Our Rating: 4 out of 5
Reviewer: Charity Bishop
It's difficult to believe that this intelligent program is what passes for "children's entertainment" in England. One of the most popular sci-fi shows currently on air, Doctor Who in its sixth season introduced us to new characters, unraveled old mysteries, and concluded on a bittersweet note.
It has been some time since Amy (Karen Gillen) and her husband Rory (Arthur Darvill) helped the elusive Time Lord save the universe and went on another adventure; in fact, they haven't heard from him in awhile, even though he seems to be popping up throughout different periods in time as if to remind them of his existence. That's when a TARDIS blue envelope arrives, inviting them to meet him in Utah, where the Doctor (Matt Smith) turns up along with River Song (Alex Kingston), the mysterious woman from his past, future, and present who seems to know more than she should about the intricacies of the TARDIS and the Doctor. But even she cannot stop what happens next -- a traumatic incident on the beach when a sinister astronaut rises from the depths of the lake and kills the time traveller. In the wake of his death, a younger version of the Doctor appears, and his companions set out (unbeknownst to him) to prevent his death, 200 years into his future.
This time, their adversaries are a sinister race known as the Silence, beings so powerful they can erase themselves from the memory of anyone who turns away from them... and their intentions will impact the lives of the Doctor and his companions forever.
On rare occasion a program comes along that is aimed at children and adults and is smart and quirky enough to please both -- this has become even more so of Doctor Who since Steven Moffat took over as head writer; his complicated plot arcs and sinister villains leave kids shivering and older fans begging for answers. While this isn't my favorite season (that honor belongs to Donna), I have particularly enjoyed this collection of episodes; this season has moments of absurdity and genius and begins with a shock -- the death of its main character! Even though we know in the finale that he cannot possibly actually die, the experience of getting there and discovering the truth is a lot of fun. The Silence is an ingenious creation involved in a complicated sequence of plot lines that unfold to reveal the origins of River Song and the truth of her association with the Doctor. This is the year we encounter fish in the fog, doll monsters in a closet, Nazi Germany and the Gestapo, a pirate ship haunted by a siren, and an episode considered by many to be the best in the show's history -- "The Doctor's Wife," in which his time machine's soul is placed temporarily into a human being; for the first time, he is able to physically interact with the TARDIS. It is an incredibly funny, deeply insightful, and surprisingly moving story written by British best-selling guest author Neil Gaiman.
In my opinion there are a few duds ("The Rebel Flesh" is somewhat lackluster) but the continuing character development and fascinating exploration of themes of religious fanaticism and devotion make this an engaging experience. I really love Amy and Rory as his companions and the recurring themes they have become famous for ("waiting") take on new meaning as the story unfolds. Their love is told time and again in different time periods and ways, and the entire cast is magnificent. Matt Smith quickly won us all over last season but this go-around he comes into his own and defines his version of the Doctor with aplomb. Content-wise there is the usual mild violence and strong thematic elements (fighting robots, escaping adversaries, severed heads, and various deaths) but a handful of episodes contain references to homosexuality -- two homosexual couples feature prominently in the midseason finale, and the second-to-last episode is replete with gags about the Doctor and a friend. Mild innuendo intrudes on occasion, including the Doctor's discomfort at realizing a child has been conceived in the TARDIS.
Religion is a heavy theme, appearing in multiple episodes in various forms, with headless monks, a religious order that serves the Silence, Amy's faith in the Doctor, and even an episode that features a sort of purgatory in which characters face their darkest fears and if they have any form of faith, are consumed. One could question whether or not this is an assault on belief in general, but I saw it as a commentary not against faith but against religions of violence and those who use children for evil. Parallels between the Doctor and God can be drawn in many ways, including his total and absolute forgiveness of one who profoundly wrongs him. Friendship, true love, dedication, and forgiveness transpire time and again and become important later on. At times the stories are so intricate you almost need to watch them twice, but other than a short stint into a political agenda, there isn't much to complain about this season and a whole lot to love.