Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Individual reviews:

Time Crash
Voyage Of The Damned
Partners In Crime
The Fires Of Pompeii
Planet Of The Ood
The Sontaran Stratagem / The Poison Sky
The Doctor's Daughter
The Unicorn And The Wasp
Silence In The Library
Campfire trailer
Forest Of The Dead
Turn Left
The Stolen Earth / Journey's End
Music Of The Spheres
The Next Doctor
Monster Files - Adipose
Monster Files - Pyrovile
Monster Files - Ood
Monster Files - Slitheen
Monster Files - Sontaran
Monster Files - Hath
Monster Files - Vespiform
Monster Files - Judoon
Monster Files - Vashta Nerada
Monster Files - Midnight
Monster Files - Trickster's Brigade
Monster Files - Dalek
Monster Files - Davros
Monster Files - Christmas
Monster Files - Cybermen
Weeping Angels

Planet Of The Dead
The Waters Of Mars
The End Of Time

It took them three years to figure out how, and it might well have been a fluke, but there was actually a short new series of Doctor Who on BBC-1 again in 2008.

If you can ignore the opening and closing episodes, that is.

For once the guest-writers had taken-over, the familiar mix of history, alien worlds, and top-secret present-day encounters with aliens was a thing to welcome back.

Oh, the BBC aired some episodes from another science-fiction show - also called Doctor Who - in the same slot before and after this 8-week season, involving no less than three high-profile contemporary alien invasions with plots that didn't hold-together, but I think the episodes in the middle stand-up better when watched without those.

Helen Raynor and Steven Moffat turned in excellent 2-part stories. The Doctor's Daughter was 50% awful, but that's just part of the average.

The usual 13 weeks over, no less than five (six counting the Prom sketch) (seven counting the omnibus of the six-part cartoon) specials followed over the course of the next 18 months. These pretty well formed a series in their own right, featuring the Doctor travelling alone, in usually longer episodes, and coming to terms with his impending death.

The slower tempo in most of these later ones was also a welcome return to the more thoughtful scripts of yesteryear, even if the overall plots themselves weren't. The Waters Of Mars stands up as an excellent example of what can happen when Doctor Who goes off at its own original tangent, driven more by the Doctor's choices than by what the regular formula requires him to do.

I've also been bowled-over by the companion this series. Donna started-out as such a hideous monster, but from her first trip in The Fires Of Pompeii she got given both a brain, and a heart with which to tone her abrasiveness down. (she already had courage) The result was lots of disagreements with the Doctor that we could actually see both sides of, and I was gutted when her travels ended with her gallingly reverting back to her earlier hating-the-world self, presumably for the rest of her life. (or at least until they undo that again, anyway)

What a shame, however, that her promised status as the most important person in the universe turned out in Journey's End to not actually be merited. Donna certainly didn't save the multi-verse – it was the Doctor's intelligence that did it, and no amount of claiming otherwise will change that. How much more satisfying would that irony have been if Donna had saved everyone using a skill that was actually hers? Even if it had just been by using her typing-speed...

And Bernard Cribbins as Wilfred Mott. What a delight. When the final two-parter casts his old man character as the guest-companion for the story, it's a huge change in dynamic. Just as with Donna, the absence of any possible love-interest clears the way for good, honest characterisation. The Doctor could talk to both Donna and Wilfred with honesty, unlike Rose and Martha who both had feelings and agendas getting in the way.

When, in the last episode, the Doctor briefly refers to Donna as "my best friend", there's a much more real sense of loss to his words.

Speaking of whom, David Tennant has kept-up his barrage of excellent performance this series. The enthusiasm of his first season is gone, but that's no surprise given how much energy he brings to the role, especially when you consider all the multiple takes that he must have to sustain it for. It's a shame that his start was so good that it hasn't left him much room to grow.

And having been so condescending about the house-writer's opening and closing scripts above, I have to say that I did really enjoy the last nine episodes that he wrote. (two were co-written) His plots for those, as usual, appeared less thought-through than those of the guest-writers, but were at least fun, and for a change unashamed of being Doctor Who. No fear of alienating new viewers here, just plenty of rewards for those who've watched every single episode so far, including spin-offs. Yay!

It is a shame that The Next Doctor wasn't positioned after the Doctor's forewarning of his death in Planet Of The Dead though. That's where the drama of meeting his future self belonged.

It would also have enabled a shot the eleventh Doctor to be inserted on the end of those clips of himself that he watched. How cool would that have been? A missed opportunity.

In terms of quality, Doctor Who has a long and checkered history. Many of the old stories were classics. Some were absolute turkeys. And an enormous number were anywhere in-between.

How encouraging that, aside from any personal opinions on each author's previous work, one once again has no way of projecting what each new story's standard will be.

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