Call me a glutton for punishment. I’m certainly not going to be going into Torchwood-level depth here, but it’s Season 3 of New Who, and I’m back, wading in, and probably slightly disturbed by what I find. Fear the spoilers…
DOCTOR WHO : S3 E01- “Smith and Jones”
So, a new season, a new companion, and what’s changed?
Answer: Not much.
To tell the truth, this was one of RTD’s better efforts, with a plot that came dangerously close to working (until the killer old lady of doom turned a Hospital MRI scanner into a doomsday macguffin), and only a few moments that had me rolling my eyes and saying “Oh, for heaven’s sake…” Fast, colourful, and doing exactly what modern day Saturday night TV should be- and yet there’s not really much here that’s surprising. Martha may be different from Rose, but not in any kind of adventurous, ‘let’s go in a totally different direction’ way, and it looks like we’re still headed straight for an innuendo-laden “will they, won’t they” relationship. Plus, the Doctor seems to be now getting Kirk-levels of tongue, which certainly throws most of his ‘other’ nature as an alien out of the window. The effects work was good- although a little too noticeable that they could only afford one animatronic Judoon head- but it’s hard not to think that RTD’s work on Who is getting a bit formulaic now. We’re even back to the ‘bloody domestics’, which looked like they might be bearable until the comedy Essex slapper who’s currently dating Martha’s dad turned up. RTD’s quest to splice the show’s DNA with a mix of Eastenders and Only Fools and Horses continues, and there were a few minutes where I was genuinely wondering what show I was watching- plus, apparently, they’re going to be playing a massive role later on in the season.
Plus points? The fact that RTD has stopped hitting the ‘reset’ button, and finally allowed the ‘normal’ reality of the show to be aware that there are aliens out there. New girl Freema Agyeman (or, as my friend Tris describes her, “Freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeema”) did a pretty good job- a little creaky in places, and hardly the most defined character in the world- (“Hello, I’m a confidant everywoman who’s definitely not like Rose Tyler in the slightest. Let’s go!”), but good enough so that there’s definite promise.
Minus points? You think someone could have at least mentioned the whole “Isn’t there less gravity on the moon?” question. The vampiric old lady drinking blood through a straw (Poor old Roy Marsden…) was another of RTD’s camp joker villains, and I saw the straw gag coming a mile off. Tennant’s “I’m mad as a badger, me!” act is getting a little tiresome (Like Sylvester McCoy- he’s great when he calms down…), and the whole flirty “Hey, want to come with me across the universe” was all a bit sixth form. I miss companions wandering into the TARDIS by accident. Much more fun that way.
Still, Who is a great SF gateway drug, so the fact that it’s still here, and still successful is a good thing. It’s just starting to feel a little samey (last season opened with a runaround in a hospital, a camp joker villain, and creatures with animal heads- hmmm…). It’s probably just coincidence, though. It’s not as if next week’s episode sees the Doctor rubbing shoulders with another historical personality and taking on what looks like supernatural forces (but will of course turn out to be aliens), like he’s done in the opening episodes for the last two seasons, is it?
I’ll probably stick with it- if only to find out how the plotline involving me turns out. Nice to know that “Vote Saxon” national poster campaign I mounted last year finally paid off…