Cast: Matt Smith, Jenna-Louise Coleman
The second half of the seventh season of Doctor Who, despite a poor first half, was met with great expectation. The Christmas special had teased us with the start of an interesting storyline. The new companion, as seen from ‘The Asylum of the Daleks’, appears to have developed a habit of dying multiple times and always popping back up in the Doctor’s ever-confusing timeline. Steven Moffat is known for spinning a good yarn, so if anything, we were glued to the screens each week to see where the writer was going with this plot.
However, for something that was the main attraction of the seventh season, it was brought up very little. The season opened with a fantastic episode, where the Doctor introduced himself to the new Clara and the pair of them took on the Great Intelligence. Then the season seemed to drop this mystery of Clara and have daily adventures, where the two of them took on alien forces. This isn’t a problem, in itself; some of these episodes were very good. The episode in the haunted house was a highlight of the season for me, especially with my new found love for horror films. It was a direct ‘Woman In Black’ take on the Doctor Who episodes and played out quite nicely. Getting the balance of ‘overall plot’ and ‘stand-alone stories’ is a tricky one; last season was let down by tipping slightly in the opposite direction. This time, however, I would have just liked to have had a little more focus on Clara.
I think the real problem is the fact that the seasons have been broken into two chunks now. This was a season that simply ran out of time. It had a great idea, but had to squeeze it into half a season, as well as make Clara a comfortable addition to the Doctor Who canon. The writers wanted to play around with certain elements, but the entire season felt rushed because of it. Also, this season felt a little too family friendly for my liking. I didn’t want more gore, but in previous seasons, the Doctor still felt mature, even if it was aimed for a younger audience. For example, the writers didn’t hold back on the Weeping Angels or Vashta Nerada; it was the first time I recognised that something family-orientated could find some form of fear factor. This season felt like it was for kids and kids alone. I could cope with the second episode about the singing, but the Cyberman amusement park episode was the bottom of the barrel. The dialogue was awful and if it wasn’t for Matt Smith, the episode would have been offensive to even watch.
Thank god, the season pulled it together for the finale. The Clara episode is wrapped up with a neat explanation, which will have the old Doctor Who fans squealing with delight (there is a slight addition to the early Doctor Who canon that is simply brilliant). The emotions run high: the moment the Doctor begins crying, even before an explanation, heart-strings are being pulled. We know that we are in for a rollercoaster ride. There is also an amazing reveal at the end of the episode, that will have probably already been spoiled for you, if you haven’t seen the episode for yourself yet. Although it does make the episode feel more like a preview that an episode in itself, it still makes it a strong contender for the best Matt Smith episode yet.
If I could offer some areas to improve in that particular episode. I would have gotten rid of the Cyberman episode (probably with fire and machetes), and made that finale a two-parter. That way, we could have explored the Whisper-Men a little more. They were terrifying, really good villains, but they didn’t really have a gimmick, which made the Silence and the Weeping Angels so amazing. They just looked creepy, rather than doing anything that made them fearsome. If we had a two-parter, we could have had an episode dedicated to the Doctor and his companions running from this monsters. Also, I would have killed off one of the companions: probably Jenny. It would have made Vastra more interesting in the following seasons. Failure to have a token death highlighted how child-friendly the season has got. Also, when the entire team is together, they seem pointless. We are watching this show for the Doctor, and every other character is given little more to do that rattle off a joke or just look impressed or scared. As with Amy and Rory, the writers need to start killing off some characters, not matter how beloved they are.
Now to the main question: is Clara good enough to stand alongside the companion greats? The simple answer is: yes! It is still a little early to tell, but she has impressed me so far. She is quirky, confident, yet knows when to stand back and let Matt Smith do his thing. Her positive attitude might wear thin, but I think she keeps the energy the show is going for. Sometimes the writers gave her a dud bit of dialogue and I think the show needs to get rid of the two children she is baby-sitting. I also like the idea that in between episodes, she goes back home to chill with her family. It is something that I felt has been missing since Amy Pond became the companion. In summary, the writers need to do some tweaking, but the base character is strong enough to stick around for a good few seasons.
So yes, this season has been pretty poor, but has been saved by a few amazing episodes. However, I cannot ignore the middle of the season, when it almost became a chore to tune in each week. Matt Smith is brilliant, but we cannot keep relying on him to hold the show together. He is doing the best he can – and his best is phenomenal to watch – but it is about time the show gave him an episode, where the actor can shine. As ever, I shall remain dedicated to the show.
Final verdict: Quite frankly saved by the finale. The rest of the season dragged its heels and probably lost a few viewers.