Operation: Platinum Age, Part 1

The sublime ‘fish custard’/ ‘crack in the wall’ sequence was only the first Great Moment in a story that saw the newly cooked Doctor telling a fleet of dangerous aliens to ‘basically… run’. This staggering mission statement could have been written for previous Doctors, but Smith made it his own with charming ease.

We can argue about this some other time, but a lot of people think it, and some of us said it that night – Matt Smith is the best Doctor ever. He really is. We’ve already seen him do alien, warm, hilarious, thrilled, ridiculous, confident, apopleptic, flirtatious, irresponsible, frustrated, dangerous and sheepish. And Smith does them all his way – inhabiting the part rather than simply acting it – but with great respect and dedication to the tradition of the character. He is also the best-looking Doctor. Not pretty like his predecessor, but easily the Doctor with the most incredible and fascinating face. He looks exactly as the Doctor should. And you know what I mean by that, even if you disagree.

Not only is Smith a natural in the role but the show itself has been re-tailored to fit him perfectly; his clothes are spot-on, the new TARDIS is wonderful (inside and out), and – controversially – we now have the most impressive and threatening Daleks the series has ever seen. Pan them all you like, it won’t stop them being utterly gorgeous. In this year’s Dalek story, the series’ three main dramatic pillars look exactly as you once imagined they did – futuristic but retro, timeless and modern.

Speaking of radical departures, we have also been treated to some great new visual effects: the Prisoner Zero ‘snake’, the beautiful Atraxi (at first quite stunningly viewed through the crack in Amy’s wall), a space whale, and the Silurian city. Planets and stars also seem more vibrantly executed this year. Obviously, the spitfires in space were quite wonderful, but three viewings later, I still find myself wondering if I really saw them? That’s the thing with limited CGI shots, they become so fleeting that they eye cannot quite contain them. Like a dream.

Like it or not, the programme has undergone a subtle but significant change. Even Murray Gold’s music seems different, more understated. While Amy’s entering the TARDIS and the last act of Victory of the Daleks were lovely, there’s been nothing as immediately catchy as his previous Doctor or companion themes. But this could change. Oh, and how we hated that theme tune! But eight weeks in, I’m surely not the only one who’s starting to like it. Am I?

As befits such confident retooling, this has been a season of bold stories that has followed a pattern not dissimilar to the 2005 comeback series. But with swearing, a horny kissogram and pensioner whacking.

The Beast BelowThe Beast Below had many of us clenching and nervous after a great first night. With its McCoy era feel and potentially soppy undertones, it trod some of the ground covered by The End of the World, and many thought it was an early mis-step. Eight weeks in, it looks like a glittering example of a series at the height of its powers. You wait. In 20 years’ time the tabloids will ‘debate’ its challenge to the moral integrity of a monarch that can comfortably preside over a nation built on subjugation and willingly consumed lies. Only The State Opening of Parliament comes close to instilling such awkwardness in a politically aware audience.

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Elton Townend-Jones is a journalist, playwright, actor, theatre producer and philosopher. He does ‘80s zeitgeist at www.25yearstoolate.blogspot.com.

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