Reuniting with The Doctor (Smith) after a few months away, Amy (Gillan) and Rory (Darvill) witness a future version of him being killed in a way that he’s unable to regenerate from. Meeting up with their version of The Doctor, who’s alive and well, matters are complicated when it turns out his death is a pre-destined event that cannot be altered. Meanwhile, events unravel involving a child, the mysterious River Song (Kingston) and a religious order known as The Silence…
With far less in the way of self-contained episodes, series six is the most arc-driven and serialised that Doctor Who has been since it regenerated back in 2005. Increasingly knotty and driven by over-arching threads, the second year for both star Matt Smith and showrunner Steven Moffat is reason to celebrate, even though it resulted in complaints from fans who think the show is now too complicated for kids to follow. While this is hard to argue with (it’s occasionally tricky for adults to follow – let alone youngsters), Moffat’s mystery-infused serialisation is a welcome change of pace, offering an ambitious antidote for those of us who felt the storytelling approach was too episodic and childish before.
Admittedly, it’s still silly at times and the internal space-time logic bends to the will of the plot whenever required. But as we’ve come to expect, the episodes penned by Moffat himself – particularly the tent-pole ones – are outstanding and hugely entertaining. Requiring cerebral acrobatics on a regular basis, his instalments are over-flowing with bold ideas and Moffat-y goodness, bursting at the seams with intriguing hooks, clever narrative flips and tantalising cliffhangers. Opening with the dizzying two-parter The Impossible Astronaut / Day Of The Moon, his jigsaw-puzzle plotting twists in unpredictable and often breathtaking ways, while the playful dialogue is frequently brilliant (“These are my top operatives: The Legs, The Nose and Mrs Robinson”).
Subsequently, most of the episodes not written by Moffat tend to feel like unimportant distractions by comparison. Some fans will argue that Doctor Who has always been about self-contained adventures, but during the majority of these you’re merely itching to get back to the ongoing, over-arching mystery – even if one or two of the standalones are worthwhile. Most praise has been directed at Neil Gaiman’s The Doctor’s Wife (which sees The TARDIS’ consciousness placed into Suranne Jones’ curvy body), but even better is the underrated The Girl Who Waited (which has Amy separated from the boys for 36 years).
But still, it’s the big questions which keep us coming back. Who’s that mysterious child? What about Eyepatch Lady? Who killed The Doctor? And where did he get that Stetson? At long last, we find out who River Song is, while Moffat uses her reverse-chronology relationship with The Doctor to engineer some great mind-bending twists (such as the tragic moment where she realises that the kiss they’ve just shared is his first, and therefore her last). Matt Smith is sublime again, and Karen Gillan gets some of her strongest material to date as Amy Pond, while Arthur Darvill’s Rory is fast becoming a great Who character in his own right, consistently nabbing many of the best lines (“Would you like me to repeat the question?”).
Undoubtedly, series six is the most serialised Doctor Who has been since it regenerated back in 2005. And while some fans have complained that it’s now too complicated for kids, the result is as ambitious, thrilling and enjoyable as Nu Who has been thus far.