The fifth series of the return of the Doctor is nearing its end. We have two episodes to go, and more than a couple plot-lines to wrap up. This series introduced a new actor to the role, Matt Smith, and to be perfectly honest, I was worried how he'd do. I'd never seen him in anything, and the roles he had done seemed like nothing that might prove him to be the kind of actor I'd prefer to play the Doctor.
I should have known that the show was going in the right direction when they chose Stephan Moffatt, the man who has written all of my favorite episodes of the newer series, to guide the show when Russell Davies stepped down. His best, in my opinion, was Blink, a story that used time-travel very well, and showed that Moffatt could take something ubiquitous like stone garden angels and make them creepy and down-right frightening.
At any rate, since I like Moffatt so much, I should have trusted his choice of Smith. And to a point I did, but Smith has far exceeded my expectations. The first episode, Eleventh Hour, showed that he could be funny and warm, but still have a touch of menace. The episode showed the kind of Doctor that Smith was going to be: Protective of children, curious about everything, and not one to take weapons or threats lightly. Moffatt, who wrote the episode, also has a sequence that effectively passes on the role to Smith, with a montage of previous Doctors through which Smith walks at the appropriate time. It was nice for them to acknowledge the previous Doctors, especially the eighth who seems to be ignored or forgotten most of the time.
The next episode, The Beast Below, was a bit of "more of the same." They again show that the Doctor can't stand children being threatened, as the Doctor and his new companion Amy arrive in a future where the whole of humanity has taken their cities and lifted them off the Earth in search of a new planet to call home. Children have started to go missing from the flying Britain, and a mass of clockwork creatures is suspected. It turned out to be nothing of the kind, and Amy saves the day, which to me made the Doctor seem a bit, well, weak for not figuring it out himself.
The return of the Daleks is next up, with the Doctor trying to help out Winston Churchill with a Dalek problem he didn't even know he had. The episode results in the evolution of the Daleks into what we are lead to believe will be much more viscious enemies for the Doctor.
Stephen Moffatt brings back his Stone Angels in a two-parter, The Time of Angels and Flesh and Stone. These episodes also saw the return of another of Moffatt's creations, Professor River Song, who is a future companion of the Doctor. Like Blink, this episode used time-travel really well, with River leaving a message in a place that she knows the Doctor will visit in the future, telling him when to return to get her out of a sticky situation. From there, the Doctor faces a ship full of Stone Angels and a crack in time that causes people caught in it to be completely removed from time. The crack is a running plot point this season, appearing in nearly all episodes.
Nowadays, all shows must have a vampire episode, and apparently Doctor Who is no exception. Vampires of Venice tells the story of a shapechanging race who need human blood to survive. I had more than a few problems with this episode, not the least of which was the ending where one of the shape changers removes clothing that we have been shown is part of her metamorphing.
In Amy Choice, the Doctor and Amy, along with Amy's fiance Rory, are trapped in a dream by the Dream Lord. Or is it a dream? From one point of view, Amy and Rory have been married for five years and are expecting their first child. From another, the three of them are trapped on the TARDIS heading for a cold star. If they die in the dream, they return to reality. But which is the dream? I found this one to be entertaining, but I knew what the final solution was fairly early in the episode.
Another two-parter, The Hungry Earth and Cold Blood, brought back an enemy of the third Doctor, the Silurians. Once again, the Silurians are angry at the surface humans for "invading" their world by drilling. The basic plot is practically a direct retelling of third Doctor episodes, and for me there were no surprises, as all of the characters were fairly one-dimensional. Only the heart-breaking ending mattered much, but I'm pretty sure it's only a plot point that will be reversed or at least resolved in the series finale.
In order to cheer up Amy, the Doctor takes her to an exhibit of Vincent Van Gogh's paintings in Vincent and the Doctor. The Doctor notices a monster in one of the paintings, and he and Amy go to help Van Gogh defeat the creature. My problem with this episode was that they spent far too much time having Van Gogh gaze mournfully at Amy and almost no time on the creature. The actor who played Van Gogh did look just like the painter's self-portrait, though, so that was at least interesting.
The episode that aired last weekend, The Lodger, has the Doctor stranded on Earth while Amy in the TARDIS is unable to land due to something happening in the upstairs flat of the room the Doctor takes. We discover that (no surprise) the Doctor is good at everything, from football (soccer) to sales calls. An amusing episode, but one that suffered from not enough Amy. Originally I thought that it was that there wasn't enough interaction between Amy and the Doctor, but I realized that in most episodes Amy and the Doctor split up anyway, so that the writer can use them both as POV characters.
If this sounds like I'm down on the series, I'm not. I love Matt Smith as the Doctor, and I adore Karen Gillen as Amy (C'mon, cute and a redhead? I'm so there.). I suspect that I know the cause of the crack that's become the super-story of the series, and I think I might also know how it's going to be resolved. Having said that, Moffatt always surprises me, so no matter how I think it might end, I'm probably wrong and that's what will make the journey fun.