Review – Doctor Who, Series 5

It’s hard to believe that we’re already an entire series into Matt Smith’s reign as the Doctor. After last year’s long goodbye to Tennant, it seemed as though the show would never go on after the Tenth Doctor’s regeneration. Lucky for us, it did.

Series 5 of the show was, in my opinion, the strongest season of the show since its revival in 2005. I attribute that to the brand new production team, headed by former staff writer Steven Moffat, who really brought the show into a new light. While the first four series of Doctor Who was known for its famously bad special effects (“The Unicorn and the Wasp,” anyone?), this year didn’t really have any of those old groan-worthy moments of CGI. (Well, save for the Atraxi in “The Eleventh Hour.” I hope to God those never come back, because they looked horrible.)

But why am I rambling on about special effects? This season was made by the brilliant cast, headed up by new Doctor Matt Smith (you can read all about why I love his portrayal here). His companion Amy Pond was portrayed wonderfully by Karen Gillan, who lit up the screen from her first appearance in “The Eleventh Hour,” until that final shot of her in “The Big Bang.” Sure, she didn’t have a lot of character development, but her dynamic with every other character on the show was absolutely fantastic. The fact that she’ll be the first companion to last more than one series since Rose Tyler is very fitting.

Playing the role of Amy’s fiance (later husband) Rory Williams was Arthur Darvill, who might just be one of the best actors on television currently. His performance, though less of a focus than Smith or Gillan’s, had a degree of depth to it that made even the oddest predicaments — being killed twice, being reborn as a plastic soldier, and having an alien teleport into his wedding — seem very human. His portrayal as a sort of everyman is so brilliantly understated that not many notice how solid of a player he is in the season.

Other than the Doctor, the only character from the past four series to return was Alex Kingston’s River Song, an enigma of a woman who appeared in four episodes throughout the year, and left us wishing she’d appeared in more. Though her character died in “Forest of the Dead” back in series four, her interaction with the Doctor is an interesting dynamic — his first meeting with her was his last, and they appear to be meeting in reverse. Each sequential time he sees her is a step back into her past. As such, she still knows more about his future than he does, but refuses to tell him, citing “spoilers.” River Song’s last appearance in the series was one of the funniest moments of “The Big Bang” — and might have just been a marriage proposal from the Doctor.

The episodes were all so solid as well, though it’s interesting to note that few of the episodes took place on an alien planet. “The Time of Angels,” “Flesh and Stone,” and “The Pandorica Opens” all have scenes that take place on alien worlds, though for the most part, the series had two settings: Earth, or spaceships. Not that I’m complaining about that at all — perhaps this smaller demand for special features made the ones we did get much better. I would, however, like to see the Doctor, Amy, and Rory branch out more in the future, perhaps visiting some more exotic locales.

And finally, there are the monsters. The season was a mixed bag really, spanning the entire spectrum of the creature category. The Atraxi from “The Eleventh Hour” were the only really terrible ones, though Prisoner Zero did make up for that. The Daleks and Silurians make up the “not-that-threatening” category, while character-based episodes like “Vincent and the Doctor” and “The Lodger,” really only had creatures to serve as plot points. However, some creatures were truly great. The Star Whale from “The Beast Below,” was a fantastic parallel to the Doctor, while the Weeping Angels from episodes 5.04 and 5.05 were completely solid as they were in “Blink,” and continued to evolve and flesh out as creatures. However, the best villain of the series was the Dream Lord, a manifestation of the dark side of the Doctor. His identity was totally guessable from the moment the Doctor realized that “there’s only one person in the universe who hates me as much as you do.” Toby Jones was absolutely fantastic in the role, and he’s someone I’d like to see back come series 6. And the unknown villain who orchestrated the “Silence Will Fall” plot arc? I’m ready to see who he is too — kudos to Moffat for not revealing everything in the finale.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this series more than any of the past four series, and even those I loved a lot. I’d even go so far as to call this season the second greatest season of television so far in 2010, right after LOST‘s final season. Am I anxious to see more? Of course — but I’m going to have to wait until Christmas to do so. A

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