David is coming to New Who for the first time, having loved Classic Who as a kid. Tehani is a recent convert, and ploughed through Seasons 1 to 7 (so far) in just a few weeks after becoming addicted thanks to Matt Smith – she’s rewatching to keep up with David! Tansy is the expert in the team, with a history in Doctor Who fandom that goes WAY back, and a passion for Doctor Who that inspires us all.
We are working our way through New Who, using season openers and closers, and Hugo shortlisted episodes, and sometimes a couple of extra episodes we love as our blogging points. Just for fun!
We are incredibly honoured to have tied for the William Atheling Jr Award, alongside Galactic Suburbia. Thank you to everyone who voted for us, and to all our readers for your support and for spreading the word. We also want to thank Lynne Thomas, Jo Anderton and Kathleen Jennings for their guest contributions. Congratulations to not only Galactic Suburbia on their well deserved win, but all the amazing nominees – you are producing some wonderful writing! We are looking forward to writing many more reviews about the show we love, and hopefully catching up with the new season soon.
Season six, episodes one and two
The Doctor – Matt Smith
Amy Pond – Karen Gillan
Rory Williams – Arthur Darvill
River Song – Alex Kingston
Well, what a great setup for for an episode, and what a great start to the season! Obviously we know that the Doctor can’t really die (especially from my viewpoint of knowing there is a Season 7), but we are immediately presented with a whole heap of questions and a massive time gap to fill. I may be a little obsessed here after watching all five seasons in a few weeks, but it reminded more than a little of Breaking Bad where you would see the aftermath of some catastrophe in the intros and then be left wondering how exactly you were going to get there. It’s certainly left me very excited about this season.
So that early scene, when the Doctor started regenerating, was AWFUL. I’m glad I already knew Matt Smith was the Doctor for the whole season to come, else I would have been devastated! But yes, it’s very good :)
This is a really excellent season opener – the first time we’ve had a two parter to start a season, which seems odd because it works so well. It also marks the first time they really made inroads into promoting the show substantially in the US – I really like that they chose to do a historical story using all that beautiful desert cinematography, and the 1960’s stuff around it.
This story has major knock on effects in the whole season but I really like it as a self contained piece of Doctor Who.
Earth must get very cluttered with all the aliens behind the scenes pulling the strings, the basic premise is hardly new even to Doctor Who, let alone science fiction.
Heh. The Doctor says it: Safe? No, of course you’re not safe. There’s about a billion other things out there just waiting to burn your whole world. But if you want to pretend you’re safe just so you can sleep at night, okay. You’re safe. But you’re not really.
But, there aren’t many completely new ideas, it’s all about how you execute them, and I thought that this was executed wonderfully. It had a great storyline, an excellent supporting cast and a very disturbing set of monsters. I was fascinated to discover the father-son sharing of one of the roles, and I thought Richard Nixon was portrayed really well. I can imagine there was a temptation to have him as a complete villain, but instead we saw a great performance. I did enjoy the little digs, though, like the reference to Frost, and the perfectly reasonable explanation for his obsession with recording all the conversations that took place in the Oval Office! But, the real stars for me were Gillan and Darvill, however I will expand on that further a bit later on.
I think the Silence are officially the scariest New Who villains now – Raeli has got over her fear of Sontarans but she can’t even cope with looking at these guys. The premise behind them is so chilling, the idea of taking away memories.
I do love all the Nixon stuff (if Abigail and Kazran are companions, so is he!) and that he came across as likeable but problematic. River and the Doctor debating his legacy (“Hippy!” “Archaeologist!”) was quite charming. Stuart Milligan, who played him, is perhaps best known as the kooky magician Adam Klaus in Jonathan Creek, and he also plays an amazing Big Finish comedy villain. It’s funny the way that the Doctor reacts to having a President in his pocket by employing him a bit like a sonic screwdriver, to open doors and unlock new areas.
And I like that Nixon isn’t portrayed as a monster, either, even though we know (historically) his flaws. It’s very, hrm, human?
The Silence could have been been a bit ridiculous if they hadn’t been handled right, but I found them very creepy. You’d think that after the Angels, a creature that you had to keep your eyes on would be a bit old hat, but the twist was more than enough to differentiate them completely. For some reason the idea that you forgot them every time you looked away made me really uncomfortable, it made the characters seem so vulnerable and manipulated. No matter how vigilant they were, seeing the Silence was not enough. The scenes in the children’s home were particularly creepy, especially when Amy is all of a sudden covered in pen marks (which was a brilliant idea). At least with the Angels you knew they were coming for you, the Silence didn’t even give you that.
That awful, “As long as there’s been something in the corner of your eye, or creaking in your house or breathing under your bed or voices through a wall…” line *shudder* – I think that’s what makes them so darn scary. Also, this:
When I remember this story though it’s less for the effective horror stuff and more for the crunchy character material. I adore Canton as an addition to the TARDIS team, and all of the River Song stuff is great. She’s definitely on the team now, with friendship ties to both Rory and Amy as well as the Doctor.
And oh, TIME GAP. The Doctor who summons them all to witness his death is about two hundred years older than our usual model, and how interesting that Amy and Rory have been home since the Christmas Special, balancing domesticity with adventure. There are so many delicious implications to this story, not least that the Eleventh Doctor’s timeline is complicated, more complicated than we could ever understand, and that he’s going to be around for a good long time.
Excellent point. Certainly leaves lots of room for lots of adventures.
I was interested to discover that this isn’t the first major time gap in the Doctor’s chronology. The First Doctor claims to be 450 years old at one point, but that jumps up around 300 years by the time Four is travelling with Romana. Then, when we get to Six he is around the 900s! While we need to take the Doctor’s claims regarding his age with a pinch of salt, that does leave lots of room for “missing” adventures. It does make sense that a time traveller’s chronology is going to be complicated, of course!
Moffat has actually done a great job at leaving deliberate gaps in the chronology, for the associated media to play in whether it’s now or in 25 years time. He has said that he does it on purpose. Unlike RTD, who gave us that distressingly closed-in Series 1, so the only non-Rose adventures we can insert happen somewhere in the middle of “Rose”.
The first time I watched this season I got all sorts of terribly confused. I’m still not sure I completely understand the timeline. Where’s that River Song chronology again?
It bears multiple rewatching! And I believe there’s a bit of retooling we need to do after the fact with later revelations in the show…
David, let’s talk about Amy and Rory! What was it you loved so much about Gillan and Darvill’s performances?
There are a number of scenes where they shine (like Amy in the children’s home *shivers*) but, for me, the real emotional core of this story is Rory trying hard not to be jealous as he fights against his insecurities, and Amy’s feelings for him and the Doctor. Who wouldn’t struggle with feelings of inadequacy if they felt they were competing with the Doctor? I think it is a really pivotal moment when Amy clarifies things properly, and certainly left me feeling much better about things (“Poor Rory!” punctuates most of my notes that I make while watching these episodes!).
It would be quite obvious to anyone reading this review series that I had some real issues with the Nine-Rose-Mickey dynamic, but I find the Eleven-Amy-Rory one a lot easier to deal with. Nine was quite obviously competing with Mickey for Rose, and often rather nasty about it, and I often found it hard to watch. It was such an unbalanced competition and I constantly felt sorry for Mickey, and disdain for the Doctor’s bullying of him – because that’s what it was. There is a lot more friendship and genuine affection between the current (well, current as of this episode – I am SO far behind!) trio, and the Doctor has shown much more integrity in how he deals with Rory and Amy, and is far more mindful of boundaries. Plus, I do love the banter!
Plus Matt Smith’s Doctor is a less “sexual” being than Tennant’s anyway, I think. He’s far more the goof (mingled nicely with the dark weight of everything he has seen) than Tennant ever was – this shows in his interactions with River Song, even as he grows into their relationship, I think.
I enjoy the odd, awkward balances and imbalances that come out between this trio and I agree that the Doctor’s role in it makes him a lot more likeable than when Nine was doing something similar – most of the Doctor messing up their relationship is a blunder rather than a deliberate jibe. I think it also shows that there are different kinds of friendship and jealousy and conflict doesn’t have to be romantic. Rory is brilliant in this story, it feels like he is coming into his own. I think my favourite bit is where he gets to explain everything to Canton, and that means Rory himself isn’t the new boy any more.
This team, running around solving mysteries in an invaded Earth in the 1960s. I could watch this team forever. I could have watched a whole season that was just this. Except, of course, that’s not how Doctor Who works…
We’ve already reviewed:
The Specials: “The Next Doctor / Planet of the Dead / The Waters of Mars“
The Specials: “The End of Time”