Why I Love… Series 7
Guest contributor Will Atkinson wonders if the 2012-13 run gets too much criticism.
In the time after it aired, Series 7 didn’t receive the best reception by some of the Doctor Who fandom. “Too long a wait between episodes”, “Moffat”, “convoluted stories”, “poor plotting”, “Moffat”, “not enough honouring the 50th anniversary”, “the acting”, “Moffat”… The list of criticisms goes on. But I’ve always found this a bit of a shock, because, quite frankly, I love Series 7. I would even go as far as to call it my favourite series since the show returned back in 2005. Why? If I had to pin it down, I would probably say it was due to the stories and plotting, how it honours the 50th anniversary, the acting and a certain sitcom writer from Paisley…
The Stories and Plotting
I feel that the stories in Series 7 have been given a bit of a hard ride by fandom. I mean, I’ve seen reviews that give The Name of the Doctor 2s and 3s out of 10. Really? For a story that has loads of classic Doctors, the Great Intelligence and a pretty brilliant central premise. Having rewatched all of the series many times, there are no episodes I feel that are real clunkers*. Okay, some of them aren’t brilliant; episodes like The Rings of Akhaten and The Time of the Doctor are an acquired taste, but they do still have their merits. The Rings of Akhaten features great special effects, costumes and a knock out performance from Matt Smith. Nightmare in Silver makes the Cybermen into a real threat again, and manages to take us inside the Doctor’s head. The Power of Three gave us an insight into the life of the Ponds and introduced the wonderful Kate Stewart. The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe had….er…snow.
And those are just some of the episodes that didn’t go down well. Series 7 has some stories that if we’d got a few years ago would be hailed as classics. Asylum of the Daleks, The Angels Take Manhattan, The Snowmen, Cold War, Hide, The Name of the Doctor and, proof that the show isn’t on its last legs as some claim, The Day of the Doctor. Watching all these stories, I know I’m watching something that is quintessential Doctor Who, and I happily count them amongst my favourites.
In addition to the episodes, and unlike many, I quite liked the overall arc for the series and the notion of “The Impossible Girl”. Many fans have claimed it wasn’t very good as it didn’t have enough effect or bind the series together properly, and point to RTD’s as being better. Not wanting to spark yet another RTD vs Moffat debate (because it’s pointless – both are brilliant) some of RTD’s arcs are very thin- the one for Series 2 is barely an arc at all, as it consists of Torchwood being mentioned occasionally. Series 7’s arc poses a tangible mystery, and is tied up at the end. Unlike Series 7, episodes don’t feel odd for not having the arc mentioned- Clara is in over half the episodes, and the fantastic part of that is that she is the arc. This allows the show to get on and do what it does best-tell stories-and I think it does that rather well.
Honouring the 50th
Series 7 holds the distinction of being the series centred on the 50th anniversary, so many fans felt that it should referenced that, and again I find it odd that some are underwhelmed by it in this area. It fits in lots of mentions and call-backs to the show’s past, in a way the revived series has never really done, and because of this I feel that it feels more like the Classic series than any of its 21st century predecessors.
Fan-pleasing, anniversary-marking, past-kissing things include: Ice Warriors, Zygons, the Great Intelligence, the Silurians, “every Dalek ever”( including my favourite – the Special Weapon Dalek), past Doctors in The Name of the Doctor, old control rooms, the blue crystal of Metebelis 3 and, rather wonderfully, the Eighth Doctor in The Night of the Doctor, even if that isn’t really part of Series 7. All of these show that the program’s past hasn’t been forgotten, and at the end of 2013 I felt as if the show had honoured all that had come before. Being the fan I am, this can’t help but make me love Series 7.
What can I say that hasn’t already been said about the talent of Matt Smith? He managed to win me round within seconds of tumbling out the TARDIS in “The Eleventh Hour”, and was my favourite Doctor by the same episode. Like David Tennant and Series 4, I felt as if Smith’s performance reached its apotheosis in Series 7. Whether shouting at evil sun-god’s, crying over the loss of his best friends or awkwardly reacting to social situations, he always gives a great performance, providing a centre for all the episodes to be built around.
Smith’s performances have been matched by his companions. Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill have their roles as the Ponds down to pat and I thought that they never put a foot wrong. Certainly, they were good enough to make my cry lone, manly tears as they jumped off the hotel’s roof in The Angels Take Manhattan. I also liked Jenna-Louise Coleman, and I thought she managed to play the splinters of Clara very well, and made a good companion as the original (or third…I’m not really sure). In their recurring roles, the Paternoster Gang were very funny and likeable. I can’t wait to see them in Series 8. I also liked Alex Kingston’s couple of episodes as River Song, and she still plays the part well. As I mentioned earlier Jemma Redgrave is great as Kate Stewart, and I hope she crops up next series. Finally, the guest stars were of the usual high standard, with my favorites being David Warner in Cold War and John Hurt as the War Doctor. So, on the side of the acting, I loved Series 7, and found it to be of an excellent standard.
So, I’ve made the case for why I like the acting, writing and general “Doctor Who-ness” of Series 7. However, I still feel as if I need to confront another important factor in why I liked the series so much, and why some didn’t. Yes, I’m talking about Moffat.
Back in 2010, when Moffat took over, he couldn’t have been higher in fan opinion as he’d written a string of brilliant episodes. After Series 5, he was certainly still popular, as his first series in the role of show runner had been a success. So why, four years later, is he such a marmite figure in fandom? This is something I’ve never really understood, and I feel as if some corners of fandom aren’t giving him his dues. I’ve seen people write mad rants about why he should be sacked as he’s a terrible writer and how RTD was so much better, but then go on to say their favourite episodes are The Empty Child and Blink. It’s things like this that really grind my gears. Even if you didn’t like Series 7, you can still see the man has talent, and I honestly believe he’s done more good for the show than bad.
Anyway, I’ve outlined my argument in this article for why I love Series 7, and for why I think it should get a bit more positivity. So, next time you’re watching it, keep this in mind, and maybe you’ll like it just a little bit more.
*Well, I didn’t like Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS much, but that was down to the acting of the guest stars.