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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A few dodgy episodes but my favourite Matt Smith/Steven Moffat series, 25 Nov. 2013
This review is from: Doctor Who - The Complete Series 7 [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
Admittedly series seven of new Who has several mediocre episodes particularly in the second half but for me it is the strongest series since two to four. I know some fans are disappointed with it but while it is not perfect there are a number of decent episodes, some excellent. There is still a story arc - namely about "the impossible girl" - which is a good thing but there are no multi-part stories which often works but also sometimes fails. For example everything up to the final ten minutes of "The Power of Three" is really exciting storytelling about an invasion but the end is so simplistic (a flick of the doctor's sonic screwdriver) that it could have done with a second episode with a better resolution. Two of the least strong episodes "Journey to the Centre of the Tardis" and "Nightmare in Silver" similarly have fast resolutions but at least there is more sophistication that leads up to them.

But anyhow, usually having single episodes is okay and this run is in my opinion superior to series five and six. Steven Moffat's era as Doctor Who boss has been dogged by too much exposition and a lot of his best episodes were with Russell T Davies as boss. It is like he needed Davies in charge to reduce the excessive, dodgy exposition so the stories are more accessible. Whereas series five was bland and six was pretentious, Steven Moffat has honed his style and for the most part it is no longer puzzle of the week. It is big and cinematic while retaining sophistication and not being an overly complex, difficult watch.

"The Doctor, The Widow and the Wardrobe" I might surprise people is my favourite of the two Christmas specials. While it is like the 2010 special based on a famous story, this time it is done right. Whereas 2010's special was tacky with the singing and flying fish, this time it is atmospheric with the snow and trees. The emotion of the mother's predicament as to when to tell the children about the father's death in the war makes it an emotional tale too. The 2012 Christmas special "The Snowmen" is pretty good though not quite as amazing as the 2011 one. Again it has a good Christmas atmosphere and differs from the previous two in that it is not based in any way on another story. The story of Clara saving the Doctor and world from the great intelligence is solid. The only thing, however, that reduces its effect on me is that the 2008 special was likewise based in Victorian London and I enjoyed that a bit more.

"Asylum of the Daleks" is one of the very best episodes. Again it is atmospheric on the snow-covered planet and in the grimy, dark Dalek asylum. It is a strong story and introduces Jenna Coleman in what was a surprise first appearance. Her saving of the doctor and his companions is a decent ending and initiates the story arc of the "impossible girl." It is definitely the best Dalek episode of the Moffat era and finest Dalek episode in a long while.

"The Angels Take Manhattan" is the strongest episode of the entire series and even fans who do not like series seven must admit it is a great. It is very emotional as Amy and Rory die in the present time and is as good a departure of the doctor's companion(s) as series two's "Army of Ghosts/Doomsday." What also makes it such a strong episode is unlike series five where the Weeping Angels are boring, this time they can again like series three's "Blink" send people back in time to use their lifespan for energy. It makes for a much more interesting tale and the setting of New York with all the Angels is really grand. Alex Kingston as Amy and Rory's part Time Lord daughter also contributes a strong performance.

"The Bells of Saint John" is another great and feels like a short movie. "The Crimson Horror" is Mark Gatiss' best episode since series one's "The Unquiet Dead." Similarly, it is set in Victorian London and the factory is a strong setting and feels like a proper adventure with its various rooms that the characters travel through. The mystery of the factory workers deaths provides intrigue. Diana Rigg plays one of the best antagonists in the series as she is so sinister. Meanwhile Jenny, Strax and Madame Vastra are interwoven well into the resolution of the story and it is admirable the way Clara smashes the first mechanism instead of the doctor resorting to his sonic screwdriver.

"The Name of the Doctor" is the best series finale since series three providing an effective resolution to the mystery of "the impossible girl" and five years of River Song stories. It is genius for River Song's death to have been back in series four and now the viewer is seeing her for the last time as an echo from the library's computer. The continuity over a long time enhances the emotion of River Song's last meeting with the doctor. The atmosphere is again excellent and the viewer really feels the sadness of Trenzalore. The reveal at the end that there was another life of the doctor - one who broke the promise of his name - at the end of the episode is really exciting and sets up the story for the fiftieth anniversary special. The episode flows well but the only thing is perhaps there is slightly too much exposition in the final ten minutes of the episode which reduces my appreciation a bit. But it is the strongest finale in a long time though and all the different reveals are gripping.

Other good episodes in series seven include "A Town Called Mercy" with its moral dilemma in an American Western town. In fact Amy and Rory's final appearances in the first half of the series are their strongest ever. "Hide" is also a solid episode providing ghost searching with a fantasy/sci-fi explanation.

The problem that series seven has however is that there are a few episodes that drag it down a bit as they are so average or even poor. "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship" is run of the mill and dinosaurs in space did not work so effectively in Red Dwarf too. "Cold War" on the other hand lacks a bit of complexity in the plot to make it a good story. "Journey to the Centre of the Tardis" is bland with its too frequent running through the same corridor. Meanwhile "Nightmare in Silver" though not as bad as reviews made out is crying out for a more action-based plot. "The Rings of Akhaten" is simply the worst new Who episode ever - the minutes of singing which are part of the main story are cringe worthy.

Series seven of Doctor Who is for me the best under Steven Moffat's direction as show runner - there are nine and a half out of fifteen good to excellent episodes here. Anyway, for me the post-Christopher Ecclestone series have all failed to be consistently great all the way through though series five and six are particularly average overall. The problem is unlike something like Red Dwarf which typically has six episodes in each run it must be quite difficult to make thirteen episodes all vital with only a years' space between each series. There have always been some weak episodes since series one and though series seven is not perfect it has enough fine episodes to make it worth buying. You wonder whether some people have been especially unfavourable towards it as perhaps they are bored with Doctor Who. Perhaps Doctor Who could do with a reinvention soon - though not completely different - to refresh it but for now series seven despite some dross has enough good in it to make it a reasonably successful run.
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