Now that the Doctor is back with a new companion and he’s pulled himself out of his emotional cage, he’s ready to set off for adventure at the beginning of the second half of the seventh series.
But wait; there’s a huge problem. The audience has been promised that Clara (Jenna-Louise Coleman) was the new companion. But how could that be? We saw her in the first half of the series as a shipwreck victim in the episode “Asylum of the Daleks,” and she died in that episode. That could have just been a coincidence since at that point the new companion wasn’t officially announced. So maybe it wasn’t her. But then again we saw her in the Christmas episode “The Snowmen” and she and The Doctor (Matt Smith) had great chemistry. She was obviously companion material and she brought him back to his former heroic self. But that didn’t end well either as once again Clara was dead by the end of the episode. It can’t be a coincidence this time. Obviously, there is something going on that we just don’t understand.
And we’re not the only ones, because The Doctor himself is going crazy trying to figure out the connection as well. Once again, he’s secluded himself away. But this time it’s not in grief. It’s to give him the opportunity to block out all the distractions so he can figure out this conundrum of “The Impossible Girl.”
Even with all of his Time Lord knowledge he can’t find the answer. That is until one day the TARDIS receives a phone call from a girl who thinks she is calling tech support to help her access her Wi-Fi. She has no idea she’s calling several hundred years into the past, but once The Doctor realizes he’s talking to Clara, he is once again off to the rescue.
As with all of the most recent series in the franchise each episode stands alone, working as self-contained stories. Yet there is always an underlying thread. A greater story arc that must and is resolved by the series finale, and this is no different here as over the length of the final eight episodes the story unfolds of who Clara Oswald really is.
While the new companion adds a unique spark of life to the character of The Doctor overall the final half of the series is rather dark. The first episode “The Bells of Saint John” shows the great chemistry that the two have with one another as The Doctor acts more like a teenage suitor than a Time Lord. One of the best moments is their first adventure running from the back to the front of a nose-diving passenger plane in order to keep it from crashing. The dialogue is superb and the choreography of the scene is simply brilliant. And while The Doctor is nearly giddy in finding Clara once again another side of him is shown when she gets into danger, a side that has rarely been seen in this incarnation but shows why you never want to mess with the Doctor.
The second episode, “The Rings of Akhaten,” is when things begin to get dark. It starts off light-hearted attending a festival. But things are not always what they seem. After befriending a young girl, Clara and The Doctor find themselves fighting an evil mummy creature and an angry god the size of a planet.
From that point on the episodes feel heavier and heavier. “Cold War” finds the pair aboard a Soviet submarine with an alien lifeform aboard that is hunting the crew, reminiscent of the 1979 film Alien. “Hide” is a poltergeist story. “Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS” is a monster movie with mutated creatures threatening to kill them. We find The Doctor turned into a zombie-like creature in “The Crimson Horror.” And finally it’s a confrontation with the long thought to be extinct Cybermen who threaten to conquer the universe with only a ragtag team of soldiers and a doomsday device.
With all of these various opponents, (mummies, robots, ghosts, and aliens), it feels like the entire horror catalog is being thrown at them. It’s surprising that vampires and werewolves weren’t in any of the episodes, but thankfully not since both of those have been played to death in both film and television as of late. But the tone of the show actually prepares you for the final episode.
“The Name of The Doctor,” which is the seventh series finale is also the best. Not only do we finally have all of our questions about Clara answered but we also get to see The Doctor’s final resting place. Yes, some day even The Doctor will die. But when he dies it’s not a normal death and he does not leave a corpse. Instead what is left is a fracture in time to all of the times and places he has been. A fracture that one of his enemies known as the Great Intelligence enters so it can undo all of the good The Doctor has ever done. Unable to enter his own fracture, The Doctor is forced to stand aside while Clara gives chase, thus explaining how she has appeared so many times before in The Doctor’s past.
The Blu-ray is presented in High Definition 1080i/16:9 with a DTS-HD 5.1 audio. As in most of the Doctor Who Blu-ray discs, the audio effects are underutilized. It’s rare when you have that true surround-sound experience. The video however is always flawless and an obvious improvement over the live telecast.
Maybe it’s because of the new companion and all the secrecy surrounding her introduction, but the special features lack a lot of the personal behind-the-scenes footage and some of the cast appearances at local events that previous Blu-rays have used before. Instead, there are two simple features that feel more like deleted scenes than any actual feature.
Overall, the second half of the seventh series is well done and the interaction between the two main characters adds a breath of fresh air to the franchise. Watching it on Blu-ray adds one thing that was lost during the original televised airing, and that has to do with how the character of Clara was laid out. Her first two appearances were so far apart from the third time when she becomes the companion for good that the phrase “run, you clever boy, and remember” is completely lost on the audience. It’s not until the video release where they can all be watched closer together that the true meaning is once again found. It just makes everything click for the audience.