I honestly never had any intention of doing this. I never feel qualified to properly review new episodes, and I’d rather just enjoy them and not think about them too much. I’m one of the generation that didn’t have Who on air during our childhoods, and so I think I’m overcompensating by often ignoring the adult, cynical, critical voice in the back of my head. Unless an episode is a complete dud, I’ve frequently found that I can only really see the negatives on a second viewing, and as this blog is founded on documenting my immediate first reactions, there didn’t seem much point in bothering you all with my semi-formed thoughts.
But I didn’t expect my immediate reaction to this episode to be so overwhelming. There’s a lot of context to bear in mind. I missed Sunday’s broadcast because it was the weekend of Dimension Jump XX, the Red Dwarf convention to celebrate the show’s 30th anniversary. Not going to lie, it’s probably going to go down as both the best and most stressful few days of my life. My partner organises the event, and I help out quite a lot, and so I’m emotionally, mentally and physically drained right now. On top of that, because the weekend was such a success and was so special for everyone that attended, including us staff, everything is surrounded by a warm, fuzzy haze of love and positivity.
We didn’t get home until late Tuesday night, still shattered and probably not completely compos mentis, but I couldn’t wait any longer. I’d managed to stay spoiler free, but was aware that most people I knew, whether hardcore or casual fans, were largely very positive, plus I’d seen and was delighted by the viewing figures. So I watched. And I loved it. I couldn’t believe how good it was – I was optimistic in the build up, but still had doubts about various aspects, not least the showrunner, but my expectations were exceeded on pretty much every level.
Afterwards I excitedly opened up the email thread I’d been ignoring for the last couple of days, the one that contained the opinions of the people I’ve been discussing Who with since 2005. I was disappointed to see that they weren’t quite as positive as me. Don’t get me wrong, their opinions were fair and even-handed, their criticisms valid, and they’re all people whose views I very much respect. They’re all among my closest friends. But my first reply to that thread was:
Bollocks to the lot of you, that was amazing and I’ll fight anyone who says otherwise.
And my first tweet on the subject, moments later, was similarly emotionally involved:
But later, I calmed down a little, and sent this to the group just before I went to bed:
I am admittedly very tired and certainly over emotional (I thought I’d cried all the tears out of my body over the course of the weekend, but apparently not), but barely any of the negatives that have been mentioned even occurred to me when watching.
I was just swept away by the boldness of the new style, the skill deployed in successfully (imo) establishing so many new characters in such a short space of time, the brilliance of Sheffield as the choice of the “base” of this particular era – similar to how RTD’s companions all gave their series a grounding in their home town, but doing it somewhere other than London, and therefore giving it a distinctly Northern flavour – and how captivated I was every time Whittaker was on screen. She was fantastic, everything I was hoping for.
And it just made me very happy, already knowing that the ratings were incredible and that the general consensus was so positive, that I was in step. There’s also a huge sense of relief that the optimism I’ve been feeling wasn’t misplaced – despite any niggles mentioned (all of which are completely fair and valid, for the record), I think we can all agree that there’s a lot of potential here, providing it’s handled right.
Like I say, I know I’m not in the best mental state to be objective right now, and I will rewatch and reassess before Sunday. I’m not completely without niggles myself – I liked Yas and loved Graham, but am not yet sold on Ryan, finding the actor a little wooden at times. And it’s a common thing for me to be swept away by Who on first viewing and then become aware of its flaws the second time, having seen what others have said. But even if it doesn’t stand up when I go back to it, television is all about the initial instinctive experience, and I’m a very happy Doctor Who fan right now.
And after I hit send I realised that I’d essentially just written a miniature blog entry. So sod it, I might as well post it – this blog was started as something for my own benefit, so that I’d remember my initial reactions in years to come, and I definitely want to remember this one. No idea whether or not I’ll feel compelled to do the same for the rest of the series, or whether this is just a one-off bonus entry, but I might as well change the banner just in case…