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Doctor Who: From ‘The Bells …’ To ‘Hide’

“Who” viewers, what have you thought of series 7.5 so far?
| Apr 24, 2013 | No comments |

doctorwho_thedoctorknightBritish television is odd. Programmers and data managers for Amazon Instant Video and Netflix must certainly agree: just try to find new episodes for subscription using, say, the streaming apps on a Blu-Ray player you got for your birthday.

Yet Doctor Who in slightly-larger-screen HD is a welcome sight, and not just because of the surface details.

The series is still bigger on the inside, especially given its power to bury such phrases so deeply in our brains that they’re already cliché.

As I write this, Series 7(?)’s latter half of eight episodes is itself halfway through. Fans have seen the religious-sounding-but-not-religious The Bells of Saint John’s, the nonreligious-sounding-yet-religious The Rings of Akhaten, the submarine-tension thriller Cold War, and the haunted-house-movie-homage-with-a-twist-themed Hide.

Whovians, what have you thought so far? Naturally I’ll start:

  • The Bells of Saint John’s: Fantastic opener, yet with familiar themes. Somehow Moffat’s episodes manage to “tribute” precedents, without looking like lazy ripoffs. Villains echo the rotating-head critters from series 5’s The Beast Below, and someone practically repeats “Are you my mummy?”
  • The Rings of Akhaten: this was reviewed as The Religious One, yet at least some Doctor Who staff are either getting braver or less so in their dealings with religion. Its pacing was uneven, greenscreen use a bit obvious, and themes left unexplored. Sometimes I prefer a theme strongly yet subtly emphasized even if it’s one I’d end up disagreeing with (e.g. religion is bad, as harped on in several overzealous Star Trek original-series episodes). And sometimes I would rather not deal with propaganda.
  • Cold War: great stuff. Loved the monster, loved the Who twist on the submarine-tension theme, loved the resolution.
  • Hide: some issues, but overall great. That atmosphere reached out and grabbed you, though the subtle eucatastrophic ending was a bit similar to that of Cold War. Christians skittish about horror/occult themes can also enjoy this episode without putting up with scenes of séances or demonic spirits making walls bleed.

A few other observations:

  • The Clara-arc isn’t advanced enough to know much or make a judgment. That doesn’t stop folks from trying.
  • That new new new new new new mix/opening sequence of the Doctor Who theme tune is, of course, still amazing.
  • Our next episode, Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS, should be a highlight. But they keep misspelling one word.

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R. J. Anderson
Member

Pretty much agree with your assessment of the series so far. I’d rank HIDE as my favorite of the season so far (much to my surprise, as I’d been rather dreading it), then BELLS OF ST. JOHN, then COLD WAR, and AKHATEN last for the reasons you mention (and also the several gigantic plot holes and leaps in logic).
So excited about FINALLY having an episode set inside the TARDIS. I’ve been missing those dear old corridors ever since New Who debuted. Granted, all the Classic Who corridors looked the same, but at least you had the feeling they were there…
But I think my favorite part of the new season is the new opening credits, when you see Matt Smith’s face flash by and the tunnel goes to the diamond shape. The first time I saw that I literally squealed aloud with the sheer delight of it, because those are the credits I grew up with.

Galadriel
Guest

*sighs with happiness*  I’m so glad I nudged this topic. Been waiting for a new discussion post for a while. Right, so.
Bells of St John:  Not bad, but not the best either.  On a class scale, I’d give it a C because we don’t really get to see Clara in action that much.
Rings of Akhaten: I’m gonna be controversial here and say it was my favorite of 7b so far.  For one, it’s been ages since we’ve seen a proper alien planet with non-antagonists aliens, so  I was thrilled with the marketplace scene. Clara’s interaction with the Queen of Years was wonderful too–I still think it’s the best development of her character we’ve seen thus far.  There were some great quotes from the Doctor, especially his speeches to Merry and the Old God.

All the elements in your body were forged many, many millions of years ago in the heart of a far away star that exploded and died. That explosion scattered those elements across the desolations of deep space after so, so many millions of years, these elements came together to form new stars and new planets, and on and on it went. The elements came together, and burst apart, forming shoes, and ships, and sealing wax, and cabbages, and kings, until, eventually, they came together to make you. You are unique in the universe.

It reminded me of Beast Below, in several ways, without being as blatant as Gridlock was for Martha. And the music! I had the lullaby in my head for several days, and didn’t mind a bit. It’s such a powerful, outstanding song…
Cold War has been the worst so far. My favorite part was the professor, but it didn’t seem to do much for character development.
Hide had a good pretense, but it wasn’t that impressive. Maybe a B, then.
So, my rating top to bottom would be

Rings of Akhaten
Hide
Bells of St. John
Cold War

But what’s really interesting about Akhaten is the setup. The “Old God” is really a mummy; the real enemy is a sentient planet (or star, there’s been some debate). Which leads to lines like

 All these people who’ve lived in terror of you and your judgement. All these people whose ancestors devoted themselves, sacrificed themselves, to you. 

And

 You like to think you’re a god, but you’re not a god. You’re just a parasite eaten out with jealous and envy and longing for the lives of others. You feed on them.

When the Tenth Doctor faced a similar situation, (though the entity in that case claimed to be the Devil), he said

I’ve seen fake gods and bad gods and demigods and would-be gods; out of all that, out of that whole pantheon, if I believe in one thing…just one thing…I believe in her*

*Rose Tyler
Ten’s statement is essentially one-upmanship, “my guns beat your guns” sort of thing. He also refers to some of the Beast’s statements as echoing  a good psychologist.
Eleven’s approach is far more interesting, because there’s some self-criticism in it. After Manhattan, he’s definitely aware of himself as a parasite, living vicariously through his companions–which caused him so much pain when they left. So he takes his pain and tries to use it as a weapon:

 I have seen things you wouldn’t believe. I have lost things you will never understand. And I know things. Secrets that must never be told, knowledge that must never be spoken, knowledge that will make parasite gods blaze! 

It’s almost as if he’s the fruit of the tree of knowledge–even his title “doctor” refers to knowing things–and he’s tempting the sun to devour it because that will bring mortality. But what kills the Old God is Clara’s leaf

this leaf isn’t just the past, it’s a whole future that never happened(…) Because there’s quite a difference isn’t there? Between what was and what should have been. There’s an awful lot of one but there’s an infinity of the other. And infinity is too much. Even for your appetite.

Which ties back to the Speculative Death series we had a while back, and how long life isn’t always better….
*looks at length of post* I’d better stop now.

Galadriel
Guest

And I forgot to give my thoughts on Clara. I spent a lot of time considering her after Angels take Manhattan, partially because we had 5+ months to do so and partially because I missed the Ponds so much, but I came up with three traits Clara should have to be a good companion to the Doctor with his current state of mind. After all, companions are walking Emotional Crutches, so she might as well embrace the roll.

Good listener
Enthusiastic about life
Compassionate

And, for a bonus, get along with River, but we haven’t had a chance to see that yet.  That’s one reason I liked Rings so much–we got to see Clara use most of these traits with Merry. Other than that, I’m fighting a sense of sophomore slump with her. Ponds were my first companions, so their replacement isn’t quickly accepted by me.
As for who I think she is? Haven’t the foggiest.  I just don’t want her to be connected to Rose in any way.  I’m not sure about the “mystery” element either–would have been just as happy with non-mystery Victorian Clara as our modern varient.

Galadriel
Guest

Part the 3rd”: The new title sequence is the most beautiful one I’ve ever seen–and I’ve seen ALL the classic title sequences. It’s like you’re actually out there in space, flying through all these wonderful things–and the face is subtle, not creepy grinning like Six’s.

Grace Bridges
Member

I’m with Galadriel. Agreed on the best to worst order; agreed on the wonderfulness of the Hymn of Akhaten and the accompanying speeches from the Doctor. Akhaten may have a few plot holes, but it’s a sumptuous feast for the senses and emotions, and ultimately that is what I want from a story. 
On the mysteries of Clara: It’s been quite interesting to observe the many theories floating around on Pinterest, the hints that may or may not be actual hints, her repeated phrases that may or may not be significant.  One thing’s sure, there’s something behind it all, but I don’t think anyone’s got it right yet 🙂