Published on October 8th, 2012 | by SARA2
What Happened to Everybody Lives?: Doctor Who Season 7 Review
This Doctor Who mini-season was designed to be five exciting stand-alone adventures as well as the final ride for two beloved companions that we have traveled with for two and a half years. On Doctor Who terms these two goals contradict each other if either are meant to be done right. The stand-alone episodes were splashy and fun, and there were some lovely character moments and smart bits in there. We got to spend time with Brian Williams and meet the delightful dalek-table Oswin Oswald. However, without a strong thread tying all these stories together there was very little build up within the actual show to Rory and Amy’s departure. Think hard, most of the hype regarding the impending heartbreak came from BBC and BBC America’s amazing job promoting the season at events, in the media, and through their tumblr, facebook and twitter accounts not to mention the tweeting cast members.
I’ve attempted (and failed) to be brief; Maureen Ryan of HuffPostTV and Jill Pantozzi of The Mary Sue wrote wonderful, insightful reviews of “The Angels take Manhattan” and season 7 as a whole. They hit the nail right on the head and I hardly think I could articulate half of what they said as eloquently as they do.
Others have brought this up before but can we please talk about how the Doctor was waving a gun around and no one said a thing. This is a big deal folks. I’m not about to pretend that the Doctor doesn’t have blood on his hands, he carries the weight of countless lost souls on his shoulders. At times he is vengeful and angry and he does let people die, the genocide of the Silence in series 6 was a terrifying example of this. The Doctor is not perfect but he is always so careful to distance himself from the violence as much as possible, only using force when absolutely necessary. The Doctor makes a point of not wielding deadly arms and goes to great lengths to avoid casualties at any cost, even the lives of his enemies are precious and not to be taken for granted.
“Everybody lives”, a sentiment that echoed throughout Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant’s runs, even resonating in Smith’s years, seems to have been forgotten in this run of episodes. In “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” and “A Town Called Mercy” the Doctor seemed to have very little problem leaving his enemies to die by his hand, behaviour quite contrary to what we’ve seen in the past where the Doctor wants to give even his most abhorrent enemies a chance to redeem themselves, and to live. It’s not just that the Doctor lets Solomon die, it’s how easy the decision is made. It’s how the first plan in “A Town Called Mercy” wasn’t to figure out how to save everyone, but to sacrifice Kahler-Jex to save the town. Ben Browder’s Issac, attempting to take the high road, ended up as an innocent casualty of the Doctor’s rash decision. The show went out of its way to show that these men were bad, perhaps to make the Doctor’s decisions sit a little easier, but one of the lovely things about Doctor Who is the way life is valued, and how the Doctor wants these people to be redeemed and be saved and goes out of his way to try. That doesn’t always happen and it’s all the more heartbreaking when everyone doesn’t make it.
When we first meet Tennant’s Doctor in “The Christmas Invasion” the newly regenerated Doctor manages to save the Earth from the Sycorax with only one unfortunate casualty, forcing the invaders to leave Earth alone never to return. It is Prime Minister Harriet Jones who pulls the trigger on the Sycorax even as they have already turned away. An act that enrages the Doctor – everyone was supposed to live that day. Then, in “The Poison Sky” Ten goes to great lengths to save not only the people of Earth, but also the ruthless Sontarans who attempted to destroy the planet. He is heartbroken when there are casualties that day, even when those lost are his enemy.
It was in “The Doctor Dances”, penned by Moffat himself, that Eccleston’s Doctor is ecstatic when he gets that day, “Everybody lives, Rose. Just this once, everybody lives.” In “Forest of the Dead” River Song echos these words, myth has become so much of what the Doctor is, that his message of determination of life is communicated perfectly in a bed time story to her children. We understand that the Doctor needs human connection; he goes cold while traveling alone but his behaviour in these episodes is wildly inconsistent with his character who has been alone before. It’s too far, too fast without explanation for this sudden turn. Amy telling the Doctor that he’s behaving inappropriately is not enough to counter a change of this magnitude.
By the time we arrive at “The Angels Take Manhattan” we have already been through a season of rushed, strange, and often very fun adventures. Amy and Rory have already made a very well thought-out decision to carry on with their non-Doctor life together only to change their minds last minute for no really compelling reason except that the show required them to participate in the next episode. This season has had ominous tones littered throughout, talk of death and questions about the Doctor’s former companions, however there didn’t seem to be a substantial story that lead up to their exit in “Angels”, an exit in “The Power of Three” would have been more convincing character and story-wise.
In the past I’ve found goodbyes on Doctor Who to be slow, sappy and carry on just a few seconds too long but Amy and Rory’s farewell seemed to go by in a flash. David Tennant’s final good bye was an overly long affair that showcased so many of the people who’s lives he had touched. I admit, I weep every time I sit through the whole drawn out thing.
Long time companions Amy (Karen Gillian) and Rory (Arthur Darvill) deserved more than this low stakes exit. It was an hour of Angels that seemed to defy most of the rules set out for them disregarding any reasonable logic and flow. I echo all the criticisms when I ask, did no one seriously see the Statue of Liberty crossing town?
There were adorable moments between Amy, Rory, the Doctor and River, I loved the scenes in the park and the quiet moments River shared with each individually, but the episode itself just felt strange. When Amy & Rory disappeared with only a few minutes left of the episode I felt underwhelmed and disappointed. The Doctor hardly had any time to react, neither did River Song. Who was going to tell Brian (Mark Williams), Rory’s sweet father who along with his trowel and dedication was a lovely addition to this season?
I’m heartbroken for the Doctor who lost his best friends, and River who lost her parents once again. Matt Smith does play the love and the loss so well. I’m glad that Rory and Amy at least got each other, but what else did they lose? Do we know that they really lived happily ever after? River told Amy to never let the Doctor to see where it hurt and that afterward was written just for him.
I fell in love with Jenna Louise-Coleman in “Asylum of the Daleks”, though we wont be getting Oswin back I am excited to see what her new companion will bring to the table and how she will interact and influence our heartbroken Doctor.
Series 6 was about what happened when the Doctor’s reputation got too large and he was unable to control it. In “A Good Man Goes to War” we discover that to the people of the Gamma Forests, Doctor means “Mighty Warrior”, no longer his intended role as a healer and savior or worlds his name meant destruction and brought fear into the hearts of many races across the universe. In “The Pandorica Opens” we discover that all of the Doctor’s dangerous enemies have banded together to save the universe from the destructive force of the Doctor. Series 7 see’s this reputation rebooted, deleted from the Dalek’s memories and as many databases as he could find, the Doctor sets out with a new low profile. I certainly hope that this will factor into the second half of the season in a meaningful way.
What did you think of Series 7 so far? Are you looking forward to the Christmas special? What do you want to see happen in Doctor Who’s 50th Anniversary year?