Wow! Thanks BBC for a perfect Easter Saturday afternoon. The long-awaited introduction of Matt Smith as the eleventh incarnation of Doctor Who was a triumph.
Steven Moffat had written some of the most memorable episodes of the previous series, so we were quite happy about him taking over the reins from the successful Russell T Davies. But some of us worried that Matt was ‘too young’ - and as an actor he was virtually completely unknown. So his challenge in taking over from David Tennant - voted recently “the best Doctor of all time” and the equally superb Christopher Ecclestone was steep. But it seems the BBC has scored a hat-trick with this casting. It’s no disrespect to Tennant to say that after this first episode I’m struggling to recall his performance.
Matt is a good actor but I think what sets him apart is his physicality - physically he’s just perfect for this role, perhaps the best of all time. Despite being so young he has an old-soul vibe going on - his elongated face, razor-sharp cheek bones and long, long fingers give him an authentically ancient alien look. His mannerisms work well too - a curious mixture of energy-driven new-born lamb and old school professor. His retro Doctor stylings by the beeb are just perfect for now too.
The introduction of the new companion (Amy Pond, feistily played by Karen Gillan) was wonderfully done too, very skillfully and economically incorporating her backstory into the fabric of the plot. This character always represents the viewer - and again, very cleverly in this episode managed to cater brilliantly to the entire Dr Who fan demographic as Amy is played young and adult.
With two major characters to introduce, the story was always going to be the secondary element but nevertheless the alien prisoner escapee yarn did its bit efficiently. Special effects were a bit ropey but the production dialled up the suspense nicely when needed - a relatively simple thing like an open door on a landing made the heart jump; as always the alien was at it’s most scary when in human form. The ending was a clever assisted deus-ex-machina; the Doctor and the alien’s jailers the Atraxi defeating Prisoner Zero through its own internal logic flaws.
Moffat has recently emerged from the Tintin project with Steven Spielberg, and I loved the Tintin reference with the coma patients in the hospital. A lovely homage.