New Who – a few opinions

Published On April 6, 2010 | By | Film TV & Theatre, Reviews

Matthew had the cunning idea of several of us throwing in our tuppence worth on the eagerly anticipated return of Doctor Who to our screens, with not just a new season but a new companion, a new TARDIS, new show runner and, of course, a brand new, freshly regenerated Doctor, always a major moment in the more than four decades history of the series. We’re not going into huge depth, but here are the initial reactions from Matthew, Richard, Neill Cameron, Gareth Kavanagh and myself to the first episode which went out in the UK last night and which the Beeb is reporting drew more than eight million viewers (which will rise when they take on demand catch up viewing into account).

(Matt Smith and Karen Gillan in the Eleventh Hour, the first episode of the new Doctor Who series, (c) BBC)

Richard: You want to know the best thing about the new Doctor Who? Molly sat down to watch it and was almost completely silent throughout – occasional gasps and a sly smile on her face that got bigger and bigger as the hour went on. And at the end she was jumping up and down describing it as “Cool, utterly fantastic, really funny, fab, and I think he’s got the potential to be a great doctor”.

More than that though – seeing her face when it finished, I think Matt Smith has the potential to not just be a great doctor, but to be “her” doctor. We didn’t think that would happen, we thought Molly’s love for Tennant might slightly spoil what she thought about the new guy. But no, not a bit of it. She loved it. And so did we.

Well I didn’t like the new music, or the new titles or the new logo but after that everything was very, very good indeed.

I’ve liked Matt Smith as The Doctor since I first saw him – suitably strange looking, and I had hoped we’d be spared from any of those lingering, loving glances from companions this time round. Or maybe not. Damn. We shall see.

That it was a cracking episode, with a great plot full of great moments, funny, spooky and exciting isn’t too surprising since Moffat always wrote the best episodes anyway. He even managed to do a little sentimental stuff with Amelia waiting for her raggedy Doctor to come back. It all worked here at Bruton Mansions; there was laughter, there was tension, there were excited gasps and there were a few shrieks of terror as well. There’s no room behind our sofa, so Molly took to hiding behind the coffee table instead.

A few troublesome moments; the “look at me I’m scary” bit, Smith being a little too Tenant-y at times and the attraction between Doc and Amy. But more than made up for by the moments of wonder – the whole imaginary friend thing and the closing shots of little Amelia world was wonderful.

All in all, pretty marvellous stuff: In Moffat we trusted and I think we’re going to be alright. But, just like the RTD era, the beginning is easy, it’s making it all work in the end when it’s all been built up to a huge series ender that’s the really difficult thing. Fingers crossed. (But please, please make him stop saying “Geronimo” – that’s going to get annoying really quickly.)

Neill Cameron has decided to share his view on the new Who via the medium of the chronologically sequenced capture of moments in art (or comics, as Earth people call them) and I think he’s spot on:

(Neill Cameron’s inner child drawn out instantly by that distinctive them tune that’s hardwired into generations of British kids, both the actual young ‘uns and the big kids like us, (c) Neill Cameron)

Matthew: I’m going to start this review by mentioning the one thing I didn’t like about Saturday’s episode of Doctor Who:

SPOILERS!

Feckin’ spoilers everywhere.

‘We’ve got the first 35 seconds (or two minutes or two hours or two decades or something worth) of the new series of Doctor Who!’ exclaimed Bleeding Cool the other day. (Can a website exclaim anything? No, not really.)

Did I succumb to temptation and watch the clip?

Did I (insert your own expletive of choice; I recommend one that rhymes with duck)!!!!

Unfortunately, I couldn’t avoid all spoilers and two in particular did manage to slightly impair my enjoyment of The Eleventh Hour, the first episode of the new series of Doctor Who.

Despite that, I’m happy to say that I still had the time of my life watching what I now consider to be one of the best episodes of Doctor Who ever broadcast.

Anyway, if you haven’t watched it yet, I want you to stop reading here because…

HERE (POTENTIALLY) BE SPOILERS.

Right, now here, for the rest of you, are…

Oy, you at the back. With the specs. Yes, you…

I know you haven’t watched it yet!

Frack off.

Sorry.

Here, for the rest of you, are eleven reasons why I loved The Eleventh Hour. (Did you see what I did there? Oh, you did and you don’t think that it was very clever. Well, bloody sod you then.)

1) The Doctor – Let’s face it, if people don’t like the Doctor, then it doesn’t matter how good the scripts and the production values are, the programme is fracked. I loved Smith. He seemed a bit wobbly at first, in the scene where he climbs out of the Tardis using a grappling hook. But then, as soon as he started spitting beans and yoghurt, and throwing plates, and really interacting with young Amelia, he soared. And then just got better and better and better as the episode went on. I was, quite frankly, amazed at the apparent confidence with which he inhabited the part and by the time we got to the ‘Hello, I’m the Doctor And basically…run…’ sequence, I was well on my way to being convinced that Smith could easily become one of the best Doctors ever.

2) The dialogue – Steven Moffat’s script had some fantastically Douglas Adams-like witticisms in it and great patter between the characters. Smashing stuff.

3) Amy Pond – I loved the idea of the Doctor as Amy’s ‘imaginary friend’. And I also loved Karen Gillan’s portrayal of Amy, who I think will be a capable and, perhaps more importantly, likeable companion. But I most enjoyed the moment when she stepped into the Tardis. The look of wonder on her face as she took in the console room was just perfect.

4) The fact that the episode made the old and familiar new again – We know that the Doctor is often not at his best post-regeneration. Usually that means some physical incapacity and general weirdness, which we got, but it hasn’t before meant spitting out apples, beans, bacon and yoghurt, before finally chowing down on fish fingers and custard. Inspired!

5) The Tardis – Wow. Just, wow!

6) The pace – Never. Let. Up. (And that was a good thing.)

7) Amelia Pond – I could have totally gone with the younger version of Amy Pond as the Doctor’s companion and I hope we see her again.

8) The design – I’ve already mentioned the Tardis, but what about those eyeballs? They simultaneously had me thinking of the Twilight Zone and Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol. Cracking!

9) The opening and theme – I like ’em. Everyone else hates ’em (as far as I can tell). Which is good. Because when you’re a Doctor Who fan, you’ve got to be at odds with the rest of the world about something… so yah, boo, sucks to you, you’re all wrong.

10) The Ten Doctors – You know the bit I’m talking about. The audience I was watching the episode with (in a specially organised screening at a pub) gasped at that point. A nice little present to the fans that didn’t distract, and therefore detract, from the episode’s main narrative. Cheers, Steven.

11) Wibbly wobbly, timey wimey – ‘Why did you say five minutes?’

Anyway, that’s my take on the latest Who. The bar’s been set pretty high by this first episode, but I’m confident that Steven and his creative cohorts can rise to the challenge. I’m going to be watching for the next twelve weeks and even if you’re not normally a fan of the programme, I think you should too.

Because if The Eleventh Hour is anything to go by, this new series is going to be something pretty special…

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Hgl8Vrszzc

Gareth: Whoa!

I’d say, we’re in for a treat if this first hour of NuNuWho is anything to go by. Fast, zippy, exciting, witty – everything you’d want from teatime tv and more happening than the average blockbuster. And that’s just the entree.

Admission time. I traditionally hate regeneration new Doctor stories as the convention that the Doctor is either incapacitated, amnesiac or both makes for pretty tedious telly. So the fact I really enjoyed this makes it even better. Amazingly, it manages to feel old yet new. Confident and brash, yet reassuring with all those nods to the past and revisting of the themes of hero worship, unrequited love and raging against the stifling mundaneness of life. And we’ve got a great Doctor in store here to boot. Witty, cheeky, worldly, a bit of a show off and yet not Tennant either. Quite a conjuring trick.

Best of all though, is Karen Gillen’s Amy Pond, with all those delicious riffs of Madame du Pompadour and then, in a great final twist whisked away the night before her wedding.

I predict tears before bedtime, and I can’t wait.

(the Doctor first meets Amy, as a child)

Joe: Okay, niggling points out the way first – like Richard I was not bowled over by the new opening sequence. What’s with the cloud tunnel? Gives more of an impression of a fall through a twister than through time and space (more Wizard of Oz than Doctor Who to my eyes). And I’m still unconvinced on that police-box shaped icon.

But niggles out of the way and I have to say I loved it. Neill’s strip is bang on the money, the show still does what it has always done for me and a lot of others, it has me sitting there like the kid who first watched the series years ago (those readers outside of the UK need to bear in mind generations of us have grown up with this show, it is imprinted into us, so we have both new show and nostalgia combined when a new Doc comes along). I really liked the set up for the Doctor first meeting Amy as a wide-eyed young girl, accepting of sudden marvels in the way that only a child can be, then the adult Amy, encountered years later by her timescale but only minutes for the Doctor’s, a young woman who’s had counselling because of her tales as a child of the ‘raggedy Doctor’ and his magic box dismissed as over indulgence in fantasy by adults around her.

I thought this was a marvellous touch – it played on that childish desire for magical adventures, be it through a wardrobe into Narnia, or down a rabbit hole to Wonderland and it spoke directly to that part of you that remains the eternal child, the child who remembered passing old police boxes in the city when very young and knowing that they weren’t really TARDISes but wishing oh so hard that maybe, just maybe, one of them might be… And that’s something Moffat and Co have obviously recognised – we are, after all, seeing the show now made by people who, like us, grew up on it, so they understand it appeals to us like this. We know it is fiction, but the eternal five year old in us wants to believe in the magic and the wonder and delight and for an hour that’s what they gave us. Yes, it was a bit silly sometimes, yes there was the trademark let’s run around very fast and to be honest the alien ships weren’t very good, but overallĀ  it was a blast, there was nice chemistry between Smith and Karen Gillan (I enjoyed her expression as she eyed up the Doctor getting changed, here’s a woman who know what she likes and isn’t backwards about coming forwards, I think). And there were a few nice nods to previous years of Who history, such as the Doctor seeking out a new outfit from clothes scavenged from a hospital changing room (very Jon Pertwee Spearhead from Space) and the meeting as a girl then again as grown woman recalls the brilliant Girl in the Fireplace episode. The trailer for the rest of the season had me as excited a kid and gagging to see the rest. Terrific stuff.

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One Response to New Who – a few opinions

  1. It was very Tennanty, in terms of the rhythm of the dialogue, etc. There’s always some friction in transition, though, metatext metatext.

    I could’ve done without the trailer at the end, I think, and the new titles are going to take some getting used to, but I just plain cannae wait for next Saturday, now.

    The humour was a bit more ribald than before, wasn’t it? Old Jeff and his Left-Handed Websites? Naughty Nuns? I thought Wilf was a bit near the knuckle with his “naughty webcam.”

    I shall refrain from commenting on Miss Gillan’s performance except to say that all milliners, habedashers, hatmakers and doo-ragamuffins should be shot. Or possibly EX-TER-MINAT-ED. And that she was awesome. Likewise Annette Crosbie as The Only Other Scot In The Village.

    So, yeah. Here we bally well go.

    //Oo/\