Thursday, July 21, 2011

Film Yap: Doctor Who Season Six Part 1

Last year I went hyperbole galore for Doctor Who Season Five. It suddenly became the show I always wanted and an incredible season of television. It was so good that, like so many fans, was worried about where the show could go next. Then their trailer came out for the season and my jaw dropped. It still remains the best trailer for anything I’ve seen this year and the show has lived up to it.

Steven Moffat is a genius. His work on “Coupling”, “Jekyll”, and “Sherlock” are all incredible but this is his baby. Last year he focused the long story around the mysterious cracks in time and space. (Thanks for another inanimate object to be scared of.) This year he’s showing more of the cards he’s been playing as everything is bigger.

Within the first fifteen minutes everything changes on the show. They did something that has never happened on the show, including the older version of the show. Then the season is about what that really entails. There is also a new mystery about a woman with an eye patch who opens walls to stare at Amy Pond (Karen Gilian), figuring out what The Silence are up to, and learning more about the woman from The Doctor’s future, River Song (Alex Kingston).

The show is currently on a hiatus. Reportedly Moffat missed some of the event planning for the show so he scheduled the season towards a mid-season finale with a cliffhanger to leave people anxious for next September. This DVD set has the seven episodes that have aired so far. Why not, I’ll review all seven.

The Impossible Astronaut / Day of the Moon

The Season Five premiere worked as an introduction to the show. The Doctor is reborn with Matt Smith playing the part. He meets Amelia/Amy Pond and they manage to save the world from blowing up by eyeball aliens. With this two-parter it will be really confusing if you were a new viewer. That said, it’s an amazing two hours.

Amy and Rory (Arthur Darvill) are enjoying married life, but they receive a weird blue letter in the mail that gives them a day and location. They go to America and find The Doctor with a new hat. (Stetsons are cool.) River Song received a similar letter. Then something crazy happens. Then they are all off to 1969 to stop an alien force called The Silence and they run into Richard Nixon and the space program.

These episodes were filmed in America, a first for Doctor Who, and it looked gorgeous. They used the magic of Monument Valley and further blurred the lines between TV and film production quality. The Silence ended up living up to their hype as one of the scariest villains in the history of the show. They are these suited gray creatures who you will instantly forget once you look away. So you have no idea if one is right behind you….about to kill you….

Not all of the mysteries are solved in these episodes because it’s all for the bigger setup. It was hilarious, exciting, and all of the leads gave some incredible performances.

4.5 Yaps

The Curse of the Black Spot

Pirates! Doctor Who! They read my mind! Unfortunately it’s a pretty disappointing episode. Writer Stephen Thompson had the same problem with his episode of “Sherlock” in that too often the characters run from room to room without enough purpose. Still there is some fun to be had. Lily Cole (The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus) is a siren who is attacking the crew of a pirate ship one by one. Amy looks adorable in her outfit and the episode is too light to get mad at. It’s just an inconsequential adventure in the middle of a really strong season.

3 Yaps

The Doctor’s Wife

This was one of the most anticipated episodes in the rebooted series. Fantasy god/writer Neil Gaiman penned this episode and that title raises a few eyebrows. Without revealing too much, this ended up being one of my new favorites. It has the best dialog, a creepy villain (voiced by Michael Sheen), and a very clever concept.

It’s the kind of episode that looks at the entire series in a new light with nostalgia and love. The ending ends up being surprisingly emotional. It is a wonderful present for fans of the show.

5 Yaps

The Rebel Flesh / The Almost People

Usually the two-parters that aren’t written by Moffat tend to drag too much. They probably could have been one episode, but this set worked well. The heroes arrive by accident on an island where a team is using new technology to work safely. They can create identical avatars made out of goopy Flesh. That way if they fall into the acid they are drilling, the Flesh just melts away and they are safe in their harness. A thunderstorm occurs zapping everybody and now the replicas are independent from their original counterparts.

There are plenty of ethical questions afoot, but they all culminate in a really shocking ending. It’s a lot of fun especially with how well Matt Smith jumps around the castle. This guy can do anything and deserves every acting award out there. He even emulates Scott Pilgrim for a few scenes!

4 Yaps

A Good Man Goes to War

The Doctor: “I’ve become angry. That’s new. I’m really not sure what’s going to happen now.”

Kovarian: “The anger of a good man is not a problem. Good men have too many rules.”

The Doctor: “Good men don’t need rules. Today’s not the day to find out why I have so many.”

Wowza. Moffat wanted event television and he got it. A lot of villains and familiar faces return for an unconventional showdown. Mysteries are solved, jokes are made, and gasps are had. It’s a very thrilling episode, but it accomplishes something more special. It examines The Doctor and the show in a brutal way. Thematically this is the most fascinating show of the series because it questions if the show should even be run in this fashion.

Then it ends with a moment of warmness that gives some much needed hope. There are still a few mysteries remaining for the next six episodes and certain things that need to be resolved right away. The final shot reveals the title for the next episode and it’s a doozy.

5 Yaps

Is it September yet?

The DVD/Blu-Ray set has more of their “Monster Files.” These are small segments focusing on each enemy with cast/crew interviews talking about their function and creation. Just like how they showed the Weeping Angels in the last DVD set, it’s still creepy seeing The Silence walk around the set. Those heads…

The other one is about the Ganger avatars from “The Rebel Flesh” and “The Almost People.” This was more about how they made the liquidy faces and less about their psychological impact. They missed an opportunity to have Matt Smith talk more about them. Still an entertaining 12 minutes, but the best part of this villain was how they weren’t really villains. So it’s hard to do a “Monster File” about them.

It looks like they are saving their episode prequels, commentaries and Doctor Who Confidential for the full season DVD that will be here at the end of the year. I don’t blame them. This is a great way for people to catch up with the show for the summer so everyone can be caught up for…nah. I won’t spoil the next title. Just more incentive for you to start this wonderful show.

Half Season: 4.5 Yaps

Extras: 3 Yaps

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