Sunday, 4 April 2010
Trust Him. He's The Doctor.
Matt Smith's debut as The Doctor has now aired in the UK.
And I gotta say...it was brilliant!
Steven Moffat's rejuvenated Who is (pardon the pun) just what The Doctor ordered. The tone is indeed like Moffat’s promised dark fairytale - especially the first ten minutes or so of this Moffat written story titled The Eleventh Hour. This episode charts the first and then second meeting between the new Doctor and his new companion Amy Pond. And this meeting is quite special, clever and touching.
So, most importantly, how is our new Doctor?
Being still in the grip of his regeneration cycle Smith's Doctor is rather confused, manic, and still a bit Tennant-y in his ways. But as the episode goes on he slowly becomes more of his own man. Eccentric in a young-yet-old professor-ish way, he is also effortlessly witty, a bit goofy, a bit reckless and quite a lot charming. Smith's Doctor makes an instantly great impression. The food tasting scene with the little girl in the kitchen is simply brilliant. “Fish Custard.” LOL. You can see why Smith leapt out at Moffat and co. during auditions. He genuinely does have an odd, otherworldly quality to him. And as new companion Amy Pond, Karen Gillan is very good too. In this episode she is all (lovely) legs, fiery red hair and cynical attitude. She’s a bit messed up, a bit of a bad girl and doesn’t really trust The Doctor and isn’t afraid to give him what for. She is also very, very easy on the eye. Amy and The Doctor should prove for an interesting and fiery dynamic with their relationship having been set up in a very cool and intriguing way.
And the story? It’s fine. It does the job. An escaped intergalactic shape-shifting alien prisoner is hiding out on Earth while the Prison Guards (giant flying eyeballs) arrive to give the world only twenty minutes to hand the prisoner over before they destroy the whole planet. As a story it’s not as good as what Mr Moffat has given us before (we’ve been spoiled) and he uses it mostly as a hanger for introducing the new Doctor and the new feel to the series as well as reminding us of its mythical heritage. And in that way it works spot on. But Moffat still manages to do what he always does so brilliantly. He layers his script with smart precision plotting and intensely creative ideas while also inventing scary images and creepy concepts based around things an audience (especially kids) can relate to as being odd and kinda disturbing at a very basic level. At night a big crack in the wall of a child’s bedroom becomes sinister and so very creepy with whispered voices leaking out. A bleak phrase is repeated over and over through every piece of electronic communications equipment everywhere. Extra rooms in a house seem to appear but are only visible glimpsed through the corner of the eye. An alien changes itself to appear as regular people but gets it a bit wrong, appearing as a mother walking hand in hand with twin little girls, except the children speak with the mothers voice and vice versa. And it also appears as a man walking a dog, but the man barks and growls, not the dog. Weird and properly creepy. And Moffat being Moffat he also laces his script with some great quips and one liners. “You’re Scottish. Fry something!” The direction of the episode is excellent too. There are two stand out moments: a glimpse in to The Doctors mind as he recalls an event that has just occurred, looking for a clue in his own memory. Then, later on, glimpses of all past ten Doctors ending with the heroic emergence of Doctor number eleven to confront the bad guys. Also, the first ten or so minutes of the Doctor crashing the TARDIS and meeting a little girl left alone in her house and scared by the sinister crack in her wall is just all-round superlative. A very special shout out goes to young Caitlin Blackwood who plays said little girl. She is wonderful and does a quite brilliant job opposite Matt Smith.
As well as a regenerated Doctor, the rest of the show has had a ground up regeneration too. There’s a new title sequence with a dark and scary time tunnel complete with lightening bolts striking the TARDIS. And there’s a new, more electronic and choral version of the iconic theme. The TARDIS has also regenerated after being almost wrecked at the episode’s start. It looks newer and brighter outside while inside the console room is twice as big and on multiple levels with curved and odd-angled walls and with stairs going off in many directions. It looks weird and very, very cool.
So colour me impressed. I could tell within the first ten minutes that I loved this new take on our favourite Timelord, it being much closer to my own personal tastes than that of RTD’s version. Not to take anything away from the awesome job Russell T did, but I just love the whole dark fairytale vibe, the more sinister-yet-playful feel. And I can see a whole new generation of kids properly hiding behind their couch come Saturday evenings as a result. And their parents might just be joining them.
So bring it on. And like the man says: “Trust me. I’m the Doctor.”
Indeed you are, sir.