A Leap Back To Series 7B

This week we remember the Eleventh Doctor’s final episodes.

Airing between 30 March 2013 and 18 May 2013, Series 7B comprised of eight episodes. The Eleventh Doctor’s final run of “normal” episodes before the “The Day of the Doctor” and “The Time of the Doctor” specials featured new companion Clara Oswald.

Perhaps the episodes are a little neglected, as they were so few of them and also somewhat overshadowed by the fiftieth anniversary and the Eleventh’s regeneration. 

Let’s leap back in time and remind ourselves of all eight. What were the highs and lows? Are there any gems? Let’s take a look at the reactions and reviews published on www.whovianleap.com back in 2013.

The Bells of Saint John – “Most apPEALing!”

“The pre-credits scene reminded me of Sherlock with its on-screen writing and I was spooked by the wifi concept. The average viewer would have been hooked right from the outset.”

“Clara seemed calmer in this episode than in previous instalments, but I prefer her when she’s feistier.” 

“Calling the Tardis a snogbox is pure genius!”

“Matt of was charming, witty and suitably Doctorish as always.”

“That name – the Spoonheads – almost suggested an embarassing monster like the Krotons, but they were nothing of the sort. However, they were not particularly scary.”

“Celia Imrie did a good job. She could have played her role over the top, but didn’t. It was quite a measured performance.”

“Richard E Grant was both mysterious and intimidating. I am glad he is back and hope to see a lot more of him, even as the Doctor!”

“It was nice to see UNIT mentioned and recognised by the Great Intelligence.”

“I loved Clara playing hard to get by making the Doctor come back a day later.”

“It was totally amazing when the Doctor and motorbike came out of the Tardis in true TV movie style.”

“I loved the music as the Doctor and Clara rode the motorbike over the bridge. Murray Gold conveyed a sense of fun and friendship.” 

“Doctor Who is back! And with bells on!” 

The Rings of Akhaten – “Ring a ring of Clara’s”

That was something quite special. Doctor Who hasn’t ever been like this before.

Initially I wondered where the story was going, especially when Clara was following the little girl around. I am sure it was scary for the kids, but I wanted to know when the real story and drama would kick in. However, when the Doctor reminded us that he had a granddaughter I went into a trance and stopped caring!

When I finally returned to my senses, the episode had taken a turn for the weird. Funny aliens were swaying, singing incomprehensibly. It was surreal and went on and on. And on. And on. It was if we were actually sitting through a church service. It started to feel real in the sense that church services can sometimes be a little boring.

I was knocked for six when the little girl was suddenly swooped away from the midst of such sobriety. There was screaming, locked doors, horrible monsters – at last I got my fanboy fix!

The Doctor offered up all his memories and it was powerful drama. There was a slow build up to his fiery Time Lord wrath. Matt reminded me of the Sixth Doctor in “The Trial of a Timelord”. The scene probably increased the power and mystery of “The Doctor” more than the whole of Series 6 put together.  

When Clara joined in the fight, the story became highly moving and I started to realise what a genius script this was. It was a simple tale, a linear one with a clear message: every human being is unique. Just like the episode itself.

A tear nearly came to my eye, as Clara left the Tardis to go home. That’s saying a lot. Only an RTD/Rose combo normally does that and the only object of sentimental value the Doctor carries, after millenia of time travel is the sonic screwdriver. Tragic.

I felt a bit uneasy about the aliens’ costumes. They reminded me a little bit too much of those in “The Long Game” and “Dragonfire”. The planet did feel a little like a TV studio.

Before viewing the episode, I had been expecting a kind of “Pyramids of Mars” in space, a nightmarish horror-fest, but it wasn’t that. It was simple, beautiful tale, with monsters. Love and monsters. I say that deliberately because this episode too might well turn out to be a marmite one. I am a little scared to go down into the forums tonight…..

Cold War – “Cold Phwooargh?”

Heaven knows where to start, though that’s probably the wrong direction to go. Let’s head instead down into the murky depths. It’s been an underwater encounter with perfection and Doctor Who has gone nuclear.

There were superlative SFX from the outset. Is this Hollywood? Not a single pixel was out of place and that submarine! Red, green, smoke, mist, flashing lights, darkness. It’s was all there. And then “POW!” a fist smashes through the ice and strangles a Ruskie. “Unquiet Dead” pre-credits, be afraid, your top spot is at risk!

Matt Smith came across as quite Troughtonesque tonight and almost seemed out of place among these stern submarine types. The Doctor has been clowning around somewhat of late and it was almost as if I couldn’t trust him to save the day. But of course he rose to the occasion and displayed all the necessary gravitas. Clara seemed more subdued than normal, especially after seeing the crew reduced to a Martian mush. I would have almost forgiven her “doing a Tegan” at the end of this story.

When the Ice Warrior went au naturelle, I really didn’t know what to expect. Was it a case of “Cold Phwoargh”? Fortunately we didn’t  see Bernard Bresslaw in the buff “carrying on” with Clara. Instead, green fingers dangled dangerously from above, non-horticultural in intent! 

The reveal of Skardak’s face was straight out of a black and white fifties’ sci-fi matinee. Looking half man, half fish, this Ice Warrior in the turned out to be neither friend nor foe. 

Scary, dramatic and believable, if the Troughton era had been produced in the 21st century, this is the episode we would have got.

Hide – “On a hiding to nothing”
Originally I had wanted to call this review Hidey High and be thrown by an imaginary Ted Bovis into the swirly-whirly swimming pool that is Doctor Who, coming up for breath, laughing with joy and gulping with excitement. I couldn’t. 

After fifteen minutes I could have called the episode Ghost Lite. It was just a basic story set in a haunted house. Scooby Who. Atmosphere but no substance. Poorly paced too. Bolts of lightning had to flash in the night sky every two minutes just to punctuate the scenes and hold our attention.

I liked the pretty psychic heroine and her colourful jumper. The handsome scientist with the glasses was convincing too. A hint of romance between these characters added much needed interest to the story.
When the Tardis vworped its merry way through the vortex, I was excited. When Clara banged on her doors, I was intrigued. When the lights turned green and the Doctor ran around the forest, I felt involved. But it just didn’t hang together.

If I had watched this episode as a child, I would have fallen asleep at the start and missed the gripping sequence at the end. In this year of enforced starvation, the few tidbits of Who that Cardiff throws at us should at least be meaty. This episode was a little meagre. 

Journey to the Centre of the Tardis – “Intricated in Idris’s innards”
This televisual trip into the Tardis’s tummy was thrilling and involved some intergalactic Arthur Daleys who thought they were onto a nice little earner by selling our beloved time vessel for scrap. 

The Doctor whirled giddily round the console with Clara, showing some of the verve missing from her earlier episodes. A huge bang and the race was on to save our damsel in red dress. We glimpsed the Tardis library! Hooray! The Tardis pool! Hurrah! Lots of blurry monsters. Holy Haemovores?!

Could the Doctor actually save the day? The Tardis felt alive and dangerous. She had bite. Hell hath no fury like a Tardis pawned! The mythos and mystique surrounding both the machine herself and the Doctor shot off the scale.

What did Clara read in the “History of the Time War”? What is the Doctor’s name? Rassilonstiltskin? A little of the early Hartnellesque mystique has returned to the character. Can we really trust him? Do we want to?

Steve Thompson, I salute you. You are redeemed in the eyes of this humble Whovian. If the “Curse of the Black Spot” was a blot on the Gallifreyan landscape, this was a gleaming citadel in comparison.

The Crimson Horror – “Bowlered over”

Back in the eighties when Doctor Who seemed to be hanging up its question-mark umbrella for good, I was a little unfaithful and would rave about the hilarious high jinks and the superlative special effects on the good ship “Red Dwarf”.

“If they can manage this on a shoe-string budget, why can’t Doctor Who?” I pondered. Ten years on and now hooked on the “League of Gentlemen”, I posed another question: “If the BBC are capable of this half an hour masterpiece of horror and humour and have such talented writers on their books, why aren’t they bringing back Doctor Who?” 

I didn’t know that Mark Gatiss was a massive Whovian, climbing his way up the TV ladder as a scribe and thespian. But in 2005 my dream came true and he actually wrote “The Unquiet Dead”. The tale was scary and funny in equal amounts and its SFX more than rivalled those of “Red Dwarf”. Now Gatiss has come up with a second top notch script this series: “The Crimson Horror”.
It has been a melting pot of mirth and macabre with a mother and daughter combo making the Addams Family seem respectable. Matt became a frozen Frankenstein figure. It was as if the Happiness Patrol had taken to him with a paintbrush. 

Unsuspecting Victorians were dunked into a crimson soup. Hardly fishfingers and custard! When Matt’s head went under, a cloister bell rang in my mind. I was reminded of a certain controversial “Deadly Assassin” moment. Mary Whitehouse will surely come back to haunt Moffat in his sleep, I thought. He will be most certainly be at the receiving end of an ethereal earbashing tonight.

Strax was hilarious as usual and I loved his hilarious “horseplay”. I would love to see the laugh a minute Sontaran stomping around the Tardis every week.

The oldy-worldy black and white film scenes were impressive and the pacing felt fast. The setting reminded me of “The Ultimate Foe” and “The Mark of the Rani”. It seems the piggy bank had been raided for tonight’s episode, with an increased main cast, plenty of extras, great locations and convincing SFX. In short, I was bowlered over.

Nightmare in Silver – “All planets have a Salford!” 

Expectations were high for this episode –  a brand new Cyberstory from the hand of epic storyteller, Neil Gaiman. I was all ready for Mondasian majesty and Telosian triumph. But then, to my dismay, a few negative previews of the episode appeared online. 

I adjusted my expectations and sat down to watch, ready for anything, determined to keep an open mind. Scary guy from “Being Human” sauntered in, dressed as Willy Wonka and the story kicked off.

What are my own thoughts of the episode, free of those of the Cybermite critics I read online? I enjoyed the clever, whimsical writing. The Cybermen are much improved, their new simple blank look is quite chilling, with voices minimalistic, emotionless and inexpressive as they should be. 

I love the new Cybergimmicks, the mites, killer hands, reverso-heads and especially the new ability to update. This is most definitely “of the moment” and relevant as all the apps on our own devices are continually undergoing updates.

Matt was all Gollum-like this week. Nice Doc. Nasty Doc. I was getting dizzy with all that spinning. Was he standing on a merry-go-round? But, come on, the Eccleston impression was a big no no. He’s from Salford not Bradford! If we’re not going to get the man himself for the anniversary, let’s at least have some decent mimicry! Maybe if RTD had been a little bit more specific with his “All planets have a north”, this would have never happened!

I’d have difficulty describing the plot this week, but I enjoyed the ride. The colourful sets and stunning special effects had me entranced. The performances were fine, especially Warwick Davies, but I want Clara to be more like she was at Christmas and previously. More soufflé sprightliness, please! 

“Nightmare in Silver” leaves me crying out for more Cybermen adventures. With the “Delete Delete” deleted and the Mondas mojo rediscovered, I want to see where their story goes from here. Follow the silver brick road, as it were. My detached Cyberhand gives “Nightmare in Silver” a thumbs up. It was not quite at the same heights as “The Doctor’s Wife”, it was more of a “The Gallifreyan’s Girlfriend”. But not a nightmare of an episode at all. In fact, if I had to award it a medal, it would of course be silver!

The Night of the Doctor – “Finale frolics and frivolity”

Wow! All the Doctors in the pre-credits sequence, even the first Doctor with some colour in his cheeks apparently checking out the Capitol’s portaloos! Seriously though, we had read online that the old Doctors would be making an appearance, but that wee spoilerette made seeing them all no less thrilling. I question the choice of scenes though. “The Invasion of Time”, “Arc of Infinity” and “Dragonfire” are hardly monuments of Whovian wonder. Maybe that’s why they were chosen, as nobody really remembers them. 

I liked the Whispermen, although I could hardly make out what they were singing in their spooky rhymes. But it a shame these Victorian villains weren’t spelt differently. Then they could have committed heinous crimes against humanity with Cadbury’s chocolate bars! 

A big round of applause is deserved for the Trenzalore set. They hardly looked like fields though, more of an allotment. The huge Tardis grave, however, was impressive. In “Asylum of the Daleks” we visited an enormous Dalek statue. So what next? A towering tin dog or a supersized sonic? 

Skip to the end. We see some guys on a cosplay fun run. John Hurt turns around, text floating in the air beside him. Who is he? What has he done? And why has he got a beard?

On 23 November we will surely find out…

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