Title: Doctor Who: The Complete Fifth Series
Episodes: 13, at 45-65 minutes each
Creators: Sydney Newman, C.E. Webber, Donald Wilson
Directors: Adam Smith, Andrew Gunn, Jonny Campbell, Catherine Morshead, Ashley Way, Toby Haynes
Writers: Steven Moffat, Chris Chibnall, Mark Gatiss, Toby Whithouse, Simon Nye, Richard Curtis, Gareth Roberts; with characters by Terry Nation
Starring: Matt Smith, Karen Gillan
Music: Ron Grainer (theme), Murray Gold
Synopsis: a mysterious alien travels through space and time with a human girl
How I saw it: online as it aired (Spring 2010); on video over the past week or two (have on DVD)
Story: Good. Most episodes are great. Three of them are kind of bad, and the attempt at a season-long story arc is annoying.
Special effects/design: Good. Good design, but the special effects have regressed a few years.
Acting: Good. Smith hasn’t got anything on David Tennant’s acting chops. Don’t get me wrong, though, he’s perfect casting for The Doctor. Really great acting is inevitably going to humanize the character. Tennant’s performances could move you to tears, but that took the character in a very un-Doctorly direction. This time around, they leave the tear-jerking responsibilities to great directing, writing and guest stars, and let the Doctor be an alien.
Music: Indifferent. I’m getting the feeling that Murray Gold has done what he can do with this show, and they’re over-due to bring in somebody new. What he did in the first series was absolutely brilliant, and he’s had some fun re-imagining things over the years, but he’s kind of failed to adapt to the “new” show. He gets some points for attempting something new, but loses them immediately for putting the Who Wants to Be a Millionaire music in my head.
Subjective Rating: 10/10 (Favorite of my favorites). They had a great opportunity to re-invent the series, to make Steven Moffat’s Doctor Who as different from Russel T. Davies’ Doctor Who as Davies’ was different from the classic show. I mean, they’ve got a completely new cast, new producers and a new head writer. I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure there wasn’t ever such a complete, simultaneous change-over in key Doctor Who personnel throughout the classic show’s entire history. But at the same time, I don’t think a change in Doctor Who personnel has ever had less impact on the feel of the show. I mean, apart from the new Doctor*, the occasional nod and wink to William Hartnell, and the lack of obligatory gay characters, nothing’s really changed. It’s still as great as it ever was, and the quality of individual episodes might be a bit higher than before, on average (but it’s hard to say – the Silurian story brings it down quite a bit). Perhaps, with the ridiculous success of the show, they felt obligated to carry on with the old formula. But the beauty of Doctor Who is that it changes; not just The Doctor, but the entire show. So where’s my new era?
Objective Rating: 3.3/4 (Very good).
*This is my first proper New Doctor (when I started watching the show, Tennant had already done a series (and by the time I caught up with everything (or, at least, everything on region 1 DVD), he’d done two series)) which is a big deal so I should comment. So far I like Smith’s take on The Doctor. Whatever that take is. Who is the eleventh Doctor? As I noted above, he’s alien – probably more alien than even the fourth Doctor was – but what are his other defining characteristics? Doctor Four was alien and witty; Doctor Eleven is alien and… what? Fumbling? Reckless? Goofy? Can you even tell from a single series?
I’ve noticed that whenever The Doctor regenerates, his new personality overcompensates for his previous personality’s major flaws. For instance, the second Doctor was terrified of everything, in place of the first Doctor’s reckless curiosity. So I’d like to think that, in place of the tenth Doctor’s near-crippling loneliness and tendency to fall in love with humans, the eleventh Doctor is someone who can completely forget that the people around him are there. He’s the Doctor who leaves Amy waiting for 14 years while he breaks in the TARDIS, who runs off without ever looking to see if you’re following, who lets people get attacked while his back is turned, and who tells a blinded companion surrounded by evil aliens to wait there while he goes to save the day because she would only slow him down. Then again, I could be completely wrong, and he could be the goofy weirdo who eats fish custard, wants to wear a fez, and dances badly at weddings.