The Doctor (Matt Smith)
The Doctor (Matt Smith)

So the long wait is over, and the world gets its first proper look at the eleventh Doctor, played by Matt Smith.

The pre-titles sequence is very much in the style of recent years, brash noisy music and over-the-top action as the Doctor impossibly hangs on the edge of the Police Box as it hurtles across London at night. Is this more of the same?

No. The titles have transformed, as the Police Box hutles down a cloud tunnel – perhaps the centre of some planetary tornado? – with lightining striking the time machine. And as it it moves closer to the planet’s surface things hot up. The theme music, however, is a rather dull version, lacking any of the ground-breaking approaches the series has shown in its long history.

The Doctor (Matt Smith) and Amelia (Caitlin Blackwood)
The Doctor (Matt Smith) and Amelia (Caitlin Blackwood)

Writer Stephen Moffat has already shown that he is more than capable of writing a story that makes clever use of the strange possibilities of time travel. So the Doctor meets his next companion when she is a frightened small child, left alone in her house with a mysterious crack in a wall. The newly-regenerated Doctor makes an impression, and a slightly rash promise, leaving the child waiting years for his “return in 5 minutes”. It’s a plot idea remiscent of Moffat’s previous story The Girl in the Fireplace.

The grown up girl, Amy Pond, is a kissogram – a rather unlikely past-time in what seems to be a village where everyone knows who she is – and the re-appearance of the Doctor coincides with the aliens behind the cracked wall pursuing their escaped prisoner. Another Moffat plot idea makes an appearance, with people in comas in a hospital (from The Empty Child), supplying the info for the alien to disguise itself, rather innacurately…

[pullquote]Matt Smith… is enthusiastic, bouncy, full of information and bold, and his approach is already a welcome change[/pullquote]

Matt Smith has easily taken on the style of recent Doctors. He is enthusiastic, bouncy, full of information and bold, and his approach is already a welcome change. Maybe soon we shall see if the Doctor’s years, authority and gravitas reveal themselves in his approach. There are hopeful signs.

The story itself is rather lightweight as it is obviously really intended to be the Doctor’s introduction, but the extra-long episode is not well justified. The long sequence of the Doctor discovering what food he likes is amusing, but far too long, and it feels as if the episode has a longer length for no more reason than to make it special, but not a Special it seems!

The Doctor (Matt Smith) and Amy Pond (Karen Gillan)
The Doctor (Matt Smith) and Amy Pond (Karen Gillan)

It’s also a shame that the ludicorous idea of the Shadow Proclamation persists, that the Universe is so small that all aliens have supposedly agreed to adhere to some code of contact – that there could be such a thing as galactic law, through many time periods!! It’s a simplistsic notion at best, but I suppose there has to be some link to the previous years of this re-booted series.

I would have liked to hear a new approach to the incidental music. Although the talent of Murray Gold is not in doubt, it’s not always placed well, and the sound mixing for this episode left some of the dialogue difficult to hear. A change would have made more of an impression for this re-start. The use of HD has given some of the scenes an interesting look, but why was young Amy’s garden always floodlit? Very strange…

Last, but not least, is the new, and much improved, Tardis interior. From the photos published we know there is a lot more to see than the section we are shown. (Don’t bother with the promised tour of the new interior in “Doctor Who Confidential”, it’s all flashing frames and no chance to actually look at the controls.) It’s certainly a great improvement, and hints at more mysteries to be revealed.

All in all, though, it’s a pretty good start for a new Doctor, and Matt Smith is a welcome breath of fresh air.

[Rating: 4]

Jan Vincent-Rudzki

UK editor of Film Review Online

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