Three firsts for Doctor Who this year:
- I'm reviewing the first episode sober. No, you haven't entered the Twilight Zone. It's true, it's real, and it's happening right now.
- It was actually cute of all things. Sure, Big Finish has done cute but this is the first time I can think of that the TV series has done cute.
- Russell T Davies wrote the opening episode and I liked it.
During an alien emergency in London, a woman called Donna Noble must search for an old friend who can save the day - a man named the Doctor. But can even the Doctor halt the plans of the mysterious Miss Foster?
Was it any good?
Normally, you can rely on Rusty to put together a fluffy piece of unchallenging rubbish that's fun but absolutely nonsensical and that doesn't bear up to the slightest bit of scrutiny.
For once though, while he's put together something that is indeed fluffy and fun, it actually holds together relatively well.
There are most of the usual RTD hallmarks: running up and down corridors, slapstick, lots of over-long action scenes, a perfusion of multipurpose sonic devices, sticking his own thoughts into characters' mouths (do you reckon the Doc would really have a go at investigative journalists? Three words to you then - Sarah Jane Smith), odd ideas about science, et al. But for all that, the script wasn't overloaded with these hallmarks.
It was just nice. The little adipose creatures were very, very cute and generally inoffensive. Even Miss Foster the Supernanny wasn't too awful, just a little ruthless.
Then there was the re-introduction of Donna. For all that worry about Catherine Tate, I found Donna quite likeable, really, and more of an equal to the Doctor, ready to call him up on things and (thankfully) not hanging on his every word – and, erm, more attractive than either Rose or Martha really as a result. Her failure to live up to the ideals the Doctor instilled in her rang true to life, as did her chasing of him to recapture her only real moment of glory in life.
Then there's Donna's family. Obviously, having Bernard Cribbins in something makes it innately great by default. But Donna's mum and grandpa, while no more realistic than either Martha or Rose's families and burdened by the stereotypical sniping mum RTD always includes, had a warmth that the others didn't. It was almost like one of those families you used to see on kids' shows in the 70s and 80s like Jonny Briggs. I felt a wave of nostalgia watching them. That might have been Bernard Cribbins again though.
Some good comedy moments (particularly the miming scene), too, the CGI really held together, bar a couple of TARDIS shots. The continuity with previous nu-Who episodes was good and I liked the fact that the Doctor regrets the damage he caused to Martha's family as a result of his tussles with the Master, making him reticent to take on a new companion (wasn't so reticent with Kylie, but who wants a Christmas downer, hey?).
Then, of course, there was Pipes in what looked like a dodgy blonde wig. Clearly, her return is going to be this series' Bad Wolf/Mr Saxon theme rather than crowbarred into her reappearance episode, which bodes well.
Not a huge amount of depth to the plot, but nice. The usual worry now is that things generally move along at a relatively tepid pace until about episode six or seven before picking up towards the end of the series. But with a good start to the season, the pattern's been broken. So maybe we can expect consistent quality all the way through. That would be nice.
- April 14, 2008: Review: Doctor Who 4x2 - The Fires of Pompeii
My review of the Doctor Who episode The Fires of Pompeii