Thursday, February 10, 2011

'Doctor Who' Season Five (2010)

Starring Matt Smith and Karen Gillan
Produced by Steven Moffat

Doctor Who: The Complete Fifth Series [Blu-ray]So long, David Tenant; hello Matt Smith.  The 11th version of the Doctor arrives on Earth and meets a small girl, Amelia Pond (Caitlin Blackwood) in the mid 1990s.  Still reeling from his regeneration, he's more eccentric than usual, but decides to help Amelia discover the truth about a mysterious crack in her bedroom wall.  The Doctor goes into the TARDIS to fix something, promising to be back in a few minutes.

Unfortunately, he reappears 12 years later.  Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) is now grown, having gone through years of therapy and been forced to conclude that her 'Raggedy Doctor' was an imaginary friend, a figment of her own imagination.  She's now engaged to a young nurse named Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill), and lives alone in her large house... which is infested with some kind of alien creature called 'Prisoner Zero'.  Not long after, a fleet of alien ships arrives in orbit, threatening to exterminate the human race unless Prisoner Zero gives itself up.  Since Prisoner Zero has no intention of doing so, the Doctor, Amy and Rory must discover a way to locate Prisoner Zero and return it to the aliens before it's too late.

Thus, it's another batch of crazy adventures through space and time with the Doctor and his companions.  They encounter the famous historical figures like painter Vincent van Gogh (Tony Curran), British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (Ian McNeice), and old enemies such as the Daleks and the Angels.  River Song (Alex Kingston) returns several times, and we can never tell whether it's a future or past version of her.  But everywhere the Doctor and Amy go, the mysterious cracks follow.  What are they?  Why are they appearing all over the universe?  And what do they have to do with the fabled Pandorica, a supposedly inescapable alien prison?

The fifth season of BBC's "Doctor Who" is a bit messy.  Some episodes are quite good, some are just a chore to get through.  I found my attention wandering a bit more than usual in this season, where past years had me riveted start to finish.  The return of the Angels, who were so fantastic a villain in Season 3's "Blink" offers some interesting twists, but seems to go on for too long.  A trip to Venice where the Doctor, Amy and Rory encounter vampires is a leaden, dull episode.  But for each of these failures, there are some excellent high points.  "Amy's Choice," where our heroes find themselves slipping back and forth between two realities and must decide which one is real has some excellent emotional moments for the characters, as well as a keen twist on the identity of the villain.  "The Lodger" also has the Doctor hilariously moving into an apartment with a couple of roommates, and trying to fit in with normal human society.

The two-part finale, "The Pandorica Opens" and "The Big Bang," is much more understated than finales of seasons past, but is all the better for it.  While my favorite finale has to be Season 3, this one ranks pretty dang high.  It's loaded with clever ideas and uses of time travel, with things happening almost hilariously out of order (but we're always brought up to speed later).  And the final moments, when the Doctor faces the possibility of never having existed, are sold quite well by the solid script and cast.

And let's talk about the cast for a moment.  David Tennant was fantastic as the Doctor.  Matt Smith, much like Christopher Eccleston before Tennant, seems almost there.  But something holds him back, I'm not quite sure what it is.  Smith's Doctor has a tendency to ramble almost to the point of incoherency; other characters rarely understand what he's talking about, and the audience may not be too far behind.  He's fun, and lively, but something about him is slightly off-putting.  Perhaps with time, he'll grow on me more.

"Doctor Who" is still a lot of fun.  This season has some problems, but overall, it's still wild, wacky and somewhat unpredictable.  The scripts are loaded with clever concepts and ideas, and the show is embracing time travel in new ways, often looping back on itself and creating new situations from old encounters.

See Also
Season One
Season Two
Season Three
Season Four
The Specials