Crossing timelines: Revisiting the Sixth Season of Doctor Who

Watching “A Good Man Goes to War” led me to re-watching “The Wedding of River Song“, and of course that led back to “The Impossible Astronaut” and the start of Season 6. So it’s out of order — so what? It’s a show about a time-traveling big blue police box. Watching it doesn’t have to be linear.

I think Season Six is my favorite season, and Matt Smith is my favorite Doctor. They’ve all been great but Smith’s Eleven is the one whose Doctor seems to be having the most fun. Eccleston‘s Nine is haunted and gloomy, and Tennant‘s Ten is much too the wounded bird. I like Capaldi‘s Twelve but let’s face it — Clara Oswald drags him down, down, down the rankings. Not his fault but you can’t really separate a Doctor from his/her companions. Whittaker’s Thirteen is sharp, too, but just sometimes feels like she’s trying too hard, or rather the writers are — and Chibnall simply doesn’t have it together as much as Moffat (and let’s face it, Moffat was madly juggling plates thrown in the air by Davies).

But Smith is having fun, and his Doctor is having fun, and Steve Moffat is beyond doubt having fun — he’s the showrunner/writer who most gets that this is a show about time travel and it doesn’t have to make sense but it all has to hang together (if you know want I mean).  Sure, a lot of the plot of “The Impossible Astronaut” / “Day of the Moon” doesn’t quite hold up and the motives and actions of both the aliens and the humans are slightly askew.  But some of the plot holes (like, why does the Silence keep letting Amy escape) turn out later in the season not to have been plot holes at all.  And the romance between the Doctor and River Song is, quite literally, one for the ages. (I know, I know, it’s a broken base issue but I like it.)

I have to admit, though, that the coolest bit of “The Impossible Astronaut” / “Day of the Moon” — cooler even than the Moon landing or its use within the show — is, without a doubt, Canton Everett Delaware III. Alright, the name could’ve used a tweak, but the character is played by Mark Shepard and that pays for all. Mark Shepard is the link among dozens if not hundreds of sci-fi and genre shows, and he’s always something to watch — from Badger on Firefly to Jim Stirling (like the machine gun, not the engine) on Leverage. Heck, I’d probably watch Mark Shepard read the phone book.

Actually, let me amend. Mark Shepard is the second-coolest bit. The coolest bit — and this runs throughout the whole season — is the score. Murray Gold hits it out of the park and into orbit. It’s extraordinarily listenable and memorable, even divorced from the particular episodes. Not many original scores can achieve that. Once you know the soundtrack, watching the episodes is even richer. In the moment, the score is subtle (usually), hovering in the background. But at the crucial times it soars, and Gold captures in audio exactly what adventuring with the Doctor would be.

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