It feels like a long time since we’ve spent an episode on present day Earth (The Lodger?). It feels even longer ago that we used to return there every third episode or so, to catch up with Rose/Martha/Donna’s family (presumably Amy gets to cram all her catching up when the Doctor periodically dumps her in Leadworth, and anyway gets to bring her husband in the TARDIS, so it’s no surprise she’d rather have “planets and history and stuff”). Where the grimy reality of the Powell estate used to be shot with an eye for normality and, er, “Earthiness” even the litter strewn streets have taken on the fairy tail alien feel of Moff-Who (helped immensely by some beautifully photography revelling in symmetry). It was this “otherness” that made the simple pleasure of seeing the Doctor, Amy and Rory knocking on doors so enjoyable. Conversely, as the narrative is gradually translated into the more timeless dollhouse locations it lost a little of that charm. Despite that, this was a very strong episode (allaying a concern I had since it came from Mark Gatiss who penned the only real clunker early in the last series).
The setting – and story – was such that it was easy to imagine how it might have slotted into the Tenth Doctor’s era (indeed, it was reminiscent in some way of Fear Her though, thankfully, vastly superior). Matt Smith’s edgy performance, evident in the way he aggressively continues to make tea when asked to leave, highlights the differences in the way it is realised.
When I first started watching The X-Files I always looked forward to the conspiracy episodes, and after last week Doctor Who I started to feel I so much wanted another River episode we’d just be killing time until the next one. But just as I later came to appreciate Mulder and Scully’s more routine Monster of the Week investigations, this diverting episode showed just how consistently strong this series is proving to be.