I’ve been horribly behind on my reviews for this season. And since the season finale aired Saturday night, I decided to just write a general wrap-up for the season with some thoughts.
Looking at some of fandom’s reaction, there seems to be a split on the sentiment for this season, in particular its “arc-heavy” nature and specifically elements involving River Song and the conclusion to the Silence storyline. Then again, fandom has never agreed on anything (well, perhaps except that the old Doctor Who novel The Pit sucked), so Steven Moffat’s handling of the ongoing plot regarding the Doctor’s death at the beginning of the season was due to undergo serious scrutiny. That moment in “The Impossible Astronaut” has cast a shadow over events this entire season, and it all finally came together in the finale, where all the hints and clues that were dropped along the way came together.
I’ve been a huge Moffat ever since his contribution to the new series, “The Empty Child” / “The Doctor Dances” two-parter in season 1. He has consistently been the best writer the series has had, often overshadowing then-showrunner Russel T. Davies’ work (Moffat has the Hugo awards to prove it). I was thrilled when he was announced as the new Lead Writer / Executive Producer of the series when Davies left. Moffat has brought a more sophisticated approach to the series, a slightly darker tone that is balanced with the boundless hope embodied in the character of the Doctor. He has also brought in season-spanning story arcs that have been intriguing. Perhaps this is television in the post-Lost era, a serialized influence to storytelling. Each of the past two seasons has been like a puzzle, and so much of the fun of watching has been picking out the pieces and guessing where Moffat was headed next.
It has worked against Moffat times. The revelation that River Song was Melody Pond was a popular fan theory, so much so that when the moment came, while cool, wasn’t worth the hype of a “game-changing finale” that lead to the mid-season break. The other revelation- the question that has been asked since the beginning (“Doctor who?”) was obvious and metatextual that I can understand fan’s negative reaction to it. But given Moffat’s skills, I have trust in his ability to deliver.
So, rating this season’s episodes:
- “The Impossible Astronaut”– 9/10. Great premiere setting up the ongoing mystery for the season while beginning to shed light on the Silence. Probably the most surprising season premiere yet.
- “Day of the Moon” – 8.5/10. Solid follow-up with an ingenious solution. The Silence are one of the creepier new creatures to show up in the series.
- “The Curse of the Black Spot” – 6/10. Anemic and falls flat. The pirate ship setting just feels like a riff on Pirates of the Caribbean and fails to be as entertaining.
- “The Doctor’s Wife” – 9.5/10. Neil Gaiman’s love letter to the franchise is brilliant and inspired while finding ways to expand on the mythos in interesting ways. Loved it.
- “The Rebel Flesh” – 6.5/10. Not to be envied for following up “The Doctor’s Wife”, there are interesting ideas here but it is mixed in with a lackluster script.
- “The Almost People” – 7/10. See “The Rebel Flesh”. I had trouble buying Rory’s dedication to the Ganger.
- “A Good Man Goes to War” – 8.5/10. As mentioned above, not quite the game-changing mid-season finale that it was hyped to be but definitely an exciting episode that kept you on the edge of your seat until the end.
- “Let’s Kill Hitler” – 9/10. A great return from the mid-season break with a frenetic wit and pace, plus some game-changing revelations.
- “Night Terrors” – 6/10. Meh. A disappointing episode whose reveal was obvious from the outset.
- “The Girl Who Waited” – 8.5/10. An emotionally-charged episode where the Doctor finally can’t save Amy… sort of.
- “The God Complex” – 9/10. Fantastic, surreal, with a few apparent nods to House of Leaves. Even if the resolution doesn’t quite hold together and the character of Rita was a bit Mary Sue-ish, everything leading up to it was worth the ride.
- “Closing Time” – 8.5/10. Look at that, a sequel to “The Lodger”. Gareth Roberts turns in a witty episode where the Cybermen are (again) soundly defeated but you don’t mind so much.
- “The Wedding of River Song” – 9/10. I loved the episode. I loved the quirkiness of history occurring all at once, the idea that changing fixed points can have consequences, and the foreshadowing regarding “the fall of the Eleventh”. It doesn’t all quite hang together neatly (for example, Madame Kovarian, for all the setup, is taken out and we still know nothing about her. And if the Eleventh Doctor’s death was a fixed point that the Silence were attempting to ensure, how could there even be a discussion of a future event referred to as the fall of the Eleventh?) but the episode is still crazy fun and entertaining.