It’s been… well, it’s been a “ride” I suppose. The second half of season 7 of Doctor Who was certainly something else. More or less beginning with the Christmas episode “The Snowmen” things started off rather interestingly. We met another version of Clara (Jenna-Louise Coleman), fought rabid Snowmen, and dealt with the Doctor’s grief over losing his previous companion, Amy.
We also met the Great Intelligence, someone who you would think would be the main villain of the season. And while he would return in the episode directly after “The Snowmen” and the season finale, he’s generally forgotten about for the rest of the season.
“The Snowmen” leaves things off in such a way that “The Bells of Saint John” has an easy job. We meet another incarnation of Clara, the modern day one, and the one who would eventually become the Doctor’s permanent companion. Who is she? What does she want? Why does she keeping appearing throughout time and space?
Well – funnily enough – that question is ignored for most of the season. Every once in awhile the Doctor will wonder aloud to himself about Clara. Or maybe he’ll even bring it up to another person at the end of an episode. Otherwise we’re left to wonder about Clara all on our own.
The problem with Clara is that she’s simply not as interesting as Amy and Rory. She thinks she’s more clever than she actually is and it more often than not comes off as forced. There are a few select moments where her and Matt Smith work wonderfully together, but those are few and far between. For the most part she’s more of annoyance.
Most of the episodes of season 7.5 are not good enough to hold their own without some sort of constant thread to hold people’s interest. Episodes like “The Rings of Akhaten” and “Hide” are simple one-offs that are barely decent enough to keep people watching. Even episodes that promise great things like “Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS” wind up botching things by erasing everything that happened by the end of the episode.
Things finally pick up towards the very end of the season. “Nightmare In Silver”, written by the fantastic Neil Gaiman, is a treasure of an episode, despite the fact that it has little to do with the overarching story line. The Doctor squaring off himself – as Mr. Clever – is amazing.
Then there’s the finale. “The Name of the Doctor” is more of a play on words than they’d like you to believe. While no one in their right mind would actually think that they’d reveal the Doctor’s name, I have no doubt there were a few who had hope (myself included).
The cop out to that was easily the most disappointing part of the episode, perpetuated by the most disappointing character in modern Who history, River Song. Thankfully we only had to tolerate her for this single episode, and it looks like her character’s run is over.
The finale also gave the answer to Clara. She jumped into the Doctor’s time stream and scattered across time and space. In the end, I quite enjoyed this explanation I just wish there had been a little more lead-in to this throughout the season. Hopefully in season 8 Clara will become a more interesting character now that she’s shed her mystery.
This episode was clearly designed to lead into the 50th Anniversary of Doctor Who (scheduled to air November 23). The big cliffhanger that has everyone talking is the reveal of John Hurt as an unknown incarnation of the Doctor. The current theory is that he’s the Doctor who ended the Time War and regenerated into Nine (or Eccleston). I’ll be interested to see where they take this in the next seven months.
Overall this half-season, compared to the episodes before it, lacked most of what made it fun. There wasn’t any consistent storyline, the companion was lacking any sort of real character, and the one-off episodes were more boring than not.