SciFi Weekend: Brilliant Work By Steven Moffat, Matt Smith, & Karen Gillan As Doctor Who Returns

Doctor Who returned this weekend on the BBC, with BBC America to show The Eleventh Hour on April 17. I’ll try to avoid any major spoilers here but those who don’t want to know anything before watching might want to turn around (as is also suggested at one point during the episode when The Doctor changes into his new outfit. (One mild spoiler: new companion Amy Pond doesn’t even consider turning around as he changes clothes.)

We have a new Doctor, a new companion, a remodeled Tardis, and Steven Moffat has taken over as show runner. Moffat is responsible for some of the top Doctor Who episodes in recent years, winning a series of Hugo and Nebula awards. His episodes include Blink, The Girl in the Fireplace, and a pair of  two-part episodes, The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances and Silence in the Library/The Forest of the Dead. Moffat has also shown his versatility in writing on previous shows, such as Coupling, one of the best sit-coms ever (BBC version).

It is largely due to Moffat’s talent that Matt Smith succeeded in taking over the lead role following David Tennant, considered by many to have been the best actor to play The Doctor so far. The show opened where the regeneration scene in The End of Time Part II left off. The Tardis was flying low over London with The Doctor hanging on out the door.  As has happened with some other regenerations, The Doctor was just not quite himself for a while, providing some of the more humorous moments of the series. With a series of events I will not spoil, The Doctor wound up meeting his new companion, Amy Pond (Karen Gillan), and faced a new threat to earth.

The episode shows many of the aspects of Moffat’s style. While time travel has generally been used as a device to get The Doctor to a certain place and time for a story, Moffat actually uses time travel as a factor within many of his stories. Aspects of this story which were reminiscent of his earlier story, The Girl In The Fireplace. While far less than in Blink, there was more suspense than is usually seen in the stories by other Doctor Who writers. We have a new Doctor who is different from earlier ones but very strong continuity is also maintained with the past.

Karen Gillan did an excellent job as The Doctor’s new companion, Amy Pond, and I see reason to believe she will become as significant a character on her own as recent companions such as Rose Tyler (Billy Piper). She is already attracting considerable attention over the internet, with Google searches for old pictures of her breaking traffic records here–especially when she is scantily clad. Not only was Moffat’s experience as a sit-com writer of value for the scenes of a totally messed up Doctor post-regeneration. Amy Pond, who has worked as a kissogram and likes to wear short skirts, could have fit in well on Coupling.

I’ve seen some apprehension on line before the episode aired that Moffat might throw out the past and recreate a different show. There was nothing to fear. Moffat has always been a big fan of Doctor Who, even turning down work with Steven Spielberg when he had the opportunity to work on this show.  Moffat brings his own style, but it is clear in this episode that Moffat considered the entire history of the show in developing his version of The Doctor. Matt Smith’s Doctor, while his own character, is clearly portrayed as part of a long succession of Doctors, and references are also made to the villains he has beaten in the past. Where Moffat’s style varies from past Doctor Who writers, it will only strengthen the show.

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