MATT SMITH's under appreciated DOCTOR WHO stories - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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MATT SMITH's under appreciated DOCTOR WHO stories

Bryn Williams looks back at five stories from the Eleventh Doctor's era that he feels do not get as much love as they deserve.

Over the last few months I've been re-watching all of new-Who, thanks largely to the excellent complete series 1 to 7 Blu-ray box set. I've already given my case for some under appreciated David Tennant stories so it seemed logical to continue to look at the Matt Smith episodes that many people believe aren't up to scratch.

I'm definitely one of those people who can find something to love in every single episode of Doctor Who, I don't believe we've ever been presented with an out and out bad story, so I did some online research and spoke with several friends asking their opinion on which episodes they believed were the 'worst' from the Eleventh Doctor's time. Very quickly I had a short list of 5 that were regularly named. I set about watching all 44 Matt Smith episodes and found myself enjoying those five just as much as the ones that almost everyone seems to agree are classics; The Doctor's Wife, Vincent And The Doctor and The Girl Who Waited to name but three. There really always is many things to love about every episode, so let's start with the one that almost everyone said "avoid"...

The Rings Of Akhaten
"It's just painfully dull", that was one of the comments given for this series 7 story, and if you go into it looking for all out action then you likely will be disappointed. But if you're open to a bit of the less is more approach, and want a cleverly crafted science fiction adventure, then The Rings Of Akhaten is one of the finest Eleventh Doctor stories you could hope to watch.

As an episode that was really intended to introduce Clara to the infinite wonders of the universe, and introduce us more to this Clara, it succeeds in doing both and so much more. Matt Smith's epic speech easily rivals that from The Pandorica Opens, in fact his performance is one of his finest hours (well 44 minutes) in the character of the Doctor. If you look back a couple of seasons to The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood and compare the stories then you can see just how much Smith has grown into the role and he now truly is the Doctor.

The music throughout is stunning, Murray Gold at his finest, but mainly The Rings Of Akhaten is a real visual treat. It looks like the whole seasons budget, and then some, is right there in front of your eyes, it would be amazing to watch this at the cinema but if you've not seen it in hi-def from the Blu-ray then I urge you to correct that. If anyone ever thought that this quaint little British show couldn't compete with the visuals of the big American blockbusters then they'd have another think coming after watching The Rings of Akhaten.

The Doctor, The Widow And The Wardrobe
Many fans seem to have an ongoing problem with the Christmas episodes, always ranking them lowly and saying how disappointing they are. But the Christmas episodes need to be different because they are being broadcast to a very different audience. On Christmas Day it's not just us eager Whovians waiting to unwrap Steven Moffat's (or Russell T Davies') latest gifting, but a nation full of bloated turkey eaters, all looking for a relaxing way to end the day.

The Doctor, The Widow And The Wardrobe, or DoWiWa - that's what I'm calling it from now on - has a brilliant opening third. Matt Smith is playing for laughs, and I dare say if you'd had a drink or two with your Christmas Dinner then you might be laughing out loud. Has it drawn in the audience? Yes it has - job done.

But then the story starts to play out. The Narnia-esque planet is visually stunning, not on Akhatan scale but enough to recognise that this is a Christmas budgeted episode. Even the Grinchiest of person must be able to see where their licence fee has gone. Another regular gripe among fans involves stories featuring children in pivotal roles, in DoWiWa both Cyril and Lily are brilliant and do not come across as annoying brats one bit. Plus I found the idea of the life force of the forest to be quite a magical one, a true fantasy adventure for Christmas Day. Also I'm rather partial to the World War II setting, which brings me to...

Victory Of The Daleks
The argument against this story often features the words "tea serving Daleks" - I loved that scene. I've always been a fan of the Peter Cushing movies, I know I'm likely in a minority there, but Victory had quite a few parallels with the Doctor's original big screen adventures, with the Dalek serving refreshments just being one of them.

The new Dalek Paradigm was a complete nod to Dr Who & the Daleks, I love their colorful appearance and chunky design. Plus the 'tank' looking Ironside was very apt for the Second World War adventure, and the Union Jack it was sporting was the icing on the cake. It's actually quite unsettling watching them being 'nice', which added to the tension when their true nature was revealed.

For me, modern Doctor Who is often at it's best when revisiting periods of our history and adding a science fiction twist: the Empty Child/The Doctor Dances being a perfect example of this. I want to believe the Doctor was (quietly) involved in these events, helping out behind the scenes, fighting for the common man.

I think Victory Of The Daleks is Mark Gatiss' best script to date. It has it all; Spitfires in space, Winston Churchill, the Doctor using a Jammie Biscuit as a weapon and of course Daleks. It's a lot of fun, and deserves more love than it gets.

The Curse Of The Black Spot
It was only a matter of time before new-Who did a pirate episode, pirates are cool after all, but is The Curse Of the Black Spot the "jumbled mess" that I was told it was?

Well I'll put my hands up and admit that there are one or two continuity problems, but I believe that was largely down to editing as opposed to script. Outside of that 'Curse' goes between romp and horror and throws you off guard with drop-ins from the seasons story arc. I don't think it's a jumbled mess, but it does take a second viewing to truly appreciate the episode.

Lily Cole's transformation scene looked amazing, Rory Williams (no relation) dying (again) could have felt monotonous but I'd argue it was played out better in this episode than any other, then there was Hugh Bonneville as Avery - well of course he was amazing!

My initial idea for this article was to find things to love in these under appreciated stories, and whilst I will admit that The Curse Of The Black Spot would not sit in my top 10 Matt Smith stories, there is certainly enough to keep you entertained on repeated viewing.

The Time Of The Doctor
I just do not understand the negativity towards this episode at all. "Matt Smith deserved a better send off" was a quote given to me, but for me it was the perfect fitting finale for the Eleventh - I'm not sure how it could've been done better whilst still feeling like an Eleventh Doctor adventure. The story is magical, it's heartbreaking at times, and I'm not afraid to say I was tearing up whilst watching it. Even on repeated viewing it's moving.

I personally feel a lot of people compare it to the previous episode, The Day Of The Doctor, they go in expecting more of the same and because it's not they lambaste Steven Moffat and proclaim it amongst the worst episodes ever. I read a quote that said something like picking on this episode is a bit like bagging a cricketer for hitting a 4 when his previous score was a 6, and that's just how I feel.

But really though, what isn't to love about The Time Of The Doctor? Matt Smith was amazing, 'Handles', the wig, Sontarans in the snow, Wooden Cyberman, the referencing of the Seal of the High Council of Gallifrey taken from the Master, there are just so many many things all wrapped up in a super-sized festive treat. It was a thoroughly entertaining 60 minutes and if you can't find something to enjoy in it then I really have to feel very sorry for you.

Well that's my five under appreciated Doctor Who stories from the Eleventh Doctor era, I'd like to know if you agree with me, or if you like any of these stories too?
I plan on going back and looking at some stories from the 'classic' Doctor Who years next time so I'd also be interested in knowing which stories from the first 26 seasons you think are often under appreciated.

David Tennant's under appreciated Doctor Who stories

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