A new Doctor

culture

I watched the first episode of Doctor Who with Matt Smith as the Doctor with a pretty open mind. I loved Christopher Eccleston so much in the role that I was dreading the transition to David Tennant. Tennant very gradually grew on me, but it took a long time, and there were still moments when his over-the-topness got on my nerves a bit. In many ways, I think that having a Doctor (and for that matter, a companion) who is relatively unknown is a good thing, because they bring less baggage from previous roles.

I really enjoyed Matt Smith's version of the Doctor. There was a bit of the inevitable wackiness that is written in to explain the Doctor getting used to his new body and new personality, but he does have the indefinable oddness that, in my opinion, made him a natural fit from the start. It helps that he has a striking and rather odd-looking face. I don't mean that as an insult: on the contrary, I find people of both sexes with conventionally beautiful faces really dull, and I love people with unusual faces. He also seems to have understood the mercurial nature of the Doctor, switching in a (double) heartbeat between deadly seriousness and child-like enthusiasm. I hope that in time they bring out more of the darker side of the Doctor, along with the playfulness, because that was something I thought Eccleston did very well. The Doctor should make you a bit uncomfortable at times, and I think that you should never forget for long that he is not human, whatever his appearance.

Karen Gillan, as companion Amy Pond, was also very good, and the lack of screaming is encouraging1. The young Amy was absolutely adorable and totally believable. I think that Amy's independence, scepticism and refusal to be too impressed by the Doctor should be a good foil for him. However, Stephen Moffat should be ashamed of his transparent ploy to get the Dads watching: a kissogram Policewoman's outfit for Amy, complete with micro-miniskirt and seamed stockings? Really? I'm relieved to see that she doesn't wear that for the entire series.

The new TARDIS interior is also brilliant, and rather steampunky, I thought, with old typewriters instead of computer keyboards, brass taps, levers and a gorgeous blown-glass thingy2 in the middle of the console which goes up and down when the TARDIS operates.

My only complaint about the new series is what they've done with the theme tune. The previous 'remix' was just about OK, but this one is a truly pale and lifeless imitation of Delia Derbyshire's original theme. I recently heard a wonderful documentary on Radio 4 about Delia's work, and it struck me again how futuristic that version sounds even now. The slight roughness and variability that comes from the way she had to slice up tape with a razor blade and stick it back together to create the loops makes it live and breathe in a way that both I Brian Eno love. I don't know why they can't just reinstate her theme — I think it would actually go rather well with Matt Smith's new Doctor.

1 I'm sure that all of us old enough to remember were scarred for life by Bonnie Langford's Mel. Sorry, I didn't mean to rake over old pain. Just go to your happy place, and hopefully the memory will fade again in time.

2 If I was a paid up member of the Doctor Who Appreciation Society, I'm sure that I would know the proper term for the thingy. Please let me know if you know what it's called.

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