The weekend saw the return of Doctor Who to our screens, the evergreen time lord making his first real outing in his tenth incarnation played by David Tennant (forget the Christmas special, he more or less slept through that). Of course the show is still riding high on the exhaust trail of its first season which let’s be right nobody expected to be that good. It came to our screens with nice compactly written scripts which were accessible to anyone who cared to watch the show. It didn’t require an encyclopaedic knowledge of the show’s history to fathom what was going on (yet at the same it managed to impress the fanboy community which in itself is nothing short of staggering). The special effects and costumes were pretty much spot on and a world away from the cling film and rubber effigies of yesteryear. And of course there was the inspired casting of Christopher Eccleston as The Doctor who managed to combine the eccentricity of the character while making him simmer with a bit of contemporary edginess, danger and sexuality.
Season Two kicked off proper with another self contained story with The Doctor and Rose travelling to the far flung future and landing on New Earth, a place where they have better weather and no matter how ill they got, they could be cured of any disease. Of course such “too good to be true” scenarios have always been the staple of Doctor Who adventures, and this one was no different. Before long The Doctor had uncovered the fact that the local hospital had a seriously misguided idea of medical ethics in the respect that it was breeding a sub species of humans who were literally born to be the recipients of every illness in existence (y’know not that dissimilar to a stay in a modern British hospital). Of course it was down to The Doctor to put an end to all this and stop the villains of the piece who in this case were cat people dressed as nuns (I’ll drop two of whatever the writers are on) while simultaneously freeing his assistant Rose of possession. Just another day for the guy who drives a funky police box.
So how did the episode actually shape up? Well for starter’s I always reckon its best to tread carefully with the opening show of a season, especially with a show like this. This was very much the softly softly introduction point for the series, something to keep the established audience happy while letting new viewers climb aboard. As a result the story was fairly lightweight and in many areas light hearted. There were no hints or clues to larger story arcs being set up (although doubtless that will come). The show did illustrate however a continuation of certain values from the previous season. The script was pretty tight and the humour was well placed and well executed without any danger of the show ever mutating into a force a gag, laugh fest.
Performances were pretty strong as well, Tennant looked settled in his role and my initial doubts about him coming to the role started to dispel (I thought he looked too young for starters). The character eccentricity that I mentioned earlier has been carried over and from the looks of it his wiry animated frame may just be better suited to it. If anything Tennant brought a certain physicality to the role.
The scene stealer for me however was Billie Piper who as Rose Tyler continued to break with the tradition of previous Doctor’s assistants by doing a lot more than screaming and asking stupid questions. She proved she has a certain knack for comedy as well, during the episode she had the best one liners and when it was called upon for her character to ‘be someone else’ (obligatory science fiction mind control type thing) she carried it off without effort. Zo? Wanamaker made a brief appearance (mainly in voice form) as a cosmetic surgery obsessed human who had literally reduced herself to a piece of skin (a subtle dig at the likes of Victoria Beckham if ever there was one).
So all in all that was a pretty good introduction to the series, well paced and well acted and not letting too many big villains out of the bag (although the Cybermen are making a return at some point in this season’s episodes). If you’re in on Saturday’s this deserves to be part of your viewing schedule.
Doctor Who is on BBC1 Saturday at 7:15pm, repeated on Sunday BBC3 at 7:05pm.