Doctor Who - Series 7.2 Halfway Check-In

The eight episodes of Doctor Who series 7B (or whatever we're calling it) are halfway done - seems a good time to check in with the Time Lord in this 50th Anniversary year. Are we any closer to revelations about Jenna-Louise Coleman's Clara? And more to the point, how have the episodes been? Are we excited?

The second half kicks off tomorrow with Journey To The Centre Of The TARDIS, in the meantime, here are some broad thoughts on the stories so far. If you've not seen the four episodes of the first half, they are all avilable on iPlayer, and I will be spoiling freely.


"Hey, let's watch these two hang!" - New Dalek Masterplan?

My main thought when I sat down to write this: "Thank God last Saturday's Hide was good, otherwise this would be an uninspiring blog post." Because although it hasn't been a complete drag, the first three episodes of this Doctor Who run hadn't really got me energised. In many ways, it's been the opposite of series six - that series had some great individual episodes, but was dragged down by a muddled arc plot.

Well, this year I'm still engaged by the mystery of Clara, helped by great camaraderie betwixt Smith and Coleman, but the individual stories often haven't quite been there for me. The first episode, The Bells Of Saint John certainly wasn't awful, but as opening salvos go, it felt kinda vague and middling. It's a shame, as Clara's sorta-debut in The Snowmen was a stunning episode - hell, if they'd gone straight from that into this run, it would've had a great start. Maybe I'll just pretend that happened?

It's weird though, because I'd still happily watch Smith and Coleman do more or less anything, just couldn't help but feel they could've pretended there was a plot more effectively, instead of the point of the episode being "Hey, let's watch these two hang!" Did like seeing more Richard E. Grant at the end though - when's he coming back?

The Power Of Leaf, A Force From Beneath...

Bells was better than The Rings Of Akhaten though, which started nicely with Clara background and some impressive-for-Doctor-Who effects, but meandered badly into a vague final showdown - like they hadn't established the rules of the creature well enough to explain why it lost the way it did, so it kinda degenerated into people yelling at a green screen. If the ending was meant to be that the evil orange sun was defeated by Clara's specialness, they failed to convey that, and instead made it look like a muddle and a leaf.

Happily, that was the low-point - Cold War wasn't life-changing, but it had grave guesting from Liam Cunningham of Game of Thrones and a sense of old-school claustrophobic threat. If that was setting the Ice Warriors up for a return in a later episode, nice job. Some of the choices, like the constantly-offscreen naked alien, got aawkward - was that a budget issue or an attempt to build tension?

Nonetheless, decent enough work. And then Hide came along and topped them all easily, bringing in chills, science-fiction, genre-hopping, big concepts tossed around casually, subplot advancement, great guest acting by Dougray Scott and Jessica Raine - best outing so far easily, and successfully saved my enthusiasm for the series. Still to come: the journey into the TARDIS, another Gatiss episode bringing back the Victorian detective crew, Neil Gaiman's Cybermen, and a Moffat finale entitled The Name of the Doctor.

Happily, all that still sounds good to me.

Doctor Who continues tomorrow at 6:£0PM on BBC1, more details on the BBC Doctor Who site, old episodes still up on iPlayer. I suppose Hide had a lot of shouting at special effects too, but they were special effects I understood...

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