Okay, confession time. I hated this last season of Doctor Who. I hated Amy and Rory’s melodrama, mostly because I hate Amy and her egotistic, narcissistic, I’m-a-leggy-redhead ways. I hated that Rory’s dad had absolutely no use and presumably died sad, alone and confused. I hated dinosaurs on spaceships, Amy’s-a-journalist-just-‘cuz, and the Doctor going insane one what one assumes is an Adderall overdose.
So I didn’t have particularly high hopes for Season 7: Season Trying Harder. But I love Moffat, so I gave it a chance. And it was awesome.
Let me get this out of the way: I don’t care that the villain doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. It’s mirroring a boy and so if he doesn’t exist the bad guy will go away except no wait it’s still alive and turned the man into Mr. Freeze?
- Start instead with the fact that the evil snow is played by Ian McKellen.
As the picture above clearly shows, the villain is creepy in the traditional fashion of Moffat bad guys: it’s ubiquitous, it appears from nowhere and it is tied explicitly to what you fear, and what you imagine. It gets needlessly complicated at the end, but such is the way of the The Who. Having Ian McKellen be the voice just made it that much more epic, because every word he says is music, so the nonsensical parts didn’t matter much.
2. Point the Second: The Doctor’s evolution of tragedy. What I love about the Doctor is that at his core, no matter his incarnation, he is always essentially the same: a lonely, excitable, adventurous, show-off.
But if the Doctor is always the same at his core, then it’s fun to see how each incarnation deals with pain and loss differently. And Matt Smith’s Doctor is amazingly sensitive, in an almost child-like way. Eccleston’s was angry, Tennant’s was deeply romantic, but Smith’s Doctor is characterized by a deep internalization of pain. He is the most dichotomous Doctor, being the youngest actor who often appears to be the oldest in moments of stress or weariness. This is not a man who loses companions lightly, and the fact that he’s wounded by Amy’s departure is apparent. I suppose I was impressed because the only thing I liked about Amy could be witnessed with the television on mute, but whatever. I loved to see the Doctor start off as a bitter, retired old man. And I loved watching him come alive again.
3. The companion. Clara is gorgeous. She’s also attentive, competent and obviously more than what she seems (and probably more after that as well.) Companions aren’t usually complex. The plot rarely revolves around uncovering exactly who they are. They tend to be audience stand-ins, being drawn from our time and having little that makes them unusual or overtly annoying.
But Clara is a puzzle, from her Victorian-era origins to her accent to that ring on her left hand that never gets addressed. She has the competence of Martha Jones, the enthusiasm of Rose Tyler, and none of the qualities of Donna Noble, which endears her to me greatly. Also, did I mention how gorgeous she was?
I am excited to find out more about her. So is the Doctor. This matters. After 7 years, you need to keep things fresh, and I would call this fairly fresh.
4. The goddamn dialogue. It’s Moffat’s greatest skill, and he does no wrong with it here. From the one-word interview to the sly references to the Holmes-and-Watson homoerotic undertones in his other masterpiece, Sherlock, Moffat gives that snappy dialogue that I just adore. You always know when he’s building up to reuse a good line in a powerful or poignant way, but he almost always surprises me with the outcome (except for “Pond.” I called that one.)
Season 6 was brilliant. Season 7 had started to slip into unbearable cheese and inexplicable sentimentality. That was what I expected from this. Hell, that’s what I expect from every Doctor Who Christmas Special. And to be fair the cloud thing was over-the-top in its glaring metaphor, the ending made no sense and the CGI is still crap, but that’s not what makes a good Doctor Who episode. A good episode is when the Doctor shows his soul a bit, and you realize it’s still intact.
And this episode delivered in spades.