Saturday, 4 May 2013

New Who's 100th Episode

It's the 100th episode of "new" Doctor Who tonight (Saturday 4th May 2013) - and I can't believe more blogs haven't looked into the past to give an overall judgement of the last 100 tales. (Although tales = stories, and this isn't the 100th story, as two part episodes count as two episodes but one story...) Anyway, tonight's The Crimson Horror is our Stones of Blood.. except that was the 100th story, not episode, so that's a bit confusing, but oh well.

I'm not gonna do the backdrop as to why the series came back because that's everywhere and there's a documentary on it coming out soon. So I'm simply going to sum up and talk through high and low points of the series over the last 99 episodes, with expectations for the 100th. And it's going to be quite a brief overview, and I will forget episodes to mention on occasion. A high point for me is Series One. The whole thing. It's not that high rated compared to some of the things David Tennant who came next, but it is incredible. Rose is the perfect opener, and it is written perfectly. It's not tied by down story arcs, it's not trying to be epic, it's just telling a simple story, full of character and correct pacing. It's the ultimate fan episode - as it's how we've all defeated the Autons in the school playground. Anti-plastic. It takes in London, the TARDIS, and a brand new Doctor, and mixes them all together to create a perfect adventure for a new audience. Rose is my favourite modern episode (along with The Empty Child and The Doctor Dances). When I was younger, I loved Aliens of London/World War Three. I didn't like Father's Day so much, but now I adore it. And that just shows that Series One is there for any age, it balances adult and children entertainment and produces thirteen wonderful episodes. (I'm still not that keen on the finale, it has to be said, but lots of Daleks has never been my thing.)

Series Two is where the tone changes. It's no longer a series trying to impress, well it is but not as much, it's a series that's beginning to feel more comfortable, and it's pushing the boundaries and playing around with some of the Series One formats. The series suddenly becomes a lot more tongue-in-cheek, it suddenly changes the Doctor/companion dynamic. In Series One, the unspoken appreciation between the Doctor and Rose worked brilliantly. Here, their love is waved about and shoved in your face, and though I'm not against it, I'm still not entirely convinced it was right. It's also a shame that the first thing that appears in my head about Series Two is the Doctor/Rose's love. Their friendship and appreciation should carry the series, not their will they/won't they. Saying all this - when I watched it, I loved it. I even loved Love & Monsters. Well I probably loved the first few minutes of Love & Monsters with the Doctor and Rose in. And I always think I was quite disappointed at the Abzorballof winning the Blue Peter competition not the weird vampire creatures that had been shortlisted and wonderfully drawn. But oh well.

Series Two does have a range of highlights. The Girl in the Fireplace is a strange example. When I was younger, I didn't feel much for the love thing, but I remember the story, the time windows, the fireplace, the Clockwork droids, capturing my imagination. I actually drew them. In school. So that's a perfect example of what an episode of Doctor Who can do. The Impossible Planet! It's one of the greatest modern episodes of all time, and The Satan Pit's also quite good. What's great about The Impossible Planet is that it contains the only scene in all of Doctor Who I still. Can't. Watch. The scene where Toby's outside, turns, evily smiles, and pulls Scooti out by smashing the glass is TERRIFYING. The smile on his face is so CHILLING I still CAN'T WATCH IT. So yeah. Series Two worked quite well. Even Fear Her, at the time, though I was never too keen about a drawing coming.. to life...

Series Three... To be honest, I have written record of reviews and me enjoying it at the time. It's now I look back a little less favorably on it. It's probably the only series that doesn't appeal to my at this age, and though the scripts are all good and so on - it's the love thing. The unrequited love storyline was wrong. As a young viewer, I don't think it distracted me too much, so I shouldn't really complain. But looking back on it now, I feel that it was the wrong decision, and it stopped Martha growing into the character she should have been. In the finale, it was an attempt to get Martha to grow up, and although most of the population seems to think she improved - I don't. Martha was acted as well as she could have been, as well as that character was written, but then the unrequited love storyline and an artificial 'improvement' of the character was never going to work, in Doctor Who. EastEnders, maybe.

To take a look at the episodes themselves, they are good, but there are less standouts. Doctor Who starts to become positively flippant with the tone and pushes it in some wonderful, and some less wonderful directions. The increase in comedy and fun for me, doesn't work, as it's always balanced with drama and stuff for all the audience in previous series, and in Series Three it becomes a bit cheaper, a bit less balanced, a bit more/too standout. The wonderful standouts in Series Three are Human Nature/Family of Blood (and they are absolutely fantastic, except the "you had to fall in love with a human and it wasn't me" line Martha has), and Utopia. Utopia is superb and the cliffhanger is incredible. Derek Jacobi as well! He's awesome! The finale's not.. as great.. for me, but then the finales are never ever my favourites as they always feel a bit too epic. Something in me says Doctor Who doesn't always lend itself to space opera epic. I also really enjoy Gridlock, I like the claustrophobia. And again, I think it has that 'I can recreate this at home' feel to it, which for me at the time was really important. It still is, I think. Blink's very good as well.. not quite sure it's as good as people think, but it is very good.

Series Four I adore. It's the correct way to push a series in a different direction, without losing the balance of emotion/stuff for adults/stuff for kids. Catherine Tate is marvellous. And the standout episodes are threaded throughout the series. Things like Midnight I didn't like at the time, but now I love it. Things like The Doctor's Daughter weren't my favourite, but now I.. quite enjoy it, I think. The point is, Series Four is marvellous. And you must say the word marvellous in the voice of Russell T Davies. The only thing again, for me, that doesn't work is the finale! Lots of Daleks, meh yeah, done it before, Davros, ooh cool, he's quite good, Rose, ooh that's good - and then came two David Tennants. And then came the DoctorDonna.... And for me - that didn't work great. Donna's ending is actually heartbreaking (a lot more than Rose's one, though of course it made a young me sad at the time when Rose left), and I get annoyed with Donna forgetting the Doctor. Not because it's a bad plot device - but because it's so unfair on the character! But that makes it good drama, and the word drama is correct, not just 'fun stuff'.

The Specials... Planet of the Dead I love, I think it's a true classic "new" Doctor Who adventure (and bless them for saying the Tritovores could be the next Daleks/Cybermen, it's like the Mechanoids or the Zarbi all over again). The stuff on the bus, the desert, Cardiff tunnel I drive through every holiday, it's all wonderful. The Waters of Mars doesn't work. It would have worked brilliantly if a.) David Tennant's Doctor was a dark Doctor, and this had been threaded successfully throughout the series and b.) If the crew had been a bit more inspiring on Bowie Base One. The Flood is absolutely brilliant, and so is Lindsay Duncan. But the Doctor randomly turning evil felt wrong and horrible, it's the wrong thing to do to, not the character, but that incarnation. McCoy would have a had a field day with that - but not Tennant. Things like a Dalek cameo and Gadget don't work great, and the idea and set up are awesome, it just loses something in the execution. And Adelaide's self -inflicted "execution" at the end also felt a bit.. wrong. Good drama. For EastEnders.

The End of Time was hopefully loved by all, and that's what matters, so we'll just move on. (Though I disagree with bad Time Lords, an over hungry Master, a Master that's too insane, the silly Master race, and the Doctor throwing a strop at having to regenerate. Tom Baker didn't do that... on screen.)

Series Five (and Seven so far) is the only one I don't own on DVD, so this is going to be a mix of initial reactions and any ones I have rewatched. Series Five is good, and Matt Smith is amazing - and there are good, brilliant moments, but the series feels lacking. Amy's Choice and the Angel two parter are great. Vincent and the Doctor, at the time, I really disliked. It was putting the what I considered to be "over emotional 10th Doctor stuff" onto the 11th Doctor, and he deserved better. It was a 10th Doctor episode and for me felt out of place. I don't even think I've watched it since. The finale is good, and the only finale ever I think I actually rewatched a few days after it'd finished. The Silurian two-parter is.. less great. But again, high and low points.

Series Six's arc is what I love about Series Six. The mystery, the whole Astronaut thing, the whole River thing, kept me watching even more than usual. I loved the arc, and felt it was a brilliant and bold experiment for the show. Finales were toned down, rethought, and the series split was great. Episodes like Let's Kill Hitler were much better than I ever thought, and was a fun and excellent exploration of characters. The series does slip down when it comes to Pirates and the Flesh episodes (which I really really really didn't and don't like), and initially I thought The God Complex was rubbish. But now, I've grown to like The God Complex, and stories like The Doctor's Wife you either love or hate - and I love. So I probably like Series Six more than everyone else. Oh and of course - The Girl Who Waited is superb. It's what Doctor Who has become and it showcases the 'balance' I keep mentioning perfectly.

Series Seven hasn't been great so far, and there's been quite a few disappointments. Well done for getting this far through my blog, dear reader, and as you've probably guessed - I like to judge and analyse. Which is, I worry, why I'm not enjoying Series Seven too much. I do try and go into episodes with an open mind, more than I used to, and there are good moments - but I'm yet to find any outstanding moments in the series. Oh - actually, there were one and a half. One - Oswin Oswald's shock appearance in Asylum! And two - The Snowmen. I loved it. A perfect introductory episode for a companion, absolutely brilliant. It's a shame Clara's journeys in the TARDIS haven't been structured so well - as people write her as a mystery, not a character.

Still - as we approach The Crimson Horror - I look forward to less Clara development - and desperately hope that our favourite Victorian gang aren't abused too much because of Strax's comedy, which I enjoy. The series is being pushed in a direct that's too epic (movie of the week doesn't work) and that tries to be too young and funny. This is Doctor Who - not a Dctor Who Adventures comic strip. So yes, comedy is fine, light heartedness is good - but when it's too much, and it does occasionally become too much, it doesn't work.

And need I even mention the overused Sonic?

Doctor Who has been my childhood, it's as simple as that. It is the best 45 minutes of every week, regardless of how it turns out, and people like Russell T Davies made me want to write. So I owe Doctor Who a lot, and it has structured my life completely.

Happy 100 episodes of Doctor Who. And I will not be buying you a replacement Sonic Screwdriver to celebrate.

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