Hello, Doctor

April 20, 2010 at 2:25 pm (BBC, Geekery, TV) (, , , )

Someone online had mentioned that they were going to watch the new Doctor Who on YouTube, and that sounded like a plan to me… They’ve had some of the specials On Demand for a while now, but no Matt Smith as yet. And the suspense was killing me. I tried YouTube, and BBC Wales will be happy to know I couldn’t find it. Which left iTunes; the episode was available on, I believe, the 18th. I’ve had trouble watching iTunes video on my computer – freezing and stopping and starting and otherwise hiccuping – but I figured there’s always the iPod.  So $1.99 (can I watch hi-def on the iPod?) and about three hours later, there it was: “The Eleventh Hour”, starring Matt Smith. As per usual, I dithered. Finally, once I was alone and had finished what I was working on – in other words, once I couldn’t put it off any more – I opened it up in iTunes… and lasted less than three minutes. It was brutal. Video quality, I mean, not the episode… it froze and stopped and started and hiccuped, AND additionally aggravated me in that it wouldn’t open up to full screen. 3X5ish it started, and whatever I did 3X5ish it stayed. So I figured if it’s going to be small, it might as well *be* small, and onto the iPod it went. And it was perfect. I love my iPod. (NOW it’s On Demand – which is good, in that it means I don’t have to buy them all… I’d rather wait and get dvd’s. Extras, etc.)

SPOILERS GALORE

With all my dithering it was pretty darn late before I started watching again, and so I stopped again a few minutes later – and then said “hell with it” and watched the rest. I couldn’t leave that dangling over me. Which means I expected to be asleep at my desk before long – between watching it and thinking about it I was awake into the wee hours … I think I got three hours’ sleep. But I’m glad I watched it. I think. It feels a little like the Star Trek movie – I want to really like it, while simultaneously wanting to hate it, while admiring all that went into it. It was nice to see “by Steven Moffat” , which soothed feathers slightly rumpled by “MATT SMITH” and the new theme (which was a drastic but not unpleasant change from the old theme, although – jumping to the end – they got rid of my favorite section)… I did love the new logo and what they did with it. There is a possibility that the opening sequence will change for following episodes, as this one featured the poor TARDIS being tossed and battered and struck repeatedly by lightning; hopefully that was just because the maiden voyage under #11 was … difficult. Even if that is the permanent opening, I can live with it – it’s spiffy. Score one for the new team.

It bothered me unduly that young Amelia Pond was praying to Santa (“You can’t fool me. There ain’t no Sanity Clause!”)(see last post) … I’ll get over it. She’s a parentless little girl in care of an aunt who, er, doesn’t. There’s a good case there for “doesn’t know better”. That being said, I thought Caitlin Blackwood, the wee actress, was brilliant. She had me entertaining thoughts of what it would be like to have a seven year old Companion … Not, on further processing, a good idea – the Doctor is both too high maintenance and too intolerant of high maintenance – but if there were ever going to be a 7 year old, it would be sma’ Amelia Pond. I wish she’d had that. Character: brilliant; actress: brilliant. Score.

If it’s not to be the 7YO, the 21YO, I believe, will do just fine. She’s … I like her. 12 years – + 2 – and four psychiatrists later, she’s not going to let the Doctor off the hook too easily, and good for her – I hope we hear “14 years!!” periodically from her. I was worried about her going into this – not nearly as much as shall we say other things, but worried nonetheless… But I do like her, Karen Gillan and Amy Pond. She’s not Wonder Woman (though she probably has an outfit somewhere for the Kissogram job), and she gets scared – but she’s tough; she probably won’t try anything stupid, but she also probably won’t stay put when told – repeatedly – to do so. I had a premonition at the end of the episode, when she asked if she could be back by morning, of the reason she wanted to be back … And gosh darn if I wasn’t right: another runaway bride. She should have learned something from “five minutes” and “just ran to the Moon”, though – she’s not going to make it back by tomorrow morning. I can all but guarantee it. Regenerations come and (*sob*) go, but none of them can land on a dime like that. New Team: 3 up.

And point #4 for The New Team – the writing. Well, Moffat wrote it, so I had expectations, and I wasn’t disappointed. It was a great story, well told. It was sharp, it was funny (believe me, if it got a smile out of me at 2:00 that morning, it was funny), it was cohesive; it had the feel of Doctor Who without being (*sob*) David Tennant. It had enough of a story that it was a solid episode in and of itself, but the story was still slight enough that there was plenty of room for introducing everyone without it feeling cramped. (And just about everything short of the concept did have to be introduced – from the new TARDIS to the new credits to … an entirely new cast…) I liked the story and the writing. Under other circumstances – if, for example, this was the first episode of the new run of DW, the first of a brand new 9th Doctor a few years back – or if David Tennant’s trainers weren’t to the ones being filled (if, say, #10 had been more like Colin Baker) – I might have loved it. It was a solid beginning, a good groundwork to build on. Now, build.

I also liked Rory – and Jeff, what there was of him, was fun, as was his … mother? “that other fellow” “This is Rory…” “No, the other one – the good-looking one” “Hey!” (<- paraphrased until I get the iPod battery recharged…) I believe Rory will be seen again, which is good; I hope he wasn’t the one Amy was planning on being back for in the morning. Interesting how for all of the original run of the series No One Knew About The Doctor – and now with the last two regenerations and 11 family members do get to know. I like that; it makes sense. I would leap at the chance to take off in the TARDIS – but if I had to do so without letting the family know it would mar the experience for me, knowing how worried everyone left behind were. Well, look at Jackie before she was let in on it.

Effects were lovely. I’m glad that the Rottweiler didn’t speak (and there’s a sentence bound to mess with anyone who didn’t see this) – that would have been bad. I loved the small noises Prisoner Zero-as-woman-with-kids made as she turned her head and spoke. I loved the Atraxi ships (or were those the actual Atraxi?). (Why does that name sound familiar? A search only brings up DW.) The only thing that failed for me – partly because it was right at the beginning of the episode and I was predisposed to be cranky – was the Doctor hanging out of the TARDIS door… it didn’t look good. In any manner of speaking. I wouldn’t have expected she could fly with her doors open – I’d think there would be failsafes. Yes, I’m just kvetching in order to avoid the main point.

Which is, of course, how’d the kid do?

Not bad. Not bad at all. He gave me very little to object to. The beginning, the attempts to feed him (while really wonderfully shot) raised my eyebrows – so, not only not ginger, but rude – and had me muttering “You need tea, you nit”… But … Hey, he was regenerating. It’s not easy. The next episode, in which he will theoretically have settled in a bit, will tell the tale … He was great with the little girl. “You know how sometimes grownups will say ‘everything is going to be fine’ but you know they don’t mean it and they’re just trying to make you feel better?” “Yes,” she replied, with an expression that spoke volumes about how well she knew. “Well – Everything’s going to be fine!” said the Doctor, and smiled a patently false smile. I wasn’t altogether keen on that the first time round – but in retrospect it was a pretty good way of conveying that things were a bit dire without scaring the little girl to pieces.

I can’t even imagine the pressure on Matt Smith going into this. I think Steven Moffat had it easier, because there’s a good-sized contingent of geeks who ranged from not altogether sorry to out-and-out glad to see RTD bow out. And Moffat has the resume to inspire confidence – as I’ve said before, Time Crash alone would make me rest easier. But for Smith… Put one foot wrong, and you’ll be eaten alive. From what I can see, Doctor Who is much bigger in its homeland than it is here; it’s on one of the primary channels, for one thing. It’s probably a bit like Lost is (or was) here. And the Brits seem even more vocal than we are about what they like and don’t like. So for a 26YO coming in to this iconic role … I’d imagine there were a couple of sleepless nights, poor guy.

I can call him that, and mean it, because I think – I *think* – it’s going to be okay. The delay since the last Tennant episode, while less here and even less for me, is to Smith’s advantage, I think; if David Tennant stepped down during a regular season I think it would have been much harder to make the transition. At this point, though, new Doctor Who is good Doctor Who, so – yay.

Here’s how it went down for me, basically. Open with the TARDIS being battered and torn – I looked grim. I don’t like harm to come to the Enterprise or the TARDIS, even if the former gives Scotty/O’Brien/etc. something to do and complain about and even if the latter heals herself… It hurts. And, as I mentioned, I didn’t like the whole Doctor-hanging-out-the-door-and-narrowly-missing-Big-Ben thing. Cut to opening credits – MATT SMITH *sigh* … guarded approval of the animations and music. Really quite splendid cut from the wormhole to a pinwheel spinning in a yard. And then to Amelia, praying for help – and getting it. And whether or not I liked her praying to Santa, I loved “Back in a moment” – I think that was when she won me completely – and, a bit like when Gandalf sang “The road goes ever on” many years ago, I relaxed a little. It was a sign of all being in good hands. And out Amelia goes into the yard, where the poor old TARDIS lies on her side amidst the ruins of a shed – and how did they explain that away when they were trying to convince Amelia the raggedy Doctor wasn’t real? And that’s where I determinedly shut off the video for the second time. It was Smith’s first appearance with interaction and dialogue that had me worried, that I was dreading – and the first shot bore up my fears, popping up over the side of the TARDIS’s base like a jack-in-the-box. Once he started talking things improved … Poor Amelia must have had a hell of a life, and also that must indeed have been one hell of a scary crack in her wall, for her to take this strange young-seeming man’s antics so calmly, but she handled him as if she’d been interning in a psych ward for years. She barely batted an eyelash. So he helps – sort of, though not really – and runs off abruptly to keep his ship from exploding, and “back in five minutes” … Poor, poor little girl.

I knew it hadn’t been just five minutes when he returned; it didn’t need daylight to make me certain of that. I take back what I said before – he *can* do some serious precision flying; when was it he landed the TARDIS around a group of people? And I believe, in a spirit of “I’ll show you”, “Father’s Day” was pretty accurate, etc. – but, in the vast majority of cases, when there aren’t lives or worlds on the line, nuh uh. I was surprised when the “policewoman” said Amelia’d been gone six months – I was fairly certain that was Amelia (and no, I wasn’t spoiled: I had seen pictures of the new Companion, but didn’t know her name, and didn’t recognize her in the cunnin’ hat). I can’t take much credit for a good guess there – it was largely casting that gave that one to me: Young Amelia was played by Karen Gillan’s 10-year-old cousin. There’s a wonderful family resemblance there – very well done indeed.

I loved “How do you lose the key??” I thought that skirt was much too short for a real cop.

I’m still kind of putting off saying it, aren’t I? Okay, then. Here we go. I liked him. He didn’t win me over the way Tennant did; his is a rather quieter and less manic-depressive portrayal, so far. It seems odd to call him “quieter”, but compare the swordfight and the non-stop piffling of “The Christmas Invasion” to “11th Hour”; once the initial pangs of regeneration were past (for him and me) the mood swings were much shallower. I think the expectation is that this is going to be a Doctor younger both in body and in outlook; he has survived the deepest grief and guilt and pain, and is ready to take on life and adventure and excitement again, with a Companion and everything. He has a new outlook on life, so to speak. Well, good. Now if he can just stay away from the bloody Ood for a while – and if it can just be a little while until the Master comes back (seriously, what did happen to him?) – maybe things will be a little happier in Whoville. Matt Smith is a fine actor. I knew that from “Ruby in the Smoke”; I need to watch the episode again to judge his work here without the first-contact looking-askance dread-filled layer of emotion, and as I said the next episode will show a great deal. I’m still sad – but I am reservedly looking forward to what’s to come.
Which is, according to Wikipedia:

“The Eleventh Hour”, written by Steven Moffat – 4/3/10 – check.
“The Beast Below” by Steven Moffat 4/10/10
“Victory of the Daleks” by Mark Gatiss 4/17/10
“The Time of the Angels” and “Flesh and Stone” – Steven Moffat – 4/24 & 5/1/10
“Vampires in Venice” Toby Whitehouse – air date unknown
“Amy’s Choice” Simon Nye – air date unknown
Two as yet unnamed episodes written by Chris Chibnal – air dates unknown
“Vincent and the Doctor” Richard Curtis – air date unknown
An unnamed episode by Gareth Roberts – air date unknown
2 more by Steven Moffat – air dates unknown

13 episodes altogether, 7 of which are/will be written by Steven Moffat. OK good. OK fine. (Wow, I haven’t thought of Mouse in a long time…) The preview at the end of 11th Hour had a lot from the Blink Redux episodes – I guess the Weeping Angels have a score to settle with the Doctor, and since they were one of the creepiest and coolest enemies in the new run of episodes I’m happy. We will also, as evidenced in the trailer I watched a while ago, see vampires – now revealed to be in Venice, for alliteration’s sake if nothing else. Also in this preview was a good bit involving someone identifiable through costume and painting props, and put it together with “Vincent and the Doctor” and that is sure enough Van Gogh – excellent. It’s about time we paid a visit to a great artist. The Daleks are back – they’re more durable than cockroaches or Twinkies, apparently … and “Amy’s Choice” sounds intriguing. I wonder how many jaunts she’ll want to take before returning to “tomorrow morning”…

Please, someone, tell me that Matt Smith is going to be around for a few years. If I *do* grow attached to him, I don’t want to face this sort of thing again any time soon. I’m getting too old for this nonsense.

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