The 11th Doctor: A Fish-Fingered Recap
Following the events of “The End of Time”, David Tennant’s storied run as The Doctor came to an emotionally charged end. Enter the 11th, and current Doctor, played by Northampton, England’s Matt Smith. At 26, he would be the youngest actor to portray The Doctor since Peter Davison.
Episode 1, “The Eleventh Hour”, aired on the 3rd of April, 2010. The newly-regenerated Doctor crashes to Earth and meets a little Scottish girl called Amelia Pond (Caitlin Blackwood) who asks him if he has come to fix the crack in her bedroom wall. After discovering that it is actually a crack in space and time, The Doctor has to leave but promises to return in five minutes. He returns, twelve years later, to the now all grown up “Amy” Pond (Karen Gillan) and her boyfriend, Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill). The galactic police, known as the Atraxi, issue the ultimatum that if “Prisoner Zero” (recently escaped through the crack) is not found, the Earth will be destroyed. Before being captured, Prisoner Zero warns The Doctor, “The universe is cracked. The Pandorica will open. Silence will fall.” After reprimanding the Atraxi and warning them that Earth is under his protection, The Doctor dashes off but returns for Amy in the newly updated TARDIS, albeit two years later. Though upset at The Doctor for leaving her (again), she accepts his offer to travel with him and off they go. Rory would later join them in some of the forthcoming episodes. Their travels through time and space take them to London during The Blitz, Alfava Metraxis, 16th century Venice, present-day Colchester, and Stonehenge in 102 A.D., among others. They meet Queen Elizabeth X, Winston Churchill, and Vincent Van Gogh. Foes abound, including the reappearance of the “lonely assassins”, in episodes 4 and 5, the Silurians (episodes 9 and 10), and, in episode 3, a classic enemy that The Doctor just can’t seem to ever truly get rid of. In “The Time of Angels”, River Song (Alex Kingston) reemerges and plays a much more central role in the events that unfold going forward (or is it backward?). In the two-part series finale, “The Pandorica Opens” and “The Big Bang”, a mighty alliance has formed to trap and imprison The Doctor and thus save the universe from the cracks in time, which they believe he is responsible for causing. With the help of Amy, River (and her vortex manipulator), and the Last Centurion, The Doctor flies the Pandorica into the exploding TARDIS. Amy wakes on the morning of her “big day”, at the conclusion of which, she and Rory again run away with The Doctor to embark on new adventures.
My Take: Matt Smith had very big shoes to fill when he stepped into the role of The Doctor; however, I feel he did quite an admirable job. This regeneration brought us a freshness and a new perspective on all aspects of the universe, both great and small. I also feel that his clothing made him look the most “Doctor-like” of the past three incarnations (“bowties are cool!”). He exuded “Doctor” in a manner that harkened back to the time of the fourth Doctor, Tom Baker.
The transition of Steven Moffat taking over as head writer and executive producer for the departing Russell T. Davies was seamless; Moffat wrote nearly half of the stories plus the Christmas special.
Highlights: “The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone” two-parter; with a clever storyline, integration of past and future elements, and brilliantly done ambient sound. Episode 3 had a great pseudo-historical aspect and the “Ironsides” were a great touch. “The Lodger” was pretty enjoyable as well. Series 5 was book-ended by a great first episode, “The Eleventh Hour” and a fantastically conceived and executed finale, however, “Vincent and The Doctor” was, to me, the weakest of the lot and a bit of a disappointment. It also has a really depressing ending. New companions Amy and Rory had a strong, believable chemistry with one another, as well as with The Doctor. Rory challenging The Doctor’s and questioning his intentions was a nice change of pace. I also quite enjoy the revamped opening theme.
Overall, this was a very good beginning for our newest Doctor, and some pretty sizable revelations were just over the horizon…
A mysterious invitation reuniting The Doctor and his companions in present-day Utah.
An Apollo-era astronaut emerging from Lake Silencio.
The first two episodes of the series, “The Impossible Astronaut” and “Day of the Moon” gave us this and so much more to try to wrap our heads around, including some startling news from Amy herself. A 17th century pirate ship being terrorized by a Siren was the next port of call. From there it’s off to an asteroid in a rift just outside the universe in episode 4, “The Doctor’s Wife”. Answering a distress call from another Time Lord, The TARDIS lands in a junkyard where we meet “Uncle”, “Auntie”, “Nephew”, and Idris (Suranne Jones). The sentient “House” has lured The Doctor there in order to consume the energy of the TARDIS, but upon learning he is the last of the Time Lords, transfers itself into the TARDIS in an effort to escape from the rift. “The Rebel Flesh” and “The Almost People”, take place on a converted monastery on Earth in the 22nd century where doppelgangers created from the “Flesh” are being used as a labor force. The episode ends on a massive cliffhanger which I won’t spoil for you. You have the internet. Better yet, go watch it. The Doctor forms an army to undertake a rescue mission at the asteroid base known as Demon’s Run in, “A Good Man Goes to War”. Madam Kovarian (Frances Barber) has kidnapped someone very important to The Doctor, and he’ll do whatever it takes to get them back. New allies include; Madam Vastra (Neve McIntosh), her companion, Jenny (Catrin Stewart), Strax (Dan Starkey), and Dorium Maldovar (Simon Fisher-Becker). At the episode’s climax, someone’s shocking secret is revealed. In “Let’s Kill Hitler”, Amy and Rory’s childhood friend “Mels” hijacks the TARDIS and we end up in Hitler’s office in 1938 Berlin. During the ensuing fracas, Mels is shot and in a surprising twist, regenerates. The resulting transformation is familiar but incredibly deadly, as evidenced when she attempts to kill The Doctor. A house-call is made in episode 9 where a frightened boy asks The Doctor to save him from the “monsters” (life-size wooden dolls). “The Girl Who Waited” takes place on the holiday planet Apalapucia. Unbeknownst to The Doctor, the planet has been quarantined due to an outbreak of plague. Rory is forced to make a nearly impossible choice and there is quite an emotional outcome for the companions. A Minotaur-like creature patrolling a hotel without an exit encompasses the story of episode 11, “The God Complex”. The Doctor reunites with old friend, Craig (James Corden) in “Closing Time”. Electrical disturbances and missing shop clerks lead them to a classic villain who is once again up to no good. The finale of series 6, “The Wedding of River Song”, is the culmination of the Silence story arc (“Silence will fall when the question is asked”). Time becomes stuck at 5:02pm on April 22nd, 2011 due to River interfering with a fixed point in time, thus causing all of time to run simultaneously. Only through some good ol’ Doctor flim-flam is he able to once again save the universe in his usual spectacular fashion.
My Take: The best way I can describe series 6 would have to be roller coaster. The twists and turns throughout made for some very enjoyable, and oftentimes, tear jerking episodes. Once again, the main story arc was very cleverly integrated. The Doctor-Amy-Rory dynamic remained strong, and the addition of River as such an important, pivotal character made the character pool that much deeper and the episodes that much more entertaining and exciting. “The Curse of the Black Spot” was only so-so, and the two-part “The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People” really disappointed. If not for the huge shocker at the end, you could almost skip them entirely. The addition of Madame Vastra, Jenny, and Commander Strax was a commendable touch, as was the nod to the Brigadier (played by Nicholas Courtney who passed away in February 2011) in “The Wedding of River Song”.
More highs and lows await…
Following “The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe”, the series gets off to a proper, cracking start in “Asylum of the Daleks” which takes place on, well, I think you can figure that out on your own. The Doctor is enlisted, along with Amy and Rory, to disable the planet’s force-field to facilitate the aforementioned asylum’s destruction. The episode is our introduction a girl called Oswin Oswald (Jenna Louise Coleman) who crash landed on the planet a year earlier and keeps busy by fending off attacks and among other things, making soufflés. Oswin’s shocking true identity is later revealed but she keeps her word and helps The Doctor escape, with the request that he remember her. “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” follows, featuring David Bradley as black market trader Solomon. Rory’s father, Brian (Mark Williams) also makes his first appearance. The old west, circa 1870 is the next stop, with a cybernetic gunslinger seeking revenge on a scientist for creating him. “The Power of Three” follows, in which billions of small, black cubes sent by the Shakri to wipe out humanity land on Earth. Episode 5, the noir-themed “The Angels Take Manhattan”, would mark the conclusion of a long and winding journey for both Amy and Rory, and would exact a heavy emotional toll on The Doctor.
Victorian England sets the stage in “The Snowmen”. A noticeably aged Doctor, in a state of self-exile and deeply depressed (but with a remodeled TARDIS), is forced out of hiding to once again save the world. Old friends last seen at the Battle of Demon’s Run assist him. He also meets a new friend in Clara Oswald. The evil Dr. Simeon, possessing a “great intelligence” is the central antagonist. In the closing moments of the episode, Simeon having met his apparent end, The Doctor makes a startling realization, and sets off to track down the “impossible girl”. We return to the present day in “The Bells of Saint John”. Human souls are being uploaded to the internet via Wi-Fi and The Doctor, with the help of a new, and yet strangely familiar companion, ride to the rescue. The requisite stops to the future and the past, worlds far and near follow, and enemies both old and new abound. In the series finale, “The Name of The Doctor”, The Doctor’s greatest secret has been discovered and he must travel to Trenzalore in an effort to save his kidnapped friends, the Paternoster Gang, from the Great Intelligence (Richard E. Grant) and his faceless Whisper Men. The series ends cryptically and on a massive cliffhanger, with the lives of both The Doctor and his companion in great peril.
My Take: As strong as the series started with “Asylum of the Daleks”, it wasn’t all sunshine and Jammie Dodgers. The majority of the series’ first half was very good, “A Town Called Mercy” being the weakest point. The departure of companions Rory, and even more so, Amy in “The Angels Take Manhattan” was another tear-eliciting moment. “The Bells of Saint John” was really enjoyable; I particularly liked the progression of The Doctor’s role as protector of his new companion. The tradition of great on-screen chemistry between Doctor and companion continued throughout. Unfortunately, the next several episodes were real disappointments, particularly “The Rings of Akhaten”. Things picked back up in “The Crimson Horror” and “Nightmare in Silver” and the finale was a real nail biter that made the six month wait between episodes seem more like six years.
Final thoughts: As with the previous two installments, I’ve left this recap pretty ambiguous for the benefit of those who haven’t yet had the pleasure of watching this show (“spoilers!”). During the past six months, I’ve stayed as ignorant as I could of any news regarding what is to come; the fate of The Doctor, his companion, and friends. I think there is still something to be said about being surprised which in this day and age of being constantly connected has become an increasingly difficult prospect. So what awaits The Doctor and company on Trenzalore? I don’t really know, but I do know this: I feel extremely privileged to have watched this show, so well-written and produced, with such fantastic characters so well-played by such good actors, and I know where I’ll be on 11.23.13 for “The Day of The Doctor”, when we just might finally get the answer to the oldest question…
“This song is ending, but the story never ends” –Ood Sigma
Greg “Raggedy Man” Randolph