When the BBC announced five years or more ago that they would be remounting the classic Doctor Who series, I was both thrilled and scared. I was raised on British television, and Doctor Who was always my favourite. While it has its ups and downs, I longed to be the Doctor (never the companion – for some reason I could never relate to them), flying about the galaxy for danger and adventure. When I found out that Christopher Eccelston would be playing the Doctor for at least the first season, I knew at least we would be getting a stellar performance. Eccelston is one of the finest actors of his generation. And certainly from him I was not disappointed. Although I am not quite that raging Rose Tyler fan that everyone else seems to be, I liked her well enough and enjoyed the first season immensely.
When David Tennant came on board (whom I admit I had not heard of before), the first episode had me completely on side. I loved Eccelston’s Doctor, but I also loved Tennant’s. A bit more eccentric, a lot more fun, he raced through like a teenager on Ritalin and blazed a fiery trail. But something happened: perhaps because he burned so bright at the beginning, he burnt out too fast. That being said, there were some great episodes in his last season, such as Midnight. But I began to tire of Tennant, and of executive producer Russell T. Davies. The last few stand-alone episodes were pretty bad overall, and what kept coming through Tennant’s Doctor was a massive ego; I don’t know if this was just Tennant or how the character was written, but if he said “I’m sorry” to someone one more time I would have kicked in my television. Yes, you are a time-lord and yes you know everything about everything, but have a little humility, please. Also, the goofiness was going too far. Tom Baker could pull it off; Tennant could not. The last special was particularly horrible, and the last ten minutes were pretty much Davies’ wank-fest to himself. Yes, you revived the series, great. Let’s move on shall we?
And move on we have. Steven Moffat wrote a few of my favourite episodes of the first four seasons (not the least among them Blink, the best DW episode so far, starring the now famous Carey Mulligan), so I was looking forward to his intelligent and subtle writing. But then of course there was going to be a new Doctor. Matt Smith was not only unknown to me, but pretty much unknown to anyone outside those who frequent London theatre. So ill in bed two weeks ago, I waited with bated breath until finally I could download the first episode onto my computer.
And you know what? It rocks. The first episode was not so big a story that we couldn’t get to know the new doctor and the new companion, but not so small that I wasn’t a little breathless and scared at times. (Seriously, anyone putting twins in anything since The Shining knows how to scare). The second episode was just as good; and if that’s the future Queen of England, I’ll certainly be applying for citizenship when I move to London in the fall. And the third episode was okay, but if I could send one message to Moffat it would be: enough with the bloody Daleks! I feel like they’re the go-to episode when the well runs dry. We get it, they’re evil, let’s move on to newer evils shall we? But again, great guest cast of Bill Paterson and Ian McNeice (and yes, Moffat did not write this one, but he is executive producer. Buck stops with him).
But the best part of the new series is indeed Matt Smith. He is more than just a breath of fresh air. He had me after just five minutes on screen. His doctor is not egotistical, or trying so hard to be the coolest, smartest, most all-around incredible time-lord that every lived. He’s just himself. Yes he’s smart but he doesn’t show off; yes he’s a nerd, but not a geek; and most of all he is effortless. The more I think of Tennant’s Doctor, the more of think of the ball and chain he proverbially would carry for all to see. Smith’s Doctor is who he is; there is no age in him, as time seems to be no longer a linear construct (more like the wibbly-wobbly ball that it is). If things do not go as planned, if he has to sacrifice a larger future battle for a smaller present one, he deals with it. He gets angry, but with good reason, and he doesn’t carry the fires of Gallifray around with him. When his alienness separates him from his companion, he doesn’t use it as a tool, it’s just the way it is. Some have accused Smith’s Doctor of being too laid-back; I just think he isn’t trying so damn hard. And that is what is making Smith fantastic. I still am not sure about the new companion; Karen Gillan seems all right, but Amy Pond might be a little too close to Rose Tyler for my taste (then again, the character did work as a kissogram, which adds a nice naughty touch to the character.) But I have high hopes that this will be one of the best seasons yet.
And as a friend of mine said to me after the second episode – David who?