Friday, August 21, 2015

TARDIS Travels: Exploring Doctor Who Part 5 - Better Than Imagined

Here is the next part of my continued exploration of the rebooted Doctor Who.  I've already written about my impressions of Season 1 and how I believe the TV Threshold can be found in the fourth episode of season 2, "The Girl in the Fireplace." 

I have also completed my Season 2 review and my Season 3 review.

So now here are my impressions of the 4th Season (SPOILERS BELOW).

1.  I was wrong about Donna Noble
When I saw Catherine Tate in season 3, I thought she would be horrible, cloying companion.  I was relieved when Martha Jones took that spot.  When Tate returned as Donna Noble, I was dubious to say the least.  But boy was I wrong.  The dynamic between her and the Doctor was so refreshing and fantastic.  He says to her in the first episode, "I just want a mate," tired of all the complications from romantic feelings between him and his companions.  This lack of romance makes Donna a great companion.  Together, they are two friends having adventures.  And she is much more adult than Rose or Martha and is not shy about speaking to the Doctor like an equal, which is also a breath of fresh air.  But I was most surprised by her dramatic acting range.  In "The Fires of Pompeii" I was bowled over by her performance and I forgot all about her as my least favorite character from The Office.  She may actually be my favorite of his companions.

2.  Great Single Episodes
I made this point in my last post, but there are also some great single (or 2-part) episodes. 
a.  The Fires of Pompeii - I loved the way that Donna brought a whole new perspective and inquisitiveness to the Doctor's travels.  And the emotional intesity of this first travel together was not what I was expecting.  It had me hanging on, unsure of what the Doctor would do.  

b.  The Doctor's Daughter - a weirdly compelling story that attempts to pry a little more of the Doctor's closely guarded history.

c.  The Silence of the Library and The Forrest of the Dead - I have rewatched these episodes a few times.  This is one of the few times we get to feel confusion with the Doctor and that horrible heartache at realize that there is so much more that is going on that we don't know.  The introduction of River Song (Alex Kingston) blew open the doors to the Doctor's future in a way that was exciting and tragic.  And I love how the end has such an amazing emotional shift that I did not see coming.  Not to mention I love how the Vashta Nerada tap into our universal experience of fear of the dark.

d. Midnight - This was actually the first episode of Doctor Who I ever saw.  It was recommended by a friend years ago.  Seeing it again, I can feel the different layers of context that make the episode even better.

e.  The End of Time - Heartbreaking.  But more on this later.

3.  Closure
I am so glad that they took their time to close out the story of the 10th Doctor.  I loved the fact that his story takes time to say goodbye to everyone.    The Doctor gives everyone around him the happiest endings he can, especially Rose Tyler.  I think it so interesting how she can have the Doctor, but he can't have her.  And it broke my heart that the last person he wanted to see was her before the end.  But sad as it was, I'm glad the show gave you a chance to say a proper goodbye.

4.  Christ-like Sacrifice
I've always found the essense of heroism in self-sacrifice.  The Doctor isn't just a Time Lord, he is a hero.  Ultimately, he is in many ways a tragic figure.  He reminds me of the line from The Lord of the Rings "I give hope to men.  I leave none for myself."  Even though he has the power to regenerate, they do a good job of explaining that "it feels like dying."  So any sacrifice is real.  And I love the fact, that when it came down to it, the Doctor was called to choose not lay down his life for "the world," but for one man.  It reminded me of how St. Augustine said that Christ died not for mankind but for each man.  Wilfred tries to explain how his life is nothing compared to the value of the Doctor's life.  But the Doctor would not hear it.  I love how un-stoic he is about it and is angry and sad, but ultimately noble.

5.  David Tennant is my Doctor Who
I am sorry to put down any previous Doctor or to pre-judge any Doctor to come, but David Tennant is my Doctor.  His performance is so embedded in my mind that I will have a hard time accepting anyone else in that role.  He won me over so quickly and carried in himself all of the wonderful contradictions that make his character so fascinating.  His final words echo my feelings too:

Stay tuned for my reflections of Season 5.

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