Welcome Aboard

Doctor Who3 SAJ c

D’you Wanna Come With Me?

Well, that’s what I call a build-up.  There were (as far as I counted) seven different trailers, a series guest interviews on Richard and Judy, BBC Breakfast, Entertainment Today, The Charlotte Church Show, Graham Norton, Wales Today, This Morning, Newsround and Blue Peter, even more spots on almost every BBC radio station, column inches in the printed media wherever you cared to look and a glittering press launch that wouldn’t have been out of place for a Hollywood blockbuster.  The first question on almost everyone lips was: “Is Freema any good?”  Last night, we all got the chance to make our first judgements as, in its established home of 7pm Saturday night on BBC1, Doctor Who‘s third series (and no, I’m not going to get into any debate over season/series naming and numbering) debuted with Smith and Jones.

There was no-one on screen who was there from the time when the series re-launched in 2005, so, the pressure was on to deliver something special to ensure that the massive fanbase stayed loyal to the show following Billie Piper’s departure.  The overnight ratings of an impressive 8.2million viewers representing a sliver under 40% audience share tuned in to find out.  Structurally, there were many similarities to Rose inasmuch as we began with the a domestic perspective of the new companion’s life, this was then turned upside down in a breakneck-paced adventure where she helped the mysterious stranger to defeat the aliens, then the companion reverted to her family life before ultimately being tempted away in a dark alleyway with promises of travels in space and time for a journey of a lifetime.
However, Smith and Jones was a much more confident and more accomplished tale than Rose, which was illustrated by a lovely little demonstration of time travel as the Doctor popped back to the start of the episode, and equally by the fact that the whole hospital was transported to the moon for the Judoon to undertake their investigations. The introduction of Martha and her eventual decision to travel with the Doctor meant that the action was squeezed into the middle 35 minutes during which the pace was relentless, it never ceases to amaze me how so much action can actually be played out in such a short space of time.  The revelation that Anne Reid was the main antagonist was kind of given away in the various previews that we saw but her two henchmen, the Slabs, were a nice touch.  Additionally, the Judoon were a great addition to the gallery of Who monsters as the militaristic police force who dish out execution and compensation with equal measure.
Having said all that, it was, in the end, Freema Agyeman‘s show.  She has approached the role with vigour and enthusiasm and has already won over many of Rose’s biggest fans.  Some little asides and quips were delivered naturally and effortlessly, the look in her eyes after she told the Doctor that she “only went for humans” spoke volumes and she lit up the screen.  As David Tennant said on Doctor Who Confidential afterwards, Russell T Davies has been extremely clever in  looking at the whole that Rose’s departure has left in the Doctor’s life and creating a character who is a completely different shape to come along and try to fill it.  It’s going to be an interesting exploration as we move through the next 12 weeks.

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