Series 7 Part 2 – What Worked, What didn’t
John Hussey gives his overview on the second half of Series 7.
What Continued to Work: The Blockbuster-of-the-Week Format
As with Series 7: Part 1 the ‘Blockbuster-of-the-Week’ format continued to show great promise and results. It allowed both the writers and production team to expand their creative minds and explore new territories in which to make Doctor Who more grand and exciting. The stories were pushed to make an impression and the quality in the storytelling along with the set designs and special effects all added to the show and made it stand out even further for its anniversary year.
What Did/Didn’t Work: Episode Length, No Two-Parters
Like with the first half of Series 7 this half also lacked two-parters and retained its usual time-slot of 45 minute length episodes. I will admit that this half wasn’t as bad as the first half in terms of what can be crammed into the plot before the timer runs out. The stories in Series 7: Part 2 flowed a lot better (for the most part at least). There were only a few stories that felt rushed like ‘The Bells of Saint John’, which I felt could’ve expanded on its plot points if it had been given more time to play with, and ‘Hide’, which resulted in giving a last minute revelation within the last remaining 2 minutes of the episode. I felt none of the episodes needed a two-parter and were fine as a single part story. That was good I found as it is always annoying having a plot that you know could do much better with another episode placed afterwards (I point to of course ‘The Power of Three’). If anything, some stories could’ve done with extra time, even if it was just 5 more minutes, bumping episode lengths to 50 minutes instead of 45.
What Worked: New Title Sequence/Arrangement and TARDIS Console Room
It was a great fear of mine that the tacky title sequences from Series 7: Part 1 would continue into Part 2, but luckily we received a brand new one in ‘The Snowmen’ to mark the beginning of a new era. It does make me slightly wonder what the intention of the original sequences were all about if it wasn’t going to be a series long thing? In my opinion they should’ve just stuck with the Series 6 title sequence and left out the movie-style ones created for a mere five episodes.
The new sequence looks impressive and certainly reflected the many different sequences created throughout the show’s legacy. Also I loved how they’ve brought back the Doctor’s face being displayed upon the opening credits. A nice little nod to the past, something I’ve wanted to see return since the show returned in 2005. The new arrangement I find is good and bad at the same time. This is more purely down to the fact it wasn’t that much different from the last arrangement, simply having extra bass and science-fiction sound effects added on top. Having said that, it’s still really good and added to the fantastic display we got within the sequence.
The new TARDIS Console Room, which was also introduced in ‘The Snowmen’, was a crowning moment within set designs of Series 7. It looked fantastic; reflecting on the fact the ship is ancient while at the same time alien. It really captured a dark presence and helped to make the Doctor’s character seem more dark and mysterious, something that has really been displayed within Series 7: Part 2.
What Continued to Work: Doctor who?
Series 7: Part 2 continued the long arc of ‘Doctor who?’ and this kicked off the second half in ‘The Snowmen’ by having the Doctor exile himself from the universe in Victorian England after the devastating departure of the Ponds at the hands of the Weeping Angels (‘The Angels Take Manhattan’). This brought out a cold and depressive man who strode across the Earth like an ancient being, observing it rather than interacting. His days of a hero were apparently over but suddenly an impossible girl arrived and changed all that.
The Doctor throughout Series 7: Part 2 has been shown as a more ancient and mysterious being, rather than the playful and childlike self which was witnessed throughout the Pond era. His change in costume for example has defined this change in personality and appearance. The Doctor no longer wore bright clothing of a modern age and returned to wearing more traditional clothes that made him seem more like a traveller of eternity and also gave him more a presence of authority and knowledge.
The question behind his name returned more in this half than the first, starting off with Clara Oswin Oswald asking the unanswerable question during their first meeting in ‘The Snowmen’. Later on in the series during ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth’ Clara stumbled on a book called History of the Time War and discovered the Doctor’s true identity, his real name before he gave himself the title of ‘the Doctor’. This was of course wiped from her memory for her own protection, as well as for the Doctor’s safety as his oldest question can never be answered.
Finally in ‘The Name of the Doctor’ we began to get answers towards the meaning behind this arc, why the Silence tried to kill him and why the Doctor’s friends had placed so many warnings before him. It was discovered that Trenzalore was in fact the planet in which his resting place lied and the First Question was the password for opening his tomb and the secrets within. I must admit I was very satisfied with these results and thought it was genius on Steven Moffat’s part. The moment in which the prophecy foretold the announcement of his name was chilling and full of tension as the Great Intelligence attempted to force the secret out of the Time Lord by threatening the lives of his friends. Sadly his name wasn’t actually revealed but I strongly believe that more will be done with this arc within the future and that the Doctor’s destiny with Trenzalore is still to come.
What Worked: The Impossible Girl
As it was established in ‘Asylum of the Daleks’ Jenna Louise-Coleman played a character called Oswin Oswald. To my surprise, it turned out that she was in fact the same person as Clara. The big question at the end of ‘The Snowmen’ was how? How could they be the same person living different lives in different times and also both encounter the Doctor? Well, all I can say is I didn’t expect the revelations that were finally revealed in ‘The Name of the Doctor’, that’s for sure. It took a long while and a lot of guessing before the truth was told but in the meantime it was a nice little arc for us to play with. It was light but at the same time deep and full of mystery, constantly leaving you confused and wanting answers to the unsolved riddle that had been plaguing us since the series opener back in September.
It also caused a lot of tension between the Doctor and Clara’s friendship as the Doctor’s curiosity exploded, wanting desperately to find the answers to the impossible girl that lied before him but was unable to say anything. That was until ‘Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS’ where he confronted her with the truth in which to his almost relief discovered she had no idea what he was talking about. Obviously this was going to happen. I knew from the word go Clara wouldn’t have a clue about her different selves and would be a pawn for something bigger. My first thought was she was the latest tool for the Silence in order to prevent the Doctor reaching Trenzalore. I never imagined it would be the opposite and actually Clara splintered herself through time on her own accord in order to save the Doctor’s entire time-stream from destruction. That’s what I love about Moffat’s writing; it always keeps you guessing.
What Worked: The Return of Vastra, Jenny and Strax
It was nice to see the return of Vastra, Jenny and Strax as I did find them very interesting and entertaining characters during the events of ‘A Good Man Goes to War’. They each had a unique character and part to play and so it was nice to see those characters expanded upon in Series 7: Part 2 as reoccurring characters. What was also nice is that they even got themselves a cool gang name – The Paternoster Gang.
It was already established in ‘A Good Man Goes to War’ that Vastra and Jenny were living in Victorian England solving crimes almost like Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, which as it turned out in ‘The Snowmen’ Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had based his legendary characters off of Vastra and Jenny’s investigations. Strax was now their butler and helper and became almost the comedian of the group, bringing forward moments of relief within the seriousness of their situations.
Their friendship, loyalty and importance to the Doctor were also heavily developed throughout Series 7: Part 2. Firstly in ‘The Snowmen’ when they became the Doctor’s guardians during his time of depression, then later in ‘The Crimson Horror’ when they aided him in his investigations at Sweetville – in the process saving him from imprisonment – and finally in ‘The Name of the Doctor’ were the Doctor risked everything by going to Trenzalore in order to save them from the Great Intelligence. I look forward to any further involvements they have on the show and believe they have so much potential for a spin-off show.
What Worked/Didn’t Work: The Monsters: Both Old and New
The Great Intelligence:
The deadly sentinel creature of intelligence, first featured in ‘The Abominable Snowmen’ and later in ‘The Web of Fear’, made a return in ‘The Snowmen’ which showcased the creature’s origins. This to me seemed like a good idea, especially with the added bonus that the Eleventh Doctor’s interaction with the Great Intelligence actually influenced its future attempts of conquest on Earth, thereby creating the Doctor’s past i.e. his encounters with the creature during his second incarnation. This was sadly disrupted when the Great Intelligence was brought back as the main adversary of Series 7: Part 2. I still don’t understand why the creature was used to such depths but there you have it. Don’t get me wrong, the Great Intelligence is a great enemy and Richard E. Grant played the perfect villain but I don’t think the creature had enough depth and history with the Doctor to try and commit the acts it did in ‘The Name of the Doctor’. I think it would’ve better fitted another enemy, one that had more connection with the Doctor and more reason to erase his life from existence.
The Spoonheads, for me, were a little underused. The idea of creatures manipulating cyberspace and capturing people inside was a clever and dark idea which could’ve really been expanded upon. The most we saw was a plane being hijacked by cyberspace and nearly caused to crash. If given a longer plot, I think the Spoonheads could’ve become a nasty little monster which brought chills to the audience by what they could do with modern technology which we use every single day. But I will admit, what we did see of them was impressive.
The Great One:
First of all I would like to say that the Mummy and the Vigil were great villains, in both character and design. Yes it was unfortunate that the Vigil didn’t get much screen time but I believe that was necessary. They had a part to play and once that part was up they were no longer needed. Same goes for the Mummy. The Great One was another great addition to the plot of ‘The Rings of Akhaten’. It’s rare to have an enemy that is an unstoppable godlike force in which the Doctor is almost defenceless against. To see him having to sacrifice his life-force in order to try and defeat the creature just showed how powerful the creature was and how desperate the Doctor was to stop it.
The Ice Warriors:
This was my most anticipated villain for the second half because I was anxious to see how Moffat and the team were going to re-establish the mighty Martians. Also I was slightly worried about how they would redesign them, praying they would stick to the original design. As it turned out, the design team stuck to the original design perfectly and Mark Gatiss did a brilliant job at not only reintroducing them to new and old fans alike, he also managed to add to their mythology in a unique way.
The Crooked Man:
‘Hide’ for me failed as a creepy tension building story once the terrifying and menacing Crooked Man was revealed to be a romantic trapped in another dimension. I thought it was a sweet idea and emphasised how powerful love truly is, but in terms of how the creature was first perceived; this resolution ruined the character in my eyes and any scares it may have created.
The twisted old hag who ran the demented Sweetville was a brilliant female villain for the Doctor to face against. Mark Gatiss, for a second time in Series 7, wrote a brilliant piece for the villain to play with and made Mrs Gillyflower absolutely bonkers with no redeeming features for sympathy. She was literally off her rocker, to point even she had experimented on her own daughter, leaving her blind. Needless to say she got what she deserved.
The newly redesigned Cybermen certainly looked impressive but unfortunately failed because they resembled too much their previous selves, i.e. the clunky, robotic Cybus- Industry forms which I hated so much. I thought Neil Gaiman was the right man for the job in returning the once proud cybernetic creatures from Mondas back to their former glory but I was sadly mistaken. The Cybermen in ‘Nightmare in Silver’ lacked both screen-time and character and we’re perceived more as robots than cyborgs in my eyes. It was certainly very disappointing for me as I really like the Cybermen and what they can bring to the storyline.
What Could Work: The Name of the Doctor
Now I know what some of you are thinking, “What does he mean by could work?” Well hear me out. I say this because this story hasn’t finished yet and therefore I don’t want to pass a full judgement on it until I have seen it in full. But from what I have seen it is an interesting and shocking revelation. It brings new meaning to the statement ‘the name of the Doctor’. Rather than it just meaning what is the Doctor’s name, it also implies there is a code/promise within the name that defines the Doctor and the way each of his incarnations must act to represent that name and what it stands for. As it turned out in ‘The Name of the Doctor’, his greatest secret was in fact a forgotten incarnation that had somehow broken this said promise and was banished from his own existence for doing so. The question that now lies for the 50th Anniversary Special is this, who is this Forgotten Doctor and what did he do to break the promise of the Doctor?