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Doctor Who Series 5 Review

Updated: May 29, 2020

This week we focus on the first huge turning point of modern Doctor Who’s reincarnation, the move from Series Four into Series Five. Following four outstanding years, perhaps hitting its zenith towards the end of Series Four, the wholesale changes of Series Five were always going to be a defining moment in the show’s history. Series Five definitely brought a change in tone, dynamic, budget, scope, cast, obviously, and has some memorable moments for sure, but for many this is the beginning of a downturn compared to the consistent quality of the first four seasons.

Not only is there a clean sweep of cast members, but we also have a new head writer, and even a new setting of the fictional town of Leadworth rather than east London, although it is still Cardiff anyway in reality. On top of that, the new series brings with it a new theme tune, a new logo, a new Tardis and even a new sonic screwdriver. So, with all of that in mind, this is essentially a fresh regeneration, yet again, as we move into the second decade of the 21st century.

Let’s focus on some of those changes before we get into the stories and analysis. The most important are the new Doctor, Matt Smith, and new head-writer, Steven Moffatt. Smith takes over from David Tennant, which is a big enough ask as it is, and all the more so considering he was more of an unknown than Tenant or Eccleston ever were. His casting even brought the inevitable headlines in the UK of “Doctor Who?”.His youth was also thought of as a negative, and he isn’t too big of a divergence from Tennant, being handsome, eccentric, energetic and youthful. For many around the world though, he is their Doctor, and has defined the modern era even more than the others. Even if his run of stories was wildly inconsistent, his performances and commitment never waned.

Moving on to Moffat, he had already been long-involved in Doctor Who before taking over from Russell T. Davies as executive producer and chief writer. For example, he was already responsible for writing such stories as the first series two-part story "The Empty Child" and "The Doctor Dances", as well as the episodes "The Girl in the Fireplace", from Series 2, and "Blink" from the third series, all of which are some of the finest episodes ever made. Armed with that knowledge, having made such wonderful standalone stories, it makes it all the more amazing how Doctor Who would end up so confusing and inconsistent throughout Series 5 and even more so beyond.

The third major development is, of course, the new companion, who is Karen Gillan as Amelia (Amy) Pond. This is not Gillan’s first appearance in the show, having already played a soothsayer in the Series 4 episode, ‘The Fires of Pompeii’. The casting director liked her so much that she was later brought back to be Amy. The longer-term story of Amy would get a bit strained but for Series 5 the plot revolves around her and the crack in her wall. Not to mention ‘The Eleventh Hour’ is potentially the best season-opener, companion-introduction and introductory story that there has been.

It must also be noted that Arthur Darvill also joins the team Rory Williams. He wasn’t as present in Series 5 as he may later be, his character was a bit underdeveloped and boring, he was easy to forget and his relationship with Amy strange to say the least, but he ultimately plays an important part by the season’s end.

Before we get into the episodes, for those of you reading these reviews for the first time, they are being written in light of our upcoming Doctor Who walking tour of Cardiff. The Welsh capital has served as the backdrop to most of the new episodes filmed this century, be it in studios or around the city’s streets and buildings, and a tour of those locations will become a reality later this year (hopefully). Series Five is no exception, especially in ‘The Eleventh Hour’ (Llandaff village), ‘Victory of the Daleks’ (Glamorgan Building), and both ‘Vincent and the Doctor’ and ‘The Big Bang’ (National Museum). In the meantime, consider these reviews a light introduction into what may or may not feature on those tours in the future.

Before we go any further, here’s the new theme tune variation and opening credits with the new DW logo. The tune does kind of work with the tone, being darker, more other worldly and space age, just as the show starts to spend more time beyond the stars than ever before.

The Stories

‘The Eleventh Hour’ brings the Doctor and Amy together, both as a child and as an adult in her case. The respective meetings between the characters with the Eleventh Doctor are some of the most memorable scenes and interactions in the show’s history, and as mentioned this is one of the most highly regarded opening episodes and introductions of any Who series. Saying that, that’s all down to Amy and the Doctor really because Rory is fairly insignificant and Olivia Colman is wasted unfortunately.