The Opinion Engine 2.0:
The year in Doctor Who.

TV The rather narrow posting structure of Review 2011 has meant that when the announcement was made of Amy and Rory's passing I couldn't just blurt something out. Having had a few days to cogitate on it, I've decided three things:

(a) That it's about time. At least on television, few companions lasted longer than a couple of series in the first twenty odd years so it's good that Moffat's prepared to move on and wants to see how this Doctor reacts to a new companion.

(b) I'm also ultimately pleased that Moffat decided to make the announcement himself at a big event (the preview showing of tonight's special) rather than let it squeek out, either via a tabloid or someone on the show saying the wrong thing in an interview, not least because we now have the buzz about who the new companion will be.

(c) I love  the buzz about who the new companion will be. An unknown? Will it be someone Moffat's already familiar with? Will it be Mels?

When I posted sentiments similar to (b) on The Guardian's article about all of this, I received a response:

Wow.  It's not every day you're accused of excusing the Bush doctrine in so many words.  But really, GJMW, it's not the same thing.

The other big news at the closing of the year was the number of missing episodes being reduced to a hundred and six with the entertainingly mixed reaction from fans, best summed up as "But did it have to be those two?"  Personally I'm quite looking forward to seeing the Dravins (as mentioned in The Pandorica Opens) moving around for longer than a few minutes and Joseph Furst's Zaroff is the greatest villian in the show's history. Yes, he is.  A Lost In Time II box set is apparently forthcoming though quite what else will be on there is anyone's guess.  We've still no idea how they're resolving the Shada thing despite 2Entertains twitter feed filling up with news of the value added material.

But we're here to talk about the rest of the year which, despite the obvious tragedy in the loss of two of its most iconic players, has been one of the richest since the show came back with three franchise related series on television, Big Finish going from strength to strength and AudioGo backfilling the audiobook versions of old nuWho novels as well as producing their own original dramas.  My best Doctor Who related experience of the year was listening to Jonathan Morris's novel Touched By An Angel read by Claire Corbett across five hours, which kept me occupied on the bus to and from work.  I've already talked at length about the effect it had on me in the review, but it was a reminder that Who at its best doesn't just feature great storytelling but has the capacity to take the viewer/reader/listener on an emotional journey (a phrase which I hate but I'll forgive myself for on this occasion) as potent as any other great art.  Now on to the telly box.

Like Steven Moffat himself during the previous era, Neil Gaiman strode in and within just forty-five minutes, just one line perhaps, changed our understanding of the history of the programme whilst still elsewhere through the appearance of junkyards and corridors and other iconography commemorating it too. Not long after The Doctor’s Wife was broadcast (review), Frontios was released on dvd, the 80s story which opens with the TARDIS going dramatically off course and the Doctor moaning about such and my first thought was that the old girl was taking him where he needed to go. But Gaiman also managed to inject something of the time war back into the series without it becoming incongruous and Suranne Jones offered the best guest star performance of the series. The God Complex was a close runner-up (review). At some point I’ll write my thesis about how the whole season was a homage to The Mind Robber, but not today.

I know this is being astonishingly cruel, especially on Christmas Day, but trying to choose the best episode of the unendurable Miracle Day is like trying to decide which of the post Christmas leftovers to risk first if they’ve been sitting in the fridge for a few days. While individual moments stood out, notably when the show was set in Wales even if it was being shot under the sun, the weight of pointless exposition eventually caused the thing to collapse. News from the commentary that Davies went through the script for episode ten removing every use of the word ‘crack’ demonstrates the loss of confidence they had. No, the best Torchwood this year was on the radio, the three episodes which ran in Radio 4’s Afternoon Play slot, which saw the return of Ianto and in the closing moments of James Gross’s The House of the Dead (review), a reminder of what the show is capable of when someone puts their mind to it. External factors suggest the tv version’s now on extended hiatus. More radio drama would be a welcome stopgap.

The loss or the irreplaceable Lis Sladen meant The Sarah Jane Adventures had too short a season, but the show went out on a high, not least with Phil Ford’s best script. It might sound like dodgy hyperbole to describe The Curse of Clyde Langer an unsung televisual event of the year, (review) but considering the time slot, this was a mature, clever, literate presentation of homelessness of the kind which seemed common when I was growing up, wrapped in the trappings of a kids sci-fi adventure. Only recently have I realised just how cleverly the episode was structured. I’d assumed that Clyde’s story had simply been divorced from the fantasy elements so that the issues could be properly investigated. I’ve now realised that as well as removing him from his family and friends, Ford was purposefully denying him those fantasy elements as well only plunging back in when Sarah Jane and the gang turned up, which is another reason Ellie doesn’t return at the end. She’s a symbol of the “normal” life he no longer has.

Happy Christmas!

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