Holy crap, the Tardis is BLUE?!!
No, but seriously, Doctor Who appearing in colour for the first time already takes some adjusting to, but more so because this one is shot entirely on film. There appears to be few, if any, studio sets used at all – everything is shot either outdoors or in real buildings. The difference this makes to the look (and sound) of the this show is absolutely stark. It feels like a ‘movie version’ of a TV show.
I’m just as interested in aspects of filmmaking as I am the stories themselves, so I could ramble on about this and that until I’m blue in the Tardis. Before this, the show did use film and location shooting, increasingly so as it went on, but the studio video recordings made up the bulk of the episodes. Shooting on film, without the studio environment, changes the style of filmmaking too. While the old show would play out like a stage play, this is more naturalistic, less melodramatic, more tightly edited, more cinematic. But it does mean we don’t get to see the Tardis interior this time. It’s a really strange effect – simultaneously expensive- and cheap-looking.
This fresh new start for Doctor Who also brings with it a new Doctor, now played by Jon Pertwee. Although the Time Lords erased some of his memories before stranding him on Earth, he is still essentially the same character. He still has Troughton’s deep voice (now with a bit of a lisp, mind) but he’s a little more laid back. Still clever and cunning, but he seems to have more of a sense of humour. Some of his lines are pretty funny, like when he’s admiring his new face’s flexible eyebrows. The acting is, again, more naturalistic, less dramatic. I think I could grow to like this incarnation.
Still, not everything has changed. Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart returns, still heading up UNIT. Coincidentally, the Doctor winds up in his custody and is instrumental in stopping an Auton invasion, with help from Liz Shaw, who I assume is going to be whatever equivalent to a travelling companion this series has. I really have no idea where this is going, if anywhere, but I’m okay with the change. On the basis of this story, Doctor Who can be grounded on Earth and still involve alien invasions, sinister plots, science-fiction concepts and a few scares to go along with it. Plastic duplicate people? Cool! Shop mannequins coming to life? Brilliant! Global threat on a local scale. It works here. Can it keep working? That remains to be seen.
Noteworthy mention: the extent of the Doctor’s alienness is explicitly confirmed for the first time when the hospital X-rays him and discovers he has two hearts, non-human blood, and irregular heartbeat and brain wave patterns. I was wondering when that would first come up, and now I know. He also adopts the John Smith name again, seemingly long-term.
This was a good, fun and fresh four episodes of Doctor Who, a whole new style for a whole new decade. Let the adventures continue!