CBC just aired the first episode of Series III of Doctor Who this evening and it was a smashing way to launch this next installment in the legend.
Admittedly, this is all pretty old hat to anyone in the UK who saw this a while ago, but for those of us here in the Great White North, we’ve had to wait until the Sleepy-C got around to securing the broadcast rights and actually making time to air it - meaning the Mothercorp had no interest in running a Brit SF show, no matter how popular, until the Stanley Cup playoffs were over and they needed summer filler.
Anyhow, it’s finally here and I’m looking forward to getting my next fix of the adventures of the 10th Doctor.
The first episode, “Smith and Jones” had all of what makes a great installment for the 10th Doctor in all the right measure: lightning plot pacing, rapid-fire dialogue and loads of humour (both blatant slapstick and more subtle fare, like the hospital consultant who gets the blood sucked out of him being named “Mr. Stoker”). Was it the smartest episode ever produced? Nope. It was as shallow as a Mr. Turtle Pool. But that’s okay, because they don’t all have to be dark and brooding or sad. One of the virtues of the Doctor over the decades has been that the show has no problems turning on a dime and indulging in silliness from time to time. That’s prevented the show from getting too full of itself. Watching this episode was like having the pleasure of seeing an old Abbot and Costello film with all of the vaudeville snappiness and energy.
I also appreciate the writers keeping the continuity of the previous season’s storyline intact – the characters make a passing reference to the recent war against the Daleks and Cybermen. Other writers might have been tempted to make no mention of this catastrophe, but here it’s acknowledged as something that’s had a significant impact on the lives of ordinary people. They’re not dwelling on it, but it’s a fact of their lives and it’s what, in part, gives the Doctor’s new Companion the grounding to deal with the crisis at hand.
And that leads me to the introduction of said new Companion, medical student Martha Jones (played with easygoing confidence by Freema Agyeman). She’s extremely intelligent (or, as the Doctor says: “She’s as clever as me. Almost.”), cool under fire, funny, and, oh yeah, verrrry easy on the eyes. Clearly Agyeman’s up to the challenge, and if the writers continue to write her character with such high calibre, this series is sure to create a benchmark in Doctor-Companion relationships, and Companion quality in general. Hers is the kind of personality that lets the audience know she’s going to be a full participant in the adventures to come, not just a moving prop who squeaks “Oh, Doctor, what’s going on?” as some others have.
Of course, we also need to give full credit to David Tennant for continuing to play the Doctor with aplomb. He’s still got all the geeky energy he brought to the beginning of Series II that made him so charming, and can instantly shift gears to give you a glimpse of the Doctor’s depths. This is an actor who clearly isn’t taking the role for granted just because he’s in his second season and getting good reviews. Tennant remains engaging, and with the writers, has forged a stand-out Doctor amid a pantheon unique individuals and takes on the part. While Tennant’s predecessor, Christopher Eccleston, did a competent job with the role, the 10th Doctor has been the most engaging personality since Tom Baker.
With Doctor Who back on the air, suddenly prime time TV doesn’t seem like such a wasteland any more.