Doctor Who (2017)

You’ve got to love the cheek of Doctor Who. What other 54-year-old TV show would have the chutzpah to call the first episode of its latest run ‘The Pilot’ – and then deliver something so new and minty-fresh that it totally justifies the gag?

Unlike other dramas – where, let’s face it, you’ve got three series, tops, before things start to get a bit same old – Doctor Who thrives on change: you could argue every week is a re-boot, and every few years it delights in chucking out all its old baggage and starting again with the simple story of a girl (it’s nearly always a girl) stumbling across a mad man with a magical box.

This time around that girl is Bill Potts (a warm and sparky performance from newcomer Pearl Mackie), a canteen worker at the university where the Doctor (Peter Capaldi) has taken a teaching job, assisted by Matt Lucas as his sort-of-robot butler. Just go with it, okay?

Bill took longer than usual to work out what the Doctor’s magical box actually is (‘Is this a knock-through?’) and when he explained that it is, in fact, ‘the gateway to everything that ever was, or ever can be’, she responded as any sensible girl would – by asking where the loo was. It was typical of an episode that delivered the show’s trademark mix of wit, wonder and behind-the-sofa scares (killer puddles, anyone?).

With the Time Lord having adopted Bill as his pupil – it’s a sci-fi remake of Educating Rita, basically – Saturday’s fun, frothy second episode, written by Frank Cottrell-Boyce, propelled our heroes forward in time to a world run by ‘emoji robots’ (‘We’re in the utopia of vacuous teens,’ groaned the Doctor) who kill you with a :-)

Capaldi, who has jettisoned his initial ‘Malcolm Tucker in space’ approach in favour of a more of a kindly mad uncle, is now firmly in the front rank of Time Lords, and I’ll be sorry to see him go after this series. But then the TARDIS will return next year with a new Doctor, a new showrunner (Broadchurch’s Chris Chibnall replacing Steven Moffat) and the whole mad, magnificent fairground ride will start afresh all over again.

TV extra: 

Peter Kay’s Car Share

The 90s had Ross and Rachel, the 2000s had Tim and Dawn, and this decade has John and Kayleigh. The second series of Peter Kay and Sian Gibson’s Fiat 500-set, will-they-won’t-they romcom has been a real tonic – as tender and poignant as it is honkingly funny (the ‘monkey’ episode, in particular, was sublime). If you haven’t watched the finale yet (all four instalments are available on iPlayer), I won’t spoil it for you… but expect laughter, tears and a surprising amount of Marillion.


The Durrells

Simon Nye’s 2016 adaptation of naturalist Gerald Durrell’s memoirs – about his family’s years of penury in pre-war Corfu – beguiled eight million people with its mix of Ionian sunshine and eccentric characters, led by the fabulous Keeley Hawes as plucky British matriarch Louisa. Nothing much really happens – the dramatic highpoint of this week’s second series opener revolved around some dodgy Scotch eggs – but, in these turbulent times, perhaps that’s part of the appeal.


Published in Waitrose Weekend, April 27, 2017

(c) Waitrose Weekend