What a great season it's been for "Doctor Who." After all the drama surrounding last year's changeover from Russell Davies to Stephen Moffat as the show's head writer and executive producer, not to mention a whole new cast, it turns out that everyone's apprehensions were for nothing. There were some iffy episodes toward the beginning of the year, and all the performers needed some time to settle into their characters, but the creative minds behind the show didn't let us down. The season was a keeper and ended with a real bang. I have a few odd thoughts to share, mostly on how the new characters are developing. Spoilers ahoy!
So the mystery of the cracks in the walls was finally resolved, and we got to double back to the first episode of the season and revisit the adorable younger version of Amy, attend that long-delayed wedding, and save the universe too. Not a bad day's work for the Doctor. Looking back over the whole season, I don't think the quality was much better or worse than any other year. The stand-alone episodes were the usual mix of bad and good, some very good like "Amy's Choice" and "Vincent and the Doctor." Of the multiple episodes scripted by Moffatt, I liked the season's bookends - the introductory episode and the two-part finale - but thought the others missed the mark. Probably the biggest disappointment was the return of the Weeping Angels, who came with different, confusing rules, and turned out to be pushovers next to that evil, glowing crack in space-time. But he made up for it by putting Rory in a Roman Centurion outfit and the doctor in a tux.
Matt Smith's Eleventh Doctor has earned his place among the most beloved iterations of the character, giving us a more reserved, more stoic Time Lord than David Tennant's Tenth doctor. Yes, the actor is younger, but the character feels a little older and a little wiser, and provides a steadier presence in the face of danger. He doesn't have Tennant's intensity, but then Tennant doesn't have his subtlety. I think Smith still has plenty of room for improvement, and I'm sure he'll get better with age, but there's the part I'm worried about. The tenures of the actors who portray the Doctor and his companions are an awful lot shorter than they were in the old days, and I so want to see Eleven have a full, epic story arc the way Ten did, and I want Smith to stay in the role long enough for us to see him reach his full potential. The little tease at the end of the finale promises plenty of opportunity for growth next season.
And speaking of the companions, Amy (Karen Gillan) and Rory (Arthur Darvill) are now among my favorites. I was so relieved that they survived the finale and found a happy ending. Best of all, the two of them tying the knot didn't mean either of them had to settle down or give up traveling with the doctor in some belabored metaphor for putting away childish things and assuming grown-up responsibilities. When the two of them threw in their lot with the Doctor at the end without a moment's hesitation - or even discussing it between themselves - I was beside myself with glee. If there's one way to quash the chatter about Doctor/Companion romances, it's to have the Companions married to each other - though knowing fandom, it's not likely to stop them entirely. I like both characters so much, I just know that Stephen Moffat is going to break my heart somehow next season with those two. Or get Russell Davies back to do it. He's better at it.
The award for most improved character goes to River Song (Alex Kingston), the Doctor's mysterious ally who might or might not be his future wife. I didn't like the character when she was first introduced last season, but this year she's been running around the universe, causing all sorts of trouble, and clearly enjoying herself. She also has a much more interesting relationship with this Doctor than the last one. Eleven seems genuinely bothered that she knows more than he does about their interactions in the past and/or future. It's great to see him at a disadvantage for once. There's still lots unexplained about River, and she's one of Moffat's most prominent additions to the "Doctor Who" universe, so I expect we'll be seeing more of her soon. This time I'll be looking forward to her.
As for things that could be improved, there are a couple of points I hope the creators will keep in mind. First, I think Russell Davies did go overboard at times trying to include characters with diverse ethnicities and sexual identities, but I think they've scaled back a little too much, especially regarding gay and lesbian characters. Stephen Moffatt created Captain Jack Harkness, so he's contributed plenty already, but I hope we'll see similar characters, even if it's only bit parts. Conversely, the Dalek episode was among the worst of the season. The classic "Who" villains are fine for cameos, like they were used in the finale, but the Daleks and the Cybermen are so campy, a little goes a long way. This year was light on camp, so they didn't fit in too well.
Finally, the whole season has done a great job of establishing these new characters and their relationships. It wouldn't hurt to acknowledge a few of the old ones in the coming year. Smith is already due to appear on "The Sarah Jane Adventures," with two of the Doctor's previous companions, but I'd like to know what some of the more recent ones are up to. Okay, what I really want is for Mickey and Martha to get their own spinoff so we can finally clear up how they got together last year. They're never going to tie that loose end up, are they? Oh well. I hope Moffat and company are more scrupulous about resolving their stories. They're certainly on the right track so far.
Here's to a very good year, and many more to come.