Saturday, September 12, 2015

Doctor Who Series Recap: Season Five

Okay folks we are onto Season Five of NuWho and this means a brand new Doctor.  Matt Smith is a love him or hate him kind of Doctor.  For some people, Matt Smith pales in the shadow of Tennant because for some, he seemed like he was try to emulate the 10th Doctor.  For others, he is a favorite for his slap stick humour, nerdy professor shtick, absolutely frantic movements and inability to walk past a fez.  If David Tenant is lightening quick Doctor because he was always running, then Matt Smith is the tornado Doctor because he always seemed a little bit lost while he moved in frantic circles. Just watching him sometimes was exhausting. Also in geek alert news, Matt Smith is the youngest actor to ever play the Doctor and for many, that was absolutely a negative.

Like any regeneration, though we are still dealing with the same character, it takes awhile to get used to the new Doctor.  Yes, the Doctor's past is still the same but elements of the Doctor's personalty will definitely change with each regeneration. In the Eleventh Hour, not only does the audience and Amy Pond get to meet the Doctor, the Doctor begins to try to figure out who he is and what he likes.  My stomach curdled every time I saw Matt Smith dip his fish stick into the pudding and I absolutely howled watching him ask for multiple items of food, only to be disgusted by it.  Poor Amy. I would have thrown him out of my kitchen. In The Lodger, the Doctor discovers that he's actually pretty good at football.

When The Doctor first meets Amy, she is a little girl praying for someone to fix the crack in her wall.  The Doctor does a brief examination and promises to be right back.  Unfortunately, having just gone through a regeneration, the Doctor's timing is really off and he ends up showing up years later to find an adult Amy.  With the help of Amy and her boyfriend Rory (yes the doe eyed wet lettuce duo) the Doctor takes on an ancient police force seeking to find an escaped prisoner hiding on earth.  Once the prisoner is captured, the Doctor has a word with Atraxi in which he shames them, and informs them that the earth is protected by him.  If this story line is familiar, it's because it's the same one the 10th Doctor had when he first awakened after regeneration.   The Doctor tells the Atraxi to look him up and when they do, they flee in fear.

I think it's fair to say that the 11th Doctor is certainly the most eccentric Doctor of the NuWho series. That being said, he is a throw back Doctor in many ways.  The bow ties that he wears for instance are an homage to Patrick Troughton's Second Doctor. Then there is the fez which Sylvester McCoy's seventh Doctor wore briefly.  The eleventh Doctor however took it to a new level declaring, "I wear a fez now, fezzes are cool." Thank goodness for River Song and Amy putting a quick end to that.  Matt Smith may have been the youngest Doctor, but he really reflected the old man inside.  He tried to be cool with his fezzes and questions like, "who de man?" but it only served to remind us all how old the Doctor really is, despite his absolute frantic energy.

Much of this season is concerned with the Doctor being the boogie man under the bed that so many are afraid.  If you think about it, one wouldn't be rational, if one didn't experience fear in the presence of the Doctor, given what he is capable of and how he deals with dissent. The Daleks call him the, "oncoming storm" for a reason.  The mask he wears as a slightly dated helpful professor hides a being capable of great destruction.

In The Pandorica Opens and The Big Bang, all of the destruction the Doctor has caused comes home to roost. Yes, for the most part the Doctor has always done the right thing for the right reason but despite his abhorrence to guns, the fact of the matter is that the Doctor's hands are dripping with blood.  All of the Doctor's enemies come together in a truce to actually contain the Doctor because they fear he is going to break time.  Imagine what it took for creatures like the Daleks and the Cybermen to agree that the enemy of my enemy is my friend.  It was certainly more than vengeance for perceived wrongs.

Along with a new Doctor, season five also introduced two new companions:  Rory Williams and Amelia Pond.  That's a lot to get used to at once and the Ponds didn't help because water dripping from a tap is more exciting than either of the two of them. The second time the Doctor leaves Amy, he once again promises to be back in a few minutes but shows up two years later, the night before her wedding to Rory.  Most brides would be to excited to think about anything else but their big day but Amy jumps at the chance to go with the Doctor.  This is the beginning of the angst of whether or not Amy truly loves Rory or would rather be with the Doctor. The Doctor however has firmly friend zoned Amy and shows up at Rory's bachelor party after Amy kisses him.  Yep, the Doctor plays match maker, even as Amy isn't sure which man she wants. Amy's Choice is an entire episode about whom Amy loves more. It is only when Rory dies that she suddenly decides to pick Rory and so Amy risks her life for the opportunity to see him again.

Amy's Choice isn't the last of the epic gestures these two will make that is supposed to make me the audience  go awww but unfortunately, it had me gagging. How many times does Rory have to die for Amy to be sure that she loves him as much as he loves her?  I strongly feel that relationship drama like this doesn't belong on Doctor Who; Eastenders maybe but not Doctor Who. At the very least, the 9th Doctor would not have approved of Amy getting all domestic. Rory is like a little poodle following along behind Amy every step of the way.  It only took one episode for me to get sick of the fake love triangle angst. I was particularly disgusted that the writers even threw the romance angle into  The Pandorica Opens and The Big Bang.  Rory loves Amy so much that he stood guard over her for 2,000 year.  Everyone say ahhh because that's what the writers want, unfortunately however, the whole thing felt forced.

When we finally get a break from the Amy/ Rory relationship angst, the writers simply introduce Craig and Sophie - two people too scared to admit how they feel about each other.  While battling aliens, the Doctor naturally has the time to sort out their romantic issues.  WTH?  I know that The Lodger was essentially a filler episode but I really could have done without Doctor Romance.

The Beast Below is the first trip that Amy takes with the Doctor.  We learn that she is smart and doesn't really listen to orders well.  The reason this episode stands out to me is because the Doctor has long been framed as the only hero that humanity has.  He often runs in to stop humans from stumbling (Victory of the Daleks) and then steps back to judge.  In this episode, another creature saw the suffering of human children and decided to help, even though it resulted in torture.  We all know that it was never going to have an effect on the Doctor's arrogance but it was a nice step away from the Doctor always being the one to save the day.

Inclusion really was virtually non existent and no, I don't count one off characters like Queen Elizabeth X. Yes, it was great to see a WOC as the leading member of British Royalty but that doesn't make up for the lack of re-occurring characters of colour.

Where Season Five went right is with Vincent and the Doctor.  I will admit that I am huge fan of Vincent Van Gogh and this story absolutely touched me.  I fully expected the Doctor to find a way to cure Van Gogh's mental illness because that is the standard treatment of disability in this genre.  Instead, the writers found a way to show us the beauty of Van Gogh's work and the terrible pain of his life  When Van Gogh is taken forward in time to see the impact of his work, I almost cried the first time I saw this scene because in reality, Van Gogh died never knowing that he would become one of the most loved artists of all time.  A special mention must go out to Tony Curran who played Van Gogh with such beauty and such passion. Vincent and the Doctor is easily my favorite episode of the Matt Smith era.

We certainly cannot talk about the 11th Doctor without mentioning River Song.  River was introduced in Silence in the Library during David Tennant's tenure.  The Doctor does not initially trust River even though she makes it clear that they have a history.  It seems that the Doctor and River are moving through differently through time and so consequently, the 10th Doctor has yet to meet her.  River is everything that Amy is not.  She is fun, flirtatious, confident and incredibly strong. Every time I heard her say, "hello sweetie" (the ringtone to my cell phone btw) I couldn't help but smile.  It's clear that the Doctor means a lot to River even if the feelings aren't quite returned because the Doctor has yet to live what River considers the past.  Even though River whispered into the 10th Doctor's ear his name (a closely guarded secret) the Doctor still struggles to trust her.  River's fun freewheeling ways almost made up for the Ponds.

In Season Five, we learned that though the Doctor has no problem threatening aliens to keep them away from earth (The Eleventh Hour), in some ways he's almost purposefully obtuse about how his ability to cause destruction makes others feel. Sure, he has no love for the Daleks but as Rosanna Calvierri points out in Vampires in Venice, The Doctor is responsible for the extinction of two species.  So much for good intentions eh?  Season Five suggests that Doctor is more than just clever, he is a being to be feared.  Unlike the 10th and the 9th Doctors, who spend a lot of time dealing with PTSD, rage and loneliness, the 11th is far too caught up in expressing his unacknowledged power to think deeply.  Sure he's busy and always on the run but if he can time find to try on a fez, he can find time for more introspection.