Sometime on Friday, NJ.com finally posted my "Doctor Who" column, not that it says a lot beyond "there's a new Doctor, and he's quite alright." More thoughts on The Doctor, past and present, comic up as soon as I find reading glasses for my psychic paper...
As I mentioned a couple of days ago, I'm brand-new to this bandwagon. Never watched the earlier incarnations, save for stumbling across 30 seconds of Tom Baker now and then as a kid, laughing at the cheapness and moving on. Matt reviewed the Christopher Eccleston premiere, and as so often happened during our partnership, if he reviewed something I was ambivalent about, I didn't get around to watching it. But, as happened when he reviewed "Battlestar Galactica" and I ignored it, word-of-mouth from trusted friends and other sources made me finally give in and check it out. In the last couple of weeks, I've watched all but a couple of the less-crucial Eccleston episodes, and I'm kicking myself for not trying it sooner. Hell, I'm probably going to put some classic Doctor into my Netflix queue. (Any recommendations on that from the long-time fans? 26 years is a lot to choose from.)
So all of that being said, I can't approach these episodes with the kind of historical perspective that, say, Ross Ruediger is giving in his reviews over at The House Next Door. I can, however, compare David Tennant to Eccleston, and I think both come out very well.
Eccleston was wounded, a Doctor who had personally witnessed the destruction of his entire race. Moments of happiness, his friendship with Rose -- that was all a pleasant surprise to him, but his default states were sad, guarded, or angry. That's what made his overwhelming joy at the end of "The Doctor Dances" so moving.
In contrast, Tennant is brand-new. He has the memories of the previous Doctors but doesn't seem scarred by them. He's looser, goofier, more able to enjoy his travels -- and yet, when he gets mad, he's even scarier than Eccleston, because Eccleston's rage was always bound together with his own fear. (See "Dalek" for that.) When Tennant goes into a rage like the one at the end of "The Christmas Invasion," there's no sense that he's overcompensating. And because he remains a man whose brain is his most powerful weapon, he gets revenge on Harriet Jones with six simple words. Beautiful.
"Christmas Invasion" worked well as an epic-scale introduction to the new Doctor, while "New Earth" brought back one of the more memorable villains from season one, Cassandra the skin trampoline. I suppose it's inevitable in this day and age that every skiffy show has to do at least one body swapping episode at some point, but they had fun with this. (Cassandra in Rose's body: "It's like living inside a bouncy castle!") Rose and Tennant clearly seem headed for a less platonic relationship than she had with Eccleston, and this helped speed that along a bit. And the climax with the healing of the lepers reminded me of the "everybody lives" finale of "The Doctor Dances." Happy endings are nice sometimes.
What did everybody else think? And how big of a nerd do I sound when I say that this show and "Galactica" back-to-back could be the best two-hour bloc on television?