Friday 24 August 2012

Looking Forward: Doctor Who, Series 7

It's been a long wait, but the new series of Doctor Who is almost upon us. Since the cult sci-fi series' relaunch in 2005, it has aired in the spring, usually beginning around the Easter weekend, but this year Steven Moffat has kept us waiting until the end of summer. As the evenings begin to grow darker, the atmosphere intensifies, the monsters that keep viewers behind the sofas are that bit scarier, the nightmares a little bit more real. But what awaits the Doctor and his brave companions this time around?

Daleks again, for one thing. So often killed off for good, but they always return, bigger and more numerous and more imposing than before. Or, alternatively, brightly coloured and/or offering round cups of tea. This lot certainly look impressive - but I've started to tire of the question, "How do we improve on Daleks?" being answered with, "MORE Daleks!" It is, however, grand storyteller Moffat in charge, so I think we can count on some more plot than mere grandeur.

More monsters! Dinosaurs - on a spaceship! Weeping angels again, including a creepy, creepy weeping cherub. (Eep!) The Doctor getting out of control again, flipping back to his "vengeance!" setting. (He seems to flip between two settings - vengeance and mercy, which coincide with whether he thinks he is more dangerous travelling alone or with a friend.) America! And then the trailer ends with this image that the BBC have been plastering all over their marketing: the Doctor carrying a limp and lifeless Amy Pond in his arms.

But will they really do it? Come on, Moff. I dare you.

Time and time again, since the relaunched series, the question has been asked: will the Doctor's companion be killed off for real? First of all we had Rose's voiceover in her final episode: "This is the story of how I died." Well, I'm sure I don't have to point out the logical flaw in that. Two series later, Rose (who had been trapped in a parallel universe forever and ever, impossible to return or it would mean the end of the universe) returned, and warned Donna she was going to die. So did an insane Dalek.

Donna didn't die.

Both of those companions' departures were heartrending. Neither were ever going to leave the Doctor of their own free will. They got too attached, and I wonder if the head writer at the time, Russell T. Davies, felt that he had written himself into a corner. How was he ever going to let these characters go? But he found a way, and perhaps that way was more tragic than killing Rose or Donna outright. Perhaps.

At the end of series 6, I thought that Moffat and co had written Amy and her husband Rory out of the series quite neatly, with the Doctor realising that their travelling with him was too much of a risk, dropping them off at home to live happily ever after, a subdued but tidy tying up of their characters' journeys. So I was rather dismayed to read that their real ending was to be "heartbreaking." Now, I'm as big a fan of a good tragedy as anyone, but if every send-off is a tearjerker, does it diminish its power? Does that have to be the norm? (I know Martha's farewell wasn't a tissue-fest, but I think she was a weaker character anyway.)

But is Amy really going to die? We've been fooled too many times. Neither Rose nor Donna actually died when they were supposed to, nor - SPOILER ALERT - did the Doctor in 2011 and, if you want to include Moffat's other works, what about Sherlock? (Although that should have surprised no one familiar with the Holmes mythology.) Besides, if the BBC have put that image out so publicly, they've taken away any shock value of killing off Amy Pond. Haven't they?

But what if that's what they want you to think? Maybe they're double-bluffing. I dare you, Moffat! I dare you to actually kill off Amy. Who, by the way, is not the Doctor's only companion. I get so irritated when the TV magazines continue to show pictures of the Doctor and Amy posing together, as the Doctor has posed in publicity with all the other young, pretty girls he's taken for companions. Amy travels with her husband Rory, and their romance has been a key element of the last two seasons - so why must the publicists keep on leaving him out?

I'm ranting, sorry. The other part of Rory's story is that he is the man who keeps on cheating death. It's become quite an in-joke, in fact. How many times has he died since his character's introduction? He's lived for thousands of years - but perhaps, if Amy is really and truly killed off in this upcoming series, his fate will catch him up properly, and he will "greet death like an old friend."

Huh. That's rather a gloomy thought to dwell on, though. The other thing of interest is, of course, the new companion, Amy and Rory's replacement. Aside from the actress playing her, Jenna-Louise Coleman (young, pretty and female) the Moff has kept mum about this new character, not even revealing her name. This silence leads me to wonder what the big secret is. My theory is that she is not a modern Earthling. Perhaps she is from another planet, far in the past or far in the future, and that revealing her name as Gingledwina, Starshine or Aelfrida would spoil the surprise.
Head writer Steven Moffat and new companion Jenna
image taken from the Guardian website

Like last year, it appears that series 7 will be split in two, and, because of the unusual scheduling, the annual Christmas episode will actually come part-way through the series. How will that work, I wonder, if they leave part 1 on a massive cliffhanger as they did last year? The Christmas Special tends to be a stand-alone episode, but will they work it into the overall series storyline this year?

All these questions, and more, leave me shivering with anticip...

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