It’s said we all have our own Doctor Who. I don’t think it’s anything to do with favorites in a conscious sense, I think it’s about the Doctor you encounter at a particular, receptive point in your life’s geography. I find myself, like many, referring to ‘my’ Doctor in terms that make him sound like part of a map. ‘My’ Doctor is Third and Jo, though I’ll very happily, on a good day, ride all the way down to Fifth and Tegan. I’m also quite fond of Seventh and Ace, because I worked there for a while, especially the junction where it meets Hex.
So I can remember when all of this was fields. Everything from Eighth on up, no one was ever going to build here. Until they did. I don’t envy Matt Smith at all (except for, you know, the fact that he’s Doctor Who). It’s not that he’s got generations of crusties like me to win over, people who say or write (in the newspaper TV reviews) that you can tell you’re getting older when Doctor Who starts looking younger. It’s not as if he’s even got to compete with the area of outstanding grade 1 listed national importance of Fourth and Sarah-Jane, the Who that is still the definitive Who in the Who who’s who. Matt Smith’s real problem is David Tennant, so he’s got this generation to win over, a generation that doesn’t know the old streets downtown, but loves to hang out at the shiny new uptown development.
Yes, I will stop it with the analogy now.
Tennant’s a tremendous actor, and his charisma is undeniable. By the end of his tenure, there was a sense he was relying too much on the manic and the madcap, too much on the notion that the audience would love the Doctor no matter what he did. On the strength of two episodes, Smith excels when he is restrained. His debut needed a sense of urgency, but it worked least well when it was hectic and Tennant-ish (the last ten or so minutes*). He’s much more interesting (and the tension really ratchets up), when he seems to be thinking about things. I think he’s in with a fighting chance of becoming a favourite, even though it seemed as if David Tennant had been so bright a flash, no one stood a chance of being seen in the afterglow.
The new series is good. It’s too early to carp. Away with you, with your comments that the Smilers in their booths were too Big! Away with you, with your notion that the space-whale plot too closely resembled the story in the pilot of Star Trek: the Next Generation! Nothing’s original, and anyway, look what we did get: pistol-packing Sophie Okonedo! Sinister test cards! The TARDIS as a phone box you could call (that last one was a brilliant wrinkle).
But there was one thing. You knew that was coming, didn’t you? Actually, it was Nik who flagged it up. It’s fair to say she’s less... tolerant of Who than me or the girls. The merest plot inconsistency, and she goes off like a car alarm. Anyway, her concern was that Amy entirely saved the day. The companion took all the power from the Doctor’s hands. Nik is convinced that this is a Very Bad Thing and another example of declining standards.
It’s clear the Beeb has insisted the programme makers cast younger actors in the lead role. The avuncular relationship that previous Doctors have had with their companions was all but eroded away by the time we reached Mr T, and now it’s gone completely. Amy and the Doctor are, to the audience at least, on a level. They could be a couple. Yes, it’s a great thing the assistant is more than just a piece of screaming eye-candy who does nothing except need to be rescued. But show the Doctor up? Out-Doctor the Doctor?
I’m a little worried too. My theory is this: given the obligation to cast younger, Stephan Moffatt may have decided to use this as a plot point. He’s a really, really smart guy, after all. Maybe he’s going to make this youthful equivalency a major and recurring issue in this incarnation. Let’s hope so, or that’s another part of the essential Doctor Who recipe ditched, along with weekly cliffhangers and genuinely eerie (rather than just exciting) front credits.
Right. I’m off downtown to watch Carnival of Monsters.
* As a sidebar, I was also very amused by the number of newspaper reviews etc that referred to the Doctor’s solution to the problem in the first episode as ‘typically incomprehensible’. One of the things I’m absolutely trusting Moffatt to do is iron out plot gaps and inconsistencies, the sort of stuff that regularly mars genre shows when they reckon they can get away with bollocks because it’s ‘only SF’. The Doctor’s solution to the problem in episode one may have been fantastical, but it couldn’t have made better sense or been explained more simply.