You know, it never really dawned on me how bizarre some of these episodes are. Granted, Doctor Who has always been crazy. But this season is fucking nuts, dude! Which would be fine! If most of the episodes weren’t awful.
Although to be fair, it also has some of the best. But we’ll get to that.
This season is pretty divisive among fans. Particularly because of the new characters. Some people love it, others think that it’s one of the worst, and some special individuals have a different opinion because that’s how opinions work. Question is: which side do I fall onto?
Let’s find out, shall we?
Story: Shadow of a Rose
Once again, this season follows the typical Doctor Who formula. That formula being: fuck around until the last few episodes while dropping not-so-subtle hints about the last big baddie. I do think it’s executed a bit better here, as those hints actually have some consequences in some of the smaller stories. But it’s still more of the same.
After losing Rose (and a brief adventure with one Donna Noble), the Doctor meets Martha Jones, a doctor-in-training, and gets caught up in an incident with a hospital being whisked to the moon. After this adventure, he takes Martha to travel through time and space to escape her family in order to repay her for saving his life. All the while, a mysterious figure named Harold Saxon seems to be hunting the legendary time traveler down, making a target of Martha’s family to accomplish his goal.
I’m gonna get this one out of the way: I’m not a huge fan of Martha. I think that she’s a great character; she’s had to deal with being a black woman her entire life and she’s learned never to deal with people’s shit. However, I hate the fact that her primary character trait is ‘in love with the Doctor’. Not only is it super repetitive, but it’s timed super poorly. We just had the story with Rose; now isn’t the time to give the Doctor another human love interest.
But that’s not the problem. Oh no. The problem is the first half of the season.
The first seven episodes of this season are incredibly stupid. ‘The Shakespeare Code’ is one of the dumbest episodes of the whole show; why is the Doctor going toe-to-toe with witches with Shakespeare? ‘Gridlock’ is fine, saved mostly by the ending, as the rest of the episode fucking blows. ‘Daleks in Manhattan’ and ‘The Evolution of the Daleks’ are some of the worst Dalek episodes in the entire series, featuring one of the worst costumes in the whole show. ‘The Lazarus Experiment’ is a decent story with some decent cinematography, but the premise of human evolution potentially becoming a giant CGI monster (that looks like fucking trash, even for the time) is dumb as hell. ’42’ is… whatever, I guess. It’s fine, but it’s very forgettable.
The second half, on the other hand, is amazing! ‘Human Nature’ and ‘The Family of Blood’ are two of the best episodes in the whole series! ‘Blink’ is easily one of the scariest episodes, introducing the first truly incredible new monster of the series in the Weeping Angels. The trio of ‘Utopia’, ‘The Sound of Drums’, and ‘The Last of the Time Lords’ is a fantastic closer, bringing the Master into the modern era with fantastic effect! Plus, it brings Captain Jack back!
Huh. Captain Jack back. Say that ten times fast.
In terms of writing, this season is incredibly up and down. The first few episodes have a few highlights, particularly in the dialogue exchanges, but the stories themselves are trash. The second half, on the other hand, has some of the best Doctor Who stories ever! I’d say that I like it more than I don’t. But man, going back through this one is super tough! It’s like climbing a mountain; the view is worth it, but it’s a struggle to get there.
Presentation: Proper Color Balance At Last!!
Oh cool. The BBC finally gave this show a budget!
This season is the first truly good looking season of the show. The color balance is finally evened out and the lighting is finally consistently good. Plus, this season has some of the most interesting cinematography yet! Some of the most iconic shots of Doctor Who can be found in this season! It looks great!
Except for the CGI. Yes, I know it isn’t exactly fair to bully a show from 2007 for having bad special effects. But if I didn’t, I’d be a liar. And in my defense: I’m pretty sure the CGI is actually worse in this season than the prior ones.
That, or I’m biased towards the first two seasons. Which is a very real possibility.
Performances: Stealing the Show From the Star
Last week, I talked briefly about how David Tennant was incredible as the tenth Doctor. My praises still carry over into this season; he’s as wonderful as ever. His chemistry with Freema Agyeman is wonderful, even if it’s still not as great as with Billie Piper. As the lead character, he is still as great as he was before.
But he’s not the stand out this season. Oh no! That honor goes to one John Simm. The actor behind the Master.
This dude is fucking perfect! He has so much energy and charisma that he completely surpasses even David Tennant! He wonderfully captures the Master’s total insanity and world-shattering genius, switching between them at the drop of a hat! This guy is absolutely perfect and it’s a god damn crime that he’s only in three episodes!
Plus another four, if you include the End of Time special and season twelve. But that’s still not enough!
Freema Agyeman as Martha Jones is also really good. She manages to stand next to David Tennant and the others pretty well. Plus, she’s got some of the best moments of pure sass in the entire show! I’m not a huge fan of her character, but I cannot deny that the actress did a damn good job!
Huh. An actor making shitty material work. When did I start talking about Star Wars?
In many ways, this season feels like a downgrade from the last. But in just as many, it feels like an upgrade! It’s a big ol’ paradox. It’s simultaneously great and terrible.
But we did get John Simm as the Master. So I’ll give it the win.
My viewing recommendation for this season is weird. I’d say watch the first two episodes, as those are the most important. Then I’d say you should watch ‘The Lazarus Experiment’, as it has some pretty important plot elements. Then you can go straight to ‘The Family of Blood’ and watch everything after that. That way, you can skip most of the bullshit. Literally the only thing you’d miss by doing that is the Dalek Kahn setup for the season four finale.
But I’m not talking about that. At least not yet.