Doctor Doctor Who Guide

Reviews


List:
01 Apr 2007Smith and Jones, by Andrew Blair
01 Apr 2007Smith and Jones, by Simon Fox
01 Apr 2007Smith and Jones, by Mark Hain
01 Apr 2007Smith and Jones, by Calum Corral
01 Apr 2007Smith and Jones, by Andrew Byatt
01 Apr 2007Smith and Jones, by Gary Caldwell
01 Apr 2007Smith and Jones, by Geoff Wessel
01 Apr 2007Smith and Jones, by Billy Higgins
01 Apr 2007Smith and Jones, by Frank Collins
01 Apr 2007Smith and Jones, by Simon Funnell
01 Apr 2007Smith and Jones, by Angus Gulliver
01 Apr 2007Smith and Jones, by Adam Manning
01 Apr 2007Smith and Jones, by Alan McDonald
01 Apr 2007Smith and Jones, by Shaun Lyon
01 Apr 2007Smith and Jones, by Joe Ford
01 Apr 2007Smith and Jones, by Paul Hayes
01 Apr 2007Smith and Jones, by A.D. Morrison
01 Apr 2007Smith and Jones, by Eddy Wolverson
01 Apr 2007Smith and Jones, by Adam Leslie
01 Apr 2007Smith and Jones, by Robert F.W. Smith
01 Apr 2007Smith and Jones, by Paul Clarke
01 Apr 2007Smith and Jones, by Mick Snowden
01 Apr 2007Smith and Jones, by Will Valentino
01 Apr 2007Smith and Jones, by Matthew Sorflaten
01 Apr 2007Smith and Jones, by Charles Martin

I was not, I have to admit, looking forward to the start of a new series as much as I should have been. Previous RTD start of season scripts had been...how to phrase this politely? Lame. Amidst good jokes and ideas the episodes sort of hobbled along trying to get the science fiction out of the way as much as possible in case anyone fell asleep, before plunging with all the enthusiasm of an Pro-plussed toddler into the shallow end of the 'How to resolve all your plot threads' pool, before being asked to leave for splashing too much. This time, RTD has got sci-fi ideas that are fun, rather than the rather dull but worthy Human farms of New Earth and generic invasion of Rose so that while we get to know the character of Martha better we can also have a rollocking good time. Oh yes. So we get talking rhinos as policemen and have an alien race who are presented in a more interesting way that merely generic bad guys, which is always a good thing. Then we have Anne Reid playing a creepy old lady with a straw. This is a delightfully squeamish idea for adults, and an excuse for younger brothers who like annoying people (Yo) to run around trying to suck their elder sister's blood out of their neck with a bendy straw. Whoever said Doctor Who had to scare the crap out of children week in week out? Giving them some respite for a week, THEN scaring the bejeezus out of them works just as well.

The straw however, has proved contentious. Many people have objected that a straw could not in fact be used to drain someone of blood. So, based on this, these people will have to object to the fact that spaceship doors and walls in Doctor Who are often made of lightweight wooden or polystyrene materials, which wouldn't stand up to the rigours of space travel. If they object to this, saying it isn't obvious that the walls are wooden, have they ever seen one being blown up? The shards of pre cut balsa wood fly neatly over the set and the bad guys march on through, usually. It's obviously not real. It requires the use of imagination. Say that in the future a way to make ultra light yet immensely strong materials used in spaceship manufacture is invented, and due to the nature of its structure it happens to look like MDF or plasticene when an immensely powerful alien device (ie. A box with a lightbulb on the end) is used on it? Or that a lightweight plastic material is developed with a special sharp end with a metal tip (transparent aluminium anybody?) enabling penetration of the flesh and enough heat to be applied so that no blood escapes the end of the straw? If people are going to insist on thinking about these things rather than just watching it and accepting it, why stop at 'Oh that doesn't work, the episode is ruined for me now!'? Why not continue thinking about it until you can come up with a scientific explanation for it? That's what Doctor Who does.

Anyway, rantette over with, RTD wrote a script with a simple agenda ? to make the show as much fun as possible (Of course there is such a thing as overdoing it). I thought the balance was just a bit too much on the side of the wacky but got away with it through sheer breathless enthusiasm. However I can see how some people may have wished David Tennant (who now looks as if he could play the Doctor in his sleep, probably because he has been for the past twenty years) would stop hopping about and just get on with it, and didn't Jon Pertwee's Doctor die of radiati ? oh hang on was that a different type? It was? Good, that's alright then ? but anyway he should hurry up and stop goofing around *arms folded, glare at TV screen*

Martha's family did not come across very well in this episode, but I think it'd be unfair to cast judgement on them just yet. If they're still annoying in series four though, then we know something's gone wrong. Hands up anyone who thought they'd miss Jackie Tyler after Rose? Exactly, so I'm prepared to wait for their characters to develop beyond this cursory introduction. Martha herself feels like she's been there for years. And it is a slightly different character arc to Rose, in that the Doctor is too busy getting over Rose to really fall for Martha (or at least that's what we've been led to believe), however this is missing the big question over the relationship between the Doctor and Martha, which is this: Is anyone else hoping the Doctor will say that he used to have a tattoo on his shoulder as well?

He so should.

NB: Anyone hoping for an in depth review which goes into great detail about the minutiae of the episode will hopefully appreciate the dramatic irony in not getting one.

Link 
Google+
Filters: Television Series 3/29 Tenth Doctor
 

The one thing that screamed at me from the screen during Smith and Jones was CONFIDENCE. Doctor Who is walking tall and proud, and from the very outset of this Series Three opener, it was evident that the show has got into its own stride with coat tails flapping behind in the wind. It's as if the production team from the three producers downwards have sent round a memo saying, "OK, we know what we're doing now, let's just do it." And they have, and it shows.

The writing is brisk and clever and witty. RTD, previously a little shaky from his usual top notch form in series openers (and I'm in no way denying it's an easy thing to do by a long chalk), seems to have relished the "reboot" of having a new companion in Martha. From the off, it seemed like a completely different show with new compelling characters in the busy lives of the Jones clan. And that's no bad thing. Change is good, change is exciting.

Once the action kicked in and the hospital was transported to the moon, the confident pace picked up and we were delivered with the kind of writing that made Doctor Who great in the first place. It had a subtlety to it, the Who humour that slips under the radar, but becomes an integral part of the show and the key to your enjoyment, never undercutting or sending up the scenario, but pulling your emotions this way and that. The wonderful lines about compensation and Zovirax really did it for me and root this version of Who squarely in the modern world, as it should. Not only that, RTD has really nailed the Doctor in his writing, which brings me to DT.

Caitlin Moran in The Times said that "David Tennant is getting periliously close to becoming definitive," and she's right. He bats between utterly serious and completely barmy in a way we haven't seen since, well... Tom Baker. He nails the Doctor completely, from foot-jiggling dance to get rid of his shoes to the jokey, cheery banter as he tricks the baddie into sucking his blood in self sacrifice to save a thousand people. Not once during the episode, did I think of him of anything other than the Doctor, and in this cynical day and age, that's some acheivement. Today's kids are very very lucky. RTD, DT et al, are all old hands at this now and their enjoyment shines out. But what of the new girl?

I wouldn't like to have been in Freema Agyeman's shoes, but my dear God, she pulled it off. She was utterly convincing as Martha, the medical student caught between her fracturing family. I feel like I've known people like her in real life, but I can't quite place who she reminds me of. Of course, that's down to the wonderful collaboration of a good actress delivering a good script. Her role is identification and she succeeds. The thing that really struck me was this - I think Martha will truly be the Tenth Doctor's companion, rather than Rose. This is not to diss Billie Piper in anyway, I mourned her leaving the show along with the rest of the country, but I always thought of her as the Ninth Doctor's girl having to cope with a changed man in Series Two. Maybe what the Tenth Doctor needed all along was his own girl? Anyway, we'll soon see as the Series progresses.

The Judoon and the supporting cast were nothing short of brilliantly realised in the only way DW can; by playing the utterly ludicrous (rhino police in a hospital on the moon??) straight down the line and to the best of it's ability. Anne Reid was just marvelous as the Plasmavore and her straw, too. And did you notice the little Saxon references? Of course you did.

Having seen Smith and Jones, I am looking forward to what may be the best of the new series yet. It just brims with confidence and panache as it revels in it's second hey day. A time well earned, too. Why was it not like this when I was a kid, eh?

More please.

Link 
Google+
Filters: Television Series 3/29 Tenth Doctor
 

I must say right off that I thought it might be possible that this new Doctor Who episode may not be as good as the previous two seasons. I love David Tennant in the role and I think he is every bit as good as all the previous doctors (I have a tough time saying "the best" or even "one of the best" because I believe all 10 have had excellent episodes). That being said, I did grow a bit tired of 99% of the episodes of both the previous series being on Earth. Still, that is pretty much my only gripe with RTD's reboot of the series. Well, that and "Love and Monsters" from last season. "Army of Ghosts" and "Doomsday" were brilliant but maybe it's possible that the series might be getting a little dry, especially with the appearance of a new companion right off the bat.

Well forget all that. I believe that this is the best episode of the new series yet! I know, it's a tough thing to say but seriously, this was just about the most entertaining episode I have watched in this new series. The introduction to "Jones" is perfect, just a quick shot of her family and their current situation, a shot of her running into the Doctor and one of the upcoming threats and off we go! Ok so the old lady is not the most exciting baddie Who has ever dreamed up but for the most part, she is funny, clever and has a wickedness that could rival even the Master of old.

"What did he say?! He he just compare a crappy throwaway character to our beloved renegade Time Lord?!"

I love the Master but I'm talking in terms of evil and the willingness to destroy simply for their own gain. This plasmavore used human blood to survive, to mask that she was non-human and to escape she was willing to kill half the human population! Just about to do it and get away with it too!

Not only that, but Judoon are introduced (I don't know the spelling...sorry) and are very very cool for simple space policeman-type thugs. The Doctor is charming as ever and Jones will make an excellent companion. She is very book smart, pretty much street smart as well, beautiful and with a bit of sass. I can see her growing into an excellent companion. (A little annoying that The Doctor gives the whole "One trip for saving my life and off you go. I'd rather be alone" speech when we all know Martha is here for the long haul. Still, we'll see how that is resolved next week.)

Last of all, I am never one to comment on the music in an episode. I feel that the best music is in the background and you hardly even noticing it means it's good. Well, the music in this episode was certainly in the background but the score was simply brilliant. Every scene seemed to have the perfect music and it all sounded perfect. This will be a soundtrack I would actually want.

So to sum up, I said a few things long time Doctor Who fans might laugh at (I am one by the way...), but all in all I think if you go into this episode with no preconceptions and watch purely for enjoyment, I am excited as hell about this new season. I really wish the previews for next week were previews for the whole rest of the season like they were last year...I can't wait to see the Daleks in Manhatten!! Still the Shakespeare episode looks awesome and thank god Doctor Who is finally back!! If this episode is any indication, this is going to be a superb season!

Link 
Google+
Filters: Television Series 3/29 Tenth Doctor
 

Previous season openers and The Runaway Bride had individual opening scenes before the famous theme tune starts, but such a prelude was conspicious by its absence as we were immediately plunged into the time vortex and the tune which Captain Jack sung to such great effect during The Weakest Link the night before this episode was broadcast.

I was expecting great things given the publicity and build-up with Jonathan Ross saying how marvellous it was. But like the Borat movie, which again everyone said was brilliant, I felt Smith and Jones lost out a bit and could have been much, much better.

The high points were the two lead actors who were terrific. David Tennant had some great one-liners and was full of exhuberance but that was neatly played against his inner hurt at the departure of Rose.

The new season opener was all about Martha and she fared magnificently. I thought she came across as independently minded and there was real mutual affection between her and the Doctor.

I thought the old granny that turned out to be the blood-sucker was a bit of a disappointment and I didn't think a lot of the Judhoon. While the rhino faces were brilliant effects, they just seemed a bit too comical - a bit like The Slitheen. The black helmeted flankmen who looked like security guards were far better and much more sinister because you didn't see their faces.

Russell T Davies sometimes hits the spot with his scripts, and the dialogue is always top class, but I felt the storyline was a bit lacking. I loved the moon stuff but this obsession with blood... what with the Christmas Invasion and the different blood groups, and the forthcoming "Family of Blood"...

I just think Russell, as he shows in his Doctor Who Confidential broadcasts, picks out some vital ingredients for that particular episode and then hopes everything else just falls into place. I don't think it did. A bit more investigation of the Moon would have been good too!

The reference to the Doctor's brother was interesting, and the dramatic bit where Martha saves the Doctor and then vice versa reminded me a bit of the Doctor and Peri in Caves of Androzani. The kiss all seemed a bit quick and it was almost blink and you miss it. A cleverly publicity trick all the same.

I loved the start and I do like stories which start a little bit differently. Not just simply the Doctor turns up in the Tardis. This and School Reunion were in a similar vein and I would like more of the same.

Martha's complex family life seems very different in tone from Rose's and will be an interesting sub-plot. I will greatly miss Rose's Mum and Mickey who were both very good supporting characters.

For me though, the best part of the show was the final five minutes and the Doctor appearing on the scene and Martha's first look aboard the Tardis. The Doctor's mimicking of 'it's bigger on the inside than the outside' was a fantastic touch, apparently provided by David Tennant, and I loved the scene where you see the Doctor shaking hands with Martha over the console as it rocks through the time vortex.

A promising start, Tennant and Freema were first class, the story was good without being wondrous (RTD set such a high standard for himself after Army of Ghosts/Doomsday which were wondrous), and roll on the new series which looks like it has every chance of being absolutely thrilling.

Link 
Google+
Filters: Television Series 3/29 Tenth Doctor
 

I thought it started really well and that it was going to better Army Of Ghosts (4/5), which I loved and rate as RTD's finest work to date. But alas Smith And Jones just went further and further downhill as it progressed.

Positives:
+ Superb dialogue at the beginning with the junior doctors and patients
+ Very good introduction to Martha, the Doctor and the TARDIS
+ Martha appears to be an intelligent companion who can look after herself (something good that RTD has brought to Doctor Who)
+ Fabulous effects (although this is something RTD appears to rate more over storyline. One american critic wrote that the new Who has great effects but the old Who had the great storylines)

Negatives
- More of that annoyingly cheesy, 'operatic' music
- Over the top screaming by people when the hospital lands on the moon (and some dreadful acting by extras), which is just a poor device by RTD to make us like the non-screaming Martha and Doc more
- Aliens that just happen to look like rhinos. Does the new Who team have any imagination?
- The straw - leave it in Red Dwarf please, where it would be funny
- David Tennants stupid dance, as if he could send all the radiation into his shoe. I'm sure an intelligent child would find this embarrassing aswell
- The colossal power required for the plasmavore's device at the end (how?)
- The continual use, by RTD, of major alien happenings on Earth (like the battle of Canary Wharf). Doctor Who is supposed to be on our Earth and in our time (I'm sure RTD would agree) yet such monumental things would change our culture, society - did you see a huge alien ship over London last christmas on the news(The Christmas Invasion - set in 2006)? I didn't - this is why Earth invasions in the classic Doctor Who were mainly covert operations, so that it was feasible
- Martha's family appears to be trash straight off of a Trisha show (not again!)
- Worst season opener to date
- David Tennants stupid dance, as if he could send all the radiation into his shoe. Have I put this one in twice? And rightly so

I have finally lost faith in the new Doctor Who. Even last season had some good episodes but I fear this one wont have any at all. It isn't even Doctor Who anymore, he doesn't appear alien. The only way we know he is alien is because he mentions it often ("I'm a Time Lord", "E's got twin 'earts!"). I'm quite angry as well and I hope RTD leaves as soon as possible to let someone in who has quality control (and doesn't rate soap operas and big brother - and isn't scared of critics. Hmm I wonder why that is Russell?).

Link 
Google+
Filters: Television Series 3/29 Tenth Doctor
 

Well... that was a better season opener then previous series.

But only just, and that's not saying much.

We'll cast 'New Earth' into the 'so dire, it's name can never be uttered in polite (or impolite) company again' cosmic bin, first off, as 'Smith and Jones' is starting from the same point 'Rose' did a couple of years ago... and that's where the problem lies.

Comparing the two episodes reveals that the show doesn't seem to have evolved at all. The same formula has been applied to Martha's debut as was used for Rose's. Thus we get, the new characters life encapsulated in the opening scene, the introduction of her family (a clan who seem to have been rescued from the Eastenders reject bin). A 'no time to breath' adventure in which the new companion saves the Doctors ass, and a slightly creepy, 'Come into my Tardis, nudge, nudge, wink, wink' seduction scene at the end (I got a real 'stalking' thing from this one, what with the Doctor hanging around in an alley watching Martha from afar.)

We've been here before...

Elsewhere we get exactly what we always get from RTD. Misplaced 'comedy', a wildly uneven tone, dysfunctional domesticity (!) lot's of running about (that corridor chase, went on for about six shots too many), a complete and total disregard for scientific fact (I'm surprised Davies acknowledged the lack of atmosphere on the moon, so I suppose he's done a modicum of 'research' this time) and a pantomime villain, uttering the kind of 'arch' comedy crap every Davies villain utters ad infinitum. There's a real problem here, because RTD doesn't seem to be capable of writing outside this box, or perhaps, just doesn't want to. All his scripts exhibit the same flaw's (I'm sure he'd see them as virtues, and if his attitude from what I've gathered is anything to go by, he'd no doubt tell me to to "F*** off"... but he's not here, and this is MY OPINION, so there!) and their now permeating every script he hacks out. He undeniably did a good job of re-establishing the series, but perhaps it's time to move on, for if this is an example of what to expect from series three, the show is starting to stagnate already.

And as for Tennant... well, instead of toning thing's down, he seems to be turning the 'pratt' knob to eleven. All the aspects that irritated me about his performance last season, seem to have become, not so much facet's, as 'constants'. He now wears that 'bug eyed' expression, no matter what the situation, and seems intent on behaving like a prat at every turn. There's just no gravitas, nothing to balance the idiocy, It's like he's perpetually high on his own self importance. I would have been fine if the Judoon had pronounced him guilty of insufferable smugness and vaped him on the spot. In sync with RTD's script's his portrayal of the Doctor, in my opinion, is actually de-evolving, which is a shame. When Tennant does go (and on the strength of this episode, I hope it's soon), I'm with one of the forum poster's who thought Michael Sheen would make an interesting choice, though personally, I don't see him doing it.

Anyway... there were thing's I liked! The Judoon were impressive in they're Sontaran crossed with Judge Dredd type way, though was there really the need for six or whatever platoon's to take down an old lady wielding a straw! Actually I thought the villainess was going to reveal her true form at the climax (a big, horrendous CGI creation straight out of Lovecraft) and wipe out a couple of the aforementioned platoon's before being taken out itself, but alas, she remained an old lady... wielding a straw... right till the end (Good God!) Incidentally, I reckon the Judoon should have scanned the extra's before filming, for traces of acting talent, God knows what the footage of the panicked patients they didn't use in the edit was like!

The direction was assured (some nice cinematic wides), and there was that occasional sense of scale, the show does, that we see so little of on television (including American) these day's. The music was as bombastic and over the top as usual (as it's been from the first episode onwards), but I'm just enamoured with the fact that it's both thematic and orchestral (something far too many movies seem incapable of achieving these day's, let alone a TV show), perhaps the volume could be turned down a notch, however. The FX were more then adequate and the production as a whole look's very good, which unfortunately makes the flaws I've outlined above glare even brighter.

As for the new companion, and bearing in mind how much of a lynchpin she's going to be, if the last two season's are anything to go by, she seems... nice! I can't think of anything else to say, she just seems... nice! Hopefully, she'll develop.

I will continue to watch the show... but I'm seriously considering skipping the RTD penned episodes, they just annoy me too much. I'm certainly going to avoid the return of the cat people from 'New...' ( Phew... almost 'uttered' it there ), if an idea is crap, it's worth using again, huh, RTD? The Dalek one (much as I like them) look's pretty iffy as well, I mean... 'pig men' (cos, if an idea is crap, it's worth...you get the picture). In fact, the adverts for this season ( twenty seven times a day between show's, as is the BBC's 'non advertising' status, these days) have turned me more off then on, still, I'm not everyone... which is just as well!

Judging by the forum I reckon my opinion of 'Smith and Jones' will be in the minority. Dr Who, is primarily a kid's show, and on that level, I'm sure it worked just fine. But it's not on CBBC (though 'Fear her' should have been) and if it's going to appeal to adults, it has to do better then this. Now it's established itself, the show should be branching off in new direction's. This episode merely treaded familiar ground, and it does not bode well for what's to come, though I'll be happy if proven wrong.

By the way...I really hope we've seen the back of Martha's family, but alas, I reckon I don't need a Tardis to know the outcome of that one!!!

Link 
Google+
Filters: Television Series 3/29 Tenth Doctor
 

Yes, kids, we've finally made it. After months of rumor, speculation, spin-offs of varying degrees of success, and HYPE HYPE HYPE, we're at SEASON 3 and thus, by default, the return of the ONLY REVIEW THAT MATTERS.

So. Martha Jones. Well, right off the bat we know we're not going to be having chummyish visits to the family like we did with the Tyler clan. Or at the very least there's going to be a lot more kvetching and sniping. But enough of that. What we have here is a strong female character, a little bit more take-charge than Rose. Maybe more like Ace or perhaps even Liz Shaw? Hard to tell from just one episode, of course, but then she seemed more than just a little unfazed by two hearts, ending up on the moon, the TARDIS... Sure, she was a little taken aback, but she wasn't screaming in a fit of despair and madness unlike most of the hospital. Which was, incidentally, a pretty reasonable reaction to suddenly being relocated to the moon. But now we have a companion who was a bystander to the Slitheen hoax, the Sycorax, Canary Wharf... her society is becoming a stranger one, and she's trying to embrace it. Or at least, not let it freak her out.

Meanwhile, contrary to popular fan belief, I don't think the Judoon were "supposed" to be the Sontarans, despite some visual similarities. Mind you, my first thought, when seeing the publicity pics, were the Pnihr from the EDA novel Trading Futures by Lance Parkin. But no, their biggest influence is even in the name, kids. These were Judges, the dredd-ful kind if y'all catch my meaning. "Justice is swift" indeed. Maybe a bit one-dimensional, but then, they didn't really need to be much else.

Hey, wow, ANOTHER euphemism for vampire! Well, it was an interesting twist, although not sure about the whole straw thing. And it was nice that they didn't muddy the Doctor's waters further by adding some big Vampire/Time Lord backstory thing. I think going psychotic at the sight of ONE set of villains is good enough.

And just how batshit WAS Tennant in this episode? Definitely a lot more...quirky now than Eccleston's, or even from last season. But hey, he's been through a lot lately. And what was with the circa-2002 Beckham hair anyway? Like the new suit tho. He's still a horrible liar tho. "I prefer to work alone" my arse.

A much steadier, and better, season opener than last one, for sure. And as for next episode, well, I'm calling it now: the Shakespeare + witches episode will make SOME reference, before the ending credits, about how this inspires Macbeth. LOCK IT, YO.

Link 
Google+
Filters: Television Series 3/29 Tenth Doctor
 

Doesn't time fly when you're having fun? Remarkably, Smith and Jones was the 29th episode of the regenerated Doctor Who. So, how was this important opening episode of the third series?

Traditionally, even going back to Tom Baker's tenure, the first episode of a new season is rarely the best, or even anywhere near the best. If that proves true this year, we're in for a very good 13 weeks indeed, because Smith and Jones was a solid opener, with many fine moments.

There's no doubt in my mind that Smith and Jones was superior to New Earth - and also to Rose, the episode with which it must inevitably be compared because of their mutual central theme - the introduction of a new, long-term companion. Rose, to be fair, had a bit more to do as well, as it was charged with reintroducing the entire show.

As the name of the episode suggests, this was about a Smith - The Doctor's pseudonym - and a Jones - Martha, destined to be the new First Lady of the TARDIS. As with Rose, writer Russell T Davies underlined one of his great strengths - quickly integrating a new character into an existing series, and making the audience care about them in a short space of time. And if that was his goal, he scored with great aplomb. Again.

Martha, an attractive, intelligent, strong young woman - fine TARDIS travelling stock, one might opine - was revealed to be a medical student, whose hospital was transported to the Moon by the Judoon, a race of rhino-headed storm troopers on the hunt for a fugitive.

The Doctor, alerted to strange goings-on at the hospital and in cognito as a patient - Mr Smith - teams up with Martha, whom he identifies as a brighter member of the medical staff, to seek out the object of the Judoon's search before they either wipe out the patients and staff, or lack of oxygen kills them all.

A Plasmavore, a blood-sucking (through a plastic straw!) shapeshifter in the guise of an old woman, proves to be the creature being sought, and is planning to flee in a Judoon ship and destroy half the Earth by overloading an MRI scanner. The Doctor confronts her, but she sucks the blood from him and leaves him for dead before she is destroyed by the Judoon.

Martha revives The Doctor with the kiss of life, and the Judoon restore the hospital to Earth.

Although Martha and The Doctor went their separate ways, the latter returns to seek her out, and offers her a trip in the TARDIS . . .

As ever with the 45-minute format (and especially here with a new companion to bed in) the plot was rather shoehorned in and then out, but it was good fun if you didn't look too closely for holes and crackled along at the usual breakneck pace, marshalled well by new show director, Charles Palmer.

As this was effectively "her" episode, how did the new girl do?

Freema Agyeman has tough shoes to fill, because Billie Piper (and I'm sure time will show this) is one of the leading actresses of her generation. But there's every indication that Ms Agyeman has what it takes to endear herself to the millions of fans of the show. This was an accomplished and endearing debut.

Although she came with a big, positive build-up from the DW production team, there was a temptation to think "they would say that, wouldn't they?" But I think they're right - she looks great, is very believable, and looks to have a strong chemistry with David Tennant, even at this early stage.

There are very few non-white leading ladies in mainstream British TV dramas, most of which have a disproportionately high number of white characters, so she's a rarity in that sense. But her colour shouldn't be an issue, of course. The ability is clearly there.

As a companion, Martha shows a deal of promise - she has an enquiring mind, a thirst for knowledge and adventure, and wasn't phased by the concept of being transported away from Earth. Interesting that it's now part of the show's canon that alien invasion is seen as a plausible threat to present-day Earth, and Martha took that in her stride.

Credit here again to Davies for Martha's almost-seamless integration. By introducing Catherine Tate's Donna as a "buffer" companion in The Runaway Bride, the viewers have already been given time to get used to Rose's departure. Rose isn't forgotten - it was right that The Doctor mentioned her again towards the end of the episode, but I'd be surprised if her name cropped up again too much. Time moves on, and time to move on.

Slightly armed with spoilerific information here, but it is clear that the dynamic between Martha and The Doctor is going to be different to that between him and Rose.

There was no question that The Doctor and Rose were in love - Doomsday having silenced all doubts about that - whereas here, it looks like Martha has designs on The Doctor - her noting his wearing of tight suits - while he is just on the lookout for a new travelling companion.

I am in the school who prefers if not an asexual Doctor (very difficult in this case as David Tennant is a very good-looking and sexy man - so I'm told by every woman I know!) then one who is ambiguous about his sexuality - I just believe that makes him stand out from the crowd more.

If Agyeman made a strong start, she was ably assisted by the show's star. I was a Tennant fan last year, with certain caveats, but he really grew on me during a recent rewatching of the entire second series. Now, I have no doubts that he IS The Doctor.

Tennant, for me, is only second to Tom Baker in the title role. And by a diminishing gap. He has his detractors, but I have grown to appreciate the quirkiness he brings to the role - I loved the scene when he dispensed with his shoes after letting out radiation through his foot! That was very Tenth Doctor.

Tennant also did well to deliver the line "Judoon platoon on the Moon" without his native Scots brogue! Just as well Davies didn't add "We're all doomed", the famous line from Private Fraser in Dad's Army, though . . .

If, as seems likely, Tennant completes a full third season, I'm sure his place at the head of DW lore will be assured.

The rest of the cast made less of an impression - Roy Marsden made a pleasing cameo as the consultant and Anne Reid was chilling in parts, hammy in parts as the Plasmavore. Martha's family - estranged parents, father's girlfriend, brother and sister - were short on screen time, and clearly will need more of that to earn the affection in which Jackie and Mickey were held. They were not instantly popular either, though.

Great effects - the Moon looked fabulous - and composer Murray Gold's excellence can be taken as heard, while the Judoon head was another triumph for Neill Gorton and his prosthetics team.

Clever idea to have rhino-headed storm troopers, another iconic creation and one which has got to have a high fear factor for young children. I wasn't 100 per cent convinced about the leather skirts which accompanied them, but put that down to a bit of mischief from the writer - a right he has earned!

The voice was also excellent - highly distinctive, and I much preferred Nick Brigg's interpretation here than the Cyber voices. I enjoyed the Judoon booming in its own tongue before assimilating the human voice. I suspect we will see these space policemen, er, policerhinos again.

And what of those little "seeds" which Davies likes to plant for the regular viewer?

Mention of "Mr Saxon" again suggests that "Saxon" is likely to be this season's "Bad Wolf" or "Torchwood". I get the impression that this arc might have been better thought through, though, as it was first mentioned as far back as Love and Monsters on a newspaper being read by Peter Kay's Abzorbaloff.

I always suspected the Bad Wolf arc was a bit of an after-thought, and Torchwood, although better realised, always smacked of product placement. Saxon sounds like a plan!

You'd actually have to be living on the Moon to have missed the fact in pre-publicity that Mr Saxon is an MP, probably the PM, and is to be played by John Simm. An actor of Simm's stature isn't coming in to DW in less than a highly-significant role, so it's a reasonable assumption that Saxon is probably The Master. Having brought back the Daleks and the Cybermen, The Master is next on the list for a revival.

The Doctor dropping in a line that he didn't have a brother "any more" has to be significant. Therefore, Saxon. Master. Doctor's brother? All one and the same. We will see!

Another interesting "throwaway" line was Martha's confirmation that Adeola, killed in Army Of Ghosts, was her cousin. Everything Davies writes appear to be for a reason - so, is this little titbit set to be important, or is it just a way of explaining away the same actress playing both parts? It could be said that The Doctor killed Adeola - or could be made to look like that . . .

And what of the Plasmavore? With a forthcoming episode called The Family Of Blood, it's another fair assumption that this is a name we'll hear again. And is there some residue from The Doctor being drained of blood?

All in all, an above-average season opener - taking Dalek and Cybermen starters out of the equation, the best first episode since Warriors Of The Deep, with any amount of promise for treats to come.

A solid seven and a half out of 10. Welcome back!

Link 
Google+
Filters: Television Series 3/29 Tenth Doctor
 

Like so...'

Essentially, this is 'Doctor Who' reboot 2.0. Russell T Davies takes all his experience from the first two series and distills them into a second pilot episode. But it's a pilot episode informed by the rules of engagement established since 'Rose'.

And what fun it is. Confident and witty, the introduction of Martha Jones feels more assured than that of Rose Tyler. Granted, back in 2005 an awful lot was being gambled on with the new series but here, two years in, we've been given something that takes the familiar tropes and gives them a jazz treatment, free associating playfully with our expectations and associations. Cue the Doctor in pyjamas and dressing gown again and Martha's cousin as well as a recap of various alien incursions on Earth in the last two years.

The general theme here is one of crime and punishment. The Judoon, beautifully designed space police rhino thugs by way of 'Hitch Hiker', are tracking down a Plasmavore, hiding in plain sight as a dotty old lady played by the marvellously arch Anne Reid. The kids won't sleep knowing their granny could be a blood sucking creature from outer space. Back to our theme then, prisons...prisons....prisons. Martha trapped in the escalating domestic disputes of her own family, caught in the mundane reality of death and taxes and the Doctor doomed to wander the universe alone whilst the Judoon catalogue anyone and anything in a merciless tyranny of numbers. A bizarre satire on the management hell of NHS trusts then? Even in space, you're a statistic. The hilarious squeeky marker pen crosses betray a deeper symbolism - you will conform or die. The cross represents the individual idealised, the crucifix an enforcement of conformity. Just don't go breaking vases over the heads of rhino space police any day soon. It upsets their cataloguing and the due process of the law.

And the Plasmavore has murdered a child. Yes, from the description it sounds like Shirley Temple meets Bonnie Langford but to kill another being because they had a fresh complexion and a curly barnet is a sign that you've been swallowed by the 'darkness' to come. The criminal is oh so familar with the underworld, has a deep relationship with the darker side of life, knows how to duck and dive. Strangely, the Plasmavore and the Doctor are functioning opposites - both pretend to be patients in the hospital to gain their own advantage. The Plasmavore is a hacker, swiping identities to hide in plain sight, the Doctor is a freakish Time Lord gigolo luring Martha into his TARDIS. Granted, he sacrifices his own identity to flush out the interloper.

So what of Martha? Personally, I think Freema hits the ground running. She's quite splendid in this opening episode and establishes the character not just in a broad sense but in the smaller details. Her humanism is right to the fore when she pauses to close the eyes of the now deceased consultant, Mr. Stoker (yes, a little nod to Bram there). She respects the dead and the dying and understands completely that the Doctor has sacrificed himself to save the day. She doesn't muck about and takes quite a lot in her stride. Her sentimental side will, I think, be the force that drives the forthcoming series as she tries to keep her feelings about our favourite Time Lord in check. That she bookends the entire episode is entirely fitting and like 'Rose' the story is told from her point of view. It's important that she remains the audience identification figure. The way Freema handles much of this in the episode is an indication that we're in safe hands.

Tennant's Doctor seems a little more world weary here. You get the sense he's been travelling alone for a while but I do think there was too heavy an emphasis on the 'seduction' of Martha to his lifestyle. There was a feeling of him shopping around for his next companion in this and the scene in the alley did have an odd predatory, sexual undertone that didn't belong to the series. However, overlooking this aspect, Tennant's performance throughout was confident and boisterous without recourse to some of the over-acting in the earlier parts of Series 2. The tone has shifted and he's picking up and recycling little physical ticks and speech patterns that are uniquely his own with a good deal of sensitivity. I really got a sense of his Doctor this time round.

And Anne Reid was both funny and frightening as Florence. Her lip-smacking performance was pitched just right and she clearly homed in on the requirements of the script with Russell's typical volte face of wit and horror.

On the production front we've moved up a notch again. Fantastic work from the boys at The Mill especially the fetishistic, phallic Judoon spaceships landing on the Moon which then carried through to the rhinos in leather look of the costumes. Great prosthetics from Millennium and Neil Gorton but it was obvious that the budget only allowed them to have one helmet-less Judoon in the story. And Murray Gold...will this man ever stop coming up with the goods? Lovely music, gorgeous theme for Martha which I'm sure will have many iterations over the coming weeks and some finely judged solo strings amongst the bombast of the Judoon's marching themes.

Overall, then...bureaucratic rhinos from outer space taking the free market to extraordinary lengths to try and keep their statistics up to date, identity theft from a little old lady called Florence and the Doctor's symbolic death and re-birth as witnessed by one Martha Jones. The fact that Russell T Davies juggled that lot and threw laughs aplenty in there too is quite astonishing. Plus some prefiguring of the coming darkness, an indication that the Doctor did have a 'brother' and Martha's take on the TARDIS as a spaceship made of wood.

Lovely.

Link 
Google+
Filters: Television Series 3/29 Tenth Doctor
 

Series 3 had so much to prove. The astonishing departure of Rose, played so emotionally and brilliantly by David Tennant and Billie Piper, and an OK Christmas special meant that the stakes were really high for Series 3: especially with the arrival of a new companion.

So - where to begin? Well how about with the new baddies, the Judoon. Surely these Rhino Police have to be one of the best costume effects ever produced on Doctor Who: with a great voice provided by Nick Briggs (who also makes the Dalek and Cybermen voices: though you wouldn't have known from this performance!). The creatures were imaginative and scary, with just a dash of absurdity - just enough to make me hope that we haven't seen the last of them.

And David Tennant seems to have grown into The Doctor's shoes now. I have to confess I never really liked Chris Ecclestone that much: he seemed to take the whole thing (and himself) far too seriously. I've loved David Tennant from the moment he first spoke: he seemed to have pitched The Doctor's voice exactly write: RP but without the stuffiness. David seems more sure of himself in the role, and seems to know where the boundary is from gurning at the camera to being twinkly-eyed. For me he is probably now my second favourite Doctor (Tom Baker, of course, being the favourite!). This episode wasn't really about The Doctor in any case, but there was enough for me to just feel very happy that we have David Tennant in the role.

And so to Martha Jones. Freema Agyeman is absolutely superb as Martha Jones, a feisty, funny and far more intelligent companion than Rose. I love her warmth (both with her family and to The Doctor) and her sense of adventure and wide-open view of the world. Russell T Davies has done a great job over the last series of letting chinks of light through to the 'Earth' characters, so that we don't have to waste any time getting over their disbelief in Aliens. They've seen spaceships crashing through Parliament, so humans know Aliens exist. Thank God! I miss Rose enormously, but Martha is clearly going to make a great companion for the Doctor, and I like very much that Russell has managed to write a very different dynamic between the Doctor and Martha.

If Episode 1 is anything to go by, Doctor Who seems somehow bigger, better and more confident in itself. After the big, dramatic, emotional ending of Series 2, Russell T Davies seems to have continued confidence: the script for his last few episodes have all been excellent (ever since those last two episodes of Series 2) and I just can't wait for more. No more going out on Saturday nights: Doctor Who is back -bigger and better than ever.

Link 
Google+
Filters: Television Series 3/29 Tenth Doctor
 

Well that was a long wait over! I've been looking forward to David Tennant's second series with the eager anticipation of my inner (earthly) child. This time the wife and I hooked up with one of my oldest friends to watch Smith & Jones, and had a stimulating conversation beforehand about how we believe Tennant to be the best Doctor since Tom Baker...and how we dislike Michael Grade etc...

But to Ms Jones, and I have to say that while the episode will not go down in my lists of classics it nevertheless did its job. Although we started with the soap element, RTD wisely toned things down compared to "Rose" and we were given just enough to glimpse into Martha's life and why she might prefer travelling in the Tardis to staying earthbound. Martha has a family, and like many families they squabble over the everyday issues...she has grown tired of it all.

So what of the story? It seemed quite light, which is perhaps not a bad idea for the series opener. However I preferred last year's "New Earth". I thought the plot was only worthy of one 45 minute episode, although more details of the alien's crime might have been of interest. I did enjoy the glee on her face whenever she brought out her drinking straw!

I liked the Juddoon, and was pleasantly surprised to find out that they are intergalactic police rather than evil monsters. It lends the otherwise two-dimensional species some character and would also make future appearances more interesting. Indeed of all the new alien races we've seen since Doctor Who's reincarnation, the Juddoon are the one I would most like to see again. I'd imagine a writer on good form could hang a really interesting story on the whole intergalactic law and police operation.

I'm getting used to RTD's brand of humour, and I suspect he's restraining himself a little too. I actually found myself chuckling at times, though I was afraid that the Doctor might fart away the radiation in the x-ray room. I wonder what shoes he'll be wearing next week?

Martha and the Doctor seem to have hit it off well, I do like that Martha is a thinker. I loved the Rose character but Martha is necessarily different and that should ensure her success.

Overall it was light, tea time family entertainment with enough Doctor Who to just about satisfy...perhaps the most satisfying parts were in the detail such as Tennant miming "its bigger on the inside"...I am hoping for better stories in the coming weeks.

6.5/10

Link 
Google+
Filters: Television Series 3/29 Tenth Doctor
 

After the hit and mostly miss of season two, I surprisingly found myself excited about the approach of season three. Perhaps with Torchwood and Primeval in the background, suddenly there seemed to be more fantasy TV on the box than for a long time.

Fortunately Smith and Jones, the season opener, was solid enjoyable fare that did a good job of fleshing out what a 21st century vision of Doctor Who could be like for a family audience. With an ambitious premise the views of a hospital block on the moon, yes on the bloody moon, were well done and overall this clever production looked great. The landing of the Judoon spacecraft was wonderful, although I couldn't help thinking the lunar landscape looked more 2001 Space Odyssey rather than the real vistas of the Apollo missions. One nice touch was the reaction of the hospital inhabitants to their new locale ? a slow realisation followed by sheer terror. So many other productions depict people bravely soldiering on in these situations when of course if this sort of thing actually happened, most people would go rather mad. It did a good job of notching up the tension.

The Judoon, intergalactic coppers, were well done although fairly simplistic. Along with setting it in an actual hospital, with a lot of already built corridors to run down, the showing of only one trooper's actual face was clear cost cutting. Just one more rhino face would have helped dispell this rather obvious budgeting. But they looked great, although this fanboy longed for Sontarans instead, who would have been far more frightening and evil.

The snappy little plot with a not quite sinister enough villian worked well enough. The one major problem I had was that there were worries to begin with that once the Judoon found the alien they wanted, they would destroy the hospital and everyone in it for harbouring their quarry. But this never resurfaces and the Judoon handily transport the hospital back to Earth and everything is well again.

The performances are consistent and the new companion is rather good as well as rather gorgeous. David Tennant's performance is restrained compared to some of his previous, perhaps rather irritating, outings as the Doctor with only the scene with the radiation escaping from his foot giving cause for concern. This scene just doesn't work. In another scene he mentions that he once had a brother and whilst with Christopher Eccleston's Doctor (think of that tear in Episode 2 of Season 1) these moments were always a breathtaking revelation, with David it never quite has the same power.

And at the end we have the Doctor seduce his new companion into travelling with him after she undergoes an unsatisfying episode in her own domestic situation. An exact parallel with the same scene in Rose, it suggests a Doctor who travels the cosmos in his high powered time machine to pick up chicks. "Did I mention, it also travels in time", the Doctor almost says in what was presumably an exercise in cutting and pasting for the writer.

But overall, great fun and easily the most satisfying start to a new season for the new Who.

Link 
Google+
Filters: Television Series 3/29 Tenth Doctor
 

The Doctor's back, just in time to combat 'a platoon of Judoon on the moon.'

There was very little I didn't enjoy about 'Smith and Jones'. It didn't overload the real-life portion of the story like 'Rose' or overindulge in camp like 'New Earth'. What we got instead was a solid, rip-roaring adventure that barely stopped for breath and still mananged to warm a potentially sceptical public to new-girl, Martha Jones.

The Judoon were maybe slightly too rubbery-looking, but Nick Briggs' forceful voice work covered that nicely and where others might find the idea of a baddie with a straw a little ridiculous, I felt it was a nice way to sell a vampire at 7pm on a Saturday. The hospital on the moon, air running out ... there was just enough spectacle and danger to keep things ticking along nicely.

As for Martha, well, we got a great sense of her family life without having it rammed down our throats and she seems to be a sparky, confident woman who will question as much as react to the Doctor's ramblings. Definitely not just Rose mark 2. Freema Agyeman does a great job of giving us a woman who stays cool in a crisis (I don't believe I saw her scream once in the entire episode) but who needs an adventure as much as Rose did, not because she has nothing in her life, but because she has rather too much and needs a break. It all helps that Agyeman oozes charm and has a smile that would light up the Satan Pit ...

Tennant settles back in well but seems to pare back some of the manic energy which becamse a bit cumbersome last season. And he still does the 'mysterious Tom Baker stance' against the TARDIS very effectively.

Other little gems were the fact that Marth'a theme certainly echoes Rose's but suggests something new, the repetition of the 'Run!' line coupled with a close-up of the Doctor grabbing Martha's hand (just as he did when he first met Rose) and the Doctor's casual reference to a brother he once had (and that'll be the season baddie setup then ...I wonder who it could be?).

Season 3, while the production crew might rubbish any notion of 'darkening it down', seems to have a fresh, edgier feel to it and I'm really excited about what's to come.

Vote Saxon, indeed.

Link 
Google+
Filters: Television Series 3/29 Tenth Doctor
 

There's an old saying that what is past is prologue. That goes not only for the twenty-six years Doctor Who was a television staple, but also for the past two years, when spirits were high and Rose Tyler kicked Dalek butt across the cosmos and back. Indeed, Rose is now such a distant memory, it seems, that the one time her name comes up in "Smith and Jones" it feels like one of those fanwanky nods to the past that people complain about ten years on and everyone's moved away from the table toward other, more current pastures.

"Smith and Jones" feels like the start of a new era, and rightfully so. It's not merely because there's a new occupant in the TARDIS -- we've done that already, and almost did the same this past Christmas. Rather, it's as if there was a great big balloon that was blown up over the past two years, "Doomsday" popped it and "The Runaway Bride" was stretching out the new one, ready to start it all over again. We have a different sensibility, a more mature Doctor in control (and I realize how that sounds; it's merely because Tennant was so new to the role last year, it almost felt like he was getting his boots wet over the course of the year.) There are many of the same trappings -- the TARDIS is still familiar, we still have the Doctor saving the world and even a ratty old family thrown in for good measure. But there's something different about the start of the third series; maybe it's a different method of storytelling, or simply a different ambience to the series now that Freema Agyeman's joined the show.

Freema is the heartbeat of the episode; it's from her character, Martha Jones, that we gain our point of view. We don't know why the Doctor's here at the hospital, or why in the world she saw him out on the street (a clever plot device that, granted, might have been more interesting if they hadn't explained it so thoroughly at the end of the episode.) We're left to the Doctor's explanation of the Judoon, without so much as a reason for why these intergalactic rhinos are so amazingly stubborn that they'll kill on sight without any thought for mercy, but will gladly hold a hospital full of people captive and then plunk it back down on Earth without so much as an apology for the inconvenience. (I'm sure I wasn't the only person for whom the word Vogon passed through one's mind.) She's the anti-Rose; she's not as wide-eyed and innocent as her predecessor, a bit more worldly, and seems to know the face of adversity. (Try living with that family for a week; you'd be battle-hardened in no time.) Whereas one of Billie Piper's strengths was knowing when to demonstrate independence and when to show deference to the Doctor, Freema Agyeman portrays a woman willing to stand on her own two feet, willing to draw the line in the sand -- whether a good idea or not. She has no idea why the Judoon have come, or why Anne Reid's creepy Mrs. Finnegan is sucking blood through a straw, but one has to wonder if she really cares exactly why it's happening or just wants it to stop altogether. In this way, Freema seems like more of a match for Tennant, whereas in my mind Piper's suitability was always with Christopher Eccleston. She might just be exactly what this incarnation of the Doctor needs.

Tennant is more calm, more assured, and has quite clearly taken the role of the Doctor as his own. There are far fewer moments of unconvincing histrionics, and Tennant demonstrates more confidence, especially on the lighter, sillier side; last year, it might have merely seemed goofy that the Doctor was sitting in his pajamas in a hospital bed, but this time around it feels right. Combined with the more sophisticated companion Agyeman plays, it feels like there are really two leads running with the series. (That shouldn't be taken as a knock against Piper, who I always felt was one of the strongest parts of the first series; it was just that last year, being relegated so often to the 'damsel in distress' role or the far-too-cheeky irreverence that really ruined parts of "Tooth and Claw" for me, Rose had become a fundamentally different character, and I'm not sure that was the smartest idea.)

"Smith and Jones" also has a very different feel to its production. Charles Palmer's direction is far more confident than the touch-and-go moments of the series' first two years; making use of an actual hospital is fine, but when it actually FEELS like it's been transported to the moon instead of simply making us understand that it is, and forget all the logic faults, one can appreciate the subtleties (darkened lighting, clever edits and so forth) a director, editor and cinematographer must use. The CGI this time is limited solely to events that aid the production instead of overtake it, and in fact the only time I felt slightly letdown was the unnecessary pan from overhead on the lines of Judoon leaving their ships, which wasn't as flawless as one would hope. Speaking of the Judoon: very nicely done in design and development, and fantastic work on the prosthetics, although a bit derivative of the Vogons as I mentioned before. (I do have to wonder, though, if the Sontarans were the original series aliens rumored to be part of the start of this season, but they couldn't be used for rights reasons. No matter.)

Whilst Anne Reid's deliciously daffy portrayal of Mrs. Finnegan works beautifully in this episode, and the only problem with Roy Marsden's hospital administrator is that he's not given nearly as much screen time as one would hope, the over-the-top portrayal of Martha's family feels a bit forced. We've done the whole 'Piper clan' thing the past two years; I understand the reasons why the production team might wish to 'ground' the Doctor with the anchor his companion's life provides, but coming so quickly on the heels of the last family-who-became-familiar, it's unnecessary. The Doctor, after all, managed to ground himself to Earth for twenty-six seasons of the original series; he's tied to planet Earth, he doesn't need a reason to come back. (Especially to London or Cardiff!) Apart from this, some nice little references here and there both answer to the past as well as set up things for the future: the one-liner about Agyeman's past as a guest player, the "Vote Saxon" stuff that's being set up for later this year, and so forth. And what's this about the Doctor's brotherÂ…?

Trivialities aside, "Smith and Jones" breathes new life and a new sense of direction into Doctor Who. Martha Jones is a welcome addition to the TARDIS crew, and one hopes Agyeman will be able to handle herself as a foil to Tennant's Doctor with as much ease as she's demonstrated here. Never a fan of last year's season opener (which I still feel is easily the weakest episode of the new series), "Smith and Jones" was far more to my liking. It's a new dawn for the Doctor and his rackety old TARDIS, and I can't wait to see how this new season plays out over the next few months.


(For my reviews of the first two series, see my books "Back To The Vortex" and "Second Flight: Back to the Vortex II" available from Telos Publishing.)

Link 
Google+
Filters: Television Series 3/29 Tenth Doctor
 

A fantastic opener, fantastic in the sense that it kick starts the show in exactly the right direction and deals a double blow to critics who have lost faith in the show. Taking the three opening episodes of series one, two and three this is easily the best of the lot, extremely confident with its identity and showing the audience that the series still has so much to offer.

I want leap straight on to the hot topic of Freema Agyeman as Martha Jones who was under a lot of pressure to deliver the goods after Billie Piper's career boosting turn as Rose. All my fears were dismissed in this episode alone. Freema is a real find and totally convincing in what is actually a hard role to make convincing (come on there are not that many people who can being kidnapped to the moon and not panicking seem rational) but even better she is likable and coming after a pretty smug year with Rose Tyler the humble and intelligent Martha Jones feels much more comfortable. As well as being utterly gorgeous she plays the role with enthusiasm and humanity and shares instant chemistry with David Tennant (I'm fast coming to the conclusion that this guy could have chemistry with ANYONE!). We get some back-story behind the character with another London based family featuring heavily in her life but with a completely different feel to the Tylers. To be honest we don't spend enough time with the Jones' to see if they will compare but the domestic drama that laces this story feel so real it is a good (and witty) introduction to them.

The big difference between this episode and New Earth (which is still a good'un) is tone. Smith and Jones (reserving judgement on the title) whilst containing some funny moments is essentially a serious episode with some nice threatening scenes to give the drama some backbone. Whereas New Earth pulled you in several directions from farce to poignancy, this opener has a focussed storyline and concentrates on thrills and danger. Moments that should be absurd are not only pulled off but also played with such conviction they give you the chills (the line "I even have a straw" is really creepy!).

Sod Primeval and its dinosaurs in modern day Earth, Doctor Who opens its season with a hospital transported to the moon! It sounds ridiculous but the direction is stunning, backed up by some very clever special effects. There is something very Sapphire and Steel about the shot of the moon sitting very lonesome on the moons surface and the slow reveal from the veranda is a Russell T Davies moment of genius. What other show on telly could get away with this and maintain its integrity?

With this surprise unleashed the episode barely stops for a breath with the Judoon making an instant impression, soaring overhead in their (excellent) spaceships and marching across the moons surface to besiege the hospital. This is another special effects triumph from the Mill and another spectacle to add to the episodes list. I know, we were all thinking it was the Sontarans but frankly the animatronics and design of the Judoon are so good I don't give a toss that it isn't. It occurred to me during the scene when the Judoon pour through the doors of the hospital that Doctor Who is screened near the timeslot for Casualty and this plot pretty similar to some of theirs (well no it isn't?but they could pour on some pretty unlikely concepts at times). The Judoon are another idea that could have been really disastrous (think back to the first appearance of the Slitheen) but thanks to a spot on director (Charles Palmer, you may return any day!) and some great effects they are really menacing and high on the list of returnable monsters.

Who would believe that this is the same Anne Reid that played Nurse Crane in Curse of Fenric? I'm pleased to see her turning up in more and more telly lately, obviously brilliant in Dinnerladies but also very good in The Bad Mother's Handbook (with none other than Catherine Tate) and giving a terrific performance in Smith and Jones. She never tips over into melodrama (despite threats) and manages to make (AGAIN!) what is essentially a bloody stupid idea work like a dream (that straw will haunt my dreams). Seriously I was rather hoping she would return at a later date because she makes an intriguing foe, turning from frail old granny to menacing blood sucker in a matter of seconds (plus she has a nice line in witty quips?gotta love, "Call it my little gift.")

David Tennant owns the role now and can draw on much of what he has already achieved. The biggest difference I felt was that he has calmed down slightly, playing the performance from the atmosphere rather than the stratosphere. I have no doubt that we will be seeing some of his histrionics throughout the season but he seems to be listening to his harshest critics who aren't fond of his exploding emotional firework of a performance and delivering something far more restrained. It really works in an episode like this that demands quick thinking, fast action and a certain amount of gravity but I hope he hasn't been reigned in completely. What struck me as more thoughtful than the norm (and backed up by the script) was the Doctor's thoughtful looks as Martha thinks about her situation and intelligently reasons moments out and stops him in his tracks to make sure they are operating humanely, like he was never looking for company but the more she does to impress him the more he likes being around her. After their adventure together on the moon it felt perfectly natural for him to waiting on a street corner for her feuding family to disperse and offer her a trip of a lifetime.

The scene in the alleyway is the highpoint of the episode. Surprising since all of thrills and spills are over. It just goes to show what two actors can do with what is essentially the same scene that has been repeated over and over for the past fourty years. Tennant and Agyeman work Davies' dialogue like a dream and there are some lovely, perceptive comments made (I love the ?made of wood' line) and Martha's choice to step inside feels somehow more natural than Rose's. Rose was escaping a boring life but with Martha it is like stepping into the TARDIS because it will be fun, exactly what my reaction would be if offered. I do like the reference back to Rose; it is nice to know that once you have left the TARDIS you aren't forgotten.

Whilst the performances and direction are both superb I would like to hand the plaudits over to Murray Gold and his amazing score for this episode. I will put my hand on my heart and swear that Gold's music is one of the reason this show has been such a success and triumphed over weaker copies such as Primeval. The theme for the Judoon is so bombastic and grand I was punching the air in time thinking, yeah, this is why this show is so cool! I have just finished a course on programmatic music and Gold's distinctive themes for each character is a beautiful example of his effective it can be. Martha gets her own here; it's not as haunting as Rose's but it is more mysterious and upbeat. I like.

Other things to notice:

* Another mention of the mysterious Mr Saxon. Where is this leading?

* "We're on the bloody moon!" ? swearing at quarter past seven on the BBC! It wouldn't have happened in my day!

* The sequence where the Doctor drains the radiation from his body is laugh out loud hilarious. Tennant is so good at acting like a prat. There's a backhanded compliment for you!

* I love the setting too, Doctor Who stays remarkably shy of hospitals and this is the first all adventure set in one (Spearhead from Space doesn't count, nor the TV Movie?I suppose you could include The Invisible Enemy but I lot of people would rather you didn't).

* A snog in the first episode together? Tennant is so damn gorgeous I'd be right in there too.

Smith and Jones (yeah okay it works?its just the reminder of Sam Jones from the EDAs that puts me off) is a real achiever of an episode. It introduces Martha superbly, it tells an enjoyable self-contained story (RTD's plotting is just getting better and better), it has kick started a new era of NuWho (TM SFX) with real verve and excitement and it has provided a much needed slap in the gob of critics who saw The Runaway Bride as the sign of things to come. Bravo!

Link 
Google+
Filters: Television Series 3/29 Tenth Doctor
 

There was one moment where Smith and Jones had me worried. It came when the Doctor was discharging the radiation from his body after having killed the Slab with the x-ray machine. I had a horrible, horrible feeling from the way he was standing and talking that he was going to discharge the radiation by way of passing wind. I was cringing ready for it, but mercifully my fears proved groundless, and we ended up with the rather jolly bit about looking silly in one shoe.

That was the only worry. The rest of the episode was excellent ? probably the best series opener the show has had since its return. Probably since Remembrance of the Daleks, in fact. Rose was excellent and vital in making the comeback a success, but Smith and Jones takes on board all of the lessons the production team had learned over the previous two series and uses them to hit us with a sharp, exciting, witty and energetic curtain-raiser that really gets series three going on a high.

It is interesting to note, though, that the episode had much in common with Rose, also being a kind of relaunch now that Billie Piper has left. This was underlined by it being the only episode since that March 2005 opener not to have a pre-titles sequence, plunging us straight into the theme music and then into the world of Miss Martha Jones. Davies quickly sketched out her character's family background for us via the phone conversations, and then dropped a nice dollop of mystery into things with the Doctor's brief time-bending appearance ? surely the first time in Doctor Who's history where the companion and the Doctor have first met each other at different times.

I wasn't too sure what to expect from Freema Agyeman. Her brief role in Army of Ghosts was the only thing I'd seen her acting in before, and while she played that part perfectly well, there wasn't really enough for her to do to show how she might fare as a companion. Certainly all of her press interviews and appearances have displayed an infectious charm and enthusiasm for the show and her role, but as the opening titles faded away it was still a bit of a mystery just how well she might do in what's now one of the highest-profile roles on British television.

Well, she was fantastic, to coin a phrase. I took to the character of Martha Jones pretty much instantly; I liked Rose Tyler, but even after only one episode I have the suspicion I will like Martha Jones a lot more. That's not to denigrate Piper at all ? she did a wonderful job and was a major part of the success of the show's resurrection ? but Agyeman's Martha seems to be very much a Sarah Jane Smith to the Jo Grant of Piper's Rose. More independent, a little more grown-up and generally a bit sassier and more dynamic, she was great throughout and promises to be an excellent foil for the Tenth Doctor. I'm sure her "We're on the bloody moon!" exclamation will become one of the most oft-quoted lines from this series.

Speaking of which, the whole business of going to the moon and so forth was equally terrific. The lifting of the hospital, the CGI images of the building sitting there alone on the lunar landscape, the Judoon ships? Great, big, exciting, iconic sci-fi images that really gave this series-opener a sense of the different and the slightly epic. Space Rhinos! On the Moon! As the Doctor himself excitedly points out when trying to pass off as human to the Plasmavore, this is weird, crazy stuff. Exactly the sort of thing Doctor Who does best.

Another feather in the cap of Doctor Who ? particularly modern Doctor Who ? has been prosthetic creature creation, and the Judoon leader was a magnificent achievement, so well done that I don't think you ever really noticed too much that the others (all five of them!) never took their helmets off so as to avoid the cost of building another mask. I liked the general concept of the Judoon too ? mercenary galactic policemen with a quick and harsh system of justice, and I wouldn't be surprised to see them crop up again in the future. Indeed, I very much hope that they do.

There'd been a bit of sleight of hand in the trailers and publicity which gave the impression that the Judoon were perhaps the main adversaries in this episode, so it was a nice twist that the evil-of-the-week was actually Anne Reid's batty old Plasmavore in human form. Reid is always good value in any of her roles ? indeed, the whole guest cast this week was very strong, I would say ? and I liked the comic touch of her bendy straw. It has to be admitted, however, that the weak part of the episode's plot was the super-strength MRI machine. However, real science has never been a strong point of Doctor Who, and I'm prepared to let that one pass, especially given the fact that ? like Rose ? this episode's plot didn't matter anywhere near as much as its introduction of the new companion to the Doctor did, and in that task it succeeded admirably.

There are a few other niggles here and there, mind you. What was the point in destroying the sonic screwdriver only for the Doctor to have got himself a brand new one by the end of the episode? I don't dislike the screwdriver as much as some do, but it would have been interesting to see how he managed to cope without it as his get-out-of-jail-free card for a few episodes. I also didn't like the Doctor's stumbling remembrance of Rose at the end, as he's talking to Martha in the TARDIS ? it felt a bit artificial somehow, the same was as it did back in The Runaway Bride when he had similar moments with Donna. I suppose it's really because I was never a fan of the way the character of Rose was shown to have made such an apparently big impact on him, but that's a very personal sort of reaction and not something Davies and the production team can really be criticised for.

There were extra little positives lying around as well as the niggles, however. I was intrigued by the Doctor's throwaway mention of having previously had a brother. I have no idea whether this is going to prove to be in some way relevant in the long run or not ? I suspect not ? but I always enjoy these little off-handedly mentioned bits of continuity, scraps of dialogue that offer glimpses of the history of the Doctor without really giving any answers. Anything that increases the mystery and enigma of the character and his origins is all right by me.

Something that seemingly is going to prove more relevant is the character of ?Mr Saxon', first seen mentioned on a newspaper back in Love & Monsters, referred to again in The Runaway Bride and now talked about on the radio here, as well as ?Vote Saxon' posters being prominently on display. I know that Saxon is to be played by John Simm towards the season's end, but who or what exactly he might be is an interesting little mystery. We all have our ideas, of course, but once again it seems there's to be a nice little element of mystery simmering away across the background of this series' episodes.

Which is as it should be. Doctor Who, for me, has always been about strange mysteries, engaging characters and exciting adventure stories. Smith and Jones had all of these things, and for my money was a fine opener to what promises to be, if this standard is maintained and perhaps even built upon, a fine set of episodes.

Link 
Google+
Filters: Television Series 3/29 Tenth Doctor
 

No doubt there was a time when a whimsical pun would have been relegated to the closet of odd working titles prior to a more suitable title for a Who story being thought up. Instead, we get the working title for the title, while the far better one, Baptism of Fire, is filed away.

Smith and Jones then kicks of Season Three in fairly typical RTD fashion: an impossibly far-fetched plot interspersed with utterly irrelevant and irritating contemporary soap, lots of running up and down corridors (ironic, as that's often what the classic show was criticised for), some token flirting with (new) companion, a totally inappropriate snog with said companion, equally inappropriate sexual innuendo (re the ?fetish' aspect of the all-leather androids), big chunky aliens with no back-story (whose leather-clad bulks just beg the question, why not just bring back the Sontarans, rather than a bunch of Rhinos with a stupid language?), lots of spectacle and explosion, a wacky, near-demented, Jarvis Cocker-Doctor who seems perpetually cranked into a post-regeneration personality crisis, and, well, everything else?

In the scenes with the Doctor sat up scrawny and bulging-eyed like a medley of Charles Hawtrey and Kenneth Williams in one of the hospital Carry On films, I kept thinking, what is it about Tennant's obviously enthusiastic and quirky attempt at portraying the Timelord that jars with me? I still can't quite put my finger on it, but I think he's falling into the trap that Colin Baker fell into (also, interestingly, a Who fan prior to playing the part): overt enthusiasm. This isn't good. The brilliance of Tom Baker, for instance, was that he didn't make his enthusiasm so obvious, and actually originally often underplayed the part, frequently subdued and convincingly alien for that, so when his occasional quirky outbursts came, they resonated all the more for the contrast. Tennant's mistake is that he cranks up the wackiness and eccentricity too much and too frequently, so that one almost itches with irritation, just aching for his Doctor to play a bit for subtlety now and then. He does sometimes, and when he does, he is at his most likeable and convincing. Unfortunately, for a Doctor who resembles a slightly geeky Science under-graduate, there really is no need for extra eye-bulging, limb-flailing, and general impersonations of a stick-insect on speed. Tone it down, David, for God's sake.

The continual hyperbole regarding Tenant's portrayal must, I think, be taken with a large pinch of salt: it's all spin, something New Who has in common with New Labour, and the attempt at sexing-up the Doctor is part of this pumping up of the part, and its current incumbent. David Tennant is certainly a good Doctor, when he's allowed to be, but anyone with any remote knowledge of the classic series will know that on many levels his incarnation falls far short of at least three or four of the old Doctors. Compared to Troughton, Pertwee or Tom Baker, Tennant is still in the playground in terms of portrayal ? he is still promising in places, but his exaggerated youthfulness in appearance and approach sits as awkwardly with ?attempted gravitas' as McCoy's clownish physiognomy and clumsy articulation once did (though the latter eventually mastered the darkness of the part in stories such as The Curse of Fenric). Tennant could also do with a touch of Davison's well-gauged subtlety and underplaying too.

The hype is already spreading about the new companion Martha, possibly due to insecurity at the ? in my view, belated ? departure of Billie Piper. So far Martha seems to me a fairly run-of-the-mill companion, whose apparent special ?something' in actress Freema Agyeman (sic) coincides with almost air-brushed good looks. Time will tell. But let's have less of the teenagery flirting with the Doctor.

Good touches this episode? Not many, sadly. A bit of a New Earth-syndrome going on here: too much of a potpourri of only half-explored ideas and concepts thrown together into a bit of mess of a plot (a potpourri plot indeed) ? ironic considering RTD referred to Dickens' The Old Curiosity Shop in the same way. Mmmm, what is it the philosophers said RTD? Know thyself? The upwards rain was a nice touch, the Judoon (very Star Wars-sounding name again) looked convincing if a little bit like extras from Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy, with a very Vogon-like bureaucratic approach and lumbering sense of ?justice'. Roy Marsden led a bit of dramatic leaven to proceedings, though was sadly under-used and killed off too early by a very Rezzie-esque Anne Reid as a plazmavore whom we never actually see in her true form ? having to make do with a weird old lady in pyjamas with a straw in her mouth. The straw was a bit of a silly touch I thought, so very RTD in that sense.

So, not much else to say on this rather ludicrous episode of New Who except that which was ominously chanted ten years previously by New Labour: Things Can Only Get Better? surely?

3/10

Link 
Google+
Filters: Television Series 3/29 Tenth Doctor
 

Whilst "Doomsday" may have bled straight into "The Runaway Bride," the first episode of Series Three feels much more like a clean sheet. Firstly, "The Runaway Bride" is given a stand-alone DVD release, separating it from the third series. Secondly, "Smith and Jones" begins without a pre-title sequence ? the first episode to do so since "Rose". And it makes sense. The Doctor makes jokes about having spent "fifteen years as a postman", and although I would only take that with a pinch of salt, there is no doubting that "Smith and Jones" is set long after the events of "The Runaway Bride".

THE DOCTOR: I'm the Doctor.
MARTHA: As far as I'm concerned you've got to earn that title.

Companions rarely impress right from the word go, but Martha does just that; Freema Agyeman does exceptionally well in this episode. Not only does she look much more beautiful ?in the flesh' (as opposed to in her publicity stills, which I don't think do her justice), but she also portrays the character with such confidence that the viewer feels like they really know Martha within just a short few minutes of screen time. Driven; forceful; intelligent. A plethora of ?girl power' adjectives spring to mind, but they are not the same ones that I would use to describe Rose. Martha is a career girl. She is more academic than Rose; she's a professional. She's also a cut above her peers in almost every sense ? "Smith and Jones" skilfully demonstrates how she differs from those like Julia and Morgenstern. When they find themselves stranded on the moon, Julia turns into a gibbering wreck whilst Morgenstern gets delusions of heroism without actually taking any action. Only Martha has the presence of mind to try and reassure the patients; think logically about the hospital not being pressurised et cetera? In short, she has her head switched on.

Russell T. Davies recycles many elements that he first used in "Rose" ? not just the obvious and necessary ingredients, but things such as the whole ?holding hands' "Run!" sequence. A hospital corridor may not be as cinematically epic as Westminster Bridge by night, but in a Doctor Who sense I suppose it is at least a bit more traditional!

"Do you remember the Zygon gambit with the Loch Ness monster?
Or the Yeti in the underground?"

In the past, I've criticised the new series' umming-and-arring and about whether or not the people of contemporary Earth are ready to accept the knowledge that they are not alone in the universe. In Torchwood, Gwen was initially under the impression that recent global events, like those depicted in the "Aliens of London" two-parter, were the result of sort of terrorism. After all the Doctor's spiel about a "?brand new planet Earth?" in "The Christmas Invasion," Stephen Cole's novel "The Feast of the Drowned" confirmed that population had gone back to believing that the Sycorax and the Slitheen etc. were no more than high-profile hoaxes. Martha, however, knows better. She lost her cousin in the Battle of Canary Wharf (Ah. So that's why?) If the twenty-first century is when it all changes, then Martha is ready. And the Doctor appears to recognise this from the off.

This means that the Doctor doesn't have to waste time trying to convince her that aliens exist. Of course, when she looks out across the surface of the moon and sees a platoon on intergalactic alien stormtroopers heading straight for her, she'd have a hard time denying their existence.

The Judoon landing isn't the first stunning visual in the episode. The hospital under the black cloud is a simple, but striking image, as so eloquently described in the script: "like in a cartoon where a man has a cloud over his head". Moreover, I have always thought the Cybermen marching across the surface of the moon in "The Moonbase" is one of the most enduring images of the Patrick Troughton era ? it is certainly up there with the Cybermen coming out of the sewers near St. Paul's Cathedral or emerging from the Ice Tombs of Telos. And whilst I doubt very much that in the future the Judoon's moon landing will be held in such high regard, for me it completely hammered home just how good Doctor Who is in this day and age. No suspension of disbelief is required ? the Judoon look like they mean business. Their spaceships may look phallic, but the standard of the C.G.I. is outstanding. The prosthetics on the Judoon leader are even better. A rhino in a leather centurion's skirt with the silhouette of a Sontaran? How does Russell T. Davies do it? Even their native language sounded awesome ? it is completely alien, yet in an all-new and extremely amusing way. All those O's!

Unsurprisingly though, the plot of "Smith and Jones" is not head-scratchingly complex or fascinating. I do think, however, that it is a damned sight better than the science-fiction plots in both "Rose" and "New Earth." Basically, there is a Plasmavore hiding within the hospital where Martha Jones works. The Judoon ? an intergalactic police force ? are called in to arrest her. However, in order to do so, they have to transfer the hospital to the moon ("neutral territory") because under intergalactic law they have no jurisdiction over Earth. The second problem the Judoon face is that plasmavores can disguise themselves; their very nature means that they can easily absorb the blood of another species so that they may pass themselves off as, in this case, a human.

"You're quite the funny man, and yet I think laughing on purpose, at the darkness."

Anne Reid as the plasmavore is terrific. She's got that lovely little gimmick ? a straw. Just a normal, everyday straw and yet this show takes it and turns it into something menacing. Watching her exsanguinate Roy Marsden's consultant is very nasty - it will certainly put little kids off wanting to visit their grandmothers for a while!

I also though it was refreshing that the Judoon weren't just portrayed as baddies per se. Obviously they aren't goodies - all the "justice is swift" stuff and all that ? but nevertheless their apparent amorality makes them a bit more interesting than say, the completely immoral Slitheen. They also inject a lot of humour into the episode; there is a delightfully comic moment where after giving Martha a thorough (and, one would imagine, very uncomfortable) scan and determining that she is in fact human, they immediately doll out "compensation!"

"Forgive me for this, it could save a thousand lives; it means nothing."

Which brings me to the kiss. Just like all the uproar about "The Parting of the Ways" and "New Earth," it was all just a fuss about nothing. The Doctor Who production team are certainly very shrewd about how to garner media interest. Stick a fleeting, sensationalist snog in there for the most tenuous of plot reasons ("That was a genetic transfer!"); cut it into about a million trailers; stream in online; stick it in The Sun; and you've got ten million viewers on Saturday night! A Cynical, but smart move that I cannot really fault. And to be fair, it doesn't spoil anything. At least not for me - I quite like to see the Doctor getting about a bit in his old age. Besides, I don't think that anyone can argue with the emotional resonance that episodes like "The Girl In The Fireplace" and "Doomsday" have. A bit of romance simply helps tell a better story.

"I'd rather be on my own."

However, this isn't romance. This isn't a manly tear on a beach. This is attraction ? one-way attraction, according to Davies on Confidential. Like poor tragic Charlotte Pollard before her, it seems that Martha Jones is destined to be the victim of unrequited love. Her quips about the TARDIS being ?intimate' and the Doctor wearing tight pants certainly imply that she is attracted to him, but equally, the look on her face when he says "good" in response to her statement that she isn't ?remotely interested' in him speaks volumes.

"Your spaceship is made of wood."

In many ways, this episode has much in common with "Rose" in that it inducts Martha Jones and all her crazy family (who look brilliant, by the way. Especially her Dad and Annelise!) into the world of the Doctor. The key difference is that "Smith and Jones" does not also have the job of introducing a new audience to the Doctor. The new audience knows him now. This means that we can share the Doctor's amusement as he mouths "bigger on the inside" in perfect synch with Martha. In fact, the entire ?welcome to the TARDIS' scene has a whole new dynamic for the audience. The Doctor has seen the reactions of countless companions to the TARDIS interior and by now, even the new audience have seen the same thing about five times. Naturally, Davies ensures that although repetitive, the scene if far from boring. Martha's feisty comebacks to the Doctor's cryptic statements range from discerning to amusing.

THE DOCTOR: [I'm a] Time Lord.
MARTHA: Not pompous at all then.

Martha is without doubt a world away from Rose; if anything, her kick-ass attitude is closer to that of Lucie Miller, the eighth Doctor's companion in the recent BB7 radio series. Martha's got the brains though, too.

She's the full package.

There is so much more to enjoy about this episode ? that lovely ?time travel' trick with the tie; Murray Gold's stunning score that includes "Martha's Theme" (a soaring orchestral waltz); David Tennant's madcap performance as he tries to expel radiation through his left shoe! There's even the odd line to get the internet forum's buzzing tonight ? "Vote Saxon? Mr. Saxon was right about aliens?" and "?we were together?", the Doctor says, talking about Rose. Together how, hmm? "Do you have a brother?" Martha asks the Doctor. "Not anymore!" he says with a grin and a wink. That's a new ?un?

More negatively, the Slabs were a bit of a rubbish monster ? they were just two blokes in leathers and motorcycle helmets! In any other episode they could have looked quite sinister, but next to the Judoon they just looked like cheap miniatures! Furthermore, the way the Doctor stopped the M.R.I. overload ? unless I've missed something crucial ? was also a bit disappointing. I thought to myself, ?they've got rid of the sonic screwdriver, so he's going to have to something really clever to get out of this one.' Then he seemed to just fiddle about with some buttons, unpull the odd plug and turn the damned thing off! Boo!

On the whole though, my first impression of Martha and of Series Three are profoundly positive. I had my concerns when I first saw the rather lacklustre teaser trailer at the end of "The Runaway Bride", but this episode quashed any nagging doubts that I had. It really is "the same, but better."

Martha is just so real, and I'm sure that with her onside and with his "brand new sonic screwdriver" (there's a novelty hit single if ever there was one) in his brand new suit pocket, the third series has the potential to be even better than the last. "Smith and Jones" is certainly the best opening episode of the new series to date, leaving the exposition-crammed "Rose" and the distinctly mediocre "New Earth" in its wake.

Link 
Google+
Filters: Television Series 3/29 Tenth Doctor
 

Taken on its own terms, this was probably the strongest of the three season openers so far. The idea of the huge hospital building suddenly appearing on the moon made for an arresting image (even if the ensuing hysterics didn't really ring true), and the big rhino fellahs looked great and had a real purpose, rather than just being ?baddies' killing for the sake of it. Anne Reid was deliciously evil too - the Doctor sacrificing himself to pollute her essence was an interesting plot point. (The reference to Planet Zovirax will be meaningless to anyone unfamiliar with a very specific British commercial about a cold-sore cream). This was definitely a better episode than the reheated-feeling Runaway Bride, with Martha Jones probably the most tolerable of the three female new series companions so far. The Doctor latching onto the resourceful and imaginative Martha, while rejecting her friend clearly not up to his standards, was nicely done and gave us a good window into his workings.

But there is a niggling feeling of this all now being done to a formula. On a superficial level the story shares a lot of elements with last year's opener New Earth ? the hospital setting, the animal-headed aliens, peoples' essences being passed around and jumbled up; but deeper than that, it just all felt very familiar. It's Russell T. Davies by numbers ? albeit a good, well-made and enjoyable example of Russell T. Davies by numbers ? rather than Russell T. Davies pushing the envelope and tearing down the boundaries. It didn't leave me with that, "wow, I just watched a brand new Doctor Who" feeling. I was a big RTD supporter during the first two seasons, but now it's time to see what else he can do. Could he give us a Robots Of Death or a Warrior's Gate or a Mind Robber or a Carvival Of Monsters? Or are stories about aliens arriving in London or Cardiff and making ordinary people panic as far as his talent stretches? Now I think back to his impressive (if badly concluded) drama Second Coming, it did contain many of the elements familiar from any average RTD Doctor Who story.

Worse still was the "next time" trailer ? yet another historical featuring an iconic figure early on in the run. For a show whose possibilities are so limitless, it seems ridiculous to do it to such a strict template.

That said, there was a lot to enjoy about this episode. The family stuff was kept to a refreshing minimum (though RTD would do well to remember that the UK population isn't comprised entirely of these kind of people, no matter how hard he wants to appeal to the EastEnders-loving masses ? a bit of variety would be nice), and the plot rattled along at a decent pace with some nice twists and turns. But it really really is time to see some worlds of wonder now and less dull ordinary British people. Heck, even a story set in a village would be nice. For all his talents, Russell has an extremely narrow view of the world, the universe and especially Britain.

Link 
Google+
Filters: Television Series 3/29 Tenth Doctor
 

'Smith and Jones', a highly encouraging start to Series 3, reflects an ongoing trend in 'Doctor Who' new series writing. The question I am left with after viewing is, when did Russell T Davis become a good writer? I suspect the answer is that he was all along, barring an infatuation with childish humour; it just never came out in his scripts with any consistency.

I've written a lot of excoriating reviews of Russell T Davies' scripts over the past couple of years, as I would be the first to admit ? and I in no way withdraw my criticisms of his previous efforts. But, starting with the finale to Series 2, and continuing through the highly enjoyable Christmas special to the start of the new season, Russell's writing has taken a distinct turn for the better. 'Smith and Jones' is an engaging, intermittently humorous, imaginative, atmospheric and ? in its lunar setting ? occasionally quite beautiful introduction to the next round of Doctor Who adventures. The colour palette seems darker. We leave the planet Earth. The Doctor becomes the lonesome and compelling figure of mystery he has frequently failed to be so far ? though he remains a heck of a know-all! The incoming companion, played by the likeable Freema Agyeman, is in a fairly traditional 'Who' mould ? which is, of course, high praise. The plot and the monsters work well. 'Rose' should've been much more like this.

There are several reasons why this is so. Way back in my review of 'The Age of Steel' I made favourable comments about the parallel-universe airships, and bemoaned the lack of similar 'scientific romanticism' in the series thus far. So it was with quite a lot of pleasure and not a little relief that I began to perceive more of that kind of thing in recent episodes: the brief insert at the start of 'Army of Ghosts', and more substantially the 'creation of the Earth' sequence in 'The Runaway Bride', and the breathtaking lunar setting and fabulous retro steam-punk rocketships used by the Judoon in 'Smith and Jones'. By virtue of being treated with the sobriety missing from much of the first two seasons of the series revival, all of these scenes came much closer to the more sombre science fiction which I personally prefer. Too much levity and irreverence quickly becomes galling, as we discovered. People have talked about the change in tone being deliberate and permanent; I think it's probably too early to say ? but we have definitely seen steps in the right direction.

A word on Martha: I don't want to detract in the slightest from the sensational Billie Piper, but I strongly suspected before this episode aired that I would prefer Martha to Rose, and it's looking like I was right. Although Freema's performance isn't so immediately arresting, she is pitching it just right, and conveys the compassion, mingled with sometimes hard-headed practicality, that Rose actually didn't have much of, when you think about it. However good and memorable Billie's performance, Rose was not a character you could easily warm to (in my opinion). Martha, I feel, could be different. And ? although this shouldn't really be a concern, and, again, I don't want to detract at all from the wonderful Billie ? Martha is a very much more attractive girl than Rose was! Subtly, it's true; but certainly. She speaks better as well.

A word on the Doctor: the TV reviewer in my local rag perceptively pointed out that David Tennant's incarnation, 'with the suggestion of madness in his eyes', is scarier than any of the monsters he fights, and despite the toned-down performances DT has turned out post-Rose, that's still true. It's a far more desperate and exacting incarnation ? as he himself points out, there's no mercy or tolerance in there, even for innocents, once they cross him, while his relations with his companions are borderline obsessive. Perhaps it's only because of David Tennant's livewire interpretation of the role ? as I once remarked, he only plays psychos. But I've been thinking a lot about this, because something is obviously not right with the Doc ? he's clearly not the same guy we knew and loved. My conclusion is that the Doctor, in his old age and after everything he's been through (just think how many times he's been mind-wiped!), really must be suffering from some kind of mental degeneration, a bit like Alzheimer's or something for human beings.

You could say that because he still delivers the goods, comes up with occasional insightful comments and reacts sharply to situations around him, that's a load of nonsense. But Time Lords' brains are far more advanced than ours, and they can probably give every appearance of functioning normally while in reality being very badly damaged. The way the Doctor's mental processes seem to have fallen into repetitive but quite instinctive patterns (of 'heroism' and 'fighting evil'); his God complex, and swift recourse to rage and moralistic browbeating; the way flashes of the 'old Doctor' surface every once in while to remind us of how he used to be in his prime; all suggest that the Doctor is simply going through the motions of his old life mechanically, not really aware any more of what's happening in the real world. Because he looks so young though, this is far from obvious, and it only makes it more disturbing when you eventually realise what's going on; underneath that youthful vitality and beauty is a very, very old mind that's beginning to unravel. It's a horrible fate for our beloved hero, but I think what we're witnessing is the onset of Time Lord senility; perhaps the one enemy he will never be able to defeat.

Link 
Google+
Filters: Television Series 3/29 Tenth Doctor
 

I ended up in a quite a foul mood after enduring the witless dross that was 'The Runaway Bride', so I approached the new series of Doctor Who with caution, especially since the opening episodes of the two previous seasons haven't been terribly good and were also written by Russell T. Davies. This being the case, 'Smith and Jones' was a very pleasant surprise, an enormously fun, solidly written romp, with which to introduce the new companion. ?

There isn't a great deal of subtext or social commentary going in 'Smith and Jones'; it's simply a straightforwardly told efficient and entertaining story, which given Davies' frequent lack of subtlety when it comes to such things is more than welcome. Beginning the new series with a hospital on the Moon makes for visually striking and novel episode, and it also makes the series feel refreshingly less Earthbound, even if in Doctor Who terms the Moon isn't actually very far away. We get monsters too, in the imposing shape of the Judoon, who are utterly two-dimensional as alien species go, but effective nonetheless. The fact that they are policemen for hire who just happen space rhinos is actually quite nice. They aren't exactly villains, although their "justice is swift" stance and execution of the man who attacks one of them with a vase gives them a dangerous edge (especially when the Doctor suggests that they might find the hospital guilty of harbouring a fugitive and sentence it to execution), as does their imposing physical presence. The special effects team does a good job on them too, and they look great, albeit a bit like Sontarans from behind when they've got their helmets on. The story's actual villain, the Plasmavore, is just as two-dimensional and ends up ranting in an embarrassingly over the top fashion at the end, but since this is primarily Martha's story anyway she, like the Judoon, fulfils her role within the plot reasonably well. Actress Anne Reid makes her sufficiently nasty when the script calls for it, and the fact that she is a diminutive old lady juxtaposes nicely with her murderous tendencies. The straw however is a mistake, suggesting that Davies thinks he's still writing for Sarah Jane Adventures. ?

Davies also gives us some strong supporting characters, which he seems to have struggled with in previous single-episode stories, presumably due to time constraints. The gently sarcastic and patronising Mr. Stoker is quite likeable, especially when he's standing stunned in his office and trying to cope with what's going on, noting that his daughter is still at university and that he'll never see her again. Roy Marsden is a great actor and gets the most out of his dialogue, especially when Stoker reflects, "Two more years I thought, and then retire to Florida." The young doctor who nervously tries to help the Judoon and stop everyone else in the hospital panicking, is also very believable, especially when he ends up self-importantly telling a policeman about his role. The general panic of all the hospital staff and patients also convinces without veering into the realm of annoying histrionics?

The big question here of course is how does Martha Jones fare? Rose was enormously popular with the viewing public and the media critics, so stepping into Billie Piper's shoes was always going to be a challenge for actress Freema Agyeman, and her short role in 'Army of Ghosts' and 'Doomsday' didn't really give her enough screen time for me to form a strong opinion about her acting abilities. Happily, Agyeman is great: she immediately establishes a rapport with David Tennant and is immensely likeable as Martha. Her delivery of two lines ("It's beautiful" and "That was nothing?") sounds stilted, but that is a very, very trivial criticism that at worst suggests that she is still settling in to the role at this point. Even better from my point of view however, is the actual character of Martha herself.?

I rather liked Rose, in general, during series one, but her transition from companion to groupie during series two began to be come spectacularly grating and it didn't help that I'm not predisposed to tolerate a companion who is a pig-shit thick chav. Martha by contrast has a brain and uses it, whether working out that the air supply will be limited, or realising that the Plasmavore has unwisely assimilated the Doctor's blood and exposing her to the Judoon. Basically, her character works very, very well: she seems genuinely excited to be on the Moon, whilst everyone else panics, and deals level-headedly with Judoon, Slabs, and Plasmavore alike. There are some great moments when she first starts getting to know the Doctor, such as when he warns her, "We could die!" and she calmly replies, "We might not", and when she tries to reassure him by telling him, "I promise you Mr Smith, we will find a way out." This being Russell T. Davies' Doctor Who, we inevitably get some flirting with the Doctor, but at this stage it seems more playful than puppy-eyed and therefore is less irritating. I only have two criticisms relating to Martha: the first is that revealing that Adeola was her cousin seems horribly contrived, a fan boy means of justifying recasting Agyeman so soon which frankly isn't necessary, although since I read 'Made of Steel' before 'Smith and Jones' was broadcast I was already expecting it. The second is that given that she's obviously intelligent and has already discovered the Doctor's double heartbeat, and refers to the Slitheen spaceship, the Sycorax spaceship, Cybermen, and the fact that she's surrounded by Judoon on the Moon, it takes her a long time to accept that the Doctor is an alien.

Unfortunately, Davies' insistence that Doctor Who needs kitchen sink soap opera garbage to appeal to the lowest common denominator in the audience means that, like Rose, Martha comes with dysfunctional family in tow. However, at this stage, whilst Martha's father, a comic buffoon who is renowned for dating much young blonde women, is a ridiculous clich?, none of her family members seem especially irritating, and none of them are played by Camille Coduri. In fact, although both are very specific character types and therefore not remotely original or interesting per se, I do quite like both of Martha's parents, largely due to the performances of the actors involved. I've no doubt that we'll be seeing Martha's family again, so we'll see which way this goes later in the series, but for now at least none of them are as annoying as Jackie Tyler and at least two of them provide genuine amusement ("No I didn't, I said "orange"").?

After an occasionally uneven performance during his first season, David Tennant starts the new series on fine form, with a performance that is slightly more restrained than in previous episodes and therefore much, much better. He gets the eccentricity right, especially when he's casually discussing helping Benjamin Franklin. The scene of the Doctor shedding his shoes unfortunately reeks of ham, but this is more the fault of the script than of Tennant. Best of all, here we get a Doctor who outwits the villain with guile and cunning, rather than standing around issuing ultimatums via pompous speeches, and who risks sacrificing himself to save the world. The Doctor playing with time for the sake of "cheap tricks" to convince Martha that he can travel in time is also quite nice. ?

Overall then, 'Smith and Jones' is a strong start to series three and a promising introduction for Martha. Davies seems to be improving his game, and there is some nice humour on display throughout, such as when the Judoon Captain gives Martha "compensation". It is disappointing that the loss of the Davis ex Machine was temporary, although as it transpired the Doctor saving the day by unplugging the MRI scanner was acceptable, given that the Plasmavore had quickly rigged it up anyway. There are occasional lapses of logic: it doesn't occur to either the Doctor or the Plasmavore that they could hide from the Judoon by finding a black marker pen and drawing a cross on the back of their hand, and whilst hospitals do have emergency generators, the smooth running of lights and computers even after the hospital has been transported to the Moon is deeply impressive.?

Finally, we also get a reference to someone named "Mr. Saxon". The endless Bad Wolf and Torchwood references in series one and two rapidly became deeply irritating: however, if the rumours about who Mr. Saxon actually is are true, I'm likely to be far more tolerant of this series' story arc?

Link 
Google+
Filters: Television Series 3/29 Tenth Doctor
 

Series 3 kicks off with a bang, rather than the whimper which introduced us to Rose. Not that "Rose" was a bad episode ? it just had a big task; re-introducing The Doctor, The Tardis, introducing Rose, whilst still trying to squeeze in a Nestene invasion.

Now that Doctor Who is a popular mainstay of Saturday night television again, all that was required from the series 3 opener was a cracking adventure, which introduced us to the new companion. And she is good. We like you, Martha Jones. Educated enough to not be completely baffled by the Doctor, Martha is level-headed, yet feisty. Her training means that she can look at the events unfolding around her with a detachment that helps her to help the Doctor get the job done. Then, when disaster is averted, she finds the time to wonder.

As for action and drama, RTD delivers in spades. The opening shots of Martha travelling to work, with a cameo from the Doctor to whet our appetites, are well-paced. Roy Marsden delivers a superbly superior consultant. I'll come to the Jones family later, but the set up of Anne Reid as the disguised Plasmavore, the effects of the hospital being displaced, and the arrival of the Judoon happen so quickly that you cannot help but be swept up by it all.

The Judoon are well realised, with their own language (although, we have to ask why we have to wait for them to assimilate human speech ? surely the Doctor at least would be translating via the TARDIS). Although, it has to be said, that Nick Briggs is starting to become a little too familiar behind that vocoder. It seems that every being in the galaxy speaks like an electronically altered Briggs. Prior to this series, there were rumours about old monsters returning, including the Sontarans. It has to be said that apart from the rhino heads and leather skirts, the Judoon bear more than a passing resemblance to the stocky warmongers. Even the helmets are not dissimilar.

A note on the Doctor ? its nice to see that Tennant has toned down his portrayal, with the Roentgen expulsion the only slapstick moment in this one. Sometimes in series 2, he just went a little too OTT.

And now the downsides. Firstly, Martha's family. While I'm all for giving modern companions some depth, and a grounding in the here and now, do they all have to live their pre-Doctor life in a sort of Eastendersesque mini-soap?

Secondly, the Doctor, having apparently been asexual for the last 900years, suddenly fields the need to snog every female he meets ? he's more rampant than Captain Kirk. Again, I was not one of the HANG THE PRODUCERS brigade for the Mcgann movie, but since RTD brought the Doctor back, he's been positively promiscuous!

To be fair though, this was by far the strongest of the 3 season openers yet. Lets hope season 3 lives up to this kind of quality.

Link 
Google+
Filters: Television Series 3/29 Tenth Doctor
 

It is now fairly safe to say, that in a crowded room, perhaps in the middle of a bombastic party , conversation can be halted quite readily and changed dramatically by the simple utterance of the name of Russell T. Davies.? Uncle Russell moved into the household three years ago, bringing to the table? the? idea of resurrecting the tired DOCTOR WHO format, with? a sense of Fan Boy passion . Davies managed to do this, while retaining the critical respect he garnered? for previous escapades on British Television that had already left him on the lips of? the talk of the industrial crowd, like a lingering wine of very fine vintage.? He even managed to survive the Slitheen ! Davies is a unique mixologist taking elements of classic Doctor Who and tendering it against the lines of stark unapproachable, envelope ripping outrageousness that makes it thoroughly modern and mindlessly enjoyable to watch DOCTOR WHO. It has made DOCTOR WHO accessible to the masses and the success it is.

Anyone watching DOCTOR WHO on the BBC? and partaking in Uncle Russell's latest carnival, SMITH AND JONES cannot deny the ride was enjoyable, mindbending and? without question witnessed? the strongest opening debut episode of the first three years. Yet scratching the surface of many elements of Doctor Who Canon, it merely was an institution that readily served the purpose of introducing Martha Jones to the good Doctor Smith, a welcome alias whose myth is fancifully buried in the original series and resurrected here to good measure. Once again, Russell Davies has created a strong, self sustaining character in Martha Jones? and perhaps in many ways, she could be considered perhaps too similar to Rose Tyler. Her somewhat confused and dysfunctional family only lightly contrasting Rose's own little cultural cul-De Sac of a disjointed family.It is entirely clear that Martha's soap operatic family will feature prominently in the latest series as a formula that has worked well in past seasons, yet dangerously treading over past success a bit all too obvious. SMITH AND JONES also sees the mechanical insertion of this years? "Badwolf and Torchwood" arcs with the introduction of mention and posters of "Saxon" whose identity has sparked a whirlwind of speculation. The obvious "formula" that is being followed here could ultimately be very damaging to the series? and perhaps another vision and different angle needs to be explored in coming years.

Because the series is so expensive to produce, the necessity of? a mainstream audience is vital to its success . This of course, is the biggest compromise the true DOCTOR WHO fan must make today. Of course the series is far more contemporary than its ever been? yet? at times, the show is written to excess? with these elements in mind.? Far less however than that which occurs in the Christmas Specials which really have? to reach such a broad demographic that it may as well be called? a song and dance variety show! .With this in mind,? I am absolutely delighted the episode took itself seriously with? comic relief coming from The Doctor,? who seems much more eccentric and sillier than Tennant's Doctor has ever been. Perhaps traveling without Rose and the Lonliness of the Long Distance Timelord has left the Doctor A little stir crazy. Suspension of disbelief is in order here on as many levels as a parking garage with Russell Davies consulting absolutely no one about anything that occurs in the episode. No Hugo nomination on this one!?? The episode was very well directed at a breakneck pace hitting its agenda of introducing the new companion and bringing the Doctor and Martha? together quite nicely .The episode has an aire of believability until it becomes totally unbelievable, of course. The "invasion" scenes were especially effective and all the "cataloguing " that was going on reminded me a bit of 'THE SONTARAN EXPERIMENT" The Doctor is instantly taken to Martha, impressed instantly by her intelligence and resourcefulness. There is a nice play on the fact that Martha is studying to be a Doctor and, of course the Doctor is the definitive article so to speak. Of course the Series has often featured Hospitals as a background to the story. SPEARHEAD FROM SPACE and? THE INVISIBLE ENEMY and the 1996 film ENEMY WITHIN? come quickly to mind. However since its reintroduction, The Doctor has been hanging around hospitals quite a bit in recent years.(ALIENS OF LONDON, NEW EARTH etc)so much so as to be overly concerned whether they have "gift shops" in them or not.? The Story background of the Judoon transporting the entire hospital to the moon to help discover a wayward alien criminal provided necessary fireworks and the scene where the patients? look out the windows to their mutual realization and horror the Hospital has been transported? off the earth is a genuinely scary, well realized moment. Even scarier with a sense of total wonder, but not as well realized is the suspension of disbelief I spoke of earlier, when you realize how on earth, or the moon,is the electricity still working in this hospital to begin with. But lets not think about this, as it ruins all the fun.? ?anyway!

The introduction of the "Plasmavore" alien almost begs for a return unwarranted? appearance like the Slitheens, and I wouldn't be surprised if we see them again by the end of Season three.(although we really haven't "seen" them at all) One would have hoped for a more interesting mosaic? of background? on the Suspected Plasmavore? than? her motive? of doing in an intergalactic princess? as vengeance? against her "pink cheeks and blonde curls"? which is just another dose of Uncle Russell's irreverent need to inject controversy into the series and? perhaps even a disguised reference to the demise of Rose Tyler . Either way, the remark is a trifle racist and the episode has its share of reverse racism at play? with its attitude towards' dumb blondes" as providing comic relief? in the form of Martha's Dad's? tryst with a? blonde waif? and getting caught at it no less.? Once again, however we get this rushed resolution of the plot in the final minutes which felt amazingly similar to the end of THE RUNAWAY BRIDE , in revelation and pacing., a RTD trademark.? The Doctor's resolution however was in fact brilliant when you consider that all he managed to do to save the earth from destruction was merely to pull the plug.? What did leave me? with a question mark was the Doctor, seemingly dead and drained of blood? did NOT regenerate . This no doubt will be a hotly contested element of the story for months to come and is evident that Uncle Russell will sacrifice everything for the purpose of the advancement and resolution of the plot.

In closing,? high? marks? go the? production team for turning in a fast paced , brilliantly and artistically? designed episode and a strong start to Series three. The Judoon were brilliantly designed and executed? and? it was a nice touch to see them talking in their native language until they assimilated the language.The JUDOON could very easily have been the Sontarans and I believe this oportunity was lost or even intended as? Uncle Russell will reap all the financial rewards for their creation.? Overall, SMITH AND JONES? exhibits the total confidence in the creative teams behind Doctor Who? in the series, and the evolution in the Doctor's character in declaring to Martha and the TV audience, unabashedly,? that he is a Timelord. The episode suffered most in its thin "schoolyard idea"? plot? but written well enough around the idea to be blissfully entertaining!? The chemistry between the Doctor? and Martha is tremendous and I believe we are in for a real treat, and the sparks will certainly continue to fly on occasion, as the Doctor certainly has found a new lady to take his mind off of Rose a bit. Welcome Martha Jones, and Thanks once again to Russell? Davies? who can never be taken for granted.

Link 
Google+
Filters: Television Series 3/29 Tenth Doctor
 

So, series 3 of Doctor Who has finally began, and this is pretty much exactly as I expected the first episode to be.? Light-hearted, fun and chock-full of witty humour and comic aliens, as well as making the new assistant, Martha Jones, extremely likeable.? I was not surprised at the result of Smith and Jones, though I was perhaps slightly disappointed.

The main focus of the episode is obviously Martha Jones, played brilliantly by Freema Agyeman.? She genuinely acts as a strong-headed human being would in that bizarre situation, disbelieving, scared, and yet determined to discover what exactly is going on.? All the looks of surprise, anger, amusement and sadness on her face are all so believable, and her intelligent points make it obvious that she is the perfect companion for the Doctor, and she is so unbelievably likeable that Billie Piper, wonderful as she was, has been more or less forgotten.? The whole point of the episode was really to get the audience to warm to Martha, and this could not have been done more successfully.

David Tennant also does well here, though his comedy performances seem a bit forced at times.? Having said that, he does make for some genuinely funny moments and gives an overall entertaining performance.? His acting here is very well done, and one of my favourite scenes with him is after he has just barely regained consciousness after the kiss of life and stares up at the controls that are wrecking the ship.? He looks genuinely sick and rather ill, and I was surprised at how convincing the expression on his face was.?

Plotwise, the story is alright.? Pretty easy to understand.? The Judoon transport the hospital that contains an evil alien to the moon(not sure why?the moon was chosen of all places)?so they can scan all the humans to find out which one is the alien who killed some princess.? A few unecessary sub-plots, like with Martha's rather annoying family who I hope we've seen the last of, and that rather worthless and unfunny comment about the princess, but overall the story was OK, but not one of this episode's strong points.

Another let-down are the monsters featured in this episode.? None of them are either interesting nor original.? The Judoon are basically a rehash of the Sontarans, with Dalek-like speech(or is that Cyberman)who don't pose as much of a threat, even when they are trying to kill the Doctor, and after they kill the foolish man who attacks them, this makes a very minor impact, possibly because it was so predictable and now an over-used cliche in the show, or because it wasn't a very dramatic death scene.? There are also the insignificant and incredibly boring Slabs, which are the new Adherents of the Repeated Meme, only far less menacing and intriguing, and the Slabs are pretty much a boring and forgettable race.? As for the Plasmavore, this probably works the best out of all the creatures, though it could have been creepier and more disorientating, and the whole idea of it borrows heavily from the classic series' Curse of Fenric.? If they are going to redo this, they could use better special effects and make the idea of it scarier.? At its core, this could make a pretty freaky monster, but the whole idea of it is thoroughly wasted.

This is a so-so episode, the strong points being the excellent performances from David Tennant and Freema Agyeman, spoiled by the mediocre storyline and dull monsters. 6/10

Link 
Google+
Filters: Television Series 3/29 Tenth Doctor
 

Good, overall. A nice little season opener.

Longer version: I do wish RTD would hand over the season kickoff to someone else for a change. I actually quite like RTD's stories (mostly for the dialogue), but he does tend to stuff too much into the 45-minutes he's got, leaving you breathless but a bit dazed and confused at the end.

The story itself is quite fun: Doctor is investigating the hospital by disguising himself as a patient is a nice touch (you'd think he'd pretend to be ... a doctor!), nice intro to Martha and her family (very compact but sufficient, nice one RTD!) and the story begins with only the "Slabs" making the thing look amateur. VERY amateur. ALARMINGLY amateur, actually. I swear I've seen -- wait, BEEN IN -- at least one fan vid with the exact same costume for a henchman!

The hospital taking off was nicely done, the moon shots were superb and the story picks up nicely from there. Ann Reid was a little charming nugget of old Avenger-y, Doctor Who-y goodness and I just loved her. Lovely to see old Roy Marsden as well, first time in Doctor Who I think though I can just dimly recall his name being bandied for the lead part itself during the Tom Baker era.

But as with any RTD script, there's a fair amount of indulgence and ridiculousness (and yes, I accept that the universe of Doctor Who has these things). The Slabs were just plain poorly done (a little digital touching-up would have made all the difference, but not explained why nobody in the post-terrorism world would have acted like they didn't see them), the whole radiation-in-the-foot schtick was overdone, the Doctor took a completely ridiculous risk (too much blood gone) to unmask Finnegan, and the idea that one over-excited x-ray device can blow up half the earth -- even when supplemented with alien tech -- is just too silly for words. The Earth would have been destroyed a hundred times over long ago if it were really that easy.

I enjoyed the further sequence where Martha finally comes aboard the TARDIS, and while it's too soon to judge her just yet the relationship looks promising. Overall, you put aside most of the silliness and enjoy it, and I did because I can remember that I'm too old now to be the target audience anymore (something I think a few old fans would do VERY well to remember!).

Having had two occasions to judge Charles Palmer's work as a director, I have to say honestly that so far he's not impressing me, but Ernie Vincze (DP) and the Visual FX team continue to amaze. Overall, a pleasing little nugget with not much substance, but offering an adequate kickstart to get things going. Let's hope the next one is more substantial (can't see how it wouldn't be).

Link 
Google+
Filters: Television Series 3/29 Tenth Doctor