With six discs to go at it's a pretty fair bet to say that this series of Doctor Who will pack more features than ever before into the package. This is not entirely a bad thing and will have most serious fans queuing to purchase. It's just that this year the series has seen more average Who than previous ones. However, it's not been all bad, not by a long shot. There's been much more that's good to talk about, so let's start.
The opener was the strongest first episode we've had yet: better than 'Rose' and infinitely preferable to the dull and stolid 'New Earth' of series 2.
Episodes 2 and 3 (Shakespeare and Gridlock) were admittedly slight on plot but full of nice characterisations and fun. Just what is required for peak-time Saturday viewing.
Unfortunately, the whole series lost its momentum when it hit the insipid, dull and not very convincing dalek two-parter. It wasn't all the writer Helen Rayner's fault but something was missing from the story and it just fell utterly flat.
The Lazarus Experiment and 42 steadied the ship somewhat, being solid if unremarkable, but it wasn't until we hit Human Nature and Family of Blood that the series really hit the heights again. Pretty much everything about those two episodes are perfect, with a connection that leads us into the final three episodes of the series (of which more soon).
Then we come to Blink. A tour de force from the Moff, who simply doesn't do Doctor Who duffers (this from the man who has all four series of the wonderful Coupling sitting at home). Well written, supremely acted and all done with very little Doctor at all. Inspired.
We then hit what is essentially a three part finale. The whole Utopia/Futurekind thread of the story is something of a McGuffin (though not totally) because the whole purpose of the whole episode is to get to the final 15 minutes and the wonder of THAT reveal, which had Who fans rubbing their hands with glee, and gave Derek Jacobi a chance to act quite stunningly evilly. The last two episodes work reasonably well, though it's easy to see why the finale itself could be seen as anti-climactic. After the peak of last year, it didn't quite match but was still one of the best things on terrestrial TV earlier this year.
Tennant has never been better as the Doctor. After occasional outbreaks of over-gurning histrionics in season 2, this season saw him get the mix absolutely bang on - not too dark, not too manic, just dark and manic enough (very Pat Troughton). Freema Agyeman has taken a bit of a pounding in some quarters; not entirely without foundation, but certainly not entirely fair either. She didn't do a bad job with what she was given and really did come good in the Human Nature two-parter. John Barrowman made a welcome cameo and give the series a nice, satisfying little twist at the end - the pay off to a question asked since the second episode of series one.
In the end, the high points of this series have raised the bar even further than it was before, showing just what new Who is capable of. The only problem is that throws the bits that don't quite hit those heights into sharp relief. This, I suppose, is the price of success.
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