A Time Lord for all sea­sons and rea­sons

Doc­tor Who: Smith and Jones 7.30pm, ABC

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Tv -

AS some­one who ran scared from the liv­ing room when the first Doc­tor Who, William Hart­nell, emerged from a dusty blue tele­phone box back in an­other time zone, it’s grat­i­fy­ing to have the world’s long­est run­ning science fiction drama still scare the be­je­sus out of you.

That it can do so while ap­peal­ing to a new gen­er­a­tion of fans is due in large mea­sure to a re­think­ing of the show in its most re­cent in­car­na­tion, where tech­nol­ogy, fast- paced ac­tion and tight scripts have made it es­sen­tial fam­ily en­ter­tain­ment.

Christo­pher Ec­cle­ston, the first of the new breed, made an ex­cel­lent Doc­tor Who, even if he didn’t think so, but his suc­ces­sor David Ten­nant, is no less com­pelling as the ec­cen­tric and un­pre­dictable Time Lord.

This new se­ries gets started fol­low­ing the loss of Ten­nant’s side­kick Rose ( Bil­lie Piper). In her place comes Martha Jones ( Freema Agye­man), a 23- year- old med­i­cal stu­dent in a Lon­don hospi­tal who, along with the build­ing, the en­tire staff and the pa­tients, is trans­ported to the moon by un­known aliens.

The Doc­tor, pos­ing as pa­tient Mr Smith, is there in­ves­ti­gat­ing the pres­ence in the hospi­tal of plasma coils ( you’ll have to watch it). He quickly teams with the ea­ger Jones to es­tab­lish why a mer­ce­nary po­lice force called the Ju­doon, who have rhi­noc­eros- like heads, have brought them to an­other planet.

A force field al­lows the pair enough air to go about solv­ing the rid­dle, which in­volves a sweet old pa­tient called Florence Fin­negan ( Anne Reid), who is in fact a much more dan­ger­ous Plas­ma­vore, a blood­suck­ing alien on the run from the Ju­doon. That out­line doesn’t de­scribe even one- tenth of the ac­tion and witty di­a­logue crammed into this 45 min­utes.

Jones is con­cerned about get­ting home to her brother’s birth­day party, but it’s clear from her in­ter­est in the Doc­tor that she’s not go­ing to be go­ing home for long.

Her lack of fear in the face of in­ter­plan­e­tary travel and Plas­ma­vore slave crea­tures called Slabs sug­gests she’s in the show for the long haul. Or per­haps it’s just that work­ing in the Bri­tish health ser­vice pre­pares you for any­thing.

Ten­nant jab­bers in­ces­santly, some­times so quickly you miss some of the wit­ti­cisms, but his strange man­ner­isms and seem­ingly il­log­i­cal ac­tions add weight and hu­mour to the crafted plot- lines.

New­comer Agye­man is promis­ing, too, as the curious and con­fi­dent Jones. There’s even the sug­ges­tion of ro­mance when the Doc­tor kisses her pas­sion­ately half­way into the ac­tion. It’s not for real, though. It was only a ge­netic trans­fer, the good Doc­tor tells her as he tries to en­tice her into the TARDIS. Time Lords, eh?

Iain Shed­den

Fly me to the moon: The Doc­tor ( David Ten­nant) and Jones ( Freema Agye­man)

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