Non-spoilery comments: this episode, the second of the new Doctor Who series, was about three times better than "Rose", the pilot. And I liked the pilot a good deal, in spite of a few niggles, so that's saying something. But this... the acting was universally excellent, the FX very decent indeed (my husband said it reminded him of Star Trek in that respect -- meaning recent Trek shows, not the original), and there were all kinds of lovely little character moments that made my frockish l'il self wriggle all over with pure delight. In some ways it was totally different from the DW I grew up with; and yet in spirit and essence, it was just what Who ought to be, IMO.
First, to get them out of the way, the few quibbles I did have with the episode. Firstly, I'm undecided on the new console. Visually I like it, and am much gratified that it makes all the right sounds, but I think the bit with the Doctor pumping that skinny dipstick-thing up and down like crazy to get them to five billion years in the future was a little overdone. It looked like some weirdly mistimed double entendre.
Second, the bit where the Doctor grins broadly and laughs like a delighted kid as he's meeting the aliens struck me as rather odd. He's been around, after all: strange creatures from other races would hardly be new to him, and yet here he is behaving as though he's just discovered the world's most wonderful zoo and is excitedly pointing out all the creatures to Rose. "Ooh, there's a blue one! Isn't he the CUTEST THING?!!!" I'm all about the Doctor showing flashes of childlike delight, but this seemed like the wrong situation in which to do it.
Third, those rotating fans. Why, why, why? It was done in Galaxy Quest, it was done in The Phantom Menace, it's been done a thousand times by now, and my heart simply sank as I realized that of course they were there just to make it difficult for the Doctor to get to the switch on the other side, and that he would have to go through them. Not that I had any doubt he would make it (and that Zen moment at the end where he walks straight through the fan buzzing at insane speed was actually quite cool) but feh.
Those are the nitpicks. Now for the stuff I really liked.
First, Eccleston and Piper are both flippin' brilliant. Piper especially looks like she shouldn't be up to much as an actress, but in fact she's really very talented indeed -- something we didn't get to see much of in "Rose", which suffered from a weaker script and a rushed plotline. I was especially touched by the ending, where you can see every shade of emotion that Rose is feeling just as Piper looks around the crowd. She's like Josh Holloway from Lost in that respect -- able to use tiny, quite natural-looking twitches of her eyebrows and her mouth to convey a range of shifting feelings. She's also very good with the sassy, comedic stuff. On the whole I'm really impressed, and I hope she sticks around a long time. It's too late to hope the same for Eccleston, of course, but he's giving us such a rich portrayal of the Doctor already that I think I'm just going to savour every single moment while it lasts.
Second, the supporting cast. Zoe Wanamaker was clearly having illegal amounts of fun in the sound booth playing Cassandra, and Jabe and Rifallo were also very effective and endearing characters. Jabe had great chemistry with the Doctor and the scene where they discuss the Doctor's background was very well played and quite moving *stops to blow nose loudly*. Also, just to confirm my utter frockishness, I loved her dress. And the "Appearance of the Recurring Meme"? Hee!
Third, it SCARED THE PANTS OFF ME, which is exactly what Who is supposed to do, and yet without resorting to gore (well, aside from that one explosion at the end, but that was more an ew-ick than scary). Just the implication of what might have happened to Rifallo and what did happen to the Steward was enough to send me mentally scuttling behind the sofa. Of course, I felt the same way about Locke's dream on this week's Lost. I get creeped easily, so sue me.
Fourth, do I smell chips? *wanders off*
CBC starts running the show this Tuesday, so I look forward to hearing some regular commentary from the Canadian viewers on my f-list. For you Americans, unfairly deprived of this show by the idiocy of the Sci-Fi channel (I mean seriously, just what are they looking for if this show isn't it?), I hope you can find some alternate way of seeing it, and soon. Because it really is just. that. good.