Possible spoilers for the entire series (and the finale) ahead so avoid if you wish. They’re quite vague but they’re there, so be warned.
So, yes. The series seven finale of Doctor Who has been and gone, and for the first time in my life I looked at it with mixed feelings. Usually I’ll ignore the fact that it means Doctor Who is over for another year (because there are always DVDs to sustain me) and focus on my excitement, which sometimes reaches ridiculous, toddler-on-a-sugar-high levels. I wasn’t quite feeling that this year. I love Doctor Who, and I’ll probably remain loyal to it forever because it’s contributed to such a big part of my childhood. However, this series has been one of more downs than ups. The first half began strongly, with the fantastically surprising appearance of Oswin Oswald and her Dalek-driven demise and the silly ‘Dinosaurs on a Spaceship’, but it lost me with ‘A Town Called Mercy’ and the others which followed. I loved Amy and Rory, and I was sorry to see them go. The Christmas special was stand-out as festive episodes go, becoming one of the darkest specials since the heartbreaking ‘End of Time’, and that made a welcome change for someone who loathes Christmas-enduced happiness. It made Clara Oswald very interesting indeed. This interest was followed up with ‘The Bells of Saint John’, which I’ve already talked about at length in another post so I won’t repeat myself here. After that bouncy first episode I was really excited for the rest of the series.
However, this opening was followed by a few flops. ‘The Rings of Ahkaten’ wasn’t great (apart from a lovely opening sequence), seeming directionless and involving way too much singing. ‘Cold War’ was an improvement, but I still didn’t know where it was going. I began to worry. Was I now too old for Doctor Who? This thought terrified me, and because I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to my childhood just yet I went to watch ‘Hide’ full of hope for what looked to be a spooky and exciting episode. My housemate liked it, but yet again I didn’t. What was going on? The preview for next week didn’t fill me with joy either. I’m not a fan of Strax in the slightest, and while I get the appeal of Madam Vastra and Jenny I didn’t really see it myself. I prepared myself for Saturday night out of habit.
I’m so glad that I watched ‘The Crimson Horror’. The structure of the narrative was absorbing, relying on flashbacks in order to tell its story. For once the Doctor wasn’t the centre of everything: he didn’t even make an appearance until at least ten minutes in, and when he did he was incapacitated for a while afterwards. The baddie was a proper, hardcore, unforgivable monster. The episode fizzed with great one-liners and Northern banter. I breathed a sigh of relief, and waxed lyrical about the episode for the rest of the week. When Saturday came around again, I was excited once more. I ended up a little let down, but I’m not sure it was the episode’s fault: after the brilliance of ‘The Doctor’s Wife’ I was expecting something in much the same mould. I didn’t get it, but ‘A Nightmare in Silver’ was still a decent episode (even if it would have been more effective as a two-parter) and Matt Smith’s performance was totally stunning. I think I’d watch that episode again purely to see the full range of emotions and characteristics he had to present. For that reason I wasn’t too disappointed.
My excitement for Saturday came as something of a shock. It’s been a long week of studying and exams and a distinct lack of sleep. Saturday itself brought a long and busy shift at work. I had come home, made some dinner, and slumped on the sofa before I noticed the knotty, jumpy feeling in the pit of my stomach. I then realised how much I still loved Doctor Who. I was both apprehensive about the finale and the expectations I had of it and very, very excited. The episode began with an absolutely thrilling opening sequence that immediately answered some burning questions as well as provoking gasps of shock and recognition. The whole episode was filled with emotional twists and turns that packed a very solid punch, and I’m unashamed to admit I began to cry within the first ten minutes (yup, apparently Matt Smith crying on screen will set me off every time). By the much-anticipated and much-needed River/Doctor scene I was in bits. It was a truly beautiful moment and I’m so bloody glad we finally got it. But what I’m most glad about is that Clara finally had an opportunity to shine – properly shine, unlike some of the fleeting glimpses of brilliance we’ve had throughout the series. In a single episode she became a character who will live on forever in the Whoniverse. I’m relieved to see that at last. It was an episode to restore the faith and to turn the viewer into an emotional wreck. The final moments were startling and perfectly poised for the 50th Anniversary Special, which will air on the 23rd November. It left you wanting more, but it also felt resolved and significant, and by not answering THE question there’s still some way to go. I’m not sure I ever really want to know the answer to that question, to be honest. Doctor Who finales are usually something special, and this definitely was.
So I sit here on Sunday, planning on marathoning the entire second half of the series, and I am happy. I am very happy. It may have been a mixed series but at the end of the day it’s still Doctor Who. And that finale: oooooosh. That just makes it all better.