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Eyes watching through TV screens

Well, ladies and gentlemen, Doctor Who is back! Though I admit I'm biased in certain respects — I absolutely adore this show — I promise to cover it with as much fairness as possible, which involves reporting the good and the bad. I'm going to be covering this show back to front, every episode here all the way.

If you absolutely hate Doctor Who, though, it doesn't mean this column is a no-go area for the next thirteen weeks. I'm going to be covering a lot of other shows as well! If you don't like Doctor Who, skip the next bit for some House, Shark and other TV-related goodness.

Really, though, my main concern this month is the return of Doctor Who and its first episode, 'Smith and Jones' (BBC One, 31/3/2007). The big question on everyone's lips is whether new Who Girl Freema Agymen can fit the bill — and for my money, I'd say yes! I know a lot of viewers who joined with Eccleston won't be used to the constant switching of assistants, but I think they'll warm to her. A wonderful performance, Martha is a very interesting character. I can pinpoint the moment I knew Martha was going to win me over: the scene between Martha and the Doctor as she looks out onto the lunarscape and smiles; it's wonderful. Then she asks a question about lack of oxygen and I realised that she's smart, which is something that I really like. Yes, she asks a lot of questions, but all are rather sensible, things you would ask. She's also willing to accept what she sees instead of arguing against it, because she has an innate curiosity about everything that happens.

Saying that, the episode itself isn't perfect. Yes, the smaller heartfelt moments actually work really well (minus the point where the Doctor grabs Martha's hand and whispers 'Run' — that's just blatant emotional manipulation). This is going to get me hung, drawn and quartered, but I was never keen on Rose. For those of you who don't know, that's exactly what the Doctor does when he first meets Rose. Some other things I really liked, though — like The Doctor miming 'It's bigger on the inside' along with Martha — these are the points that really stick.

For an episode with so many good points, it also has its fair share of downfalls. Far too large in scale for the season opener, with frankly silly monsters, the plot felt simply tagged on to the character development in places. Despite this, I'm inclined towards warm feelings — it's the season opener and to be honest, it's Doctor Who — there's always something to like. Here's to a brilliant season with a brilliant new assistant — you've done it, Freema!

In addition to the return of Doctor Who, the return of House to the UK screens has made me very happy. This is a brilliant show with a great cast and some killer dialogue. The opening episode doesn't show any dip in quality from what I've come to expect. Hugh Laurie is as brilliant and charming as always; I honestly can't imagine anyone else being able to pull that role off. Even though Laurie is as English as they come, you could never tell — his American accent is flawless. It's really strange to see House walking without his cane (for those of you who don't know, House normally has to walk with a cane but underwent serious surgery at the close of the last season because he got shot) and the writers are certainly making the best of it. As always, we're presented with two cases that seem run-of-the-mill but aren't, and as always, House is right. But I wouldn't have it any other way! It's interesting to see House softening a bit and how everyone reacts to that — they even start arguing with him. Really, this show just goes from strength to strength.

If House isn't enough proof that Channel Five can pick drama, then you've got Shark. This is a new show to the UK and going on the first episode (aired 22/3/2007), it's certainly showing some promise. It's about a nasty lawyer who undergoes a crisis that he's doing the right thing and becomes a prosecution attorney for the state. It's an interesting show with a complicated lead character who's softened by his relationship difficulties with his daughter. Problem is the setups is all a bit, well... House. In both you've got a genius who's a bit rough, surrounded by flunkies who end up learning a lot from him while he solves deep-rooted emotional issues within himself. I'm not complaining, though — if you're going to be compared to a show, then you could do far worse than House. I just hope Shark lives up to its first episode and develops a style all its own.

Talking of style — or the lack of it — Eurovision: Making Your Mind Up (BBC1, 22/3/2007) just gets worse and worse. The show itself is all right, I suppose, but the people Britain always end up entering! Scootch (this year's British entry) are absolutely terrible. Do people honestly think we stand a chance entering cheese pop like them? Not a hope.

Battlestar Galactica (Sky One, 20/3/2007) is still the best show on television, consistently brilliant and amazingly acted. The major development in this week's episode is the 'boxing' of Diana after she sees the faces of the last five Cylons we don't know. Her words, 'You... forgive me. I had no idea,' are a clear hint that it's a character we've encountered before. As always, the episode is wracked with tension from start to finish. It's understandable, if not likeable, that this show tends to get privileged status as the 'genre show that's not a genre'. As a fan of sci-fi myself, it does grate, but at least people who don't normally watch sci-fi are becoming used to it. Who knows, perhaps Galactica will help get rid of a few of the old stereotypes. I genuinely believe that Battlestar Galactica is the shape of things to come. Saying that, though, it's far from perfect. The more 'soapy' elements brought in by the Kara and Apollo thing seem extremely out of place within the universe of Galactica.

Anyway, folks, that's me signing off for now — I'll be back next issue with more Doctor Who-related opinion and a Life On Mars overload in anticipation of the series closing. I'm going to try and provide a full series analysis, but no promises! See you next issue.

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