The Doctor Takes A White House Call

Posted on May 2, 2011

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The gang reuinte: River Song (Alex Kingston), Rory (Arthur Darvill), The Doctor (Matt Smith) and Amy (Karen Gillan)

This time last year, Doctor Who fans (myself included) were gearing up to take a swipe at the new boy. Those of us (and there were many) who had proclaimed our love for David Tennant found the idea of replacing him absolutely abhorrent. We cried, we raged, we swore we’d give the new, odd looking dude only one chance and if he mucked it up we were done.

But then Matt Smith came out in last years The Eleventh Hour and stole the bloody show. A really strong Series 5 followed and the anticipation for this new series, under the more than capable direction of Steven Moffat has been growing since the excellent and wonderfully poignant Christmas Special back in December.

There had been much speculation about a character being killed off in the first episode of the new series. The smart money was on Rory. After all, they’d done it once already, why not again? The ‘reset’ button on TV series has gotten so big now that you can reach down to change gears, your hand slips and you’re suddenly back at the start of the track watching that scantily clad girl drop the handkerchief.

So now, following a catch-up job, I finally get to review the first two new episodes of Doctor Who, the sixth series to hit our screens since Russell T Davies turned up in 2005 and said ‘Hey, I’ve got a crazy idea…’

And man was I impressed.

In the past, series openers have tended to be rollicking, tumultuous affairs. Sometimes they’ll introduce a new companion, a new doctor, a fore coming event or just plain old have fun with themselves. Rose, New Earth, Smith & Jones, Partners In Crime and The Eleventh Hour – all four had some or even all of the aforementioned elements.

But The Impossible Astronaut and Day of the Moon are just taking the biscuit altogether. Who is the little girl who, judging from the end of the second episode, is possibly a Time Lord? How in the hootenanny (just to keep with the American theme of the episode) is the Doctor going to wangle his way out of an absolutely certain death in 200 years time? Maybe he’ll forget to turn off the cooker and slip back in to do so just in time.

The two episodes were excellent openers for the series. Amy and Rory are quite contentedly living together, sifting through married life while the Doctor is going up people’s skirts (something his predecessor used to boast about on Graham Norton) and infiltrating Laurel & Hardy movies. River Song is in prison for god knows what and god knows whether it’s the same one she’s been springing out of in previous seasons. And the Doctor? Well, the Doctor is running. Harder than he’s ever run apparently. (Must resist urge to insert witty remark – watching too much comedy TV)

When our heroes reunite it’s only for the companions to see the Doctor horrifically murdered by a mysterious astronaut – cut down mid regeneration so not only is he dead, but he’s dodo-ed. Extinct. Kaput.

Of course, this being children’s TV and the BBC’s major money pot, that doesn’t last very long and pretty soon, the reset button is half hit and the Doctor from 200 years previous, clueless and feeling a bit annoyed about it, is back and investigating a prank phone caller to Nixon (the wonderful Stuart Milligan).

It’s a brilliant, fun, rollicking adventure but with enough hints of darkness and opened up plotlines to keep you theorising along with the best of the currently overloaded internet forums. The children’s home that Amy and Delaware (Mark Sheppard) is positively chilling – reminiscent of some gruesome location in a Resident Evil or Silent Hill game and I would wager that there were at least one or two very frightened kiddies after watching it.

The Best Bits* The brilliance of Murray Gold’s scores.

* The Tardis Swimming Pool

*“I’m quite the screamer. Now there’s a spoiler for you!”

* “These are my associates: the legs, the nose and Mrs Robinson”

“I hate you”

*“This person you want to marry. Black?”

– “Yes.”

– “I know what people think of me but…perhaps I’m a little more liberal….”

– “HE is.”

– “I think the moon is far enough for now, don’t you Mr Delaware?”

– “I figured it might be.”

I have to admit, I’m so far loving River Song too. Kingston and Smith play off each other fantastically well – better almost than he and Gillan. Their flirtatious behaviour simmers and their kiss is beautifully realised – the overly confident and, let’s be honest here, bad-ass-ness of River Song and the shy, nerdy discomfort of the Doctor. He’s 900 years old and yet kissing makes him uncomfortable. Unlike Tennant, who seemed to be shocked for the first second, then took a look in a mental mirror, said ‘yeah actually, why wouldn’t they?’ and would promptly proceed to enjoy himself.

That scene is wonderfully poignant – the idea that there was still time for River and the Doctor from earlier scenes all but fading away as she realises that while the Doctor is only beginning to know her, her time with him is over.

The villains too, The Silence, are pretty damn terrifying. They reminded me of the Gentlemen in Buffy who took away everyone’s voices. I sincerely hope these guys will return later in the series but, while at first I thought they were the ones who were to blame for the Doctor’s death, I’m not so sure anymore. Yes, The Silence utilise whatever technology is around them but I think it’s too easy an explanation.

So then to the theorising. Is the Doctor’s killer the little girl? Who the heck knows – it certainly looks like Moffat wants it set up to look that way but really, can anyone tell anymore? Most series these days are written so well and so spiralling that you can miss little things which later turn out to be hugely important.

Amy’s ‘pregnancy’ is intriguing though. There is one thing for sure, the very fact that they suggested some abnormalities due to Tardis travel means that that baby (?) is one for one seriously absurd existence.

The Doctor is back. With a bang. But hopefully not just the one that killed him.

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Posted in: Reviews