Damien Love’s pick of the week

The Herald on Sunday - Sunday Herald Life - - News - Tonight Doc­tor Who 6.45pm, BBC One

Damien Love’s pick of the week, plus seven-day list­ings

Pinch your­self. It’s here. It’s fi­nally hap­pened. It’s hap­pen­ing. Some of us have spent years want­ing this, hop­ing for it, and feel­ing it is long over­due. Some­times it felt like it might never hap­pen. And yet, now the day has ar­rived, it feels like it couldn’t have hap­pened at a bet­ter time. This is ex­actly the right mo­ment. And when you fi­nally see it on screen, it is per­fect.

So, yes. It took a while. But we got there in the end. And it is all you could ever have wished for. Bradley Walsh has be­come a Doc­tor Who com­pan­ion.

Sure, there will still be mean-spir­ited naysay­ers snuf­fling around the in­ter­net’s fetid fun­gal un­der­growth, moan­ing end­lessly into their pal­lid but­ton mush­rooms that this should never have

been al­lowed. That it goes against na­ture. That au­di­ences will not sit still at the prospect of see­ing the host of The Chase be­ing chased by shop dum­mies who have come to life and have ray guns for hands.

But these peo­ple are yes­ter­day’s idiots. These peo­ple have never seen Bradley Walsh shift gear into full th­es­pian flow.

Be­lieve me, be­cause I am deadly se­ri­ous: when this guy sets his mind to it, as he did in Law And Or­der: UK and Coro­na­tion Street, he can hold his own with any ac­tor, and blow most off the screen. The fact that he might then turn around, hire a full or­ches­tra, and quickly crank out an al­bum of easy lis­ten­ing Christ­mas stan­dards is only a bonus.

As has been noted else­where, the com­mence­ment of the Wal­shian era of Who co­in­cides with an­other sig­nif­i­cant event in the show’s his­tory: they’ve moved it to a Sun­day. The BBC is on shakier ground here.

Last time they started mess­ing with the tra­di­tional Satur­day sched­ul­ing, in the 1980s, it even­tu­ally led to Bon­nie Lang­ford, and, sub­se­quently, the en­tire se­ries be­ing taken off air for a quar­ter of a cen­tury and never spo­ken about.

I have to ad­mit, the 10-year-old kid in my head still prefers the Satur­day teatime broad­cast, when Dr Who’s weird es­capades were the cen­tre of the end­less week­end. Sun­day night has the anx­ious prospect of school next morn­ing, un­fin­ished home­work.

Com­plet­ing a triple whammy of new­ness along­side the Bradley Walsh fac­tor and the Sun­day night slot, this se­ries also marks the first time a woman has played the Doc­tor, a fac­tor that has gone sur­pris­ingly un­der dis­cussed.

She is Jodie Whit­taker, and, on the ev­i­dence of tonight’s episode, she’s pretty splen­did. (The ad­ven­ture, writ­ten by Chris Chib­nall, is sparky enough, but es­sen­tially a hold­ing place as we get in­tro­duc­tions out of the way.)

Peter Ca­paldi turn­ing into Jodie Whit­taker makes as much sense as Wil­liam Hart­nell be­com­ing Pa­trick Troughton be­com­ing Jon Per­twee, and all is well. There are echoes of Doc­tors past – she’s per­haps clos­est to the odd, en­thu­si­as­tic, in­fec­tious, wide-eyed bounce of Matt Smith – although, in fleet­ing mo­ments, due to a cer­tain move­ment of the hair com­bin­ing with a pass­ing in­flec­tion of the ac­cent, she re­minded me of an­other TV leg­end even more: Leanne from Cor­rie. This is a good thing.

Above all, though, Whit­taker is her own Doc­tor, as all the Doc­tors have been, and, right now, the show feels fresh and fun around her. Even the usu­ally rot­ten mu­sic sounds a lit­tle more ra­dio­phonic again, if only in a few in­ci­den­tal places.

Early days, but I’m al­ready look­ing for­ward to the ride, and not just be­cause of the po­ten­tial spec­ta­cle of one day see­ing Bradley Walsh tan­gling with a Dalek, Roy Cas­tle-style. Although, that is quite a big part of it.

Bradley Walsh and Jodie Whit­taker

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