Friday, 2 July 2010
"Come Along, Pond."
Doctor Who series five ended last Saturday and I’ve been rewatching some key episodes of the season including opener The Eleventh Hour and the final two parter The Pandorica Opens and The Big Bang. So I thought I’d give a summary of my thoughts on this brand new regeneration of the classic and much loved series.
As Doctor nine would say: ”Fantastic!”
I get Steven Moffat's approach to Who. Because it's the same one I have. It hits all the right buttons for me.
This season was a twisty crazy fairytale all about little Amelia Pond and her imaginary friend, a madman with a box who fell out of the sky.
"When I was seven I had an imaginary friend. Last night was the night before my wedding, and my imaginary friend came back."
While left all alone one night, a brave little girl called Amelia prays to Santa for someone to come and save her from the scary crack in her bedroom wall. And come to her someone does, falling right out of the sky and in to her garden. The Raggedy Doctor. A brilliant yet strangely childlike madman with a box who eats fish custard and loves bowties and thinks fezzes are cool. But after fixing the crack in the wall, The Doctor disappears leaving poor little Amelia all alone once more. But she refuses to give up on him and settles down to wait for his return. And she waits and waits and waits. Little Amelia eventually grows up to believe that she imagined it all, that nothing that happened that night was real, that the Raggedy Doctor never existed. The wonder, the magic, the imagination of childhood has finally been driven out of her. She loses herself, her innocence, even losing her name, now being called Amy. As an adult she becomes cynical, rather bitter and hard nosed - albeit charmingly so.
And then one day, many years later, right out of the blue (box), her imaginary friend returns.
The story of Doctor Who season five is not so much about hanging on to the wonder and the imagination of childhood as it is about regaining it once lost. It’s about losing our cynicism and finding the simple joy in everything that is out there beyond the narrow, repetitive often soul-destroying confines of adult life. Now, most of us (I certainly do) remember how when we were kids we could happily play for hours, imagining all sorts of weird and wonderful adventures to lose ourselves in. We didn’t need much, just our imagination and the freedom to disappear within it. But there comes a point – maybe around age eleven or twelve – when that ability starts to fade. It gets harder and harder to have imaginary fun in our own little worlds, fun that once felt so easy, so real. The magic of childhood starts to leave us as we begin the difficult journey in to adulthood, having to spend more time thinking about real life because real life has suddenly become far more complicated and far more necessary as more demands are put on us along with more responsibility.
But the good news is that just because we become adults with all the baggage that brings, we can rediscover our imaginations. We can learn to see with more innocent, wondrous eyes again. We can rediscover our inner child so to speak. That is exactly what happens to Amy. By seasons end she has found little Amelia. Literally. The Doctor was the key to her re-discovering her inner child, her sense of adventure, discovering the weird, crazy, silly, scary fun that life can be.
The Doctor: “Fourteen years since fish custard. Amy Pond. The girl who waited, you've waited long enough.”
Amy: “When I was a kid, you said there was a swimming pool. And a library, and the swimming pool was in the library.”
The Doctor: “Yeah. Not sure where it's got to now, it'll turn up! So! Coming?”
Amy: (shaking her head) “No.”
The Doctor: “You wanted to come fourteen years ago.”
Amy: “I grew up.”
The Doctor: “Don't worry. I'll soon fix that.”
This season has been my favourite of new Who so far. And that’s due primarily to its thematic undercurrent, one which chimes perfectly with what I love most in storytelling - the fairytale vibe, the innocence and wonder and scariness of childhood and of life in general. It’s what Spielberg has been doing for years. And it works for a reason. The same reason it has worked down through the centuries. It imparts important stories and lessons to children while also reminding adults what it is like to be a child, reminding us not to lose that special gift that lets us make up crazy adventures and weird and wacky stories in order to pass on down to our own children the same important messages and themes.
I love this season for its range of stories too, and that while shifting from the more overblown, camp, panto feel of Russell T Davies’ tenure to Steven Moffat’s more odd, sinister, eccentric fairytale feel, Doctor Who hasn’t lost its sense of fun nor its crazy, silly, very British whimsy. The stories this year have ranged from the downright nightmarish (The Time of Angels) to the very silly (Victory of the Daleks) to the emotionally sublime (Vincent and the Doctor). And throughout it all, Matt Smith has been a total legend and has made The Doctor his own. I liked Tennant, though I much preferred Eccleston, but Matt Smith has trumped them both. His energetic, clumsy, rather mad little old man in a young man’s body has been a joy to watch. And I love Amy too. Like many men I am in lust with Karen Gillan. She is great and has such a wicked chemistry with Matt that just crackles both onscreen and off. And she had to be great because this season was Amy’s story. It was the story of little seven-year-old Amelia Pond, the girl who waited. The girl who grew up, but who then became a child once more. Brilliant!
Any negatives? Well, my only real problem has been with some of the FX. There’s been some pretty shoddy CGI in places. So, please, someone give the guys at The Mill a kick. They do some great stuff (the two-part finale FX are all pretty darn excellent) but then they seem to counter it with some truly ropy stuff. A bit more quality assurance needed me thinks.
Anyway, this has been a wonderful new start for The Doctor with Steven Moffat proving yet again why he is such a genius of a writer and one of the very best working in the industry today. Everything in this season was thought out and planned in detail. Things are set up and pay off throughout – both plotwise and thematically. It’s an intricate machine of storytelling, which ends with the sublime two-parter of The Pandorica Opens and The Big Bang. And, of course, with season five a star has been born in the form of Matt Smith. So roll on the Christmas special.