(This review of yesterday’s Doctor Who episode contains some spoilers, so don’t read it if you haven’t seen the episode.)
Last night I dreamt of Amy Pond. The feisty new companion to the brand new Doctor Who. By now the series has become so huge only the noise of the Tardis was enough for the Beeb to promote it. But it’s no longer the Doctor Who we’ve had on our screens since 2005… never mind that Christopher Eccleston backed out after one series, the second series still kept a lot of things from the revamp. First and foremost Rose Tyler (Billie Piper), who – never mind the other companions – remained a quinessential companion to Doctors 9 and 10 (even popping up from a parallel universe in the biggest time of need). Doctor Who is back, but every inch of your television set was keen to prove one thing: the times have changed.
Yes, Matt Smith stepped in as the new Doctor, but that’s not all: the Tardis also regenerated into a brand new look and the Doctor met his new companion, Emilia Pond. Step above the scripts and you’ll see more change: this is no longer the brain child of Russell T. Davies, this is the era of Steven Moffat. To prove this, the credits have changed (blimey, there’s a lot of lightning in the universe!), the soundtrack of the credits is different and the series even has a new font. Which, I have to say, I’m not a big fan of: mainly because it’s the sort of font crappy sci-fi series use when they pretend to be Alien.
Moffat was no stranger to the show, having penned already some of the best episodes of the Davies era: Moffat was the first to convince me the Doctor could be scary (remember “Are you my mummy?” from The Empty Child?) and he was also responsible for The Girl in the Fireplace (more about that one later) and Blink, causing lots of kids and even teens to be more aware of statues. If we extend the writers’ legacy to their more adult work, you might say that Doctor Who has now moved from Queer as Folk to Coupling, a change I can only welcome (as a huge fan of the show – apart from the last series). Nowhere did this get more obvious than in the scene where the Doctor causes haywire on all electrical devices in the square at the duckless duck pond and a woman’s electric wheelchair suddenly ran off, with the confused pensioner as a reluctant prisoner.
But back to Amy Pond and Madame de Pompadour… in The Girl in the Fireplace Reinette was occasionally visited by the Doctor in what seemed only seconds to him but years to her. Near the end of the episode, the Doctor was too late to say goodbye to her, making her character quite tragic. Emilia Pond seems to have suffered a similar fate: it was hard not to feel sorry for the young girl who waited all night in the garden, on her hastily assembled suitcase in her best clothes. Miserable as she was, the Doctor (who’d promised to be back in five minutes) seemed her ticket out of this world, but his five minutes became her twelve years and four psychiatrists. As she grew from little girl to young woman and from Emilia to Amy, Moffat provided us with a wonderful red herring: the first images of Karen Gillan showed her as policewoman Amy Pond (one wonders if that was a nod to Torchwood‘s Gwen). Fooled us! And if twelve years weren’t long enough, the Doctor’s short trip to the Moon seemed to have lasted another two years. It took little Emilia Pond fourteen years before she finally saw the inside of the Tardis… you can bet the eleventh Doctor will have a tough companion with this one.
Matt Smith seemed to fit in David Tennant’s shoes, even though the script made it a bit easier for him by explicitly showing him as the successor to the ten previous Doctors, in a montage that showed all ten Doctors and some of the enemies the Doctor had to battle it out with (was I the only one who wondered why the Ood were there?). The flashback bubble burst open and there he was, Doctor n°11. It wasn’t the only time Moffat allowed the new actor to look for an identity: the episode contained scenes where the Doctor was looking for a new wardrobe and a catchphrase to take over from the Tenth’s “Allons-y!”. No success this time, maybe next week…
Next week’s episode wasn’t announced at the end of the episode and even the Doctor Who site is deliberately quiet about it, even showing an archive photo of (guest star) Sophie Okonedo from another show. What we did get to see was a brief glimpse of what lies ahead in the next three months and it looks as if the Doctor isn’t the one with the biggest plans. According to some sources, a romantic scene between the Doctor and Amy lies ahead of us and the preview definitely hinted at this, but then again, was Miss Pond really a policewoman?
All in all, this episode was not unlike The end of time (part two), in that it had to combine an adventure with the need to tie some loose ends. But whereas the 75-minute long goodbye scene suffered a bit from the overkill effect The Return of the King is renowned for, the hour-long introduction to the era of Moffat, Smith and Pond didn’t bore me one minute. All I can say is, in the words of the previous Doctor: Allons-y!