How do you follow a Doctor Who run as glorious as the David Tennant/Russell T Davies Tardis tenure?
If you’re new boss Steven Moffat, you don’t just continue: you reboot and rejoice in the show’s vintage eccentricities and open-ended possibilities alike. Fast, funny and sometimes frisky, Moffat’s Doctor Who bow is ripping stuff.
The opener sets the fairytale tone with its time-twisting plot, big spooky house, girl in peril, race against the clock and mundane-cum- malign mystery – a “crooked smile” crack in a girl’s wall. From there, the only mild stumbles involve revived villains.
A comic-strip Dalek story rushes its end stretch and the two-part re-awakening of the Silurians/Eocenes seems to stress homage over reinvention.
But other stories match Who’s finest, milking the series’ USP of consistency-via-variety for lively magic: Moffat’s weeping angels two-parter pairs dazzling plotting with zinger-a-second dialogue, Richard Curtis’ Van Gogh riff breaks hearts, Simon Nye’s self-reflexive skit spins heads and Moffat’s two-part climax teases together series-wide strands with breathtaking detail, daring and dashing wit.
And what a cast. Karen Gillan’s Amy Pond busts “clingy companion” clichés; Arthur Darvill’s Rory is a lovely lummox. As for Matt Smith’s doctor, he has us at “Hello!”, springing from a smoking Tardis with mercurial magnificence: at once tender and tetchy, crotchety and cool, warm and wily, ancient and new.
With his “silly old man who stole a box and ran away” soliloquy joining Who’s finest quivery-lip moments, he’s already in orbit with the greatest doctors. Long may Smith and Moffat run.