In the leadup to the beginning of Series 8 this Sunday, I’m counting down the days with a look back at the New Who story so far…
1st September 2012 - 18th May 2013
"There’s an awful lot of that, but there’s an infinity of the other"
Everything happens so much in Series 7. Between its first Christmas Special and the 50th Anniversary, the series plays out over two years with a weird structure of mini-series and Specials, and there’s two years worth of Doctor Who crammed into those seventeen stories. Every single episode is essential and unique. The stories of the five lead characters allow for a complex and intricate exploration of their common themes that earns every big emotional twist. The writers provide sparkling dialogue, and the actors all rise to the challenge, led by outgoing Doctor Matt Smith. Every episode has a well-crafted and unique identity, and does what it does well.
This series can be watched on multiple levels, with endless feints and tricks. It’s different depending on how many times you’ve watched it, what character you focus on, and what themes you’re looking at. There’s lots of genre mashups that concentrate on what that genre can bring to Doctor Who, and where the common ground and tensions are. It seamlessly mixes Who mythology and human reality, opening with shots of Skaro and a Rudimental song, and closing on John Hurt’s Doctor and the philosophy of souffles. Series 7 sees the welcome return of negative space to Who: with so much going on, the viewer is invited to draw their own conclusions and make the mythology their own. Each episode gives fandom something to think about, ponder, and come up with new stories about.
In the 50th Anniversary year, this series feels the weight of the past of the show, and the characters’ pasts. The writers of this series all have long involvements with Doctor Who and an exceptional command of the canon, which is reflected in the constant meaningful references to Who lore. Nothing is forgotten about or turned away from. Unlike the previous two series, there are constant background references to the Time War, showing that without a real redemption the Doctor’s guilt will eventually overwhelm him. The Doctor’s empathy tends to be with the villains and monsters, leading up to the time when he has to save himself in the 50th Anniversary Special. The series shows various characters’ attempts at coming to terms with grief or trauma, expressing a yearning for escape from a destructive story.
The biggest theme of the 50th Anniversary series, however, is looking forward to the next fifty years and the the great potential of future stories. Series 7 characters create themselves as legends, write their own stories, speak things that have been left unspoken for too long and leave behind things that have held them back. It’s scary to move forward, to escape your prison, to take the place you were meant to take in the world, but it’s possible. Even in its darkest moments, Series 7 sells the magic of Doctor Who. The weight of the series’ history has never felt so heavy, but the future’s horizon has never seemed so wide. With fifty years of television and counting, anything is possible.