In about ten days, we will have New Who II on British TV screens. A new Doctor, but otherwise the same companion, and the same production team.
So when I went into the press screening for the new Doctor Who, there was a certain amount of trepidation mixed in with expecting to be bored. After all, when your first “new” series repeats the “epic alien invasion of London” storyline twice, there is a slight fear of repetition. Indeed, even the new trailer for Doctor Who 2006 alludes to it.
I need not have worried.
(Mild spoilers beyond this point!!)
Based on the first episode that we saw, it’s a fantastic blend of Old Who, and New Who. It starts off very traditionally – the Doctor and companion arrive on a strange new planet (although it still looks far too much like Earth – or rather New York from The Fifth Element. Give us some alien skies!) and set off to that building … over there … while someone watches them heading off.
Then comes one of the more hackneyed elements in a Doctor Who plot – but it’s given a whole new twist, and taken to extremes fantastically well.
The plot proceeds in an almost traditional manner, but with plenty of modern and funny touches en route – comedy that comes from the characters, as opposed to having them slip on a banana skin. And as is almost traditional in new Who, the episode ends on a sombre wistful note.
David Tennant goes from flippant to deadly on the turn of a sixpence, and within about 10 minutes, I just assumed he was the Doctor. Who was this Ecclestone bloke? Indeed, the references to his recent regeneration were a bit startling, reminding me that it’s supposed to be some guy with big ears and a leather jacket, not a chap apparently handsome enough to model fashions. But he is bloody charming.
Doctor Who does rise and fall depending on the charisma and talent of the actor playing him. In hindsight, while Eccleston ought to be applauded for dragging the character kicking and screaming into the 21st century with lashings of sarcastic wit and pathos, he was a bit too bi-polar for my liking. Tennant, based on 40 minutes of screen time, seems to hit the right balance.
Roll on Easter Saturday!