TONIGHT'S THE NIGHT!

For those of you who get BBC America (and, if you're so lucky, BBC America HD), tonight's the night the 5th/1st/31st season of Doctor Who debuts, and for newcomers it will be a fantastic jumping-on point, as everything seems brand-new... a new companion, a new TARDIS (the new interior will pluck your eyes right from their sockets), and, most importantly, a new Doctor in the form of newcomer Matt Smith.

It seems to be a tradition that you'll always miss the previous Doctor terribly... until ten minutes into the new one. And Smith nails it on the head from his very first words to eight-year old Amy Pond: "May I have an apple?". Following this is a manic segment that sets us up for one of new producer/writer Steven Moffat's creepiest stories, and one of the best relaunches of the Time Lord's history. With David Tennant's departure still lingering in the minds of many a fan, it was all-important that everything, from script to lead actor, was perfect. And Moffat has us hooked from the nearly the first minute.

While Smith has claimed he had no real influences on how to play his Doctor, it's very clear from his clothing, mannerisms, and swagger that he has a great fondness for Patrick Troughton,the Second Doctor, whom he has stated is his favorite of the previous actors. Smith has struck that proper balance of heroism and self-importance that makes the Doctor such a unique hero in TV sci-fi.

But the real surprise here is the discovery of Karen Gillan as Amy Pond. "The Eleventh Hour" is quite clearly one of the best companion origin stories of all time. Every companion in the series since its relaunch in 2005 has carried more than a little emotional baggage onboard the TARDIS, not to mention a little obssession with their host. But for the first time, we're given the feeling that Amy's arrival aboard the TARDIS may be an unhealthy thing for everyone involved.

The dangers are many on this new journey, as the Daleks, the Cybermen, and the returning Silurians line up to do battle once again with their archfoe... but could the greatest threat of all be standing right next to the Doctor?

Tonight, 9:00 PM, BBC America. Miss it at your own risk.