Monday, April 19, 2010

Doctor Who Was David Tennant Again?

Okay okay, Matt Smith hasn't achieved that level yet (and never will in the eyes of some fans), but the kid had some massive shoes to fill, and this weekend he at least showed that he knows how to tie a bow.

By the way, I'm going to be recapping these episodes regularly (he said, as FlashForward cries in the corner), and I'll be delving into spoilers, so if you haven't seen the episodes yet, this is your warning.

So when last we left, the Tenth Doctor (the dreamy David Tennant) had saved the world from The Master, the Time Lords, and the return of Gallifrey (home planet of the Time Lords) and all the horrors of the Time War. Then he took a lethal dose of radiation in order to save a simpleton (as he railed against his own nature, knowing that he couldn't let the man die), then got to go on a fanservice field trip (and I mean it in the kindest way possible; it really was a nice coda to his run on the series), followed by regeneration in the TARDIS. The final episode of the Tennant run is worth watching if you missed it, just for his heartwrenching delivery of his last line, "I'm not ready to go". Then up pops young Matt Smith, the Eleventh Doctor.

The opening of the episode is very slapstick, but there's just something earnest in Smith that makes it not only tolerable, but highly enjoyable. Going through his inventory (legs, ears, quite a chin) was fun, as was his "I'm a girl!" when checking out the hair (and that is quite a mop on him). Still not a ginger, however. For whatever reason, his violent regeneration has fucked up the TARDIS, but good, and so he is spiraling out of control at the end of "The End of Time". Tonight's premiere, "The Eleventh Hour", has him clinging to the doorway of the TARDIS as it spins around through the London skyline, finally hauling himself in just in time to crash land in a little girl's backyard.

This little girl, Amelia Pond, has a crack in her wall, and sometimes she can hear the wind coming through it. She wishes for help, and it arrives...and smashes her shed all to hell. The scene where the Doctor climbs out of the TARDIS via grappling hook sells the immense inside of the craft (plus the swimming pool bit was an inspired bit of physical comedy). All the Doctor can think about, however, is needing an apple. Then, in a scene which is sure to be divisive, we flash through a montage of the new Doctor testing out his new body by trying to decide what he wants to eat, involving a lot of shots of him spitting out food. I loved the line "You're Scottish...fry something". He settles on fish fingers and a massive bowl of custard, and young Amelia tells him about her crack. Turns out that it's a crack to an interdimension prison, and Prisoner Zero has escaped. The Doctor runs to the TARDIS and tells Amelia to pack, he'll be back in five minutes. When he comes back, six months have passed, Amelia is gone, and he gets knocked out by a policewoman wielding a cricket bat. Okay, not a policewoman, she's a Kiss-o-gram. Oh, and it's been more than 6 months, it's been twelve years. Oh, and it's Amelia all grown up. Oh, and she's hot. Yeah, I'm shallow like that.

So Prisoner Zero is out, and scary looking, and the aliens that had him imprisoned want him back or dead badly enough to lock the Earth in a forcefield and broadcast that they are going to flash fry the planet unless they get him back, which gives our new Doctor around twenty minutes to save the planet, and his TARDIS is out of commission for repairs. No sweat, right? The Prisoner is also somehow able to take the form of nearby coma patients, making it harder to find. Luckily, Amelia's nurse boyfriend has been taking photos of the patients, in order to prove to his boss that he's really seen them walking around. The Doctor hacks his way into a global chat session of all the geniuses of the world. This part threw me a little, since I thought the Doctor was pretty well known by now, at least by several important people (and, you know, Torchwood), so having to toss out the answers to several scientific mysteries in order to prove his bona fides seemed unnecessary (plus will the ramifications of those revelations be addressed?).

All of this leads to the showdown: The good Doctor has managed to write and distribute (with the help of the chat room genii) a virus that will set all of the world's electronic devices to read 0, a signal for the aliens. The phone also contains all of the guises that Prisoner Zero has been able to take the form of, allowing the alien cops to find and recapture it. Ahh, but P-Zero has one last trick up its hypothetical sleeve: the ability to reach into Amelia's head and take the form of...The Doctor.

Quick aside, for the 12 years the Doctor has been gone, Amelia (well, Amy, so I'll start calling her that) has been obsessed with the Doctor, and convincing people that he was real. Thus, his image, and her child self with him, is burned into her brain enough for the prisoner to take their form. The Doctor is able to reach Amy's subconcious and get her to remember the true form of the Prisoner, that she had seen earlier in the episode. The aliens get their man, the Earth is saved, let's all go home.

Except, not so much. See, the Doctor so far has been freewheeling, a little gawky, basically still getting used to his own form. Not quite serious at all, especially once he starts stripping (and Amy enjoys the show) out of his raggedy old Tennant outfit and liberating new duds from the hospital's locker room. He goes to the roof and has himself a good old fashioned "Come to Jesus" meeting with the Giant Space Eyeball, and basically says "Guess what, I'm the new sheriff in town, Earth is under my jurisdiction, don't threaten it or I swear by my pretty bonnet, I will end you". Great visual of some of the villains of the show's past, followed by a montage of the last ten Doctors, then Smith walking through the projection to stare the aliens down. Could have been corny, but instead was chill-inducing.

And Earth is safe, the TARDIS is fixed (and awesome), and Amy is the new Companion. All is right with the Doctor Who universe, right? Well, until we pan through Amy's room, and her collection of drawings and homemade dolls of her and the Doctor, then in the last visual, a wedding dress. This looks to be a very interesting take on the relationship between Doctor and Companion, similar but different to the Doctor/Rose relationship (the one that helped win over a lot of fans, and made this past run of the show so damn good).

I'm excited about this new run, and new episodes go up on Fridays on BBC America. The show is a couple episodes ahead on British TV, and are available online, but I'll likely stick to watching them live on Fridays, and then recaps should be up on Monday.

Next up, hopefully a new HIMYM, then Lost/Castle, and then the Thursday comedies should be back on this week. We're making the run towards season finale season, then we'll have to see what the summer holds. Excitement!


  1. Where to begin? I have been a Who fan for as long as I can remember. Now, being an actor I have always really studied the characters and the actors portraying them. Tom Baker was my first Doctor and he was my favorite until Tennant. To me Tennant embodied everything the Doctor should be. He holds and plays the melancholy incredibly well. There should be sadness, loneliness and pain in the Doctor. Otherwise, what's the point of his travels? Of course the Doctor is quirky and playful and Matt Smith defiantly shows he can be those things but I haven't seen the other side yet and I'm wondering if he'll have the chops to pull it off. I'm giving him and the new series a chance. I'm enjoying it and I think Moffet is doing a great job writing but for right now it's just not the same.

  2. I agree with everything about Tennant, and I haven't even seen all of his episodes. I will say though, in the course of the episode, Smith was able to seize control of the character, which was necessary after such a well-received run before him. The final speech at the end (although with the "trying on ties" comedy) showed that there is some steel in this Doctor, and that gives me hope. I'm really tempted to cheat and find Episode 2 online, but I'm going to make myself wait. I think the melancholy will probably make itself known more as they explore the relationship between him and Amy (they should go back to Amelia, much prettier name) in future episodes. It's a nice take on the Doctor/Companion duality. Also, she's a redhead. <3