Sunday, 4 April 2010

In Which I Surprise Precisely No-One By Loving The First Post-RTD Doctor Who

Well, that worked extremely well.

I have to confess three fairly important biases in what follows. Number 1, I got so thoroughly, abysmally sick of the shit RTD kept serving up in the name of "entertainment" that Mr Moffat could have turned in a sixty minute script in which the Eleventh Doctor played backgammon with a caravan and I'd have offered bonus points just out of relief over the change. Number 2, my weakness for Scottish redheads makes me uniquely unqualified to judge the performance of Matt Smith in this first episode. I was asked earlier what I thought of New Guy, and all I could offer was "New Guy was stood next to a beautiful redhead." Which, y'know, is undeniably true, but still not particularly useful.

Number 3, and this is the most important (and when I describe something as more important than gorgeous redheads from Inverness, you know that it's something pretty fucking vital), I find it all but impossible to judge a Doctor Who episode by any criteria other than "How close was that to what I remember as a child"? It isn't the only concern, by any means, but if you can manage to tie an hour of contemporary BBC entertainment into the feelings I experienced as an eight year old, then you've pretty much won already.

Naturally, this means that Moffat has pretty much won already. For the first time since Doctor Who returned to our screens, this felt like I was watching the same show I adored as a child. This, at last, was what I was waiting for all this time. After five years, it feels as though I'm watching the same show everyone else is. This is exactly what RTD thought he was giving us, back when he would write down a list of what he wanted to convey and then drunkenly stick it together in the dark the night before filming. The key difference is that this was funny and adventurous and a little bit sad all at the same time but also made sense. That's exactly what Doctor Who - Hell, fiction in general - is supposed to be. RTD had five years to sum up the show, and - to indulge a rare moment of objectivism - the previous run had twenty-five, but I'm not sure anyone managed a soundbyte explanation of what the show was about than the Eleventh Doctor's choice to recall the Atraxi, followed by his three questions. Hell, you don't even need that. "Basically, run," gets you there. Rationally, I know that the montage of the ten previous Doctors was rampant fan service, but I don't care. In this context at least, "fan" just means "knows what we're dealing with". I read an article yesterday about how Charlie Schulz's Peanuts was perhaps the longest story ever told by one person. Clearly Doctor Who can't compete with that record, but that doesn't matter. What matters is that the character has been around in one form or another for forty-seven years, and I can believe it's all the same story again, in a way that was far harder when RTD was in charge, and determined to constantly imply that the show and the BBC and his own ego were almost synonymous.

I could mention how much more I liked Smith than I thought I would (he seems determined to play the Doctor as a demented Michael Palin, and I'm entirely OK with that), how well he interacts with Gillan (which he does, though I feel pretty sorry for Rory; sooner or later we must surely get a companion who hasn't been waiting their whole lives for the Doctor to sweep them away from the horrible fate of settling down with a decent bloke who happens to not have a fucking time machine). I could note how happy I am that Moffat realises it's possible to include four-second explanations of previous events which will tie the episode together without ruining the experience by making people stop to remember that stories are supposed to make some kind of sense (I wonder how many of the Who apologists are online right now complaining about how much time was wasted justifying the story's flow; my guess is zero, because every single one of those people is an unthinking, hypocritical turd). All of that would be entirely valid, but I'm not sure that in my case it's really the issue.

All that really matters right now is that I got my Doctor back.

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