The Weekend's Television: Doctor Who, Sat, BBC1
Ashes To Ashes, Fri, BBC1

He travels in style

New series of Doctor Who, new Doctor, new chief scriptwriter. This is a big moment in the pop cultural calendar, so take a deep breath.

Stepping into the Doctor's shoes this time around, in case you've been living on Gallifrey for the last year (Earth time), is Matt Smith, who sprung to fame playing an overly earnest Labour Party apparatchik in 2007's Party Animals. He's since been introduced to the public via a well-placed publicity campaign as someone running around in a tweed jacket, bow tie and ankle boots. It's a blend of old and new – this is, after all, someone who travels across the galaxy distributing witticisms that wouldn't have been out of place in the 1960s – that is entirely appropriate.

The other key player making their debut on Saturday night was the new chief writer, Steven Moffat. He's clear about where he's aiming his creative sonic screwdriver. "For me, Doctor Who literally is a fairy tale," he said of the new series last month. "It's not really science fiction. It's not set in space, it's set under your bed. It's at its best when it's related to you, no matter what planet it's set on."

The first look we got at all this newness was through some expensive-looking, genuinely exciting pre-titles. Smith was initially introduced hanging out of the Tardis as it sped across a familiar-looking London skyline. An impressive start, one that grabbed you by the lapels and screamed "THIS IS AN EVENT" (let's hope, incidentally, that George Osborne wasn't watching such scenes while making notes with a big red pen) before we'd opened the storybook's first page. We're greeted with the sight of nine-year-old Caitlin Blackwood as Amelia Pond, an orphaned Scottish girl living in the West Country who was scared about a crack in her bedroom wall and the strange noises emanating from behind it. Along came the Doctor, and the next few minutes were played for laughs, as he tried various types of food and spat them across the room. Once that was finished, and we were all familiar with this crazy new guy who wasn't David Tennant, we got into the story proper: the Doctor promised to come back in five minutes, but spent over a decade in mind-warping space-time-world, and returned to find Pond all fully grown. She was now filling the potentially titillating shoes of 22-year-old Karen Gillan, who was introduced with a lingering shot up her thighs. Subtle. Then it turned out that the noises from behind the wall were due to the guards of an alien prison, the Atraxi, saying that one of their inmates had escaped. An evil shape-changer had wormed through the crack into the Ponds' house, and the prison guards threatened to destroy Earth if they weren't handed back their misplaced convict.

If you're looking for something cutting edge, this has all been seen before. The Douglas Adams-esque threat of the world being demolished for some spurious, bureaucratic reason; the 24-style rush against the clock; the Buck Rogers-type mess made out of time travel. Where it does win through, however, is in Moffat's dialogue. The famous British tongue-in-cheek gets our heroes out of many a scrape, our scriptwriters, doubly so. When telling Pond to make him some different food, the Doctor told her to "fry something, you're Scottish". When discussing the crack, he said, "you've had some cowboys in here. Not actual cowboys, though that can happen". There were plenty of jokes about camera phones. It was better on screen, honest.

As for Smith, it's too early to say how he'll fare, though he equals Tennant's over-the-top eccentric, devil-may-care manner very well. He throws things around a lot when he could hand them to people, for example. Tennant seemed to be loving all the attention slightly too much by the end, so Smith's appearance is welcome. And while cynical hacks might dismiss this as more of the same, I would imagine eight-year-olds will love it, which is much, much more important.

From one sexy time traveller to another. It was also the welcome return for a third series of the Life on Mars spin-off, Ashes to Ashes, on Friday night. In case you're not up to speed, the show sees female Metropolitan Police officer Alex Drake (Keeley Hawes) shot in 2008 and inexplicably regaining consciousness in 1981, where she's working for Detective Chief Inspector Gene Hunt (Philip Glenister). As viewers of Lost will appreciate, a law of diminishing returns applies to scripts that rely on "what the hell is going on?" ambiguity for endless dramatic twist after endless dramatic twist, and that's certainly the case here. Hunt is slightly less of an amusing anachronism than he used to be, and people have more of less worked out that the full truth will always be unforthcoming. This episode saw Drake awake back in 1983 after being shot by Hunt at the end of the last series. Now Hunt's got a morally ambiguous discipline officer, Jim Keats (Danny Mays), on his back, as well as a kidnapping to contend with. Doesn't match up to the glory days of Life on Mars, but it's still top telly.

r.sharp@independent.co.uk

Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
The Baker (James Corden) struggles with Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood

film...all the better to bamboozle us
Arts and Entertainment
English: Romantic Landscape

art
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Strictly
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
    Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

    Marian Keyes

    The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

    Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

    Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
    Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

    Rodgers fights for his reputation

    Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
    Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

    Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

    'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
    Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick