Let me first say something about Clara Oswin Oswald, the Doctor’s new companion.
On the other hand, I think they put a lot more effort into personifying her character before she actually became the companion. They showed how smart (and brave) she was in The Asylum of the Daleks, and also proved herself funny and strong in the Snowmen. I loved her in both of those episodes. But she had the unfortunate habit of dying all the time.
Since she became the actual companion, I feel like the writers have done less to make her unique and exceptional. She takes a backseat a lot of the time, just going along with the Doctor like any other companion. There are a few exceptions, but she seems more passive now that she’s with him than she did before. Step it up, writers!
So, let’s discuss the episodes that were in this half of the season:
The aforementioned episode The Snowmen was a Christmas special that I really enjoyed. One of several in the last 1-2 years taking place in Victorian England, so that makes me immeasurably happy. I thought it was creepy, Christmas-y, and lots of fun. Everything a Doctor Who Christmas special should be.
When the season started up properly again, it began with The Bells of St. John. This is our first look at modern-day Clara, an orphan who lives with a friend of the family and looks after his children. Ignoring the ridiculous scene of the Doctor riding a motorcycle up the Shard, I liked this episode. This is also the episode where Clara is the most independent and suspicious, not yet under the thrall of the Doctor (as all companions eventually do fall under it, I can’t blame her when she does, but I still like it when people don’t automatically fall at his feet. I mean, how would you feel if a strange man showed up at your door in a monk’s outfit and wanted to come in?
In other news, I really like his new outfit:
The next episode was The Rings of Akhaten, where Clara and the Doctor wander into a scene from that short story, The Lottery. A sacrifice to the gods to prevent massacre of the planet, etc., etc. I thought this episode was the weakest of this (half of the) season. Partially, I was really irritated by the premise. Fine, this god wants memories to feed on, to keep it asleep. The Doctor has 800+ years of memories, but a 23-year-old girl’s memories are more valuable? In some ways I can kind of comprehend that the memories of a younger person are more…intense, because we feel things intensely when we’re young and we are more numb to emotions as we age, but the Doctor still has a bulk amount of memories. There’s no way hers are more valuable than his. His whole planet was destroyed, his whole race. He’s seen companions taken away by death and by time. He’s changed the world. I’m sorry, but that leaf is not that important. He is more important.
Cold War was the next episode. Not one of my favorites. I think I’m in the minority there, because a lot of people really liked it. I think the difference is that, having never seen the old Doctor Who episodes, I have never before encountered the Ice Warriors. I’ve never seen anything before Christopher Eccleston, so they just have no meaning for me within the larger canon. And this episode as a whole seemed to lack some tension for me–which is a ludicrous thing to say, since it was a time and a place where any second could bring about world-ending nuclear war.
Next came Hide, which I really liked. It was very spooky, and I sort of love it when the Doctor saves a hideous monster as readily as he saves a human. It’s like watching someone carefully transport a spider out of the house and into a nice new home. Plus, everyone gets to live and be happy at the end. Bonus–Emma, the psychic, was played by Jessica Raine, better known (to me) as Jenny from Call the Midwife.
I also loved Journey to the Center of the Tardis, where we finally get to see some of the other rooms inside the ship. I would live in the library, except for small breaks to visit the swimming pool. If I wasn’t being pursued by some sort of lava monster. What I really didn’t like about the episode is the Doctor yelling at Clara to try to discover who she is. I also wasn’t fond on those moments being ‘reset’ and Clara losing the memories of what she saw in the library. I would pay so much money to get a look at that book…
The Crimson Horror was my favorite episode of this series. Back in Victorian England! The Doctor even gives us an adorable Yorkshire accent! On the other hand, that leech thing was the most foul slimy monstrosity I’ve seen in a long time. Yuck Yuck Yuck. I liked seeing the vulnerability of the Doctor, and loved Rachael Stirling (from The Bletchley Circle) as Ada, acting alongside her real-life mother as the heinous Mrs. Gillyflower. There was something very Dickensian about Sweetville–the obsession with Christian morality, the gated community somewhat like a work house, the darkness in general. The only part of this episode I disliked was the end. Clara returns to her real timeline and the two kids she lives with have discovered pictures of her in different times. Okay, so these kids just happened to both come across pictures of her in various places and times, during the short period she’s been traveling? I find this pretty ludicrous, considering we’ve seen fans of the Doctor before who have a really hard time finding photos of him. Plus, I knew it meant the kids would be more important in future, and I really prefer not to have other people travel with the Doctor. I think it should be one companion only–Rory was the only exception, and these kids are not Rory. And I don’t like kids in general, so there’s that.
As I expected, the next episode had the kids going along with The Doctor and Clara, to the best amusement park in all of space and time…now disused and looking like something out of a Scooby Doo episode. Nightmare in Silver sees the return of the heavily upgraded Cybermen, to a point of being nearly unbeatable foes. This episode had some problems–I wasn’t wild about the Doctor vs CyberDoctor scenes, and the kids were annoying for the first 10 minutes and then nearly inanimate for the rest. The salvation of this episode was Warwick Davis. I love Warwick Davis. He was great in this, and I could have lived with a lot more screen time for him. And a lot less for the kids.
Lastly, we have the finale. The Name of the Doctor. It was not as climactic (for me) as some of the finales have been, such as Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways. Still, it had some epic ideas behind it. We see where the Doctor’s grave is, we see River again (!), and we find out why Clara is ‘the impossible girl’. It makes sense, too, if you don’t think into it very deeply. Just wade your feet in the logic, then move on. Closer scrutiny will leave you cross-eyed.
I particularly loved the scenes where Clara encounters past incarnations of the Doctor, even though I am woefully ignorant about who is who. I can pick out Tom Baker, and that’s about it. Still, it was cool and Clara got to wear great costumes.
The big deal with this episode is the end. John Hurt shows up and he embodies the Doctor when he is not the Doctor? Huh? Reading rumors online, I’m lead to believe John Hurt will represent the Doctor during the interregnum, between the end of Doctor #8’s short run in the ’90s and the beginning of the current incarnation of the show, with Christopher Eccleston. The period of the Great Time War, when Gallifrey was destroyed and the time lords with it. John Hurt will personify the Doctor when he had to do horrible un-Doctor-like things to win the war. I guess? That’s all rumor, so we’ll see…in November.
Overall, this half of the season was much better than the previous (in my opinion). I had fun watching almost every episode, and there were good moments in each of them. I think Clara is a much-needed breath of fresh air. I hope they keep giving her opportunities to be very clever and very strong, rather than letting her just follow the Doctor’s lead.
I cannot wait until the fall and we get all the 50th Anniversary celebrations and guest stars. It’s going to be a long 6 months.