* * *
Those few months between the final Tennant episodes and the new series were glorious – I hated the new Doctor with a passion, was concerned that it was all going to be stupid, even though I knew I would love it anyway, and was all full of weird angst and trepidation. Just like always.
And then there was a new episode and there was that odd stance that Matt Smith took when he finally gave a proper introduction and told the spikey eyeballs to leg it and he was my new favourite Doctor ever.
* * *
There is no critical analysis here - Doctor Who is my absolute favourite television show of all time and I just can’t do snark when it comes to that. I can overlook all the faults, all the cracks in the narratives and all the wobbly sets and all that, because it’s a show full of new ideas and humanity, and that’s all right with me.
* * *
Matt Smith honestly is my favourite Doctor, but the latest Doctor is always my favourite. Even when it all got a bit too bright and curly in the mid eighties, I’m always about the new guy.
When I tell people I love Doctor Who, they always, always ask me who my favourite one is. Sometimes I put a bit too much thought in it and come out with an overly complicated argument. It’s usually different each time.
Sometimes it’s Troughton or Hartnell, because they had the best dolly birds, and sometimes it’s the obvious Baker and sometimes it’s the other one. The fifth was the one I first fell for hard and often it’s McCoy and there really is no excuse for that.
But when I really think about it, it’s the new guy I’m really excited about. It’s so fickle. I was a Tennant boy until thirty seconds into the new series, and the Davies era already looks dated and weirdly old and too brown.
And I loved the Davies era – every damn episode of it, including Fear Her or Love and Monsters. When it was on, it was my favourite, but now it’s been replaced by a new man, and he’s replaced the affection for the old.
Smith’s performance is so beautifully mannered – he can’t even empty a glass without making a big thing out of it. He just tries so hard, especially when he needs to instantly go from lovable gurning to righteous fury, that it gives his Doctor a wired awkwardness which works beautifully. An old man in a young man’s body and bursting at the seams with the possibilities.
It’s there when he gets his gear off in the first episode, stripping off in front of the humans with no modesty, cheerfully telling them to turn their back if it bothered them. The Doctor is often accused of being sexless, but it’s more of an age thing – he’s seen it all, and needs a new intellectual thrill.
I do still love all the old Doctors, they’re all such splendid chaps. But I also love the fact that they all pass on and someone new comes in with fresh ideas and big plans. The evolving nature of the show is its greatest strength (and something that comic books could learn from).
* * *
The latest season has seen a fair amount of critical warmth, even if individual stories have taken a bit of a kicking from the usual quarters.
I can still ignore the parts that strike the wrong notes, because the good parts are so good. And there have been so many little touches in the Eleventh Doctor stories to keep me more than happy.
It’s the constantly surprising - and surprised - little touches from Smith, or the remarkably solid work from Karen Gillan as the faithful companion. It’s the little bell on the TARDIS console, and the way the Angels cliffhanger was resolved with something obvious that was still delightfully clever. It’s Murray Gold’s beautifully bombastic score and Liz 10 and a thousand other tiny little facets that all add up to one glorious whole.
Some of the criticism levelled at the current series is absolutely valid, other times it is just pedantic. And other times I honestly can’t figure out where the critic is coming from. (I genuinely got a kick out of reading something recently that said that certain developments on the show were “patently silly” – if you’re watching Doctor Who, who should be able to handle the silliness.)
While I am absolutely incapable of generating any negativity regarding new Who, I do still enjoy reading other people’s negative reviews. I don’t understand them, but they usually make good points
I do feel genuinely sorry for people who wished they could crawl into the ground during that bit in Journey’s End where the TARDIS and crew towed the stolen earth across the universe, because that worked for me in so many ways, and it’s a pity others missed out on that joy that I felt, feeling shame instead. But I was bouncing off the bloody walls. And the show keeps on moving me like that, on a consistent basis.
* * *
The gorgeous thing about Doctor Who is its broadness – it can appeal to little old ladies, snot-nosed kids and desperate grown-ups who still like to laugh. This also means a lot can be read into it, and I’ve already been quite chuffed to see it accused of swinging from a liberal to conservative sensibility complete with earnest use of Clash lyrics. (This was on the Comics Journal website, and I’m still not sure how tongue in cheek it was – insinuating that the Doctor should pick up his gun when they kick in his front door was just wrong.)
This habit of picking up on one thing and seeing your own agenda in the mirrored surface can sometimes get far too egregious. The most vile criticism ever levelled at the Davies era was that it was pushing a ‘gay agenda’ on the viewers. That agenda might be there, even unintentionally, but it always required the most myopic views.
There was a similar – and highly amusing – situation when the first issue of All-Star Superman came out, and readers who couldn’t recognised sereneness if the Goddess of Serenity showed up and slapped them in the face with a rose petal instantly decided that he must be stoned.
Read what you want into things, but don’t be surprised when it ends up saying more about you than the work.
As for complaints about the show’s morality, which certainly do have some validity, I’ve spent the past week watching a few late fifth doctor adventures, and they have all sorts of dubiousness going on. I’m not expecting much better when I watch the Time Meddler later tonight.
* * *
Still, the world could overflow with Who snark and it wouldn’t make a bit of difference. Since the new series started a few weeks back, I’ve fallen hard for Doctor Who, just like I did in 1980, 1984, 1989, 1995, 1999, 2002 and every year since 2005.
It’s the best show ever and I honestly believe it’s never been better. I may have been a bit blinded by the glare of the new, but it’s a glorious myopia that allows me to fall in love with the Doctor all over again.
It’s smart and bright and shiny and colourful, and as we barrel into the second decade of the 21st century, we could all do with something smart and bright and shiny and colourful.