Doctor Who S5E05: Flesh and Stone

Where “The Time of Angels” was a thriller of an episode, “Flesh and Stone” plays out far more like a horror movie. Our heroes are pursued by a relentless group of killers that they are nearly powerless against. The Angels also have a grip on Amy Pond, one that nearly kills her halfway through the episode. But more than anything, this episode is about revelations–about River in part, but largely about the plot arc most viewers at the time believed wouldn’t come up again until the finale.

The relentless pursuit of hundreds of Weeping Angels drives the Doctor and Amy and the others through the downed starship they escaped to at the end of the last episode. There are some genuinely frightening moments here, especially when the Doctor must turn the lights out to open a door. The Angels creep forward to the strobe of constant gunfire, gaining on our heroes by inches. When everyone makes it to the ship’s secondary flight deck, we’re granted only a slight reprieve.

Amy’s encounter with the Angel left her vulnerable to them–as we find out, there’s a living image of an Angel in her mind, coming to kill her, and making her count down to her death because it’s fun to it. The tension and horror of her situation is scary enough on its own, but not so frightening as what we find out just beforehand.

The crack that was in young Amelia’s wall has appeared in the last couple stories at the end, but it makes a major reappearance here. Rather than following Russell T. Davies’ model of arc words that only become fully relevant in the finale, Steven Moffat brings his arc to the fore very early on. Here the Doctor encounters the cracks, and discovers what they are and what they’re doing: the cracks are time running out, erasing everything that gets near them. We don’t know where they come from, or why they’re following Amy and the Doctor, but the dire situation is made clear nonetheless.

One thing Moffat does here is quietly explain away some of the very public events that happened in a lot of RTD’s finales and specials. The Cyberking from “The Next Doctor” is a victim of the cracks, as is (apparently) the Dalek invasions seen in the Series 2 and Series 4 finales (since we learned in “Victory of the Daleks” that Amy had no idea what a Dalek was). It’s just a largely throwaway line, but with it, Moffat quietly sets things back to zero for his run of the show. The public invasions are “gone”–they still happened, of course, but they don’t have an influence on the future companions’ stories. (Remember how Martha was quick to realize that aliens were involved in “Smith and Jones”, because of what she’d experienced as a result of the Series 2 finale?)

Another revelation we receive here is one about River: we find out that she is in prison for killing a man. This adds a layer of darkness to her character that hasn’t been present before, and furthermore raises the question of whether she can be fully trusted, if she’s a murderer. It exposes an interesting new facet of her character–that she killed the “best man [she’s] every known” and seems to even regret it. Though this won’t be fully explored until the next series, it’s still highly intriguing.

To be honest, there is only one thing about this episode that bothers me, and it’s at the very end, when Amy tries to seduce the Doctor and ends up planting a kiss on him. It’s always made me uncomfortable because of the lack of consent in the whole matter, and I’m kind of glad that Steven Moffat came out and said that he regrets writing it. It’s not really the kind of thing we need in Doctor Who, and having Moffat disavow it makes me feel comfortable being discomfited by it.

All in all, “Flesh and Stone” is one heck of an episode. It finishes its story in a satisfying manner while breaking open the main arc of the series in a way that still leaves us asking questions. This episode and its predecessor are a story I return to often, because it’s such a pleasure to watch a well-constructed tale unfold.


Doctor Who S5E04: The Time of Angels

Episode four of Doctor Who’s fifth series sees a return of two elements Steven Moffat brought to the show under Russell T. Davies: the Weeping Angels, and River Song. They’re each unique, full of the timey-wimey-ness that is almost fundamental to Moffat’s Doctor Who.

Alex Kingston’s River Song is a delight from beginning to end, of course, strolling onto screen in those sky-high Louboutin heels with a distinct sense of badassery we only got hints of in her debut episodes. She has almost instant chemistry with Matt Smith’s Doctor, and the relationship between River and Amy Pond is immediately friendly and warm. We get hints of her past that weren’t really there in Series 4: she wasn’t always a professor, and she is, for some currently unknown reason, in prison.

But the true heart of this episode’s energy lies in the return of Moffat’s Weeping Angels. There’s only one to start off, but eventually, in a brilliantly constructed twist, we find out there are a great many more, more than enough to be thoroughly terrifying. As with River Song, new information is divulged about these monsters, and new abilities given them, such as the ability to project themselves out of images. This makes for a terrifying scene midway through the episode, which pits Amy against one of these images—and once again shows how clever Amy can be by having her outsmart the angel.

What I enjoy most about this episode, however, is the twist I mentioned: it turns out all the statues in the Aplans’ Maze of the Dead are not tributes to a people long gone, but angels themselves, weakened and half-dead. The twist depends not only on the characters’ anthrocentrism, but the audience’s as well: we’re so used to seeing things that look like us (particularly aliens in shows like Doctor Who) that we don’t even question the appearance of the statues. Even when the Doctor reveals the Aplans were two-headed, it takes a moment for the truth to bear down upon us. Even Cleric Bob’s claim that one of the statues looked at him is an early hint, but dismissed by every character onscreen as mere jitters. In every way, this twist is an example of what Steven Moffat is capable of as a writer. As we’ll see at the end of the season, he constantly leaves hints for the viewer, hoping and believing that we will figure it out. The reason so many of his twists seem “obvious” to some is that they’re meant to be.

Amy’s actions in this episode are also interesting to me. As I said before, she displays that observant cleverness we’ve seen in her again here, realizing she can stop the angel in the dropship by taking away its image. She also shows some real bravery, too; she’s willing to be taken by the angels if it means River and the Doctor, and Octavian and his clerics, will be safe. While she does sort of go the whole “don’t tell anyone you’ve got a zombie bite” route with regards to the angel in her mind, it isn’t as big a deal here, I don’t think? This subplot all comes to a head in the next episode, so it might be meet to talk more extensively about it there.

All in all, however, Time of Angels is a taut thriller of an episode with a magnificently executed twist and a hell of a cliffhanger. It really shows the whole gamut of Steven Moffat’s skills, and its second part, as we’ll see next time, takes it to whole new heights.

Pushing Daisies: A Little Show of Pies, Whimsy, and Murder

So in the summer of 2007, I was going to the movies with my brother when, in the pre-show commercials, there was an ad for a new ABC show called Pushing Daisies. It had a fairly simple conceit at its center: it was about a man who could, with a touch, bring the dead back to life. Another touch would put them back to being dead. If he left the dead person alive longer than one minute, however, another person in proximity would die in their place. He worked with a private investigator to solve murders. The show had another element as well: the man used his power to bring his childhood sweetheart back to life, for good, which meant they could never touch or else she’d die again.

Needless to say, I was very struck by this ad, not least because it didn’t look like anything else I’d seen before. The colors were bright, the dialogue snappy, and there were elements of whimsy that just weren’t seen on TV back then (or even now). So I resolved to check it out when it came on.

I was not disappointed. What followed was a sharply written fantasy with delightful characters, twisty murder mysteries, and endless beautiful colors. I loved it. And then the writer’s strike happened, and ABC, to the show’s eventual doom, opted not to bring it back after the strike was over. Nevertheless, I loved what I’d seen, and took to the show with a great deal of enthusiasm, watching my taped (yes, taped on VHS) episodes over and over until the DVDs came out.

When the show came back in 2008, none of its glamour had faded it. It was brighter than ever, with brilliant costumes, silly storylines, and dialogue as sparkling as the first season. Unfortunately, the ratings were in the toilet, in large part, it seemed, because no one remembered the show from a year ago, or something like that. I can’t say I know for sure. I actually wrote letters to try and convince ABC to save the show, complete with enclosed origami flowers. The show was a happy place for me; I watched my taped episodes to cheer myself up after bad days, and remind myself of the beautiful things in life.

Unfortunately, the letters I and others sent did no good. The show was cancelled about seven or eight episodes into its 13 episode order. ABC aired the rest of the ten pre-Christmas episodes, then sat on the remaining three until May, much to everyone’s chagrin. The producers had to scramble to put together an appropriate ending, given the show ended on a cliffhanger (several cliffhangers, actually), and what they came up with didn’t please everybody, but was good enough for me.

I suppose now is where I talk about what the show meant to me and means to me still, having not watched it in a few years now. I suppose mostly it reminds me of a bright candle in a dark world. I was living with undiagnosed depression when it was airing, and I wouldn’t get a proper diagnosis for several years after it was off the air. It was there for me when I felt like nothing else was, and it reminded me how to be cheerful despite the demons I fought on an almost daily basis.

More than anything, it showed me how good television could be. It didn’t have to be gritty and awful all of the time; it could be bright and cheery, but with no less drama. Another show I watched at the time was NBC’s Heroes, but I gave up on it in 2008 because it was getting too convoluted and depressing for me to continue on with. It’s no coincidence that some of Heroes’ best episodes in Season 1 (particularly the pivotal “Company Man”) were written by Pushing Daisies’ creator Bryan Fuller. Fuller knows how to write drama very well, and some of his previous shows–namely Dead Like Me and Wonderfalls–show that he can incorporate comedy to great effect.

All in all, it was the little things that made me love Pushing Daisies. The chaste but passionate relationship between Ned and Chuck, the show’s romantic heroes. The hilariously suspicious coroner. Emerson the P.I.’s knitting habit. Olive Snook’s outbursts of song. Chuck’s highly eccentric aunts, Lily and Vivian. The increasingly wacky murders. Just… everything. I loved the show wholeheartedly, and I’m still sad that it’s gone, that it didn’t get six seasons and a movie and so on and so forth.

But I’m glad that it was here and that it brought, if only for a little while, a little brightness into a world that sometimes shuns it.

Doctor Who S5E03: Victory of the Daleks

Like the episode before it, Victory of the Daleks largely exists to fulfill a certain purpose, and that purpose is evident in the title: the Daleks are back (again) and this time, they’re going to win.

This episode is something of a necessary evil, since Russell T. Davies killed them off once and for all again at the end of Series 4. There’s a perpetual rumor that a Dalek has to appear in every series of Doctor Who because of a contract with their creator, Terry Nation, but that is apparently untrue. Nevertheless, the Daleks are Doctor Who’s most iconic monster, and it makes sense (a little) to bring them back so they can potter around in the background of things again, rather than being totally annihilated time and again. (I have a few tiffs with how Davies handled them during his run, but this is neither the time nor the place for them.)

So! What we’ve got is Daleks in World War II Britain, posing as secret weapons “invented” by a Scottish scientist. Their secret plot is to get the Doctor to confirm their identity so they can make newer, better Daleks, thus metafictionally allowing the Daleks to be around for future stories. It’s not the best plot in the world, but writer Mark Gatiss gives us a serviceable story nonetheless.

However, we do get a couple extraordinary things out of this episode. One is Matt Smith’s downright terrifying performance in the face of the Doctor’s sworn enemy. He captures the Doctor’s fear and fury almost effortlessly, and while he maybe goes a bit over the top in his confrontation with the Dalek at the episode’s midpoint, he still sells it quite well.

The other thing we get from this episode is yet more insight into Amy. While her lack of knowledge of the Daleks is interesting from an arc perspective, what I find most fascinating is her conversation with Bracewell as he attempts to commit suicide. Her gentle, “I know. Really, I do,” tells us so much about her in so few words. It tells us that she has been in these dire straits before, that those psychiatrists mentioned in The Eleventh Hour were no joke, that growing up in a world where everyone always leaves you really leaves a mark. It’s just a thread of character, but it holds so much together. All that conveyed in a gentle word!

All in all, however, Victory of the Daleks is largely a functional but sometimes forgettable episode. It does what it needs to do and (perhaps unfortunately) doesn’t strive for much more than that. That said, there are little things I like, so it is at least occasionally rewarding in rewatches.

Doctor Who S5E02: The Beast Below

This is a strange episode to write about, mostly because it falls squarely in the middle of the quality spectrum, at least for me. This episode, like the one that follows it, serves a function–it lets us get to know the new Doctor and new companion in different ways. However, it’s pretty clearly the least among Steven Moffat’s Doctor Who stories. It doesn’t have the same glitter and glint to it. While the dialogue’s sharp as always, the story kind of meanders and makes only a little sense.

That doesn’t make me hate it, though, but neither does it make me absolutely love it. Nevertheless, this is not an episode I’ll always skip. There’s some good stuff here, mostly in the climax, but little things like the Star Wars references make it fun in rewatches. The cinematography is also top-notch, carrying over from The Eleventh Hour with long takes and beautiful compositions. Matt Smith continues to dazzle as the Eleventh Doctor, and Karen Gillan begins to show a bit more range outside of the feistiness we got in the premiere.

I really wish I had more to say about this episode, but I honestly can’t think of anything? It’s wholly unremarkable. It gets in, gets the job done, and quietly exits stage right. The comparisons between the Doctor and the star whale are a little on the nose, but it’s not like the show hasn’t done on the nose before.

Actually, I do have a little tiff with the fandom on this episode, in particular a scene near the beginning where Amy says, “One little girl crying. So?” It seems that a lot of people have interpreted this to mean that Amy doesn’t care about the girl crying and therefore doesn’t have a lot of empathy. Which is frankly incorrect. We see her getting a bit dewy-eyed at the very start, when she’s watching Mandy through the scanner. She even remarks that it’s kind of cold to just watch and not do anything. The line above is in reaction to the Doctor’s previous line that there is a police state on Starship UK. Amy doesn’t see how one little girl crying is evidence of a police state, and the Doctor goes on to explain it to her. Is this nitpicking a bit? Yes, frankly. Also frankly? I don’t care.

If anything, this episode is meant as a reassurance to the viewer. Everything about Doctor Who was new with Series 5–new showrunner, new Doctor, new companion, new look, new TARDIS, new EVERYTHING. The Beast Below reminds us that for all his wailing in The End of Time, the Doctor is still the Doctor. He eschews the “observe only, do not interfere” mandate of the Time Lords, he helps when he sees children crying, he tries above all to be kind. He’s the same man, through and through.

The episode also shines more of a light on Amy, who at the end of The Eleventh Hour was running away from her own wedding. We find out that she’s a little afraid of her impending marriage and what it might mean for her, as evidenced by her talk with Mandy and her interest in her marital status in the voting booth. She comes close to confessing what she’s done to the Doctor at the end, but gets distracted–whether inadvertently or on purpose, we might never know. But we are starting to see that under the layer of toughness and feistiness, Amy is scared of a lot of things. She said in The Eleventh Hour that she’d grown up, but it seems here that that’s actually what she’s afraid of.

As I said before, The Beast Below is an episode that gets the job done. It takes us by the hand and leads us slowly on, reassuring us that nothing has changed in the core of the show, it’s just the outside bits that are a little different. We begin to see into the heart of the companion, and find out the Doctor is nearly the same as always. It’s a gentle pat on the shoulder and a quiet voice in our ear: this is still Doctor Who.

Let the Sweet Nice Things Be

I watch cartoons. I know that’s a bit of a weird thing for a twentysomething to admit, but I’m not ashamed of it. “Grown-up” television just doesn’t appeal to me as much, if I’m honest, and the “grown-up” shows I do watch tend to have elements of the fantastic that are present in the animated shows I love as well.

One of my favorite cartoons at the moment is Steven Universe. It’s a sweet science-fantasy show with a diverse cast, incredible worldbuilding, and excellent character development. It’s maybe only one of the mainstream cartoons on today where there are more female characters than male characters, and even though the main character is a boy, he eschews many of the traditional tropes of boyhood seen in such cartoons.

The thing that most sticks out to me about SU, though, is its fundamental kindness. Scary, sometimes dark, things happen. One of the current overarching plots involves the murder of a powerful Gem by Steven’s mother long, long before he was born. But always, every time, the show resorts to kindness and compassion first and foremost. Steven’s mother, Rose Quartz, is often talked about in tandem with love—love for the planet Earth, love for her friends, love for all living things. That love is evident in Steven’s character as well, and it colors almost all his actions. Love is a powerful force in all the characters’ lives, and its importance is one of the bedrocks of the show’s themes.

Steven Universe is, in short, a sweet, nice thing. It never gives in to despair. Even the antagonists have more to them than meets the eye.

So what I don’t understand is people who insist that all that is just a facade for a darker, nastier story.

I saw a post on tumblr today with a theory to this end: it held that Rose Quartz was abusive and manipulative towards Pearl (one of the show’s main characters, who is in love with Rose as well). It said that Rose manipulated Pearl into committing the aforementioned murder, and that Rose had Steven to escape the mess she made. (I should note here that Rose is an alien who could only give birth to Steven by giving up her physical form.) And while the show is dealing with the consequences of Rose’s past actions in many ways, it has never posited something like this.

What I’m driving towards is a larger point: why do some fans insist that sweet, nice shows (many of them made for children) are actually dark and unpleasant and mean? What drives that cynicism, that something kind is actually a lie?

Cynicism is not a foreign concept to me. I live with dysthymia and I’ve had major depression in the past. I understand thinking nice things are lies to cover up nastier things. But when I find something good, and sweet, and kind, I have never immediately jumped to the conclusion that it’s all a lie, and the REAL story is much darker. When I find nice things, I want to keep them, because sometimes my life lacks those kinds of things.

I suppose some of it comes from young people who want to seem mature. The person who wrote that theory I mentioned above wasn’t very far out of their teens. I had a lot of story ideas about people dying or being traumatized and such like when I was a teenager. I thought the edginess made me seem older, I’m sure. Darkness and edginess and cynicism are seen as “cool” in some ways: you’re grown up because you can see the world as it really is, you think.

But the world isn’t just dark and cruel, though in times like these it certainly seems so. Good things happen just as often as the bad ones, and there are more kind people in the world than nasty ones. That’s what I believe, anyway. We need more things that see through to that kindness and bring it into the light. Making them dark because it’s “cooler” invalidates everything they stand for, in my opinion.

Kindness and compassion are brave, not childish and pointless. Steven Universe underlines this again and again, and I hope as the show goes on that more and more people will realize this.

On the Virtue of Letting Things Be Things

So a trailer came out for Guillermo del Toro’s new movie:

Needless to say, I am pretty excited. Del Toro always has such great monsters, and already this has the feel of a non-traditional fairy tale. December is a long time to wait, but I’ll make it.

But then I perused the comments of the video.

About every other one was seizing on two things:

  1. The fishman in the trailer is played by del Toro vet Doug Jones.
  2. Del Toro previously directed the two Hellboy films, which feature as part of the cast the character Abe Sapien, a fishman played by Doug Jones.

This, to many of them, clearly meant that the fishman is somehow connected to Abe Sapien, and that therefore The Shape of Water is a prequel or otherwise connected to del Toro’s Hellboy films.

You hear that sound? That was my eyes rolling out of my head and across the abyssal plain of the oceans.

I sort of understand this compulsion to connect things up. Humans are good at seeing patterns, and many times we will see patterns where there actually aren’t any. The past decade’s spate of cinematic universes and extended universes and so on hasn’t helped things. People can and do and are encouraged to pick up on the slightest detail and demonstrate how it connects to something that may in some ways be unrelated.

But I think we’re losing something when we do that. I love the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and I think it’s fine and dandy for what it is. But not everything has to be connected.

It is okay to just let things be things.

Let things exist on their own. They don’t have to be connected to an overarching universe to be good or interesting or worthy of our time and attention. Original stories are not bad. They’re actually very good, and del Toro is one of the few directors today who’s interested in providing those kinds of stories.

Another example of this ridiculous “everything is connected” nonsense is the people who insist, loudly and at length, that all the Pixar movies take place in the same universe. This because, for example, Pixar has snuck the Pizza Planet truck into all their films in some form or fashion. A signature reference is somehow proof that there is an overarching universe.

If I’m being honest, I’m not totally up on the Pixar Universe theory (I’d love to see how they justify The Good Dinosaur’s existence in this universe, since that film is pretty clearly an alternate history of Earth). But I despise it to the core of my being. Pixar makes amazing films (more of them could stand to be about girls and women, but). Why can’t those films exist on their own and stand on their own merits? Why do they have to be connected? What’s the point, other than the fact that it allows people to feel smug about “putting it all together”?

I don’t think I fully understand the mentality that leads people to do things like that. I believe there are similar theories about the Disney princesses’ films and it’s just… it boggles my mind. If anything, the show Once Upon a Time is proof of how ridiculous and messy things can get when a million stories all exist in the same universe.

There’s nothing wrong with letting original stories stand on their own. Absolutely nothing. I just wish I could get other people to understand it, because it feels like people are missing the trees for the sake of insisting there’s a forest.

Why I walked out of Beauty and the Beast (2017)

So here’s the thing: Beauty and the Beast (1991) is my very favorite movie. And Beauty and the Beast (2017) is the first movie I ever walked out on.

I’m not that proud of it. I wish I could have sat through the rest of it, but everything up to the point I walked out (when Belle snuck into the West Wing and subsequent conflict from that) was just Too Much, if that makes any sense. It probably doesn’t. Probably I’m just too nostalgic, or too much of a purist, or Too Much myself. But this film is trying so hard to play on viewers’ nostalgia, and to remind viewers of the 1991 original, that I can’t help but think it fell into its own trap. Every attempt to remind us of the animated film reveals what it really is: a pale, cold imitation.

But almost from the very start, the movie was distracting. The prologue’s narrator put the emphasis on the wrong words so often it threw me out of the movie. Emma Watson’s voice, autotuned or not, lacks any of the warmth of Paige O’Hara.  (And she still does that weird stuff with her eyebrows.) That’s something I could say about the “whole” film: it has no warmth, no joy. It’s trying so hard to be like the original that it doesn’t bother trying to do its own thing.

Mind you, I did like the things that were different, the brief flashes of something original: that the castle was locked in eternal winter, and the enchanted objects becoming more inanimate as the rose wilted. I like that Maurice worked in delicate clockwork rather than being a kooky inventor, and that they kept part of the original fairy tale’s reason for the Beast demanding a price from him: he stole a single rose. I thought Gaston and LeFou were quite funny.

But there was so much else wrong that I couldn’t keep my eyes on the screen from sheer embarrassment. Ewan McGregor and Emma Thompson’s accents didn’t do them any favors. The costumes were trying so hard to be Realistic that they fell into this weird uncanny valley of fakeness. As much as I liked the original stuff, the movie aped the animated version so often that it distracted me. Every time they repeated a line from the original, I got jerked out of the movie, and they did it often.

In the end, I just couldn’t stand it. Maybe the second half of the movie was better. Maybe it improved. Maybe the ballroom scene had that sheer awe and love of the animated version. (I doubt it, going by the promo pics of it.) But honestly, I think the whole thing was a calculated money-grab, playing on viewers’ nostalgia to get them into theater seats.

But that’s just me, I guess.

Five Quick Movie Reviews

Before Christmas, I rented a bunch of movies. I didn’t quite manage to watch all of them, but I did watch all the ones I hadn’t seen before, so I thought I’d write some quickie reviews of them for the blog.

Don’t Breathe (2016)

A taut horror film with great sound. Three teenage thieves break into the home of a blind man who’s not as harmless as he seems. The film takes a couple unexpected turns that serve it well, though I really could have done without one element that seemed to be there for its own disturbing sake. 4/5

Mr. Holmes (2015)

An elderly Sherlock Holmes (Ian McKellen) struggles with his failing memory as he tries to remember the details of his last case. McKellen is nothing short of amazing in the title role, and the young boy Holmes befriends is thankfully not insufferable. A great film about coming to terms with getting older. McKellen should have gotten an Oscar nod, though. 5/5

10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

A young woman (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is in a car accident, and wakes up in a bunker where John Goodman tells her the world has basically ended. A great thriller, Goodman and Winstead are amazing in their roles. The film isn’t obsessed with explaining everything, and ends without solving some mysteries, which suits me just fine. 5/5

Hail, Caesar! (2016)

Another comedy from the Coen brothers, this film follows a day in the life of a studio supervisor (Josh Brolin) in the Golden Age of Hollywood, and the events surrounding the kidnapping of the studio’s biggest start (George Clooney). It’s goofy fun, and funny as hell, with delightful performances from a whole host of stars, from Tilda Swinton to Scarlett Johansson. 4/5

Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014)

I’d been meaning to see this one for a while. A young British man is recruited into an independent spy agency by Colin Firth, while Samuel L. Jackson plots something with the world’s rich and powerful. the action here is great, and the film manages to be both funny and serious in the right turns. Still not over the epic church fight. Or what happens to the tune of “Pomp and Circumstance” (I’d be cruel to spoil it). 4/5

Doctor Who S5E01: The Eleventh Hour

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.