Like many (but not the critics who seem to have lost all objectivity where this particular sacred cow is concerned), I've been whingeing about how third rate Doctor Who has been this series, and pointing the finger largely at Russell T Davies who, despite being a Who fan, just doesn't seem to 'get' Who. Truth is that despite a rather good episode from Stephen Moffat a few weeks back, the second series has been so poorly written, paced and performed I hadn't intended to watch it last night.
Which would have meant missing a great episode.
OK, so let's get the negatives out the way first. The story was completely derivative ('Event Horizon' was the template for this one) but then Who always has been, even in its original incarnation. We had one awful 'I love you humans' as Tennant gurns and hugs one of the cast members moment. We had the usual 'Billie Piper pouting like an ugly trout' moments and 'David Tennant getting too enthusiastically shouty' moments which kill all the good work everybody else is doing in making the scenes believable. And, worst of all, we had the dreadfully cacaphonic music dominating far too many of the scenes as the composer once again went into one of his 'I wish I was talented enough to score a proper action movie' spasms. But Who can survive any of that if the atmosphere, plot and pacing are right. And in this episode they were, thank God!
Too many of the standalone episodes have been rushed, while the two-part Cyberman story was a single very weak 35 minute story dragged out tediously to an hour and a half, but this first episode of a new two-parter was right on the button. No fat on it at all with LOTS of genuinely scary moments, including a cute pre-titles 'cliff-hanger'. Scaring the shit out of the kids is always what Who used to be about and RTD and his selected writers seem to have forgotten that for the most part, with their obsession with pop-culture references that will date the series terribly when viewed in the future, and complete disregard for anything other than 'let's get the sonic screwdriver to dig us out of any situation we've written ourselves into' when it comes to plotting. Thankfully that was rectified with this episode.
As one wag over on The DVD Forums put it 'Wet beds up and down the land this week I fear'. Hoorah!