I’m a pretty big fan of Doctor Who, but I’ve never really considered it a particularly good show. It’s usually very entertaining, which anyone would expect from a television show that’s been around since the 60s with only one major break, but I’ve always found that it’s generally entertaining in more of an amusing, popcorn way than in a way with actual literary merit. Doctor Who has always been a show with a flair for the dramatic. Cliffhangers and plot twists are common ground for this show, but the problem is that Doctor Who is rather depend on its deus ex machinas. It’s never terribly uncommon for the Doctor and his companions to be in a seemingly hopeless situation against insurmountable odds, but then all of a sudden, BAM, the Doctor remembers he has his handy dandy problem solving ray gun or that the aliens are weak to some previously unmentioned sci-fi mumbo jumbo that just happened to be there or something to that extent. It’s a show that loves surprising the audience, but doesn’t really know how to do so. This is not, fortunately, always the case. In my opinion, Doctor Who has always been at its best when all the clues are on the table from the get go. When the viewer is introduced to a new mechanic or alien or something and then our previously established knowledge of Doctor Who is what creates the surprise or the plot twist. This new season of Doctor Who has been doing that brilliantly.
So you should probably know that this post is going to be full of spoilers, like this:
That cliffhanger from the end of episode two was exactly the kind of cliffhanger that actually means something to the audience. It’s nothing but previously established information put together in a surprising way: namely, that the girl that’s apparently Amy Pond’s future child is somehow able to regenerate. We know Amy Pond seems to have a daughter in the future under unknown and possibly mysterious circumstances, and we know what regeneration is and what it looks like. Fantastic. Of course, the mid-season finale just aired this weekend and we know even more fascinating mysteries about this girl, which is that the audience is apparently supposed to buy that River Song is the biological offspring of Amy Pond and Rory Williams.
I honestly don’t know what I find strangest about the mid-season finale episode, titled “A Good Man Goes To War”: this plot twist, the post-credits teaser with a skeleton clutching the Doctor’s iconic sonic screwdriver, or that the next episode is apparently titled “Let’s Kill Hitler”.
Except I’m actually really excited about all of this. River Song was already one of the most mysterious characters on the show, and now knowing that she’s Amy and Rory’s daughter raises even more mysteries. Is River still semi-time lord? Did she change appearance when she regenerated? Is that why she doesn’t look even remotely related to Amy or Rory? Of course, what’s most interesting is that it’s been heavily implied in the past that River Song kills the Doctor in the future, and now we know that she’s the girl who’s, apparently, in the astronaut outfit who killed the Doctor in the season premiere. Yeah. Le gasp.
And the show’s really hitting us over the head with this “The Doctor dies in the future! OOOOOO!” business. An episode hasn’t gone by where a reference to the event wasn’t awkwardly crammed in, and the teaser after the credits of “A Good Man Goes to War” has a skeleton hand holding the sonic screwdriver, the green glow slowly going out as the image fades out to the words “Time runs out”. As if we somehow forgot the rather brutal and sudden death of the Doctor at the beginning of the season. However, this season we’ve also been introduced to this concept of flesh doppelgangers, which are basically physical clones carrying the original person’s consciousness, until things go awry and there’s just two copies of the same person. An entire two-parter was devoted to this concept, and the Doctor himself was cloned. Since that point, we’ve run into doppelgangers of Amy and her daughter/Melody Pond/River Song. There’s already a very obvious way for the Doctor to escape death here, although it’s not like I’m actually worried about the Doctor dying. Even if we ignore the fact that the Doctor is kind of the titular main character for this show and killing him off ends the show, this is also a show where people get erased from the history of time and get better. This happened to two main characters last season, on separate occasions, one of which was the Doctor himself. So while we don’t have to worry about the Doctor, what we do have to worry about is the show pulling a LOST and coming up with a really crappy explanation that doesn’t really make any sense at the last minute. But this season’s been doing a fantastic job of not doing that for once, so I absolutely cannot wait for the fall.