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4.0 out of 5 stars Moments of Greatness in Good Stories But Why A Split Anyway?, 29 Sep 2012
This review is from: Doctor Who - Series 7 Part 1 [DVD + UV Copy] (DVD)
First things first; the decision to split each new series of Doctor Who continues to feel absolutely ludicrous considering the strength of the ratings not just here in the UK, but also of the shows growing ratings and popularity abroad. Also critics of Moffat should take a real look at the series and accept that such criticisms are becoming a minority based on this increasing success. Series seven (part one?) offers a diverse range of stories much like the previous series and although this half doesn't have an overall story arc, there are themes being explored otherwise this is a series of five standalone episodes. The only issue I would disagree with the makers over this series is the claims of making each episode a blockbuster. This is a more traditional series but these episodes just demonstrate just how consistently good the production value is but individually none of these episodes feel much like a blockbuster.

Asylum of the Daleks
A strong series opener that sees head writer Steven Moffat also back on familiar ground with this seemingly standalone episode that ranks as the best Dalek story since their revival in the first series. Matt Smith is on great form as the Doctor and although their relationship turmoil is under-developed, Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill are also at their best. The episode however belongs to newcomer Jenna Lousie-Coleman who makes a surprising debut here and gets mouths watering for the Christmas special when she makes her formal debut as the new companion. It's a story with great twists and turns, horror and thrills with outstanding visual effects and it restores the Daleks back to their glorious form as menacing and frightening adversaries.

Dinosaurs on a Spaceship
The title is silly but there is surprising darkness in this race against time thriller/adventure story. Like the previous episode there are small hints and references that things are not all well in the relationship between the Doctor and Amy but these are small, interesting moments in a generally old fashioned adventure story. The villain is particularly despicable but there is lighter moments as Mark Williams debuts as Rory's father, Brian. Matt Smith appears to be having a great time and here his energy is quite infectious. The limited visual effects work with the dinosaurs but compared to last week's episode this does feel like a bit of a climb down. It is fun although the expanded support cast adds little to the story. One for the kids perhaps.

A Town Called Mercy
This is a more serious themed episode than before but it isn't a predictable wild western like the trailers implied and has surprising depth to it. This is a Doctor centric story where Amy and Rory are relegated to the background so at times you do wonder why they're there although a scene where Amy challenges the Doctor does reveal plenty of this series' themes. The finale does seem a little rushed and you get a sense that maybe more could be done and explored here with more time but the location and set designs are superb and the story works well in examining the darker side of the Doctor's personality. It surprises with its priorities and a certain degree of unpredictability but as a whole it doesn't feel totally satisfying. This could be one of those episodes that improve with perspective over time.

The Power of Three
The tone and structure resembles that of series five episode `the Lodger' and like that episode this is an absolute delight to watch thanks to superb performances from all cast members; including a welcome return by Mark Williams. This is another worldwide invasion story that features certain traits common during the Russell T Davies era but thankfully it is toned down and just about works. It's a story requiring patience but there a number of great treats along the way making it one of the more all-round entertaining Doctor Who stories. A prelude perhaps to the pivotal end of the Ponds but this is a great story in itself although you can say its biggest flaw is that the finale is a tad rushed and cool looking monster under-used. This is a real series highlight for me.

The Angels Take Manhattan
Steven Moffat's second effort this series is equally as heartbreaking and thrilling as his mighty series opener `Asylum of the Daleks', but here he's playing with his greatest creations; the Weeping Angels. This is a stylish story that has a slight noir feel to it mixed with horror as the Weeping Angels are back to their very best. The New York setting is beautifully realized and pays dividends but the real highlight is the performance of Matt Smith and co. as longstanding companions get a fitting and very sad farewell. The story has a few nice twist and turns but it is relatively simple but filled with great moments and I think overall Moffat delivered on his promise for a fitting end to the Ponds.

This is a good first half to a series with a couple of real highlights for me but not quite the epic and bold start that made series six so memorable. But there are still things to look forward to in the future, not to mention new companion Jenna Louise Coleman on the way very soon. A diverse range of episodes should keep most Doctor Who fans happy with the only real negative aspect being that there are many months before Doctor Who is with us again.
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