Dimensions in Tennant
But really. Wasn't it great? We should have trusted that Russell and friends would have taken the time to create something special and in keeping with the rest of series. Not a spoof. Not a silly little story which makes no sense with rubber aliens running around for the hell of it. Not even a 'dream' or 'alternative universe'. This was canonical, had a 'Previous on...' at the start, some real jeopardy and a cliffhanger at the end. As the Ninth Doctor would say, fantastic.
David Tennant's performance and the writing for the new Doctor obviously takes its cue from Casanova. As soon as I saw the man standing on those gondolas in the first few minutes of that series trying to talk himself out of a scrape I knew that if the actor ever became a timelord that would be exactly the way to do it. And here he was, joking about hopping and making fun of Rose's mum. From watching the Children in Need trailer with its creepy laugh I too was worried that this was going to have the dark shadow of The Twin Dilemma ruining everything. But here he was holding her hand and talking about the first time he and Rose had met "Oh so long ago..."
He was able to do something very few Doctors have managed before him in those faltering few seconds after a regeneration. Make us care. In fact I can't think of another time when we immediately understood who this new version of our hero was and that we wanted to carry on travelling with him. This special episode was shot a few months into the shooting schedule for the new series, so the actors and writer had a good idea themselves before shooting which will have helped things along a bit, but wasn't it refreshing to have The Doctor lucid after a regeneration for a change and able to talk his companion around, convincing them that he's still the same person?
The scene was actually a perfect example of a pattern I've seen throughout the series -- that The Doctor represents the old fans and people in the know, and Rose is those starting out on the journey. Its been repeated throughout the series, in the TARDIS reveal right back in episode one, and in the opening moments of Dalek when Rose notices the Slitheen arm (new fans) and The Doctor stops at the Cyberhead (old fans). In this episode and the next, new fans will be looking to Rose for reassurance that the new Doctor is ok. Still the same chap.
Billie Piper's performance was perfect in that regard. She goes to pieces, is entirely distrustful, until The Doctor can talk her around. Even before the regeneration goes wrong (as usual) she's not entirely convinced. I would suspect that the Christmas hour will be about her learning all over again who this man is and that she can trust him. I can't think of many other actresses which would have had the same conviction and ability than we had from Billie tonight. She might be the best television companion the show has ever had. Every little thing this girl does is magic. I'm sorry, I'm devastated.
The production was excellent too. Murray Gold's music is actually beginning to make sense. In here, he managed to drop in bits of music from all through the past series including, confusingly, the Bad Wolf theme. The direction from Euros Lynn was also as good as anything else he's done, making two people in a large room talking for a few minutes as exciting as possible. Although there were a couple of odd wide shots of the control room which seemed a bit incongruous and brightly lit.
The questions. How do The Doctor and Rose suddenly know about Captain Jack's condition and what he's up to? Does that mean he was deliberately left behind? How long has Rose been in the TARDIS when The Doctor suggests its been some time. Is this problem with the regeneration the usual shenigans or something else. The episode did the clever thing of dropping a cliffhanger in which we want to see what happens next right now, and not just because it would mean seeing more Doctor Who.
There was a moment in tonight's special which really set the fans away from those with just a passing interest. At the end, when all hell is breaking loose, the cloister bell sounded. I didn't hear it the first time I saw the episode. It was probably the excitement of seeing, well, everything. Then, second time around, watching again, (after I'd fastforwarded though one half of Peter Andre and Jordan murdering the theme song from Disney's Aladdin), there it was. It's because I'm so used to hearing the sound that when its layered in like that, in a situation like that, I don't even think about it. What it proves is that really fans who care about these things aren't just watching, but they're making the programme too.