As I’ve said before, the quality of the acting in new Doctor Who has often gone some way to disguise the lack of a decent story. In particular, David Tennant’s swansong “The End of Time” was a big confused mess of abandoned plots and ‘reset buttons’, but it shone whenever there was one to one dialogue. It wasn’t a satisfactory end to his reign by any means. It’s not as if Russell T Davies can’t write good Who stories - ‘Gridlock’ and ‘Midnight’ show us he jolly well can - he justs gets a bit overexcited when it’s finale time. It’s like a Royal Variety Performance, Who style.
The first Series 5 story “The Eleventh Hour” had a lot to live up to in my head. Not only did Stephen Moffat consistently write the best stories in each season (OK, level pegging with Paul Cornell’s work), but I’d also liked Matt Smith in everything I’d seen him in. Even the deleted scenes for ‘In Bruges’ where he plays the younger Ralph Fiennes character and decapitates a detective in a Police Station. He may be young (and I can’t help feel jealous) but he has gravitas.
So, I’d been expecting the combination of quality scripts AND acting this time, and thankfully, I wasn’t disappointed.
I absolutely bloody loved it. It was confident, cinematic and with just the right amount of whimsy, Britishness and strangeness. There were nods to other new Doctor stories like Spearhead from Space, Castrovalva and The Christmas Invasion, without feeling like a rehash. It was good to see new camera techniques being explored (stop frame animation to represent the Doctor recalling observations) and for once, time travel played an important part in the narrative. All too often, it’s relegated to simply being a plot device for arriving at the scene.
Matt Smith was superb, and 95% of the Twitterverse that I follow felt that too. Oddly, I was constantly reminded of Python era Michael Palin, both in looks and voice/mannerisms. He was compelling to watch, as was Karen Gillan who promises to be a good foil.
The ‘story arch’ seems to be in favour again this year with the “Silence will fall” (which hopefully won’t be too over-used) and the crack from Amy Ponds wall being repeated on the TARDIS monitor at the end:
If I had to bring balance and nitpick, I’m not sold on the new theme. It’s a drastic change, and is even further away from the other-worldly nature of the Ron Grainer/Delia Derbyshire original. It might grow on me.
What a great start, and there’s still 12 more to go!