Monday, June 6, 2011

Spoiler-Free "Doctor Who" Mid-Season Finale Thoughts

I'm actually.... on the fence about this one. There were things I liked and things I didn't like. There was stuff that worked well and stuff that I felt didn't work so well.

But there are a couple of things that stood out universally...

* There are some great character moments for all involved but it's Matt Smith who steals the show. Despite his youth his acting is and has been effortless for the series. He never seems to be playing to the camera and the emotions he projects seem genuine. There is one scene in particular in which the Doctor's emotions teeter on the brink of an almost giddy rage. It is a fascinating moment to see the Doctor absolutely enraged and yet... there is a part of him that is almost intoxicated by that rage. It is nicely, nicely done on Smith's part.

* If you don't love Arthur Darvill's character of Rory by now then there's something wrong with you. He perfectly portrays the kind of 'everyman' who, when danger looms, proves that his soft heart is married to a spine of steel. By the end of this episode you will know that you screw with Rory at your own peril.

* Showrunner Steven Moffat takes on the Doctor's legend head-on and makes us THINK about it. Ever since the show returned in 2005 increasingly the Doctor has been portrayed as a kind of man who 'shakes the pillars of heaven'. Fans really responded to the idea of the Doctor as a badass. Like David Tennant proclaiming the the Earth is protected, Tennant also telling the Vashta Nerada in "Forests of the Dead": "You're in the biggest library in the universe... look me up." And the Vashta Nerada back away. Of Matt Smith telling the Atraxi to "Basically... Run." in "The Eleventh Hour". All of these were cool moments and yet, at the end here, we get the flip side of that coin. If the Doctor is a badass what does that really MEAN? To Moffat it means that for all those who see him as a (to borrow from the TV series Firefly) Big Damn Hero there are those who are frightened of him. For all those who see the Doctor as a savior and a helper there are those who see him as a warrior and an avenging angel. This is not what the Doctor started out as and Moffat, in this story, starts asking if this is really what the Doctor is supposed to be. And asking that question is a good thing. Asking audiences to think about this is a good thing as well. We start to see the dichotomy here of the Doctor as a being who tries to help by pushing things along vs. the Doctor as someone who helps by bashing things over the head and making them rue the day they met him.

So, now... half of season 6 is over and we have to wait until the Fall to find out what happens next. The story ends on quite the little cliffhanger and it should be fascinating to see where we go from here...

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