Best of 11: Top Five Episodes of the Matt Smith Era of Doctor Who

mattsmithdoctorwho

by Amy Yen

I’m not sure if I am a very common Whovian. My impression is, most people have “their” Doctor & that’s it. And granted, I have only been with the series since New Who launched in 2005. But I remember feeling–even as David Tennant’s farewell tour grew outlandishly long & I was ready to just see the new guy already–that surely, Ten was the Doctor when I feel in love with Doctor Who, so Tennant would be “my” Doctor forever.

But now, as Matt Smith’s tenure draws to an end, I’m really not that sure. I have many, many, many problems with the show during his time on it (mostly dealing with showrunner Steven Moffat & his approach to mythology, character development & writing women—this isn’t the time to go into all that, but do check out this article in The Atlantic that details the problem with Moffat’s plot-over-heart writing style quite well), but Matt Smith was never one of them. In fact, he was what kept it great. I enjoy Smith’s Doctor so much, I’m willing to slog through any tired companion-slash-mystery Moffat surrounds him with in order to watch him. If you were to press me on it today & I had to make a choice, I think I would say Smith was “my” Doctor.

Now this has to do with more than just Smith over Tennant…I was never much of a Rose fan & the “specialness” of Rose was never all that interesting to me, which really colors my enjoyment of Tennant’s era since the shadow of Rose falls over almost his entire run. On the flip side, I found Amy & Rory endlessly interesting companions & a lot of what I appreciate about Eleven’s run deals with the bizarre little family unit they formed with the Doctor & River and all of the various relationships between all of them.

Additionally, while there were just as many frustratingly pointless “fun romp” type episodes as ever (pirates in space? dinosaurs in space?), Eleven’s era did feature some of the most jaw-droppingly wonderful stories in New Who. So, with Matt Smith about to hang up his bow tie, I thought I’d reminisce about my favorites. Caveat: I am going to try to pick stories with my favorite Matt Smith moments, not just overall great episodes. This significantly downgrades certain episodes, like The Girl Who Waited, which is, as I said before, one of my very favorite New Who stories, but which is ultimately more about Amy & Rory than it is about the Doctor. This list is really all about saying goodbye one last time to Eleven, Matt Smith, his bow tie & his fez, before Peter Capaldi makes his presence known.

Honorable Mentions: A Christmas Carol, The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon, The God Complex, The Angels Take Manhattan, The Girl Who Waited

5) The Day of the Doctor (50th Anniversary special)
I thought it was probably fitting that in a special within the Matt Smith era, even one anticipated so much for the return of David Tennant, that Eleven should get perhaps the more clever moments. Not that Ten or even John Hurt’s War Doctor were just on the sidelines–their banter, especially between Ten and Eleven, was the highlight of the episode–but it’s still Matt Smith’s show right now and he makes the most of it. It was also the most personal of stories, one that did a particularly good job of explaining the Doctor’s continuously youthful-trending regenerations, which also serves to highlight one of Matt Smith’s more interesting strengths: the ability to play both so young and so old at the exact same time.

4) The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone (5.4-5)
Eleven’s first meeting with River Song has its problems–Moffat’s most famous monsters, the Weeping Angels, are much less interesting in this incarnation; Moffat also reuses a plot device from his Library 2-parter in having the Angels speak to the Doctor through poor Dead Bob–but Eleven’s early interactions with River are delightful & his moment in the forest with Amy (later revealed to be a future version of the Doctor rewinding & trying to save himself from being erased from time) was devastating on a number of levels. The first episode ends on the Doctor’s famous “One Thing You Don’t Put in a Trap” speech that was featured heavily in the series 5 trailer. And if there’s one thing Matt Smith can do, it’s perform a Moffat speech.

3) The Eleventh Hour (5.1)
The Doctor says he’s not done cooking in The Eleventh Hour, but the truth is Matt Smith is so convincingly The Doctor almost immediately, it’s remarkable. In fact, it’s so much fun watching the Eleventh Doctor find himself (& watching Matt Smith find his Doctor), you almost miss the rather terrible thing that the Doctor does in this episode–that is, completely mess with a little girl’s childhood (it’s not the last time he will do this). Moffat includes a pretty fantastic tribute to the ten Doctors before this one at the climax of the monster-of-the-week portion of this episode, and Matt Smith doesn’t look at all out of place stepping out from behind David Tennant’s rather sizable shadow.

2) The Doctor’s Wife (6.4)
The Doctor goes through such a range of emotions in this episode, from devastating hope that there might be another time lord still alive to righteous anger when he finds out the truth to unbridled joy at realizing what Idris really is. But the best is the moment he realizes he’s about to lose the TARDIS & Amy & Rory along with it. “I…really don’t know what to do,” he says. But then, even in the middle of his panic, he takes a second to bask. “That’s a new feeling.” That moment is so very Doctor Who. The other moment I love is at the end, when Amy & Rory are safely in their new room & the Doctor can dare to say aloud the question he’s dying to ask. “Are you there?” And yes, the TARDIS is always there & the music swells & the Doctor dances around the console & it will always be him & her, long after everyone else is gone.

1) The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang (5.12-13)
The best thing about Matt Smith in this story is that he gets to do it all. He is clearly having a blast with Moffat’s timey-wimey-est plot since Blink. He takes another tiny step forward with River. He gets to make his greatest, most bad-ass Moffat speech ever (“Remember every black day I ever stopped you!”). And he gets the quiet moment, so clever without us even realizing, telling a bedtime story to little Amelia Pond. “You’ll dream about that box. It’ll never leave you. Big and little at the same time. Brand new and ancient. And the bluest. Blue. Ever.” Matt Smith is great through all of it. He’s mesmerizing & he makes you believe. At the end of his first series, he’s The Doctor so completely, it’s hard to remember he was ever anyone else.

Of course, I’m sure in a few years, we’ll be saying the same thing about Peter Capaldi. Matt Smith’s final Doctor Who, The Time of the Doctor, airs Christmas Day, Wednesday, December 25 at 9pm ET on BBC America.

Thoughts on the Doctor Who 2012 Christmas Special – The Snowmen

by Amy Yen
DOCTOR WHO S7 CHRISTMAS SPECIAL

“I never know why. I only know who.”

Can’t it ever just be a companion anymore? Right girl at the right time with the right amount of clever & the right amount of spunk & just enough crazy to drop everything & go travel time & space with a stranger in a police box?

I suppose after Amy, after River, that would be all too boring for Steven Moffat, so until we switch showrunners again, I guess every companion is destined for be just another mystery for the Doctor to solve. I won’t complain too much, the mystery that is Clara Oswin Oswald is by far the most interesting thing about “The Snowmen,” the 2012 Christmas special. It certainly wasn’t the Snowmen themselves, or the sinister Dr. Simeon, who is like a less interesting, less memorable version of Michael Gambon’s Kazran Sardick from “A Christmas Carol,” the best of Eleven’s Christmas adventures. I found the Snowmen plot utterly confusing & the way everything was magically solved by tears utterly lame, in the same way everything being magically solved by everyone chanting “Doctor” in “The Last of the Time Lords” was lame.

But anyway, back to Clara, or Oswin, or whoever. Despite the gratuitous kiss (at this point, it’s almost like Moffat’s just getting it out of the way, although I did feel a little indignant for River…hey Doctor, aren’t you married?), I found her charming & likable. She’s got the signature companion qualities, listed above, plus that irresistible  mystery (she’s impossible, like Amy) the Doctor will chase because he won’t be able to help himself. And at this point, I’m going to tolerate it, because hey. Whatever gets us back to the adventure.

More random thoughts on “The Snowmen”:

  • This was definitely the most I’ve liked Vastra & Jenny & Strax, all of whom were randomly introduced in “A Good Man Goes to War” in a way that was supposed to make us care about them immediately but didn’t. This episode, they finally earn it, especially Strax, even if he is now inexplicably alive again. “When you find something brand new in the world, what’s the next thing you look for?” “A grenade!”
  • New credits! I like them quite a bit.
  • The memory worm bit was both funny (again because of Strax) & vaguely uncomfortable, in that it seems a little too unethical a device for the Doctor to be using, either on Clara or the villain. I guess chalk it up to the Oncoming Storm & grief?
  • Speaking of grief, while I understand the Doctor’s over losing Amy & Rory, it did seem especially petulant &  bit out of character for him to be refusing to help. I would expect him to do his usual thing where he travels alone for a while, believing he is a danger to anyone he takes with him while not learning his lesson that he needs someone with him. But to sit in his box & flat out refuse to help when his friends call? Is that the Doctor?
  • Totally missed at first that the Doctor was wearing Amy’s glasses. Lovely touch.
  • Besides the great Strax one-liners, the one time I really sat up & said, “Now, that‘s clever,” was the one-word test Vastra & Jenny give Clara. Her one word message is “Pond,” because of course it is. What’s clever is that it’s perfectly set up, right under our noses, which is the sign of real clever writing, as opposed to the mess that is the conclusion of the Snowmen plot.
  • The new TARDIS is interesting. It feels a little less organic, a little more sterile (I understand it’s more similar to some of the ones from the classic series), which makes sense considering the Doctor’s frame of mind before this story.
  • What was the point of Clara having two jobs? Why couldn’t she just be the children’s governess? Again with the unnecessary mystery.
  • Speaking of unnecessary, sorry, that was a pretty lame Sherlock meta tie-in, IMO. If you’re going to have Sherlock exist in this universe, have him exist for real & have the Doctor have an adventure with him.
  • Does anyone else feel like the Doctor is just passing TARDIS keys out like candy these days? Remember how Martha didn’t get a key until like the fourth time she saves the Doctor’s life? When he pulls one out almost immediately upon Clara stepping in the TARDIS, I literally said out loud, “Seriously? Did she earn that?” Ah well. I’m sure she will.
  • I just want to mention again how disappointing the Snowmen were as a villain, just because they had so much potential. The Snowmen design, with the eyes & teeth, were actually quite scary (although there is no payoff to that initial scene where the Snowmen eat a bunch of people) & the idea of “snow that learns” is ominous in that wonderful Doctor Who way.
  • “Winter is coming.” Man, I miss Game of Thrones.

PS: New trailer! Enjoy:

Thoughts on Doctor Who Series 7 Mid-Series Finale: The Angels Take Manhattan

by Amy Yen

Best. Companion send-off. Ever.

I read that on Twitter after I watched the mid-series finale of Doctor Who, “The Angels Take Manhattan,” the much anticipated (and dreaded) goodbye for Mr. and Mrs. Pond, & I can’t disagree. It wasn’t a perfect story, but it was a perfect ending for them. Even if the Doctor can’t see it right now.

I have to say, I’m so relieved Moffat did these characters justice. It’s been, let’s just say, not my favorite series, & the main reason is that, for a series that has been leading up to their inevitable departure, I’ve felt like the first four episodes were the least effective use of the Ponds yet. Not one of those stories even came close to featuring them as well as something like “The Girl Who Waited,” or “Amy’s Choice.” Luckily, when it came down to it, Moffat went back to the one thing that was always consistent about Amy & Rory: they will always, always choose each other.

The two choices that were made in this episode — Rory & Amy choosing to jump off the building in blind hope that the paradox would erase Rory’s fate of a life without Amy, and Amy choosing to let the Angel zap her back in time in blind hope that it would save her from a life without Rory — were consistent with every other choice we’ve seen them make. Amy choosing the frozen TARDIS timeline when she realized she would lose Rory in the Leadworth timeline. Rory choosing to stay by the Pandorica to guard Amy. Amy choosing to let her older self die so her younger self could grow old with Rory. In the end, when the Angel took Rory and Amy had to choose between trying to be with him or staying with the Doctor, it never was a choice at all.

The Doctor does not take it so well. It’s interesting, the Doctor hates endings & he’s desperately afraid of losing Amy. That’s why he dropped her & Rory off after “The God Complex.” He’s “saving” them, so says Amy. But he can’t give them up any more than they can give him up, so he keeps coming back (as if to keep making up for not showing up the first time). Here, he is selfish. He tells Amy he doesn’t know if the Angel will send her back to the same time as Rory, when he does full well that it does. That’s why Billy Shipton winds up in the same time as Ten & Martha. He begs Amy not to do this, not to leave him, asks her to “come along, Pond” when he knows it would mean she wouldn’t see Rory again. It’s all very human of him.

What the Doctor can’t see in his grief, in this moment, is this is really the best possible outcome for Amy & Rory. Maybe they didn’t quite go out on their own terms, but they went out together & they lived. And considering how often each of them has died (especially Rory, who, hilariously, died again this episode…one more for the road, yes?), this is a borderline miraculous ending.

More random thoughts on ‘The Angels Take Manhattan”:

  • “To save you, I could do anything.” Don’t doubt it. He’s got two thousand years to back it up. Rory Williams truly is among the most romantic figures in recent pop culture. And to Amy, for Amy, he’s every bit the hero the Doctor is.
  • It’s fitting this episode read like a book, considering Amy Pond’s story has always had a little bit of fairy tale to it.
  • The Weeping Angels really hold up. They’re still every bit as terrifying as they were in “Blink,” & I like that we see them in their original flavor here. I always thought the zapping-people-back-in-time thing was way more interesting than what they did in “Time of Angels.”
  • So. The Statue of Liberty is a Weeping Angel huh? Of course she is.
  • Look, I really liked this episode, so I’m going to choose to ignore a bunch of plot holes here, like why the hell the Doctor wouldn’t take the TARDIS to go to the hotel instead of stealing a car, or where the hell the Angel went after it zapped Amy at the end, since neither the Doctor or River were looking at it, or since when could the Doctor just heal injuries with regeneration energy?
  • “Just you wait when my husband gets home.” While I don’t know that River was really essential to this story, it’s appropriate she’s here, since it is her parents & all. Plus, it made for a whole lot of awesome flirting between her & the Doctor. Especially loved the Doctor checking his breath & straightening his bow tie before seeing her. Aw.
  • Speaking of River, it’s nice that she was pardoned for that murder she didn’t actually commit (which I’m still kind of appalled by, so hopefully this is the last we’ll hear of it). Yet another convenient side effect of the continuing Doctor-erased-from-everything sub-plot. And there’s that pesky Question again. Hidden in plain sight.
  • I thought for a while, when Amy & Rory were on the ledge about to jump, the Doctor would end up saving them in the TARDIS, like he’s done with River a few times. But I like that the Doctor was so powerless in this episode, that he couldn’t save them & they had to save themselves. This story isn’t about the Doctor.
  • So lovely to see little Amelia Pond again. A lovely touch to end where it began. Amelia, unlike Amy, will never grow old.
  • I’m so not a fan of these split seasons. These series are not long enough to split…there’s barely any momentum & it’s over again. Now we have to wait all the way until Christmas to meet Oswin or Clara or whoever she is.
  • I can’t go without saying, Matt Smith & Arthur Darvill & especially Karen Gillan were all terrific this episode. “Raggedy man, goodbye.” Argh! Just heartbreaking.
  • Did you notice the newspaper Amy is reading in the park at the beginning of the episode? The headline reads “Detroit Lions Win Super Bowl.” And if that wasn’t an indication they were in some bizarre, Fringe-like alternate timeline, I don’t know what is.

Thoughts on Doctor Who Series 6 Finale The Wedding of River Song

by Amy Yen

“I got too big, Dorium. Too noisy. Time to step back into the shadows.”

It’s because of that line I can’t completely dislike “The Wedding of River Song,” the series 6 finale of Doctor Who. It’s the same thing I liked about “A Good Man Goes to War,” although that story was infinitely more satisfying. It’s gotten increasingly uncomfortable, in Steven Moffat’s Who, that the Doctor is so universally known, so feared & more disturbingly, that he doesn’t mind it. Like I’ve said before, it’s fun to watch Matt Smith show off, to yell at the skies, “Remember every black day I ever stopped you!” But that isn’t the Doctor, not really. And so, it’s nice to see him realize that.

It’s also fitting that it’s River calls him out that first time, that she realizes it too. I liked the way the wedding played out, the meta nods to the endless speculation about who River Song was. “The woman who marries him or the woman who kills him.” Although, honestly, it’s still a little off to have the Doctor, so long removed from all romantic entanglements, be so overtly committed. And anyway, I always found the fun in the Doctor & River’s interaction to be more in the mystery & promise than the melodrama (“I can’t let you die without knowing by so many & so much, and none more than me”).

A lot of my dissatisfaction with the episode comes from the solution to the Doctor’s death. There was a lot of speculation that it would turn out to be a flesh Doctor & when the Teselecta reappeared early in this episode, I even momentarily thought this might be what it was, but I think maybe I was expecting, or hoping, for something just a little more clever than that from Moffat. It seemed like the easy way out. Maybe that’s unfair. But I also think if that was the solution all along, they should have planted more clues. When we saw the Teselecta Amy in “Let’s Kill Hitler,” the robot clearly didn’t act like Amy. It acted like a robot. But when we see the Doctor through this episode &, even more significantly, in “The Impossible Astronaut,” he is clearly acting like the Doctor. Even in the tiny nuances & the moments where no one else is looking, it’s clearly the Doctor. I mean, we’re talking a straight-up legit looking beginning of a regeneration. Could the Teselecta really be that good, even with the Doctor inside? In a way, it would actually make more sense if it had been a flesh Doctor, since at least then it’s already been established the flesh is basically just like the real thing.

Finally, we get the Question, the oldest question in the universe, hiding in plain sight. “Doctor Who?” Yeah, I don’t understand. I mean, I get it, it’s obviously the question. What else could it be? But how it is oldest question? Obviously the Doctor is old, but the universe is much older, so how can the oldest question possibly be related only to him? And why will silence fall if it’s answered? I’m guessing the whole “fall of the Eleventh” thing means we won’t get the answer until Matt Smith turns in his bow tie.

More random thoughts on “The Wedding of River Song”:

  • So I guess we do still have to see the Doctor tell River his name, otherwise what did she tell Ten in “Forest of the Dead“? I was trying to think if it would make sense for River to tell him that she knew he didn’t die at Lake Silencio, but it hadn’t happened to the Doctor yet. Plus, we still have to see him give her the screwdriver, so we know this isn’t the last we’ll see of River.
  • Cute callbacks to Rose Tyler & Jack Harkness in this episode, but the loveliest moment is the nod to Brigadier Lethbridge Stewart, as a goodbye to Nicholas Courtney.
  • “I’m his wife.” “And I’m his…mother-in-law.” HA!
  • “And Doctor Song? Imprisoned all her days?” “Her days, yes. Her nights, well. That’s between her & me, eh?” I can’t tell you how much I want to see about 3-6 more episodes about the Doctor coming to whisk River away from the stormcage to go on random adventures together. I wonder how many of these we were cheated out of seeing in the 200 years between “The God Complex” & “Closing Time.”
  • I would totally go to a live chess tournament.
  • “I can remember it. So it happened. So I did it.” On one hand, I’ve never been a big fan of the unwritten timeline, when something is solved by making it so that it never happened. But I like that the show doesn’t usually ignore that the characters are still affected by it, even when it technically didn’t happen. Like Martha & the Year That Never Was, or Rory’s 2000 years as the Lone Centurian. Amy would feel conflicted about Madame Kovarian, even if it was an awesome move. I also like that it calls back to River killing the Dalek in “The Big Bang.” “River Song didn’t get it all from you, sweetie.”
  • So, the Doctor really did send those envelopes just so he wouldn’t die alone? That’s kind of messed up. Or is it just because of the time paradox that exists because the Doctor knows he & the others receive the envelopes so he knows later on that he has to send them?
  • I love the idea of River visiting her parents after her adventures (although, didn’t she go straight back to jail after the Byzantium? not that that’s stopped her before). River says explicitly to Amy this episode that she has had to pretend she didn’t know she was her mother, that she didn’t recognize the spacesuit. But all that still feels like lazy retcon for the lack of continuality. Supposedly Steven Moffat told Alex Kingston who River was long before anyone else. If they knew, I don’t really see what the excuse was not to plant more clues earlier on. Or maybe Moffat should tell more people what the plan is so they don’t have to retroactively explain things away. Just saying.
  • “You took my baby from me & hurt her. And now she’s all grown up & she’s fine. But I’ll never see my baby again.” Well. I guess that answers that question. On one hand, it’s not like I was ever clamoring to have a baby on board the TARDIS. That would have seriously put a clamp on all the life-risking adventures. On the other hand, I remain completely underwhelmed by the lack of exploration they’ve done on how losing their baby affected Amy & Rory emotionally. Besides “Let’s Kill Hitler,” they’ve basically acted like they’re totally cool with the fact that they were robbed out of raising their child (& “raising” Mels doesn’t count, come on). I think it’s one of the big failures of this series.
  • I’ve read several reviews that suggest most people liked the finale more than I did, but I want to point out this one from io9, which does a particularly excellent job of laying out the major flaws in River Song’s story, including many disturbing bits from this episode that I’d somehow forgotten about. (“You embarrass me.” I can’t believe that was a real line of dialogue.) It also has an interesting analysis of how Moffat plays with time & where the whole Question storyline might be going. Highly recommended read.

Top 5 “New Who” Doctor Who Episodes

by Amy Yen

In anticipation to the series 6 finale of Doctor Who this Saturday, I thought I’d do a post on my top 5 episodes since the show came back in 2005. Like a lot of people, I never saw Classic Who & honestly, as much as I like the show, I don’t really think I’ll ever feel the need to go back & watch those old episodes, with the low production values & cardstock companions who only function as damsels-in-distress. But since Russell T. Davies brought the series back, the characters have been admirably fleshed out & the season arcs have always been interesting, if not always successfully executed.

I should specify that this is my personal favorite top 5 episodes, not necessarily the 5 very best episodes, although my choices are all pretty popular episodes. I also changed my mind on a few of them, just to not always pick the Steven Moffat timey-wimey choice, although I am obviously a huge sucker for those stories. Here are my picks:

Honorable Mentions: Human Nature/The Family of Blood, The Big Bang, The Girl in the Fireplace

5) The Girl Who Waited
Interesting, it’s one of two “Doctor-light” episodes in my choices. Not that I don’t love The Doctor, but this episode in particular is the best Rory & Amy story thus far & one of the best companion stories period of the new series. It’s a terrific standalone adventure, but it is also explores one of series 6’s most interesting aspects, the idea of a married couple in the TARDIS. What’s most wonderful about is, there are plenty of examples of how much Rory loves Amy, but this is one of the few stories that really shows how much Amy loves Rory. Rory is what separates Amy from Rose, why she’ll eventually be able to walk away from the Doctor for good.

4) The Doctor Dances
The second half of Moffat’s first two-parter that introduced one of his most famous creations, John Barrowman’s dashing, tragic Captain Jack Harkness, this episode features one of the Doctor’s greatest goosebump-raising, cheer-inducing speeches. “Everybody lives!” To me, it remains the high point of Christopher Eccleston’s short run as the Ninth Doctor.

3) The Eleventh Hour
Matt Smith’s first full adventure as the Eleventh Doctor was full of joy & wonder & magic, & to me, it got Doctor Who back to what it is when it’s at its best, in stark contrast to the cloudiness around it for Ten’s last few stories. And while Eleven’s run certainly has its ultra-dark moments, Matt Smith is such an energetic, compelling presence, the Doctor seems a little less weighed down by his past. “The Eleventh Hour” also introduces Amy Pond in one of the most creative & tragic companion backstories ever. What I remember most about it is its fantastical fairy tale imagery: Amelia Pond in her red jacket, the Doctor landing in her garden & the TARDIS in its bluest blue, ever.

2) The Doctor’s Wife
Neil Gaiman does Doctor Who, I mean, what can you say? What an amazing episode. I will admit, when I first saw “The Doctor’s Wife” in the episode titles, I was momentarily fooled into thinking this might be a River Song story, but the real story is so much better than that. The TARDIS personified is an inspired creation (“Did you wish really, really hard?”) & the best part of the episode might be that final scene, with the Doctor running around the console gleefully. “It’s always going to be you & her, isn’t it? Long after the rest of us have gone.”

1) Blink
I almost don’t want to put this as number 1 because it is both a Doctor-light & companion-light episode—Ten & Martha make the briefest of appearances—and my actual appreciation of the show has everything to do with the fundamental relationship between The Doctor & his companions. But “Blink” is a masterpiece, the original Moffat timey-wimey story. Because at the end of the day, it’s a show about time travel & nobody writes time travel like Moffat (I also think of “The Big Bang” as a great example of this, but “Blink” has the stronger narrative). “Blink” is also just a remarkable piece of storytelling, featuring possibly the scariest Who monsters ever, beautiful photography (those gorgeous, terrifying stone statues in the rain) & a one-off companion who feels as three-dimensional as anyone else in this universe. If it didn’t feature so little of the Doctor, I would call it the perfect Doctor Who story, if only for the brilliance of this scene:

So those are my picks, would love to hear yours in the comments. Doctor Who’s Series 6 finale, “The Wedding of River Song” airs on BBC America tomorrow, October 1 at 9pm ET.

Thoughts on Doctor Who Series 6.5 Premiere Let’s Kill Hitler

by Amy Yen

“No, she will be amazing.”

Oh, the twisty-turny, timey-wimey, crazy, tragic, brilliant, impossible life of River Song. How do we even begin to talk about River Song?

So it turns out, everything about the River Song we know is a paradox. Her TARDIS blue diary, the “spoilers” she always warns about, “Rule 1: The Doctor Lies,” all of it came from the Doctor himself, who got it from River. Even her name, both of her names, are paradoxes. Amy names her baby after Mel, who is her baby. River takes her name from the Doctor, after the Doctor knows her as River. It’s impossible. She‘s impossible.

So we finally meet River at the start of her story, so long after meeting her at the end. She’s been hiding in plain sight this whole time. “You got to raise me after all,” she tells Amy & Rory, & it’s an awesome idea, the girl who grew up with Amy & her imaginary friend. It’s such an awesome idea, I only wish there had been a few more plants for it. As it is, it does seem odd their best friend isn’t at their wedding or in any of the many scenes of their life in Leadworth, particularly in “The Eleventh Hour.”

So “Mel” regenerates into the future River & man, does Alex Kingston so clearly have a blast with Regeneration Cycle River, who is as spazzy & insane & fantastic as Eleven was when he first appeared. And she uses all of her remaining regenerations in one go, which doesn’t make sense on a number of levels, not the least of which is that it was established in the Sarah Jane Adventures last year that time lords can most likely continue regenerating indefinitely. But it does conveniently explain why River doesn’t renegerate in the Library, so I guess that’s a plot hole we’ll ignore.

“Let’s Kill Hitler” was full of answers, sometimes almost to a surreal degree (particularly when the Doctor accesses the Justice Department robot’s records on the Silence). But there are still plenty more left. The Silence is a movement based around the oldest question in the universe, hiding in plain sight (a familiar Moffat theme). Which is what? The Doctor now knows of his impending death, which we knew was going to happen since he has to set up the blue envelopes. But we still don’t know the goal of that exercise, since it still can’t be to save him, because we know now the Doctor’s death is apparently a fixed point in time. So how are they going to get out of this now?

More random thoughts on “Let’s Kill Hitler“:

  • Love Amy & Rory’s crop circle signal to the Doctor. It’s interesting that this is the first I think we’ve seen companions getting extended breaks on Earth in the middle of their adventures & getting the Doctor’s attention this way. If I remember right, before the Doctor had Martha’s phone, companions on Earth never had a way of contacting him again. Or I guess they did, but they just weren’t as clever as Amy & Rory.
  • “Permission?” “Granted.” I do love Rory & the Doctor’s revolving mutual perception of each other. The Doctor respecting Rory more & more, Rory accepting the Doctor’s role in Amy’s (& his) life.
  • The Justice Department robot thing is really cool, such a neat idea. Executed wonderfully, like Mystique in the X-Men movies. And for another comparison, the inside control room was totally Enterprise all the way.
  • Rory was extra awesome this episode & I can’t tell you how nice it is to see him taking a more active part in all these adventures. “Shut up, Hitler!” “Right, putting Hitler in the cupboard. In you go!”
  • “Time can be rewritten. Remember Kennedy?” Wait, what?
  • Guiltalso guiltmore guilt!” Man, Ten’s companions were emotionally scarring for him. Also, interesting moment when he rejects the image of himself, “No, give me someone I like!” The Dream Lord was right after all.
  • The TARDIS tells the Doctor regeneration has been disabled. Why? How? This is never explained & it’s a troublesome plot hole.
  • “I’m trapped inside a giant robot replica of my wife. I’m really trying not to see this as a metaphor.” HA! Also, Robot Amy? Exceptionally creepy. And nice job with the dead eyes, Karen Gillan.
  • Sonic cane!
  • River is the child of the TARDIS…so the TARDIS teaches her how to fly. It’s lovely & makes perfect sense.
  • This was Matt Smith’s best performance yet. He’s just so brilliant.
  • “As far as first dates go, I’d say that was mixed signals.” I can’t even put into words how fantastic the dialogue Steven Moffat writes is sometimes.

Thoughts on Doctor Who Series 6 Spring Finale A Good Man Goes to War

by Amy Yen

“He’s not a warrior.”
“Then why is he called ‘The Doctor’?”

River Song says it best in the end. Is this what The Doctor thought he would become? Feared? Stories about him whispered between soldiers? It’s not like he doesn’t know it’s happening. He says as much in “The Pandorica Opens,” stands on a rock at Stonehenge & says to his enemies above him, “Remember every black day I ever stopped you!” And finally, thankfully, somebody says aloud what we’ve all been thinking.

Is this The Doctor? Because the Doctor I remember doesn’t ever use his sonic screwdriver as a weapon, pointing it tip-first at flesh-Amy. He wouldn’t let Jack Harkness use his gun on Futurekind trying to kill them, so he definitely wouldn’t insight a gun battle between the cleric soldiers & the Headless Monks. He wouldn’t pantomime guns as Danny-Boy destroys the Demon’s Run communications array. He wouldn’t force the colonel in this episode to give the order to “run away,” just to humiliate him.

I don’t know who that is, but that is not the Doctor.

“Look, I’m angry, that’s new. I’m really not sure what’s going to happen now.” It isn’t new, not really. Remember what Ten did to the Family of Blood? I don’t know when exactly it happened, because it wasn’t simply when Eleven took over (remember he still pointed his screwdriver up to malfunction the Silurians’ weapons & even his disdain for all his enemies’ “silly little guns” in the aforementioned “Pandorica Opens” speech), but at some point, the Doctor became less empathetic, more okay with violence, okay with being feared, maybe a little too in love with being the Oncoming Storm, the last time lord. And because it’s mostly fun to watch him show off, we mostly just went with it, but I for one am relieved that it appears this was at least partially intentional, or at least that Moffatt & the producers are aware of the discrepancy, the change in this very, very established character.

River Song calls him out, in his darkest hour. And then she tells him her secret. Brings the spark back into his eyes. Makes him know, instantly, what to do next. Gives him hope.

Hopefully, it will also signal a return to the Doctor we know & love. Because it’s not like I didn’t like this episode or the first half of this unfortunately split series. But the Doctor’s empathy & kindness & mercy is what makes him a different kind of hero, & it’d be sad to lose what makes him special.

More random thoughts on “A Good Man Goes to War“:

  • So River Song is Amy & Rory’s daughter after all. Even though this was probably the most popular guess of any of the theories out there, it still gave me chills to actually hear it. Although, how does this “change everything” with the Doctor & River’s relationship? If anything, you would think it improves it, now that he knows. Then why did she spend so much time last year apologizing for when the Doctor finally finds out who she is?
  • Don’t forget, we still don’t know who it is she killed to get sent to prison. “A very good man.” Maybe one that went to war?
  • “The only water in the forest is the river.” I always thought that Amy’s last name being Pond & River’s name being River had to be significant somehow. Nice to see this pay off.
  • A lot of callbacks in this episode to previous one-off characters, much like the beginning of “The Pandorica Opens.” Of course these callbacks weren’t really that cool, since they involved sub-par episodes like “Victory of the Daleks,” “Cold Blood” & “Curse of the Black Spot.” It was kind of fun to see Dorium, the black marketer that River Song tricked into giving her a vortex manipulator last series.
  • Lorna Bucket turned out to be kind of a disappointing one-off character. Not because of anything she did, just because I kept waiting for her to turn out to be someone important, someone maybe that we already met (maybe a younger River Song). Too bad the Doctor remembered their encounter in the Gamma Forest, or else I’d think we’d see that adventure yet. As it is, I guess she’s just there for the Doctor to be sad over & to give Amy the clue that eventually reveals River’s identity.
  • The Headless Monks are not scarier than either the Silence or the Weeping Angels in concept, but in execution, they are creepy as hell.
  • Rory was kind of really awesome in this episode. Yes, having him be in the Centurion outfit is kind of random & silly, but it’s also still kind of cool. His showdown with the Cybermen was a nice moment, as was his meeting with River (although the best part is her reaction to seeing him, especially on the second watch-through when you know what she knows…this is her father).
  • The bit at the beginning, with Amy telling her daughter that her father is coming…”He looks young but he’s lived for hundreds of years”…was that really necessary? Just for that little moment before she says The Last Centurion when you think, WTF? Seriously? They’re really going to go there with it being the Doctor’s kid? Really? I just thought, OMG give it a rest already. The more they try to put tension in the Amy/Rory/Doctor “triangle,” the more irritating I find it. Just let them be! I promise you, you will find that all three characters can stand on their own now. Really.
  • Autumn 2011. Ugh!