Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Matt Smith's Tenure As Doctor Who Begins With Him Stumbling Through Season 5!

The Good: A few stray episodes, Effects
The Bad: Matt Smith fails to wow as the Doctor, No real character development, Huge plot irregularities
The Basics: Doctor Who Season Five put Matt Smith and Steven Moffat in the driver's seat of an erratically-executed season!

The danger of reinventing a television character or an entire series is that sometimes such reinvention just does not work. In the long arc of Doctor Who, there have probably been uncounted highs and lows, but in the modern Doctor Who, there was no era that initially failed to impress me as when Steven Moffat first became showrunner and Matt Smith took up the mantle of The Doctor. Doctor Who Season Five was Matt Smith's first season and, despite the seriousness of the season's long arc, Smith portrayed The Doctor as something of a buffoon and it made it very difficult to accept, given the menace recently thrust upon the Doctor Who Earth in the prior season.

One ironic aspect of the fifth season of the modern Doctor Who is that The Doctor took a new Companion and, despite her being much more scantily clad than the prior ones, Amy Pond was generally a more serious Companion than The Doctor. As a result, as The Doctor and Amy Pond find themselves in various menaces, Amy Pond more frequently seems like the voice of reason and bears the emotional consequences of events than The Doctor, whose experience and technical knowledge vastly outweigh Pond's. The result is a season where The Doctor bumbles and the Companion agonizes with the consequences of all they encounter.

Following The Doctor's latest regeneration, The Doctor crashes to Earth in the TARDIS, outside the flat of Amelia Pond. The Doctor is shocked by his latest form and believes that crashing near Pond's house is not a coincidence. The Doctor soon figures out that there is something amiss in Amy Pond's home; a crack in the universe itself. Returning years later, The Doctor realizes that something slipped through that crack and with Amy Pond's help, he stops interstellar jailers from destroying Earth when they realize that Prisoner Zero has escaped to Earth.

The night of her wedding, Amy Pond takes off with The Doctor, on the promise that he will return her before the next morning. Pond and The Doctor go off to a refugee ship in the future and then return to Earth's past where the Daleks are aiding Britain's war effort against the Nazis. Throughout their adventures, Amy Pond and The Doctor are followed by the crack in the universe that was once in Pond's house. The two begin to get clues about the crack when they encounter River Song and Weeping Angels in the future and Rory joins the pair on their adventures. Fighting apparent vampires in ancient Venice and a Dream Doctor who torments them with an impossible choice, they return to Earth to discover that there was an ancient reptilian race in hibernation beneath the planet. After Rory is lost to the mysterious crack, The Doctor and Amy return to Earth to try to prevent the TARDIS from exploding and wiping out all time and space!

The new incarnation of The Doctor is essentially a buffoon, one who does not satisfactorily develop over the course of the season. In the fifth season of Doctor Who, The Doctor never seems quite as rational as a function of character development; instead, he stumbles into logic at the key climactic moments of the season. The unfortunate aspect of this is that most of the episodes reset The Doctor's immaturity to a default state, so over the course of the season, The Doctor just seems ridiculous.

Amy Pond bears the emotional weight of season five of Doctor Who as Pond grew up thinking The Doctor was real, but was disbelieved by those around her. She tried to move on with Rory and then The Doctor reappeared. Amy Pond balances her childhood love with her adult affection and that conflict gives Pond a sense of internal conflict that resonates throughout the season. When Rory joins The Doctor and Amy, Amy becomes even more conflicted.

While Matt Smith portrays The Doctor with an almost homogeneous goofy quality, Karen Gillan is wonderful as Amy Pond. Gillan gives an emotional and fun performance that varies well, but is also organically-developed over the course of the season. As well, Arthur Darvill plays Rory with an earnestness that gives his character more substance than most of the other supporting Doctor Who characters.

While there are highs and lows, the balance of Doctor Who Season Five is far less compelling than its prior seasons and the reset on The Doctor is awkward almost to the point of being unwatchable.

For more information on this season, be sure to check out the episodes encompassed in it. They are individually reviewed at:
"The Eleventh Hour"
"The Beast Below"
"Victory Of The Daleks"
"The Time Of Angels"
"Flesh And Stone"
"The Vampires Of Venice"
"Amy's Choice"
"The Hungry Earth"
"Cold Blood"
"Vincent And The Doctor"
"The Lodger"
"The Pandorica Opens"
"The Big Bang"


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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