Review: Doctor Who – 3×1 – Smith and Jones

Smith and Jones

So here it is. Series three has hit us at last. Expectations are high. We’ve a new companion to meet, an established Doctor – the coolest character in the universe apparently – to touch base with again and the horrible scar tissue left over from Torchwood to deal with. That really squandered some good will.

Despite the fact Russell T Davies was writing it and it was a series premiere, I thought Smith and Jones wasn’t that bad, even with all those factors to deal with.

Since I am actually quite, quite drunk right now, I have a series of points to make, rather than a fully realised review, so bear with me.

First up, we have Martha Jones, companion to be, played by star-to-be Freema Agyeman. She, naturally, was the centre of all attention. Reactions in our household were mixed. I thought Freema was perhaps a little wooden and a little flat, especially given her real-life bubbliness. But given it was her first episode, she didn’t do too badly.

My wife, however, thought she was great. Regular looking, rather than stick thin, and not as pikey as Rose.

Plot-wise, I’ve seen worse. Total rubbish science, of course, since this is Doctor Who, but no one really cares about that. Very inventive, the sort of thing that no doubt appeals to kids, and more than a little silly, but pretty enjoyable. It was a bit unfair to give David Tennant ?��Ǩ?�moon hair?��Ǩ�� when everyone else was normally coiffured, but maybe Time Lord hair reacts differently to low-gravity environments.

The Judoon were kind of fun as a not-quite villain, but like most of the show, they looked quite cheap, particularly since the production team could obviously only afford one animatronic head. In fact, this was the first episode I’ve watched where the special effects weren’t the only things that made me think they’d skimped on the budget somewhere. Curiously, the effects all felt over-lit while the sets all seemed a bit flat. And Murray Gold’s music was as terrible as always, even when he commanded the trumpets to channel the fist-shaking spirit of Dudley Simpson, Who composer of the 70s.

RTD’s soap background manifested itself throughout and seemed somehow to influence the supporting cast into thinking they were in EastEnders. Certainly, the mid-life crisis facing Martha’s dad was played as though everyone involved had just escaped from a pantomime. But, hey ho, that’s apparently what we as a nation love these days.

So nothing that would stand up as great drama, nothing that would really warrant a BAFTA, but all good, clean family fun. Some great moments for fans (hints that the Doctor had a brother once – could it be You Know Who? – the revelation that the TARDIS actually feels and looks like it’s made of wood and what the acronym stands for, etc) and a few thrills for everyone. A good start. Not great, but good all the same. Plus it had Roy Marsden in it: even the dullest PD James snoozathon is immeasurably improved by the appearance of Roy Marsden, even if he’s wasted like he was here.

Switching swiftly over to BBC3, we have Doctor Who Confidential, now narrated by Anthony Head. This was the usual puffery from RTD and co, but interesting nevertheless. Two thumbs up for including Paul Morley, incidentally. Whatever that man talks about, he’s interesting and incisive. Not sure exactly how worthwhile the show is: I’d prefer something a little more behind-the-scenes-ish, but each to their own.

Am I looking forward to next week’s episode episode? Kind of. Not a lot, but a bit. How about you? Bursting with new enthusiasm or are you a tad jaded yet? Or does the potential appearance of John Simm later in the season fill you with enough vim and vigour to get you through the next few weeks? Let me know, once your hangovers have cleared up.

UPDATE: Further thoughts: What was with the Lost-style relocation of a tower-block hospital to just next to the London Eye and County Hall? And why is David Tennant still shouting?

UPDATE 2: As Stu_N rightly points out, of course there’s a hospital there. I’m just an unobservant idiot. Oops. Not at all embarrassing.


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.

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