Last weekend’s episode? With the Time Lord traveling to the 19th Century to help Vincent Van Gogh kill a space monster that looks like a giant parrot? Cracking entertainment! Turned out it was written by Richard Curtis, co-creator of the classic 1980s British sitcom Blackadder and, nowadays, the most successful screenwriter in the English Empire (he wrote Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill, Love, Actually, and a slew of others). Getting Curtis to write for Doctor Who was a huge coup for the BBC show. In American terms, it’d be a little like Woody Allen going back to his TV roots by writing for SNL.Is it me, or is Doctor Who becoming especially watchable lately?
Of course, there are other good things happening on Doctor Who these days besides the writing. The new guy driving the TARDIS time machine this season is British stage actor Matt Smith, 28, the youngest Doctor in the show’s 47-year history. Also, for my money, the best since Tom Baker made wearing extra-long scarves a nerd-fashion rage in the 1970s. The Doctor’s new sidekick, Amy Pond, (Karen Gillan), is a nice addition as well, although she has left hints in interviews that she may not be traveling the universe in a phone box forever.
The new season so far hasn’t addressed my own personal pet peeve — when the heck are they going to bring back K-9, the Doctor’s mechanical dog? — but I’m still impressed. In fact, last weekend I actually found myself emotionally moved when the Doctor whisked Van Gogh to the Musee d’Orsay in present-day France to show him what a famous artist he’d eventually become. Of course (SPOILER ALERT!…kinda), Van Gogh ended up killing himself at the end of the episode, anyway, but then some time lines not even a Time Lord can alter.
What about you, Pop Watchers? What’s your diagnosis of the Doctor this season?