Being the consummate pirate that I am, I was able to download the first episode of the new "Doctor Who" a few hours after it aired in the UK (and two full weeks before it will air in the US). Overall it was a very positive experience.
As with most of the new seasons of the new Dr. W., the first episode is centered around the formation of a bond with the new companion; and given that this season brings us a new Doctor we have him (almost literally) finding his legs as well. The all-too-typical "save Earth" plot is in place, and while that action is largely in the background until the last 15 minutes or so everything ties together nicely.
The episode begins with a new aesthetic due in part (and hopefully thankfully) to Steven Moffat taking over from Russel Davies as showrunner. I like the new opening sequence (Leila thinks it could have been designed by Maude Lebowski), and I like the new music even more.
The Doctor begins where we left him, with a TARDIS in trouble, flying over London and getting ready to crash. And crash it does, as we get a rare shot of the TARDIS on its side. He has a cute encounter with a 5-ish Ameilia Pond. (In one of the best recurring jokes of the entire 30+ year series he says to her, "Do everything I tell you, don't ask stupid questions, and don't wander off."). She believes that he's the answer to her prayers (to Santa, hah) and they have a pretty cute set of scenes where he figures out what sort of food he likes (ending on fish sticks dipped in custard) before getting back to her prayers and identifying a crack in the universe which happens to be manifesting itself in her bedroom wall. As he seals the crack with a dodgy sonic screwdriver, we get another cute exchange:
"You know when grownups tell you that everything's gonna be fine, and you think they're lying just to make you feel better?"
"Everything's gonna be fine."
But Prisoner Zero has already escaped; and that's the last we see of that plot for a bit as The Doctor gets an urgent call to return to the TARDIS before it explodes. He tells her he'll be back in five minutes and runs off to start repairs. She packs to wait.
Of course, when he returns he finds a house which at first appears to be deserted, but then he's bonked on the head by a cricket bat and restrained by a policewoman. It doesn't take too long for him (and it takes us far less time) to figure out that this is 20-ish Amelia, who's changed her name to Amy. It takes us all a bit longer to learn that she's a Kiss-O-Gram, and that the radio into which she was calling for backup is a fake (her other option was a French maid, and a cute line later in the episode has his judgmental side taking form as "I'm the Doctor. I'm worse than everybody's aunt"). He points out to her that P0 is actually staying in a room which has been psychically blocked but is "in the corner of [her] eye" in a bit which reminds me very much of Douglas Adams' "somebody else's problem field," (and could be, given their other callbacks to an old staff writer) and she has her first encounter with P0 in its native form.
Anyway, the landing of the TARDIS brings the jailers to Earth and they threaten to incinerate the planet if they don't get the prisoner. And he can't get back in because it is, itself, regenerating. In the process of figuring out the deal with P0, we come across one of the things which took me out of this episode a bit: a sequence of him running through his recent memory to figure out what was different and focus on that. What was different was one nurse who was photographing people on the ground while everyone else was photographing the happenings in the sky. This is because that nurse works in a local coma ward and sees his patients roaming around the park because (The Doctor tells us) P0 uses their brains to take their forms and wander around the area. It's unclear if it uses this ability to wreak any havoc on the area; and while it seems likely that it would be eating people or something there's no mention of any missing persons.
So, they have 20 minutes to run around and do their thing. This includes yet another method of The Doctor hacking into a multi-party conference call and telling the silly Earthlings what to do (he convinces them that he's a helpful alien by giving them, "...a personal favorite of mine [and a personal favorite of mine from this episode]: faster than light travel with two diagrams... and... a... joke!") and uploading a multiplatform supervirus which will cause all the clocks and displays in the world to reset to 0 simultaneously so the jailers can track it to its source.
So all he has to do is corner the alien and the jailers will be able to find it and take it back. This is not really a problem, which is not really a surprise. It has another little moment where he directs the unconscious Amy, whose brain P0 hijacked, to dream of it in its native form so the jailers can identify it and take it away. The Doctor, rightfully, is quite proud of himself for saving the world in 20 minutes with neither TARDIS nor screwdriver.
All that remains is for him to threaten the aliens who threatened to incinerate the earth. But before he can do that he needs a new look. "I'm saving the world. I need a decent shirt," so he steals some clothes from the hospital’s locker room. More mention of "The Shadow Proclamation," (which is really just another unexplained recurring plot device for when, "Hey! I'm the last Time Lord and I'll whoop your ass," is insufficient). But it does include a neat little sequence when they ask if the planet is protected and we see a 3D hologram of each of his regenerations, with Matt Smith walking through David Tenant's face and closing with, "Hellow. I'm the Doctor. Basically, run!"
The epilogue has another "be right back," moment. But this time he's only two years late. Leila totally pegged that now Amy's getting married the next day; but no points for that because it was pretty easy. Amy is justifiably angry with him again, but that doesn't matter at the end of the day. (There's another bit I haven't mentioned, where she drew cartoons about him and saw psychiatrists; but everybody thought she had just made it up). The producers spent a fair amount of time teasing us on the new TARDIS layout; and I was setting myself up for the disappointment of the credits hitting just as she opened the door. But we do get to go inside and see what looks like a really neat bridge. In a surprising moment (to me, anyway - I always believed that he worked really hard to design and build each iteration of the tool), the TARDIS produces a new sonic screwdriver for him--and he appears to be surprised himself--.Then the standard convincing ensues, and they're off. "Geronimo!"
All in all, I'm happy with how this episode came out. I enjoyed Matt Smith, and I think there are enough similarities between him and David Tenant for continuity, and between him and the other incarnations for our enjoyment. I dug the physical comedy, but I hope it's not quite so prevalent in future outings. The coming attractions for the season showed me some MORE appearances of Daleks and Cybermen as well as some reappearances of more-recent characters / enemies. I think I need to adjust my expectations to increase my optimism, because I really enjoyed this episode.