So that was Series Five. Or Series 31. Or Series One. Or Series Chin, whatever you want to call it.
The stakes were high, with news that filming was overrunning horribly, Matt Smith was crap and kept forgetting his lines, Karen Gillan was ‘wooden’ and Phil Collinson had been called back in to sort the whole mess out.
We won’t reveal our sources, although it seems entirely likely that pretty much everyone in fandom knows where they came from, but let’s just say there was an element of fear going into Series Fnarg.
And how wrong we all were eh? Chief among this wrongness were the rumours that Smith was crap. In fact, it’s hard to imagine this being any further off the mark.
Matt Smith is wonderful, and his gentler, more alien, Doctor is perfect for Moffatt’s ‘fairytale’ Doctor Who. The whole tone of this series feels a more comfortable place for Doctor Who, and the Doctor, to be than Russell T Davies’ iteration – which was a series of ever-decreasing circles by the time the excellent David Tennant went, though his Doctor was not highly-liked in these parts.
It seemed almost unthinkable that the series, and Smith, could carry on where RTD and Tennant left off, but a fairly hefty shift in tone and pace and lead character has made it all look rather effortless.
For the first time in quite a while, the series felt much more Who than it had in a long time. Smith may just be the best Doctor… ever.
But while all the big things got sorted out, the parts that made up the whole didn’t always feel right. Murray Gold’s presence dragged the series back to a RTD vibe, and his syrupy/BOMBASTIC! style took away a lot of the nuances of the new series.
More bizarre still were some of the author/story choices. Toby Whithouse and Chris Chibnall delivered exactly what their previous stories suggested they’d deliver – utterly underwhelming stories that felt like a throwback to a couple of years ago.
Against rather lovely oddities like Amy’s Choice, Vincent and the Doctor and The Lodger, they felt jarring in their straight-forward simplicity.
Mark Gatiss’ Victory of the Daleks was, by all accounts, rather hacked to death in the editing suites and the end result was, frankly, a mess.
And stepping up to show-runner certainly sapped Moffatt’s brilliance, with the slapdash The Beast Below and breakneck incoherence of The Big Bang.
There were no new, interesting monsters. In fact, the closest thing we got were the rubbish new Daleks. We had to put up with CGI thing hiding inside humans on at least three occasions, and the limits of the budget were evident in The Pandorica Opens when it turned out the Fucking Sycorax and the Fucking Weevils were in on the intergalactic plan to put the Doc away for good.
Still, Moffat handled the Autons and the Cybermen ten times better than RTD ever did – another subtle difference to the approach the two brought to the series.
And yet, funnily enough, it didn’t really matter to me. The series felt fresh and fun. The Doctor seemed like, well, The Doctor. And Amy was breath of fresh air; a believable, volatile girl who didn’t love her favourite Time Lord.
She may have had a slightly less healthy obsession with him, but inter-personal angst was banished from the TARDIS forever – ‘I’m not that clingy!’ seemed like a great riposte to the years of Marf and Wose.
Arthur Darvill’s Rory eventually eclipsed the ’emasculated male’ cipher that’s been the default setting for most recurring male characters in the new series to become a rounded companion in his own right.
And, always at the centre of it, was Matt Smith. It’s interesting to note that most new Doctors come into the role praising Patrick Troughton, and Smith took it a step further.
Watch him running – it’s a straight lift from the Second Doctor. And he’s always doing something with his hands – First Doctor? There’s a bit of Four, Five and Eight in there too by our reckoning.
Not that The Eleventh Doctor is a pastiche; Smith has brought something new to the role again, and emphatically made it his own. He’s a perfect choice.
So, series thingummy. A hearty slap on the back from us, and the best TARDIS crew in ages. No doubt tweaks will be made for next season.
Probic Vent demands Zygons and Yeti and the Dream Lord and a past Doctor and The Brigadier. And a remake of The Horror of Fang Rock. Simple enough eh? Oh yeah, and STOP RUINING OLD MONSTERS!
• Here’s an end-of-season C&T for the series.
The Eleventh Hour – Fresh, fun and firmly established Smith as something new and interesting
Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone – A home run from Moffat, with plenty of twists and turns and great monstering
Amy’s Choice – Offbeat and enjoyable – an episode that seems unthinkable under RTD.
Vincent and the Doctor – Intriguing, if cloying
The Lodger – Would have been horrible with Tennant. Good with Smith.
The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang – Absolute gibberish, but wins points for not having thousands of cloned Sontarans invading the Taj Mahal and Eiffel Tower. Magic Light and Power of Love notwithstanding.
The Beast Below – Too many elements that didn’t seem to add up.
Victory of the Daleks – A horrible mess, and shit new Daleks. Almost saved by performances, but not quite.
Vampires of Venice – Dull filler
Hungry Earth/Cold Blood – Dull Chibnall filler that fluffed one of the most interesting premises in Who mythology.
• Caves and Twins? What are you dribbling on about?
Go here: Caves and Twins