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Doctor Who - Smith & Jones

Judoon Platoon Upon The Moon...

The Doctor and Martha

And so after the most frustrating months of possibly my entire life, it was quivering with excitement that I sat down on Saturday night to watch the return of Doctor Who. But did it deliver? The short answer is, yes. It was honestly probably the best thing that has happened to me in 2007 thus far, including sex. It should be pointed out that a non-hyperbolic review of any episode of this series is unlikely to come from me, but I'm not blinded to the shows faults. It's just that I've loved it for longer than I can remember (when I get married I'm going to have my VHS copy of The Curse Of Fenric melted down and turned into a top hat to wear), so when it's good I'm rapturous with joy and when it's bad I feel like the wife in Nil By Mouth, if I'm thinking of the right film. The one where he hits his wife, anyway.

I doubt anyone reading this hasn't seen the episode, but nonetheless, here's a wee plot recap and warning that spoilers may ensue. A hospital in central London gets transported to the Moon by the Judoon, a kind of intergalactic police hunting the "Plasmavore" (a humanoid vampire alien thing) who's taken refuge in the hospital. The Doctor gets caught up in all this, and saves the day. Spoilers follow.

Tennant is on great form, clearly far more settled into the role than previously. He seems more relaxed, despite doing just as much manic hopping about as ever before. However, he's started to exude a really powerful sense of other worldliness, like Tom Baker at his peak, without reducing the energy and humour that define him in the role. Essentially, he's stopped making jokes about Kylie. I have no problem whatsoever with the need to ground the programme right in the present, with populist references, broad humour and suchlike. What has irked in the past was having some of these qualities awkwardly thrust upon the Doctor himself. Like when he sang the theme tune from "Ghostbusters" in Army Of Ghosts and I got so angry I smashed my television screen to bits with a chair leg and then went to live in the wilderness, living off the forest for a few months while I calmed down. This series hasn't notably turned down the broadness yet, with gags like "Where's he from? Planet Zovirax?" but crucially they're left for the other characters while the Doctor does what he does best. Like the episode New Earth before it but in a much better fashion, this episode refreshes the viewer by giving Tennant a chance to be the mysterious Doctor, the silly Doctor, the emotional Doctor, the callous Doctor, the barmy energetic Doctor, the angry Doctor and the noble Doctor in rapid succession. He's really wonderful company to spend 45 minutes in, and his spiffy new suit looks pretty good too. Although, not with the brown overcoat so much. Bit too clashy.

Second Opinion

After my unbridled optimism leading up to series 2’s opening episode New Earth, and the disappointment that followed, it’s safe to say that I was cautious when approaching Smith & Jones. It seems I needn’t have worried.

As expected, it was light, it was knock-about, and it was very RTD. There are times when this fucks me off (New Earth and Aliens of London being in particular), but everything was done with much more style and competence in S&J, that the spirit of it all completely took me in. Tennant was whacky and energetic as usual, but the smug, over acted gurning of series 2 is now a distant memory, with the performance getting very close to being spot on. Shaking the radiation out of his shoe should’ve made me throw a heavy object at the television (like any number of similar moments in series 2), but it didn’t. It was well executed, it felt natural... it was fun.

Freema Agyeman was by far the highlight of the episode, though, putting in a brilliant first performance and practically guaranteeing that she’s going to be a massively successful and popular companion. I dread to utter the words “better than Billie” at such an early stage, but she clearly is. She’s strong, interesting, incredibly sexy and played very well. Not bad for a first episode, that’s for sure.

As for the monsters, The Judoon could well be RTD’s finest creation yet. Scary, weird, funny and with a brilliant concept behind them, they’re the first race of New Series ‘monsters’ that I’m actively hoping will return. Despite the fact certain elements may have been borrowed from the Vogons and Judge Dredd, these characters helped cement a very enjoyable episode, all wrapped up in a nicely tight and interesting plot.

I’m excited about series 3, and Smith & Jones did the job of ramping that excitement up further; bring on Shakespeare, the Face of Boe, the Daleks, Professor Lazarus, Mr. Saxon and the rest of them. I’m ready.

Whereas the first episodes of both the previous series have had to introduce a new Doctor, we're all more than familiar with the concepts involved this time around, and so the Doctor gets to briefly replace his companion as the "audience surrogate", all but winking at us every time Martha discovers something new about him. Her entrance into the Tardis is particularly enjoyable, and the ship itself has never looked better. Compared to the interior Tardis shots in the first series, which were all green lights and bicycle pumps, the Tardis now looks golden and huge and real and majestic. Most importantly of course, Martha is absolutely gorgeous, with a terrific arse, and already I don't miss Billie Piper. But then, she was tooth-grindingly irritating at points last series, much as I was sort of in love with her too. Martha's family are inevitably included in events, what with this being new Who, and though they're hardly highlights the scenes featuring them aren't too bad. The Tylers went on to serve the plot in interesting ways, and given the quality of the actors playing the Joneses, I'm sure they won't just be having boring arguments all series. Also, are we allowed to talk about them being black? Because nobody in the programme made the slightest reference to it once, and it was highly refreshing. Not a cliché among them (by comparison, Skins recently featured a black character whose function was to talk in a funny, utterly indecipherable rapper voice and cop off with the other black character in the last 5 minutes of the last episode). There are clear differences between Martha and Rose, and it highlights how young Rose was, in retrospect. It's something that didn't really occur to me at the time, but Martha is far more self-posessed, saucy and confident, and clearly wants to make squidge-boom with a Time Lord.

The other thing about the first episodes of previous series is of course that they were really shit. While Rose had one or two lovely moments (mostly Eccleston's lines) it was poorly directed, badly paced, a stuttering mess. New Earth wasn't much better, really. Really, where New Who has thus far excelled is when it's good enough to make you forget your reservations. This time, I just plain old didn't have any. The music is much better, and sounds like it's been mixed by professionals, rather than a baboon in boxing gloves. The effects were just gorgeous throughout. The script made sense. It was as scary as it was funny. It was sprinkled with super-intruiging lines like "a brother? No, not anymore..." and as much as it probably made kids shit themselves with excitement, it didn't feel like kids' television. Finally, this series has the balls to achieve its potential and ambition. If this is the sort of quality we can expect from the RTD episodes (previously those which I found myself sort of dreading) then colour me literally dead with excitement. Look, I've died. I was so excited about the rest of this series of Doctor Who, I've genuinely died. Aaargh! Avenge me! But seriously, seeing how slick the production has become both aesthetically (the budget has either increased or they're just really good at using it) and in terms of ironing the clangers out of the scripts, it's pretty hard to imagine them coughing out another Slitheen-quality episode.

The Rhino like Judoon shooting AT YOU

There's absolutely tons crammed into the plot, but where the scatterbrained plot undermined the scale of events in The Runaway Bride, Smith & Jones takes one bonkers conceit (it's a hospital, on the moon!) rather than The Runaway Brides twenty-five or so and then zips along breathlessly to its conclusion. It's testament to the impact of the design of the Judoon that I didn't notice until afterwards that we'd only actually seen one of them remove their helmet - they're sort of Goth Rhino Attack Squad, a clear instance of the writers realising they needed some kind of intergalactic Police Force and then going with the most bananas idea they could think of. It's the kind of confident, bold, ambitious silliness, just the right side of self-reference, that makes Doctor Who at it's best really pop. I think Nicholas Briggs (who voices the Judoon) might be my new favourite actor, too. He was absolutely hilarious on the Who-themed episode of The Weakest Link. Him saying "I did an eenie meenie miney mo" in the Dalek voice was priceless (if you happen to be a dead spoddy Doctor Who fan, I suppose).

Obviously, it's not completely and utterly perfect. The blood-sucking wasn't quite as terrifying as it ought to have been - while (as has been written elsewhere) the thought of children chasing eachother around with straws is enjoyable and reminds us what is great about Doctor Who, there was no fucking mark on his neck after she'd sucked him dry, and since when can Doctor Who survive having *all of the blood sucked out of his body and actually dying*? Surely a line of expository dialogue to confirm that he had super I don't need any blood power wouldn't have gone amiss. And you know, it was a bit of damp fart when he just *un-plugged* the giant MRI machine that was going to fry the planet. But Smith & Jones is such a bolshy introduction to the new series that it's hard not to be caught up in it's enthusiasm. It's as buoyant and joyous as Doctor Who has ever been, and has a certain eagerness to make the most of it's own existence that can only bode well for the audience, and completely erases any memories of the complacency that dogged some parts of the previous series. The final scene, wherein The Doctor offers Martha "just one" trip in the Tardis to thank her for saving his life before unconvincingly telling her he prefers to travel alone, has echoes of one of the few decent bits in Fear Her where the Doctor told Rose that the most important thing to have when travelling across the Universe was a hand to hold. Similarly, when The Doctor recalls a gag from New Earth by commenting on the shop in the hospital, it retrospectively and by association makes those episodes seem sort of less shit.

Just a thought, not much to do with Doctor Who, but I think this whole "Clear World Debt" thing would be solved in literally minutes if instead of raising money by having crap telethons and getting Lenny Henry's red suit out of mothballs, celebrities offered to take their clothes off once a certain amount had been raised. Perhaps £300,000 for Paxman's cock, or a cool million to see Sarah Beanie's pubes. Perhaps if we did entirely clear world debt, we'd get to see some kind of massive nude celebrity orgy. I'd take out a really inadvisably large bank loan, or perhaps a loan from some actual loan sharks, if Freema would get her arse out on the telly. It'd be great. Don't you think? Come on Freema, get your arse out on the telly and clear third world debt, you beautiful thing you. Let's have a baby and call it Doctor Who!

4 Stars

About this entry


Well, let's get one thing straight first:

It blew Torchwood out of the water. One hopes that show will see a SERIOUS retooling for S2 on BBC2, since it so blatantly needs it - but I doubt it. The difference in quality is embarrassing when they're made by basically the same people (let's hope Cap'n Jack is better when he turns up for 11-13).

ANYway, it's not the best of the new series, but it's certainly far better than Rose (the ep) and gives me hope for Martha, as FA put in a good performance. The family... oh dear, but we'll leave them to one side for the moment since they (except for the fairly sane sister) didn't get much screentime in the hope they don't stink up the show the way Jackie did.

Tennant... the "Like so, see" scene, although it was justified by the end, left me wondering if they'd accidentally put in a joke-take by mistake. The hopping scene as well... wasn't good. Otherwise, again, a decent performance even if he's still not as good as Eccleston, and I think Martha may be a better fit than Rose. And nice thought with the bored mouthing along to "Bigger on..."

The Judoon platoon... the CGI was a bit dodgy on landing, no? And, even at the time, having one and only one take his helmet off was a bit too blatantly budget-saving for me - the lip-synch wasn't great, and it might have been better and less blatant just to leave them all helmeted. Nice enough concept though.

7/10. Better than Rose, and we'll see where it goes from here, although the obligatory "Celebrity Historical" next week gives me that annual sinking feeling...

By Somebody
April 05, 2007 @ 9:30 pm

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I'll be honest with you. Between Martha and the Doctor...I don't know which I want to sex first.

This was a fun episode. Nothing spectacular, but certainly entertaining.

By Austin Ross
April 05, 2007 @ 9:33 pm

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I was rather hoping the doctor would get rid of the radiation by letting off a big fart.

I was sorely disappointed.

By Jeffrey Lee
April 05, 2007 @ 10:17 pm

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> I dread to utter the words “better than Billie”

Oh fuck off.

How on earth can you even compare? One 45 minute episode isn't enough to match two series of characterisation. Rose annoyed the hell out of me at times, a lot of times, but she was possibly the most crucial feature of the entire new series. My gut instinct is that Martha will be great TV but it's going to be a few weeks at least until we can really assess the character. What you actual mean is you want to shag Freema far more than you did Billie Piper.

By Karl
April 06, 2007 @ 10:11 am

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Firstly, Somebody, you need to quit your whinging - I too preferred Eccleston but Tennant now owns the role in a different way and there's no point in even comparing them, also the Judoon face and CG ships were fucking excellent for the BBC, and if you have a problem with the 'obligatory historical celebrity' episode just don't watch it.

As for brand-spanking-new companion Martha Jones, I don't think Freema is better than Billie (Billie's easily a more natural actress) but Martha is DEFINITELY better than Rose, and that's after one episode. Rose was too much of an emotional (i.e. whiney) character and while that worked opposite Eccleston's post-war-suffering Doctor and with the superior writing of series 1, in series 2 she was just plain annoying and didn't fit with Tennant's fast-paced, new-man, get-up-and-go Doctor - at the beginning of New Earth when she's gushing 'I love it, travelling with you' you just want the Doctor to go 'Rose, shut the fuck up.' Martha isn't going to be like that, hopefully, I particularly liked her refusal to accept the Doctor as 'the Doctor' "you've got to earn that title".

BRAVO to Russell T Davies for getting everything right and thanks muchly to David Tennant for truly grasping his Doctor for the first time (and if that ain't an innuendo, what is?).

By performingmonkey
April 07, 2007 @ 6:03 am

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Also, Freema's hair and eyebrows are the same colour.

By Rad
April 07, 2007 @ 2:30 pm

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I knew someone would bring colour into this discussion.

By Jonathan Capps
April 07, 2007 @ 2:37 pm

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"the superior writing of series 1"

My fat sweaty cock. Series 1 had the pooiest new Who eps ever - The End Of The World, Rose, Aliens Of London, World War Three, The Long Game, Boom Town... all worse than even Fear Her or Idiots Lantern. It probably had higher highs, but S2 was more consistent and just comparing first episodes to first episodes and second to second etc, S3 is booting them both right hard in the balls so far.

By Michael Lacey
April 08, 2007 @ 3:57 am

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> but S2 was more consistent

If you mean consistently crap I agree. I think what pissed me off most was the Cyber 2-parter and the finale. They should have been SO good, but they weren't. I'd rather watch Aliens of London.

By performingmonkey
April 08, 2007 @ 8:59 pm

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Agreed that the Cybermen 2 parter wasn't as good as it shoudl have been, but it still wrecked Aliens Of London right up in its face. I have no problems with the finale 2 parter though - cried like a wee girl, I did. Fear Her and Idiots Lantern are the only episodes of S2 that I never feel like rewatching, but there's far more in S1, which is my basis for comparison really.

By Michael Lacey
April 09, 2007 @ 1:09 pm

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> but it still wrecked Aliens Of London right up in its face

I love that phrase.

By performingmonkey
April 10, 2007 @ 1:45 am

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Oh, fuck you all to hell, BBC. If the fucking football overruns then you cancel something else. ANYTHING but Doctor Who.

Bastard cunts.

By Jonathan Capps
April 10, 2007 @ 2:13 pm

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"Agreed that the Cybermen 2 parter wasn't as good as it should have been, but it still wrecked Aliens Of London right up in its face."

Then and now I never understood all the love for the Cyberman two-parter so many people had. The "parallel dimension" version of Britain stuff was lazy, unimaginative stitching-together of every alternative-world cliche imaginable. The Airships (not "Zeppelins" unless they were built by the Zeppelin company) didn't make any real sense beyond the producers presumably thinking they'd look cool, whilst the "oppressive" society was like every crap "1984" knockoff mixed with hack sci-fi paranoia and all mixed up for stupid people and the "come into this van we want to feed you for no reason!" bit was laughable. As for "The Preachers", they were utterly shit - all they were missing was red rags tied around their heads to finish-off their hackneyed 1980s TV-movie "Freedom Fighters" posturing. And despite what anyone says, I can't see how "rebooting" a major alien race in a continuation of the old series can be anything but ridiculous. It completely punctured the "Daleks v Cybermen" finale because I never considered them to be actual proper Cybermen at all, just a bunch of Cybermen knock-offs from another dimension. It's a shame because the redesigned Cybermen looked marvellous and its a shame they couldn't have been used for, y'know, real proper Cybermen.

"I have no problems with the finale 2 parter though - cried like a wee girl, I did. Fear Her and Idiots Lantern are the only episodes of S2 that I never feel like rewatching, but there's far more in S1, which is my basis for comparison really."

"Fear Her" was a good idea that should clearly have been set on a remote Scottish island in the 1950s when it would have been creepy and atmospheric. Unfortunately, someone (RTD, I suspect) decided the tie it in with the 2012 Olympics and so tried to create a "small community" in a bloody London street for the girl to terrorise and tacked-on that dreadful, dreadful stuff with the Olympic torch. "Idiot's Lantern" was just plain rubbish and a massive disappointment considering it was penned by Mark Gatiss.

The two-parter finale I agree was quite good, although some of the Torchwood stuff (all that clapping, for example) was a bit embarrassing and the ending of part two was overplayed.

By Zagrebo
April 10, 2007 @ 3:13 pm

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By John Hoare
April 25, 2007 @ 4:58 am

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