Doctor Who Series 6 Part 1
Doctor Who, under producer Steven Moffat, feels very different than that of the shows from Russell T. Davies. In some ways, it feels as if Moffat needs to top Davies so we go from the terrifying Weeping Angels to The Silence. And we go younger, with Matt Smith as Eleventh Doctor, the youngest yet. Everything old is new again, it seems, while a show once aimed strictly at kids is now being criticized for being too scary for the audience.
The new season, Series 6 of the reboot, is the first to be shown in halves, a marketing device that cable channels in the USA have been quite successful using, nabbing viewers during major network lull periods. It also provides a dramatic cliffhanger, which may be thrilling for viewers but no doubt causes headaches for the producers.
Speaking of commercial, BBC Video, distributed here through Warner Home Video, today releases Doctor Who Series 6 Part 1, collecting the seven episodes aired to date while we eagerly await part two this fall (with Part 2 and Complete Series 6 DVDs no doubt to come).
Moffat has introduced meta arcs and mini arcs that require a fair amount of attention and makes the series increasingly difficult to attract newcomers. Miss an episode and vital clues to the Big Picture are absent, potentially confusing the viewer the next time a story is watched.
At this point, the Doctor, along with Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) and Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill), has settled into a comfortable relationship. The couple continues to act like newlyweds and the Doctor delights in having them around. As a result, it’s business as usual with the opening two-parter “The Impossible Astronaut”/ “The Day of the Moon” which sets up the big threat, that of The Silence, referenced in previous seasons and made manifest here. They are an eerie addition, for sure, but what they want and how they’ll be defeated seem saved for the second half season. We also learn Amy is pregnant and the little girl, who manages to call President Nixon and ask for help, leads audiences to believe she is Amy’s child. The story opens with the Doctor being shot dead but we discover he’s a Doctor from 200 years into the future so the duo conceals this information only to fret about it in every subsequent episode.
The real fun of the story is seeing the Doctor in the White House, cavorting not only with Nixon but with an FBI agent played by the wonderful Mark Sheppard, who continues to add to his genre resume and never disappoints.
We then shift back in time to a mermaid tale in “The Curse of the Black Spot” which spins the myth on its head with a nice science fiction element added although the seventeenth century men seem way too comfortable with alien technology. Still, this features a very nice performance by Hugh Bonneville, as the ship’s captain.
The real treat in the set is Neil Gaiman’s “The Doctor’s Wife” because it is the first time in a long while that spends time on the Doctor’s own mythology. The episode is rife with references to the Doctor’s past dating back many incarnations so it’s a wink and nod to the faithful. Here, just outside the universe, an entity has been luring and killing Time Lords, living off their energy. Now it has sucked the living matrix of the TARDIS out of the machine and placed it in the ailing body of Idris (Suranne Jones). It’s lovely to see the Doctor and the TARDIS actually communicate and it’s a poignant story while the Amy/Rory sub-plot is a terrifying glimpse into what being lost within the ship could feel like. Another nice aspect here is that The Doctor is reminded once more of having killed his fellow Time Lords and being the last one left standing.
The sub-plots that have been bubbling for four episodes now, heat up in “The Rebel Flesh/“The Almost People” which reveals Flesh creatures mimicking people, including, it appears, Amy, whose on again/off again pregnancy has been confusing the Doctor. It’s an interesting story involving the age-old question of what it means to be human and another theme of classic struggle. Still, while revealing some things, it also feels like we’re treading water, waiting for the big first act finale.
We get that and more in “A Good Man Goes to War” as Amy gives birth, many familiar alien races comes back (plus the creepy Headless Monks) and the final moments makes a revelation you don’t see coming and yet makes perfect sense.
Looking over the half season, it’s interesting to note the many shades Matt Smith gives the Doctor, never ceasing to be engaging. Last year was all about Amy, letting Gillen shine, but this time it seems to be about Rory and Darvill is more than up to the job. Throughout is River Song, played with verve by Alex Kingston, who has her own issues as she explains she is meeting the Doctor in reverse order, which makes her wistful for the time they meet and he no longer recognizes her, a thread beginning to play out.
The Blu-ray transfer is sharp and wonderful with a strong soundtrack. Sadly the extras are kept to a minimum, meaning you need the Series 6 complete set to get all the fun stuff such as Doctor Who Confidential and the annual Proms broadcast (and one hopes, the tribute to Elisabeth Sladen and the giddy Comic Relief short). Instead, we get Monster Files plus some interview bits. It’s a very strong collection of Doctor Who but clearly, incomplete. If you missed it in the UK or don’t get BBC America in the states, then this is what you need to tide you over.