I was very apprehensive about this episode on two grounds and I am not just relieved but overjoyed that my fears were unfounded. It was brill.
My first concern was about it doing violence to the canonical status of the NAs, which I was feeling so grumpy about that I accidentally got into a mini-fight with Cornell himself over at peeeeeeet's journal. But within the first five minutes, the ep had completely won me over and I was more than happy to settle for a glib, non-answer answer somewhere between "Timewardidit" and "well, of course Human Nature is self-contradictory".
My other big worry was what it would do to the Ship. 'Cos it turns out I ship Ten/Martha very hard, which continues to surprise me. But it was handled wonderfully. Martha being upset but carrying on with what she had to do, and having compassion for Joan and that speech about how he's different, oh it was all lovely. And Tennant and Daisy-offa-Spaced (sorry, I can't get used to not calling her Jessica Stevenson) totally sold me on John/Joan as a separate entity. I loved Tennant's discombobulated "oh, are we flirting?" acting, done in a completely different way to the Doctor but still having points of correspondence with that character; it was wonderful. And for all that I try not to be too much of a basher, I don't think it could work the same way with Rose; she'd end up scratching Joan's eyes out with jealousy. (Actually, I'm not sure that's true. She handled things fairly well in School Reunion and GitFace. Maybe my thoughts are too influenced by fanon Rose?)
One of the things I loved about the ep was the way it reflected back on pretty much all of New Who to date (and some of Old Who) via John Smith's dreams. Even the Rose Reference didn't feel shoehorned in. But in the end I think the main thing that sold me on it was the acting. DT was brilliant as I've already mentioned but so was Freema and the whole of the guest cast, including the kids. Absolutely wonderful stuff. In particular, Baines's nostril twitching was scary as hell (aided by some nicely disconcerting camera angles).
The only slightly naff moment was the CGI of Mother-of-Mine possessing Jenny. But if you watch Who for the effects you end up at silly opinions like "the high point of the classic series is the first few minutes of Trial", so who cares?
And some bullet points of more random thoughts:
- I haven't caught up on my flist so I don't know if it's already happened, but I predict an "INVISIBLE SPACESHIP" macro at ihasatardis by the end of the day.
- The guy playing Baines should totally play Alex Kapranos in some weird Franz Ferdinand biopic that would never get made.
- The powered-down TARDIS looked just like Christmas. (I don't even know what I mean by that. That sort of burbling should show you how much I loved the ep.)
- Yay, they didn't ignore the racism but nor did they overplay it either.
- I completely melted at the "my father Sydney and my mother Verity" bit. Melted, I tell you.
- The List! They kept the List! And reinterpreted it in a fantastically televisual way. For some reason that was the moment that I suddenly wanted Benny back, though. Possibly because it's a bit like her diary on top of everything else? I think I'm going to have to dig out an NA to read next.
- I do not know what to make of the trailer, except that I will be surprised if they really do go for the Doctor having a decades-long interruption to his life of evil-fighting on the telly (they do it all the time in the EDAs, of course), so I suspect they are flash-forwards of potential futures from the watch somehow.
- EDIT: Other brilliant bits I forgot when writing this the first time were the way they played on the resonances that "dancing" now has for us, and the bit where Martha's all "has he got concussion?" and Joan's all "I know more than you". Yeah, right.
In conclusion: series 3 hasn't had any complete duffers yet (even the Dalek one had Art Deco and showgirls going for it), but this is up there with tEotW, Dalek and GitFace (EDIT: and Empty Child; how did I forget Empty Child?) as a strong contender for best of the new series to date. And we haven't had part two yet.
To summarise: Squee!