We pick up where we left off, with Eleven in a pickle and hanging from a wildly careening TARDIS, screwdriver between his teeth, music louder than you can possibly imagine, and a lot of green-screen screaming. Almost hitting Big Ben! Finally getting onboard and sighing! Then another crash! More moaning! Weird credits and theme and logo and font! Lots of changes. Lots of shit happening at all times.
I will say upfront that I love Amy and I love Eleven, and I would watch them doing any amount of dumb shit because they are charming. Amy is fucked up and hot, and Eleven is hot and fucked up. And I have enjoyed these regeneration episodes, classically: Nine strolling into Rose's house and playing with his face, those fish on Christmas. And as an introduction for a Companion, this story is tops: What happens when the Doctor's regular amount of flaky is so messed with by the regeneration and a wonky TARDIS that he actually manages to ruin a person's mind?
The problem is that, going back to "Silence In The Library" -- and even "Girl In The Fireplace," which I loved -- these aren't stories so much as burstingly full collections of cool shit. Take a thousand ideas, chuck 'em in a hat, pull out ten or twenty at random, arrange them in no real order on a corkboard, and then apply a lot of genius grease and the Doctor making random connections for us in a pretense that any of this makes sense. The first Doctor Who I ever saw was "The Empty Child"/"Doctor Dances," and it's the only reason I took the assignment: Because it showed what this show was capable of doing. But honestly if you combine those two with "Fireplace," you've seen every trick we're going to get.
And every attempt to recreate that trick -- good feelings, rising music, unending talk about what humanity means and unending repetition of just how high the stakes are this time -- the paler and more desperate it seems. And in this way, my very strong affection for Smith & Pond becomes sort of a negative, because they're the ones that have to pretend this makes sense, and fashion some kind of emotional response to the piles and piles of nonsense they've been handed. It's sentimental kitsch, but it's sentimental kitsch on such a cynical level that it keeps telling you how sentimental and kitschy it is, while distracting you with more and yet more ideas from the Concept Hat.