Smith and Jones

* This is an era that I have very strong memories of watching first time round, which is why I refuse to believe that it was just shy of ten years ago. It was a turbulent but very happy time in my life; I was preparing to leave uni, I’d just come out of a long term relationship, and I’d just started a new one that’s still going today. Much of my spare time was being spent at the flat of my friends who were flat-hunting when we watched Doomsday together. They celebrated the new series with a party, in which all the men wore what they’d wear if they were The Doctor, and all the women wore what they’d wear if they were companions. If we held that party today, I’d like to think we’d all be Doctors.

But anyway, this episode always brings back memories of that first communal viewing, right from the very start. I remember someone commenting on what they described as a “not cold opening”, following which we collectively coined the immortal term “warm opening” to describe any episode that doesn’t have a pre-titles. Similarly, I can’t see the Doctor’s demonstration of his time-travelling capabilities without hearing the heartfelt plea from a drunken Yorkshireman of “don’t cross your own timeline, you cunt”.

* Of course, the last episode to have a warm opening was Rose, and the parallels are brazenly apparent. We start small and humdrum, see the companion going about her everyday life, going to work, having something catastrophic happen to her work, and end up running hand-in-hand with The Doctor. It’s the revival’s first deliberately-designed jumping on point, and if the formula ain’t broke…

* I’m not as keen on the family this time round. Individually, they’re all perfectly fine, with the possible exception of the dad and his girlfriend, Stock Outdated Female Stereotype #4. But together, it’s just a big cacophonous mess, and not something I’d ever be interested in seeing more of. In retrospect, they were never used in the same way as Jackie and Mickey, and so there was no need to paint them with anything other than a broad stroke. The problem is that when the episode matches the beats of Rose so precisely, you start to compare the families directly against each other, and that’s not a fair fight.

* Anne Reid! dinnerladies alumni are always welcome in Doctor Who, and in fact in anything I ever watch. She was part of a duel threat with the Judoon, who I really quite like. They’re baddies in this story, but really they’re morally neutral – they’re just diligently carrying out their task, and other than their Vogon-esque devotion to bureaucracy and overzealous use of capital punishment, they don’t do any harm. There’s nothing wrong with those things in their culture, so they probably think of themselves as the goodies.

* Why does everyone start running away when they realise they’re on The Moon? Where are they planning on going? All they’re doing is using up more precious oxygen than is strictly necessary, the pricks.

* Martha is genetically engineered to be the perfect companion from the off. It’s like they’re working through a checklist of attributes to demonstrate: asking pertinent questions, risking her life in order to help out, being open-minded to alien involvement, appreciating the beauty of the universe, taking it all in her stride, trusting The Doctor a little too easily… she does all this within minutes of the hospital moving. Normally, it takes a few adventures for a companion to cover all these moments, and I quite like the change of pace. It feels like the show is acknowledging that the audience has just been on this long journey with Rose, and so by skipping ahead to the finished product, Martha feels like less of an imitation.

* While they’re at it, they also take the opportunity to get a little bit meta, by having Martha question things that fans would take for granted. She points out how daft The Doctor’s name is, and how pompous “Time Lord” sounds, and the theme culminates with all the “bigger on the inside” gags. It’s a sign of the production’s growing confidence – three years in, it’s no longer a fledgling new project, it’s an established part of the TV furniture once more.

* Fave lines that I’d previously forgotten: “Where’s he from, the planet Zovirax?” and “Since when did you watch the news? You can’t handle Quizmania.” Both of which are firmly rooted in 2007, but sod it, they’re both excellent references.

* Downsides? I could have done without The Doctor doing a little jig to rid himself of the radiation via his shoe. It could have worked if it had have been a little more deadpan, but Tennant is often in the habit of gilding the lily. Also, as was the case in New Earth, the kiss felt gratuitous and gimmicky. It worked when Rose and Eccleston kissed because it was the culmination of their relationship, but if you do it within the first half hour of them meeting each other, where do you go from there?

* Something which I don’t recall bothering me at the time, but which did tonight, was the fact that The Doctor is killed, the Judoon pronounce him dead… but then he’s not dead any more. In retrospect, this kind of business is a trend which started around this time. Telling the audience one thing and then telling them that the exact opposite is true basically amounts to a broken promise. It gets harder to become immersed if you start to not trust what you’re seeing, and therefore the overall stakes are lowered.

* Right at the end there, did The Doctor say “welcome aboard, Miss Jones” in a Rigsby-from-Rising Damp voice? If so, I heartily approve.

RATING: 9

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