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Dr Who is back…

Last night was a HUGE night for sci-fi fans here, and across the world too, because the first episode of the new series of DR WHO, with a new Doctor, a new companion and a new TARDIS, was broadcast on BBC1. The build-up had been almost breathlessly intense, with new trailers, photos and audio clips appearing almost every day as the Big Day approached, and Who fans – or “Whovians” as we’re now called, apparently – spent all day yesterday looking at their watches and clocks, again and again, counting down the hours and then the minutes until the new series, and a new era, began.

We were all thinking the same things: what woyuld it be like? How the hell were they going to follow David Tennant’s Who era? How the hell was Matt Smith going to step into the shoes of The Greatest Doctor Of All Time? How was Karen Gillan going to step into the shoes of the beloved Companions Rose Tyler, Donna Noble and Martha Jones? (well, Martha is beloved by me, anyway!) How on Earth was new “showrunner”, Stephen Moffat, going to follow Russell T Davis’ triumphant revival of Who?

Would It Work?

At 6.20 yesterday evening the new series began. And by 6.25 I knew the answers to most of those questions. When the closing credits ran an hour later, I knew the answers to ALL those questions. And I felt like a child again.

Dr Who is back. And it’s wonderful.

Note: I’m not going to write anything here that might ruin the show’s surprises for any overseas readers, that would be cruel and would probably lead to death threats. Instead I’m just going to give my general impressions of last night’s episode.

The David Tennant/RTD era of Who will go down in Who and TV and sci-fi history as a glorious time, of that there’s no doubt. The acting of Tennant – and his fine supporting cast – combined with the writing of RTD made it a golden age. It was always going to be a very, very tough act to follow. But Stephen Moffat has pulled it off, and injected new life and new delight into Dr Who. Watching it was a treat, in every way.

Going through aspects of the new show one at a time, and in some rough kind of order…

The new titles are ok… very flash and SFXy… Not sure about the new title music tho, At All, it seems to have lost that essential Dr Who dum-dum-dum-dum, dum-dum-dum-dum rhythm and hook, but maybe it will grow on me. I hope so. It did seem kind of watered down, which is strange and odd as Dr Who’s composer Murray Gold usually goes for over the top, if anything… We’ll see what happens there.

The story was simply magical, a modern day fairytale that was charming and scary and heartbreaking and funny in turn. Of course, being a Stephen Moffat story, as was always the case with a Brannon Braga story in Star Trek, there was a lot of time travel trickery and confusion to deal with and get your head around, but it all held together beautifully. RTD was a master when it came to melodrama and sentimentality, he never knowingly left a heart string untugged, but Stephen Moffat’s writing, as is obvious in “Blink” and his other classics, is subtler and much more character driven, snappier and barer, which is a good thing, and was a GREAT thing last night. The story was gripping and the perfect introduction to the new Doctor, his new companion and new TARDIS…

And the new Companion, Amy Pond, is going to work really, really well. She’s definitely a modern girl – sassy, flirty and slightly smart-mouthed, with legs that seemingly go on forever and a mane of red hair that you can’t take your eyes from, but underneath all that there’s still very much an insecure little girl looking out at the world with huge, startled eyes. Karen Gillan, who plays Amy, is obviously embracing the character with both arms and is determined to have as much fun with it as possible; she shone on screen last night, she really did. And yes, that unfeasibly short police skirt was explained… but you’ll have to wait for that revelation yourself…! 🙂

The new TARDIS is simply breathtaking. It looks ENORMOUS inside now! With different levels, all connected by staircases and ramps, it looks, as Matt Smith put it so perfectly in the “Dr Who Confidential” which followed the opening episode, “like the best den ever!” If you haven’t seen the episode yet, or pictures of the new TARDIS interior, boy, are you in for a treat! Having said that, I’m sure some people will absolutely loathe and detest it with a lava-hot passion, just because it looks so modern. I hope they’ll warm to it; part of the appeal and success of Dr Who is that it regularly reinvents itself, the whole show regenerates just like the Doctor himself.

And then there’s the new Doctor, played by Matt Smith…

When his casting was announced I honestly thought “Oh, the poor, poor guy, how the hell is he going to follow David Tennant?!” It seemed an impossible task. Tennant’s Dr is every bit as iconic as Tom Baker’s Doctor, the previous “Best Doctor Ever”. More to the point, Tennant made Dr Who a global success in a way no previous actor had managed to do; his acting was so good, his performance so convincing, that legions of old fans fell in love with his Time Lord and legions of new fans flocked to his flag too. How, for pity’s sake, was an actor as young as Matt Smith, and as little known as Matt Smith, going to follow THAT?

Answer: easily. And effortlessly. And wonderfully.

Within ten minutes of those opening titles rolling last night, Matt Smith WAS the Doctor for me, it’s as simple as that. I’m not saying I’d forgotten David Tennant’s Doctor, far from it, but it was clear that Tennant’s Doctor’s time had passed and the “new guy” had nailed it. Halfway through the “introduction” scene, where the new Doctor emerged from the TARDIS, there was a moment when Matt Smith delivered a line with such conviction and such depth that I thought to myself “That’s the Doctor… that’s him… he’s perfect…” and from that moment Matt Smith’s Doctor ruled the universe like Tennant’s had before him, it was as simple as that.

The new Doctor might be as gangly, clumsy and ungainly as Bambi on that icy pond, but he’s also elegant in a strange kind of way. He can be a bit manic, yes, but there’s also a hint of darkness about him, a steely edge to his spine that says “Yes, I know, I look a bit like a nutter, but seriously, you don’t want to mess with me, or I’ll break your planet into bits and then pull your tentacles off and stuff them into your mouths…”

The new Doctor is charming but a little impatient, clearly not one to suffer fools gladly. He can’t do anything slowly, or subtly. He’s more street-wise than Tennant’s, more modern I’d say. I think he’s going to have a much shorter temper, too. We’ve already seen him hammering away at a Dalek with a cricket bat or something in a trailer, so I think he’s going to be, dare I say it, more violent than Tennant’s Doctor.

But if I had to think of one word that sums up the new Doctor it would be this: joy. Matt Smith portrays the Doctor as literally bursting at the scenes with joy, and watching the opening episode last night was a joy from start to finish.

There are great things ahead for this new Doctor, and Amy, I’m sure of that.

But the story last night… it was, seriously, a modern day fairytale. There were some scenes that had me literally shaking my head in admiration at Moffat’s writing skills, and others that had me hating him for being so damned brilliant. The editing was so crisp, too, that there was no fat on the story, no padding, which, truth be told, couldn’t always be said of RTD’s episodes. “The Eleventh Hour” felt more like a film than any episode of Who I’ve watched since… well, since “Blink” to be honest.

In the interest of balance and fairness, some things I didn’t like:

The special effects seemed a little below par. The alien spaceships and the “baddie” alien itself were a lot less convincing than FX I’ve seen on other episodes…

I know this will make me sound like a grumpy old man, but the music was far, FAR too loud in places. This is really becoming a problem with BBC shows now, I think, and it threatens to ruin some programs. There were whole sections of dialogue in last night’s episode drowned out by the soundtrack, which is unacceptable. Why does the BBC think it needs to batter its audiences audibly? Enough! We’re not all deaf out here, honest we’re not. Just cut it out, ok?

But that’s about all I can think of when it comes to gripes…

So, there we are. Dr Who is back, and after a period of being wonderfully gloomy, and angsty, and intense, it’s magical and bright and young again.


6 Responses

  1. I just finished watching the new episode myself (God bless the Brits who took the time to upload it to YouTube for all the Yank Whovians!), and I agree 100%!

    Within 5 minutes, I ADORED Matt Smith. Tennant will always be “my” Doctor in a very special way, but I think the Matt Smith years are going to be spectacular in their own way. He’s got a wonderful light in his eyes, and a fire in his gut–should be a rollicking good time! (Assuming, of course, that Moffat can handle guiding a whole series as well as he does individual episodes).

    The Doctor is BACK!!

  2. […] UPDATE: First episode of new series reviewed here: https://cumbriansky.wordpress.com/2010/04/04/dr-who-is-back/ Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)3 more wake ups to go…Dr Who is back…Guess […]

  3. Fanboy much? Sheesh. Within 10 minutes you forgot about Tennet? Really? Smith is OK, but he needs to make the character his own. He still seems a little Tennet-like right now. And the first 10 minutes of the show were not very good (not to give away anything, but the food scene, for example, was rather stupid). I have a feeling that Smith will be a good Dr Who, but give him time. One show does not make a Dr Who.

    • Fanboy much? Oh yes! Guilty as charged. (and that would be ‘Tennant’, right?) I thought the food scene was hilarious; the last series of Who was very, very dark in places, some light relief was long overdue.

  4. I agree about the music – my duff old ears could not make out a lot of the dialogue.

  5. I agree with Phoenixpics in every way, the food scene was so funny I had to watch it again: “fish custard” was such a funny line, delieved so well.
    And yes, within 10 mins I was hooked and I did think “here’s the new doctor”.
    I loved Tennant (and not just as a doctor, I want to have his babies) but I think there is a time for everything and it’s time to move on to newer, brighter and dare I say younger things…
    I think Smith will do a fab job, and I loo forward to more episodes

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