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26 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Welcome back to form, Matt & Steve! Farewell, Karen & Arthur..., 16 Dec. 2012
This review is from: Doctor Who - Series 7 Part 1 [DVD + UV Copy] (DVD)
Series 6 of Doctor Who was something people either loved or hated. While it had it's moments, I felt Steve Moffat had over-extended himself with his writing and direction, turning the once-proud and magnificent show into an (overall) long-winded and inaccessible mess that just got lost within itself.

Let down by the gross inconsistency, I opted NOT to check out the 2011 Christmas Special ("The Doctor, The Widow & The Wardrobe") and was not seeing or hearing anything to make me want to tune back into the show. But then Moffat started bringing up Daleks, Karen Gillan (Amy Pond) & Arthur Darvill (Rory Williams) announced their shocking departure and despite the creative direction having dipped drastically...I LOVE Matt Smith's Doctor.

So on the verge of switching off...I decided to give the show a second chance. I'm REALLY glad I did! So far, this seventh series of Doctor Who signifies a return to form, and given it's DVD release, Part 1 is something I would highly recommend.

After his whole overcomplicated "Death of the Doctor" arc, Moffat wisely returns to what he does best; concentrating his writing into SINGULAR episodes. This time, his direction and vision has extended into a much-more mature & disciplined form of storytelling for this series. So far, the episodes (although linked by continuity) are pretty much self-contained tales, like Who used to be before its 2005 revival. By keeping things simple, Doctor Who feels fresher than its been for years, and it clearly shows in what has (to date) been a very strong outing.

Starting with the much-hyped series-opener, "Asylum of the Daleks" sets the standard and is the best episode since Series 5's "Time of the Angels/Flesh & Stone". After the hugely disappointing "Victory of the Daleks" and being absent (sans a criminally brief cameo) throughout all Series 6, "Asylum" returns the Daleks back to their rightful place as the Doctor's most terrifying and deadliest foes.

It's Moffat's first proper Dalek episode, and it's a classic, seeing the Doctor, Amy & Rory actually summoned by their arch-enemies to actually HELP them! Steve's writing here is at its best for this one, paying homage & expanding upon the Daleks' illustrious history and depth. Featuring plenty of good scares, the excellent Jenna-Louise Coleman (the next companion in-line) in a surprise appearance, a great twist in the Amy & Rory relationship and a satisfying ending, this has all the trademark intricacies, psychology, shocks, emotion & drama that made Moffat famous. It's everything a Dalek episode SHOULD be! The best since Series 4's "The Stolen Earth"!

After that, we have "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship" (by Chris Chibnall), an episode that (on paper) looks set to be as bad as Series 5's "Vampires in Venice" and yet turns out to be a really enjoyable family romp. Okay, it's a ridiculously silly premise, but thanks to quality writing and presentation, the whole episode turns out great, offering family entertainment, a delightful array of fun characters, absurd creatures & nasty villains, plus the Fast Show legend himself Mark Williams offering superb entertainment as Rory's dad Brian.

The wonderful variety of this series is expanded upon in "A Town Called Mercy", one of the most powerful, intelligent and adult tales we've seen in the Moffat era. Veteran Who writer Toby Whithouse delivers a tense, claustrophobic episode that touches upon several moral dilemmas, all of which are handled and resolved with excellence in the inspired western setting. The ones to watch out for here are Matt Smith (whose Doctor borders on dark, menacing & fragile) & Andrew Brooke who breathes such life and sympathy into the tragic rouge, The Gunslinger.

What sets Series 7 apart from previous series is that Moffat actually takes the opportunity to age the companions. Amy and Rory don't remain with the Doctor on his travels like they used to, instead going without seeing him for months (or even years) before resuming their adventures. It's an original way of exploring the lives of the companions, and Chris Chibnall utilises the idea to give such heart in "The Power of Three."

It's worth mentioning that both Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill give perhaps the most down-to-earth and heartbreaking performances as Amy & Rory for the last two episodes on this set. Throughout "The Power of Three" (which is another wonderful outing that thrives on the domestic setting), it becomes apparent that Amy and Rory have outgrown the Doctor and are on the verge of leaving him altogether. It's truly a time for sadness as events reach their ill-fated conclusion, and when "The Angels Take Manhattan"...the tears WILL fall in what is a genuinely heartbreaking departure. Although Amy and Rory's exit doesn't quite have the same power as Rose Tyler or Donna Noble's, it's nonetheless devastating as two companions who have proved themselves most worthy of the Time Lord must finally say goodbye.

Anything else? The Weeping Angels and River Song (Alex Kingston) are back again for the finale, and although they lack the same sparkle that they possessed in earlier series, their presence is still important for the terrifying, life-changing mid-season finale. That plus the exceptional guest appearances from Jenna-Louise Coleman (who will doubtless be a legendary companion after her performance here) and Mark Williams (proving himself worthy of Bernard Cribbins' Wilfred Mott) has so far made Series 7 absolutely charming, spectacular and major.

Doctor Who: Series 7 Part One has proven itself to be a true return to form for the show. I don't recall Doctor Who being this consistent since Series 4 (my favourite!). Steve Moffat has finally mastered his vision, and Matt Smith just continues to cement his legacy as the Eleventh Doctor. For those fans who felt let down by Series 6, your faith will be restored with this box set. I'm certainly looking forward to the rest of the series next year.

P.S. Goodbye, Karen and Arthur for giving such greatness to the show. You will be sorely missed.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 16 Apr 2013 04:16:30 BDT
The Haylor says:
Very good review although I wouldn't be necessarily so quick to blast series 6 which, although yes seemed to struggle under the weight of the story Moffat was trying to tell, still isn't totally complete and has a lot of quality. Even when considering its faults, its ambition can't be faulted nor does it ever become as bad as some things were in the Davies era.

In reply to an earlier post on 16 Apr 2013 13:05:47 BDT
R. Wood says:
True, there were some great highlights in Series 6 (namely "The Doctor's Wife" and "The Girl Who Waited"), but classic moments in Series 6 were few-and-far-between for me. The Davies era had its faults just like any other in Doctor Who, but when it came to crunch-time, most days Davies delivered in a huge way, particularly in his series finales, establishing the Time War, Rose, Donna, or writing episodes like 'Turn Left'.

The problem I've had with Moffat's direction since he took over, is that while he can produce some of television's GREATEST writing ever on his best day, his series-finales haven't lived up to the hype after such promise, but it's only my opinion. Cheers for the feedback, glad you liked the review.
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