Saturday, December 28, 2013

Day Three Hundred and Sixty-two - Dr.Who: Series 6, Episodes 1-7, "At last, River Song's origins are explained."

I want to say something immediately and highly critical of Series 6... it has a stupid intro sequence. For some reason that has yet to be explained to me, there's an introduction in front of every episode that is narrated from Amy Pond's perspective explaining her life with The Doctor.

Why... oh, WHY... was this deemed necessary or expedient?

After successfully (via deus ex) rebooting the universe at the end of Series 5, and apparently having dropped Rory and Amy back off to live their lives separate for a while, the newlyweds plus River Song receive invitations from The Doctor to visit America, which they do... only to witness him being murdered by someone in an Apollo-era spacesuit.

With The Doctor dead, they meet up with a younger version of himself and find themselves unable to tell him about it but vow to investigate with him and their only clue, the name of the fifth party invited to the soiree which turns out to be that of an ex-FBI agent. This leads them on a mad quest which includes Richard Nixon, creepy Men-in-Black called The Silence, and a little girl running from said spacemen.

This is a pretty sweet two-parter, even despite the weird MacGuffins and convenient saves. For one thing, it has Mark Sheppard playing the FBI agent, and that's just grand as I miss his Badger in Firefly. Hell, I miss Firefly. For another, there's the great opening device of half a dozen quick moments in The Doctor's history. From Charles II to a POW camp to Laurel and Hardy, it's a great series of gags. Oddly enough, I also like the gimmick of The Silence, who can erase every thought of them from your consciousness when you look away. It's a great enemy with an interesting solution that is seeded rather well throughout both episodes.

Moving on, there's a bit of a throwaway episode where the trio get stranded on a becalmed pirate ship that is being haunted by a mermaid who seemingly destroys any crew member who is the least bit sick or injured.

The pirate storyline, couple with the stowaway son, isn't really interesting at all. I can say that Karen Gillan looks great as an Elizabeth Swann impersonator... but then, both she and Keira look good in pretty much any get up.

Following that, The Doctor gets a message from an old friend called The Corsair which leads the adventurers outside the universe to be stranded on a living asteroid called The House which toys with them long enough to drain the TARDIS' soul and begin consuming its energy but, finding out that it's the last TARDIS, decides to abscond with it instead, heading back to the universe proper with Amy and Rory inside, leaving The Doctor and the newly human TARDIS to catch up and save the day.

The episode is more than a little bit crazy, but that can be attributed to its writer, one of my personal favorite authors, Neil Gaiman. You can definitely see more than a little bit of Delirium in the human iteration of the TARDIS and the episode definitely shows Gaiman's tendency to mix tragedy and sentiment into one big ball of happy/sad. I can't say that I was all that impressed with his villain, The House, but there's enough of everything else to keep me fat and relatively happy.

Episodes 5 & 6 for the night are a two parter about homunculi who are turned human by a solar storm, with the full memories of their human drivers, that are trapped in an island acid-factory with their twins, both sides becoming hostile to one another.

It's a simple tale of human nature and prejudice, both for the one-off humans and Amy and Rory, themselves. I like the device of the two Doctors and their silly game with the shoes even if it's horribly telegraphed and hamfisted in the writing. I wasn't too impressed with the progression of madness back and forth between the two sets of factory workers. Yes, they're under a lot of stress and, yes, suffering an extreme existential crisis, but I'd like to think humanity would act better than just Rory and The Doctors. Oh well.

Last for the night, but not least, is A Good Man Goes To War... which has The Doctor and Rory racing to save Amy from her mysterious captors after the revelation that her consciousness has been inhabiting a flesh clone like the ones from the previous episodes. Somewhere off in the future there is a cabal of humans, aliens, and other... things... that wish to entrap and destroy The Doctor, using Amy Pond's child somehow. In order to save them, The Doctor and Rory enlist the help of many folks that owe him favors, taking out squadrons of Cybermen in the process and all but winning, only to be shown in the last moments that they were outsmarted yet again.

I think this episode shows the culmination of a lot of the strengths that the show has gathered over the past couple of seasons in terms of writing and seeding hints... particularly when it comes to River Song and Amy's captivity. Sure, there's still plenty of things that will need explaining in a later episode, such as The Doctor's death at the hands of the Astronaut, but it's all sufficiently hinted at via out of sequence clues. I also like the side characters introduced here, like Vastra and Jenny. Something about women with katanas makes me happy.

It's weird to think of how much the modern series has evolved over the years from its humble beginnings in the mid-2000's. True, I'd still prefer Farscape to Doctor Who as the former handles its MacGuffins with much more aplomb and tact, but Tennant was a definite improvement over Eccleston and Smith the same over Tennant. Series 5 and 6 have so far been better examples of writing, as well. There's still cheese, to be sure, but it's far more engaging that it has ever been before. We'll see if the last seven episodes prove the same, day after next.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~


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