Monday, 5 August 2013

Overview: Doctor Who: Series Four
The Doctor and Donna are a decent TARDIS team.
Written between 29th April and 1st May 2013

Series Four is as mixed a bag as RTD ever gave us. Oscillating madly between stories that were technically brilliant and infuriatingly bad, you never really knew where you stood. The main ten stories of the season began well but ended up in a fanwanky mess, and the specials were very hit-and-miss despite their potential to bring the show out of its comfort zone. It will be remembered as the season of sensationalism, of silly prophecies, and of one of the most interesting companions in NuWho struck down in the cruellest way possible.
     Donna is a companion unique in the new series; she's the only one who's never flirted with The Doctor, and is thus the closest one to the Classic Companions. Her story is about a journey of self-discovery, a buildup of self-esteem from a Donna who was constantly put down by her mother and who became obsessed with trivialities at the expense of personal relationships into her Series Four self - the warm, compassionate woman who wants to travel and do derring do because she naturally cares for other people.I think her development was really well-done right up until the end, where her memory wiping was a complete cop-out that destroyed all my faith in RTD's Who.
      Speaking of that, this season does include several stories that broke my childhood innocence and helped me transition into my obsessive cynical teenager phase regarding the program, with stories like Planet of the Dead and The End of Time making me firmly Moffatian at the time. Most of the was mainly to do with the knowledge of Tennant's departure hanging over us and the 2009 hiatus, which we assumed to be a one-off at the time but which now seems to be far too common an occurance. When Series Four gets bad, it sits firmly in the lazily mediocre, with the vast majority of its bad stories failing due to a collapse into mushy fanwank. Let's have The Daleks go to Germany in a vain attempt to honour their conceptually Nazi roots; let's bring the Master back, no matter the silly lengths I have to go to do that. There's no thought behind it.
Wilf begins and ends the season.
     Bests and worsts. As is standard by this point. My favourite story from the season was the fun Fires of Pompeii, which mixed up sci-fi ideas with an exploration of our companion's conscience in a glorious Italian setting, with honourable mentions going to The Unicorn and the Wasp, which worked as a tribute to the works of Agatha Christie, and the Silence In The Library two-parter for its playfulness with the format. My least favourites... well, there are a few. Dishonourable mentions include The Doctor's Daughter, Midnight (don't lynch me, Fandom) and The End of Time, which despite being a massive Essay review still contains some So Bad It's Good charm. The worst story of the season by so many miles is the maelstrom of fanwank and misplaced nostalgia that was The Stolen Earth/Journey's End.
     The last season of RTD's era suffered a lot from what felt like RTD running out of ideas - or at least ways in which to execute them. It was clear that he had a lot of things he wanted to do with the series, but the way in which a lot of episodes were played up and sensationalised, almost in the manner of the tabloid press, distracted the series from actually telling good stories. The public perception improved, sure, and more than ever before the show was an event on a massive scale. But on an objective scale, Series Four veers between the brilliant and the mediocre in a way that I've never been able to keep up with.


1 comment:

  1. I read a lot of what you wrote, especially Doctor Who reviews, and then, a while later, I just thought I'd pop back and say thanks. I found a lot of pretentious nonsense to disagree with, and that was just what I needed at the moment to try to wrap my head around the series. Some interesting thinking in there, too.
    I guess you don't write this for comments and popularity. Anyway... thanks.