Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Day Three Hundred and Fifty-eight - Dr.Who: Series 5, Episodes 1-7, "And it's Matt Smith and Karen Gillan for the win... sortof! Win-ish? Win-ny? Win-like? Win-adjacent?"

With David Tennant bowing out of his role as the Tenth Doctor and Matt Smith tagging in, it's a whole new Doctor, TARDIS, and companion as the fifth series of modern Doctor Who visits old enemies and new, all with a brand new face.

The first episode of the series picks up where the poignant finale of the last left off, with Matt Smith's Eleventh Doctor crashing the TARDIS post regeneration. He winds up landing in a small English village where a young Scottish girl (the difference is important) is praying for help dealing with a strange crack in her wall. This crack is the series arc dilemma for this season, but we'll get to that. The main thing is new Doctor, new companion, new everything!

Getting his face on The Doctor briefly (from his perspective) leaves young Amy Pond to rough in his new TARDIS and meets her again in the same spot twelve years later where she has become a fetching lass with a humdrum life... and is still in danger from what escaped the crack in her wall, a multiform alien who is being chased by jailers who have no problem razing the Earth to get it.

This is a very fun episode mostly due to the cooking scene at the beginning where child-Amy fixes the brand new Doctor almost everything she has in her cupboard one after another while he rejects them comically. It drags on a good five minutes or so and is cute and funny. The alien menace itself is rather boring, be it Prisoner Zero or the Atraxi. There is one moment, though, at the end, where The Doctor rolls a natural 20 on his intimidation roll against the Atraxi that almost gives me chills and references all of the Doctors through the ages on up to him.

The world saved once more, The Doctor and Amy travel to a far-flung future where the United Kingdom is a ship soaring through space, but something sinister lurks in the shadows (and has an appropriately creepy series of faces). Along the way, they meet Queen Elizabeth the Tenth, who is very fetching, and managed to save both the last Space Whale and the entire United Kingdom.

The memory gimmick in this episode is by far the most interesting aspect, though I do love the Winders' plastic heads. There's something very Bioshock about this episode that really appeals to my aesthetic sensibilities. Plus, Karen Gillan in PJs... even chaste-cover-everything-PJs... rawr!

From there they go back in time to World War 2 where Winston Churchill (played by Ian McNeice, whom I last saw in Doc Martin) is fighting off the Nazi Blitz with the help of one of The Doctor's oldest enemies... of course, The Daleks. I suppose it could've been The Cybermen, but seriously? Did we need more Daleks? Isn't it so convenient that ANOTHER set of Daleks survived the apocalypse that supposedly destroyed them all the previous season?


Honestly, the only thing to like about this episode is McNeice's Churchhill, which is surprising less grumpier than I ever imagined him, and Amy's bouncy attitude, despite being in the middle of the Second World War.

Moving on, we get to something I really liked... a two-parter that features both my favorite villain, The Weeping Angels, and my favorite companion, River Song. Set in the future, The Doctor comes to River's rescue and joins a team of religious soldiers who are tasked with neutralizing a single Angel but find themselves facing an army of them.

River (Alex Kingston) is a delight, as always, but I do find myself disappointed a bit with the Angels. While the device of "Angel Bob" is pretty catchy, one of the things I really liked about the Angels is that they never moved in our sight because the act of observing them turned them to stone. This was a device that applied to the Fourth Wall as well! They never moved in the VIEWER'S sight... which was a brilliant nod to quantum mechanics. Sadly, this device is betrayed late in the second half of the two-parter when the Angels start moving to chase Amy. So disappointing.

Still... River Song. Love her sooooooo much.

Two more episodes for the day and the first is a trip to historical Venice after picking up Rory, Amy's fiance. Seems that Amy's a little confused thanks to all the adventuring and has a bit of a jones for The Doctor, now, that he is eager to nip in the bud with a romantic trip for the young couple to Venice... which is being dominated by not-vampires.

For the most part, this episode is a throwaway. The villains are boring (and occasionally CGI) and the problems/solutions are your typical Whovian nonsense. I do, however, like the competition between Rory and The Doctor. The pseudo-love triangle at play here is the only real fun to be had.

Lastly for the night, The Doctor, Amy, and Rory are trapped in dreamworlds being tormented by a Dream Lord who has it in for them for some reason. In one world, Rory and Amy are married with a bun in the oven and in the other they're falling into a "cold star." The trick is only one world is real and they have to choose which one to abandon via death. Choose right, they die in one world and wake in the real one. Choose wrong? Well, I think you get the idea.

It's a silly premise that is supposed to add emotional weight to the characters, but I don't think we've had enough time with them for the sort of deep, personal epiphanies that Amy and Rory are having here. That said, the Dream Lord is being played by Toby Jones, an actor whom I quite like (check out Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and his other works when you get a chance).

All in all, an uneven start, I think, for Matt Smith's Doctor... but he's still better than Eccleston and has almost as much charisma and pluck as David Tennant. Speaking of, The Tenth seemed to have more fire and wrath to him that The Eleventh just doesn't seem to engender just yet. I do like the sexier TARDIS and opening theme song, though, so there's that.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~


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