New Who Bites Off Enough To Chew

Posted on April 9, 2010

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First things first, I am a Doctor Who freak. I make no apologies for that fact and henceforth, this following review is liable to be laced with robust amounts of fanaticism. Disclaimer ends here.

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There’s been a sense of quiet anticipation for the last couple of months surrounding the complete and unmerciful overhaul of BBC’s flagship award gathering giant Doctor Who. After the beautifully poignant exit of David Tennant’s tenth doctor, a moment which also signalled the exit of head writer Russell T. Davies (Queer As Folk) fans were left feeling a little bit, well, devastated.

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Enter Matt Smith, relatively unknown and the youngest actor ever to take on the role. He also had much bigger hair than Tennant, something we didn’t think humanly or Time-Lordly possible. With Smith’s entrance, we also see the entrance of writer Steven Moffat, fresh, ready and set to look after the writing end of things for the next while, a move which had most viewers salivating, as all you have to do is look at his catalogue of work to know that he’s more than capable of steering this series.

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In a way, sitting down to watch The Eleventh Hour feels like sitting down to watch Chris Eccelston’s first episode back in 2005. It had that lovely feeling of newness that you get when something gets a complete overhaul. In a way, the first episode of Series 5 felt so completely different from the previous four series that at times it didn’t feel like I was watching Doctor Who at all, which, despite how it sounds, was not a bad thing.

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The question amidst all the newness though of course is, is it any good? And the answer is yes. The episode itself is hardly original. To me, its plots is the same as Smith and Jones (Series 3 Episode 1) – alien prisoner escapes, goes into hiding, other aliens pop up and say ‘Oi, get out of there or we’re going to blow the whole place up.’ The only difference between the two episodes is that Smith and Jones took place on the Moon.

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So, in terms of showing off the Moff’s most capable writing credits, it doesn’t quite highlight his talent but it’s not supposed to because the episode really does belong to Matt Smith, tasked with the job of filling enormously popular shoes, and a really skinny suit, which he chooses to strip out of later on, lamenting his scruffiness, a line David Tennant fans surely got a laugh out of.

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New companion Amy Pond also intrigues as the little girl grown up who, having met the doctor when she was a young ‘un, subsequently went through therapy when his timekeeping lets him down and he doesn’t return for twelve years. The one thing I was afraid that the series was losing when Davies left was its ability to convey utterly beautiful and enigmatic moments, something which Davies became a master of writing (Doomsday anyone?) But as if on cue, Moffat answers that criticism a mere fifteen minutes into this first episode with a lovely moment for the young Amy Pond.

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Like Tennant’s exit back on New Years day, the plotting of these episodes really wasn’t the most important thing on the agenda. New Years Day’s episode had to give Tennant a belter of a send-off which it did (blowing up the Tardis), and really, for any writer, it would have been an easy thing to do such was his popularity and the wealth of material to choose from, from his time in the role. Moffat had a trickier job though. An audience had to engage with Smith’s new Doctor and where previous Doctors have had the chance to settle into the character over a couple of episodes Smith really didn’t have that luxury here.

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Like an amateur magician taking to the stage after David Copperfield, Smith had to make his first impression count and he certainly did that.

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A quick word about the ‘Upcoming’ trailer, Moffat seems to be returning to his old stomping grounds: shots of a strategy-room looking distinctly World War-esque; River Song popping up; and perhaps the most anticipation-inducing shot – the weeping angels. As well as this, there’s a shot of someplace that looks distinctly like the Alternate Universe London that Rose is trapped in though I really hope they’re going to leave that plotline alone once and for all. And if that doesn’t get your motor running, there’s also an episode penned by Neil Gaiman. NEIL GAIMAN!

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The Doctor is back and I’ve a sneaking suspicion that he’s going to be ‘fantastic’.

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