- Series reviews
The 13th season of Doctor Who has recently ended, and it came out very unusual. Firstly, this is the shortest season in the history of the series - only 6 episodes of 50-60 minutes each, and secondly, instead of separate stories "one monster a week" connected by a superficial plot arc, we got a whole story with its own subtitle "Stream". Divided into six chapters. The reason for this and the other was the coronavirus epidemic, which for the second year has been putting a spoke in our wheels, including filmmakers.
There have already been seasons with through arches in Doctor Who, but even in such classic stories, the division into fragments was felt more clearly, and each episode was written by different people. In the 13th season, almost all episodes are inherently inscribed in the general plot, even a couple of those that are most similar to traditional fillers. As expected, this idea turned out to be a success.
Screenwriter Chris Chibnell personally wrote all the episodes (one, however, in co-authorship), and he clearly feels much more comfortable in this format. Just such was, for example, the TV series "Broadchurch", created by Chris from scratch and at one time very popular with the public. Judging by the reviews of many viewers, the 13th season came to their taste much more than the previous two seasons of the Chibnell era, and that already means something. The disadvantages, however, could not be avoided, but more on that later.
Let's start with the good, which is actually a lot... In general, in the era of the Thirteenth, there were enough successful decisions by Chibnell himself or his team. This can be attributed, for example, casting - in the 11th season Alan Cumming and Chris Noth played, in the 12th season Stephen Fry and Goran Vishnich appeared, Sasha Dhavan was very opportunely chosen for the role of the Master, and actress Joe Martin for the role of the Runaway Doctor. Which, in this role, many liked even more than the main performer of the role, Jodie Whittaker. In Season 13, significant roles were played by actors such as Annabelle Scholey, famed for Being Human and Medici, Jacob Anderson as the Gray Worm from Game of Thrones, and Kevin McNally as Gibbs from Pirates of the Caribbean.
There are many interesting ideas in the Chibnell era - and yes, they really were. Historical series were consistently atmospheric and informative, ideas with each season became more ambitious and eventful, concepts - interesting and promising. And all this is not to mention the long-awaited return to the series of familiar characters, from Sontarans and weeping angels to Jack Harkness last season and Kate Stewart this season.
In short, there is a lot of potential in Chibnell's ideas. And sometimes this potential is realized quite well - for example, with the crying angels, the series about which became the most popular in the 13th season. Sometimes, alas, the embodiment of the idea does not reach the set level - as in the case, for example, with the same Kate. The audience was very happy to see her, but she played almost no real role in the events of the season.
Former showrunners at one time, talking about the return of one of the old characters, often said that they could not return anyone until a truly worthy story was found. It was not clear what that meant, because the right story could simply be written on purpose. Apparently, what happened to Kate gives us the answer to this question. The story was decent in its own way in terms of the scale and role that Kate could play in the events, but in the end her role was not very significant. And that's why, even if it was very pleasant to see Kate, the aftertaste from her return remains mixed.
Unfortunately, Keith does not end with the list of the season's beginnings that have not been fully realized. This is especially noticeable when you consider the season as a whole - and in fact, this is how it should be judged, since it is, in fact, one story in six parts. But for the sake of order, let's first go through the series one by one.
Spoiler alert!We hid the significant ones in this way.
The first, "Halloween Apocalypse," was a bouncy and promising start in a new story. She laid the foundation for several storylines at once, which still had to cross later, introduced us to most of the heroes and villains who will participate in upcoming events, and presented the main threat - the Stream, a destructive force. Capable of destroying the entire universe.
It was simply impossible to fully understand what was happening at that time, so many viewers were confused by such a jumble of people, places, events and mysteries. But, in general, it should be so. This is exactly the structure of most serials with a cross-cutting plot: several lines initially set during the season intersect with each other, and the situation is gradually clearing up. For the most part, by the end, the situation really cleared up, although not in all.
"The War of the Sontarans" was more like the standard episode of "Doctor Who" - alien villains are trying to disrupt the course of history, and the Doctor, with the assistance of satellites and a famous historical figure, needs to resist them. In parallel, at the other end of the Universe, the global arc of the season is developing. The public generally liked this series, although there are a lot of questions about the logic of what is happening in it, and the choice of the Sontarans for the role of the main villains of the whole story is a rather controversial idea. Well, they would also remain intermediate villains for only one episode - but no, in the end they will return again and firmly enter the top three opponents of the Doctor this season.
Opinions were divided over the third episode, Once Upon a Time. Some viewers did not like the fact that for the most part it consists of an exposition in the form of journeys through the past of the heroes and therefore does not contribute much to the advancement of the overall plot. However, I think that in fact the third series is just one of the most successful. Out-of-the-box storytelling, the decision to let the main actors play minor characters, the return of Joe Martin as the Fugitive Doctor, the brisk pace and unusual atmosphere all add up to a very interesting story. Which is not a sin to reconsider once again. In addition, there are not even too many questions to the logic of events in this series, despite the abundance of time-wimi. But the next one, which became the most popular of the season, cannot be said.
The fourth episode, "The Village of Angels", was awaited by the audience with special impatience - after all, everyone's beloved crying angels had not returned to the screens in full for almost ten years. Their creator and main writer is Stephen Moffat, so it was curious - and scary to find out how another writer would write the episode about them.
On the one hand, it worked out well. The series is fun, action-packed, with lovable characters, inter-temporal twists and the most addictive and mysterious cliffhanger in a long time. On the other hand, even if you sit down and try to methodically describe the events of the series, in the end there will still be questions and unexplained moments that no one will clearly explain in the future. Series with time-wime are one of the most difficult, since they require many details to be taken into account, and certain conventions are allowed here. But if the conventions are very large-scale and the plot is built on them, this is far from a plus. Impressed by the action and the mysteries, the flaw may not yet be noticed, but if you dig deeper, there is no escaping the questions.
The fifth episode, "Survivors of the Stream", on the eve of the final came out quite pleasant, albeit without pretensions to something great. Unfortunately, the cliffhanger of the previous episode, for all its epic character, was resolved in a couple of minutes. But this was not a surprise, because the same fate befell almost all the other cliffhangers of the season. We watched the adventures of companions without the Doctor, the adventures of the Doctor without companions, again returned to the mystery of the Doctor's origin and the nature of the Division, finally got some answers and got to the next cliffhanger. All hope remained for the season finale, where Chibnell had to unwind the tangle of all the storylines, pick up all the tails and answer all the questions. Did he manage to do it properly?
Not really. Like the rest of the season's episodes, "The Crushers" came out intense - no one will blame Chibnell for the protractedness and slowness of the events. But for this very reason, the ending turned out to be rather crumpled. And a lot of time was taken by the elements, without which in the season it was generally possible to do.
In addition to the already mentioned Kate, the characters that were not too necessary for the plot were Bel and Winder - separated lovers who had been looking for each other all season, and Diana - the failed romantic interest of Dan's new companion. For the most part, all of the heroes mentioned make a very modest contribution to what is happening. And if the contribution is still noticeable in places, like Diana's, then it is rather confusing, because they kidnap her for some reason, she survives in prison for some reason, it is not clear why she easily thinks out how to get out of prison. And then, too, he easily comes up with a solution to the main problem of the season. She, of course, is great, but apart from that we really don't know anything about her. She's just great - that's all.
Bel and Winder at least serve as a clear illustration of how the Stream harmed the Universe. But this is not enough to justify their presence. The fans so wanted to see at least some meaning in these two that they even came up with a theory: many seriously believed that the Doctor herself would be their unborn child. At some point, the theory even looked plausible, and this could be expected from Chibnell, but no - nothing on this topic was mentioned and is unlikely to be. For some it was a relief, and for others it was even a disappointment.
All these characters, of course, are not bad people, but if you exclude them at once from the plot and only slightly rearrange the terms, nothing will change globally. That is why, in the course of viewing, the thought sometimes arises that people in the 13th season serve as an instrument of action rather than its real participants.
But this does not mean that there are no significant and interesting secondary characters in the season. There are at least three of them - the anthropomorphic dog Karvanista, Professor Jericho performed by Kevin McNally and Joseph Williamson, a real historical figure, inscribed by Chibnell in the idea of \ u200b \ u200bwith Stream. All of them are different, all are imperfect, and all are well remembered by the viewer and cause sincere emotions - in contrast to “just fine fellows”, to which, in addition to Diana, Bel, and Yas, and Dan can be attributed.
About Yas and Dan should be mentioned separately, because they are still the main companions of the Doctor. Fortunately, after Ryan and Graham leave, Yas gets a lot more lines, and now she looks much more like a living person with her emotions, feelings and discontent. Alas, it is already too late to write it down really deeply - and there is not enough room for this, because the season is already overcrowded with people. Ultimately, she also remains “just a fine fellow”, who now knows how to control the TARDIS, to save people from cells, and to explore ancient temples. Yas still does not cause any negativity, she is quite a pleasant girl - but she also has special empathy.
Dan, especially at the beginning, is also served to the viewer almost perfect, so much so that it is even suspicious. Kind, sweet, charming, bold, extremely altruistic - such a set of traits makes the hero slightly implausible, but still not without flaws. He is so pleasant that it can be forgiven, and therefore he has already won a lot of hearts. Graham could still compete with Dan, but now, after just a few episodes, many viewers are ready to prefer him to Ryan, who has been known for two whole seasons. It says something. In general, the 13th season is a story more about the Doctor than about her companions, because by the end their significance is generally reduced to a minimum, but it's still good that they are.
The villains of the season, like so much of it, are full of under-realized potential. These are Swarm and Azure - the servants of Time itself, as well as the alien race of Sontarans and the Great Serpent - an unpleasant person whom we met only in the third episode and who suddenly turned out to be more significant than we expected. They are all different, but only the Sontarans do not limp motivation (their weak side is rather logic). You can also include crying angels here, but with a stretch, since there is only one episode dedicated to them, and everything is just fine with their motivation.
Even after a whole season, we know little about Roy and Lazuli, except that their goal is to free Time from captivity and, if possible, annoy the Doctor and the Division. They destroy everything around simply because, apparently, they were created precisely for this. After much ranting about their villainous plans, Roy and Azure are left with noses and ingloriously perish at the hands of the creature for which they fought so fiercely. They are interesting in their own way, eerie, aesthetic, but they gave the story less than they could.
The Sontarans are Doctor Who's veterans, first appearing on the show nearly 50 years ago. In New School, these warlike clones are rare guests, and it was high time to bring them back. But nevertheless, they do not shine with intelligence, charisma and aesthetics, which is why they are not very impressive as a key figure in the plot. It is rather strange to hear in one episode that the Sontarans are stupid, and see direct evidence of this, and in another - to observe how they easily manage to deceive the cybermen and Daleks, who, in fact, have long been declared as geniuses. The Lupars, the Karvanist people, are clearly not fools either, for they have contrived to create an effective defense against the Stream, and yet the Sontarans get rid of them with such ease that they do not even show it to us.
Ultimately, the Sontarans are killed when the Doctor uses their plan against themselves, allowing all the Far and Cybermen to perish along the way. On the one hand, this is what they need, but on the other hand, this perceptibly contradicts certain views of the Doctor. But this is not the first time this has happened in the Chibnell era, and there is already a whole separate topic for discussion.
The Great Serpent can also be attributed to the characters, without whom the season could easily have done. The serpent simply embodies a vicious system that gets what it deserves in the end. His motivation is vague, his ultimate goals are vague, his final fate is uncertain. Fans managed to build up a lot of theories about who he might be, they saw in him the Master, and Rassilon, and Maru - and in the end, the Serpent turned out to be just nothing, and his story ended accordingly. He will probably return to the series someday, but so far he has not made an indelible impression.
As a result, it turns out that there is a lot of excess in the season, and the important thing - the depth of emotions, justifications and explanations - is lacking. Perhaps this is his main problem. There are a million examples:
- Why did the Sontarans, going to the Crimean War, replace the Russians in such a way that they instantly forgot about them?
- Why did two years, ripped out of time, collide in space in the "Village of Angels"?
- How did Azure, seemingly imprisoned for almost an entire eternity, like Roy, managed to hide on Earth for all this eternity and not suspect that she was not human?
- Why are Yas and Dan, having spent several years with Jericho in the past, not reacting in any way to his death?
- Why does everyone almost instantly forget that Karvanista lost all his people overnight, and against his will they hang Winder and Bel's company on him?
- Where are the three of them going to fly, given that almost the entire universe seems to have been destroyed?
- And where, then, are the Doctor, Yas and Dan going to travel? Moreover, they gathered very cheerfully and in a positive manner, not especially thinking or grieving that billions of people died throughout the Universe. Living creatures?
- Why is the Earth still holding on at all, given that the Stream got very close to it and most likely damaged both the Moon and the Sun?
- What happened during the TARDIS season and has it stopped now?
We risk not getting answers to many questions. We may get some for some, but there is not much time left - there are only three special issues left until the end of the Chibnell era, the first of which will be released on New Year's Eve. And it will be dedicated to the Daleks - it is true that they have just disappeared with the whole crowd in the Stream, but why not.
The intricate mosaic that was presented to us at the beginning of the season was only partially formed by the end - it lacks too many fragments to fully appreciate the whole picture. Some of the shortcomings inherent in the previous two seasons thrive here as well.
But despite all the above-mentioned shortcomings and controversial points, it was fascinating to watch the season. It came out dynamic, and in it there was a place for curious ideas, pleasant references, memorable characters and exciting moments - just what is the meeting in the finale of the two Thirteenth Doctors.
The 13th season really feels more interesting, cheerful, dearer and simply better than the previous two. Chibnell ends his era on a relatively high note, although the general impression of the ending can only be formed after the remaining three specials. Considering that the team had to face a lot of unforeseen difficulties and limitations when creating this particular season, this is a great achievement.