Doctor Who: The Complete Seventh Series DVD Review: Lots of Changes Make for a Less Than Steller Doctor

The seventh series of Doctor Who was unusual for several reasons. It was broken in half with the first part airing in the fall of 2012 and the second part not airing until the spring of 2013. We said goodbye to the Ponds and hello to Clara, who turned out to be the ongoing mystery of the second half of the series.. It was the final season for Matt Smith as the 11th Doctor. All of these changes took its toll on the series, making it not quite as good as many of the ones before it.

While it is not unusual for a television series to be split in half by the Christmas break, Doctor Who normally runs all of its episodes through the Springtime, with an earlier Christmas episode sort of sparking off the season. Series 7 ran five episodes in September 2013 and then didn’t start again (with the exception of the Christmas episode) until late March of 2013. That’s a massive break between episodes and really one could effectively call the second half Series 8 instead of Series 7, Part 2. In fact the BBC released Part One and Part Two as two separate releases, both covered by Todd Karella, until finally combining them with this one.

The Ponds were the Doctor’s companions for 2 and a 1/2 seasons, longer than any other companions in the new incarnation of Doctor Who. They’ve become fan, and personal, favorites. I love their interactions with the Doctor and with themselves. Seeing them say goodbye was heartbreaking, and in the case of Rory, who didn’t really even say goodbye, maddening. Losing any companion is always hard, but losing the two of them was devastating.

There is always an adjustment period for a new companion as he or she learns the ropes and develops as a character. This was even more true for Clara Oswald and who exactly she is became the central mystery for the second half of Series 7. We first see her in the series opener “Asylum of the Daleks,” but by the end of the episode it is clear that character won’t be coming back. Until she does. We see her again in the Christmas episode, “The Snowmen” where she holds the same name, but is in an entirely different time and place and seems to be a completely different character. And then she is the companion for the rest of the series.

It isn’t unheard of for the actress who plays a companion to show up in a previous episode. Freema Agyeman was cast as Adeola Oshodi in “Army of Ghosts” before she became the companion Martha Jones. In a similar fashion, the character of Donna Noble has a main part in a Christmas episode a full season before she becomes a companion. But this is the first time, to my knowledge, where a companion plays similar characters in different times and spaces and becomes the central mystery of a season.

Unfortunately, the writers get so caught up in the mystery of who Clara is, and how she can be in so many different times and places that they forget to really flesh out her character. All too often she seems like a blank slate, simply reacting to the Doctor without any real personality of her own. She isn’t a terrible character and Jenna-Louise Coleman does her best with what they give her, but they really need to develop her more in Series 8 or the entire show is going to suffer for it.

We didn’t actually know that the upcoming 50th Anniversary Special and the Christmas episode were going to be the final ones for Matt Smith during the season, but watching it retroactively heightens my sadness over losing him. I love every incarnation of the Doctor and the last one is always my favorite, at least until I get to know the new one, but Matt Smith truly made his Doctor unique and wonderful. I am very excited to see what Peter Capaldi will do with the character but Smith’s version will linger for quite some time.

I liked the first half of Series 7 much more than the latter half. With “Asylum of the Daleks” and “The Power of Three” we got to see a sort of behind-the-scenes look at the companions. In both episodes, we get glimpses of the Ponds at home, attempting a normal life without the Doctor. We see just how boring and impossible that life can be, waiting on the Doctor to come back and rush them off on some new adventure.

None of the episodes were particularly strong, and two (“Dinosaurs on a Spaceship” and “A Town Called Mercy”) were a bit sillier than usual, but they were still great fun and enjoyable. None of the episodes in the second half really stuck with me. It was great fun to watch Vastra and Strax deal with each other in Victorian England, and getting a larger look inside the TARDIS was fascinating, but as a whole, the episodes were mostly forgettable. As mentioned the mystery of Clara was good, but its conclusion felt a little rushed.

The set is loaded with features. Each episode contains a short, behind-the-scenes featurette. Many episodes contain what they are calling a “prequel,” which is simply a short scene that sets up the episodes and gives a little more background information.

Each disk contains one longer features on the science of the show, filming select episodes in the U.S., the companions, and some adventures at Comic Con. Each of these contain a lot of interviews with many of the actors who have appeared in the last seven series of the show. Curious to me are the ones who do not appear including Billie Piper, Christopher Eccleston, and Catherine Tate. Makes me wonder why they didn’t agree to talk about the show.

Additional extras include audio commentary on “The Snowmen,” “Cold War,” “Hide,” and “The Crimson Horror.” There are interviews with Matt Smith and Jenna-Louise Coleman from The Nerdist, though honestly the host was so annoying I could hardly make it through. And finally some all-new featurettes Inforarium, Clara and the Tardis, and Rain Gods.

I love me some Doctor Who no matter what. While The Complete Series Seven wasn’t my favorite of the new series, it was still very enjoyable to watch and not-as-good Doctor Who is still better than no Doctor Who at all.

Mat Brewster

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