The Best and Worst of Doctor Who: Series 5

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For previous installments:

Series 5 followed the same format of the preceding series, with 13 episodes airing alongside each other in succession. This is also the first season to feature Matt Smith as the Eleventh Doctor, as well as companions Amy and Rory.

The Best:

The Hungry Earth, and Cold Blood

The Hungry Earth and Cold Blood reintroduce the Silurians, a species originally appearing during the Third Doctor Era, as a foe in the story, Doctor Who and the Silurians.

They also appeared during the Fifth Doctor Era story, Warriors of the Deep.

The Den of Geek review goes as follows:

The return of the Silurians is a logical choice for this current series of Doctor Who. For we’re in a run of the show where enemies have proper reasons for their actions, and given how comparably untapped the Silurians have been since the days of Jon Pertwee, they’re an interesting choice to bring back.

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They’ve never been, and I see this as a fan of classic Who, the most sinister of monsters. But they’ve got a solid backstory, in that they were the residents of the Earth long before human beings came along (“they’re earth-liens”). The Hungry Earth is respectful of that, and in bringing them to the fore of this episode, we get the first proper full-on person-in-a-suit monster of the series.

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And in many senses, it’s a traditional monster tale, albeit with quite a dark edge. There’s a chase through a graveyard (interestingly with a child being chased), people being pulled underground, and the regular build up before the creatures themselves are revealed.

Writer Chris Chibnall, returning to Doctor Who for the first time since series three episode 42, is happy to take his time with all of this, too. And he’s right to: this is the first of a two-parter, and it feels very much in keeping with the classic structure of such stories. Thus, much of part one is establishing work, building up to the revelation of the depth and breadth of the foe the Doctor and his band are up against in the next episode.

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That band this time round includes Amy and Rory once more (although Amy seemed more dressed for Rio, their supposed original destination, than Rory!), as well as some help from Dr Nasreen Chaudhry and Tony Mack (played by Meera Syal and Robert Pugh respectively). The pair are drillers, and very good ones at that. When we meet them, they’ve drilled further into the Earth’s crust than anyone else in history, but unwittingly, they’ve ignored the warning signs – the blue grass in the area – that’s suggesting they keep away.

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Not that it appears to be a warning. In fact, the Welsh valley where the episode is set, ten years into the future, is calm, quiet, sedate and gentle. Save for the great big drilling machine in the middle of it, of course.

The first sign that things are going awry arrives in the pre-credits sequence, as a security card earns his dim points by sticking his arm into a fresh patch of earth that’s appeared. Down below he’s pulled, although given that we’ve met his wife and child by this point, there’s little doubt that we’ll be meeting him again.

By the time we do, Amy Pond too has been pulled underground, which serves to take her out of the bulk of this episode, and instead we spend a bit more time with Rory. There’s still a lot we don’t know about Rory, you can’t help but sense, but I’m getting more interested in his simmering distrust of the Doctor. By this time in their relationship with the Time Lord, most characters have warmed to some degree to his way of working. But I don’t get that vibe from Rory, and combined with the cantankerous way that Smith’s brilliant portrayal of the Doctor takes him, they’re hardly the best of friends (“you should have tried harder”, Rory yells at the Doctor here).

I might be off the mark there, but I can’t help but feel something of real note is approaching where Rory is concerned. Could it have something to do with the supposed sighting of Amy and Rory ten years into the future, too? If that really was them waving from across the valley, aren’t they in danger of crossing their own time line? That’s what the Doctor, if you buy into some theories, has been doing throughout this series too. If that all comes to fruition, then all those cracks in time – and we don’t get one in this episode – are likely to increase in significance.

But back to the story. As Choudhry and her team drill down, it becomes clear that something is drilling up, and thanks to a lot of computer graphics on screens, we learn that whoever it is who’s coming to the surface won’t take too much longer. Cue the logical thing: peg it. Only they can’t peg it, because there’s quite a fancy CGI effect keeping them all prisoner in the vicinity.

And that CGI effect is used for good purpose when the episode begins to take its darker turn. Down go the lights, and Chibnall gradually ups the ante. We see a Silurian interrogated by the Doctor (a lovely scene: it’s terrific sometimes when Doctor Who opts for a good chat rather than a run around another corridor), and the explanation comes forward that they’re a generally peaceful race, until you disturb them (we also get said Silurian declaring that “one of you will kill me” to the episode’s companions – could that be Rory?). The look on the Doctor’s face says it all: they’ve been antagonised, and it’s all building up to the Silurian equivalent of Planet Of The Daleks, where the episode ends with the full scale of the Silurian threat exposed.

It combines to form a tidy, effective part one, one that didn’t overplay its hand, and inevitably saved its big moments for the episode to come. But it was entertaining nonetheless, channelling quite a lot of the feel of old Who, and doing it successfully enough.

The Den of Geek review for Cold Blood goes as follows:

Let’s do this the wrong way round, because if you’re anything like us, the part of Cold Blood that you’ll be wanting to talk about all happened in the last five or ten minutes.

Up until this point, we’d been treated to an entertaining, involving conclusion to an old-style Doctor Who two-parter. But from the moment the crack appeared again in the wall, and the Doctor actually looked like he was going to bother to explain it, we shot straight back up in our seats.

It’s a good job we did, too. As the Doctor reached into the crack, we couldn’t help thinking we were on the verge of a Utopia moment, where an episode was about to be turned on its head by something happening in its final moments. As it turned out, for once we were absolutely on the money.

Never mind for now what the Doctor pulled out of said crack (we’ll come to that shortly), how about instead the fact that Doctor Who did what it’s been reluctant to do ever since it returned: kill off a major character?

Granted, Rory is hardly assistant rank in the Tardis, but he’s not far off. And when you consider how dramatically Russell T Davies pulled back from even giving one of the assorted characters a scratch in Journey’s End after threatening to bump at least one of them off, then this is radical stuff for Doctor Who.

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Because this is, after all, a Saturday teatime show. And yet, for the first time since Adric decided he was going to try and stop a spaceship crashing, a companion character who had travelled with the Doctor for several episodes was killed on his watch. Now granted, it wasn’t the most convincing way to go (there was a bit of a Die Hard ending about Restac crawling through rubble and firing off a shot), but nonetheless, Rory was shot, and Rory went down. Furthermore, the light coming through the crack got him, which most of us, we’d wager, suspect is the way that Rory will come back to life.

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Truthfully, we’d be shocked if he didn’t. There’s presumably a reset switch in there somewhere, tied in to the fact that Amy has already forgotten him (and how good a plot device now does having the two of them waving across the valley look?) just as she’s forgotten the likes of the Daleks. But for now, that’s a genuinely shocking conclusion.

And yet, Cold Blood wasn’t finished. Because what’s that the Doctor has in his hand? A piece of the Tardis. That’s going to all come to fruition, no doubt, in the four weeks ahead, yet in truth, we were still in shock at Rory’s death by this point. Nonetheless, Doctor Who still squeezed in another little mystery with the Tardis segment moment before the credits were allowed to roll, and we’ll be speculating about what that means for weeks to come.

There are certain reservations that are worth noting. They are concerning Silurians Ayala and Restac, as well as Ambrose Northover, and Nasreen Chaudhry, who all show some ambitious motivation.

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Silurians Ayala and Restac.

Silurians Ayala and Restac are both shown to have suicidal tendencies (Ayala proudly states that one of the humans will “kill” her in The Hungry Earth, and Restac refuses to listen to Eldane going on a suicide mission to kill the humans in retribution for her sister’s, Ayala, death in Cold Blood). This means they are both of women of failed leadership when in a situation to have it. Both of them were very warlike in behavior.

Ambrose_NorthoverAmbrose Northover unintentionally killed Ayala, but none-the-less, this is a display in that a woman cannot be responsible when left alone, due to being too emotional It’s an unfortunate, but true to the message of the narrative.

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Nasreen Chaudhry was a geologist working in Cwmtaff on a drilling expedition, with Tony Mack. During this time, he proclaimed his love for her, and after they made an agreement with the Silurians, she stayed in hibernation (giving up her work) with Tony inside the Silurian Metropolis.

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On Amy Pond: Throughout most of The Hungry Earth, Amy is very much the damsel in distress (see Feminist Frequency‘s Damsel in Distress Series).

The Worst:

Amy’s Choice

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Amy’s Choice is an episode that if you missed, everything is perfectly OK.

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First, there is the matter of Amy Pond’s mystical pregnancy (see Feminist Frequency‘s #5) depicted in this episode. This is to a joking effect, of course. These scenes generally take place in what we are lead to believe to be Leadworth, but it is actually a dream.

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During the events, Rory dies. She wants the Doctor to bring him back, but he says he cannot “not always” which angers Amy. She decides to kill herself (with the Doctor) because it “can’t be” the real world without Rory.

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But as it turns out, the foe is a being called the Dream Lord who has been tricking them the entire time.

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In the other dream, inside the TARDIS, they are hovering over a “cold star.” Once the Doctor realizes who the Dream Lord is, he pilots the TARDIS into it, where they wake up in the real world.

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At the end of the episode, the Doctor that is should have been obvious that the Dream Lord was him.

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It’s a very poor episode overall.

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Next is the best and worst of Series 4.

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6 thoughts on “The Best and Worst of Doctor Who: Series 5

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