‘Doctor Who’: Series 5 DVD review

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As the Eleventh Doctor and Amy Pond arrive on DVD and Blu-ray with all 13 episodes of ‘The Complete Fifth Series’, we look back at what we loved and what we didn’t love in this year’s Doctor Who.

1) We loved Arthur Darvill as Rory, honestly one of the best companions ever – funny, loyal, almost always bewildered by the events going on around him, but never overwhelmed by them, he was just about the finest male companion since Jamie (sorry, Adric). But we didn’t love the constant sniping from the fanboys about Karen Gillan’s Amy Pond. Seriously, what more did you need? Smart, resourceful, sexy and independent. And, as for the complaint that she never acted ‘scared enough’… the girl has had the ‘Raggedy Doctor’ as her invisible friend and a giant eye peering through her bedroom wall since childhood, after all – she’s imagined things more terrible than the Daleks and big Space Whales.

2) We loved the first half of ‘Victory Of The Daleks’, with its odd, humanised Daleks offering tea, with only The Doctor suspicious that they might not be up to any good. Again underlining Matt Smith’s channelling of the Troughton Doctor, it was a welcome homage to ‘Power Of The Dalek’. But we didn’t love… the second half of ‘Victory Of The Daleks’. In all honesty, this story should have been split over two episodes (at least), and it suffered from having all the twists and turns crammed into a single slot. But we still liked the pimped up Daleks. So there.

3) We loved the well cast guest stars. Be it Bill Nighy harrumphing and playing, well, Bill Nighy in a bow-tie (‘bow-ties are cool’) or Patrick Moore flirting with Annette Crosbie – or Meera Syral being, fleetingly, one of the best companions that never was – Doctor Who will soon start giving Harry Potter a run for its money in terms of Brit actors lining up for a guest slot (look out for Dumbledore himself, Michael Gambon, in this year’s Christmas special). Not bad for a show that, six years ago, was something of a national joke. But we didn’t love that we won’t see these guest stars (certainly not as those characters) again. Either they’ve been killed off (‘The Vampires Of Venice’) or the actors’ schedules are unlikely to allow them back. At least it seems a dead cert that Meera Syral will be back in the inevitable Silurian follow-up story.

4) We loved the intelligent, grown up way that the story of Rory and Amy’s relationship was depicted. It’s a small thing, but since there were plenty of complainers, we feel compelled to comment: Amy is allowed to fancy The Doctor and still be madly in love with Rory. She’s allowed to be madly in love with Rory, but have no idea of how to show him. It’s what makes her human. But we didn’t love those whiners. (Could you tell?)

5) Actually, that’s a lie… we loved that people were complaining about various storylines in the show and then that others were leaping to its defence. We loved that people were arguing (at length) about if that week’s episode was any good or not. This was a show that mattered, and not just to the fans that remembered the glory days – there were six year old boys demanding bow ties and elbow patches for their birthday (seriously – just ask anyone who went to Doctor Who Live). All this for a series in which the show very rarely appeared on covers of Radio Times (compared to the David Tennant era, in which he seemed to appear on the cover pretty much every week). But we didn’t love the fact that so many fans seemed to think that the success of this series was automatically down to the departure of showrunner Russell T Davies. It wasn’t.

6) We loved ‘Amy’s Choice’. On one hand, it was pretty much a by-the-numbers alternate universe type story (with an Evil Doctor, no less?), but ended up actually being a turning point and a watermark moment for each of the main characters, with a dash of ‘The Edge Of Destruction’ thrown in (perhaps unintentionally) to appease the older fans. But we didn’t love the ET-OAPs. Oh, we realise that there had to be some danger for the TARDIS crew to battle against, but this was such a mature episode, we wonder if it could have been brave enough do without.

7) We loved ‘Vincent And The Doctor’ – for no other reason, really, than managing to be something entirely unlike Doctor Who has ever produced before, while at the exact same time being absolutely, totally Doctor Who. And all this from rom-com king Richard Curtis, who everyone assumed would produce an unashamedly sentimental story ruthlessly designed to make grown men cry. Well, he did anyway, but we love him for it. But we didn’t love the bit where the Doctor lets Vincent see his legacy. We’re pretty sure there are rules against that sort of thing. Oh well, he’s the last Time Lord, he knows what he’s doing. Probably.

8) We loved ‘The Lodger’. Very smart, very clever, very funny, all with James Corden finally reminding jaded comedy fans why he has a career in the first place. Ever since the show returned in 2005, one of the major touchstones has been romance, something that would have seemed entirely out of place in the early years, and now we can’t imagine Doctor Who without it. But we didn’t love… actually, we’re trying, and we can’t think of anything that we didn’t like about this episode. You even get Matt Smith in a towel – what more do you want?

9) We loved the wibbly wobbly timey wimey plotting of the crack arc, particularly when all the forums lit up excited that there’d been a three second glimpse of Matt Smith not wearing his jacket (“it’s just a continuity error…” or is it?). But we didn’t love the fact that we’re not entirely sure if everything was cleared up. Does the human race know about Daleks and other aliens? Is new human Rory still the one that used to be an Auton? Did little Amy still grow up as an orphan or with her parents? Which leads us to…

10) We loved the fact that it hasn’t even started yet. Yeah, you heard: Series 5 had the overwhelming feel of Steven Moffat and co clearing the decks, re-wiring the ethos of the series after the bombast of the Russell T Davies era, and taking a breath before really making the show their own. It’s probably worth noting that this will be the sixth year of the rebooted show, and in the sixth year of the original it was team Troughton and Frazer Hines (with either Victoria or Zoe making up the trio), along with some classic stories and monsters. It seems clear that it’s this mythos that Moffatt is seeking to emulate, and there’s every chance that he’ll succeed. For millions of kids right now, Matt Smith will be their Doctor. Oh, and that reminds us of an extra, eleventh point…

11) We loved Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor. Obviously. There isn’t anything to dislike here. Seriously, do we have to have a ‘favourite’ Doctor? (We even really like Colin Baker – really). But when Smith was cast, we were worried: was the Beeb getting their Teen Doctor Who idea in through the TARDIS back door? We couldn’t have been more wrong. The Eleventh Doctor is a nuanced, angry, regretful, and quietly romantic Doctor, full of pathos and bathos, managing to be precisely the opposite of David Tennant’s Doctor, at no cost to either of them. The next series already sounds intriguing (a mid-year break with a cliffhanger, the truth about River Song and the long-awaited story from Neil Gaiman). Excited yet? You should be.

Extras: ‘Meanwhile In The TARDIS’ (exclusive newly filmed scenes written by Steven Moffat, telling what happens between the episodes), Doctor Who Confidential (an inside look at each episode), Monster Files, in-vision commentaries, outtakes and video diaries.

Released on DVD and Blu-ray on 8th November 2010 by 2entertain.

> Buy the Series 5 DVD boxset on Amazon.