by Todd O'Dowd
Editor’s Note: Greetings l’étoile readers! As you know, we here at l’étoile are devoted nerds, geeks and sci-fi nuts (just look at our sponsorship of the weekly Sci-Fi Tuesdays at Clubhouse Jäger for proof). As such we have been devoted watchers of the relaunch of Doctor Who. We have followed the Doctor through time wars, Daleks, Cybermen, the death/rebirth/death of Gallifrey, an ever-rotating cast of companions (complete with families, lovers, foes, and assorted extras), and more. But now the Doctor faces his most demanding foe yet… The wicked wit of our own Mr. O’Dowd. Follow along as Todd recaps the show’s seventh season for us (and at his website). But enough talking; let’s get on with it as time is running out on a certain married couple…
Well, here we are again. Another series of Dr. Who, and this time it is doing a split season; five episodes now, the Christmas Day special, and the final eight of the season in 2012. I really am over the split season with shows. I hated it when The Sopranos and Sex In The City did it in their final seasons, I hate that Breaking Bad is doing it with this current season (especially in light of that gasp-worthy ending), and I hate that Dr. Who is doing it this now. Then again, the split season sort of makes sense as these are the last five episodes with Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvil before they leave the show to make room for Jenna-Louise Coleman as the new companion. So I can sort of get behind this, but I still hate it.
Another reason for the split is that according to Dr. Who show runner Stephen Moffat these five episodes are being treated almost as stand-alone stories with a blockbuster film feel. To that end, the BBC has released a series of movie posters for each of these episodes. Here’s the first one….
Before we get to the bullet points, if you haven’t seen the Pond Life prologue, (or the rather odd prequel to the episode released on iTunes), pray do so. And let’s get ready to rumble, because everyone’s favorite Nazi analogues, the Daleks are back with some surprising tactics, a soufflé that’s too beautiful to live, some surprising changes to the status quo, and a few shocking appearances.
Bullet points are go, and, in the words of Miss River Song – Spoilers!
•First off: Why hello, Skaro! And what a brilliant way to trap our intrepid heroes even though two of them are at odds with one another.
•Side Note #1: Amy’s still modeling?!? Who knew that her time as the face of Petricore would lead to her popularity? Maybe that’s why Rory served her divorce papers. Yes, you read that correctly. The Ponds are splitting up.
•Side Note #2: Did you notice that she signed the papers Amy Williams?
•And then we see the Parliment of the Daleks, uttering the two scariest words: “Save us.” As the Doctor said himself “Well, that’s new.”
•So what did we think of the new opening with the Dalek’d titles? Don’t know how I feel about the themed logos (and they’re going to continue that way throughout at least the first half of the season), but there it is.
•And there we meet soufflé girl! I’ll discuss her later in the post but anyway, it’s interesting to see that she’s trapped in the Dalek’s Asylum, and surviving! As The Doctor said himself earlier in the episode, “No one ever escapes the Daleks.”
•Who knew the Daleks had a concept of beauty (of course it’s unbridled rage but still)? And who knew that they find the Doctor beautiful (or at least their anger at him)? It’s a really interesting paradigm to view the whole Doctor/Dalex feud.
•The Dalek sleeper agents were a great touch. I mean, the concept of Dalek Zombies is pretty damn cool.
•Upon watching this episode for a second time, it was clear where they were going with the twist, but unlike other twist episodes, this one ropes you in on the first viewing and doesn’t give you a chance to think. Until you think about the eggs…
•And then there was the blistering argument between Rory and Amy and the real reason for the divorce. It’s nice to see that there were actual consequences of what happened to Amy at Demon’s Run during A Good Man Goes To War. And it’s fitting that it’s not the Doctor who’s the cause of the divorce but Amy’s infertility and her pushing Rory away. While I’m glad that they were able to patch it up, it would have been an interesting concept if show runner Stephen Moffat had explored the toll the Doctor had taken on the Pond’s marriage.
•Once again, we have a companion or friend of the Doctor sacrificing himself / herself for the Doctor but doing him a major solid first; in keeping with the end of Series 6 and trying to keep a lower profile, the Daleks have forgotten their Predator. And did you notice they’re asking the question that dare not be asked, lest silence will fall.
All right, I’ve tap-danced around it long enough. Let’s talk about this…
To the strains of the “Habanera” from Carmen (and with a red rose in hair to boot!), Miss Jenna-Louise Coleman makes her Dr. Who debut, five episodes early (it was originally announced that she would be introduced in this year’s Christmas special). As we saw in this episode she pulls a River Song and sacrifices herself to save the Doctor from doom (and wiping the memory of him from the Daleks to boot) all while suffering a fate truly worse than death. Now this begs the question: how is Oswin going to be the companion? Or does he start with her earlier in time and then we all know her final fate? Frankly I really hope this isn’t the route Moffat and company take because it’ll just be a riff on the River Song story (and will show a disturbing lack of creativity).
There is one theory floating around that I can sort of subscribe to: in all the promotional materials released since her announcement, Miss Coleman’s character was referred to as Clara Oswin. But in this episode, her name is Oswin Oswald. Now maybe they’ve changed the name since the original announcement, but there is a theory that Oswin is a descendant of Clara Oswin (a daughter, perhaps?) and Clara will be the one to go traveling with the Doctor, and her descendant (daughter? granddaughter?) heard the stories about traveling through time and space and joined the fateful crew of the Alaska. It’s a theory but it would also explain the whole recorded message to her mother in the beginning, and would keep in line with the notion that The Doctor changes not only his companions’ lives, but the lives of their families as well; witness the attention the show runners have lavished on such characters as Mickey Smith, Jackie Tyler, Francine Jones, and Wilfred Mott during the time of Rose, Martha, and Donna respectively.
Another theory that has some teeth to it, as espoused by my l’étoile colleague John Hunt in a conversation we had on Facebook, is that Oswin (who has been established as something of a genius) manages to use the nanobots mentioned in the episode to build her a new body. That could be the first time that the companion could be smarter than the daughter.
All of that being said, if this is what we’re to expect of Ms. Coleman as the companion, I’ll gladly take it! It’s nice to have a whip-smart companion who can riff against the Doctor and hold their own (which is one of the reasons people loved the David Tennant/Catherine Tate pairing in Series 4, and before them Tom Smith/Elisabeth Slatterly and Sylvester McCoy/Sophie Aldred in the classic series who also had that same rapid-fire, screwball delivery). I like not only the braininess of Oswin but her resourcefulness as well. She should be a great salve to heal the wound over losing the Ponds in four weeks time.
UPDATE: Congratulations to writer/erstwhile Wisconsinite Neil Gaiman for winning the prestigious Hugo Award for his script for last year’s episode “The Doctor’s Wife.” And even better, it’s been announced that he will be writing an episode for the second half of this season!
Image Credits: BBC