LizR wrote:SPOILERS...(of course)
I've only watched a few episodes of New Who more than once. Most of those were in Series One, which I found reasonable, if flawed. I was hoping the subsequent series' would be vast improvements, but that didn't happen - RTD not only seemed to go onto autopilot, having presumably shot his bolt with the political satire in AOL/WW3, the satire of consumerism in TLG and BW, a few barbs at plastic surgery (!) in TEOTW, and his "doconstruction" of the whole idea of the Doctor turning up and saving people. IMHO he had more or less run out of ideas by series two, apart from a poke at fandom in LAM, he didn't really have anywhere else to go, except to do pastiches. But unfortunately by this point everyone had told him he was a genius, and even more unfortunately he believed them. So he was trapped in a time loop, more or less repeating the same things over and over...
....until now. Finally, we have a new Whomeister. The series has broken out of the loop. And what is the result...?
Let's start with Matt Smith. There have been doubts aplenty. Too young, too unknown, too not very good in "Moses Jones" (IMHO) (and apparently also underwhelming in "Ruby in the Smoke"). But I was hopeful, because I didn't think Moffat would have cast him unless he was good. Moffat has said he wanted an older actor, so MS came as a susprise - but this was also grounds for hope, because it suggested that Moffat thought Smith was very good indeed.
And he is.
He makes Ecclestone look too dour, although I thought Eccles was very good, but mainly he makes David Tennant look like an actor. When you see DT "out of character" he seems like a real person - but as the Doctor, he seemed like someone who was putting on a silly voice and silly mannerisms and over-acting furiously (IMHO of course). Not to disrespect him, he worked wonders with some truly ghastly material at times, but compared to Smith he looked - how can I put this? - awkward. Smith is
awkward, odd, gangly, eccentric - he looks, to me, like he is the Doctor. He just doesn't seem to be acting. Well, except occasionally, when he comes across a bit too much like Tennant.
And he can do comedy!
"Dr Who" has always been full of comedy, presumably because it's completely ridiculous (if you stop to think about it) and some of the writers also did comedy anyway (e.g. Terry Nation) and it was always satirical, well at least until the 80s, with social comments woven into the stories, and....it just is, all right? But comedy isn't as easy at it looks (like most things that look easy), and Matt Smith is utterly fantastic at it - as is Karen G for that matter. The script was filled with delightful one-liners, as well as the odd bit of physical comedy (including Smith running like a drunk giraffe, NOW I can see what Moffat meant by that!).
The kids shrieked with laughter in places, then hid behind their fingers moments later. We were transported from comedy to fear to tragedy within seconds, and it worked
. We didn't need the music laid on with a trowel to tell us when to emote (which it was in places, although actually I managed to hear most of the dialogue, so it wasn't too bad).
Karen Gillan is also wonderful. She has a backstory that is shown, not told
for the most part - no "stop the action while I recount the important events of my life" scenes from Moffat! The simple pan across her pictures and Doctor dolls and onto her wedding dress was heart-wrenching, her simple comments about not having parents but only a (wicked?) aunt likewise, sitting on her case waiting for the Doctor to come back - excuse me while I well up. That's how you tell a story, by not telling it! It's a Zen thing, and Moffat has it in spades.
The script also sparkles with wit and humour. The alien sub-plot is a bit thin, but that's to be expected. We had the (yawn) Earth in peril, again. The Atraxi seem particularly thick as aliens go, missing a sonic screwdriver sticking up like a sore thumb, willing to blow up the world to get hold of one prisoner. In a way I'd have preferred it if the Doctor had helped Prisoner Zero escape, because it looked as though the jailers were pretty bad too. But thats minor, minor...what else? I have to go and play Cluedo with the kids in a minute, so just the main points here....
OK, what is there to not like? Hmm.......I could have done without "Hello, I'm the Doctor - basically, run!" Too Oncoming Storm, but at least it was shown
, not told - instead of a pompous speech, we got to see just WHY aliens might think twice about invading Earth, and a shout-out to Doctors past, too. Plus the whole hospital and clothes business was I assume intended as a shout-out to "Spearhead", and very nice it was too.
OK, now I don't want to be a Cassandra but Moffat may only have a certain number of tricks up his sleeve. Brilliantly though they were used this time around, the whole Amy thing is a retread of the (rather awful IMHO) "Girl in the Fireplace" trope. The hospital and coma patients is reminiscent of "Empty Child" (but a lot more reminiscent of "The Seven Crystal Balls" - and Moffat was writing Tintin before, so that looks just a teensy bit nicked). In fact the whole coma business was rather odd, why did they call for the Doctor, why didn't the senior doctor believe the nurse EVEN AFTER SHE HEARD THE PATIENTS CALLING OUT? - what was Prisoner Zero doing going for walks in the village, anyway? How come only the nurse saw him/her/it? Hm.
OK, one more - how come a tiny village - the nearest city is half an hour by car, apaprently, the only shop is one post office - has a hospital with several coma victims? (And how does Amy run her kissogram business, come to that?)
But "No TARDIS - no screwdriver - 18 minutes to save the world - think, think!" is just so what I've been waiting to hear for 5 years. And the plot resolution was
pretty clever, too, even if it does rely a bit on the Atraxi being thick as mollasses.
And what about Amy in the TARDIS, was that an Ian and Barbara moment or what? Nice to see some sheer astonishment, plus she still
has the nous to get the Doctor to admit that he isn't doing her a favour but actually needs companionship.
But! I've only watched a few episodes of new Who twice, most fell apart half way through the first
viewing - we would be talking wild horses for a second go. This one I watched twice, once before going to bed last night and again this morning, and I was looking forward to
the second viewing. And I could probably manage a third quite happily, it was that good. And so many one liners, many of which would make great sigs, like "Box falls out of sky, man falls out of box, man eats fish custard."
Which means, with profound apologies to chap with wings
(and I really do feel a bit guilty about saying this, but at least we agree on "Jonathan Creek" !) . . .
. . . . that it was "Faaaan---tastic!"
I'd say 9/10 (because the alien bit could have been firmed up a bit more).
Let's hope the rest is this good, or preferably even better.