Well, back when I finished “The End of Time,” David Tennant’s last go as the Doctor, I promised myself that I would take an extended hiatus from Doctor Who so that I could watch some other programs. I had become so attached to David Tennant as the Doctor that I wanted to give myself some time to get over losing him and being forced to adjust to a brand new person (and by proxy a brand new companion) playing everyone’s favorite time-traveling alien. Well, I guess we can say I didn’t end up keeping that promise to myself. I made a friend here in NYC who is also a fan of Doctor Who (and ran into Matt Smith on the streets of Manhattan) who convinced me that I should get over my reservations about Matt Smith as the Doctor (because he has developed a fairly intense hatedom over the years [mainly because he isn’t David Tennant]) and just jump into Steven Moffat’s reign as the head writer of the series. After watching the first season of Mad Men and the fifth season of Dexter, it was obvious that it was time for me to come back to Doctor Who, and I’m so glad I did. Matt Smith is no David Tennant, but he’s deliciously bizarre take on the Doctor along with Moffat’s always stellar writing means this could be the most well-written (if not most loveable) incarnation of the Doctor yet.
After the Tenth Doctor’s regeneration into his current form (Matt Smith) caused the entire TARDIS to essentially burst into flames, the newly regenerated Eleventh Doctor crash-lands into the garden of a young Scottish girl (living in England) named Amy Pond. Amy’s terrified of the crack in her wall and the voices she hears at night that seem to be coming from the crack. After the Doctor eats all of the food in her house (and hilariously spits most of it out), he investigates the crack which is a crack in space-time itself and features a proclamation that someone named Prisoner Zero has escaped. The TARDIS (which has also regenerated) nearly melts down again and the Doctor promises Amy that he’ll be back in five minutes after he fixes the TARDIS. Cue 12 years later in Amy’s time (and 5 minutes later for the Doctor), and the Doctor finally returns to Earth to find Amy all grown-up (and now the unbelievably sexy Karen Gillan). Having spent her entire life being told that the Doctor was a figment of her over-active imagination, Amy is both relieved and irritated to finally see the Doctor show up after all these years. This being the Doctor though, their reunion is anything but peaceful when an alien species known as the Atraxi return to Earth to capture the shape-shifting Prisoner Zero and threaten to incinerate the entire Earth if he doesn’t surrender. The Doctor helps the Atraxi capture Prisoner Zero and then chews them out for threatening Earth with a classic bad-ass Doctor boast. The Doctor leaves Amy momentarily, but once again, he thinks a couple minutes have passed and it’s been another two years with the Doctor returning on the night before Amy’s wedding to her boyfriend Rory. The Doctor whisks her away for an adventure where they visit the U.K. in space on a starship where children are disappearing and everything isn’t as it seems.
The most obvious way to begin my critique of this new season would be to examine the new Doctor, and that’s obviously where I’m going to start. Matt Smith has been great so far. He’s perhaps even more bizarre and outright alien than even David Tennant was. It seems like the well of his eccentricities is endless, but when he’s required to be serious, he handles the dramatic material just fine. Everyone loves David Tennant because he was simply so charming and adorkable. Matt Smith isn’t trying to make his Doctor as likeable. Instead, he’s just a really strange but empathetic alien with a serious anger streak when it comes to A) the Daleks (I’ve seen one more episode past this disc) and B ) needless pain and suffering. However, me might be the most hilarious Doctor I’ve seen yet. Whenever he isn’t in full-blown serious mode, he’s generally making me laugh with some truly outrageous thing he’s said or done (“I wear bow ties now. Bow ties are cool.”). Karen Gillan obviously needs brought up as well. So far, she seems to have more personality and charisma after three episodes than either Donna or Martha ever had. She’s not quite as endearing as Rose at the moment, but she’s infinitely more attractive. I apologize if this comes off as chauvinistic, but Karen Gillan is just unbelievably gorgeous. I’m curious to see what route they take her character down especially since she’s engaged to be married, and I feel like poor Rory is going to get the same emotional neglect that Mickey had to deal with.
Stephen Moffat wrote both of these episodes and while I’m not sure if either of them were as good as “The Girl in the Fireplace,” “Blink,” or the WWII blitz or first River song two-parters but they were still well-written and very creepy in their own ways. Steven Moffat has an unmatched ability to subvert all of the traditional cliches and tropes of a Doctor Who story all while subtly scaring the bejeejus out of grown men. This may seem heretical, but I’m going to call Matt Smith’s introductory episode “The Eleventh Hour,” a far better introduction than either Christopher Eccleston (who had sort of an awful pilot) or David Tennant. I feel like it nailed the essence of his character which is the most important introduction of a new Doctor (it took nearly half a season to really understand Christopher Eccleston) while simultaneously delivering an excellent story (David Tennant was barely present for his initial introduction episode). This could have been a self-contained story for either of the other Doctors and would it have been stellar quality. The fact that it introduced a whole new Doctor made it even better. “The Beast Below” was just as good and shows a more morally ambiguous side for this Doctor than we’ve seen in the past.
I’ll draw this to a close. I’m very excited about this new series. Like I said, I’ve actually already watched the third episode (Daleks and Winston Churchill!), and episode four is going to involve the Weeping Angels! I mean, you literally can’t top that. A great (imo) Dalek story followed by a Weeping Angels story that even Matt Smith’s detractors enjoy. This could be the best season of the show so far. Matt Smith hasn’t been better than David Tennant, but the writing so far has been a hell of a lot better than the Russel T. Davies years. I will always miss David Tennant (and Billie Piper), but I know now that I’m in good hands with Matt Smith and he won’t lead me wrong.
Final Score: A-