It’s been two weeks since I reviewed an episode of Doctor Who. It’s the slacker inside me that has taken over. However, that hasn’t stopped me from watching several episodes right alongside the other Whovians among you. Though I dare not call myself a Whovian, as I’m a contemporary Doctor fan if there ever was one. Eccleston, Tennant and Smith. Those are my three Doctors. The decades-old legacy of The Doctor is beyond me, at least for now. That said, the here and now is what is most interesting about Doctor Who. With Steven Moffat taking over for Russell T. Davies, the show has shifted in a very clear new direction. This new Doctor is sexier, more eccentric and as you’re about to see this week, more frightening. But first, a catch up of the episodes that we’ve missed.
Episode 2: The Beast Below
The Doctor (Matt Smith) drags his new companion Amy Pond (Karen Gillan) well into the future, where Britain has been detached from Earth and now travels through space as a floating island. Only, there’s something wrong with this picture. As Amy explores the ship, she is witness to a few creepy smiling men in booths and a dark secret that lives below Starship UK. Perhaps one of the weaker episodes we’ll see this year, “The Beast Below” stands as a bridge episode that allows the relationship between The Doctor and Amy Pond to be fleshed out. This happens with any new companion, as a level of trust must be established. In the case of Pond, this is more difficult than ever before — she’s feisty and unpredictable in a way that is reminiscent of the best qualities of both Catherine Tate’s Donna Noble and Freema Agyemon’s Martha Jones. And The Doctor doesn’t exactly know what to do with her just yet. After “The Beast Below,” it’s clear to the audience that the bond is forming. If nothing else, this episode does well to move that dynamic forward.
Episode 3: Victory of the Daleks
When he is summoned back to WWII-era Britain by Winston Churchill, the unending universe of The Doctor is once again rattled by the appearance of an age-old enemy, The Daleks. They had to appear at some point. The twist is that the British government is using Daleks — supposedly created by one of their scientists — as a new secret weapon that will defeat the impending Nazi invasion. Not so fast, Mr. Churchill. As The Doctor soon discovers, there is more to these new Earth-dwelling Daleks than meets the eye. This is the first time that we really see the fluster-factor of Matt Smith’s Doctor. If you’ll remember, one of the most interesting things about David Tennant’s Doctor was his passion, especially in the presence of his most hated enemy. Smith has that charged energy, the fire behind his eyes that burns for the death of the Daleks, and that’s a wonderful thing to see in only his third episode. He is also now faced with a universe where a new breed of Dalek has been born — a new, multicolored set of Daleks that appear to have been designed for the iPod generation. But no matter how striking their new look may be, the Dalek’s don’t fail to put on a show. And more importantly, “Victory of the Daleks” leaves with the promise of more to come.
Episode 4: The Time of Angels (airs May 8 at 9/8c on BBC America)
This week’s episode is the first of a two-part arc that sees the return of two very familiar faces from The Doctor’s past — River Song (played by Alex Kingston) and the Weeping Angels. In fact, it’s a reference to a comment made by Song in the 2008 episode “Silence in the Library” (an episode also written by Steven Moffat) in which she mentions the crash of a ship called the Byzantium and asks “have we done that yet?” They are about to do it now, in two thrilling episodes.
It begins on a beach, where The Doctor and Amy have been recruited by Father Octavian (Iain Glen) — a futuristic mercenary missionary — to track the last of the Weeping Angels through the terrifying Maze of the Dead that lies within a downed ship, the Byzantium. For those new to Doctor Who, the Angels may not seem like a major threat to the ever-resourceful Doctor, but the early moments of this episode — thanks to Matt Smith’s continued expressiveness — will show that he is, indeed, very frightened by these stone killers. Don’t turn your back on the Angels, else you may find yourself the victim of a horrific fate.
With “The Time of Angels,” this latest incarnation of Doctor Who is catching its stride. After the wonderfully crafted opening episode, a few episodes of slow development in the relationship between The Doctor and Amy were in order. Now we’re on to action. And terror, plenty of terror. The mix between the Angels — as situation that escalates quickly and impacts Amy in unpredictable ways — with the way River Song’s appearance puts the Doctor off balance is perfect. Alex Kingston gives her usually delightful recurring performance a great deal of energy as River Song’s story is once again layered with mystery.
It’s one of those episodes that will come to define this Eleventh Doctor, one of the two-part arcs that will be remembered as the moment when he went from being an interesting new idea to a fully realized force of unending time and space potential. In this episode, not only does the relationship between The Doctor and his companion grow by leaps and bounds — it makes you wonder why those filler episodes are needed at all — but Matt Smith is also given room to shine. The Doctor isn’t just back. He’s back and he’s ready for a fight.
Watch the trailer for tonight’s episode below. Be sure to check back next week as I return to my weekly Doctor Who blogging schedule.