It’s hard to know what to write about this episode, since I really expressed all my thoughts about it a few years ago on my old blog. I love this episode for a number of reasons–for the production design, the cinematography, the clever writing, and the great new actors. It comes together to create one of the best episodes of Doctor Who, and probably one of the greatest episodes of television period. It kicks off what is in my opinion one of the best ‘eras’ of Doctor Who, a period where most of my favorite episodes live.
I love how this episode sets out to be its own thing. It isn’t defined by what came before it (thank god). It’s a soft reboot, essentially, creating its own visual language and storytelling style. We don’t, for example, get a montage showing us how Amy is Just Like You and Me–she’s different from the start. We meet her as a child first, and when we see her again as an adult, she’s jaded, and all because of the Doctor. She doesn’t believe all the amazing things she sees, not at first.
I can’t get over how different this episode is from what came before. It doesn’t rely on silliness in the way the RTD era sometimes did. The plot is big without going too over the top, and it sets the tone and mood for everything that would follow it. There’s a sense of fairytale magic to it all, particularly the opening with little Amelia, which reads almost like the beginning of a children’s book. A lonely home life and a mysterious stranger, tied off with the promise of a grand adventure? It’s straight out of a storybook.
Of course, you can’t talk about this episode without talking about the Eleventh Doctor. After hitting a nadir of self-involved melodrama, the Doctor is a new man. While he shares some similarities with the Tenth Doctor (like relying a lot on his reputation), he’s also a refreshing departure. Though perhaps that’s a topic for a later days, since he’s more the quintessential Doctor here than thoroughly the Eleventh. Still, Matt Smith puts in a marvelous performance, silly and serious in all the right moments, and already showing his unnatural ability to look like an old man in a young man’s body.
I suppose what I love most of all about this episode is the way it makes me feel. I thought I’d lost the thread of enthusiasm when it came to Doctor Who, but all throughout my rewatch, I was almost giddy. This is the best example of everything I love about Doctor Who, particularly Steven Moffat’s Doctor Who. It’s funny and smart and visually stunning. The Doctor is reassuring and kind most of all. The companions are intelligent, resourceful, and brave.
It’s good stuff, and I love it to death.