It’s been a few months now since this year’s Doctor Who. So, what to make of it?
First, there is a new Doctor (played by Matt Smith). Initially I was worried he would be too young for the role, the Doctor should have a paternal air, so a bit of age is good. Was I right? Sort of. In the early episodes of the season he was slightly eclipsed by his companion. Then there was the lack of trauma over the time war. Christopher Ecclestone’s Doctor had an anger bubbling under the surface, David Tennant’s Doctor had a sad pathos that showed from time to time. Yet in contrast, Matt Smith’s Doctor seems completely over it. Only in one episode, where a dark alter-ego of the Doctor appeared, did we see hints of emotional depths.
Then there was the ‘newness’ issue. In addition to the new Doctor we have a new companion, new title sequence (music, graphics, lettering), new TARDIS interior, new sonic screwdriver, and new Daleks. Okay, so the title sequence has been tweaked each season, but even so this was a much greater change than we’re used to. Yes, there was a big change when Christopher Ecclestone started but there was a gap in time, both for the character and the audience, from what came before. This time the story carried on from right after we’d left it. Overall it was a bit jarring. And there is no reason for the TARDIS interior to change (previous regenerations never triggered this, so why now?), nor the new bigger (and somewhat unwieldy) sonic screwdriver.
But the new Daleks, what we to make of them? When the Daleks were revamped for Christopher Ecclestone’s season the press initially dubbed them ‘bling’ Daleks because of their gold colour. But when we saw them they were anything but bling: they were scuffed and dirty, they had a solid chunkiness about them that seemed right in a battle machine. And they now sported these little name plates under the eye stalk which, even though Daleks are not very individualistic, makes a lot of sense. They worked. In contrast, the new Daleks have been dubbed the iPod Daleks. Their different coloured shells to differentiate function harks back to the Dalek movies and does have a degree of logic. They are now taller, full height, which also makes sense. But for the most part look more like consumer products and less like something you’d see on the battle field. And somehow their shape just doesn’t seem ‘Dalek’ enough.
I’ve focussed on the negatives but overall I did like it. The time travel elements that tied the first and last episodes of the season together were very clever and the new title sequence grew on me. I’d just like to see a bit of darkness in the Doctor’s emotions occasionally. And get rid of the iPod Daleks, bring back the bling Daleks.