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Doctor Who, on BBC One (UK) / BBC America (USA)
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Caution: spoilers!

The original Doctor Who TV series ran from 1963 to 1989. The new series began in 2005, in the U.K., but I didn't see it until 2006, when it aired in the U.S., on Sci-Fi Channel. (That network would air the first four seasons, before American rights were picked up by BBC America, which had already been airing reruns of seasons 1-4, and then became the primary American distributor of the series from season five onward.) So... Quick recap of the old series: there's this human-looking alien called "the Doctor," who is a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey. He has a time machine/spaceship called the TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimension In Space). The tardis is disguised as a 1950s British police box (which is like a phone booth), but it's bigger on the inside. He uses it to travel throughout time and space, and has lots of strange and exciting adventures, sometimes even on Earth. Sometimes he travels alone, and sometimes with one or more Companions. The Doctor is centuries old, and occasionally regenerates a new body, so he can be played by different actors. But it's not just his appearance that changes, he also gets a new personality when he regenerates... but the one constant is that he's always a hero (and kind of a rebel). But Time Lords can only regenerate twelve times (under normal circumstances), for a total of thirteen lives. And this new series begins with the ninth Doctor (played by Christopher Eccleston). (Well, we'll call him the ninth Doctor, anyway. He might technically be the tenth, but that's a story for another time. Same rule applies to all subsequent regenerations in the current revival of the franchise.)


Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith)
Series Five (2010)
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First I want to mention that this season, Steven Moffat, who had previously written several of the best episodes of the series, took over as head writer and executive producer, replacing Russell T. Davies. Anyway... this season starts out with the 11th Doctor. And he is joined by a new Companion, Amelia "Amy" Pond (Karen GIllan). Um... the new Doctor is kind of retro in his fashion sense, and interestingly, so is the new tardis. I don't think I've ever actually seen the tardis itself regenerate before, though the interior design does generally seem a bit different from Doctor to Doctor, but I don't think I ever really noticed that during the original run of the show, with the first seven Doctors. Anyway, I like the new look. Also, the first episode sets up a new underlying story arc, as the previous seasons each did. I don't really know what to call it, though. It involves cracks in time, the first of which is seen in Amelia's bedroom when she's seven years old (played by Caitlin Blackwood, who is Gillan's cousin). The Doctor wants to investigate it, but first he has to reboot the tardis, which has been having some problems. He promises to return in five minutes, but unbeknownst to him, twelve years end up passing before he returns. So Amy is now a young woman. As I said, she becomes his new Companion; and she ends up becoming one of my favorite Companions ever. She's very cool and clever and funny (often snarky) and adventurous and self-confident. One interesting thing about her is that, unlike the Doctor's previous Companions, she'd spent most of her life aware of his existence, and waiting for his return. (In this respect, she kind of reminds me of Madame de Pompadour from the season two episode "The Girl in the Fireplace," which was one of Moffat's episodes.) In fact, I suppose you could call this season "The Girl Who Waited." Anyway, over time, young Amy came to think of him as her imaginary friend, whom she referred to as "the Raggedy Doctor." So other people in her life knew of him, too. And by "other people," I basically mean her boyfriend, Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill). So by the time the Doctor finally returns, both Amy and Rory are kind of surprised that he's actually real. They have an adventure together in Amy's time, then the Doctor leaves again... reappearing two years later, by which time Amy is engaged to Rory. She takes off with the Doctor for more adventures in time and space on the night before her wedding, expecting to return the next day, regardless of how long she ends up being gone.

Throughout their travels, they occasionally encounter more cracks in time (which look just like the crack on Amy's bedroom wall), though for most of the season, it's unclear what caused the cracks, or what they ultimately mean. And I don't want to spoil any details of that storyline, but it ends up having probably the biggest stakes of any impending catastrophe in the history of the universe. Meanwhile, the stories-of-the-week are pretty interesting, in their own right. There's one involving Winston Churchill and Daleks. There's a two-parter involving River Song and Weeping Angels. And then Rory begins traveling with Amy and the Doctor (and he has insecurities about whether she would rather be with him or the Doctor, romantically speaking). Those insecurities are apparently resolved in an episode involving alternate realities, controlled by someone called the "Dream Lord" (Toby Jones). There's a two-parter involving a reptilian race who were the dominant species on Earth before humans. There's a memorable episode in which Amy and the Doctor meet Vincent van Gogh (Tony Curran), whose name, incidentally, is pronounced "Van Goff." (Being American, this seemed strange to me, but I guess that's normal in Britain. I'm really not sure what pronunciation is correct.) The season ends with another two-parter that involves River Song, ancient Romans, a box called the Pandorica that was built as a prison for the most feared being in the universe, and of course the culmination of the cracks-in-time story arc. I suppose I should say that I've left several episodes unmentioned, and left a lot of details unspoiled, as always. But there's a lot of sorrow and a lot of joy, and while it's sort of spoilery (given some of the things I haven't spoiled), I do want to say that it all ends with Amy and Rory finally getting married, before once again taking off with the Doctor for more adventures. However... some aspects of what actually caused the whole problem of this season's story arc aren't quite resolved. And there's a mysterious line, "Silence will fall," which is heard this season and seems to tie into the cracks in time somehow, but its meaning won't be explained until next season. (Incidentally, I want to mention that I have added most of the details here after rewatching the season in 2017, seven years after I originally watched it. And while some of what happened was familiar to me, there are also things that happened somewhat differently from how I remembered them. Which makes me worry that the cracks in time rewrote my own memories of the show.)


A Christmas Carol: This is the sixth Christmas special, which is technically the start of series six, but sort of between seasons. Also between seasons there was a two-part minisode special, Space/Time.

Series Six (2011)
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Starting this season, there were short prequels released online, for several episodes. Although I don't think I saw any of them until 2018, on Amazon.

I saw half of series six, before losing access to BBC America, and then I fell way behind. I finally rewatched the first half of the season in 2018, so now I'll get on with updates. And... I want to say that I don't want to try to label this season's story arc (or arcs). But there are some ongoing threads, of course. At the start of the season, we meet some new aliens called "the Silence," who are fairly interesting, but I don't want to reveal anything specific about them at this point. Except to say that the Doctor and his companions get some help in fighting them, from both Richard Nixon(!) and more importantly, an FBI agent named Canton Everett Delaware III (Mark Sheppard). And the way they ultimately defeat the Silence is pretty damn cool. But also, Amy, Rory, and River Song witness what appears to be the death of the Doctor at the hands of someone in an astronaut suit. But this was a version of the Doctor who was 200 years older than the one they know (even though he looked the same), and after that Amy and Rory will worry about him throughout the season, but won't tell him that they've seen his older self die. And there's an episode with pirates haunted by a Siren (Lily Cole), and an episode with the tardis personified as a woman (which on some level should probably be disturbing, but it's mostly just weird and cool). And a couple of episodes that introduce us to the concept of doppelgangers created from a substance called Flesh. I don't even want to get into all that, but it turns out to be important to the next episode, which is the midseason finale (and the last episode I would see for seven long years). An episode that sees the Doctor and Rory bring together several old acquaintances to rescue Amy from an army (and a religious order called the Headless Monks) in the distant future. It's one of the most badass episodes ever, as well as the episode where we finally learn the true origin of River Song (which is awesome). It's also a major cliffhanger, for a reason I'll reveal when I've watched the second half of the season.

Okay... so... it turned out that Amy had been absent from the tardis all season long, and there was a Flesh doppelganger in her place (though there was a telepathic connection between the two Amys, so it really was her mind in the doppelganger, and she had no idea she wasn't really there). Her real body was a captive of that Army I mentioned in the last paragraph... and she was pregnant. She finally gave birth to a daughter, Melody Pond. However, we learn that Melody would grow up to be River Song. And that because of the time Amy and Rory spent in the tardis (where Melody was conceived), River has the ability to regenerate, like a Time Lord. And... while the Doctor and his allies succeed in rescuing Amy, baby Melody is kidnapped by Madame Kovarian, a woman whom Amy had seen glimpses of throughout the first half of the season. It turns out that she works for the Silence... and that "the Silence" is not actually the name of the alien race seen in the season premiere (I still have no idea what they're called). Rather, the term refers to a religious order dedicated to killing the Doctor before he can ask "The Question," which for some reason must never be answered. (Incidentally, I have no idea of the precise relationship between the Silence and the Headless Monks, and that bothers me.) And the Silence plan to raise Melody as an assassin, to eventually kill the Doctor. (And I can't recall, now that I'm writing up this recap, whether all of the things I've said in this paragraph were learned in the midseason finale, or if some of them weren't learned until the latter half of the season.) Anyway, the Doctor promises Amy and Rory that he'll find Melody and return her to them. Unfortunately, that doesn't happen.

Well, there are various standalone adventures in the second half of season six. I don't want to get into all of them, of course. But one that I found absolutely tragic was called "The Girl Who Waited." Curiously, I don't think I was aware of that episode when I decided to refer to the season five by that title (though I could have been). I was really just referring, at the time, to Amy having spent so many years waiting for the Doctor to return, and also because Rory was eventually referred to as "The Man Who Waited" (for reasons I don't want to get into; though it's related to another label he's given, "The Last Centurion"). And... near the end of the season, the Doctor takes Amy and Rory home, to keep them safe, while he goes off on his own. After that, presumably he has 200 years of adventures that we don't get to see, so that by the season finale, which loops back to his death from the season premiere... he is the older version of himself that we've already seen die. And because it's a fixed point in time, he must die. But River manages to override her astronaut suit's programming and not kill him, which totally screws up all of time (at least on Earth). So the Doctor has to try to fix things by once again ensuring his own death at the proper time... except, of course, he finds a way to cheat. It involves something seen earlier in this half of the season, which I don't feel like specifying. But despite remaining alive, he has to let pretty much the whole universe (aside from his friends) believe he's dead. Also, the finale is called "The Wedding of River Song," though the wedding itself is very brief. (But yes, she and the Doctor do get married.)

I hope I'm not forgetting anything dreadfully important. But I suppose if future seasons necessitate it, I can reveal more details later. Certainly there are important loose ends here. But for now, it's a happy(ish) ending. And... I kind of changed my mind, maybe I will label the season. It could be called "Silence will fall," or "Silence falls." Or something like that. Or maybe "The death of the Doctor." I dunno.


The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe is the seventh Christmas special. And in the week leading up to series 7, there was a series of webisodes called Pond Life.

Series Seven, part one (2012)
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Like series 6, this season also had short online prequels for several episodes.

I suppose I should have mentioned that series six was divided into two parts, with the first seven episodes airing in spring of 2011, and the remaining six episodes in the autumn. This is unusual for the show, but I never really paid it much mind. Partly that's because it didn't affect me; as I mentioned, circumstances prevented me from watching the latter half of the season, anyway. But partly also it's because the two parts of the season didn't really seem different to me (once I finally did get to see the latter half, several years later). It really seemed like a single story arc, despite the summer hiatus. However, series seven was also split into two parts, and this time there were some notable differences between the parts. For one thing, the first five episodes aired in autumn 2012, and the latter eight episodes in spring 2013. So, despite a similarly lengthed hiatus as season six, this one meant the two parts actually aired in two different years. Also, there was a Christmas special between the two parts of series seven. Also... Amy and Rory's time as the Doctor's companions comes to an end at the end of part one. So, yeah... that definitely means separate story arcs.

Well, as for those first five episodes, I'm not quite sure what to say. It didn't exactly seem like an "arc" at all, to me. More sort of random adventures. The Doctor apparently spends a lot of time adventuring on his own, but we don't see that. Amy and Rory spend most of their time living normal lives in London, in their own time. But we don't see very much of that, either. Mostly what we see is the adventures that they have on the rare occasions that the Doctor stops by to take them with him, like old times. I should say that in the first episode, the Doctor meets a woman named Oswin Oswald, who is played by Jenna Coleman. This surprised me, because despite not getting to see this season until several years after it aired, I was already aware that Coleman had played the Doctor's new companion, Clara Oswald, in later seasons. So, I wasn't expecting to see the same actress as a different character, before he met Clara. But that will be explained later, I guess. The second episode was called "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship," which I can't help but imagine was meant to one-up the movie Snakes on a Plane. Anyway, it was fun. There's also an episode in the Old West. An episode where the Doctor spends a fair amount of time with Amy and Rory at home, while trying to figure out a possible threat to the Earth. That episode also introduces the head of UNIT's Scientific Research division, Kate Stewart, who is the daughter of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart (from the original series). And finally, there's an episode with Weeping Angels.

If there is a running theme throughout these five episodes, I'm not sure what it is, or what to call the story arc. Part of me wants to call it "This is new"/"That's new", something I must have heard the eleventh Doctor say from time to time throughout all the seasons he's been in, but I felt like he may have said it more often, here. And I feel like... now that he's supposed to be dead, and since he spends most of his time traveling alone (though actually, the dinosaur episode makes it clear that he does occasionally take on new companions, at least briefly)... I feel like, maybe he's trying more than usual to have experiences that aren't quite like anything he's experienced before. Which can't be easy, for someone like him. It sort of reminded me of the mindset of the tenth Doctor, during the 2009 specials. But maybe that's just me.

Anyway, as I said, between halves of the season, there was the eighth Christmas special, The Snowmen.

Series Seven, part two (2013)
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Okay, so I guess this season's story arc would be "the impossible girl." (In fact, the exact nature of a season's story arc hasn't been this direct since probably series 3.) As I mentioned in my review of "The Snowmen," the woman that the Doctor met in 1892 (Clara Oswin Oswald) was somehow the same person as Oswin Oswald, whom he had previously (sort of) met in the distant future, in the first episode of series 7. It was a bit confusing, as I'm not quite sure how he knew she was the same person, or what that even meant. Because they were clearly different individuals in the traditional sense, which is to say they had each been born in their own time and lived their own lives, and each only had memories of their own life, not each other's. And they each died in their own time, under their own circumstances. (Having the same actress could easily have been explained in the same offhand way as Gwen Cooper looking like a character the Doctor had previously met in an episode of series 1.) Nevertheless, if the Doctor (or Steven Moffat, for that matter) says she's the same person, then I take his (their) word for it. But even the Doctor thought she was "impossible" (hence the name of the story arc). So, part 2 of series 7 begins with the Doctor meeting a third version of Clara Oswald, in 2013. (The first episode had one of the online prequels, in which the Doctor met this Clara as a young girl, though apparently he didn't know who she was.) Anyway, throughout the eight episodes of this part of the season, the modern day Clara becomes the Doctor's Companion, though he doesn't tell her the reason for his interest in her. Mostly the episodes are stand-alone adventures, but the finale (which is very good) reveals how Clara came to be split into multiple versions of herself throughout time. I won't spoil that, but I will say the episode features the return of River Song (in a new context that I also won't spoil, yet), as well as the Paternoster Gang, who were also involved in an earlier episode this season, set in 1893, after their 1892 detective agency had been introduced in "The Snowmen" and its prequel minisodes).

Well, Clara proved to be every bit as great of a Companion as I had expected, based on her previous appearances as other versions of herself. In fact, she proved to be better than I could have imagined. I should also mention that the title of the finale, "The Name of the Doctor," is a bit misleading, because we still don't actually learn his name. And at the end of the finale, we see a brief glimpse of an earlier regeneration of the Doctor (played by John Hurt), who came after the eighth Doctor but before the ninth. His origin is later revealed in a webisode called The Night of the Doctor, which serves as a prequel to Doctor Who's 50th anniversary special, The Day of the Doctor. And then there was the ninth Christmas special, The Time of the Doctor, which ends with the eleventh Doctor regenerating into the twelfth Doctor.


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