The Eleventh Hour
The Beast Below
Victory of the Daleks
Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone
Vampires in Venice
Amy's Choice
The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood
Vincent and the Doctor
The Lodger
The Pandorica Opens/Big Bang
New Series Series Five


The Return of Overall Quality by Roy Jacobs 11/7/11

I have a few things to say about the RTD era before going into this Series 5 review. So bear with me guys.

The RTD era was an interesting one. Not because it was good. It wasn't good. It was average at best. It started off on a high note. Series 1 was by far the best of the series. Eccleston in the role, while not as Doctorish as the others, was very captivating in the role. Billie Piper in the role of Rose was good for what she was. A generic companion. I completely understand where RTD was coming from when he wrote that character. He was bringing back a laughing stock of a show. So obviously he had to do what he felt was right. However, it went downhill from there. He turned the show into a forced soap opera. The show became unbalanced. David Tennant, loved by many fans, was in fact not believable in the role of the Doctor. He sounded forced in almost every scene of the Doctor. Rose became a snotty and selfish, and she was treated as someone more special than any companion before her, which was pathetic. The Doctor I know would not fall in love with someone as generic as her. Let alone be close to telling her that he loves her. Then she gets her own clone Doctor, the only companion supposedly "good enough" to end up having one. She was clearly treated favorably. The Doctor treated Martha like complete crap. The writing was bad. The acting was bad.

So after Series 1, I'd probably put Series 3 as the second best. It had the most balanced of stories despite the annoying "I miss Rose" bullcrap. I have no problem with the Doctor falling in love. But I always saw him falling in love with someone that could almost be on his level intellectually. Romana and Nyssa come to mind. The Doctor rarely has ever sulked after a companion left, especially for a long time. So out of a character. Series 4 and Series 2 were tied for last. They were incredibly bad. David Tennant was more Doctorish in series 2 but it just didn't have the stories to follow it up. Afterward, DT's performance overall went downhill. While we did get some good stories from RTD (Midnight and Waters of Mars), there was too much crap to forgive him. The 10th Doctor's era was blasphemous.

There was one constant besides Russell over his era. Steven Moffat. He not only gave us four of the best stories in the RTD era, he gave us three of the best in the history of Doctor Who. Blink is often regarded as the best story in the history of the show (although I don't necessarily believe that). The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances was an incredibly well done piece of television. The Girl in the Fireplace was more of a romance story than there ever has been. I liked it and even though it helped make a horrible Series 2 somewhat bearable, it's nowhere near the other Moffat episodes. Then there's the genius of Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead, which introduced River Song, a woman from the Doctor's future. Moffat constantly gave us either great or amazing episodes, never anything less. So when he was announced as the next showrunner, I nodded my head with approval. I was still skeptical how he would take the series but I felt better about the show's future than ever before. Then he announced Matt Smith as the next Doctor and I laughed. I was now a whole lot more skeptical. Not because he was young but because he was very inexperienced, but I figured if they felt he could play the Doctor, I'd have to deal with it.

So, the day The Eleventh Hour aired, I was worried. I didn't know what to expect. I'm glad to say it started off on a high note.

The Eleventh Hour picks up where The End of Time left off. The Doctor crashing his Tardis in little Amelia Pond's backyard. The Doctor pops out of a crashed TARDIS talking about apples. THAT'S the Doctor that I remember. Incidentally, the 10th Doctor was more of the Doctor in Moffat's episodes than the RTD ones. Moffat knows how to write the Doctor and he shows it here. After a funny kitchen scene with food and figuring out that the crack in the wall allowed Prisoner Zero to escape the Atraxi Police, the Doctor promises little Amelia that he would be right back to give her a lift through time and space. He ends up missing his target as he ends up in Amelia's backyard again, but 12 years later. Amelia has grown up into Amy (played by Karen Gillian), an independent young woman with the inability to trust people. Who can blame her?

People say that "The Eleventh Hour is short on plot, but that's not the point of the episode," but I don't give that much slack. The plot is predictable but when the Doctor lost his TARDIS and sonic screwdriver, and proceeded to tell Amy that he can save the world regardless within 20 minutes, I punched the air. That was another problem I had with the RTD era. The sonic screwdriver turned into a magic wand from Harry Potter. It annoyed me because the Doctor was never challenged intellectually. He either always figured out everything before a problem even presented itself, or he used the sonic screwdriver to fix his problems. I HATE Russell for that.

So the Doctor starts hatching a plan. He ends up using a character's laptop ("Get a girlfriend, Jeff!") to communicate with some important people on Earth and ends up programming a virus with a phone. Prisoner Zero doesn't really threaten anyone until the end in a hospital. The enemy gets capture but not before telling the Doctor that "the Pandorica will open and silence will fall". The Doctor calls back the Atraxi, finds a new outfit, and gives the kind of predictable speech that I've seen quite a lot for the past five years. However, I do like the holographic Doctors showing up and the Doctor walking through the Tenth announcing that he was the man that they fear. The Doctor heads off to his TARDIS, travels to the moon and back, two years after those events and finally picks up the girl who waited. I absolutely love the new TARDIS set. Incredible. It really shows that the TARDIS is not just one room. I love the bright colors as well, a much-needed contrast after the old dull set they had before (I liked the old set but it got boring after a while).

I couldn't get a good opinion on the Doctor in this episode, considering he was much like the Tenth Doctor. However, he did it better.

The Beast Below was also written by Moffat and was interesting for the fact that it was different than what I was expecting from a Moffat script. Most people don't think Moffat can write character development, but I'd say this episode should change that outlook. The comparison between the star whale and the Doctor is very much so sad but also very well done. The Doctor's anger at the human's preference to forget rather than face their problems is absolutely riveting and believable. I know a lot of people don't like it when the companion saves the Doctor. It should be the other way around. I'm in that boat but I also do believe there's no way the Doctor could make the connection between him and the star whale. It was the outside perception of him that does the job. Amy in this episode is incredible and not clingy at all. She tries to understand the Doctor and by the end does, even for just a little bit. A very different episode from Moffat, but an underrated gem as well. The best part of the episode is the fact that it doesn't show the universe as black and white. There are a lot of gray areas. Incredible. Too bad RTD tried to kick the idea of good and evil into our heads.

Victory of the Daleks is terrible but there's a big difference between Series 5 and the past three: Matt Smith can carry a horrible episode. While his beating of the Dalek seemed more like a desperate attempt at getting attention, the rest of the performance was very well done. The story just didn't do it for me, and no it's not because of the new Dalek look. A lot of people get picky at that but I don't mind. The story as whole just didn't work though. The Star-Wars-esque space fight was "eh", and the point of the episode just seemed weak. However, this is the weakest it got during the series.

Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone is one of the greatest stories I've seen yet. I know a lot of people believe Blink is better, but I'd say they're at least tied. If not, I'd put ToA/FaS over Blink. The Weeping Angels have returned as well as River Song, who I love. River knowing how to fly the TARDIS was interesting and the chemistry between Matt Smith and Alex Kingston is staggering despite the age difference. The scene where Amy is in the room with the Angel on film is absolutely frightening.

I was worried that the Weeping Angels effect would die out because of Blink, but Moffat didn't just bring the Weeping Angels back, he developed them. "The image of an angel becomes itself an angel" concept makes them all the more dangerous. Not only that, but Moffat took what was everyone's greatest strength and turned it into a potential weakness. The ability to get into people's heads if you look them in the eyes not only creates a big problem for Amy, but it also leaves it open to bring back Sally Sparrow and Larry Nightingale in the future. If people don't remember, go back and watch. Larry definitely looks into the eyes of an Angel.

The crack in time also becomes an important part of the story which is a big difference from the subtlety of the past series. When Amy is stuck in the forest by herself and is surrounded by Weeping Angels, I freaked out. When the Angel's head moved, it was one of the scariest moments in the history of the show. The Doctor's anger was also very surprising here. This Doctor is very unpredictable when it comes to emotions. So when he got mad at River, it almost scared me. It clearly scared her, as she jumped when he screamed at her. That's also something the Tenth Doctor could never do. Maybe it was DT's acting but the only anger he could portray was through other people's perception of him as well as voice overs like in The Family of Blood.

A great piece of television done right in every way. While it seems like the crack in time was used as a deus ex machina that RTD loved to use, I don't necessarily mind because it is THE story arc of the season that affects the story.

Vampires in Venice followed but didn't really keep the momentum going. It was an average episode but definitely not as bad as Victory of the Daleks. The Vampires not actually being vampires was predictable, to say the least. I also liked Rory joining the TARDIS crew. While the moment where Amy and the Doctor were excited and jumping around seemed like a Mickey moment (where the Doctor and Rose always forgot him), it was more of a attribution to his personality than theirs. He obviously didn't have the same enthusiasm as he was scared shitless.

Is it me or does Matt Smith have chemistry with every woman on screen? David Tennant is arguably the better looking one, but never had the sparks happen like Matt Smith. With Rosanna and the Doctor, sparks fly but the line "I'm a Time Lord, you're a big fish, think of the children" was hilarious and showed the Doctor was not going to tolerate them taking over Venice. However, this episodes also shows the gray areas that were in The Beast Below. The Doctor had to choose between a human city or the last of a race. I think the story would have had more of an impact if the Doctor chose the fish aliens. Considering he's also the last of his race, it would be understandable. But of course, they decided to go with history and not let the future of Earth change drastically. A shame, but understandable.

Amy's Choice is one of those episodes either people love or hate. Much like Love & Monsters in that regard. However, Amy's Choice is a very fine piece of television, despite the stupid monsters. Not being able to distinguish the dream from reality makes the right effect. While most of the plot moves along on Earth and not in the TARDIS, the Dream Lord carries the TARDIS parts. "There's only one person in the universe that hates me as much as you do" line made me think for the entire episode, trying to figure out who. It ended up being a dark manifestation of the Doctor which made me excited. I absolutely love dark Doctor Who. The last two series of the 7th Doctor were incredible for that reason.

Most people take the choice Amy makes at face value. She chose Rory, but that's not how it works. She chooses both. She chooses Rory over the Doctor, but chooses the Doctor's life over Rory's preferred life. That choice took the episode from good to great. Then when the Doctor figures out that neither world is real, it takes that choice and makes it more symbolic. Incredible piece of writing despite the stupid monster.

The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood couldn't keep up the momentum, just as ViV couldn't. The first episode, everyone does pretty much nothing and the second episode is quite anticlimactic. It's really not worth watching again. Although I did like the character of Nasreen and the ending of Cold Blood. Amy forgetting Rory was pretty heartbreaking and not in a forced way either. There's not much to say about this episode besides that. It was otherwise lazy writing. The acting though was great all around. The Silurians were good to see, though.

Vincent and the Doctor, everyone seems to love. I don't love it by any means. The last 10-15 minutes were incredible and one of the greatest moments in the history of television, but the first 30 minutes were pretty bad. I like that it tackled Vincent's increasing insanity, but it just wasn't enough. The monster you couldn't see was laughably awful because it seemed like a rehash of Midnight, only that story had way more impact. Again though, the acting carried this episode.

The Lodger showed the Doctor was almost human but not quite there. His awkwardness is hilarious. James Corden and Matt Smith build off each other for a lot of the episode. I loved Corden's performance. This episode also was in contrast to the perception that the Doctor is almost a type of God, something that has showed up for that past 5 series and even in the classic series sometimes but not as often. The time machine being built on the level of the house that actually wasn't there in the first place was surprising. It flies away in the end, but at the same time leaves it open for the future. Some people might not like this, but I do.

The finale, Pandorica Opens/Big Bang was interesting to say the least. While it almost seems the same as the other finales with the whole "universe is at stake" feel, it tackles it at a different angle. The first episode lays down everything. River Song comes back, Rory is somehow still alive, the Doctor's greatest enemies form an alliance, and the Pandorica and Amy turns out to be a trap for the Doctor. The Doctor gets trapped inside, River is in the exploding TARDIS, Rory kills Amy, and the universe explodes. It ends abruptly. The second episode turns out to be completely different to what I thought was going to happen. Maybe I just got used to RTD's finales, but man did it deliver the standards the first episode set. So it turns out the Doctor releases himself. Some aren't fan of paradoxes, but the universe just got wiped from existence, so I doubt there are any rules to time now. The Doctor puts Amy in the Pandorica as it keeps the occupant in stasis. Rory then becomes the boy who waited as he guards the box with Amy in it for 2000 years. Incredible character development for Rory this series. He's no Mickey at all.

The Doctor uses some nifty time travel from a vortex manipulator to establish the events that already happened earlier in the episode. It's not confusing at all, despite the quick and easy time travel. The Doctor then frees River from the exploding TARDIS as she's put into a time loop by the TARDIS to keep her from dying. The Doctor than fakes his death, River kills a Dalek, and the stage is set for the Big Bang 2. Turns out, the Pandorica holds the atoms of the universe that exploded, so in theory if you put it in the heart of the explosion, it would recreate the universe. There's a touching moment between Amy and the Doctor before he sets off. The Doctor goes off into the explosion with the Pandorica but not before sending a message saying "Geronimo".

The Doctor's life then starts rewinding for him. He sets the story of the blue box that he stole when he was younger into Amelia's mind. It's definitely one of the better moments in the series. Amy remembers him at her wedding and he shows up just like an imaginary friend is supposed to do. After a hilarious dancing scene with the Doctor, they then set off in the TARDIS, with the Silence waiting for them in the future.

Series 5 ends up doing what the RTD era couldn't. It makes the new series feel classic and new at the same time.

Matt Smith: he was incredible this series as the Doctor. He immediately out-performed his two predecessors as the Doctor. He put on one of the more believable performances of the Doctor in a while. It just seemed so natural. Moffat definitely picked a gem of an actor to play the most important character.

Karen Gillian: a lot of people don't like Amy or Karen Gillian's acting, mostly because they don't think there was any character development. The Beast Below, Flesh and Stone, and Amy's Choice begs to differ. Also, most of Amy's character development happened off screen, in the 12 years that the Doctor left her. She's definitely one of the more complex companions we've had since the classic series. Easily better than Rose, Martha, and Donna. Glad that she's on board for Series 6.

Arthur Darvill: he puts on a very believable performance of an unsure hero. The dynamic between him and Matt Smith is definitely great. His character is definitely not forgotten in the sense that Mickey was by the immaturity of the Tenth and Rose. His character develops very well throughout the series and Darvill gives a good performance. Good to see him on board as well.

Alex Kingston: I love River. It's exactly the character that I pictured for the Doctor to get involved with. Alex's performance is one of the better on television today and the chemistry between her and Matt Smith is amazing to watch. I can't wait to see her character's story unravel.

Caitlin Blackwood: an underrated performance just because she's not in the series as much as Karen is, but, from what I've seen from her, she definitely gets being a kid with a dream down to a tee. Probably because she's a kid herself. I loved her performance as young Amelia.

Steven Moffat: he had a lot of work to do. Bringing back DW from the travesty RTD made was a tough task. Overall though, he did a good job. From what I've seen in the trailers, it seems Series 6 is going to be more dark, which I definitely prefer. So bring it on Moffat! Show me what you got!

The Eleventh Hour: 8/10
The Beast Below: 8.5/10
Victory of the Daleks: 4.5/10
Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone: 10/10
Vampires in Venice: 6/10
Amy's Choice: 9/10
The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood: 6/10
Vincent and the Doctor: 6.5/10
The Lodger: 8.5/10
The Pandorica Opens/Big Bang: 10/10

The Year Doctor Who Became Magic by Tom Marshall 23/7/11

I loved the Russell T Davies years, perhaps even more than I did the classic series at times. It was big, it was exciting, he had put our beloved show back on the map and resurrected it as essential primetime Saturday-night telly. But, and there's always a but, it was never quite as charming or magical as the classic series. There was emotion - buckets of it - but it was dark, serious, or bleak. It came damn close at times but never quite achieved the quaint charm of those English villages in the Pertwee era, the fun of those cheap-looking spaceships of the Davison era, or the magic of those Victorian music-halls of the Tom Baker Philip Hinchcliffe era. It was a cool show, holding its own against Farscape and Battlestar Galactica, and, although I loved the fact that the rest of the country finally appreciated Doctor Who for the brilliant invention that it is, I was always wondering: what would it be like if there was a series where some writer could give us Doctor Who that was at the same time magical, charming like the old series but still cool, still appealing and still accessible in the current world?

Enter Steven Moffat.

We can't lay the credit entirely at this man's door, of course. I admire Piers Wenger and Beth Willis for all the decisions they no doubt had to make, but in purely narrative terms the man is a superb executive producer. This year, the show has been more like a magical fairytale than ever before. Put it this way: if you picture your favourite Doctor Who moments, I expect at least one of them aired in the 2010 series. The Daleks' glorious resurrection. The stag party cake sequence. The rooftop confrontation with the Atraxi. The cliffhanger of all cliffhangers to end The Pandorica Opens.

And although they might not all occur in Moffat-written episodes, the man has had a very strong hold on the stories this year. Most of them feel like they could have been written by him: the only ones, in fact, which stand out like sore thumbs are Victory of the Daleks and The Lodger, which simply can't be classed as fairytale adventures like the others can (but they're so entertaining that I loved them unreservedly anyway.) But aside from that, picture the other 11 episodes: we see the Doctor and Amy visit Roman-era Stonehenge and Britain made of metal, float beside flashy silver space-liners, visit ancient, deserted temples, rub shoulders with Van Gogh, battle fish vampires, and encounter an ancient uprising of reptile men deep beneath the Earth: the stories are all imbued with the same delightful off-kilter magic that writers like Roald Dahl revelled in. Amy, eyes tightly closed, stumbling through a creepy forest stalked by monsters. And she's wearing a red hoodie: they don't get more fairy-tale than that. It is seasons like this which stand out simply because they could only be a season of Doctor Who.

There have been recurrent fairy-tale motifs: I have already mentioned Amy's Red-Riding-Hood-esque outfit in Flesh and Stone but how much more so are the equally red-garbed Amelia in The Eleventh Hour and the finale, and of course Mandy in The Beast Below? Ranging from those two to young Eliot in The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood, you can't deny that children have been a more major factor in this series. (In the past four years the main child characters have featured in Moffat episodes, too), and that is correct because there is something magical and fairytale-like about children which makes their placing here perfect. If the beauty of some of the visual scenes in Vincent and the Doctor doesn't scream magic at you, then I don't know what will.

The concept of the Pandorica - and indeed most of the finale - makes the Doctor like a good wizard in a fairytale and the story is all the better for it. And better still, the story arc is flawless - not since Bad Wolf has everyone been so genuinely intrigued; by not making it too subtle, Moffat keeps everyone on their toes, guessing at the cracks' intention, hints surrounding other characters, Rory's arc, and so on. The entire series is beautifully interconnected and Moffat's narrative game is such that the concept of a standalone episode hasn't really existed this year, although there has still been plenty for the general public to enjoy per episode. The final revelation is stunning; dramatic, as all the Doctor's enemies wreak havoc; epic, as silence descends on the destroyed universe; and emotional, as Rory and Amy's poignant love story reaches a climax. The way Moffat pulls together all his disparate threads and weaves the finale into a sequel of every single preceding story (bar Episode 7, dammit!) is so clever - and yet he still has the audacity to leave numerous questions unanswered, left for Series 6 no doubt.

Although there have been some rip-roaring capers, on the whole the speed of episodes has been cut this year, meaning we have more time to breathe and uncover alien atmospheres. Oh, and don't forget the scares...I have to confess (with an apology to Blink and Midnight, which only slightly unsettled me) that the only story pre-2010 that scared me was The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances. But I was genuinely glued to my seat, unable to move, absolutely wetting myself when the Weeping Angels started to move in Flesh and Stone: it's so terrifying because we know the Angels rather well, and that's the one thing we are certain they are never going to do. Easily one of the Moff's most memorable scenes.

The humour has run thick and fast as well - in amidst the darker tone of Series 5/31/11.1/Fnarg it is easy to forget this: The Vampires of Venice and The Lodger are both bundles of laughs from start to finish, there are some great one-liners in almost all of the other episodes, and the main characters are just as adept at handling the comic scenes as they are at fighting monsters. And some of the concepts this year have also been absolutely cracking: ideas such as an entire 'dream episode' or better still the marvellously bonkers tone of The Lodger, where the Eleventh Doctor (arguably the most sporadically alien incarnation yet) must pass himself off as a human being; it cannot be denied that they are pushing new territory and scrounging for new ideas, which they should be after forty-seven years.

The production has been flawed. Sorry, what? Not flawed; simply not perfect. And here, oddly, is somewhere I take yet more comfort. In a sense, Doctor Who just isn't Doctor Who unless it is populated by a host of terrible effects and this year that has not quite been the case but some of the mediocre CGI has reassured me in a rather odd way. But when the production is good, it is breathtakingly good. I'm thinking Amy Pond's garden at night, the sun-soaked waterways of 1580 Venice, the cornfields and magical night sky of Provence, torch-lit Stonehenge surrounded by alien spacecraft, the ancient Aplan temple teeming with Weeping Angels springing to life, WWII London (again), the underground Silurian city and the spitfire attack on the Dalek Saucer. It doesn't at all look like there has been a budget cut when you look at that list, does it?

The direction has been excellent too. In my opinion, some of the directors employed during the Davies era were among the finest British telly had ever seen, especially Harper and Lyn, and the directors this year are neither better nor worse, just very different. Adam Smith and Toby Haynes take the biscuits as the top directors this year; the former's stories have a wonderful fairytale magic and lightness of touch which perfectly matches Moffat's vision for the show, delivering some gorgeous images that never stop delighting me, whilst Toby Haynes helms the epic finale with ease, delivering scares, gruesome images, epic visuals and fast-moving action with equal relish and conviction. Andrew Gunn and Ashley Way are also brilliant, injecting tension and atmosphere into their stories and while Jonny Campbell had some weak moments in The Vampires of Venice that is forgivable when he shot Vincent and the Doctor so very, very beautifully, really giving us a taste of Southern France.

Catherine Morshead was a wise person to entrust the less visually impressive stories to; while she doesn't disappoint and does a steady job, she has less flair than the other directors. The only particular pieces that impress me from her are the iced-over TARDIS in Amy's Choice and, funnily enough, another TARDIS, this one the fake design used atop the staircase in The Lodger. But as to the others aside from Morshead, most of them are nothing short of magnificent: shots such as the lovely orange-and-blue mix of energy spilling out the TARDIS doors at night in Amelia's back garden, the Angel-populated forest, the new Dalek race emerging from the Progenitor, the zoom up from Stonehenge to thousands of battleships orbiting the Earth, or Alaya chasing Eliot through a graveyard do not leave the mind easily, and that is to the credit of the directors.

For this series, composer Murray Gold has remained. In fact, unless you count Steven Moffat, he is the only member of the Davies-era clan who has stayed on for this series. His work has been predominantly different from his 2005-2009 compositions, and rightly so, his upbeat and tremendously exciting Eleventh Doctor theme miles away from the lonelier pieces he gave Docs Nine and Ten. Every so often, his choir comes roaring in when there's an epic scene but for the most part he feels like he too has adapted to Who under Moffat's stewardship and I very much like his new theme tune; it doesn't feel right any more without those weird beats at the opening. His incidental music throughout is impressive but I feel I must mention his compositions for the finale, where he truly excels himself and delivers some of the greatest music I've ever heard.

There have been some pretty memorable villains. Admittedly all three out of the Daleks, Weeping Angels and Silurians have been used before but never as effectively as here. I adore the new-look Daleks, which convey both menace and power, and the Weeping Angels' new abilities are superb, whilst these Silurians are just much more interesting than those in Warriors of the Deep. There have been some slight monster duds: the Eknodine, the Krafayis, and the Aickman Road Timeship never really pose much threat, but none of them are especially important in three very character-driven episodes (and in the case of Amy's Choice, Toby Jones is simply marvellous as the Dream Lord anyway, whilst the Krafayis serves to be of at least symbolic significance), but to contrast this we've also had the memorable Smilers, vampires which turned out to be fish from space, nifty new Cyber-features to improve the Cybermen, a stone Dalek somehow being far more threatening than ever, and breathtaking scenes featuring multitudes of the Doctor's enemies in an unlikely Alliance.

The performances of the supporting cast have been, without exception, exceptional. I am glad that the concept of getting big-name actors into the show is something Moffat has retained from predecessors RTD and JNT (names too long to write out fully every time), but this series might just take the biscuit. Bill Nighy! James Corden! Sophie Okonedo! Helen McCrory! Terrence Hardiman! The stars truly are lining up to appear in Doctor Who and although most of them have only cameos this series, that makes them all the more fleeting in a sense. Caitlin Blackwood is particularly notable as Amelia Pond, the first link with children all the way back in The Eleventh Hour proving the predominant fairytale motif, and then returning in the finale, whilst Sophie Okonedo is clearly having the time of her life as Queen Elizabeth X, Ian McNeice is brilliant as Churchill, Bill Paterson brings genuine heart and pathos to Bracewell, Iain Glen is superb as Father Octavian (best death scene EVER!), Helen McCrory is magnificent playing a villainous vampire/fish, and then when you've added Toby Jones as the quirky, creepy Dream Lord, Meera Syal as forthright Dr Nasreen Chaudry and Tony Curran particularly good as the lonely Vincent, Bill Nighy being himself in a bowtie, and James Corden bringing warmth to your average bloke Craig, the amount of memorable characters this series boasts is astonishing.

Rightly, the supporting cast are time and away outshone by the regulars. Arthur Darvill is a superb find, the man a bumbling goldmine of comic timing and a definite link to the audience. I was willing for him to join the TARDIS by the end of The Eleventh Hour, to be honest, and he certainly lit up the middle chunk of the series with his amenable nature. His shock death at the end of Cold Blood felt in no way too unexpected, what with slight hints dropped in The Hungry Earth, but its emotional factor was effective, and it was a good end to a strong two-parter. His shock return in the finale really was a shock return, for once, and I was delighted to see him back and helping the main trio in that dramatic story. The other 'not-quite-a-companion' character of the series is River Song, back in typically timey-wimey fashion and with Alex Kingston delivering staunch performances as ever in two tremendously accomplished two-part stories from the pen of Moffat himself, where she truly out-cools herself and is fast becoming a sort of intergalactic female Indiana Jones. Her chemistry with Matt Smith is nothing short of electric, possibly even more interesting than that she shared with Tennant, and it is always welcome to have three, rather than two, travellers occupying the TARDIS. I like the way when the Eleventh Doctor and River Song first meet in The Time of Angels they are somewhat wary of one another, but come The Big Bang it's all 'honey' and 'dear'. Nicely done.

But as with the past four years, this season is very much about the Doctor and one main companion: Amy Pond. Just as individual episodes have their ups and downs, Amy has hers: when she is in Moffat's capable hands she is a well-rounded individual, but at intermittent times in the middle of the season (bar the splendid Amy's Choice) she was reduced to one-liners and screaming, which was so much less than the wonderful Karen Gillan could offer. Fortunately, some deft characterisation from Richard Curtis in the woefully titled Vincent and the Doctor made up for that, and although her presence was largely absent from The Lodger, she is a key player in the two-part finale and Gillan suitably steps up a notch. As a character, Amy Pond switches between cheeky and feisty and with a childlike sense of wonder that is marvellous to behold. Her chemistry with just about everyone is superb and people are unlikely to forget the magical shot of Amy floating in space outside the TARDIS, still clad in a nightie. It's like Peter Pan, and it is so very made for children that I love it all the more.

All due respect to Gillan, she has been excellent, but the big thing this season has been the new Doctor. Tennant was astoundingly popular and was always going to be a hard act to follow; indeed, the situation mirrors that when Tom Baker stepped down in 1981, and someone different to the great man in every way was cast. I can't fully say that Matt Smith is the absolute antithesis of David Tennant, but nonetheless he could well be the greatest Doctor yet. Not since Tom Baker has someone actually been the Doctor; the former often claims he is a bad actor but simply played himself, slightly extended in eccentricity. Smith does the same, his wacky personality ever more evident in Confidential interviews, and his Doctor comes across as far more genuine than Tennant's. Wacky, professorish, truly alien, ancient, youthful, energetic, rude, charming, enthusiastic, haunted... Smith's Doctor conveys everything with a few deft hand gestures and the odd pirouette. He is a man running away from terrible things he has done, but unlike Tennant and Eccleston, he does not dwell on them; they are still there but he pushes them down inside him when they threaten to resurface (such as the almost casual but still heartfelt line 'bad things happened' in The Beast Below). He hides his ancient exterior beneath a youthful veneer but he is not hardened to the evil in the universe, never afraid to skip around the truth and tell people the direct harsh reality of the situation if need be.

His enthusiasm is evident everywhere (look how thrilled he is when he sees he is in the Star Whale's mouth or the 'this is Christmas!' reaction in The Vampires of Venice) and he genuinely lights up the screen whenever he appears, always busying himself with his hands or his other movements. All the writers so far have treated him well, and there is subtle development over the series... in later episodes, he is more assured, more confident, more certain of his methods. At times, he is far less cool than the Tenth Doctor, but at others he is far more the Oncoming Storm than Tennant's Doctor ever was (mainly thinking of the "I. AM. TALKING!" bit, which is just stunning!) And he has a brilliant costume: I'm both excited and saddened that it will change next year, although his fez and top-hat attire from The Big Bang have won me over that any costume would look good on this magician of an actor. The best bit from Smith: after all that adventure, after restarting the universe and attending Amy's wedding, he walks into the TARDIS and says to himself, "Mad." Genius!

And now, after all that, an individual assessment of the stories themselves:

The Eleventh Hour: quite possibly the best-ever post-regeneration story, Moffat's first script of the season is a gorgeous piece of work with some lush direction, cracking performances and a reasonably good pace to boot. Perhaps why I enjoy it most is the way the new 'era', if you like, gradually unfolds throughout as the new Doctor casts off the Tennantisms and finds his own identity by the end of the hour, so that we know that treats truly are in store for the next twelve weeks. Matt Smith and Karen Gillan make strong impressions, the new TARDIS is excellent, and while the plot might not be Moffat's cleverest (although after you've seen the finale you might care to disagree) this is a more character-driven story than plot-driven and to be honest he's still miles cleverer than anyone else. Adam Smith's direction is absolutely superb, especially the pan through Amelia's garden at night. Simply gorgeous.

Best moment: the rooftop confrontation. "Basically, run."

Best line: "Amy Pond, there is something you need to know about me because it is very important and one day your life may depend on it. I am definitely a madman with a box."

The Beast Below: if I remember, this one came in for a fair bit of criticism when it was first aired and I genuinely can't see why. In an astonishing 42 minutes, Moffat builds and then takes down again a convincing, interesting landscape that we want to see more of. There are unexplained plot points but this is not a fault as it leaves the viewer interested in more... Matt Smith and Karen Gillan are once again perfect (Andrew Gunn's shot of Amy floating outside the TARDIS speaks volumes), Sophie Okonedo is having the time of her life as the gun-toting monarch, both the Smilers and Winders are creepy, and the slightly shocking emotional climax is not only a whack in the face after the general fairytale-fantasy style of the first 30 minutes, but it's also a chance to see the Eleventh Doctor reaching the same darkness and maturity as that the Tenth Doctor did not really display until The Waters of Mars. This is fabulous stuff, Gunn's direction perfectly complementing Moffat's slightly warped, poetic imagination.

Best moment: escaping the Star Whale's mouth with the intelligent use of an 'eject button'. It's the way Matt Smith arranges his bowtie that gets me chuckling.

Best line: "Nobody speak to me! Nobody human has anything to say to me today!"

Victory of the Daleks: It's big, bold, and exciting, and although looking back it sits a little uneasily amid 4 top-notch Moffisodes (yes, that is what I call a Moffat-penned episode) there is plenty to sit back and enjoy in Mark Gatiss' patriotic offering. There were numerous moments during RTD's tenure when I pointed at the screen and said, 'that is what I love about Doctor Who!' but this story makes me point at the screen and say, 'that is what I love about being British!' Being British is so very Doctor Who in itself; and watching the spitfire soar among the stars, Gatiss' perfectly upper-class tones chiming "Tally-ho!" is pure class; it's reinforced by the Daleks with the Union Jack insignia, and the marvellous flag scene at the end. Scenes such as the spitfire dogfight on the Dalek Saucer might beggar belief but they are unbelievable at the time and I can't think of a more quintessentially Whoish scene than the one where the Daleks emerge out of the Progenitor. Gunn's direction, Smith's reaction and Gold's music are all spot on. And the new look Daleks are pretty cool. In amid all the bluster and excitement, this is a good character piece as one marvels at how the staff of the Cabinet War Rooms are not just fighting a 6-year-long war but pause for a day to battle off Daleks. Gatiss really makes you admire Churchill and his KBO spirit. And Gillan and Smith continue to impress: only the Eleventh Doctor could hold off the Daleks by calling one 'sweetheart'.

Best moment: the Daleks come out of the Progenitor, and the spitfires soaring in space.

Best line: "All right, it's a Jammy Dodger, but I was promised tea!"

The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone: The Radio Times said these episodes deserved 10 out of 10 in anyone's scorebook, and I certainly feel this should be the case; much of the criticism levelled at this two-parter revolves around 'it wasn't as good as Blink'. Apart from the fact that in my opinion it is much better and is a remarkable accomplishment, it is a very, very shoddy reviewer indeed who does not evaluate a story's merits themselves but compares it to another. Turning to the story itself, Moffat once again outdoes himself in providing iconic scene after iconic scene - the opening of The Time of Angels is a pretty classy mini-story in itself and River Song is certainly given more to do here than in her previous story, Alex Kingston more than up to the task. But even within the story, we've got four brilliant, gorgeously directed locations in the form of the deserted beach, the creepy tunnels, the sleek space-liner and the unnerving forest/oxygen factory, and Adam Smith works wonders with all of them: this is feature-film quality direction we're talking about here. The Angels are far more terrifying for me, especially the moment where they move (THEY FRICKIN' MOVE!)... ahem... and Iain Glen's death scene must be up there with the very best death scenes. Moffat's dialogue sparkles with wit and scares in equal measure throughout Flesh and Stone in particular with a wonderful script giving Smith and Gillan their best material yet. And it's a wonderful cliffhanger. The last scene is also very cheeky. And I absolutely adore the Doctor's self-satisfied little smile as he tells the Angels that they haven't appreciated the "gravity" of the situation. I could go on.

Best moment: the Weeping Angel coming out of the TV screen, and the bit where the Angels move.

Best line: "I think, sir, you know me at my best."

The Vampires of Venice: Tough break for Toby Whithouse, following a rollicking two-parter like that, but in my opinion you should judge each episode individually, and this is so markedly different from the two-week Angel-fest that it stands well on its own. Vampires are creepy enough, but in the world of flickering torchlight, twilit waterways and creepy tunnels that is 1580 Venice, the sense of unease is increased tenfold. Helen McCrory is rather good as Rosanna, Alex Price is excellent as Francesco, and the dynamic between the three characters is superb. The decision to bring Rory on board was surprising but very welcome. Fish in space, wrestling with the clock mechanism, and the weather storm might have bad CGI but are rather glorious to watch romping about the screen. Rosanna's suicide and the falling silence, plus that bizarre final shot, leave a serious end to an otherwise fun episode. (I'll never forget my initial reaction to the stag cake sequence. Never.)

Best moment: the Doctor's anger at Isabella's death.

Best line: "I thought I'd burst out of the wrong cake. Again." Amy's Choice: A story I knew nothing about until the next-time trailer at the end of The Vampires of Venice, when my interest was well and truly piqued. Finally, a genuinely different Doctor Who story, which takes a totally new tack. I thought Midnight had broken new ground but this manages to be both innovative and somehow traditional Who at the same time. A particularly strong piece acting-wise: Smith delights in the quirkiness this episode offers him, whilst Rory also advances further in endearing himself to the viewer, and Toby Jones is quite remarkable as the Dream Lord, a truly worthy villain as opposed to monster, and the type of unpleasant human character we have not seen for several years. The episode, however, is Gillan's and she manages to make us feel for Amy more than ever before, especially in her final realisation that all she wants in life is Rory. Elsewhere, the direction is reasonably good, with the frozen TARDIS set a particular highlight, and the comedy of the old people rampaging through Leadworth gives the episode some needed pace; the Eknodine are not the most original monsters although there is something creepy about the idea that aliens lurk inside old people. And the music is excellent, and as one would expect Simon Nye's script brims with witty lines. A solid halfway point for the season.

Best moment: Rory's death. And pretty much every scene with the Dream Lord.

Best line: "Oh my boys, my poncho boys. If we're going to die, let's die looking like a Peruvian folk band."

The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood: One's enjoyment of this two-part story would certainly depend on how dedicated a fan you are. If you are someone who has seen, read, and listened to the audio-books of all three of the previous Silurian/Sea Devil stories numerous times there is unlikely to be much here that will surprise you, and as likely as not you will consider Chibnall's work to be derivative and unoriginal. In my opinion, it is neither: it is traditional. This arguably recaptures the fun magic of the classic series more than the classic series did. We have innumerable nods to the Pertwee era, plus some gorgeous direction including that terrific graveyard chase scene and the Silurian lurking in the darkness followed by the lush exoticness of the underground Silurian city in Cold Blood. Some of the set design here is really very impressive, and the Silurians are far more effectively used and interestingly drawn than were the Sontarans in 2008. The supporting cast is also quite strong, particularly Samuel Davies as the likeable little boy, Eliot. The three main characters are also well-used here, perhaps with slightly more reliance placed on the Doctor and Rory than on Amy . Matt Smith is a genuine delight, getting better and better, whilst Arthur Darvill makes Rory even more likeable to the extent that you really care for him in his shock death scene and you are left wondering how on earth all the plot strands introduced here are going to be tied up.

Best moment: Rory's second death. And the graveyard chase scene.

Best line: "We're not monsters, and neither are they!"

Vincent and the Doctor: A rare thing is beautiful: telly doesn't tend to be beautiful anymore, and paradoxically I don't really mean visually beautiful. But Vincent and the Doctor, aside from its dire title, is a work of art: lush direction, very skilful characterisation, a good solid plot and some nice twists and turns, plus some star performances. Everyone involved gives this episode their all and it shows up well. Campbell really gives us 19th-century Provence in a phenomenal example of direction: from the cornfields to the cobbled streets to the cluttered artist's home and the sunflowers in the garden, plus the magnificent hills and the night sky. Absolutely beautiful stuff. The rampaging Krafayis is also treated well, even if it is marginal to the human drama, and it serves as a nice parallel to Van Gogh's own perception and, in a sense, blindness to his fame. Richard Curtis gives all his major players excellent material to work with: for many this was the episode where they truly felt Matt Smith became the Doctor, and Gillan is also on top form emotionally encountering such a tortured soul. Bill Nighy may just be playing himself but he does it so very well, and with a bowtie and an excellent speech the cardinal sin of his limited screen time is just about forgivable. Tony Curran is the stand-out here as Van Gogh : his depression and impending suicide are not skirted around by the writer or the actor, but treated with a sensitivity that makes this very refreshing but also quite disturbing. That beautiful moment in the Musee D'Orsay where Dr Black pays tribute to Van Gogh and the man himself weeps at the words is quite phenomenal, and I don't mind admitting that I shed a few tears. Few episodes leave you emotionally exhausted like this.

Best moment: Van Gogh hears Doctor Black's magnificent eulogy about his art.

Best line: "He transformed the pain of his tormented life into ecstatic beauty..."

The Lodger: Many label this the 'cheap' one, which I won't deny, but others label it the 'trivial' one which I do take issue with. It is not going to revolutionise the Whoniverse forever but it is truly marvellous to see the Doctor improving the lives of these two ordinary people living out their monotonous lives in Colchester. Especially after his failure to save Vincent from suicide in the previous episode, it is rather gratifying to see the Doctor succeed in every way here. Unlike his previous attempts, Roberts manages to provide some creepy moments here, in the subplot of the scary man at the top of the stairs, which is shot rather well by Morshead. However, this has 'funny' written all over it and we never forget the fact. The 'Doctor as human' plot is played here for laughs rather than for drama, which means the story is an unashamed comic caper, and as such it never fails to entertain - time loops, head butting, omelettes, dry rot, football and a host of witty lines all add up to make this the funniest Roberts script yet. Daisy Haggard and James Corden bring warmth and reality to their roles as Sophie and Craig, whilst this may well be Matt Smith's most eccentric and confident turn as the Time Lord yet, revelling in his quirkiness and just generally being weird. And it works.

Best moment: the magnificent upstairs TARDIS.

Best line: "Football: that's the one with sticks, isn't it?"

The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang: Wow. Just wow. This is actually everything that Doctor Who should be, in 100 minutes: or rather it is a story only Doctor Who could tell because only our show can rely this much on time. How brilliant that to entertain the casual audience Moffat doesn't feel pressured into chucking in some monsters but simply gives us the end of all things, and a tight, focused script on four main characters striving to stop it. The dialogue is witty and sparkling, there are numerous homages to film franchises (although Indiana Jones must take the biscuit as the biggest influence) and the time-twisting plot is at once the most complex but also the most cohesive we've seen for quite a while. Scenes such as the alien armada gathering above Stonehenge, repelled by the Doctor's speech, or the cliffhanger, or the Doctor flying the Pandorica into the time-looped exploding TARDIS give us the assurance that Moffat is just as capable of epic as his predecessor, but for the most part this is a large-scale story told in a small-scale way, which makes it more well-rounded, clever and thought-provoking than RTD's finales. He manages to make a dismembered Cyberman and a calcified Dalek the terrifying beasts of legend they once were, thanks to some good Toby Haynes direction. He manages to make Matt Smith entering the Pandorica to die and then later as he is talking to a sleeping girl two of the show's best ever scenes. He manages to make Amy's wedding a triumphant punch-the-air moment and not a cheesy copout ending. And, for once, there is a beautiful spirit of adventure at the end, as the Doctor and the newly-wed Ponds travel off to the stars together. I think it has been called 'the Doctor Who which we've waited 47 years for' and while this perhaps dismisses the show's long and bountiful history a little too quickly, whoever said this was not far off the mark.

Best moment: every single moment (pretty much every other scene, it has to be said) where in a normal Doctor Who story you know exactly what would happen and then whatever it is you least expect to happen suddenly happens. It is unnerving but genius.

Best line: "Hello Stonehenge! Who takes the Pandorica, takes the universe. But bad news everyone, 'cos guess who?! Ha! Listen, you lot, you're all whizzing about. It's really very distracting. Could you all just stay still a minute? Because I'm talking! Now the question of the hour is, who's got the Pandorica? Answer: I do. Next question, who's coming to take it from me? Come on! Look at me, no plan, no back-up, no weapons worth a damn. Oh, and something else, I don't have anything to lose! So if you're sitting up there in your silly little spaceship, with all your silly little guns, and you've got any plans on taking the Pandorica tonight, just remember who's standing in your way. Remember every black day I ever stopped you. And then, and then, do the smart thing. Let somebody else try first." And pretty much every other line, too.

And so there we have it. For me, the series where Doctor Who became magic again. For me, a series which delivered four adventurous romps which are great fun (Victory of the Daleks, The Vampires of Venice, The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood and The Lodger), three excellent, above-average narratives that would be highlights of any series (The Eleventh Hour, The Beast Below and Amy's Choice), and three stories which are quite simply already present in my Top Twenty-Five favourites of all time (The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone, Vincent and the Doctor, and The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang). The best telly I've seen for absolutely yonks.

"There's no 'I' in team" by Thomas Cookson 12/6/14

As I realized when reviewing the Black Guardian Trilogy, story arcs are tricky. They can actively limit, reduce and narrow the show's direction. An arc that carries a season can just as easily sink it. So how does Moffat's showrunning debut, Series 5 fare? Fairly well, in fact. This was overall the Doctor Who season I'd been waiting for all these years. Clever writing, the Doctor fully in character, and not a single RTD script in sight. There was, however, one fly in the ointment. A Chris Chibnall script. Worse, a two-parter. A pimple right in the spot usually reserved for a treat like Human Nature/The Family of Blood or The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances. Surely Moffat and Chibnall are chalk and cheese. So their close partnership made little sense to me, until I thought about how 'timey-wimey' Chibnall's Torchwood finales are, and how Moffat's lately been writing River Song as a female Captain John Hart. Then it all made sense.

The sour presence of The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood in Series 5 feels jarringly wrong though. The show seemed on the up, and for the first time in a while I ceased griping about where the show had gone wrong prior, because it all seemed worth it to reach this point. All past wrongs felt finally redressed (even Last of the Time Lords). Yet I came away from Cold Blood suddenly and seriously considering giving up on the show for good. Looking up production orders made things somewhat clearer, by discovering The Hungry Earth was produced early on.

Why was it so at odds with the season's vision? Maybe at the time of making, that vision wasn't yet fully formed. Amidst a fresh season of playful, fairytale family innocence, we suffered a throwback to Torchwood's vindictive, mean-spirited writing, and characters turned into meat puppets (which was especially jarring amidst Series 5's genuine dynamic character spontaneity elsewhere). Perhaps they'd anticipated a light-hearted season opener, followed by a gradual darkening curve. But still, this nasty torture-porn turn would only be fitting if the Pandorica prison ultimately housed sharp nails and broken glass.

There's a slight problem with Series 5. It's inescapably top-heavy. The Beast Below and Victory of the Daleks have been heavily panned by fans, but I found them at worst patchy and trivial. In fact, I enjoy rewatching Victory of the Daleks. Sure Churchill is disingenuously romanticised, but as we'll never have the Brigadier back, Ian McNeice's Churchill makes a nice consolation prize. As for complaints about the spitfires in space, I suspect some fans have lost their sense of fun and imagination. But The Eleventh Hour, The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone and Amy's Choice are absolutely exquisite. Each in its own way is an orgasm of the season. Unfortunately they're relegated by Series 5's latter half into being premature ones.

After the unpleasant Silurian story came Vincent and the Doctor, often cited as people's favourite, based on its beautiful denouement. The Doctor's epitaph for Vincent, about how 'the bad moments don't always cancel out the good' strikes a beautiful note. However the story's previous 35 minutes feel like loose filler until then, admittedly with gorgeous cinematography, and Tony Curran delivering a gut-punching performance. Then there's The Lodger, the penultimate story before the finale. It's very fun, but rather fluffy and throwaway, and seems to be there just to appease that sad fan crowd still crying for their precious RTD back.

I really like Matt Smith's Doctor. He's proven to be a consistent source of joy, even in the Moffat era's damper patches (oddly the DWP podcasters, whom I really think shouldn't be let anywhere near a microphone, have decried how Matt Smith's eccentric acting would be offputting to new fans and needs toning down). However, I did have some niggles with the Doctor's colder characterization in The Beast Below, where he sends Amy out by herself amidst an Orwellian police state, on only her first adventure, leaving me wondering what on Earth happened to the Doctor's old chivalry?

Amy Pond, I absolutely adore. I have said elsewhere that she sometimes suffers from a sense of obfuscation about her character background, but that's only really a problem in Series 6. For the most part, Amy is a very animated, fun, child-like and endearing companion, and she feels real. It also helps that the immediacy of threat makes it instinctive of me to be emotionally invested in her. So she works well as a companion without overshadowing the show and she works primarily because of her simplicity.

A growing problem I developed with later Moffat stories is how he deals with very fragile or damaged characters, which should make for hard-hitting drama (The Girl Who Waited is a good example of this), but seems fixated with covering them in an impenetrable, borderline insufferable layer of sass that makes emotional investment impossible. This doesn't present a problem here. In fact it works in the season's favour because of its inviting light-hearted, innocent nature. But it becomes a huge problem in seasons ahead.

I'm not a big Rory fan. I like him, especially when he's used to his best in Amy's Choice, The Girl Who Waited and Asylum of the Daleks. But he usually feels like a gooseberry between Amy and the Doctor's dynamic. Sometimes he feels neglected by writers who struggle to accommodate his presence. This is somewhat down to how poorly established he was. He's late to joining the TARDIS properly halfway through the season and then gets removed again after Cold Blood.

Some fans have said that Rory's shown an admirable growth in The Big Bang and Series 6, but I've always found the badass bigging up of the new and improved tough centurian superhero Rory a ridiculous leap too far. It really depends on who's writing the story though, because I was actually shocked and hurt to see him 'die' in Amy's Choice, and really felt Amy's sense of disbelief and heartache. Yet when the same happens again in Cold Blood, it literally left me cold. Partly because the episode had long lost me, and this just seemed like a nasty cheap contrivance, but mainly because Amy's frantic grieving of him suffers heavily from Chibnall's typically histrionic sound and fury dialogue.

As for River Song, Series 5 still captures River at the point before I became completely sick of her. But even in hindsight I can see moments here where she really is unbearably smug (made worse by the presence of her 'twin', Liz 10). However, at this point, she is at least tempered by how she is kept part of the team ensemble and is in her element in that dynamic without completely overpowering it and overrunning everyone, like she did in the utterly out of control Let's Kill Hitler. It also helps that this season finale isn't about her, and that here she actually reacts to mortal threats and fraught scenarios in a human, serious way, demonstrating proper anxiety and apprehension. Just compare her franticness in the airlock chase in Flesh and Stone with her insufferable Mary Sue God-mode jolly chirping about "Gay gypsy bah mitzvahs'" when at the gunpoint of the Third Reich army next season, and then weep.

Incidentally, I hate that line. Why would young River, in her morally confused state of mind, claim any kind of moral high ground over the Nazis, having herself been bred to kill by a fascistic brainwashing cult. In Series 5, she has key prominent character moments (such as her pistol whipping a pleading Dalek), but they feel fairly and proportionately distributed. I have no problem with Alex Kingston the actress (well, unless I were to look back on her Grange Hill days). She plays the part well and believably, sometimes only making the character work at all through her sheer force of will. But the more fun she seems to have playing the character, the more obnoxious the character comes off, hence why her first story is her best. Series 5 occupies the middle ground where she still carries that seriousness, but she's beginning to be let off the leash with her performance.

As for the arc, the crack on the wall was a fairly unnerving idea at first. But its frequent reprises in each story's closer quickly felt routine. Reducing the crack's foreboding omnipresence into something banal. Moffat's arcs often do this. I'm loathe to agree with Lawrence Miles, but he was right that the Doctor's repeated covert pregnancy scans of Amy in Series 6 bordered on creepy and stalkerish (although seriously the words 'pot', 'kettle' and 'black' come to mind). And I was already sick of Series 7's repeated meme by episode one. Regarding the crack's more proactive involvement in the two-parters, whilst I'd have loved to see the Doctor overcome the Angels without the crack there to bail him out, I can forgive it. But in Cold Blood, the crack becomes more problematic through overexposure and inconsistencies. Why is Rory erased whilst lying dead next to it, whilst the Doctor is fine putting his hand in it and retrieving some TARDIS debris from it? Incidentally that cliffhanger should've immediately preceded the finale.

Series 5 is possibly Moffat's best season because the Gap Year gave him more preparation time to get it right. The first story produced was The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone, which remains for me the last genuinely great Moffat story. Unfortunately, he's been slipping since, perhaps running out of ideas, losing his sharp focus or rushing his craft, producing half-baked results with glaring blind spots. In The Beast Below, if the Star Whale was always willingly helping carry mankind to safety, how did the humans come to coerce it with torture in the first place? The Pandorica Opens is fantastic. Each scene's a joy to behold, and whilst the Daleks' presence in this benevolent alliance strains credibility, it somehow doesn't matter. Only the high stakes do, and Matt Smith acts his heart out in the cliffhanger, begging and pleading for the universe's sake.

The Big Bang doesn't entirely live up to expectations, though, or make much sense. Like back in Trial, some long-brewing major crisis happens, but the Doctor somehow survives triumphantly, going from his lowest point to his most jubilant. We get a happy ending against all odds. Yet we're left uncertain how it happened, or if any of it happened at all. I can forgive the excessive timey-wimey as the Doctor is pushed into a desperate universe-shattering situation, adapting quickly and using tools in his arsenal he's never dared use before. The pacing hasn't slacked all season, but this plays rather too fast and loose, and frivolously with what should be the end of everything. It mainly suffers from Moffat's overdone flippancy, with the Doctor seeming too cocksure and unscathed in the end. As though he never doubted his desperate gamble would pay off, because he'd read the script beforehand.

One criticism I have about Matt Smith's age is that maybe an older actor wouldn't have gone along so enthusiastically with Moffat's writing, and would have challenged his directors and insisted on playing it with more grave foreboding here, rather than as written. Overall, however, Matt Smith's alien aloofness and Moffat's high-spirited-meets-high-concept approach has restored a mythicness to the show. That reassuring, mythic quality the Doctor had, which died in Logopolis, returns full force here. Erasing the neurotic mess of human self-consciousness and emotional imbalances that plagued the Peter Davison and RTD Doctors. Reasserting the Doctor as a higher being, who's equal to the strange, threatening cosmos surrounding him. He's no longer an emotional cripple who appears to be incapable of anything. I don't have to wonder. Anything's possible with Eleven. Overall, Series 5 successfully delivered a compelling, immersing new vision for the show. Its finale was somewhat disheartening, but, given everything riding on The Big Bang's resolution, I'll just quote About Time 4's review of The Armageddon Factor. "You can sum it up with the words 'not appalling', and in context that's something of an achievement."