After an emotional season finale and an equally heart-wrenching Christmas special, BBC’s most popular sci-fi series, Doctor Who, kicked off its seventh season on Sept. 1.
Doctor Who holds the record as the longest-running show in history. The show first aired in 1963 and had a 16-year hiatus from 1989 to 2005, when the show was revamped with great success by BBC Wales. The show’s main character, “the Doctor,” is an alien who travels through time and space, normally with one or two human companions. The Doctor — very conveniently for the show’s producers — doesn’t die but instead regenerates into a new body when killed, retaining all his memories, allowing the series to have had 11 different actors playing the main character without ever changing its premise.
Season seven of the new series is Matt Smith’s third season as the Doctor. The season currently consists of two episodes: “Asylum of the Daleks” and “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship.” As idiotic as both of the episodes sound, I think these are two of Matt Smith’s best performances and two of the best-written episodes in the revamped series.
Spoiler alert: The following contains discussion of the plots from the first two episodes of season seven.
The Doctor’s jumps from silly to serious have been par for the course throughout the series, but writer Steven Moffat recently has interwoven the Doctor’s dark past with his present woes. In “Asylum of the Daleks,” the Doctor faces his oldest and most dangerous foes. For example, before the beginning credits even roll, the Doctor walks out in front of the entire Parliament of Daleks, arms spread and waiting to be killed, and after a few excruciating seconds is met with a surprising, “Save us!” by the Dalek Prime Minister.
“Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” has a similar tone, and Moffat does a fantastic job juxtaposing the hilarity of dinosaurs on a spaceship with the genocide of an earth-based species.
Smith made the most of these shifts in tone, babbling utter nonsense one minute and giving his sultry but terrifying “I-will-destroy-you” glare the next. Opposite David Bradley (most famous for his roles as Argus Filch in the Harry Potter series and Walder Frey from Game of Thrones), Smith plays the morality card in a quiet, judgmental way that David Tennant and Christopher Eccleston never quite got the hang of — their Doctors were more of the shouty-angry types.
Current companions Amy (Karen Gillan) and Rory (Arthur Darvill) feed off Smith’s energy and his seriousness, reveling in his quirkiness while also appreciating, although never truly understanding, his dark past.
After seeing “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship,” I am stoked for next week’s “A Town Called Mercy,” especially because we get to see Smith in a Stetson hat again. It’s still up in the air, but if the first two episodes are any reflection of what is to come, this may be the best season of Doctor Who ever.