06 – Series Six – Matt Smith

A Christmas Carol

A ship with 403 people on it is crashing on a planet that is shrouded by storm clouds, and because of the continuous storm it cannot land safely. And among the people on board are Amy, wearing her sexy policewoman outfit, and Rory, in his Roman soldier outfit. They are on their honeymoon, but when you travel with the Doctor you never get a quiet time off. They are trying to reach the Doctor to save them. Meanwhile a hard-hearted bastard named Kazran is dealing with a family who are trying to get one of their members, a frozen woman, released for one day so she can be with them for Christmas. She is there as security for a loan they took out, and it is quite apparent they don’t have the money to repay the loan. While they are begging, Kazran gets a call from the President about the crashing space ship, but says it is no business of his since it won’t crash into his house. Then the Doctor arrives, coming down through the chimney because it is Christmas Eve. It turns out that Kazran actually controls the weather and can turn off the storms, but he is not interested in doing that, and throws everyone out.

The Doctor then embarks on a project of trying to turn Kazran into a decent person in time to prevent the crash, and to do it he uses his TARDIS and a bunch of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff to go back in time to when Kazran was a child and start changing his memories. Then Amy becomes the ghost of Christmas Present, and then the Doctor returns as the ghost of Christmas Yet-to-come, and of course in the end Kazran is reformed and everyone is saved. This is light fluff, of course, but then it is Christmas Special, and they are never meant to be serious or heavy. But even though it is light fluff, it may be the best Christmas special of them all. Don’t overlook this one.

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Season 6A

For Series 6 in 2011, the BBC tried something new, and split up the season into two parts. Season 6a ran from April to June of 2011 and consisted of 7 episodes.

The Impossible Astronaut

This two-parter opens with Amy and Rory getting an invitation, and then River song gets an invitation, and they all show up in Utah in the southwestern United States to meet the Doctor. They have a picnic lunch by Lake Powell, and then an astronaut shows up. The Doctor tells them that they must not interfere in anything that happens. He goes down to the astronaut, and the astronaut kills him. The Doctor is indisputably dead. Then a man shows up (Canton Everett Delaware III) with a can of gasoline and says that the Doctor told him to bring it because they would need it. River Song immediately understands that the Doctor’s body needs to be completely destroyed since it an alien body. So the body is burned. Then they go back to the diner, and River notes that the invitations were all numbered, but number 1 is missing. In the diner, they see the missing invitation, and it turns out to be the Doctor himself who got it, and he seems to be quite alive and well.

This is the story that introduces The Silence, a monster that was hinted at in the previous season. They are aliens that have the odd characteristic that once you look away from them you forget that they ever existed. They have some kind of message for the Doctor, but we don’t know what it is. The episode ends on a cliff-hanger, so we have to wait until the next episode to see how it all comes out, and just how it is that the Doctor can be both dead and alive at the same time. But just as the cliffhanger arrives, Amy tells the Doctor that she is pregnant.

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Day of the Moon

The concluding part of this opens with the younger Canton Everett Delaware III (yes, it was the older version we saw by Lake Powell. That was in 2011, and this time it is 1979) chasing and killing Amy, Rory, and River Song. Following which he goes to the Doctor, who is bound and in a chair, and erects an unbreakable box to imprison the Doctor, and brings in the bodies of Amy and Rory when the box is completed, with Delaware still inside with the Doctor, we learn that is was all a ruse, and that Amy and Rory were not killed, he was shooting apparently shooting blanks to fool the other agents with him. River had chosen to fall out of a 50th story building rather than be shot, but of course the Doctor takes the TARDIS and catches her in the swimming pool. From there we have to figure out just who the Silence is, and why the 1979 moon landing is important to the plot. And why did the spaceship from The Lodger appear in this episode?

It is a good story that races right long, but there are a lot of loose ends that never get tied up. The version of the Doctor who was killed was apparently 200 years older than the one in the rest of the episode. And there is a girl who has a role to play, but we never figure her out. It is clear from the last scene that she is important, however. My guess is that this will become the mystery box for this season, like the crack in time was for the previous season. And a woman with a black eye-patch appears to Amy in one scene in the orphanage. Finally, there is a scanner in the TARDIS that the Doctor uses to check on Amy that seems to be unable to make its mind whether or not she is pregnant. In the last episode she said she was pregnant, then in this episode she says it was a mistake and that she is not pregnant. Clearly this will be a story arc of its own. Steven Moffat loves to stick in unexplained things that may pay off many episodes down the road, and here he has so many it may end up being hard to keep track of all of them.

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The Curse of the Black Spot

The TARDIS materializes in the hold of a pirate vessel that is stuck in becalmed part of the ocean, and it appears that a demon is haunting them. Whenever anyone gets a cut or scratch that bleeds, they get a black spot on their hand and then this demon in the form of a beautiful woman comes and takes them away. And of course this continues with the Doctor, Amy and Rory there, and Rory gets a cut on his hand, then the black spot. For some reason once this happens and the demon appears, the men seem to find her irresistible. Even Rory calls er the most beautiful thing he has ever seen, which does not sit well with Amy. They manage to keep Rory away from her for most of the story, but in the end she gets him as well.

This story is a bit of light fluff, and the logic does not bear too close scrutiny. But in the ongoing dropping of hints category, the woman with the black eye-patch makes yet another very brief appearance in this story. We don’t yet know her significance, but there is a story here to be revealed. And at the end the scanner is still flipping between negative and positive on whether Amy is pregnant.

Finally, as The History Guy says, don’t all good stories involve pirates?

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The Doctor’s Wife

This is a story by Neil Gaiman, and not many TV shows can claim that. And it is a show that focuses, for perhaps the first time, on the TARDIS itself. The TARDIS is in deep space when there is a knock on the door. That is a pretty good start to any story. And of course the Doctor goes to see who or what is at the door. It runs out to be a message from another Time Lord, which is of course intriguing because there are no other Time Lords (that we know of). And in a nice nod to the past, it is a hypercube, as seen in Patrick Troughton’s final story The War Games. This message takes them to a junkyard in space that is outside of this universe. And in this junkyard, a woman is being subjected to a strange ritual that removes all of her personality. Then the TARDIS loses all power, and this woman comes to life. What transpires is that the TARDIS has been transferred into her. This leads to some interesting discussion. While the Doctor claims he took the TARDIS, the TARDIS claims she stole a Time Lord. The entity behind the junkyard planet, called House, takes over the TARDIS with Amy and Rory inside, and flees. The Doctor and the TARDIS look at the junkyard and realize they can piece together another TARDIS from all the spare parts of the TARDISes left behind by the Time Lords previously lured there and killed by House. As an interesting note, the design of this pieced-together TARDIS came from a young girl who won a contest on Blue Peter to design a TARDIS that would be used in an episode.

I did not see any of the various mystery box elements in this particular story, so we know nothing further of the mysterious girl, the woman with the eye patch, Amy’s pregnancy, or why the version of the Doctor that was 200 years older was killed. We know that Amy and Rory are still worried about this, and have not said anything to the Doctor about it. But another mystery got added. The TARDIS using telepathy planted in Rory’s brain a message “the only water in the forest is the river”. This should pay off later in the series

In the dialogue between the Doctor and the TARDIS we have a classic exchange:

Doctor: You never took me where I wanted to go.

TARDIS: But I always took you where you needed to go.

So, to sum up, this is a brilliant story that may well be the high point of the season.

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The Rebel Flesh

In this first part of a two-parter, the TARDIS is caught in a violent solar storm and lands on an island that has a monastery. It is involved in pumping acid off of the island because the acid is a valuable industrial chemical, and with so much acid around it is a dangerous environment. So they develop a process to create dopplegangers, identical duplicates, of all of the personnel, so that if one is inured or killed working with the acid, the “real” person remains unharmed. The Gangers, as they are called, are controlled by the humans who place themselves in special harnesses. When the big solar tsunami hits the island, all of the humans find they are out of their harnesses, and that the Gangers have achieved sentience. The Doctor tries to help, but the human manager declares war on the Gangers and kills one them before she can be stopped. This leads to both sides declaring war on the other, with the Doctor and Amy in the middle. But in his investigation the Doctor has inadvertently created a Ganger of himself who shows up and says “Trust me, I’m the Doctor.”

The woman with the eyepatch makes another brief appearance here.

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The Almost People

Rory goes off to find Jennifer. He ends up finding two Jennifers, so one of them must be the Ganger, but he notices that one is limping and the other isn’t. The limping one has an acid burn on her leg which is causing the limp. Meanwhile the two sides are plotting to kill each other, but the Jennifer Ganger seems to be the one who is most committed to the warfare. She rallies the Gangers to fight. And it turns out the the one that Rory thinks is the real human Jennifer is a Ganger. The Jennifer Ganger created another Ganger that was sacrificed to fool Rory. The clue is that a console that she could not use because it detected that she was not human she could activate by putting Rory’s hand on it. She tells Rory that she know a way out, and they go to the other humans to get them to come, but they end up locked in a chamber where they will die.

The Doctor Ganger goes out to search for Rory and finds himself with the rest of the Gangers, and they tell him he is one of them now. But he gets another Ganger on a call with the man’s son, and it turns him around. They escape, but in a real surprise twist, Amy starts to go into labor. And then it is revealed that the Doctor didn’t arrive on this island by accident. He knew that Amy was a Ganger, and he had come here to find out more. In the TARDIS he dissolves her, the real Amy wakes up in a hospital bed, and woman with the eyepatch shows up and tells her it is time for her to push. What a huge cliff-hanger! How long had Amy been a Ganger? When did the Doctor figure it out, and how? It appears that the funny readings on whether or not she was pregnant were because the real Amy was pregnant, but the Ganger wasn’t, and they were psychically linked. And when the Doctor dissolved the Ganger, the link was broken and Amy woke up. Where is Amy now. And who is the woman with the eyepatch? questions, questions, questions. How like Steven Moffat to multiply the mysteries.

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A Good Man Goes to War

This takes place on an asteroid known as Demons Run, which gets its name from a saying: “Demons run when a good man goes to war.” Amy has delivered a baby girl, which she has named Melody Pond, but she is being held captive in Demons Run, which is a military installation. The Doctor takes Rory, and assembles an army of Silurians and Sontarans to attack the base. He is completely successful in this, or so he thinks, until someone points out it was all too easy. And indeed it was. It turns out the eyepatch lady has hatched a devious plan and has Amy’s baby. She says the baby will be a weapon against the Doctor. The baby that Amy had in hers arms turns out to be made of Flesh (see The Rebel Flesh), and dissolves when eyepatch lady sends a signal. Then River Song arrives, and we get a revelation. In The Doctor’s Wife we were given the cryptic message that “the only water in the forest is the river”. Well that explains how Melody Pond got turned into River Song. Yes, River is Amy and Rory’s daughter. She tells them that to assure them that no harm will come to the baby.

But this was all a part of a war plan. The eyepatch lady says it is a war against the Doctor. And River Song confronts him with what he has become, and points out that in a forest world the word “Doctor” has come to mean mighty warrior. And this also echoes back to the Pandorica when all of the other races united to stop the big danger he represented.

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Series 6b

This second part of the season lasted from August to October of 2011, and consisted of 6 episodes. Together with the 7 episodes of the first part it added up to a full season of 13 episodes.

Let’s Kill Hitler

This picks up the story arc but first there is a bit of distraction. A friend of Amy’s named Mels brings Amy, Rory, and the Doctor and wants to go on an adventure, and she says “Let’s kill Hitler!” Spoiler: Hitler is not killed, though some Nazis are, but that is all incidental to this story. Amy’s friend Mels, whom she has known since childhood is the mysterious girl from The Impossible Astronaut who then regenerates at the end of Day of the Moon. And Mels is really Melody Pond, the daughter of Amy and Rory. That raises the question of whether the Doctor will ever succeed in getting the baby back, but with Moffat you never know what will happen. Anyway, in the fracas in Berlin, Mels gets shot by Hitler, and then regenerates into River Song, only she has no idea who this mysterious River is that everyone keeps talking about. And it turns out that eyepatch woman was a part of a religious order called The Silence which has decided to eliminate the Doctor, and used Mels/River as their tool. So the Silence is not as we thought a race of aliens, at least not exactly. And on the other side there is a law enforcement agency that has time travel technology and uses it to track down awful people, extract them just before they die, and give them hell, in a semi-literal sense. They were sent to get Hitler, but were so incompetent that they get there in 1938, fully 7 years too early. But then they realize that Melody Pond is there and she ranks very high on their list apparently, so they switch to her. And we know that River was in prison for killing a “good man”, and now it seems to be the Doctor was the victim. And this has to tie in to the death of the Doctor at the beginning of The Impossible Astronaut, but there will be many more twists before this is done.

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Night Terrors

This is a stand-alone episode that has nothing to do with the overall story arc of the season. A young boy is apparently terrified of monsters, and the Doctor somehow gets his distress signal on the TARDIS and decides to make a “house call”. But there is indeed something very sinister going on. The Mom goes off to work, leaving the Dad there with the boy, and then the Doctor shows up. And for the Doctor, monsters are real. Most of the action takes place inside a doll’s house. This is a nice enough little story, and a break from River Song, the Silence, and all of the other mysteries in this season’s arc. But lest you forget, there is a reminder at the end that the Doctor will die by Lake Powell on April 22, 2011. I’m guessing that one won’t get cleared up until the very last episode. Finally, this is one of those rare Doctor Who episodes where nobody dies.

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The Girl Who Waited

Amy was originally The Girl Who Waited back in the very first story, The Eleventh Hour, when she waited 12 years for the Doctor to return, and then another two years for him to return for her. But in this story she waits a lot longer. The TARDIS team go to the planet Apalapucia, not realizing that it is experiencing a plague, which affects all beings with two hearts. This conveniently means that Doctor cannot go about the planet. But the TARDIS has landed where there is a facility like Hospice that cares for people who have the plague. They manipulate time so that people can live faster and experience more life before the plague takes them. Amy gets caught in the patient system, and the Doctor tells her to not let any of the robots n staff treat her, since their treatment would kill her. But she is in a different time stream, and when they catch up where she is and get a lock on her, she is 36 years older and not a bit happy about waiting that long.

This is another stand-alone story that doesn’t advance the plot of the season at all, but is interesting for seeing Amy portray a 58-year-old version of herself (I’m guessing she is 22 in the show). And it is another in the series of Doctor-light episodes since the Doctor only has a few scenes, mostly in the TARDIS, while Amy and Rory have most of the action. Love and Monsters, Blink, and Turn Left were the previous Doctor-light episodes of note. They would do these to free up the Doctor for filming in other episodes, because in most stories he is the dominant character with the most screen time. All that said, this is a great episode.

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The God Complex

I think the title is a bit of word play on two meanings. The TARDIS lands in what looks like a somewhat run-down hotel, where there is a monster who is killing people. But they seem to think of this monster as a God. Each person finds a room that contains what they most fear so the Doctor is probing the fear aspect. But then it turns out that the fear is only to get them to invoke faith. Rory doesn’t seem to have a room, and he jokes that after traveling with the Doctor there is nothing left to fear. But when the Doctor realizes that it is faith the monster feeds on, he realizes that Rory doesn’t have any strong faith. But Amy does: faith in the Doctor. To save her, he has to dash her faith.

The second meaning, though, is about the Doctor who might just have a bit of God Complex in the psychological sense. This first showed up graphically with David Tennant’s Doctor in The Waters of Mars, but also shows up in what River Song says in A Good Man Goes To War. It is interesting to see a character arc go across Doctors and Showrunners like this. At the end, the Doctor drops Amy and Rory of in England and gives them a house and a car, and then leaves them. He realizes that if Amy continues to travel with him she is likely to die in one of these adventures. The parallel here between the creature and the Doctor is that both of them in some way use up and then discard people. This is yet another excellent episode in this season.

This is yet another stand-alone episode that does not address the mysteries of this season.

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Closing Time

The Doctor knows he has to die and decides to visit a few old acquaintances, so he visits Craig from The Lodger, played by James Corden. Craig and his wife now have a baby boy, and Craig is attempting to take care of the baby for a weekend so his wife can have a couple of days off. Of course, he is hilariously incapable of doing any of this, and the Doctor showing up means there will be trouble, and indeed there is, in the form of Cybermen, though that is in many ways a secondary issue here. The Doctor tries to go away after visiting Craig for a few minutes, but he realizes something is wrong. Craig says he needs to stay by the Doctor even though there is danger. In this episode, the Doctor is brooding over how everyone around him dies or is in serious trouble because of him. In a scene in a department store the Doctor turns around and sees Amy and Rory, but ducks out of sight so that they don’t see him. When Craig as captured by the Cybermen and is being converted, the sound of his infant son crying overrides the conversion and makes him free of the conditioning. The power of love saves the day.

In the final scene, River Song is approached by the eyepatch woman and a couple of The Silence beings and knocked out. It seems they still plan for her to kill the Doctor, and that she will be the Impossible Astronaut. So that is one mystery solved. But we’ll have to see in the next episode how this all plays out.

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The Wedding of River Song

There really is a wedding, but first a lot of action takes place. River was supposed to kill the Doctor at the beach, but she managed to not do it. But that was a fixed point in time, so now time is breaking down. Winston Churchill is now the Holy Roman Emperor in an England where pterodactyls still fly in the skies. He is worried because the time is stuck at 5:02 pm and never changes, and that is of course the time when the Doctor died, except he didn’t die, so now time cannot advance. The Doctor has a grim look as he tells everyone that he has to die, or else the rest of the universe will disappear. In the end, he has a ruse that makes it look like he dies, which is great for him, but it means that River will now be imprisoned for murder she didn’t really commit. The things we do for love.

Of course we knew all along that the Doctor would not die, the only question was what stratagem would he use to avoid it. And as for Amy and Rory, nothing says love like a machine gun.

Overall, this episode has many interesting moments, but ultimately fails to make any sense. You can enjoy the good moments, but they don’t add up to a meaningful story.

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Review of 2011 Series

This is an odd season. Moffat clearly wanted to tie many of the episodes into a season-long story arc, but that part is unsatisfying. Yet a couple of the stand-alone episodes that were not part part of that arc are among the best, those being The Doctor’s Wife and The Girl Who Waited. And as for the story arc, the two-parter that opened the season was full of promise, but the payoff at the end was lacking.

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