Doctor Who returns after a while to present us with another half and half season, this time with Christmas as the bridging point. After the excellent and complicated Series 6 with the most prominent story arc in the show's history, Steven Moffat and co. presents us with a five part series, five blockbusters of Doctor Who giving us things we could only dream of, Insane Daleks,Dinosaurs, a Western and the return of the Weeping Angels. Is this series good? Oh yes, this one is good, epic stories, big characters, a constantly changing title sequence and some real highlights. Let's begin.
Episode 1: Asylum of the Daleks 8/10
As you no doubt have seen this episode had a lot if images showing ever Dalek design in Doctor Who history. If you expect this to have any impact on the story, you will be disappointed. There's about three of four brief shots of the past Daleks and they do barely anything in the story. But that's really the only major negative. The premise is that the Daleks abduct the Doctor on Skaro and force him and his companions to take out a force field on their planetary asylum so they can finally blow it up after keeping it around for the admiration of their pure hatred. Meanwhile down below, a survivor of a crash, Oswin (Jenna Louise Coleman, the next companion in a surprising cameo), finds out about our intrepid heroes and gives them a helping hand in getting around a mainly dormant asylum. As the Doctor and Amy fight off the Dalek's new minions (in one of the most disturbing elements in the Dalek arsenal) Rory meets the Daleks who are now waking up and remembering they are scary again. As the Doctor races to get them off and Oswin out, Rory and Amy seem to be in a divorce position and tensions run high as Amy faces a potential end to her humanity. So what's good about this episode? The Dalek's return and the Time War design is back in force, meaning they no longer are the plastic mockery subjects of "Victory". The episode is dark, creepy, menacing, deeply tragic and features many a moment between the Doctor and his long-standing companions, as well as very dark revelations and a great twist ending. Doctor Who is back, and it's awesome.
Episode 2: Dinosaurs on a Spaceship 10/10
Could you ask for a better premise? Well, anyway, the Doctor and a gang consisting of a big game hunter, an Egyptian Queen and the Ponds + Rory's dad arrive on a spaceship heading for Earth to find the crew missing and Dinosaurs as the cargo. This episode is just a joy, a great romp and the first proper adventure story since Series 5 in 2010. We get the best of Britain with Mark Williams as Rory's dad Brian, David Bradley as our villain and Mitchell and Webb as a pair of robots reminiscent of Douglas Adams' work. The plot is fairly straightforward, Chibnall is at his finest and this time doesn't screw up the story like he did in "Hungry Earth" and its a fun, humorous romp with plenty of great CGI dinosaurs with "Primeval" contributing to designs and just generally a fun, memorable albeit silly episode of Doctor Who.
Episode 3: A Town Called Mercy 7/10
Doctor Who's first Western since 1965's "The Gunfighters" and we get a mainly good story with some weaknesses. The scenery and sets are fantastic, the effort made into making this feel genuine is extremely admirable and the fact that the lines of good and evil are blurred work well here. At heart a Western is the story of inner demons of heroes and villains, it's perfectly handled here as is the human emotion of fear and the desire for justice. Visually it's great with the Gunslinger cyborg looking awesome and a good back-story for what we have as the plot. So what's wrong with it? Well the emotions are there but sometimes executed weakly, the power is there just not enough and the ending is something of a fluke in the wrong direction as to if it even makes sense. It's still not a bad episode and it a good Western blockbuster for all to enjoy.
Episode 4: The Power of Three 7.5/10
Different from the other four in this series, The Power of Three is a slow invasion of Earth with billions of cubes which over time grow dangerously complacent and familiar to humanity, doing nothing but with a sinister motivation. And then the cubes begin to activate, and then the invasion truly begins. This episode however has the real strength in that it is revolutionary for examining the companions - it's the first to truly show the strain of the Doctor / home life and does what no other story has done, examined the issue of that strain. The Doctor here has a great scene confessing to Brian about the fate of his companions, albeit vaguely but with enough there. It's a deep story and the fact is, the Pond's are special, they have done things with the Doctor no other has done, seen Universe's end and reboot, had their lives stolen or lived and then come back, the Pond's are more than most companions in what they've done and this episode shows it in many a touching scene. But the invasion is still good, the menace of things you take for granted invented and potently realized. The only problem being the incredibly rushed third act which damages the episode with how quickly and transparently it goes by, but that's not the focus of the story and with UNIT, and a certain figure leading it, we have an excellent tale of the Doctor and his companions.
Episode 5: The Angels Take Manhattan 8.5/10
It promised to be the most heartbreaking episode of Doctor Who ever, although in retrospect I consider that to be "The Family of Blood" but this one's tear wrenching too. It's the departure of the Pond's and the end for this series. Bringing back two of the most beloved creations from Steven Moffat, both River Song (now Professor) and the Weeping Angels make a return in a dark, paradoxical and deeply emotional finale. Describing the plot for this is tricky but it basically takes that small little hint at the end of "Blink" and turns into it's full vision, terrifying cherubs and a certain landmark which you should never turn your back on. The episode is, well, it's not so much clever as simple, brutal, honest and does live up to expectations as a sad departure. It's emotional, it's wrong, it's heartfelt and unlike other companions, it feels right in how it ends, just right. It may not have exploited the Angels much but in truth, the focus is surprisingly not on them, because let's face it, we've seen their stories and the strengths, despite them being phenomenal in concept, were never the greatest focus, there was always enough in their stories to make them just a great part of it all. This at the end of it all and, was about being the swansong of two of the best to have traveled the TARDIS. It's a fitting finale to Series 7 Part 1.
And there we have it, five cinematic blockbusters of Who which took us from the Dalek asylum, to a spaceship filled with Dinosaurs, to a Western town of war crimes and penance, from a deadly familiar invasion to paradox monsters. From terrifying creatures to slow invasions, from romps on spaceships with the best of Britain to fear and justice in an isolated part of the world, Doctor Who gave us so much in five episodes, which whilst they all have flaws, could have perhaps benefited from longer running times for their colossal stories, should be and will be remembered for being tales which gave us an incredible end to the Pond's era on Who. Roll on Christmas, and bring on 2013. It's been a great, emotional ride.