REVIEW: ‘Doctor Who’ Season 5 Premiere

REVIEW: ‘Doctor Who’ Season 5 Premiere

Star Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Stars: Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, Arthur Darvill and Caitlin Blackwood

The Big Idea: In Doctor Who: The Eleventh Hour, the baton is passed from David Tennant to Matt Smith as the latest incarnation of the enigmatic Doctor, who crash lands in a tiny English village after his violent regeneration lays waste to the controls and interior of his TARDIS. “The Eleventh Hour” is a British expression meaning “a time which is nearly too late,” and showrunner Steven Moffat returns to this theme throughout the premiere … the eleventh Doctor scrambles with seconds to spare to save his beloved TARDIS from imminent destruction; he races against a worldwide countdown to zero to save the Earth; and he finds himself nearly deprived of his newest companion not once, but twice, after committing the sin of arriving late (Tsk tsk, Time Lord. You’d think in 903 years you’d learn not to keep a woman waiting. Someone just might show up with a better offer … ).

To Watch or Not to Watch: Let’s start with the actors. I had my doubts about Matt Smith when he was announced – he’s appallingly young and light on experience, with his main qualification being the ridiculous hair seemingly required of all Doctor Whos. But I’m happy to admit I was dead wrong. Smith was born to play this role, with a performance that is somewhat reminiscent of Tennant’s frenetic energy, but which already has more nuance, more hint of the alien behind the face, than the 10th Doctor ever conveyed.

Karen Gillan is likewise a real find as his fiery Scottish companion – and she’s a ginger (Britspeak for redhead, which is funny because the Doctor’s one, oft-expressed regret about his varied regenerations is that he’s never been a ginger). While she’s not yet as comfortable in her role as Smith is, she goes from good to even better as the premiere progresses, and there’s a palpable sense that the circumstance of their meeting may make her the ideal companion to our interventionist hero. And from the male perspective, it doesn’t hurt that this ex-model is very, very easy on the eyes.

Finally, but definitely not least, Caitlin Blackwood plays a seven-year-old Scottish girl, home alone for the evening, whose backyard is demolished by the run-amuck TARDIS and similarly out of control, “not yet fully cooked” Doctor. It would be too big a spoiler to elaborate about the character, so suffice it to say she’s unafraid as she engages with this magical stranger and feeds him “Fish Custard” (you read that right) in a hilarious, not-to-be-missed comic sequence. Blackwood (the real-life cousin of Karen Gillan) is adorable and nearly steals the scenes right out from under Smith. Memo to Hollywood: This, not the endless parade of Dakota Fanning clones, is how child actors should present.

Meanwhile, the premiere’s plot is engaging, and bears up well under the burden of introducing so many different characters and backstories, while still maintaining continuity with Who happenings of the past. Old Tennant catchphrases such as “timey whimey” and “wibblely wobbly” get affectionate nods, the sonic screwdriver gets worked to (literal) exhaustion, and we find out that the TARDIS has a library in the swimming pool (or vice versa) after the crash.

The only misstep: the music. It’s jarring, usually at the most inappropriate points. Music should be counterpoint to a scene, secondary to the writing, not an overly loud insurance policy to alert the viewer that a character is in danger.

TV Screener Tidbit: Smith says he prepared himself for his Who gig by writing Doctor Who-themed short stories before he stepped into the role.

Doctor Who, season five, premieres Saturday, April 17 at 9PM ET on BBC America

    • Valentina said at June 3, 2010 at 1:52 am
    • Reply

    Doctor who is the best sci-fi ever made. Over 10.8 million people watch it every weekend. It’s so good that it’s the only show thats kept longer than 1 minth on BBC iPlayer. I watch it every single day. I kept it on iPlayer because I watched each ep. 20 times. 20 TIMES

    • Valentina said at June 3, 2010 at 2:11 am
    • Reply

    Doctor who is the best sci-fi ever made. Over 10.8 million people watch it every weekend. It’s so good that it’s the only show thats kept longer than 1 minth on BBC iPlayer. I watch it every single day. I kept it on iPlayer because I watched each ep. 20 times. 20 TIMES!!! Matt Smith is really good. I thought he was going to be rubbish but after that 1st scene I loved him. I like Karen to but she’s going down the highway to hate if she keeps this up she’ll be like Vanessa Hudgens forgotten. Caitlin Blackwood is pretty good. She fits in really good. Arther Darvill is really fab , next to the actor and actress. He added a bit of spice to the show. David Tennant was alright was Bille Piper was his companion. They had a chain reaction. But Matt Smith was better.

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