I realize that my Doctor Who reviews have lagged behind a bit, but I’ve been traveling and hadn’t had a chance to watch them. So this may be old news and you may not want to read it, but I have to write it all the same. My OCD requires that everything be sequential and symmetrical. So here we are. Also–after questioning Neil Cross’s ability as a writer and possibly as a human being after the disaster that was “Rings of Akhaten,” I am happy to report that he has redeemed himself somewhat with this episode.
Though I try hard to not constantly compare the new series to the classic one (and reveal my advanced age in the process), at times it can’t be helped. The things I enjoy about the new series tend to be things that echo that of the original, only with better special effects and more swiftly-moving storylines (people in the 60s and 70s tended to read books instead ot tweet, so TV shows tended to ramble on a bit more given longer attention spans). Where was I…oh, yes. I was saying I enjoyed this episode because some classic elements were present.
A spooky ghost is eventually explained away in the true Doctor Who fashion (not to give spoilers, but nothing “supernatural” ever turns out to be truly supernatural on this show, which matches my worldview), but not without engaging the viewer with some genuinely creepy moments. There was also humor woven into the story seamlessly, hearkening back to the way Patrick Troughton would bring a dose of comic relief to classic monster stories. It is clear in this episode that it is Troughton (my personal favorite) who Matt Smith most wants to emulate. This is probably why I insist he’s much better than the over-emotional and too-human Tennant, but I digress.
There was also some excellent acting here, not just from Doctor and companion but from Dougray Scott (Professor Palmer) and Jessica Raine (Emma). The effects, though, were perhaps what intrigued me most. It seems as if there has been a bit of a reduction in budget this season (which will never bother a classic series fan; go back and watch some old episodes so you’ll know why), but the creativity of the special effects wizards really shines here. No–it isn’t as state-of-the-art as a multi-million dollar blockbuster, but they do some really amazing things with what they have, and some of the effects (namely the spinning vortex to the pocket dimension and the trips to other points of human history) really did look as if they’d been lifted from the original series and lovingly updated. It may have looked cheap to some, but I thought it was lovely.
Once again, we have a strong stand-alone story with only a small amount of attention paid to the Clara mystery, which means a first time viewer could tune in and really enjoy it. This half of the season is really picking up the pace for this show, and is a real improvement over the mess that was series 6.
Well done, Mr. Cross. We’ll try to forget about that other mess you made as long as you promise not to do it again.