Saturday, April 17, 2010

Victory of the Daleks

17/4/10 “Victory of the Daleks”

“There isn’t a sincere bone in your body. There isn’t a bone in your body.” –The Doctor

I had my doubts about whether one could really sink one’s teeth into a one episode historical story, though I suppose Gatiss achieved it with “The Unquiet Dead”—I also had my doubts about whether it was too soon to have another Blitz story—though I suppose it’s been five years since Rose was hanging off a barrage balloon with a Union Jack on her chest. “Victory of the Daleks” did feel a bit cursory—consider it a Short Trips short story to “Curse of Fenric”’s novel, perhaps—but it had some interesting elements.

With the TARDIS landing in the Cabinet War Rooms and with guns trained immediately on the Doctor and Amy as they exited, I thought of “Aliens of London” for some reason. I have to admit I know nothing about Winston Churchill except what I read in Players, so the characterization here left no impression either way. His insistence on trying to snatch the TARDIS key from the Doctor was vaguely amusing. I saw that the production team were at pains to show us a daytime Blitz so as to distinguish things from “The Empty Child.” The fact that Churchill knew the Doctor, had called him, and had had at least one previous encounter with him was nice, in that it didn’t invalidate Players or other previous adventures, and kept all the introductions concise. Thus when the Doctor’s reaction was extreme to the “Ironsides,” no one was carting him off as a lunatic—they were merely baffled.

The Ironsides, by the way, were Daleks, which Churchill was convinced would win the War. Certainly on the surface and considering what evidence was available, you’d be inclined to agree with him. There has been an interesting pattern developing already in the season about moral dilemmas, and difficult ones at that. Everyone insisted that the Ironsides were invented by Professor Bracewell. What followed was a very interesting parallel to the situation in “Dalek.” In that, the Time War-scarred Doctor was also in a situation where the humans didn’t know what they had—in that case, they were torturing their Dalek and it could not attack him because it was chained up. In this case, the humans didn’t know what they had, and the Daleks weren’t attacking the Doctor because they had another agenda. But on the surface, it was a frustrating and frightening experience for him, and by extension, us. “Why won’t you listen to me?” Churchill’s dilemma is different than the Doctor: the Prime Minister feels he would save countless lives by unleashing the Daleks on the Third Reich and if the Ironsides were truly what they were supposed to be, perhaps he would be ending the War early. It’s a daring idea to pit the Daleks against the Nazis when, as we all know, Daleks are Nazis.

I found it hilarious that the Daleks were offering tea. At first the Doctor’s reaction is a natural one: he think Bracewell is in collusion with the Daleks as so many other humans have thought to gain from alliances with Daleks. “You cannot trust them.” The parallel with “Dalek” goes so far that the Doctor begins attacking the Dalek physically—you can almost imagine him shouting “Why don’t you just die?!” It’s the Doctor who interestingly begins to exhibit a bit of a God complex here, and one could say he gets his just desserts for his hubris: “I saved the whole of humanity! I am the Doctor and you are the Daleks!” It’s a bit of mumbo jumbo that the Doctor’s “testimony” causes more Daleks to come spewing out of a machine, but oh well. Because at this point, the Daleks reveal themselves to have been playing a ruse on the humans, and that their creator is actually the created. That’s a very interesting reveal, not only for its post-Frankenstein implications but also because of Davros’ role. The Daleks up in space are being regenerated, so with a characteristic sneer, the “Ironsides” are transported to the space ship and the Doctor laments: “I was their plan.”

The Doctor next uses a jammy dodger (this Doctor and food, do you see a pattern?) to bluff his way onto the Dalek ship and watches in horror and fascination as the “new” Daleks emerge. From long shots, these new candy-colored Daleks are amusingly retro—they make me think of Pertwee-era Daleks. From closer up, however, their embarrassingly large posteriors just look silly. I wonder if a generation of kids weaned on the bling Daleks are going to look at these new ones and dismiss them as rubbish because, in pursuit of the retro look, they just don’t seem as threatening? However they might appear, these Daleks are pure evil—they destroy their willing progenitors, like mini-Oedipuses (Oedipi?) killing the King. They distract the Doctor by turning on all the lights in London with a satellite dish. “The generator won’t switch off!” someone cries in the Cabinet War Rooms. Indeed, this is rather a scary thought: if you’re trying to hide, being out in plain sight and unable to do anything about it is quite humbling.

Amy’s solution to this problem is to rack the alien-made positronic brains of Bracewell, who comes up with suspiciously Star Wars¬-like fighter planes. The CGI budget has certainly been spent here. Amy, as you may have noticed, has not had a significant presence in this episode. I’m not sure why this should be. Too many other characters, with Churchill taking some of Amy’s role away? While the boys in the souped-up Spitfires are trying to take down the deflector dish—er, satellite dish—the Doctor is facing another moral dilemma redolent of the one from the Gamestation in “The Parting of the Ways.” Bracewell is a bomb about to be detonated by the Daleks, killing everyone in England certainly and it is implied, the world, which the Doctor can go defuse, or he can focus his attentions on the fleeing “new” Daleks, who will go on to spread through the galaxies their evil. This being the Doctor, of course, he chooses Earth. “They knew I’d choose Earth.”

He returns to the Cabinet War Rooms and that punch is finally explained; you can imagine all the Pertwee years of arguing with people like Stahlman have built up in the Doctor and instead of yapping he knows the most efficacious way to get results is to knock someone on their back! Hold on—is that what the Doctor should be doing? Nevertheless, it does save time as the Doctor tries to hold back the detonation of the Bracewell bomb by convincing Bracewell that he is human rather than a Dalek-created android. Whaaa? Again, to me it seems a bit of mumbo jumbo. In any case, the Doctor’s attempts are fruitless compared to Amy’s—“ever fancy someone you shouldn’t? It hurts.” Sounds like something Martha would say! Fortunately for all, this is an experience Bracewell can relate to and thus he remains human and not a bomb. The Daleks have gotten away, but the Earth is okay. The Doctor kisses Amy’s forehead (like he did to Rose in “Parting of the Ways”).

Churchill tries to persuade the Doctor to put his efforts into winning the War for the Allies; “why can’t we put an end to all this misery?” It is interesting Churchill should say this and that the Doctor should deflect it with moral superiority. I don’t think the Doctor can help any more than he can stop the A-Bomb from being used. Churchill tries one more pass at getting the key from the Doctor, but Amy foils his attempts. Amy’s been given key jobs to do in this episode, but her presence has been felt much less significantly than before.

So, a story that was a bit slight but with some good ideas. I liked Matt Smith’s charisma in facing the Daleks.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Beast Below

10/4/10 “The Beast Below”
“We’re like a wildlife documentary.” –Amy

I was raising concerns last week about the tonality of all Steven Moffat’s stories and whether there would be any variation. This story was, though as usual I found much to allude to. For all its inventiveness and the consummate way any Moffat story fits together, I found it very difficult to watch and could not, despite myself, give it the ebullient emotion I felt when watching “The Eleventh Hour.” Maybe that story had raised my expectations so high anything else was bound to be, well, second-best.

The teaser is a classic Doctor Who fake out, and while it succeeded in garnering interest and gluing the kiddies to their seats, it felt very much at odds with the rest of the story once it had all played out. Taking place in Starship UK, “bits of the UK bolted together and floating in the sky,” I felt vague stirrings of Stephen Wyatt (“Paradise Towers” principally, with the bad thing in the basement, though also a bit of “Greatest Show in the Galaxy”) as well as a similarity in production values to “Gridlock” (I don’t know where that was filmed, but “The Beast Below” appeared to have been filmed in Cardiff Market). I really have to question the place of the Smilers. I realize there had to be a gimmick to focus the pre-airing ads, since the revelation at the end was much too complex and gruesome to really sell this story. But the Smilers seemed like scare for scare’s sake. Almost like the Primords in “Inferno,” which were tacked on during production to have a traditional monster in a non-traditional story. And what’s with Half-Smilers, Half-Human? Why even bother?

Meanwhile, out in space, Amy (charmingly still in her nightgown, though what a conveniently opaque nightie!) is floating around in a beautiful starry sky with the Doctor holding onto her ankle (and hopefully not looking up her skirt). This was beautiful and said a lot about Amy and the new Doctor. “I’ve extended the air shell,” the Doctor told her when she asked (and I was about to raise the question myself). Like Rose, the Amy is going to start her travels in the future and then the past, not especially by choice like Rose, though. While the Doctor showed her Starship UK on the view screen, he more or less told her what he told Barbara, “You can’t rewrite history! Not one line.” Actually he told her that they were observers only. Amy has difficulty being an observer, which she quickly realizes is the case with the Doctor as well. Wherever children are crying, she wryly notes, the Doctor is there to fix it. A nice sentiment that seems to be very much in line with the ethos of the series so far . . . not sure how much I truly like it, though.

As the Doctor and Amy looked around Starship UK, with its illusion of Middle Britain, she worried “oh my God, I’m in my nightie” while he casually mentioned they were in “a police state at the brink of collapse.” They’re being watched, especially when the Doctor takes a full pint of water and places it on the ground. This is a lovely alien thing to do for the lovely alien Eleventh Doctor. “We’re under orders to tell her,” one monk-looking official person tells his telephone. On the other end of the telephone, the mysterious masked lady says, “Did he do the thing?” She is slightly Gothic, and I couldn’t help thinking of Neverwhere for some reason. Like all Moffat, this story is pieces of a puzzle arranged with maddening precision around the viewer.

The Doctor and Amy have found the girl from the teaser, and the Doctor is concerned about her crying—yet he has a Sherlock Holmes-like detachment about the whole situation, like a tour guide. As the Doctor explains to Amy that if no adults are comforting the crying girl, then they know what caused her despair and can’t do anything about it, so choose to ignore it. “Any parent knows that,” the Doctor states in the oblique manner he did in “The Doctor’s Daughter.” Cute. He shows Amy the girl’s identity card—“took me four go’s to get it.” As they start to get “involved,” the Doctor says, “What will Amy Pond choose?” This seems very manipulative of him. For all his disingenuousness, this Doctor is starting to emerge as a darker character in his dealings with Amy. Maybe I’m just hyper-sensitive to it, as this is the kind of relationship that sets my fan fic sense a-tingling.

As Amy follows the girl and starts investigating, the Doctor goes elsewhere. Amy uses lock picking skills (acquired from Marie-Antoinette?) and I see an ad for Magpie Electricals. A one-off? Amy is pleased that the Scots wanted their own ship. I can see that Jamie is right: Moffat is going to do for the Scots in Doctor Who what RTD did for the Welsh. Tee hee. Amy gets taken off into a booth on her own where, somewhat “Vengeance on Varos”-like, she is given the interactive choice to “vote,” so to speak. Her choices are, however, Protest or Forget. Whatever Amy sees prompts her to forget, so she comes out of the booth with her memories erased. The girl explains to her that all adults are required to “vote” every five years. It’s a curious, and not terribly belabored, commentary on voting and civil responsibility; in the wake of the fact I’m reading a book about the British political system and the fact the British General Election is coming up . . . well, let’s just say “The Beast Below” has some interesting ramifications for choice versus compulsion in voting, and just how important votes can be. If only 1% of the population of Starship UK voted for “protest,” the system would change radically. Instead, we’ll find out where dissenters go later.

Amy is unable to explain this to the Doctor—he isn’t required to vote because he doesn’t register as human—except with a vague sense of foreboding. He has had contact with the mysterious lady, and it’s all so mysterious. Amy and the Doctor, in their exploration, fall down a chute onto a tongue. With all the slipping and sliding, it reminded me, in a good way, of the garbage compacter scene in Star Wars IV. Having been fed from tongue into a stomach with a feeding tube, the only way for them to be expelled is through vomiting. “Yes, you are covered in sick,” the Doctor tells Amy. There’s a strange, roguish gross-out factor to the Eleventh Doctor so far. They are rescued by Liz 10, the mysterious lady, who Jamie immediately and correctly identified as the Queen. For a Queen, she is very bad-ass (she reminded me of Zoe from Firefly). I had written in my notes, “A more optimistic vision of royalty than RTD’s,” but I’m not so sure that’s true once you’ve gotten to the end.

Liz’s freedom fight is for her people, and she somehow manages to land outside the jurisdiction of the Smilers and has been time locked (I think that was the phrase). She says she is forty and has been struggling for ten years of her reign. “Keeps me looking like the stamps.” If all this seems a bit tenuous, you’ll find out why and be shaking your head. As Liz 10 is reliving the same ten years of her reign, over 300 years. I found it quite a similar (and similarly disturbing) idea to the one at the heart of Rob Shearman’s The Holy Terror. It is an amusing and bitter satire of the monarchy, that all the responsibility and pomp that goes with the role is so similar and passed down through the generations, no one seems to notice if it’s relived a hundred times with the same people.

The horrible truth that Amy saw when she voted was that Starship UK isn’t powered by mechanisms, they’re riding on the back of a Star Whale they captured and are keeping in a constant state of torture in order to keep themselves alive and blissfully unaware of the fact. I won’t bore you with allusion to modern events that would fit right at home in this simile as you can draw the conclusions for yourselves. A generational deception that’s sort of the reverse of the one in “Full Circle.” And the dissenters are sent to the belly of the whale, though “it won’t eat the children.” The Queen has instructed that this system be put in place, though every time she finds this revelation anew, she can choose to keep the system going or to abdicate and release the Whale, killing them all in the process. It’s a bit more complicated than “Meat,” but the same morals—and the same extremely poor light humans are shown in—are the same. The Star Whale also happens to be the last of its kind.

Amy tried to keep all this from the Doctor in the split-second she chose “Forget.” “You took it upon yourself to save me from myself,” says the Doctor angrily. His role is to kill the humans and save the whale and for Amy to stand by and take his abuse and do nothing. “I won’t be the Doctor anymore!” It’s an impossible choice to make, and it would be interesting to see the Ninth Doctor in a similar situation—doubtless he had many impasses like this as Nine. Fortunately for everyone, Amy was listening when they told her that “it won’t eat the children,” and based on this, she formulates a theory and tests it out, without the Doctor’s approval. She makes the choice. And it’s the right one. She has the Queen abdicate, setting the whale free . . . but they don’t get shrugged off and they don’t die. Because the creature they’ve been torturing is of a moral fiber so much better than their own. “It volunteered—if you were that old and that kind . . .” She knew she had made the right choice because she realized the Doctor was old, kind, and lonely, and like the whale, had a big heart. This is the kind of stuff that does somewhat restore your faith in the universe if not in humanity. The Doctor, too, however, has been culpable and is mindful of Amy’s role in “humanizing” him. He confesses that the last time he ran away from a big decision, like Amy has, he ended up as . . . well . . . the Doctor. The title, of course, has been deceptively making us worry about a Satan-like figure—when beast here signifies a beast of burden. That clever Vast Toffee.

And onto the next story, where Winston Churchill uses the TARDIS phone and methinks things are not as they seem in wartime London.

Sunday, April 4, 2010


3/4/10 “The Eleventh Hour”

“This is all perfectly normal.” –The Doctor

The Doctor Who episode in my dream was called “The Four Doctors” and starred Matt Smith, Paul McGann, Johnny Depp for some reason, and I am to assume Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant showed up later, but unfortunately my alarm went off before they could arrive. It involved Matt Smith and food and had the Cloister Bell in it, which rather made me wonder if I was psychic as I watched “The Eleventh Hour,” Matt Smith and “showrunner” Steven Moffat’s debut. I hadn’t gotten excited about the new series of Doctor Who, much as I’d wanted to. It was only after my interrupted dream that I began to anticipate the new season—I hadn’t even bothered to read the latest Doctor Who Magazine and had more or less skipped the interviews with the new producers in the DWM before that. I think the Vast Toffee understands the brilliance of the concept of Doctor Who, and that’s why it can mean so much to people and why it can and does elicit such excitement and joy. I’m more skeptical of his assertion that his Eleventh Doctor is still the same man as the First Doctor, but I digress.

My two fears for the new series were that everything would be tonally the same to what the Vast Toffee had done before in his Ninth and Tenth Doctor stories (giving us gems like “Blink” but equally stories like “Girl in the Fireplace” which didn’t completely work for me), and by extension worries that Doctor Who would resemble Coupling more than Press Gang. My other fear was that Matt Smith’s Doctor was going to be too similar in personality to David Tennant’s. I haven’t vanquished these fears completely based on “The Eleventh Hour,” but they were assuaged to the point that I could enjoy this debut a great deal and surprise myself with a renewed love for the Doctor Who of the here and now as opposed to nostalgia. I hope it’s not too facetious to reflect that “The Eleventh Hour” is the distillation of all other Moffat Doctor Who episodes ever made before + the TV Movie + “Rose” + “Castrovalva” + “Smith and Jones,” but still enjoyable.

Like “Rose,” we start on Earth, first with shots of Earth to guide us there. We start with young Amelia Pond praying to Santa Claus (!)—as opposed to Rose getting ready for work—as opposed to Reinette and the Doctor in the fireplace. I confess I couldn’t focus on the new title sequence (although there are new fonts! Whee!) because I was listening so hard to the new theme tune remix. I’m not sold on it, I will have to hear it again, but I do like it better than the rejig from the Specials last year. I think it is safe to say this is the first regeneration the Doctor has ever had on his own, with no companions to see him through, which is quite an interesting and meaty challenge if you think about it. No, I take that back, the poor Eighth Doctor regenerated in the morgue, which seems quite a bit more lonely and indeed contributed to his state of amnesia. Which is just one of a few ways I find “The Eleventh Hour” resembles the TV movie.

The Doctor’s crash-landing into Young Amy’s shed in the garden, with the TARDIS landing on its side, reminded me of “Castrovalva.” The Doctor notes that “Amelia Pond” is a fairy tale name, and indeed the early sequence with the Doctor and Young Amy reminded me of Wonderland and The Time Traveler’s Wife. There is something surreal about the whole house, rather Gothic and not quite 100% of this world. We never saw Paris in “Girl in the Fireplace,” mostly the interior of Madame de Pompadour’s living quarters (I’m sure as much about the necessity of filming practicalities as it was symbolic, but it contributed to the notion of a make-believe realm, contained and somehow in need of exorcism, like the house in “Ghost Light”).

While I still felt the insouciance of the delivery and the speediness of the writing for the Doctor’s dialogue upon entering Young Amy’s kitchen quite Tennant-y, that didn’t prevent me from laughing, and I’m sure eager children watching were having a ball (though I hope they didn’t try to repeat the Doctor’s performance with their dinners!). What was pleasing was to see the Doctor not only suffering from post-regenerative stress, but also acting more alien than ever (“definitely alien”). Classic fans punched the air when the Doctor mentioned not only the swimming pool but the library. Being Vast Toffee, in between all the wit were some strong lines. “Who are you?” Young Amy reasonably asks. “I don’t know yet. I’m still cooking.” The girls I was watching it with and I did all laugh when the Doctor walked right into a tree (a hint of Troughton-esque buffoonery?). Being a Miltonist I thought for sure the Doctor’s saying “I love apples” was going to have repercussions, but it was more like the Doctor in “Kinda” saying “An apple a day keeps the . . . oh never mind.” Not apples, nor yogurt, nor bacon pleased the Doctor’s palate (“You’re Scottish—fry something” seemed like a cheap shot, and maybe I’m out of touch, but would someone as young as Young Amy be allowed to use the gas range?); and in the end it was the universally ewwww-inducing combination of fish fingers and custard. (I felt sure he was going to succumb to a cup of tea!) I thought at first the Goldilocks-food thing was going to be Moffat’s answer to the cliché of the wardrobe scene, but we’ll get to that.

Young Amy explained that they weren’t in Scotland, they were in a small English village (actually Llandaff, how funny is that?!) and that she lived with her aunt (shades of Roald Dahl?). I didn’t think it was ever satisfactorally explained why Young Amy’s aunt had left her alone in the house, nor did I think it believable that Young Amy could cut a smiley face in an apple with a knife and without supervision. But it was sweet and sad, and yet there was no hint of angst from the Doctor when he said he didn’t have a mother or father or aunt. Fixing Young Amy’s crack in the wall told them that a giant eye ball was after Prisoner Zero. The Cloister Bell cut in; the Doctor spazzed a bit. He had to leave for a few minutes to fix the TARDIS. Young Amy, naturally, wanted to go with him. He told her he would be right back and told her to trust him. “Do I look like people?! Trust me—I’m the Doctor.” As Young Amy sat down to wait for his return, older viewers knew from the format of the show what was going to happen and what psychological damage the embryonic and unsuspecting Doctor was going to wreak on Amy; younger viewers who might have seen “School Reunion” or “Girl in the Fireplace” guessed. Those who hadn’t seen any of those were clued in by the Vast Toffee’s writing, which knows how to tug at the heart strings (and Murray Gold’s slightly heavy-handed music).

Across the village, and into the realms of “Smith and Jones,” Rory the nurse was busy monitoring the conditions of people in comas. He could swear he had seen them walking around, and they had all started speaking, calling for the Doctor (“The Empty Child”). In Amy’s garden, the Doctor was hit by a cricket bat (oh, the mortification) and handcuffed to a radiator by a “policewoman.” There were multiple layers of deception going on here, as the audience knew the girl was a grown-up Amy but the Doctor didn’t; Amy knew who the Doctor was but didn’t let on; Amy knew she wasn’t a real policewoman but the Doctor didn’t and neither did the audience, at first. I don’t think it’s really clear how Amy’s career could be much in demand in such a small village (unless she uses Rory’s car to drive to out-of-town gigs) nor how it could pay the bills on such a large house. Yet the fact that she’s a Kiss-o-Gram has a certain charm (if you’re willing to overlook the fact I think she would be cast as something much less innocent were this the New Adventures—“it was this or the French maid”).

With the Doctor chained to the radiator (the key lost, which I didn’t actually hear her say, I had to ask my fellow viewers why she couldn’t just unlock him rather than use his molding sonic screwdriver) and Amy going into the room “in the corner of your eye” where Prisoner Zero is hiding out (“Why does no one ever listen to me?”) the personal developments between the two are nicely paced against a backdrop of imminent danger (rather like the Judoon searching for the Plasmavore in Royal Hope Hospital, I thought, but that’s just me). Amy’s anger and inability to trust the Doctor make perfect sense; her aunt and her friend Jeff both exclaim upon seeing him, “it’s the raggedy Doctor!” and invoke embarrassing memories of “cartoons you did when you were little.” The Big Brother eye in search of Prisoner Zero starts blotting out the sun, leading the Doctor and Amy to the village green, where the Doctor’s superior powers of deduction (and a very impressive, ultra-modern sequence which rather shamed the rest of the somewhat bland CGI work) lead him to Rory. Rory, it turns out, is Amy’s boyfriend.

With their help, the Doctor engineers an impressive world-wide plan for attracting the Big Brother eye’s attention—Patrick Moore and other experts are on the case. Jeff’s laptop, I noticed, had a MψTH logo on it, which I assume will be significant later? The Doctor, with outrageous Doctor-ishness, has commandeered the village firetruck. Moffat, while letting his sharp ear for dialogue and keen sense of emotions and pacing drive the episode, lets his feel for true creepiness back in for Prisoner Zero, the “clever old multiform.” It has so far taken the form of a man and a dog, its ability to communicate hindered by the man growling and barking. In the hospital coma ward, where the Doctor has realized the multiform has been hiding in a series of living but dormant human beings, Rory and Amy race. They are not fooled by the disguise of the mother and two little girls (makes me think of Charbydis and Scylla, or worse, Sin and Death in Paradise Lost). When the Doctor arrives to save the day, Prisoner Zero takes advantage of a psychic link with Amy (forged by years of living under the same roof) and takes the form of the Doctor and Young Amy. We really laughed when the Doctor exclaimed, “Well, that’s rubbish. Who’s that supposed to be?” It’s a well-loved cliché for the Doctors to be dissatisfied with their appearances after regeneration according to the actors’ most prominent features. Fortunately, Amy’s trust and belief in the Doctor causes the multiform to dream itself into its own shape (very like the snake/Master in the TV Movie, I thought). This causes the Big Brother eye to capture Prisoner Zero and then the Doctor goes on the rooftop to have a “Christmas Invasion” moment.

First, though, he wants to “drezz for the occasion”!! Maybe it’s more fair to say it’s a hint of his Sixth self. In any case, he goes through a hospital locker room for clothes, just like the Eighth Doctor, and adopts his new look, though he leaves the bowtie for last. “Amy, he’s taking off his clothes.” The purpose of this scene is for the Doctor to show that he’s alive and well, but what had me kicking and screaming with delight was the images the Big Brother eye saw when it scanned for information about the Doctor. I suppose it was a cheap way of keeping us old skool fans, but it worked. I shouted, “Sea Devils!” and then babbled incoherently as we saw all the former Doctor incarnations (though I don’t recall seeing Hartnell for some reason). I do think Murray Gold has his moments of genius, and his score was emotionally twinned to the impact of this scene. Oh, I have to go all fan-girl. I loved this.

I didn’t really understand why the TARDIS changed shape and why there was a new console room. “Oh, you sexy thing,” the Doctor murmured. I had to think of Phantom of the Opera where in the first act, the Phantom gets unmasked but the audience isn’t privy to the secret just yet; we have to wait ‘til the second act for full-on deformity. Likewise, the Doctor flies off in the TARDIS to return (“I always come back”—he had already told the aliens that though he wasn’t from Earth, “I put a lot of work into it”) before we can see the interior of the TARDIS. When we did see the interior, I won’t lie, I said, “I like! YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!” I hadn’t spoiled myself on anything about the new series, no trailers since the first one, I avoided reading episode titles when I could, and for me the sheer delight, with no expectations, of the new console room gave me a magical moment not unlike Amy’s. I liked the homage to the “steam punk” of the Eighth Doctor’s TARDIS and the crystal-like, ephemeral nod to the series’ lean toward fantasy and fairy tale (so far). The new TARDIS is beautiful and seems alive, full of fantastic touches like the typewriter and the blown-glass central column. No kidding: phwoar.

It’s the same old Doctor, though. “Why me?” asks Amy in response to his offering to travel the universe with him. She rightly guesses that he’s lonely. His promise that he can get her back for tea-time made me shriek, “She’s got a wedding tomorrow!” and perhaps unsurprisingly, I was right. People have already started likening Amy to “mini Catherine Tate.” I’m not sure if it’s because of the red hair, the sarcastic responses, or what, but while I can see their point, I think it’s a bit unfair. While Karen Gillan’s constant expression of wide-eyed wonder was getting a bit one-note, there is a warmth to Amy that is appealing. Not to mention the emotional baggage that appeals to us at a very human level because we, the audience, are implicit in it, more so than even the Doctor who doesn’t quite understand what exactly he’s done to her. I think all of us can identify with being left waiting, if not literally than figuratively: waiting for someone to change their mind, waiting for them to fall in love with us, waiting for them to give us the approval we so desperately crave. And we’ve all been let down, often by people who do it unintentionally and without a hint of malice.

On a very superficial level, we can see Amy perhaps developing a Madame de Pompadour-like fixation on the Doctor and perhaps, having been the savior of her childhood, she will develop romantic feelings for him. However, I don’t think Moffat is going to go down so easy a route. Amy’s been too hurt, and her cynicism and mistrust derive from other peoples’ reactions to her as much as hers to the Doctor. It’s a small village and a less trusting era than the eighteenth century, and Amy isn’t a Reinette. “I grew up,” she repeatedly tells the Doctor, and he is more there to bring her back to a childlike state of belief in magic than to inspire her as an object of lust. Still, their relationship is problematic and ripe for conflict. Rory seems to have been set up as another Mickey, but what role will he actually play? Mickey always felt second-best to the Doctor, but Rory has quite literally lived in the legend of the Doctor’s shadow. We all laughed with knowing malice when Rory said Amy used to make him dress up as the Doctor. It was only touched on briefly, but Prisoner Zero lived with Amy and watched her for twelve years. Now that she knows that, won’t something like that prey on her thoughts as well? The Doctor is showing her fairy tales (when he told her they would go “wherever you like,” I swear he adopted a Troughton-esque tone) but as we all know, there are dark sides to fairy tales, too.

Even more than the episode, my mouth dropped open as I saw the trailer for the rest of the series. My brain was beating out a Morse code of

We are lucky, indeed, to live in this age of Doctor Who.