And so with a bit of sorrow, tempered by immense joy and constant anticipation, we bid a fond adieu to another season of Doctor Who. The plots have been duly twisted, the revelations duly revealed, the jokes laughed at and the scares screamed at. (Well, not literally. Unless you’re my five-year-old daughter, who has gotten very good at burying her face in my shoulder and asking me to tell her when this bit is over.) So, now that we know everything we know…what do we think about what we know? Let’s talk more after the cut!
In retrospect, I think it’s easy to say that this season had much weaker non-Moffat stories than last season. In some ways, it reminded me of the later Davies seasons; the main showrunner got the big, flashy arc episodes, and there was always one stand-out writer they would go to for a killer story (of course, in the Davies seasons it was Moffat they would go to; here, it’s Neil Gaiman, who turns in a Doctor Who story that’s a shoo-in for next year’s Hugo.) While all the others were from lesser lights–either ‘Doctor Who’ writers who were working their way up into proper television, or from TV writers who weren’t that familiar with science fiction in general and thought their ideas were amazingly clever and new even when they weren’t. This year we got ‘The Curse of the Black Spot’, which hung its hat on “Doctor Who on a pirate ship” and resolutely refused to bother with even the faintest stab at a coherent plot; ‘Night Terrors’, the usual Mark Gatiss formulaic tripe; and ‘The Girl Who Waited’, which was embarrassingly trite and predictable even by the standards of someone who wrote ‘Rise of the Cybermen’/’The Age of Steel’. Oh, and we got the forgettable Flesh two-parter. How forgettable? I had to go back and add this in when I realized I hadn’t gotten to thirteen episodes.
On the other hand, we did get an excellently creepy ‘God Complex’, a fun and breezy ‘Closing Time’ (as someone who’s been following Gareth Roberts ever since the early 90s, when he was writing Doctor Who novels, I will tell you that “fun and breezy” is his specialty) and the aforementioned drop-dead awesome ‘Doctor’s Wife’. And we got the Moffat episodes, all five of them. There is no such thing as a genuinely bad Moffat episode, only a Moffat episode that is less good than other Moffat episodes.
This season, we did get one or two of the less-good Moffat episodes; let’s face it, ‘A Good Man Goes To War’ faced the unenviable task of creating a terrifying, implacable, worthy-of-the-Doctor foe pretty much out of thin air, then having the Doctor come up with a way to stop them easily so we can see how impressive he is, then having them come up with a way to trump him that doesn’t make the Doctor look stupid. It…um, succeeded about as well as it could have. But that still wasn’t all that well. And as for ‘Let’s Kill Hitler’…did the “River sacrifices all her regenerations to save the Doctor from the poison with no antidote” ending really work very well for anyone? I ask mostly out of curiosity.
On the other hand, the opening two-parter was terrifyingly ambitious, the season arc actually made a lot of sense and had a fantastic ending, and the mystery of River Song was not drawn out and over-teased (and for everyone who says that Moffat is doing some sort of unprecedented Mary-Sue-ing by focusing so much on a supporting character and their story arc and plotline and this is a betrayal of the whole spirit of the series…River Song is Turlough with a better-thought-out backstory and more sex appeal. Think about it.) And really, the whole season would have been worth it if all we got was “Pterodactyls Are Vermin–Do Not Feed.” On the whole, this wasn’t quite as good as Season Five for me, but it easily trumped Seasons Three and Four and makes me look forward to Seven quite a bit. Bring on the fiftieth anniversary, I say!