At this point in time, “Doctor Who” was truly a global phenomenon, and everyone was already really used to seeing Matt Smith as the Eleventh Doctor. Now with Series 5 and 6 now done in our review, let us now turn our attentions to the third series that the Eleventh Doctor was in- the (very divisive) Series 7.
From the get-go, Series 7 was one that was received with very mixed feelings, mostly because of the way the series was structured, and because this series also brought about a lot of changes in the middle of the series.
Generally speaking, showrunner Steven Moffat wanted this particular series to have more stand-alone episodes, which made it more episodic than before, which was also probably a response to the criticisms that were given to the heavily serialized Series 6. He also described Series 7A as more of a “movie of the week” kind of thing, so it only really felt that the series was truly getting started in was Series 7B, which also worked as a soft reset for the show. There were a lot of changes in Series 7B, which also included a new opening sequence, a new TARDIS interior, and a new costume for the Eleventh Doctor. Because of this, there was a feeling of disjointedness to this particular series, which I think, didn’t really serve the show that well. However, due to the more episodic nature, it was no longer as overly complicated as Series 6 was, and it also laid down subtle hints as to what was to come in “Day of the Doctor” and “Time of the Doctor”.
To be honest, when I first watched Series 7, I did feel a little bit disjointed and had mixed feelings about this particular series, but during my rewatch, I found some interesting little tidbits I missed out on before, and realized that there were a lot of strong and good episodes in this series.
Acting wise, I believe that Smith was able to stretch more as an actor both here and in Series 6. Karen Gillan (Amy Pond), Arthur Darvill (Rory Williams), and Alex Kingston (River Song), also had moments in which they shone in this series as well. Many were still getting used to the character of Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman), but she pulled out some good performances as well, especially when showing the more vulnerable and raw side of Clara. (However, can I just say that Clara’s costumes are on point and are really great?)
In this series, Moffat wrote a total of five episodes. “Sherlock” co-showrunner Mark Gatiss wrote two episodes, as did Neil Cross and Chris Chibnall. Toby Whithouse, Neil Gaiman, and Stephen Thompson all wrote one episode apiece. Saul Metzstein directed five episodes in the series, while Douglas Mackinnon and Nick Hurran directed two episodes a piece. Other directors for this series also included Colm McCarthy, Stephen Woolfenden, Mat King, Farren Blackburn, and Jamie Payne. (I’m counting in “The Snowmen” as an episode, even though it was the second Christmas special for the year and series).
All in all, if you can get over the disjointedness of having two separate series in one series, then you’ll be able to get through Series 7. Also, this series did have some strong episodes, and great performances from everyone involved during some episodes.
Now, before we delve into spoilers, please be warned that there will be spoilers, not just for Series 7, but also a little bit on “Day of the Doctor” and “Time of the Doctor”.
Interestingly enough, Series 7 had two Christmas Specials, the first being “The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe”. However, when it comes to Christmas Specials, I would rank this one as my least favorite, although it did tie in with the whole Christmas theme better than some of the other Christmas specials in the Russell T. Davies era. This one was written by Moffat, and directed by Farren Blackburn.
There were some scenes that did pull at my heartstrings such as Madge Arwell (Claire Sinner) leading her husband home to them, and that reunion that the family had. However, tears really started going when the Doctor finally reunited with the Ponds, and discovered that they, for the past two years, had actually set a place for him on the table because they knew (thanks to River) that he was still alive. Also, he cried. And that got me going too.
However, the story itself was to whimsical for me, and it was a very thin plot with a lot of extra padding. It can be fun an entertaining, but it wasn’t memorable at all, except for the Pond stuff.
Series 7A really started with the mini-episodes entitled “Pond Life”, but the series proper really began with “Asylum of the Daleks”. It ended with the “Angels Take Manhattan”. This section of the series also had a different opening sequence- it was like the Series 5 and 6 opening, with the TARDIS barreling through the Time Vortex, but this time around, the credits faded into the screen, and it had a muddier and more sepia like tone to it. I liked the fade in effect, but I didn’t like the muddier, sepia tone that the sequence had.
Series 7A was basically like a series of movies, with each movie being crammed into the forty-five minute run time, and what almost like that they had decided to make it “The Further Adventures of the Doctor, Amy and Rory”. Yes, they were building up to the whole impending departure of the Ponds from the series, but I don’t think it was handled as well as it could have been, especially when it came to continuity.
I did like how they were able to portray the passage of time with Amy and Rory, and how they both matured since Series 6. I liked how easily they slipped into real married life, and how they seemed a little bit older than the Doctor at times, to the point that he did actually behave like their son-in-law. I also liked the introduction of Brian Williams (Mark Williams), because Mark Williams did such a good job in portraying Brian.
“Asylum of the Daleks” not only showed us our first version of Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman), as Oswin Oswald, and brought back the Daleks in a good way, but also focused on Amy and Rory’s seemingly disintegrating marriage. I loved that at this point, Amy had finally grown to a point where her love for Rory knew no bounds, to the point that she was willing to give him up so that he could have kids as she couldn’t. Gillan, Darvill, Smith and Coleman all had strong performances in this one.
“Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” was definitely a fun romp, but it was just that. A fun romp that introduced Brian Williams to the show.
“A Town Called Mercy” was a great episode from Toby Whithouse, and for Smith, it was his turn to go all “Waters of Mars” with him willing to sacrifice Dr. Jex to the Gunslinger. And it was also his turn to remember why he does need to travel with companions.
“Power of Three” was a great scifi story by Chris Chibnall, and it was only here that we realized that the Ponds were torn with whether to go on with life as usual, or to really travel with the Doctor again.
“The Angels Take Manhattan” allowed the Ponds to depart the series while their characters were on a high. There were plenty of great moments here, whether it be Amy-Rory, Amy-River, the Doctor-River. It was here that Rory’s over confidence at being the man who always dies got the better of him, and it was really no surprise that Amy decided to take a risk in order to spend the rest of her life with her husband. All the actors poured out their heart and soul into this episode, and I cried my eyes out in this one, especially in the graveyard scene when Amy says goodbye, underscored by Murray Gold’s “Goodbye, Pond”.
My only gripe with this first part of the season is that it lacked a certain amount of narrative cohesiveness.
Series 7B brought about a lot of new changes, from the TARDIS interior, a new costume for the Doctor, a new companion, and a new opening sequence. All of which, I actually really liked.
The new TARDIS interior was more metallic, with roundels that were reminiscent of Classic Who, and had a more neon glow to it. I also particularly loved the new time rotor that they made. And, I’m not sure if this is canon, but I did hear that the Gallifreyan markings on the time rotors were all the names of his companions since the First Doctor, including Wilfred “Wilf” Mott (Bernard Cribbins) and K-9. I know that this TARDIS interior was made so that they could go back to basics a bit, and also, to reflect the darker mood that the Doctor has been in since losing the Ponds in Manhattan.
The Doctor’s new costume was an interesting choice as well. He still kept his bow tie, but he wore more vests with a pocket watch, and a dark brown coat. Smith himself describes it as “the Doctor meets the Artful Dodger”, but I love it because it does play up his being more of an older authority figure, or an crazy brother or uncle.
The new opening sequence was quite interesting, as it looked as if we were exploring space first before hurtling into the time vortex, and I kind of liked that the TARDIS door would open to reveal the next scene of the episode after the title sequence.
Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman), “The Impossible Girl”, was met with mixed reactions. Clara, aside from being a plot point that is once again very deeply connected with the Doctor, was supposed to be able to usher in a soft reset for the series, and to get the Doctor to be interested in the universe again, which, I think, worked. I think that this was necessary as we had gotten used to the family dynamic of the Ponds and the Doctor, so we needed a companion who would be closer to someone like Sarah Jane Smith (Elisabeth Sladen). In that respect, I think that Clara worked. However, I also believe that many didn’t really like her that much because she was still sassy and brilliant, and kind of had a crush on the Doctor, which was, once again, the same old story. I think that a reason why many didn’t like her as well, was because she was quite meta. It was like they created her like this as a wink and a nod to the audience, who, oftentimes, are sometimes smarter and quicker than the writers take them to be. I thought that Coleman was great as Clara, and that she did a good job for her first outing, even though at this point, her character was really underdeveloped.
Ever since we saw her in “Asylum of the Daleks”, we had been wondering when we’d see her again, and we saw her again in Victorian London as Clara Oswin Oswald, barmaid and governess.
Here, she was sassy, and bright, a definite breath of fresh air. Also, I think many did want to see a companion that was plucked from the past rather than the present, but then our hopes were crushed after she died yet again. However, that was necessary so that the Doctor could discover that she was indeed the same person he met in the Dalek Asylum, and finally got him to stop sulking as there was a new mystery to solve- Clara Who?
I also enjoyed “The Snowmen” far more than I thought I would on the second viewing.
Moffat’s “The Bells of St. John” came next, and finally introduced modern day Clara as the new companion. However, since we’ve already seen her twice, and they were all sassy, no-nonsense, adventurous and bright, this time around, even with the episode itself, it felt like just the same old. It started out strong, then fizzled at the end.
“The Rings of Akhaten” (although a controversial episode as well), was a much better outing for Clara, and for me, that episode hit all the right notes, and did feel like a classic story. Plus, I love alien worlds, and “The Long Song” always gets me, all the time.
The writer of “Akhaten”, Neil Cross, also wrote a later episode in the series, “Hide”, which was a great ghostly scifi story that had warmth written all over it, as it turned out to be a love story as well. Plus, Dougray Scott and Jessica Raine gave such great performances as Professor Alec Palmer and the empathic psychic Emma Grayling. Also, interestingly enough, “Hide” also began to introduce the concept of “Pocket Universes”, which was later explored in “The Day of the Doctor”.
Gatiss also wrote two episodes for this half of the series- “Cold War” and “The Crimson Horror”. I loved “Cold War”, and I think it is one of his best in a long while. He brought back the Ice Warriors in a brand new way, and I love that it was set on a Soviet sub, and what was happening to Skaldak, the Ice Warrior, and those on the ship, directly paralleled actual real world Cold War tensions.
“The Crimson Horror” was a Victorian mystery featuring the Paternoster Gang. I did like that they were trying something different here (the Doctor only appearing fourteen minutes in, and a flashback sequence in black and white), but it, at times, felt like a very “Sherlock” meets the Doctor kind of episode. However, it wasn’t bad, and the villain was really one that you would really like to see brought down. I, however, thought that the Paternoster gang getting closure about who this Clara is, was wasted.
Steven Thompson’s “Journey to the Center of the TARDIS” was fun as we were able to explore even more of the TARDIS, and because it was here that the Doctor realized that Clara herself had no idea how she had met him before. It was an episode that was fun, but not that great.
Neil Gaiman’s “Nightmare in Silver”, however, gave Smith the opportunity to really give a performance of a lifetime, while introducing a new and redesigned, scarier and more menacing bunch of Cybermen to deal with.
“The Name of the Doctor” however, was a great finale, and gave me chills, and made me cry the first time I watched it.
I cried mostly in the River Song bits, because we all know that at this point, she’s a data ghost, and her last appearance to the Doctor in her own personal timeline. It’s really here in which you see how much the Doctor does love her, to the point that interacting with her ghost would be painful for him.
I thought that the Great Intelligence was a great villain, and chose a really smart way to get his revenge on the Doctor, even though it was all undone by Clara willingly stepping into the Doctor’s timestream to save him from dying. And remember, at this point, the Eleventh Doctor knew that he was the last incarnation already, which made visiting his grave even more sombre for him.
Now we know why Clara is the Impossible Girl, and why he had seen her twice before and then later on invited her aboard the TARDIS. Actually, interestingly enough, it was a causal loop. Modern day Clara, or Clara Prime, split herself into echoes to save the Doctor. Encountering these echoes caused the Doctor to invite Clara Prime aboard the TARDIS. It also explains why the TARDIS doesn’t like her- Clara is impossible, just like Jack Harkness (John Barrowman), and the TARDIS doesn’t like anomalies like that aboard her.
Smith, Kingston and Coleman pulled out great performances for this one, and it also allowed the writers to sort of reset and be able to develop the character of Clara more, especially as there is one more mystery surrounding Clara- who was that woman who gave her the Doctor’s number?
Also, seeing John Hurt’s Doctor for the first time there also gave me chills.
All in all, Series 7 was disjointing and jarring because of how the series was structured, and because viewers needed more time to heal from losing the Ponds. which was why it was also probably hard to accept Clara as the Doctor’s new companion at first. Also, it wasn’t as cohesive as before, but in Series 7B, having an episodic structure for the series was a definite breath of fresh air from the highly serialized Series 6.
What did you think of Series 7? How did you like the departure of the Ponds, and how did you like Clara here? What did you think of all the new changes in Series 7B? Let me know what you think in the comments below!