Doctor Who, Review, Television

Doctor Who Season Five: The Peak

Hope you’ve got some time on your hands. Cause this one is gonna be long.

Season five marked a dramatic turning point for Doctor Who. Pretty much everything in this season was new! New Doctor, new companion, new Tardis, new Sonic Screwdriver, new show-runner, new (better) music, even a new opening credit sequence! Everything was brand new! After so many years of being drip-fed specials, this was a total breath of fresh air! It felt like Doctor Who came back to life!

Oh, how I wish it would do it again sometime soon. But my hopes aren’t very high. But I’m not here to talk about that!

Story: A Crack in a Wall

I’m gonna come out and say it: this season has the best story. Each individual episode is incredible and the overarching story tying them all together is fantastic! It still has the show’s signature corny, bizarre style of storytelling. But it still manages to tell a genuinely compelling, emotional sci-fi story! It preserves it’s identity while escalating it to new quality! A quality so high that the series never reached it again!

But ‘Heaven’s Sent’ sure did come close.

After a dramatic regeneration, The Doctor crash lands in a small village, where he meets Amelia Pond. She seems like a fearless girl, unflinching as he explores his new body and mind. However, there is one thing that frightens her: a crack in her wall. After a little investigating, our hero discovers that it’s a rift in time, leading to another point in space and time. But before he can investigate further, he’s forced to take his leave to save his ship. When he returns, he finds that he’s hopped twelve years into the future! Now, The Doctor must unravel a mystery long left untouched and save Amelia from the mysterious Prisoner Zero. But when all is said and done, he’s left with one question: what was the crack? And more importantly: what is the Pandorica?

This season does something that the others haven’t: it takes the overarching threat of the season finale and sprinkles it in to the other stories! All we got in the prior seasons have been subtle hints. Here? The cracks in time play a major role in certain episodes! It’s a major plot element in ‘The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone’, ‘The Vampires of Venice’, and ‘The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood’! It makes the story feel much more connected than it was in prior seasons. Plus, it leaves the audience on the edge of their seats with each episode, as they wonder if/when it’ll crop up again.

Even without that element, the individual stories are each amazing! ‘The Eleventh Hour’ is the best first episode of any Doctor Who season and I will fight you on that! ‘The Beast Below’ is a fantastic follow-up, showing us a darker side of this new Doctor while telling a genuinely intriguing, creepy, and satisfying sci-fi mystery! ‘Victory of the Daleks’ is the best Matt Smith Dalek episode, featuring one of the Eleventh Doctor’s greatest moments of fury (even if the new Dalek designs are super dumb and quickly abandoned). ‘The Time of Angels/Flesh of Stone’ is a perfect Weeping Angels story, bringing them back to brilliant, blood-chillingly terrifying effect (I have a legitimate phobia of things that move when I don’t look at them because of them; I can never play red-light-green-light ever again)! ‘The Vampires of Venice’ is one of the most fun episodes this season, featuring some of the best dialogue and dramatic moments yet! ‘Amy’s Choice’ brings Inception into Doctor Who to excellent effect, even if the main threats of the episode are a bit dumb (it takes place in a dream, so I guess it’s okay).

I’m only halfway through! There are still another six episodes to go! And you’re damn right I’ll at least touch on ’em all!

‘The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood’ is an excellent pair of episodes that revives yet another classic villain to wonderful effect, then caps off with one of the biggest heartbreaks and plot-twists this season! ‘Vincent and The Doctor’ is one of the hardest hitting episodes in the history of sci-fi; so much so that my art teacher made us watch it in class (people made fun of me for weeks because I cried, even after having seen that clip over a dozen times). ‘The Lodger’ is one of the most entertaining episodes this season, forcing the distinctly bizarre, alien Doctor into a distinctly mundane, human role to hysterical effect!

And then there’s the finale. ‘The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang’. I mean no hyperbole when I say that this is the most satisfying conclusion to a TV show season I’ve ever seen! It wraps up every single plot threat in a dramatic, fun, and satisfying way! It delivers some of the best emotional moments in a season full to the brim with them! Plus, that ending is so damn cute! And it’s ambiguous enough to lead straight into the next season!

Which would ultimately drop the ball. But again: I’m not talking about that. Not yet, at least.

In terms of writing overall, this season is spectacular! Particularly with the characters! This is easily my favorite incarnation of The Doctor, with his childish nature hiding the deeply saddened and even frightening old man beneath! Amy is one of the best companions, perfectly balancing genuine human vulnerability with a seemingly unstoppable ferocity! Rory is a perfect foil to her, being a caring, gentle, and somewhat bumbling supporting lead!

Who also gets one of the most satisfying character arcs in the history of fiction and I will fucking fight you to the death over that one!

And then there’s the dialogue. Yes, it’s a bit cheesy at times; it is still Doctor Who, after all. But it still manages to be natural (thanks to the amazing actors) and often hysterical! People still quote some of these lines to this day! Do you know how many people I know that still insist on bow ties being cool!

No, I’m not one of them! Totally not! Absolutely not, I swear! I totally don’t have six of those damn things stowed away in my closet! Get off my back!

I could go on and on. I love all of these episodes so much that I’m legitimately tempted to go in and review each one on their own! They are spectacular, each and every one! They’ve got their quirks, of course. But I still love to revisit them, time and time again!

Seriously, I’ve watched this one season roughly twenty times. I may have a problem.

Presentation: The Aged CGI Effect

Visually speaking, this season has certainly shown it’s age. The shots all look nice, with decent color balance and lighting. Plus, the set designs are all convincing and nice to look at. All in all, it’s not bad.

But when there’s CGI in the shot, it all falls apart. Granted, it isn’t as terrible as some of the earlier seasons. They have much higher detail and they look a tad more convincing. Still, they still show their age. Like sore thumbs, these things stand out.

None of that matters, though! None of it! Cause holy shit, the soundtrack this season is incredible!! Even by this show’s already high standards!!!

The obvious one is the new main theme, ‘I am the Doctor’. This track perfectly captures the spirit of the show. It’s dramatic, whimsical, and it gets the adrenaline pumping! It’s the perfect accompaniment piece for the show’s grandious moments! It’s so catchy that I still find myself humming it to myself every now and then without even realizing it!

Granted, I’m an obsessive nerd, so it’s not unlikely to happen…

Performances: Matt Smith Steals the Show

I say that, but that’s a lie. Hard for one actor to steal the show when everyone else is at it! Watching this season is like watching a bunch of jewelry thieves trying to steal a diamond on the same night (I’d totally watch that movie)! They’re practically wrestling for the ‘Best Actor’ award!

Matt Smith is the obvious stand-out. It couldn’t have been easy to follow-up the fan-favorite David Tennant, but he more than lived up to audience expectations! He’s highly energetic, perfectly captures the character’s darker side, and plays off of the other members of the cast beautifully! He’s so damn charming and fun that it’s infectious! Out of all the actors to play the character, he is easily my favorite!

Karen Gillan as Amy Pond is the perfect fit for his companion! She plays off of Matt better than anyone else while still working well enough on her own to stand out! She’s energetic and ferocious enough to capture Amy’s spirit while still portraying her character with enough human vulnerability to be a real person. This is easily one of the actresses best characters!

Arthur Darvill is no slouch, either. He acts as a sort of balance between the highly eccentric Doctor and the ferocious Amy, being regular enough to be relatable and clutsy enough to be entertaining. He captures it all perfectly in his performance, making him a perfect addition to the cast. He brings the character to life to fantastic results.

These three make the show a total joy to watch. Not to say the others don’t do a good job. Every character this season, no matter how minor, is brought to life by spectacular performances! From Jeff and his grandma to Father Octavian and everyone in-between, everyone in this season does a spectacular job! But more impressive than anything…

James Corden has a role. One that doesn’t make me want to kill myself!

Conclusion

Alright, that’s… god knows how long it’s been of me gushing, so I’m gonna leave it off there.

I don’t know if you noticed, but I kind of love this season in every way. Sure, it hasn’t aged all that gracefully in the visual department. But the fantastic writing, excellent dialogue, wonderful performances, and spectacular music save it completely! It’s a wonderful piece of sci-fi and the peak of Doctor Who! You can enjoy it on it’s own or as a long-time fan! New or old, you can, and should, watch this season and have a great time! It is the peak of the mountain!

Which makes the upcoming fall all the more depressing…

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