is there a doctor in the house? thoughts on Doctor Who series 5

At long last, I've seen the fifth series of Doctor Who in which Matt Smith takes over the role from the the marvelous David Tennant. A few thoughts:
  • Smith is perfect in the role of the Doctor; energetic, adventurous, quirky. In some ways, he's like an early Tennant minus the undercurrent of melancholia. It will be interesting to see how he evolves as a character. Tennant's Doctor became increasingly megalomaniacial and despairing, just as he raged against his own passing (a rather strange sentiment for a Time Lord, really, given the fact that they regenerate). Will Smith's Doctor become a similarly complex figure? I'm eager to find out.
  • I'm not too crazy about Amy Pond. Karen Gillan is certainly a fine and pretty actress, but Amy just isn't all that strong a companion. She has none of the deep feeling of Rose Tyler, nor does she have Donna Noble's headstrong capacity to serve as a check on the Doctor. The fact that she wants to get off on the Doctor is particularly irritating, especially given the fact that all of the new series Doctors' female companions, except for Donna, come to have romantic feelings. Is this really the only dynamic possible between the Doctor and his female companions? Never mind that Amy is also very quick to cheat on her fiancé, despite being committed to marrying him; this is called kissing out of both sides of one's mouth. The point is this; why must relationships always be romantic? Donna proved that platonic works very well.
  • Speaking of Amy's fiancé, Rory Williams is an immensely likeable character who showed more promise than Amy Pond and was cruelly abused by Moffat and his writers. Here's a character whose looks are mocked by the Doctor, who refers to him by making the gesture of a long nose, and whose intelligence is obscured. At least he's not cowardly the way Mickey was when fisrt introduced. Could the series have done more with a character who enters the TARDIS and, instead of the usual "Oh, it's bigger on the inside," displays some understanding of what's going based on his readings of theoretical physics? Sure. But at least we can admire Rory's deep and abiding love for Amy, even if it's not clear that his passion is reciprocated.
  • That the series will move on with a married couple as the Doctor's companion is encouraging. I would still like to see a male companion, however - a platonic friend who is intelligent and resourceful on his own, and capable of keeping the Doctor on his toes. I'd say a Doctor Watson to a Holmes, but I'm thinkin more of an Enkidu to a Gilgamesh. Nevertheless, a married couple is a good move away from the romantic female companion formula.
  • Writing-wise, Steven Moffat has so far mercifully spared us Russell T. Davies' worse tendencies - soppy writing and plot holes big enough to ram through some really really big thing. Well, kind of. Moffat certainly handles high concepts better than Davies, and he and his writers have delivered some very entertaining stories. The final episode can't help but implode by the sheer nonsense of the convoluted plot, but hey, Moffat has some good ideas, juggles the time travel in suitably knotty ways, and makes it all implausibly fun. And River Song? Brilliant. Demerit points, however, go to Mark Gatiss for Victory of the Daleks, a goofy World War II episode in which a few Daleks, who of course survived the whole Davros-destroys-reality fiasco, trick the Doctor into rebooting the Dalek race. Okay, fine. Time Lords rot away in the time-locked Time War, but Daleks go on. That's the way it goes. How annoying is it, though, to be presented with this kind of scenario: five minutes to either defuse a bomb that will destroy the Earth or prevent the Daleks from respawning. Gee, if only the Doctor had a time machine - then he could do both! Oh, wait...I don't know whose sillier, Gatiss for sacrificing story integrity in favour of a mock-dramatic moment, or me for expecting some story integrity in the first place.
  • Of course, expecting storytelling rigour from Doctor Who is a bit like expecting a dead comic book character to stay dead. I'll let Terry Pratchett introduce my beef with Doctor Who. Then I'll let Neil Gaiman have his rebuttal. Then I'll carefully move away from the man with the pointy hat, magic wand, and great puffs of fairy dust, and get closer to the man with the physics manual. Look, Doctor Who is great fun and always enjoyable to watch. But let's be honest; they do make things up as they go along, they invent technobabble solutions out of thin air to resolve problems, and no villain is ever really dead. In other words, it's science-fantasy without rules and thus without any real drama beyond the temporary rush of adrenaline. And why is that for all that the Doctor goes on about how wonderful the universe is, we almost never see GOOD aliens doing GOOD things? Hmmm?

Ah, well. It's all in good fun despite the shortcomings, and in that spirit I can't wait to see what's next.

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