The Good: Moments of character, Some engaging plots, Good performances
The Bad: Divergent plot episodes, Moments of ridiculousness
The Basics: The seasonlong arc of the sixth season of Doctor Who works surprisingly well to create a mystery surrounding the death of The Doctor and the genesis of River Song!
When I consider a full season of television, I try to look at how the season gels as a whole. Television shows tend to run as either episodic or serialized and as little as I generally enjoy episodic television, it has the advantage for seasons of having a concept that is very simple to execute. I like sophisticated storytelling. The disadvantage of serialized television is that when a season diverges from its primary story, it has the potential to derail the entire season. While there are incredible improvements in Matt Smith's second season (and the second season of Doctor Who where Steven Moffat was calling the shots), the non-serialized elements of the sixth season of Doctor Who undermine the overall quality of the season and the narrative.
Doctor Who has the potential to be a freewheeling adventure through time and space that can have a spontaneity to it that makes it exciting to tune into. So, when Doctor Who foregoes the shocking and different for each episode by creating a serialized arc, the show has the potential to plumb new emotional depths and develop the characters within the narrative. Doctor Who Season Six fumbles when it tries to juggle between the strong serialized elements and the random episodic episodes that break up the momentum and character development of the primary narrative.
Opening in 2011 with the Doctor's greatest allies being invited to Lake Silencio, Utah by what appears to be an older version of The Doctor, Amy, Rory, River and a new-to-the-mix operative, the Companions are horrified when The Doctor is killed. Leaving the site of The Doctor's death, the Companions meet a younger version of The Doctor and discover that he has no idea what is coming. The Doctor and his allies soon discover that there is an alien invasion going on on Earth, generated by The Silence - entities who disappear from memory when they disappear from site. The Silence want to kill The Doctor and after The Doctor and his allies thwart the new alien menace, The Doctor and his Companions continue on their adventures with The Doctor ignorant of his eventual death.
The random adventures of The Doctor, Amy and Rory find The Doctor troubled by the fact that the TARDIS is simultaneously reading Amy as pregnant and not pregnant. When Amy turns up missing, The Doctor and Rory scour time and space to find her. Amy has been captured by a religious order in the future working for The Silence and they steal Amy and Rory's baby. The child turns up later, as the most unexpected person in their life, and when she tries to kill The Doctor, it takes time judges to resolve the matter. But The Doctor has learned of his impending death and he falls into a funk, so he makes an effort to thwart his own end, which has the potential to destroy time itself.
When Doctor Who Season Six is focused on The Doctor, Amy Pond's mysterious pregnancy, the extended backstory of River Song and the impending murder of The Doctor. But, when the season makes divergences for a pirate episode, a chance to give Neil Gaiman a Doctor Who episode, creepy dolls and a hotel where terrors come to life, the season takes a real dive. The character arcs that are developing through the way The Doctor is concerned about Amy and the way Amy and Rory continue to develop their relationship and struggle with their child being abducted are wonderful. That momentum is killed when The Doctor takes on the Cybermen with Craig or Rory yet again is forced to confront the fact that Amy has deep feelings for The Doctor.
The sixth season of Doctor Who puts The Doctor's impending death on the backburner for an unfortunate amount of time and when it gets around to resolving it, it merely sets up another prophecy to put The Doctor in eventual peril.
Emotionally, the peak of the sixth season of Doctor Who is "The Girl Who Waited," which is a solid Amy and Rory episode, that finally shakes up the familiar dynamic of the Companions and The Doctor. "The Girl Who Waited" is also a chance for both Arthur Darvill and Karen Gillan to explore more of their characters' emotional depth. Gillan especially rises to the occasion doing far more with her performance than the make-up does for her suddenly aged character.
Alex Kingston makes several guest starring roles that make River Song a vital character and her chemistry with Matt Smith is exceptional.
Matt Smith grows and develops as The Doctor in the sixth season of Doctor Who! Smith stops playing The Doctor as simple and goofy for the bulk of Doctor Who Season 6. Smith is able to portray the serious side of The Doctor extraordinarily well. He has the ability to play intense and vengeful, with eyes that actually radiate emotion and the moments he plays snarky or ironic, he pulls off as well. But the shock of Matt Smith's performance coming on the heels of his very goofy first season portrayals of The Doctor is intense and well-executed, which renews one's faith in the idea that Steven Moffat might know just what to do with his talented performers.
Ultimately, the sixth season of Doctor Who is a little more erratic than it is supposed to be; but it is intense and smart when it keeps focused on the clever main narrative.
For more information on this season, be sure to check out the episodes encompassed in it. They are individually reviewed at:
"A Christmas Carol"
"The Impossible Astronaut"
"Day Of The Moon"
"The Curse Of The Black Spot"
"The Doctor's Wife"
"The Rebel Flesh"
"The Almost People"
"A Good Man Goes To War"
"Let's Kill Hitler"
"The Girl Who Waited"
"The God Complex"
"The Wedding Of River Song"
For other movie and television reviews, please check out my Film Review Index Page for an organized listing!
© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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