Reviewer’s Roundtable

New series, new Doctor, new production team. Following Matt Nida’s 2010 series critique (Geroni-Meh!), the reviewers of the individual episodes got together to provide their own thoughts on season 31 (aka Series 5 and Series Fnarg) as a whole.

(We really did get together. There was cake.)


Doctor Who 2010Time… time…TIME? Future jackets vs continuity errors, wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey intricacies – that’s what summed Doctor Who up for me in 2010.

Matt Smith was great of course, and I’m quite fond of his leggy companion, but what most impressed me were the intricacies of Steven Moffat’s arc plotting, from The Eleventh Hour through to The Big Bang.  I’m under no illusions that some episodes were pale shadows of what they should have been, and perhaps the added load of fitting in elements that can then be referred back to later on was too much for certain writers. Certainly as far as Victory of the Daleks and The Beast Below go, there was little to recommend subsequent viewings despite show-stopping moments like “Spitfires in Space”.

But where Steven Moffat’s first season in change has impressed is with the extrapolation of the confused-time themes of The Girl in the Fireplace, Blink and Silence in the Library into a full season. I totally love stuff like this, and while there were moments in The Big Bang that perhaps didn’t make sense, the same can be said of one of its thematic stable mates, Back to the Future 2.

Seeding that “Future Doctor” moment from the finale into Flesh and Stone was particularly effective, as were suggestions from River Song that she’s a bit of a bad’un, and this represents the other side of the The Grand Moff’s plotting. He’s not only brought the season together with timey-wimey brilliance, there’s even more to come!

One thing that I always disliked about the previous series was how everything was tidily sorted out with the “do too much” finale of the Russell T Davies era. Moffat didn’t even try to sort everything out, leaving the nature of the “Silence”, the entity controlling the TARDIS, the identity of the owner of the TARDIS in The Lodger and various River Song-related bits and bobs to the next season.

Episodic, ongoing, timey-wimey – great stuff!

You can read Christian’s reviews of The Eleventh Hour and The Big Bang.


From the start of the season it was clear to see that Moffat knows Doctor Who. In the beginning, while The Eleventh Hour was a great episode, I thought he might have just known past Doctor Who a bit too well with all the reused ideas in that story. But as the series progressed it got better and better. While, as a fan, I had small issues with certain episodes along the way that by no means meant they weren’t good, just that it was not my vision of the show and I had to get passed that as I did with the Russell T. Davies era.

Doctor Who 2010Once I got to The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone my issues all took a back seat. I enjoyed every minute of that story and am proud to say that I noticed the Doctor walking through his own past – although admittedly I did wonder at first if it was a production error – but then started to wonder if it was more. And it was!

As the series moved on ever further, we got reintroduced to Rory and the TARDIS had a team again. A team that got along the way that friends do, meaning sometimes there is tension but on the whole they are there for each other. Just like the good old days. Then Rory died. I was really taken aback by this. Half expecting it but hoping it wouldn’t happen.

When the time came for the Doctor to meet Vincent Van Gogh, the series just seemed like it could do no wrong. And now that The Big Bang has come and gone I am left with the feelings I’ve wanted to feel at any of the series finales. Joy. Not sadness, not tears, not emo stuff. Just joy. The heroes are together and read to take on the universe again and loving every minute of it. Perfect.

Brian reviewed Amy’s Choice and Vincent and the Doctor.

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  1. castellanspandrell says:

    “Death. Death no longer has any meaning.”

    -Jonathan, you’ve hit the nail on the head, son.

    Thinking particularly of Rory coming back, here. I like him and wasn’t displeased to see him turn up as a Roman centurion, but part of me wished he would’ve stayed dead when the universe was reset- let the kids know that once you’re gone, you’re not coming back. And it kinda makes pants of the previously powerful ‘being erased from history’ thing.

    Then there’s Amy getting shot dead, only for us to be told ‘She’s just a bit dead.’

    Let’s not even get to the Dr vanishing through the cracks in the universe, only to reappear because Amy remembered him. I understand why they can’t kill off the lead character, but why even get to that ridiculous point in the first place, whereby the writer has to to resort to a total mouse of an idea to make the Dr ‘undead’?

  2. Carn says:

    apart from a couple minor quibbles it’s been my favorite season ever, and i actually feel that sense of joy and excitement again just hearing the current theme tune start up. i love it. best show on tv by far. actually it’s one of the few things i bother even having a tv for. wish i could write on my tv license application ‘give all my money to doctor who production, cheers’

  3. bluebox444 says:

    Well, it seems like Kasterborous’ response is positive overall. So is mine. The “fairy-tale” theme to the series was perhaps its strongest point. Gone were the cringe-inducing appearances of aliens composed of fat, farting green monsters, and amorous paving slabs (sorry, RTD – you’re never going to live that one down). The main story arc was quite brilliant, I thought, culminating in a truly beautiful climax in “The Big Bang”. It did feel a bit like something out of a Disney movie, but then, I like Disney movies. I don’t think this series was for everyone. Maybe the fanbase in Doctor Who is going to change a bit. I think those who haven’t been die-hard fans since ’05 actually responded more positively to this series than those who have been. All in all, Moffat’s first year was more like what I’ve been wanting to see out of Doctor Who (and in fact, a bit more like the classic Doctor Who) than anything that’s come out of the revived series thus far. And I think nearly all of us agree that Matt Smith was truly magnificent as the Eleventh Doctor.

    A few thoughts on Amy Pond: I do like her. And not just because she’s attractive. I think Karen Gillan is a very skilled actress. That being said, there were times when she wasn’t given much to work with in the character of Amy. Amy’s best moments came in the episodes Moffat himself wrote and in “Amy’s Choice”. Elsewhere, she did at times seem to be something of a Donna-clone. I fell in love with Amy in “The Eleventh Hour” when she mentioned having bitten four psychiatrists. I wish the development of her character had continued steadily on from there, but it really didn’t. The series has ended, and she’s still something of an enigma. (And I really didn’t care for her seduction scene in “Flesh and Stone” – it jarred with the rest of the series.) It’s hard to say clearly what sets her apart from companions who have gone before. But still, I wouldn’t call her “annoying” – I think it’s only RTD fans determined to dislike her who find her annoying. Despite all this, she was very enjoyable as a companion, and I’m glad she’s staying on for another year. I really do believe that Moffat will continue to add more layers to her character as time goes on. To those who hate her, I say, give her a chance. She does have a lot of potential.

  4. bluebox444 says:

    I should add that I loved Rory. Moffat definitely did a good job with him.

  5. Paul Cavanagh says:

    There was cake? Why didn’t I get any cake? 😉

    For the record: we’re not unanimous on the new Daleks. I quite like ’em. Ok, so they look like they’ve eaten too many pies, granted, but I’ll get used to that. That’ll put the Cheetah People amongst the Krillitane!

  6. bobbygaga says:

    I’ve said this before, but I’ll take this season and all it’s flaws over RTD’s mawkish panto years.

  7. Jez Noir says:

    Please please please no more Chibnall! He’s had more than enough chances and just isn’t up to the job. God knows there must be plenty of promising young sci-fi writers desperate to get their ideas into a Who episode! Ot they could bring back Marc Platt!

  8. Paul Cavanagh says:

    I’m sorry to say, I have to agree with Jez. Chibnall has now written two of my least favourite stories within a series. 42 remains my most disliked story since the series returned in 2005, and The Hungry Earth was easily the worst episode of Series fnarg. Of all the great writers who have contributed, it eludes me why Chibnall was invited back. More from Toby Whithouse and/or Paul Cornell please!

  9. Rick714 says:

    Enjoyed “Eleventh Hour” immensely. Smith begins a fantastic run as the Doctor.

    I think that “Beast” is being treated unfairly, primarily because I think it continues on from EH quite nicely and here’s where we first see Smith in regular action. Them landing on the tongue was hilarious and one of the few episodes where I though Gillan was on track as opposed to being annoying.

    Victory of the Daleks was a rehash of Power of the Daleks and may be best served as a set up for future Dalek eps, period. Low point of the season.

    The Angels two parter was very enjoyable and River Song just gets better with each appearance.

    “Vampires of Venice”, okay, not the best but a great opening.

    “Amy choice” was another one that seems to be unfairly treated, I thought it was one of the highlights, mostly because of Smith’s eccentricities.

    The silurian two parter was disappointing as yet another rehash of the original story, not the worst of the season, though.

    “Vincent” was perhaps the highpoint, talk about positive and life-affirming….the reviewer who said the series was cynical with vincent as the low point….I’m not sure he knows what the word “cynical” means.

    “Lodger” was also great fun, again, primarily because of smith. He’s carrying most of the episodes far better than I could have hoped for.

    Pandorica/Big Bang was a great series ender and unlike BTTF 2, it did NOT give me a headache.

    A very good season and here’s to four more years of Moffat and Smith.

  10. bluebox444 says:

    I, for one, loved “The Hungry Earth”, if only for the highly entertaining character of Nasreen Chaundry. Overall, I felt the episode echoed the classic series in many enjoyable ways. Nothing particularly new or ground-breaking about it, but it was good fun for a long-term fan.

  11. cat says:

    Actually I liked ’42’ a lot – sorry and all that! However, ‘Hungry Earth’ did have a problem, which was lack of people – when Nasreen said that the Doctor was the only one who had made sense of the events for her it would have been nice if we had thought there was anyone else around offering an explanation. Also, I am a bit fed up of the Doctor in ‘Nu-who’ PROMISING people that he will save them (in this case promising to save someone’s father, but you can see what I mean) when it is by no means certain he will. The first one to go after being ‘promised’ was Lynda with a Y, but the Doctor didn’t learn by this and has been promising all and sundry ever since. It is really annoying.

    I too was a bit disturbed by death no longer being final in this series, but Steven Moffat did say he was aiming for a fairytale feel, and in fairy tales people do come back to life from the most unpromising situations (a quick trawl through Andrew Lang’s twelve Fairy Books would give a hefty number of these), so I suppose it is fair enough. I hope he doesn’t keep on doing it over and over again, though, even though I was delighted to see Rory come back.

    I have been watching Dr Who regularly since 1968, and saw a few episodes before then as well, and Matt Smith is right up there with my favourite Doctors (Patrick Troughton being THE Doctor for me). This series has been a pleasure to watch just to see him in action. Not to say anything against Doctors 9 and 10, who were both excellent, but Matt Smith has that something extra as far as I am concerned. And quit knocking Karen Gillan, folks, she is fine. And, being female myself (yes, long term and nerdy fans of the series can be female too) I’m not saying that because of the short skirts and long legs – and my daughter thinks she’s great as well.

  12. Leosw4 says:

    Favourite eps: The Lodger (astonishing outcome given Corden), Amy Choice, Vincent and the Doctor.
    Enjoyed: Angel two parter, The Eleventh Hour
    So so about: Pandorica two parter,Victory of the Daleks (now used to Dalek story not delivering since 2007 so perhaps immune to total dislike-please Mr M prove me wrong next time)
    Not keen on:Vampires, The Beast Below
    Did not like:The Silurian two parter for the reasons outlined above.

    Loving Matt and Rory. Sort of like Amy.

    Overall an enjoyable season, but not my favourite of the new era. Some episodes failed to deliver but hey thats been the case since 1977 (and once or twice before-Destiny of the Daleks remains the all time champ in that regard :(…..)

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