New Who: The Story Thus Far – Series 7 (Part 2)
John Hussey continues his series analysing the revival, this time with Series 7.
‘The Bells of Saint John’
Series Seven returned after the break, which had left us puzzled over the mystery of Clara Oswald, with the mini-episode ‘The Bells of Saint John: A Prequel’. This short showed the Eleventh Doctor’s (Matt Smith) trail to find Clara hadn’t gone very well but was later encouraged to continue further by a random little girl in a park (whom was later revealed, unbeknown by the Eleventh Doctor, to be a younger version of Clara Oswald).
After a little bit of advice by a young Clara Oswald the Eleventh Doctor hid away once again in the past, this time in 1207 Cumbria where he meditated within a monastery as a monk. This of course was interrupted by a surprise phone-call by a grown-up Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman) which made the Time Lord jump quickly back into action and arrive upon her doorstep with his new attire. This encounter made the Time Lord’s inquisitive mind rage on as he constantly pondered over the mystery of Clara and how she could come to have more than one version of herself.
This was interrupted by the insidious presence of Miss Kizlet (Celia Imrie) who was stealing people’s souls and placing them within cyber-space through control of the Wi-Fi. Miss Kizlet and her group used robotic creatures called Spoonheads in order to make their plans possible. After theDoctor rescued Clara from their clutches Miss Kizlet attempted to dispose of them both, which entailed her taking control of a passenger jet and trying to land it on-top of them. Through the Eleventh Doctor’s quick actions the collision was averted.
The whole plot about the Wi-Fi being manipulated was very inventive and made for a chilling storyline which had the Eleventh Doctor truly challenged. It also served as, in my opinion, the best companion introduction within the revived series. The plot was well paced out, Clara’s involvement within the story was quickly established, no time was wasted and the story-arc was quickly brought back into play from ‘The Snowmen’ but not overly pushed into your face. It served as a background reminder and was left to linger in order to develop thought on what was really going on behind the scene.
The resolution was great and really showed off the Eleventh Doctor’s manipulative ways by using the Spoonheads against Miss Kizlet and thereby bringing her entire operation to a shutdown. The interesting factor about ‘The Bells of Saint John’ was the revealing that the Great Intelligence (Richard E. Grant) was still alive and was using Miss Kizlet, just as it did with Dr Simeon, in order to harness its plans for conquest; this time through absorbing information from the collected victims.
Clara’s first outing within the TARDIS was a magical tale in my eyes and serves as my favourite first outing for a companion within New Who and without a doubt one of my favourite episodes in general. It just really stood out in scoop in which demonstrated the capabilities of the Doctor’s time-travelling machine. The TARDIS took them to a far out galaxy full of its own mythology and religion and really gave off a believable nature and true depth of a location which has been rarely seen within New Who. So it was a nice change to see a genuine alien world full of aliens.
‘The Rings of Akhaten’
‘The Rings of Akhaten’ brought a refreshing plot that didn’t contain the usual enemy and like ‘The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit’ served to grant a foe that had tremendous power and design over the Doctor. The clever part of the plot was the slow building up to the true enemy, leading us to believe that the Mummy (nicknamed Grandfather) and his minions the Vigil to be the threat but in fact they were just pawns used to prevent the true evil of Akhaten from rising up.
The Great God served as a good pay-off villain for the episode and granted one of my favourite scenes within Series Seven, i.e. the Doctor’s speech. That speech was delivered so beautifully along with its passion and strength to demonstrate the Eleventh Doctor’s suffering from his past and that he was willing to throw everything away in order to extinguish the sins of his past.
Clara was granted a nice bit of development within her first story, especially regarding the progression of her mystery. The Eleventh Doctor’s curiosity led him to go back in time to observe her growing up in order to determine what was so special about her existence. As it turned out she was just an ordinary girl who had suffered with loss through her mother’s death and the Maitland’s loss. She then decided to make it her purpose to look after them, granting her a unique position of returning to Earth after her adventures in order to fulfil her promise.
In the end Clara’s leaf which, as if by fate, brought her parents together in the first place actually served to be the solution to defeating the Great God. The power of what could’ve been was too much for the creature to devour and instead was destroyed.
‘Cold War’ was to be Clara’s next adventure with the Eleventh Doctor and would slowly unveil the darkness of the Time Lord’s eccentric lifestyle. Mark Gatiss returned once again and this time had his second attempt of bringing new ideas to a Classic villain. After a long period of time away from the screen the Ice Warriors finally made a triumphant return and this time they were more terrifying and dangerous than ever.
The whole idea of the Ice Warriors being able to shed their cybernetic armour was a new one on the audience (especially me) and granted a whole new spin of what could be done with the Martian warriors. ‘Cold War’ demonstrated a somewhat grittier take on what ‘Dalek’ did to reintroduce the Daleks with the inclusion of the tensions within the Cold War and the addition of mutilated victims at the hands of the Ice Warrior Grand Marshal Skaldak.
It was a tension-filled episode made only more so through the means of Skaldak roaming around in the shadows and giving the story a sort of ‘Alien’ feel to it. This new direction by Gatiss certainly gave a refreshing perspective on the Ice Warriors and allowed doors to be opened for a future return.
Clara’s reaction to the adventure was very realistic and it showed her to be vulnerable and quite scared at the possibilities surrounding the Doctor’s life. But needless to say in the end she proved to herself that she wasn’t going to quit and would keep going no matter what.
The Eleventh Doctor and Clara took up ghost hunting by aiding Professor Alec Palmer (Douglas Scott) and Emma Grayling (Jessica Raine) within the Caliburn House. The story itself was a chilling tale which featured all the clichéd elements of a ghost story, right down to the haunted house and lightning storms.
The most memorable moments served within the Eleventh Doctor’s travels through time in order to investigate further into the ghost. This allowed Clara to question the Time Lord’s views upon herself and the human race figuring that they all must be insects in his eyes due to his perception on eternity. The Eleventh Doctor claimed this not to be true and that Clara was the only mystery worth solving.
The Eleventh Doctor discovered that the ghost wasn’t actually a ghost but rather a SOS projection from a bubble universe that was quickly breaking down. This person was revealed to be Hila Tukurian (Kemi-Bo Jacobs) who would later be revealed to be Alec and Emma’s descendant and this was the reasoning behind Emma’s strong psychic connection with her. The chilling part of the story was then given over to the Crooked Man which plagued Hila and the Eleventh Doctor within the bubble universe and served to stalk them through the eerie woods. This eventually left the Time Lord alone and defenceless, to a point where he declared his fear (something that is rarely seen).
Clara managed to once again save the day by persuading the TARDIS (whom for some unknown reason, first seen within ‘The Rings of Akhaten’, held a grudge over her) and rescued the Eleventh Doctor from the unstable bubble universe. ‘Hide’ was unfortunately let down by the reveal that the Crooked Man was in fact harmless and was searching for his lover, taking away all the creepy and thrilling nature of the plot that came before the final few moments of the episode.
‘Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS’
The Eleventh Doctor faced a very gritty adventure within ‘Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS’ through his encounter with the Van Baalen brothers. Gregor, Bram and cybernetic friend Tricky decided to capture the TARDIS as a form of salvage. This attempt led to the TARDIS malfunctioning and Clara being lost within the eternity of space within. The Eleventh Doctor of course, through his manipulative ways, persuaded the Van Baalen brothers into aiding his search for Clara by threatening to self- destruct his own ship (though was later revealed to be a massive bluff).
The exciting part of the story was seeing more of the TARDIS’s interior which hadn’t been seen properly within New Who and so served as a massive fan-service within the 50th year of the show.
Gregor proved to be a challenging character throughout the story as he at first attempted to steal vital parts of the TARDIS, thereby provoking her wrath, and then was later revealed to be holding dark secrets from Tricky. It was revealed he was in fact the third Van Baleen brother who had a terrible accident which left him without memories. Gregor chose this moment wisely to steal his position of captain (promised to Tricky by their father) and gave him a new identity as a cyborg through a cruel prank. Luckily, by the very end of the episode he received some character redemption through his respect for Tricky after time was reversed.
The whole journey was fierce and really gave a darkened feel to the ship we thought we knew well and like the Doctor holds secrets that shroud her character in mystery and make us question her. The Eleventh Doctor was nearly left helpless after he believed there was nothing that could be done to save his beloved ship but luckily through timey-wimey circumstances he was able to go back into his own timeline and reverse the events that occurred.
It was a great moment to see the Eleventh Doctor’s curiosity and patience collide within his harsh integration of Clara’s mystery to which Clara had no idea about. This moment sharpened their relationship whilst allowing for the mystery behind ‘the impossible girl arc’ to be left with even further confusion as to what it all meant.
‘The Crimson Horror’
Mark Gatiss returned for a second episode and once again showed off his taste for gothic horror. ‘The Crimson Horror’ was his most disturbing to date with the invention of sinister villain Mrs Gillyflower (Diana Rigg). This villainess was so bonkers that she literally had no redeeming factors which can be a rare element for an enemy in today’s media. Mrs Gillyflower was just pure insane. There was no genius to her motives of world domination, just plain old insanity from idiotic ways of thinking, i.e. ideals over a pure human race.
Her character went as far as experimenting the formula of an ancient virus, through the help of Mr. Sweet, on her own daughter Ada (Rachael Stirling) which resulted in her becoming blind. The whole idea of dumping her chosen humans, who would join her in the rebuilding of the Earth, within a concentrated solution of the virus was just quite disturbing to say the least. It was made worse by the fact that they could end up being killed by solidifying. This made the Eleventh Doctor’s fate during his investigation all the more painful having had to endure the torture of being stiffened by the virus’ effects while Clara was turned into a doll awaiting awakening within Mrs Gillyflower’s new world.
It was nice that Moffat allowed Gatiss to write in his fateful new band of characters the Paternoster Gang. Gatiss incorporated them into his plot with ease and had them, temporarily; leading the story as they investigated Mrs Gillyflower’s evil schemes and eventually ended up rescuing the Eleventh Doctor. Jenny Flint (Catrin Stewart) did well in earning herself plenty of spotlight and showcased her fighting skills when dealing with the guards. They also served to remind the viewer of the ongoing ‘the impossible girl arc’ by questioning the Eleventh Doctor (who still remained in the dark over the mystery) as to how there was another Clara.
‘The Crimson Horror’ definitely served as a shining example of what Gatiss can produce along with demonstrating his continuous contribution to the show.
‘Nightmare in Silver’
The penultimate episode of the series brought the long-awaited return of the Cybermen in a story that promised to make them a threat again. Unfortunately, in my opinion, it didn’t quite accomplish this.
The Cybermen’s new design was a brilliant turn for them as it meant their shady Cybus-men form was finally discarded for a form that more resembled what they used to be within the Classic series. The direction of their characteristics on the other hand was a poor choice to say the least. They still remained very robotic and seemed to become more like drones serving a hive-brain rather than possessing individual minds and thoughts of their own. Also the whole ability to allow them repetitive upgrading was a neat idea but somewhat backfired in making the Cybermen too powerful to the point where future stories would involve near impossible resolutions in order to destroy them.
The Cyber-Planner was another true shame. The one thing I can complement was Matt Smith’s extraordinary acting skills within those scenes. But in my eyes the part wasn’t written for a Cyberman. The characteristics were all wrong and the dialogue didn’t even resemble what a Cyberman would say. It was too human, so it didn’t seem believable within the circumstances of the story.
The final downside of the plot was the inclusion of Angie (Eva de Leon Allen) and Artie (Kassius Carey Johnson). Their characters were just utterly pointless and, to be blunt, just plain annoying. Artie wasn’t too bad but Angie was just a brat who deserved a slap rather than a trip in the TARDIS (especially since she and Artie blackmailed Clara in the first place). It would’ve made more sense to have one of the kids seriously injured or actually fully converted into a Cyberman just to make the point of how dangerous travelling with the Doctor can be.
Clara certainly got further character development through her independence to follow the Eleventh Doctor’s instructions by leading the amateur soldiers into battle against the Cybermen whilst he underwent his game of chess with the Cyber-Planner. She also claimed that she didn’t fully trust the Time Lord’s judgement but despite all of that she would still follow him till the end due to her strong loyalty.
Series Seven’s finale ‘The Name of the Doctor’ would see the fun side of Clara’s adventures with the Eleventh Doctor come to an end in favour of a cruel journey that would take them into the darkest secret the Time Lord holds as well as the truth behind Clara’s mystery.
- ‘The Bells of Saint John’ – 10/10
- ‘The Rings of Akhaten’ – 10/10
- ‘Cold War’ – 9/10
- ‘Hide’ – 8/10
- ‘Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS’ – 10/10
- ‘The Crimson Horror’- 10/10
- ‘Nightmare in Silver’ – 6/10
Next month, the series concludes as we take an in-depth look at ‘The Name of the Doctor’ and the 2013 specials.
- Catch up on the 1st article looking at Series 1 (Episodes 1-6)
- Catch up on the 2nd article looking at Series 1 (Episodes 7-13)
- Catch up on the 3rd article looking at Series 2 (Specials, Episodes 1-4)
- Catch up on the 4th article looking at Series 2 (Episodes 5-13)
- Catch up on the 5th article looking at Series 3 (Xmas, Episodes 1-7)
- Catch up on the 6th article looking at Series 3 (Episodes 8-13)
- Catch up on the 7th article looking at Series 4 (Specials, Episodes 1-5)
- Catch up on the 8th article looking at Series 4 (Episodes 6-13)
- Catch up on the 9th article looking at the 2008 – 2009 Specials
- Catch up on the 10th article looking at Series 5 (Episodes 1-6)
- Catch up on the 11th article looking at Series 5 (Episodes 7-13)
- Catch up on the 12th article looking at Series 6 (Specials, Episodes 1-7)
- Catch up on the 13th article looking at Series 6 (Episodes 1-7)
- Catch up on the 14th article looking at Series 6 (Episodes 8-13)
- Catch up on the 15th article looking at Series 7 (Part 1)