comedy isn’t your cup of tea (or jar of anchovies), the plot thickens with a brilliant Cluedo-style murder mystery… with Agatha Christie, as well as subtly addressing the issues of adultery and strength in the character development of Agatha herself, flawlessly played by Fenella Woolgar. Mystery, love, loss, twists and comedy are all riddled through the pages of the script, and leave some brilliant shocks and surprises in for the audience! The unique characters and brilliant setting add to the library of reasons why this episode should not be underestimated and forgotten by you Doctor Who TV-ians when you’re casting your votes today.
This section of the article to some extent is very hard to write. If you haven’t picked up on it already – I hold all of these 7 episodes in extremely high regard. In fact so much so that 4 out of 7 of these “plain old episode 7s” are within my top 10 New Who episodes of all time! Like I stated earlier – it’s not an easy job to choose 1 exceptional episode and rank them superior to 6 other completely exceptional episodes (Doctor Who TV feeds of our tears – it’s a known fact), but in a way, for me at least, there is one episode that is so exceptional, so emotional, so thrilling, so rich in character development and that has such a stunning plot that makes it in fact so very easily my favorite non-special episode of all time – and there for my favorite Episode 7. This episode is of course: Neil Cross’ ‘The Rings of Akhaten’.
Rings handles the themes of faith and loss beautifully and extremely tastefully. The brief of Clara’s first trip on board the TARDIS, and our real first insight into what this new companion will bring to the team leads Cross to devise this brilliant script jam-packed (Not Strawberry Jam! No. No, no, no. That would be unacceptable.) with memorable moments for almost every one of the cast members. Specifically both of the Doctor’s speeches are exceptional without a doubt – Rings truly is one of Matt’s shining hours acting wise, but the real show stopper (for me at least) is Clara’s comforting chat with Merry behind the TARDIS. It was that moment that I knew I had a new favorite companion, and that I was completely and utterly in love with Clara Oswald.
The real brilliant thing about this episode is that these stunning moments don’t sacrifice a deep high quality plot – as amazingly the quality is 100% consistent from beginning to end. As mentioned earlier the themes of loss and faith are exhibited perfectly by the death of Clara’s mother, and the exploration of the impact that her mother has had in shaping the woman Clara is today, as well as essentially both the unquestioned devotion, followed by the complete loss of faith in the people of Akhaten as their God is revealed to be nothing but a parasite. Musically Rings is a triumph, and is possibly the highlight of Murray Gold’s contribution to Doctor Who since its revival with such classic tracks such as “The Long Song” and “Infinite Potential” leaving the audience in awe. Finally the enemies of Rings are wonderfully constructed – A soul-eating mummy, his haunting creepy servants ‘The Vigil,’ and finally the hidden Parasite God, are not only great, intimidating and threatening ideas, but also are exceptionally executed.
Not every episode can be epic finales or the thrilling openers – but very often all it takes is the depth and emotion of these exceptional “plain old Episode 7s” to remind us truly why this show is the most extraordinary show in all of time and space! And remember with these 7 stunning adventures, all unique in their own way – you really can’t go wrong! Unfortunately I can only shed some thoughts on 3 of these amazing stories – Good luck voting for one (Don’t forget the brilliant 42!!!) I hope this has made it extremely harder easier for you.
You’ve heard Connor’s thoughts, but what about your own? Which one tops your list? Vote below.