So I just got the news this morning that Penelope is just fine. I was more than a little anxious overnight; there was a message from Doctor Claws when I got home last night asking me to call him to talk about her blood work. And I was worried that if it was just fine, he would have said so on the message. But, no, it turns out all is well. We’re going to try a different cat food, one formulated for seniors, and see if that produces more regular results.
(And, no, his name isn’t really Doctor Claws. It’s Klaus. But it sounds the same.)
So now I can talk about Doctor Who, even though I’m not a huge fan of discussion about television on the Internet. So much of it seems bitter and negative and mean-spirited. Either people are focused on discussing what they’re not watching, or they’re talking about how they watch something week after week after week, and it never gets any better. Me, if there’s something I don’t like, I don’t watch it. And if I’m not watching something, and am watching something else, I’m more interested in talking about what I am watching.
The thing, I think, about reviews and criticism in general, and amateur net-reviews in particular, is that a lot of entertainment isn’t meant to be picked to pieces in the first place. I’m not saying that’s a license for careless or shoddy production. But if you hold anything up to close enough scrutiny, you will find flaws, particularly if you are predisposed to look for them. And I think that most amateur critics are predisposed to look for them, because pointing out flaws really proves how intellectual you are. (Just look at how fans at Outpost Gallifrey point out how Doctor Who Magazine’s reviews aren’t well-written because they are too positive.)
But despite the rise of TV-on-DVD and so forth, most TV is meant for this level of critical analysis: “That was good, I think I’ll watch it next week, what’s for dinner?” And that’s pretty much where I come from. If I like something enough, I may want to watch it again, maybe buy it on video (well, probably buy it on video, but that’s me). But if I watch it again, it will be to appreciate the things I like, not start focusing on the things I don’t.
Which is a long, roundabout way of saying that I liked the first new episode of Doctor Who’s third series, Smith and Jones. It isn’t as plot-heavy as some of my favorites, like The Girl in the Fireplace, but I think it’s important to look at the function of the episode. This is the story that introduces Martha Jones, the Doctor’s new companion. While School Reunion dealt heavily with the idea that the Doctor has had companions before Rose, and that he sometimes has to leave them and move on, for a lot of the audience, Rose was as much a part of the show as the Doctor. (Certainly, this is the case with my friends who have only seen the new show.)
Martha couldn’t just happen to be just any other character in a typical Doctor Who story who ends up traveling with the Doctor. Her first story needed to make the audience absolutely fall in love with her, and to do that, the focus needed to be on her. As an audience, we should be watching her, and paying attention to who she is and what she does, not having to worry about the twisty machinations of a complex plot.
Fortunately, Russell T. Davies gives us exactly what we need: a suspenseful, Die-Hard-in-Space story with big exciting effects and a really cool-looking monster, which never takes the spotlight off Martha. It gives her problems to solve and situations to react to, but doesn’t force the audience to devote attention to trying to remember twists and turns. It’s simple and straightforward without skimping on the emotional content we need to see what a great companion Martha will make.
So it looks like a great start to a new season. A great debut for a new character, and her supporting cast. And next week’s episode, with William Shakespeare and witches looks to be fantastic (and Paul Cornell says it’s pretty much Gareth Roberts bringing the style of his fantastic novels to the screen). So totally looking forward to the next twelve weeks. Just don’t try calling me on a Saturday night!