Season “32 and a half” closes with a big cliffhanger that’s also a big reveal, and an episode that has everything including the kitchen sink and most of the other fixtures besides. Needless to say, don’t read on if you don’t want to be spoiled…
Steven Moffatt is nothing if not spectacularly ambitious and imaginative. What he delivers here is kind of a mess – a good idea left to fend for itself, a little too concerned with the paint job and not enough with the engine. All kinds of all favorites return – the Silurians, a Sontaran nurse, the fat blue guy from “The Pandorica Opens” – they all part of the army the Doctor reruits to rescue Amy and daughter – not to mention a Cyberman cameo. Heck, even the pirate cap’n and his terminally ill son (hey – I thought he’d die if he left that med unit? Plot hole!) and Centurion Rory complete with skirt are back.
As always, River Song is simultaneously cool and annoying, lording it over both the characters and the audience that she knows all the “spoilers”, and acting as a kind of get-out-of-jail-free card for the writers. The twist, of course, is that we finally find out who she really is – and that’s Amy & Rory’s daughter. The neat thing about that is I’d idly wondered about “Pond” and “River” being in the cast – though I confess I never expected them to go with route. Even with the tipoff of naming little Pond “Melody” the dots didn’t connect for me till the end.
What’s more, River is a very special lady – she’s human, but with Time Lord genes. That’s apparently because Amy & Rory were doing the horizontal bop on the TARDIS while it was in the time vortex (hopefully the Doctor had the stereo on). That explains her very special abilities – though not just where on the human/Gallifreyan scale she falls. What’s clear is that an army – the one led by the eyepatch dominatrix Madame Kovarian – wants her very badly, with the idea of molding her into a weapon to fight the Doctor. Who, according to River, is gradually becoming synonymous throughout the galaxy as a warrior and bringer of death.
Indeed, while Matt Smith’s performance as the Doctor has gotten stronger, it’s happened as his character has become more disturbing. Smith has found a well of darkness in the character that’s always there, but hasn’t been much apparent with some of his incarnations. He’s seemed to be off his game all season – poor decisions, overemotional, uncharacteristically indecisive. Kovarian really took him for a ride this week – fooling him with a fake surrender and a “flesh” baby. So many souls perished following the Doctor – that’s just not what you expect to see. When the Doctor needs to be lectured by a Silurian for acting out of anger, something is backwards in the universe.
With that, we wait until the fall for things to pick up. On balance I liked this first half of Season 32, though I didn’t love it. Neil Gaiman’s “The Doctor’s Wife” was unsurprisingly the strongest of the season, though I also enjoyed the recently completed two-parter featuring the flesh. Moffat’s own scripts have not been up to his usual standard, seems to me – the weight of being the show runner perhaps taking it’s creative toll. Hopefully he’ll be able to keep the plates spinning for the second half of the season – he’s set himself quite a challenge in doing so.