In the nearly 50 years since it first broadcast there have been 11 different men to play the mysterious Doctor Who. For me, at the end of last year’s Fifth Season, Matt Smith’s Doctor ranked second to last, only above Paul McGann’s 8th Doctor and that’s because McGann only had the one two-hour movie.
I don’t lay the blame for my dislike of Smith’s Doctor on the actor, but instead what he was given to work with. Matt Smith has taken the best parts of all the previous Doctors and come up with something new.
The Doctor is over 900 years old, has had dozens of companions (mostly human) and has spent the bulk of his known life not only on Earth but defending it from all sorts of invasions, yet, this Doctor seemed to be baffled by even the most simple of human interactions. I felt as though I’d spent a dozen episodes watching the really smart kid in school, who had a kind of book smarts, but not an ounce of common sense nor the first clue how to relate to the other students.
After watching Season 6, Part 1 on DVD (on sale now by the BBC) Matt Smith’s 11th Doctor is now in my top 5 incarnations, somewhere between Colin Bakers criminally too-short run as the 6th Doctor and Christopher Eccelston’s lonely, tortured 9th Doctor.
So what’s changed between the two seasons? Well, The Doctor has settled into his new regeneration for one thing. Gone is the Doctor who jumps up and down in the middle of the room screaming at the top of his lungs, “Look at me and how wacky and strange I am!” That has all been replaced with a man who might still be all of those things, but has learned to temper that side of himself. He is man who feels comfortable with his two companions Amy and Rory. For the first time that I can remember the Tardis feels like a home and The Doctor has a family.
I have to stop here for a minute and comment on the companions. It used to be that the role of companion was to be the point of view character for the audience. He/she was supposed to ask questions so the Doctor could explain to them (and us) what is going on (and to get captured while screaming). Since the reboot, however, the show has seemed to swing WAY too far in the other direction to where the title of the show might as well be “The Doctor’s Companions……Featuring The Doctor.” Fortunately, in this season the balance has been found. And I’m just gonna say it, Rory ranks only behind Sarah Jane Smith as the best companion of all time. In the sixth episode when he faces The Cybermen and demands to know where his kidnapped wife is if you aren’t punching the air saying, “HELL YEAH,” then something is wrong with you.
Finally, this season has a more epic feel to it with each episode or arc acting as a stand alone but also feeding into the larger story being told. The first episode begins in Utah and shows the Doctor from the future being shot by a mysterious person in a space suit and just as he starts to regenerate he’s shot a second time, finally killing him once and for all. The season just builds from there. Add in the long-standing mystery of who River Song, from David Tennant’s 10th Doctor era, is as well as how she knows so much about the Doctor (including his real name!) plus not one but TWO brand new alien threats in The Silence and The Gangers and this first half is an incredible way to start a season that promises to tie up every loose end from the last 3 or 4 years.
I am not a fan of the split season. They have always seemed like a blatant double-dipping to me. Release a bare-bones version and those sucker fan boys will lap that up and then come back for the main meal when they release the whole season with all the goodies. However, in this case the season itself is split in two with a 3 month break so the release makes sense. I was also pleased that they set the price at a very reassonable $16.00-$20.00 and the release is not at all void of special features. The BBC included two really comprehensive features on the two new bad guys introduced during the season. So I say that if you love Doctor Who, have blown off The Doctor (like I did), or are wondering why this series has lasted almost half a century do yourself a favor and go buy this set in either DVD or Blu-Ray format and get ready for part two coming out this month cause it’s gonna be one helluva ride!