Friday, 8 August 2014

Doctor Who: Step Back in Time - Series Seven

The Time of Capaldi is almost upon us, with just a over two weeks left until his feature-length début (how spoiled are we?) is broadcast across television and cinema screens alike. So its time for Eleven to take one last bow as we cast a look back at the most recent series of Doctor Who: Series Seven. Though it's sort of two series that can either exist apart or as one. Like a worm. Ladies and gentleman, I give you Series Worm...


Starring: Matt Smith (the Doctor), Karen Gillan (Amy Pond), Arthur Darvill (Rory Williams), Jenna-Louise Coleman (Clara Oswald) with Neve McIntosh (Madame Vastra), Catrin Stewart (Jenny Flint), Dan Starkey (Strax) and Alex Kingston (River Song)
Produced by: Marcus Wilson and Denise Paul
Executive Produced by: Steven Moffat and Caroline Skinner

Best Episodes

Asylum of the Daleks by Steven Moffat
What better way to open a series than a visit to a planet full of insane Daleks? 'Asylum' is a true thriller of an episode, starting the year of the 'Movie-of-the-week' perfectly. Alongside the aforementioned sanity-impaired Skarosians is a subplot involving the Doctor trying to save Amy and Rory's marriage and a surprise appearance from companion-to-be Clara (well, sort of) with Jenna proving herself to be a terrific actress. It turned out these episodes wouldn't just be any old movies-of-the-week, they would be blockbusters. 

The Rings of Akhaten by Neil Cross
Once in a while, a Doctor Who episode is unlucky enough to find itself on the receiving end of a barrage of criticism. So while many don't care for Neil Cross' début Who I, for one, think it's hugely enjoyable. The story may be slight but that only means it's going for atmosphere and heart more than complex plot. This also gives the other areas of production more chance to shine then usual, in particular costume design and Murray Gold's soaring score. 'Rings' is a magical sci-fi tale. Good enough, in fact, to feed Akhaten himself. 

The Crimson Horror by Mark Gatiss
With 'Cold War', Gatiss provided his best Who so far but his second of this series was somehow even better. A wonderful hodge-podge of Sherlock Holmes, James Bond and Gatiss' very own Lucifer Box novels, 'Crimson' is a horror-tinged adventure with some great innovative storytelling. The finest example so far of how a Paternoster Gang spin-off show would work. The answer? Get Mark Gatiss to write it.

To read my reviews of all episodes of Series Seven click here

 TARDIS Team(s)

Series Seven is the first to employ the idea that the Doctor's companions do not have to runaway with the Doctor full-time. After formally leaving the TARDIS during the previous series, Amy and Rory Pond are unique in that the Doctor continues to come back for them, taking them on one-off trips across time and space before returning them to the normal lives. In fact, this arrangement went on for years, with the Ponds ageing from twentysomething to middle-age - however, though the Doctor does try, you can't hold off growing up forever. In the end, it took an invasion of New York by Weeping Angels to force the travels of the undisputed longest-running companions of the revived series to come to an end. 
The Doctor's next companion, Clara, was a true anomaly. Not only did she appear before she joined the Doctor on his travels, she also died - twice. When 21st century Clara (as opposed to Victorian and Dalek Clara) finally travelled in the TARDIS (with a similar arrangement to the Ponds) it made for a unique Doctor-companion dynamic. For the first time, the audience did not see through the companion's eyes to crack the mystery of the Doctor but quite the reverse. 
As well as his core companions, Series Seven also gives the Doctor a number of go-to allies. Reintroduced after their popular début in Series Six, Victorian detectives Madame Vastra and Jenny, now joined by the reformed Sontaran Strax, the Paternoster Gang notched up three appearances, including the series finale. This same finale also found time to wrap up the story of the Doctor's wife, River Song, literally laying her (data) ghost to rest. Out with the old and in with the new, it seemed the series was preparing for a change. A regeneration, you might say...

Story Arc


In a series full of firsts, Series Seven takes a new take on the issue of story arcs. Whereas its immediate predecessors were almost serials in their attitude to ongoing storylines, this series took a much looser approach. This was a series that was proud to be a different show every week, made up entirely of single-episode stories. Defined by featuring two different sets of companions, the two halves of the series are really two shorter runs bolted together and so have their own stories to tell.
The first five, or Series Pond, were the softer of the two on story arc, being almost devoid of overarching narrative, with the exception of some thematic foreshadowing of the Pond's exit. The second, or rather Series Clara, brings things to the boil somewhat more with the mystery of Clara, 'the Impossible Girl' being referenced in most stories before being revealed in the finale.
However, there was something that dripped through both Series Pond and Clara, as with 'Bad Wolf' or 'Torchwood' it was just a phrase that had a larger meaning. In fact, it was a question. The oldest in the universe. The question that the Doctor had been running from all his lives was coming back to haunt him. And that question was: 'Doctor Who?' The answer, apparently, lay on Trenzalore.
Combined with the 50th anniversary outing and Christmas special that followed it, Series Seven combined lively stories with friends and enemies, new and old, to send the Eleventh Doctor off in style. What's more, with its big-screen ambitions, Series Seven is the reason Doctor Who is currently enjoying a semi-regular home at cinemas worldwide. Thanks to Series Seven, the Doctor, rather than the Daleks or the Cybermen, is taking over the world.

Coming Soon: It's not just his kidneys that have changed. The new Doctor lands 23rd August. 

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