I’ve been a Doctor Who fan since my poor long-suffering mother brought me home a copy of Uncle Terrance’s “Auton Invasion” novelisation when I was seven. Over the years, I’ve fought hard to maintain the childlike sense of wonder, the delicious frisson of fear, that Who used to effortlessly give me when I was a nipper.
Most of the time, I’m able to manage it, if I work at it. There’s two me’s that watch my favourite show. There’s the grown up one, the one with the head full of facts and figures, stuffed with cynicism about production team changes and cast performances that may not quite hit the spot. The one that lets a wonky special effect or an over-loud music cue detract from his enjoyment of what is – after all – meant to be a rollicking adventure in Time and Space.
And then there’s the other me. The one who allows himself to be transported back to how he felt when he was seven, trembling with anticipation as he thumbed through a Terrance Dicks novelisation, the one who just wants a thundering good story. The one who needs nothing more in life than to spend time with the best barmy uncle figure in the world, racing through time and space with barely time to stop for a cup of tea. With a certain amount of effort I can let that one out for a trot when I stick on a Who DVD or a Big Finish audio (and god bless you BF, for carrying the torch during The Wilderness Years and – more often than not – producing great adventures every single month. They’re still out there, still doing it. Don’t cut yourself off from a world of adventure!) There’s something to be said for forcing the adult me back into his box for the duration of an episode, letting childlike me out and just losing myself in the thrill.
Guess which of the two me’s won out last night? Gurgle. Gurgle. Gurgle.
The Eleventh Hour (BBC, Sat) was… marvellous. Rollicking, bucaneering, free-wheeling fun in the way that I’d almost forgotten Doctor Who could be. From the moment we cut to Matt Smith hanging out of his exploding Tardis (and paying inadvertant homage to Carry On Emmanuelle’s church-spire gag in the process), I was sold. Usually it takes a few episodes for a new Doctor to bed into the affections. You’re too busy mourning the passing of the old, wanting it all to be as it was (as a breed, we fans all-too-often spend so much time wanting the show with the widest ranging brief, the ability to do anything and be anything, to stay stuck within the narrowest boundaries. If it falls outside of what we like, we howl). Well, enough of that. I’m not cutting myself off from a weekly dose of good-old fashioned fun on a Saturday night. To judge by last night’s episode, that’s exactly what we’re in for.
Where to start? Grappling hook out of the Tardis. Running into a tree because “the steering’s still a bit off”. The single best child performer I think I’ve ever seen. Throwing the bread and butter out of the door and hitting a passing cat. The perception-filter-door being almost closed when baby Amy runs to get her suitcase, then wide open when she runs past it. The raggedy Doctor. “Four psychiatrists in twelve years. I kept biting them. They said you didn’t exist.”
Amy. Oh god, Amy. Let’s just take it as read for the next twelve weeks that Karen Gillan’s utterly gorgeous, shall we? I’m besotted, and initial impressions of Amy are of a troubled soul who may – just may – find that she gets her joie de vivre back after whats obviously been a troubled life. Karen’s obviously having the time of her life. Her comic timing’s impeccable. She’s slightly ditzy in a most charming manner, and to judge by the trailer at the end she’s going to be very handy indeed. Just the gal to have at your side in a tricky situation.
Annette Crosbie, popping in and out randomly. A giant eyeball spaceship. “Get a girlfriend!” Patrick Moore suddenly appearing out of the blue. Olivia Coleman doing likewise. “Delete your internet history”. The text message, saying “duck”. Jesus, the level of invention in this first episode is unbelievable. It’s a gigantic toybox, full of overgrown children, playing and having the time of their lives.
As regeneration stories go, I don’t think I’ve seen better. It’s sags a wee bit in the middle, and I’m by no means fond of that bit on the village green where everybody is taking photos with their mobiles, followed by a look-what-we-can-do camera effect that’s actually headache inducing. If that’s all I’ve got to complain about, pretty much everything’s gone right.
And Matt? Just look at him. Radiating confidence from his first befuddled moments, through to the fully formed, swaggering, Doctorish Doctor who calls the monsters back at the end, just because he can. Welcome, Matt. I can’t wait to spend the next twelve weeks in your company. I can’t wait to spend the next few years in your company, because both you and Karen have wormed your way into my weary, cynical old heart in a way that makes me very very happy indeed. Stepping out of the middle of your own flashback sequence to introduce yourself to the world – well, I punched the air. I cheered. I may even have cried a little.
Because my best mate’s back on telly on Saturday nights, and I’ve missed him.
Now he’s fully cooked, I find that my taste buds fully approve. I hope that yours do as well.