Among the 50 narrative tics we've seen before -- the repetitive phrases, the regeneration spazzing, the shouting manifesto and arc words -- there's a neat alien beastie who sneaks out of a crack in the bedroom wall/reality, takes on the form of coma patients' dreams in a spooky way, and best of all: Makes its home in the room of your house that you don't know about. The Doctor saves the day without his TARDIS or screwdriver, and with the aid of a very skeptical Companion, but that's not really the story.
The first Eleven story is really about setting up what could be the most complicated Doctor/Companion relationship since, oh, Turlough? Amy Pond is, to be honest, a rather fucked-up girl. Not like Donna even -- she was just a jerk -- but, like, seriously screwed up: Eleven's post-regeneration dicking around causes an already skeptical, lonely little girl to spend 12 years thinking her imaginary friend is not only gone, but pretty cruel.
(And what's he like? Beautiful, but we knew that. Funny, you can tell he's going to be funny. I don't think that the gravitas or the dry wit of this Doctor was really highly anticipated. He played my favorite character in the Sally Lockhart books, so I was already crushing, but even still. He's otherworldly and compassionate in a new, interesting way. And having made so many mistakes on his first day of life, I think this attitude will be perfect for what comes next.)
When he finally comes back -- thinking it's just been five minutes -- she's a grown-ass, lonely, skeptical Kissing Telegram who does for her job what he did to her: Shows up, has a laugh, promises more, leaves forever. Her boyfriend is a nurse and her neighbors are dotty and sexy respectively, but she still lives with her aunt in the haunted house, which has become something of a temple to her dead dreams in the meantime. Amy is likeable in the extreme, and way darker than most of the people we've met in the New Era. She also has very shiny, pretty hair and says "What?" a whole lot. I wouldn't compare her to Reinette, via the Time Traveller's Wife thing, because he was just hopping in and out of what was truly a fabulous life: With Amy, he's so busy regenerating and acting crazy and waiting for the TARDIS to give birth to herself that he just plain overlooks how much damage he's doing her.
Once the alien threat is dispatched -- with a whole lot of running around, a masturbation joke, that lady from Peep Show, some scary little girls, some goo, and a whole "Badass Doctor" montage that's basically like a kitten roaring -- he's off for another "just a minute," before coming back to formally invite Amy to Companionship... On the eve of her wedding, two years later. All in all, a fantastic start to what seems like a low-key but possibly very moving season.
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.