Sunday, 2 October 2011

Doctor Who Series 6 - Ranking worst to best

So yeah, Dr Who series six is done and holy shit was it good. I don't think I'll really be able to make my mind up about Moff's writing until his tenure is over, but as showrunner he has worked with fellow executive producers to create two series that have put Russel T Davis and Judie Gardner's time to shame. I'm putting the episodes into order of how much I liked each. Will only summarise my thoughts, as probably will do more detailed look at each ep. at some point. Bare in mind this a series of unprecedented quality, so it's only how good I think each was in context of its own series.

11 - Curse of the Dark Spot

This was a stinker; the worst episode Smith has been in as far as I see it. Coming off of the blistering opening two-parter and preceeding Gaiman's Dr Who debut, this was an episode surrounded by a lot of hype: there was pressure on it to be a strong bridging point, although no one was expecting anything particularly special. What we got felt like it had been brutalised under the editors knife, more than anything else, but happened to include some bad acting and bad directing it looked cheap as hell.  Although I liked the central concept, and the episode did get better towards the end, this is a lesson in piss-poor execution over ideas.

10 - Night Terrors

This one was well directed and, once again, a good concept. Night Terrors delivered strong atmosphere and even lead to a few genuinely scary moments. To call the story more than mediocre, however, would be exagerating. Though Matt, Karen and Arthur are as good as ever, the rest of the cast are rather lacking and there's a cheesiness that both works and doesn't. This is a simple story, but also kinda unremarkable.

9 - Closing Time

After the surprise emergence of The Lodger as one of the stand-out episodes of S5 - what with the abominable James Corden guest starring - this sequel has had, at the very least, some decent levels of anticipation. Whilst Closing Time does not equal it's predecessor's quality, it's nonetheless a highly enjoyable and decently crafted affair. Craig is given a new problem to face, and is perhaps a more compelling character than before, and the humour and lightheartedness are a welcome addition to the seiousface tone of the S6 overall. Strong, but I doubt it'll be anyone's favourite episode.

8 - The Rebel Flesh/The Almost People

It annoys me that this episode has to be so far down. This is an interesting examination of a common sci-fi cliche: cloning. We're taken through this journey less through perils, and more through characters. Whilst this has it's downside, with some narrative wooliness and a concentration on melodrama, it flashes out its characters and makes them all interesting people. There's creepy bits, there's funny bits and there are some scenes that stick in your mind long after watching. Honestly, this two-parter deserves to be higher, and it would be were it not for the outstanding quality of this series.

7 - The Doctor's Wife

It's been a sorely anticipated one for a while now, and superstar fantasist Neil Gaiman lends his pen to Dr Who. The result is, as a mate of mine says, "bread and butter Gaiman", but don't for a moment think that's a bad thing. The spotlight is cast on The Doctor's longest and most enduring relationship, his with the TARDIS, and it inverts much of Dr Who's mythology. It's a celebration of the series, and comes with a memorable villain, scares and chuckles. It might be a bit pandering and look a bit cheap; really, the plotting here isn't that much above average either. Such is the strength of the character and thematic focus that this is not too much of a hinderance.

6 - A Good Man Goes to War

This episode starts in manner epic enough to outshine most climaxes, and in the mid-series finale Moffat looks to create coherent universe, pretty much succeeding. This episode provides answers, but also a character-centric continuation of the ongoing drama surrounding our cast. Full of small character moments and great ideas, A Good Man Goes to War does get a little snarled up around it's midpoint, but nonetheless marches on to a triumphant conclusion. Maybe it's too full of ideas, maybe it's not as mindblowingly unpredictable as it could have been. For myself, I'm yet to be convinced that either of those points are necesarrily problems.

5 - The Wedding of River Song

And the series ends where it starts, offering up drama and twists with the wave of a hand. This story jumps between genres, giving us an adventure that spans an incredible amount of settings. Matt, Alex, Karen and Arthur are great, and The Silence are probably the most welcome addition to the Dr's rogue gallery that we've seen in New Who. Moffat moves us compulsively from set-piece to set-piece, yet never loses track of the emotional core of the show. This is a complicated episode presented in a manner oh-so-easy to understand. Also, if the Doctor is going to be involved in a love story, this is how to do it.

4 - Let's Kill Hitler

The start of S6b is a bombastic affair, a breathless rush of development after development. The Moff may smash us hard with the sledgehammer of retcon, but this episode has such wit, style and thematic complexity that I find it hard to be that troubled. Really, I don't think we've seen an episode so thematically complex, or a character study so nuanced in New Who as what Let's Kill Hitler presents us with. It's inventive and a tad crazy to boot.

3 - The God Complex

Toby Whithouse proved himself to be a strong writer in  S5's Vampire of Venice, which was witty and solid, providing us with a memorable and complex villain and a strong understanding of the characters. Expectations laid on his shoulders to deliver a similarly enjoyable experience, but The God Complex was on a totally different level to anything I could have expected. In the hands of Nick Hurran - a director who looks to be the best New Who has ever seen - his script is realised as a complex yet simple analogy for the Doctor himself. It's a great idea even without it's thematic power, and offers up chills and disturbing moments aplenty. The God Complex pretty much has everything, and it's frankly incredible that it's only third on the list.

2 - The Impossible Astronaut/The Day of the Moon

The opening two parter was an audascious and frankly crazy way to start the series. It throws twist after twist, introduces The Silence and delights in screwing with viewers' perceptions. Characters are put through the ringer, questions are answered but only deepen the mystery and the dialogue is extraordinarily witty whilst never undercutting the unnerving atmosphere of the story.

1 - The Girl Who Waited

This one deserves a full blog entry of it's own.

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