And finally from DWM #440, an ‘And Finally’ on the series. I’d asked Tom Spilsbury if I could pop in some sort of afterword, in part to make sure we weren’t ending on a bit of a damp note (my previous review) but also because unlike any other run of the show since it returned, the season needed additional consideration as a whole.
It was the year in which the Doctor didn’t die – and the most innovative series of Doctor Who since 2005. As such, it deserves an afterword, slid in here like a final tag scene in which the Time Lord furtively checks out his TARDIS screensaver of Amy’s pipes.
Opening with the two-part The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon this run moved the show from a series to serial format. It took critics a while to come to terms with the change, but for Steven Moffat, who’s talked about his excitement for “movie-sized ideas”, the 13-episode arc provided the – ahem – time and space for just such an approach.
The tease of killing off the Doctor, plus Amy’s Schrödinger’s pregnancy, provided much of the early impetus, but strained the serial structure as the bustle of weekly episodes resisted the additional layer of plot. All that could be achieved was to slide placeholders into the margins of stories – the Doctor checking the TARDIS monitor, Amy and Rory muttering on the staircase about mortality. However, at the points the arc moved defiantly into the foreground (A Good Man Goes to War and The Wedding of River Song, the endings of The Almost People and Closing Time) it felt thrilling and truly epic. A satisfactory pay-off for the compromises taken along the way.
This year also saw the show’s core concepts explored with a new rigor. Central was the notion of the Doctor attempting to live down his legend, as though it had become a carbuncle on the format. Hmm. Not sure I buy this was something that needed to be addressed (I’m happy for the Time Lord’s repute to vary on the whim of whoever’s writing this week’s adventure) but it remained a legitimate line of enquiry, forcing our hero to face the consequences of his meddling. Better still, it’s resulted in what looks to be the reinstatement of our hero as an anonymous wanderer. The stranger in town.
While the Doctor has gone back to basics, things on board the TARDIS proved complex. The God Complex, in fact. More than The Doctor’s Wife – or even the arrival of the Doctor’s actual wife – it may still prove the pivotal moment of the year. Having realised the true, corrosive nature of his relationship with Rory and Amy, one wonders how our hero will ever allow himself another travelling companion.
What a crazy year it’s been, with the seemingly spurious mid-season break, vocal cameos from Tom Baker and David Tennant (bet you’d forgotten about them) and an onscreen appearance by the latter’s TARDIS. Some things feel as though they were dropped in the flurry (still not sure why there were pictures of Amy and her baby in Day of the Moon’s orphanage), some were perhaps fumbled (the Ponds’ weird calmness about the errant Melody) and some got lost along the way (Madame Kovarian’s Ainley-esque swagger came to naught), but there were many, many more wins. Included in these were Madame Vastra and Jenny, Idris, the triumphant return of Craig Owens, the audacious cliffhanger at the end of episode two, The God Complex (I really liked that one)… and, of course, the true story of River Song, which absolutely lived up to the legend.
I wouldn’t be surprised if we never see her again.
And we definitely won’t have another run of Doctor Who like this. True, sometimes its reach exceeded its grasp, but that’s been the scale of the show’s ambition this year. In many ways, it’s never risen higher.