Anything and everything.
Thanks to the Internet and the questionable legality of acquiring television programming that has not yet been broadcast locally, I’ve just finished watching the first episode in the new Doctor Who series (or season, if you prefer).
I’ve been a Doctor Who fan since the early-mid 80’s (I’m not sure when exactly, probably from age 7 or so, which would have been 1983). I fell in love with the show thanks to Tom Baker, who is “My Doctor”, but I also greatly enjoyed Jon Pertwee’s Doctor as well. I never connected with any of the subsequent Doctors to the same degree, but I’ve still loved Doctor Who from Davison to McGann, and further back to the Troughton and Hartnell Doctors as well.
When the new series was announced 5 years ago (holy hell, 5 years already), I was indescribably excited. The for-TV, obviously Americanized movie had left a slightly bitter taste in my mouth. Eric Roberts as the Master? There were a lot of things wrong with that movie, though in retrospect it could have been worse.
Then along comes Eccleston, a big-eared, goofy looking Doctor who frantically dashes all over the place. Series 1 was good. Not great, but good. Eccleston never seemed to really reach his stride before leaving the show after that first series, but he was good enough that I wish he’d stuck around for a second go. The moments I felt he really shined were the ones that expressed his loneliness as the last (as far as he knew) Time Lord in all of creation.
Alas, all too soon we saw yet another regeneration, into David Tennant’s Doctor. This Doctor, canonically the 10th, was even more frantic than his short-lived predecessor. This is a Doctor who seems incapable of walking at a respectable speed, one who must run everywhere. Again, the loneliness was expressed just as poignantly, if not more so after Rose left.
Unfortunately, as much as I’ve enjoyed the new series it’s just never managed to capture the excitement and suspense of the classic series. Perhaps it’s because each episode is a self-contained adventure (aside from the occasional two-parter) rather than four to six serials. Perhaps it’s because I’m older and (*cough*) wiser. Perhaps it’s because technology has changed so much in the last 30 years. Maybe it’s just because, in some way or another, it’s been done before. Somewhere along the way the show has lost part of its magic. I still enjoy Doctor Who, and it’s tied for first place as my MOST FAVOURITEST SCIENCE FICTION SHOW EVAR with Farscape, but it’s just not the same as it used to be.
There are also a few specific things that I dislike. The biggest is the piloting of the TARDIS. The design and architecture of the control room is absolutely awesome. It’s organic looking and quite gorgeous. But bicycle pumps, cranks, string… no no no! The Doctor using his foot to operate something on the console… no no no!
There’s various other little things, mostly the Doctor’s mannerisms and occasionally his behaviour and what/how he says things that just don’t jive with the overall personality I remember. Yes, the Doctor changes when he regenerates, but sometimes the changes are just a little to jarring.
Wow, I really digressed there. I could go on about all the things I’ve liked and disliked over the last five years of Doctor Who, but instead I’ll get to the point here, Matt Smith’s debut as the Doctor.
Smith’s already got two things against him. The first is that I’ve been watching Doctor Who since this actor was soiling his diapers. Second is he shares surnames with my ex-wife’s husband. Okay, the surname thing doesn’t bother me that much. I’m not really going to say much about Smith’s Doctor. As others have pointed out, he’s basically Tennant in a new body. I’m reserving judgment until he gets a few episodes under his belt, and develops his own personality. Physically he’s a lot less goofy looking than the previews had led me to believe he was.
We begin our new adventure with a wondrous view of the Earth, followed by the TARDIS flying out of control with the Doctor hanging precariously from the opened doorway. Naturally he ends up over London. London is a lodestone for that poor old blue box.
Anyway, queue revised musical theme and title sequence and let the excitement commence. Rather than describing the whole episode scene by scene, I’ll instead summarize the remainder as highs and lows.
Comedic sequence while we’re getting to know the Doctor is a definite low. Regeneration is serious business. The TARDIS exploding and on fire is also serious business. The whole opening sequence should have been treated with a little bit more gravity. Besides, spitting out perfectly good bacon and beans! He should have known that combining the two is a recipe for gastric orgasm.
Young girl growing up into attractive redhead with really nice legs is a high. Never hurts to have a pretty face distracting you from the Doctor’s sometimes ridiculous behaviour.
Creepy alien snake thing with bad teeth, kinda cool, although the teeth are too obviously CGI.
Writing a virus on a cell phone, bad. I hope he has the appropriate SDK licenses.
Big eyeball spaceship, bad. Awfully bad. It just looked… stupid. This is a trend I’ve noticed with Doctor Who. Aliens and ships, sometimes they just look really bad, and not in that classic cardboard, rubber hose, bubble wrap and balaclava mixed with a bit of silver spray paint bad.
Mention of the Shadow Proclamation, bad. I don’t like a lot of the pseudo technical jargon they try to use. It’s like they gave a mentally deficient monkey the Trek technobabble bible and told him to go ape with it.
Flashback of all the Doctor’s previous incarnations and some of his opponents – a tiny bit of bad mixed with a healthy dose of pure awesome. That the Atraxxi (sp?) could magically know all about the Doctor’s previous incarnations is just a bit of a stretch, but it always puts a huge grin on my face to see that they’re not disregarding what has come before and occasionally giving us a glimpse of yesteryear’s Doctors.
Flat out asking the attractive redhead to become an official Companion – bad. The Tennant Doctor was emphatic about his stance on taking on new companions.
And the part I was most looking forward to, the redesign of the TARDIS…
… utter crap.
There’s a fucking typewriter. More knobs, more dials, more switches. I was hoping for a return to the classic technological look with just a hint of the organic 9th Doctor TARDIS. Instead we get a fucking typewriter.
Finally, the series teasers. Some of it looks ok, some of it looks awesome, and the rest makes me just shrug my shoulders. And that’s really the biggest problem I’ve had with the new series for the last five years. There’s been a few great episodes, some that make you laugh, and not because it’s just too ridiculous (weebly-wobbly timey-wimey), and some that make you cry just a little (the end of Bad Wolf), but aside from a few really standout episodes the rest of it’s just shoulder shrug inducing. Of course, I’ll keep watching, and love every minute of it, awesome to mediocre.
A fucking typewriter.