Channel: BBC One
Recurring Cast: Matt Smith, Karen Gillian, Arthur Darvill, Alex Kingston
Doctor Who was onto a good thing. It had come from that weird nerdy show that only the kids at school with no friends talked about, to a new and improved action series that you either liked or were classed as uncool. Christopher Ecclestone laid the foundations, David Tennant brought it up to the levels of mass hysteria and Matt Smith’s first season as the craziest Doctor yet was my personal favourite set of adventures with the Doctor yet. However, like all good things, eventually they have to come to the end and, for many, Season Six marked the start of a downwards spiral that we could argue the show hasn’t recovered from.
It opens with a two-part episode, which in fairness, throws us into an intriguing mystery. Some time has passed since we last saw these characters, but one day, the Doctor summons his three companions, Amy, Rory and the ever-enigmatic River Song, to a beach in America. He seems strangely emotional and nostalgic, and before long, it turns out why. He wants them to witness his death, scared of dying alone. An astronaut walks from the sea and shoots him down before he has a chance to regenerate. The Doctor dies and his companions are left, shocked and broken. However, it turns out that the Doctor also invited his younger self, who has no idea he has a death sentence hanging over him. The group try to figure out what the hell is going on, aware that they could create a paradox in time, if the Doctor figures out what his future has in store for him. Meanwhile, the Doctor has troubles of his own. He is still tracking down the Silence, a mysterious organisation that is obsessed with wiping him from existence, and there is something very different about Amy Pond, although he can’t quite figure out what.
The biggest problem here is the crux of the mystery that we find ourselves in. This whole season revolves around the question of the Doctor’s murder and if he genuinely is going to die? For good this time? And the whole affair is pointless, because of course he isn’t. Even if there wasn’t another season by Matt Smith out, and a season in production this very moment, no one was fooled that the writers were killing off one of the BBC’s biggest money-makers. It is a question of how the Doctor is going to get out of this one, rather than ‘if’ and once you figured that one out, you have a selection of three possibilities, that are nowhere near as subtle as they want to be. It wouldn’t be so bad, but Stephen Moffat gets too clever for his own good, stuffing this storyline into our faces again and again, so we cannot escape from it. No one is tricked by Moffat’s sleight of hand and therefore, the emotional moments are vaguely superficial. More interesting is the Amy Pond sub-plot and even then the reveal at the end of that plotline might throw some of you. If you aren’t too massive a fan of River Song (especially this season, where she crops up more than ever), then you will be irritated at the heavy hint that she isn’t going anywhere for a long while yet.
When the story manages to break away from the main narrative arc, there are some good thrills to be had. Some of the stand-alone stories are really good and the contained plot feels far more intelligent that the bigger picture. One emotional episode sees Amy Pond’s timeline get split into two and the Doctor is forced to leave one of them behind. Another episode brings up the question of doppelgangers and throws a couple of morals at us, the kind of intelligent self-reflection that works on Doctor Who. Also some of the villains are really good here. The Silence, the actual monsters not the religion, are great. They are ghostly, white figures who wipe themselves from your memory the second you are not looking at them. While they are closely connected to this larger narrative that you might have grown fed up with, they are original and terrifying, elevating Doctor Who to the level you want it to be.
No matter how low this show gets, it has a secret weapon: Matt Smith. While I might annoy some Tennant-holics, Matt Smith is my favourite Doctor. While let down by the weakest material in quite some time, Smith has a way of always emerging from the other side, better than ever. The mid-season break sees Matt Smith come out with some great monologues. When the Silence attack his friends to get to him, his vengeance is subtle, yet brilliant, Smith taunting his foes with veiled malice. There is another great moment when a young girl, who allegedly spent an adventure fighting with him dies, and he doesn’t even remember her. His comforting last words to her dying body, while he begins to hate himself for what he has become, are heart-breaking. That episode was probably the worst of the season, mainly because it all hung on plot and that silly Amy Pond twist, but Matt Smith saved it with some powerhouse acting. No matter how much I lose faith in this program, Matt Smith is always there, with a spark in his eye, keeping me hooked for the next episode.
Final Verdict: Stephen Moffat gets too caught up in a wider story arc and the season feels too plot-heavy as a result. Yet at times, it rises above that flaw and delivers some great Doctor Who moments.