Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Matt Smith - the ultimate weigh-in!

Yes, it’s about time I went off on one regarding Matt Smith and Doctor bloody Who in general. As you’re probably aware, I thought Five was my Doctor (blame my childhood) until David Tennant came along. I kind of like Christopher Eccleston, but seeing as he’s my uncle in disguise, I can’t watch him without waiting for him to say ‘Aliens? What a load of bollocks’, etc. Kind of like watching Sean Bean in an American film and finding he breaks the spell of disbelief - because he’s proper English and just not buying into any hype or shite about magical stuff. Ahem.

Anyway, David Tennant was huge for me. Wait, let me rephrase that - David Tennant was a bloody excellent Doctor Ten. He was everything he needed to be and more - and it was amazing to watch him go through the angst and cheeky fun. Just fucking ace.

So when it was announced he was leaving, I was a little upset. But then, all good things come to an end - and, considering he is the Doctor and he does travel in time and space, technically Ten could always be riding around somewhere. I mean, just because he’s gone in his personal timeline, doesn’t mean he’s not going to show up in ours. He might pop up next year for the Olympics, for example.

Anyway - Matt Smith. So he turned up yelling ‘Geronimo!’ (worst catch-phrase ever) and promptly grew a bowtie and an Old Skool Doctor quirkiness. Not in the same way that David Tennant is quirky, but definitely Keith-Richards-Patrick-Troughton-drunken-master quirky fun. And he can deliver lines. Just the way he gave us ‘Amelia… Pond’ had me in stitches, and his all-elbows finnicky-fingers, coupled with his manic gibbering that carefully conceals his real agenda, had me intrigued. Where Doctor Ten would bluster and confidently gabble his way past people with facts and gumption, Eleven seems to apologetically squeak through by being a thousand times more lost than anyone else could ever hope to be. And it works. And so, too, do his elbows.

I grew to like Matt Smith, and he’s now eclipsed Five as my second favourite Doctor. He may never overtake Ten, but that’s nothing to be ashamed of.

Unfortunately, as writers had their turn at series five, some episodes fell short of the usual Doctor-story standard - most notably ‘The Vampires of Venice’, a woefully lacking affair (sorry, Toby Whithouse, if they screwed with your script). In fact, I only kept about five of the series’ episodes to watch again. The absolute stand-out amazing wonder for me was ‘The Lodger’, where Eleven takes it upon himself to lodge in Matey-From-Gavin-And-Stacey’s spare room and be as Doctorish as he possibly can. Which was ace. The script was sharp, the fun and adventure was back, but - dare I admit it - the reason it was so good was because Amy was somewhere else.

When little Amelia Pond first sat on the suitcase waiting for her raggedy Doctor, I liked the little girl. Which is a lot, coming from me. I teach small kids and I scrub myself with Dettol and a wire brush afterwards, so me appreciating a monster like that was a big thing. And then she grew up, and after the first few episodes she began to get on my nerves just a little. Then she did the Predictable and Stupid Move and I threw my hands in the air. As usual, the female Companion has to throw herself at the Doctor, as if (1) he would seriously go for an alien something less than 1/40th his age, and (2) that was anything to do with why he brought her along in the first place. I mean, come on, people - I’ve said it before and I’ve said it again. Why does the (New Who) Companion always have to fall in luuuurve with the Doctor? Why is it never his TARDIS, or just the life of travelling with him? That was why I loved Donna Noble so much - she was there for the fun, not some crappy idea of alien romance. Yet another Companion with a crush on the Doctor? Oh puh-leaze.

For me, the stories were a little ho-hum but I could have lived with that if only Amy weren’t being annoying in nearly every scene she was in. I’m not saying the actress didn’t do a good job - I’m sure I’d like her in anything else she does - but the character of Amy, and that again everything revolved around the Companion as we got swept along to the series finale, kind of got a little old and tired before we’d even got there. They screwed over Donna so badly it nearly made my head explode, and then we get RTD going batshit-desperate and throwing everything he had at the Regeneration Finale. He was allowed to do that, of course he was - it was his show. If he wanted balls-to-the-wall Tinkerbell Jesus bollocks going on, then fine. (But perhaps, a year later, if he’d seen the season five finale of Supernatural, he might have appreciated how you can finish a series, a season, and even a five-year-arc without needing to go batshit-crazypants-overboard on jamming in too much story, cutesy, angst or even drah-ma. Just saying.)

Anyway, back to Matt Smith. He’s ace. He’s a great Eleven. I just hope he stays for a few more years and we get more Stephen Moffat and Gareth Roberts scripts. Which brings me to Stephen Moffat. New showrunner, new BMOC - apparently. And yet, he ‘joked’ about being ‘allowed’ to write the Christmas 2010 special. Well if you value your Doctor Who franchise and want to keep it going, You People at the Beeb, you’ll let Mr Moffat write 90% of series six, or there may be a tad fewer viewers bothering to tune in. ‘The Eleventh Hour’ (pretty damn good) and ‘The Beast Below’ (also pretty damn good) were written by Stephen Moffat, and ‘Victory of the Daleks’ was brought to us by Mark Gatiss (now more commonly known as Mycroft Holmes and co-creator/writer, along with Stephen Moffat, of the achingly excellent Sherlock mini-mini-series - but more on that another day). All good episodes. ‘The Time of Angels’ and ‘Flesh and Stone’, the return of the ridiculously successful Weeping Angels monsters from series three, were pretty good episodes but Amy was already becoming very annoying for me. ‘Vampires of Venice’ was, as I’ve already said, weak, and ‘Amy’s Choice’ was about as much fun as toothache and pretty much the low point of the series. (Sorry, Simon Nye - just not my thing.)

The Hungry Earth’ and ‘Cold Blood’ two-parter was pretty good - very Doctor Who in its aliens and mysteries and families and people trying not to be people by doing exactly what the Doctor told them not to. Good performances and a pretty good script. I liked Meera Syal and thought she could have replaced Amy in the TARDIS. But that’s just me.

Vincent and the Doctor’ had all the hallmarks of a great episode and it delivered on many levels - not surprisingly, as it was written by Richard Curtis. He hasn’t lost it. But the next episode, ‘The Lodger’, is my all-time favourite Doctor Eleven episode - I think. Thank you thank you thank you, Gareth Roberts. He also gave us ‘The Shakespeare Code’ from series three, and ‘The Unicorn And The Wasp’ from series four. His only slight bump was ‘Planet of the Dead’, but that’s allowed.

Anyway, from there we went straight into the two-part series finale, ‘The Pandorica Opens’ and ‘The Big Bang’. As I remember it, I found the idea of Evil League of Evil, Doctor Who style, ensnaring the Doctor in his own private prison refreshing and different. It made sense once you thought back, and it was fun to see so many villains sharing the screen. Let’s not forget, we have shiny new Proper Daleks again now, and the host of other bad guys just made me titter. It was good Saturday night telly. ‘The Big Bang’, and again, everything hinging on Amy, was a bit of a strain for me, but it did end the series ok.

What I’ve learnt from this is that all episodes are passable when Amy is elsewhere (although bumbling Rory would get annoying if there were no-one more annoying to distract me), and Stephen Moffat writes Doctor Eleven better that anyone else alive. Which brings me to the Christmas 2010 special.

Or it would do, if I didn’t realise this has already been about 1,000 words too long. So I’ll say thanks for bothering to reach this far, and I’ll be back very soon with my take on the Christmas 2010 special. Hopefully, some time before Christmas 2011.

Peach and lube, people.

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