Disclaimer: I am a new school Whovian. I have never seen any of the original series of DOCTOR WHO, having only started watching it since the 2005 relaunch, and while I appreciate and respect the fact that there was an original series, my gross lack of knowledge prevents me from speaking intelligently on it. So while I have it on good authority, from a dedicated friend who has taken the time to watch all of the original series that is currently available, that many of the episodes in Season 7 pay homage to earlier Doctors, it is not something I will be covering since I lack the knowledge to do so
Warning! If you have not watched all of DOCTOR WHO Season 7 then there are MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD.
For the last couple of seasons DOCTOR WHO has been on a slow progression into dark territory: harsh departures, an increasing theme of death, and the renewed focus on the eternal question “Doctor Who?” has given the show a rather sinister undertone, and season seven takes us right to the precipice and leaves us holding our breath for the plunge. Since the spring restart we have seen the official introduction of a new companion, the establishment of new support characters, the return of the cybermen and The Great Intelligence, and the first glimpse of a new Doctor, and while all these are fun and interesting on their own, together they have given Whovians a smorgasbord of dramatic changes to feast on and fight over.
The most immediately impacting change this season was the introduction of The Doctor’s new companion Clara. Clara is played by Jenna-Louise Coleman (CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER) and she is proving to be a great choice. Clara is a departure from some of the more recent companions, while she is game to travel and participate in The Doctor’s exploits, she isn’t nearly as infatuated or intimidate by him as many of the previous companions and will often approach situations independently of him. Now, from my perspective, this independence stems from that fact that The Doctor sought her out to unravel the mystery of how she continues to pop up in different incarnations all over time, rather than had some chance encounter with her that left her awed by him. Since he courted her companionship the relationship is noticeably different and gives the show some enjoyable refreshment. As the season progresses we learn a bit more about her personal back story, but the obsessive question of how she exists throughout so many times isn’t revealed until the season finale. Coleman does an excellent job with the role, she masterfully handles Clara’s chipper curiosity and strong willed independence to give us a character that is not only likeable, but also fascinating and complex.
Some of the most memorable characters on DOCTOR WHO are not The Doctor or his companion, but rather the lesser support characters, and the latest ones are the winning trio of Vastra, Jenny, and Strax. The trio first appeared in 2011’s “A Good Man Goes to War” and have become somewhat regular having appeared in 3 of the last nine episodes, including the Christmas special and the season finale. Madame Vastra, played by Neve McIntosh (TV’s LIP SERVICE), is a Silurian private investigator living in late 19th century London with her wife and partner, Jenny, played by Catrin Stewart (FRAIL). They took in Strax, played by Dan Starkey (TV’s WIZARDS VERSES ALIENS), a Sontaran, after they revived him in the aftermath of The Battle of Demons Run and he is something of a butler, driver, and assistant to them. The combination of Vastra’s impressive intelligence, Jenny’s practical investigation skills, and Strax’s desire to solve every problem with overwhelming violence makes for a very entertaining on screen dynamic that is both humorous and engaging. Its hard to say exactly how long they will remain reoccurring characters, but I certainly hope their departure will be later rather than sooner.
People on the side of The Doctor weren’t the only ones to reappear in season seven, we also get the return of one of The Doctor’s oldest foes, the Cybermen. Writer Neil Gaiman (BEOWULF) brought the cyborg baddies back in “Nightmare in Silver,” and this new incarnation is the most advanced form we have seen. The Cybermen are no longer bound by the limitations of being able to only assimilate humans, and have set their sights on assimilating The Doctor to gain his knowledge of time travel. Also, they now have infectious bugs that will crawl into you and take over your body until you can be properly converted to a full cyberman. I like this updated take on them and look forward to what they do with them in the future. I also want to mention, mainly because I am a big fan, that Warwick Davis (JACK THE GIANT SLAYER) guest stars on the episode. The other big baddie of the latter half of the season is The Great Intelligence. We get an origin story for him/it in the Christmas special and get to see him uploading the minds of people in “The Bells of Saint John,” but perhaps the most memorable appearance will be in the season finale as he inhabits the creepy Whispermen to kidnap the Doctor’s friends in order to lure him to his final resting place on Trenzalore.
Its always good to leave the audience wanting more, so it is no surprise that the biggest reveal of season seven was done at the end of “The Name of the Doctor,” the season finale. As the episode closes we get to see John Hurt (TV’s MERLIN) as The Doctor, however, because of the events in episode, Matt Smith (WOMB) is still the current Doctor and claims that the actions of this other Doctor were so heinous that he is not worthy of the name The Doctor. This has sparked all kinds of debate across the internet and between Whovians as to where in the timeline of Doctors this new one will appear and how they will incorporate him into the storyline. Personally, I would love to see John Hurt get a full run as The Doctor because I think he will be phenomenal in the role, but I have a feeling that that may not happen. It should also be mentioned that while “The Name of the Doctor” introduced us to someone new, it also brought back an old favorite, River Song. Alex Kingston (TV’s ARROW) reprises her role as River and gives us one of the more emotional moments of the season when she insists The Doctor say goodbye to her.
While there have been massive changes in the latter part of season seven, what remains true is that DOCTOR WHO is a great deal of fun. Matt Smith continues to be an extremely quirky and likable Doctor and he maintains just as high a level of enthusiasm as he tumbles through his adventures as when he first started out as The Doctor. Clara is proving to be an interesting companion and brings a refreshing approach to the companion/Doctor dynamic and Vastra, Jenny, and Strax have a great dynamic and give this season an anchor point of familiar characters. DOCTOR WHO continues to deliver for fans while at the same time taking things in new and exciting directions. I can’t begin to guess what is going to be covered next season, but I know I will be watching.
Final Score: 8.5 out of 10