Not wanting to wait for two weeks to see the new Doctor Who episode, I flew to England on Saturday, got a hotel room, watched it, and then flew back. What did I think? Oh yes I liked it. For specifics, see below, but be warned.
If you don’t like change then run. Run fast and don’t look behind you. New producer. New Doctor. New companion. New logo. New titles. New theme. New TARDIS. New sonic screwdriver. A line is being drawn, make no mistake.
Which is great, because that’s what the show has always been about. It’s usually incremental: change the Doctor, keep the companion; change the companion, keep the Doctor; keep everyone, change the TARDIS. Doing it this way is more extreme than usual but hey, we’re grownups, we can deal with it.
One thing that hasn’t changed is that, in this new series, the first story of the season is usually a little weak, story-wise. More often than not a lot has to be squeezed into the proceedings, since we’re introducing a new companion or a new Doctor, or, in this case, both. And, as in previous season-opener stories, this is fine because it’s those introductions we’re there for, not the monster of the week.
In this case the introductions are also paramount because of how wary a lot of people were about Matt Smith. Taking over for a phenomenally popular actor is no easy feat, and coupled with the fact that Matt was a virtual unknown, that he’s not what people were expecting, that he looks a bit…odd…a lot of folks were revving up their disappointment engines (for my part, I know how skeptical I was of Tennant and how that turned out, so I trusted the folks in charge and kept an open mind.) Smith totally nailed it, making the role his own in no time at all. His Doctor is not Tennant’s Doctor. He seems even more anarchic and unpredictable.
His first scenes are with the young Amelia Pond, and those scenes are incredible. Little Amelia is played by Caitlin Blackwood, in what seems to be her first TV role, and she is a treasure. Amelia is mature beyond her years and the Doctor is immature beyond his and in this leveling they compliment each other perfectly. I could easily watch an entire season of these two working together.
However, Little Amelia grows up.
Growed-up Amy Pond is the next person we meet, and she is also excellent. There was a lot of talk about her police uniform when photos first showed up of her in it, and the gag that is pulled as a result is one of the series’ finest. But beyond being a hottie redhead just for the sake of “the dads”, there seems to be something else going on. We’ve seen companions with crushes on the Doctor (boy, have we) but I don’t think this is a crush. We’ll see.
As for the rest of it, well, as I said, the plot itself isn’t anything to speak of (it’s a lot of ‘Smith and Jones’ only with the Space Rhinos On the Moooooooon! played by some hopelessly inept flying eyeballs.) The solution to the Prisoner Zero problem seems both over-complicated and under-thought, and while there may be some debate on what the best Steven Moffat episode is, there won’t be much argument on the worst, at least as far as plot is concerned (let’s face it, he set the bar high himself). Still, while the big story is nothing special the smaller story, the story of Little Amelia Pond, is quite special, and earns high marks.
In case all the change is frightening, there’s a lovely bit as well where we see the previous Doctors — all of them — that ties everything together. Apart from Sarah Jane’s reappearance, it’s the largest nod to the original series we’ve had.
Everything is different now, but it already feels comfortable. And my love for and excitement about the show hasn’t changed. Let’s go!