So. I’m in that situation again – a new series of Who is about to start, a new Doctor is about to be properly unveiled. And this time… I’ve actually done a pretty good job of staying away from spoilers. While I have watched the trailers, I haven’t seen too much of the upcoming episodes, and I like being in this situation. I haven’t even properly seen the TARDIS interior (beyond the small details on the main cover of the Radio Times – I haven’t opened up the ‘gatefold’ bit so I haven’t seen the whole thing), which means I’ll get my first proper glimpse this Saturday when I watch the episode with a whole bunch of people at Eastercon. And I like this. I used to go hunting for spoilers to a ridiculous degree, but I like being able to approach this with an open mind.
And while five years of ups and downs with New Who has certainly taught me to be cautious… I have to admit that I’m liking what I’ve seen so far. It’s possible I might end up eating my words (hell, I thought RTD doing Who would be a slam-dunk of brilliance before I saw it, and it took me a long, long time to get used to his style). I’m also not expecting this version of Who to be non-stop brilliance – I mean, Moffat is a fantastic writer, but he’s also had his ups and downs. And, as he’s said in interviews, coming in once a year, being brilliant for an episode and then disappearing off again is very different from actually being the head honcho. It is, though, going to be a bit weird to be almost thinking in the reverse pattern of the way I’ve approached New Who before – I spent big chunks of the show looking forward to the points where RTD wouldn’t be writing it (especially in the dark, dark days of Aliens of London and (*shudder*) World War Three), and now it’s going to almost be the reverse situation – in the upcoming season, there’s a whacking great six-episode run that’s free of Moffat, and which also has the slightly worrying prospect of a Chris Chibnall-written two-parter (anyone who saw either season finale to Torchwood will know exactly how horrifying that might be). Who knows? There’ll be ups and downs. There’ll be moments I love, and moments I detest.
But I really am liking what I’m seeing. A lot of the changes seem pretty sensible. It does look like the tone is shifting in a slightly weirder direction. It does look like the show is actually going to be… different, while still keeping lots of the original DNA. I’m sensing more of the kind of changeovers that happenned in Classic Who in the 1960s, where there’d be a slow but definite shift of tone, rather than some of the later handbrake turns (going from Horns of Nimon to The Leisure Hive, for example…). It’s nice that it seems like they’ve realised that while obviously they don’t want to break the show (especially now that it’s the most succesful it’s ever been), they also know they’ve got to keep it moving; that Doctor Who lasted for so long because of its capability to change and evolve with the times.
And I’m liking what I’m seeing of Matt Smith, too. I suspect it might take a little while to get used to his style, but from the clips I’ve seen, he does seem to be approaching the whole thing with a very distinctive sense of energy. And this also seems to be a very Doctory – it’s nice to see that we’ve actually gotten to the point where we’re allowed to have a posh Doctor again, and it’s good to see that it really does look like a different take on the character. Tennant’s Doctor did eventually acquire his own style and personality, but there was a while where it did feel like you could have slotted Christopher Eccleston into his episodes and it really wouldn’t have made that much difference (especially in S2). This does feel like we’re going a different way – time will tell whether it works, but I’m going to watch, and I’m going to see. And I’m sure I’ll be jotting my views down here (whenever I can fit them in between my current rather terrifying workload).
Who is back. A new phase is beginning. It’s looking like this is one fandom I’m never going to completely kick. And I’m actually quite happy with that…