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Doctor Who Series 7 Review

Updated: Jun 6, 2020

This week we move from the mess of Series 6 to the mayhem of Series 7. The third year of the Eleventh Doctor was strange, controversial and inconsistent rather than just confusing, which had been the case the previous year. There are lots of factors working against it, such as the scheduling, the change in characters mid-series and the lack of overall, continuous story arc, and these things all contribute to making the series one of the least fondly remembered. However, there are great performances from Matt Smith and Jenna Coleman, an all-time iconic episode in ‘The Angels Take Manhattan’ featuring an emotional finale for Amy and Rory, some wonderful guest stars like Ian McKellen, and some very strong specials along the way. So despite its flaws, there is still plenty to enjoy at times and a lot to break down.

Doctor Who Series 7

Series 7 did try to fit in some specific story arcs, although in this case they popped in and out fairly inconsistently throughout, such as the farewell of Amy and Rory, who is The Impossible Girl, and the death of the Doctor, again. The Great Intelligence also flitted in and out of episodes across the second half of the series, while some remnants of Series 6 also joined in towards the end.

Regarding any changes and developments from Series 6, we start with the world restored to normality after ‘The Wedding of River Song’ and following the reemergence of the Doctor after some well-deserved down time. He told Amy and Rory he was alive by the end of the first Christmas story, and the team are back travelling together once the series really properly begins. Otherwise this series starts off with the same set up as previously. Amy and Rory are still the main companions, at least for the first five episodes, and Steven Moffat is still the primary writer as well. Of course, Matt Smith is still the Doctor, in what will be his final full series. Jenna- Louise Coleman, as she is credited at this point, plays Clara ‘Oswin’ Oswald, featuring in ‘Asylum of the Dalek’s, and the mid-series Christmas Special, ‘The Snowmen’, as different versions of the same character, before becoming the modern-day version of Clara and the main companion of the Eleventh Doctor from the second half of Series 7 onwards.

It’s been mentioned already but we should explain further about the peculiar timing and release of the respective episodes in this series. If we count all the surrounding specials, the first Christmas story, ‘The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe’ is aired on Christmas Day 2011. However, the first regular series episode was not broadcast until September 2012. We get five episodes across September up until ‘The Angels Take Manhattan’ and that is it until another Christmas episode takes place in December 2012, ‘The Snowmen’. Following that story, ‘The Bells of St. John’ is released at the end of March and the rest of Series 7 is played out weekly from that point. The 50th anniversary special, ‘The Day of the Doctor, is broadcast on October 23rd of the same year which is relatively quickly followed by the 2013 Christmas story and what we are calling the end of Series 7 today for arguments sake, as it is also the end of the Eleventh Doctor, ‘The Time of the Doctor’.

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 tour of Cardiff filming locations. The Welsh capital has served as the backdrop to most of the new stories filmed this century, be it in studios in Cardiff Bay or around the city’s streets and buildings, and a tour of those locations will become a reality later this year, once tours are possible again. Series 7 is no exception, especially in, for example, ‘The Power of Three’ (Bute Esplanade), ‘The Angels Take Manhattan’ (Glamorgan Building), and ‘Nightmare in Silver’ (Castell Coch). In the meantime, consider these reviews a light introduction into what may or may not feature on those tours in the future, and a fun lookback on the individual series’ as well to get us through lockdown.

With the set up and changes all noted, it’s time to get into the respective stories, so let’s try and make some sense of it all, starting with the 2011 Christmas Special...

The Stories

The first of three Christmas episodes, ‘The Doctor, The Widow and The Wardrobe’ is perhaps the weakest in the greater context of wider story, but it is a nice standalone in its own right. It’s good to see Alexander Armstrong and Claire Skinner in the Whoniverse but really this story never gets going, and is essentially solved with love. A bit too sentimental in the end really.

Jenna Coleman makes her first appearance in Doctor Who Series 7 in 'Asylum of the Daleks'.
Oswin, 'Asylum of the Daleks'

‘Asylum of the Daleks’ is a solid regular-season opener, but mainly because of the interactions of the Doctor and Oswin, which is a strong sign of things to come down the line. However, the episode also manages to make the Daleks seem weaker than ever, even if the concept of a planet for rogue, faulty or insane Daleks initially seems like a clever idea. Rory and Amy have divorced also, off-screen, but then got back together to live happily ever after in the space of a couple of minutes, which was a pointless move that served no purpose but to annoy fans who had invested in their relationship. So, ultimately, an opener of ups and downs, but more pros than cons.

We take a step down with ‘Dinosaurs on a Spaceship’. Again, not for the first time, a clever and intriguing title, but a story in which not much happens. The highlights are Rory’s dad, the robots voiced by David Mitchell and Robert Webb, and the presence of Lastrade from Sherlock. Otherwise, instantly forgettable.

‘A Town Called Mercy’ tries something a little different. Set in the mid-west of the US during Gold Rush times, but filmed in Spain, the Tardis Team think the bad guy is the innocent one and the good guy is the villain. The Doctor faces a moral dilemma of offering Jex (the supposed goodie) to the Gunslinger (the supposed baddie) to save the townspeople. He feels bad for Jex even though he invented the cyborg gunslinger in the first place, and devises a plan to help Jex escape, but Jex commits suicide to save more people from being harmed. The Doctor saves the Gunslinger from self-destruction and makes him the marshal of Mercy. The tone and themes of the story are far more in keeping with Doctor Who rather than the attempted blockbuster events of the previous two, so a step back in the right direction here.