Enjoyable Doctor Who tonight. Silly, often funny, but dramatic when it needed to be. I was expecting the funny from writer Simon ‘Men Behaving Badly’ Nye, and there was a lot of it, but the rest was a pleasant surprise.
Matt Smith’s Doctor feels markedly different from David Tennant at this point in the season. Despite drawing on many aspects of the Doctor as defined by Russell T Davies, Smith’s Doctor is much more scatterbrained, rambling and socially awkward. He’s settling in somewhere around Patrick Troughton with a side order of Tom Baker. I really appreciate his oddness, but also his frequent grumpiness, sulkiness, ungainliness, entirely unwarranted pride in his appearance and crass foot-in-mouth syndrome. He perhaps works best in the more comedic moments, but overall he’s great.
Amy is coming much more into focus too. Having Rory around helps to cement her take-charge, forthright and amusingly abrasive qualities. That said, this week Amy is presented as more conventionally besotted with the Doctor than in past episodes. While this isn’t entirely inconsistent with her past behaviour, it’s slightly jarring. It’s also slightly disappointing given how much Doctor-Companion lurve we’ve endured over the last five years, but the ending of the episode redeems this element.
This is probably the first time I’ve even come close to believing that Amy loves Rory, which is great, although I’m still not all the way there. And yet again we gloss over the reason why Amy and Rory’s wedding day is so all-important to the survival of the Universe. I realise that this episode does what the Doctor set out to do a couple of weeks ago in reuniting Amy and Rory but it’s hard to discern how intentional this is.
In many ways this feels like an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer in that it blends comedy and drama and hangs its tale off a concept that’s actually just a means to metaphorically explore the characters. Or indeed, literally explore the characters. It works well, but in hindsight the structure of the episode being quite so explicitly focused on, er, Amy’s choice makes it feel unusually soapy. Fortunately the execution is so eccentric and the ideas so much fun (cold stars, menacing hordes of zimmer-frame-bound aliens) that it successfully masks the conventional character arcs for a lot of the time.
Overall not fantastic, but fun, imaginative and pleasantly different — enough to offset its flaws.
* All the Dream Lord’s remarks about the Doctor’s overt eccentricities were (understandably) spot-on and very funny. They were also perhaps just a touch ‘meta’ and fannish, but I’ll allow it.
* There was a certain Despair Squid overtone to the episode.
* Lovely effects work here which is a relief after that terrible tower-climbing sequence last week.
* The Tardis interior works superbly in this episode and really sells the new design.