Saturday, April 03, 2010

My Review of Doctor Who's 5x01: "The Eleventh Hour"

Written by Steven Moffat
Directed by Adam Smith

The Doctor: “You wanted to come fourteen years ago.”
Amy: “I grew up.”
The Doctor: “Don’t worry, I’ll soon fix that.”

92 days ago, Matt Smith had made his debut as the Eleventh Doctor and the wait has certainly been interesting. All sorts of questions ran through my head and while certain spoilers gave me some half answers and near truths, the arrival of this new series at least gets some stuff out of the way.

Like the Doctor’s crashing for instance. There’s a great big spectacle there where he narrowly missed smashing into Big Ben and the O2 but instead found himself crashing into the back garden of a little Scottish girl named Amelia Pond. Now let’s not pretend that we don’t know who this youngster is gonna grow up into.

It’s a pretty good way of introducing the new companion as the Doctor in his new body proved to be quite the rude house guest a child could have. He told her not to ask stupid questions but spent most of the time decorating her floor with the amount of times he spat food out and then chose to nibble on the weirdest of culinary combinations – fish fingers and custard – yuck!

Of course, little Amelia didn’t seem all that bothered about her new mate’s rudeness. She was more interested in getting him to look at a crack in her wall with the ominous chanting of an escaped prisoner. When the Doctor told Amelia that he’d back to see her in five minutes, I knew the poor girl was going to be disappointed. But kids get over disappointment, don’t they?

Not exactly! Twelve years later the Doctor actually did live up to his promise and got thanked for visiting his first human contact in his eleventh incarnation by getting knocked out with a cricket bat and handcuffed to a radiator. As slightly disappointed as I was to have the kissogram rumour confirmed, Amy Pond as an adult certainly knew how to make an entrance into the house.

It kind of amazed me that it took the Doctor a little longer than usual to cop onto the fact that sexy policewoman holding him back was the little girl he promised a trip to. Their banter then as Amy admitted that four shrinks couldn’t make her forget him certainly made me smile. It didn’t help that the Doctor looked exactly the same.

In fact the whole idea that a few people in the village were aware of Amy’s imaginary friend was another new take on the usual Doctor/Companion dynamic because let’s face it, in some ways, Amy almost is a new kettle of fish in terms of the circumstances behind her becoming a companion of the Doctor.

The whole meeting him as a child and then adult when danger was afoot will draw comparisons to Reinette but this was something a lot deeper here. The Doctor arguably made a bigger impact on Amy when she was younger and his inadvertent failing to keep his promise seems to have hardened her a little. It took seeing a certain apple with a face on it after she had found another way of restraining the Doctor to believe in him again.

However in regards to Amy’s hardened edge, it’s blatantly clear with her dynamic with Rory. He considered himself to be Amy’s boyfriend and clearly he’s in love with her but Amy seemed to be more hot and cold with Rory when the Doctor was confronting him. Those fearing that Rory would behave in a similar idiot manner to Mickey in his first episode should be relieved.

Rory was the only one in the hospital to notice that the coma patients were calling out and walking around and the only one to even attempt to snap Prisoner Zero while everyone else was staring at the sun. He was also there with the Doctor and Amy when the Atraxi managed to detain Prisoner Zero as well.

In terms of Prisoner Zero, it’s a sort of standard villain for the opening episode. It’s not Steven Moffat’s best creation but it does the trick and certainly helped with some much needed delving into Amy’s psyche and warning the Doctor about this season’s buzzword of trouble: Pandorica. And there was something about silence will fall. Are we going to get the Doctor Who version of “Hush”? Probably not.

Prisoner Zero had twelve years to know Amy but it seemed to have an inability to take on a single body. It fluffed up with Barney and the dog, then the woman and the two kids before trying on the Doctor and Amelia for size. I liked the Doctor getting Amy to dream up Prisoner Zero’s true form in order to get the Atraxi to arrest it. And of course, not forgetting the massive reset that Jeff and some important types had to pull off as well.

However, it would’ve been nice to have seen more of the Atraxi beyond their spaceships and those creepy eyes at certain points in the episode. I did however love the Doctor’s confrontation with them segueing into his costume change. It wasn’t as ruthless as the ‘no second chances’ in “The Christmas Invasion” but it certainly did the trick in getting the Atraxi to stay away from the Earth.

As for all the other bits in between the episodes – well, everything really was new. Matt Smith will inevitably have many moments in this series and the next to showcase how brilliant he is as the Doctor but he certainly got the tone right with this one. He looks like the Doctor and he feels like it too. There’s no denying it now.

Similarly Karen Gillan was also on fine form as Amy in this episode. The lack of family connection will make Rory her biggest tie to Earth (or sleepy English village Leadworth to be specific) and then there’s the whole banter with the Doctor. Being skipped out on once is going to piss you off but twice? I’m actually surprised he was able to get Amy in the TARDIS after that one.

Still, another strong point about the opening episode was Amy pressing the Doctor on why he wanted to travel with her. He admitted that he was lonely but said it in a way that could suggest that he’s not being entirely honest. And Amy herself by the end didn’t need that much convincing to actually take off with the Doctor, now did she? She didn’t even tell him that her stuff involved getting married. That being said the chemistry between this new TARDIS duo is certainly interesting to put it mildly.

Also in “The Eleventh Hour”

Matt Smith and Karen Gillan’s names in the opening credits and the blue/fire orange colour of them is certainly different. The new remix of the theme tune however did sound familiar.

Amelia: “Who are you?”
The Doctor: “I don’t know yet, I’m still cooking. Does that scare you?”

Amelia was played by Caitlin Blackwood who is the cousin of Karen Gillan. Apparently working together on the show was the first time both of them met.

The Doctor: “You know when grown ups tell you everything is gonna be fine and you probably think they’re lying to make you feel better?”
Amelia: “Yes?”
The Doctor: “Everything’s gonna be fine.”

Dr Ramsden: “Why are you giving me your phone?”
Rory: “It’s a camera too.”

Arthur Darvill, who plays Rory previously worked with Matt Smith in “Swimming With Sharks” while Karen Gillan previously appeared in the fourth season episode “The Fires Of Pompeii” as a soothsayer.

The Doctor: “What happened?”
Amy: “Twelve years.”
The Doctor: “You hit me with a cricket bat.”
Amy: “Twelve years.”
The Doctor: “A cricket bat!”
Amy: “Twelve years and four psychiatrists.”

The Doctor: “What’s that?”
Amy: “It’s a duck pond.”
The Doctor: “Why aren’t there any ducks?”
Amy: “I don’t know. There’s never any ducks.”
The Doctor: “Then how do you know it’s a duck pond?”

Amy made a lot of raggedy Doctors and versions of herself when she was a child and funny how we saw her wedding dress at the end? Amy’s gonna get up between two men – the Doctor and Rory.

Rory (re the Doctor): “Oh my God, it’s him.”
Amy: “Just answer his question please.”

Prisoner Zero: “Little Amelia Pond, waiting for her magic Doctor to return but not this time, Amelia.”

We got a celebrity appearance with Patrick Moore in this episode as well as archived footage of the previous ten Doctors to show Eleven fully in his suit. The tweed look works for me.

The Doctor (to Atraxi): “Hello, I’m the Doctor. Basically – run.”

The Doctor: “It means come with me.”
Amy: “Where?”
The Doctor: “Wherever you like.”

Alex Price (who’ll be in “Vampires In Venice”) is now narrating Doctor Who Confidential and a trailer aired at the end of this episode previewing the rest of the season. I also love the rather bigger and more orange looking new TARDIS as well. And we got a new screwdriver to boot.

The Doctor (to Amy): “So, all of time and space, everything that ever happened or ever will. Where do you want to start?”

Chronology: We went into 1996 when the Doctor first met Amy, 2008 when he stopped Prisoner Zero/Atraxi and 2010 when he and Amy took off together in the TARDIS.

For 63 minutes, “The Eleventh Hour” might have needed 20 of them to save the world but the rest certainly helped with acknowledging that this new era is going to be as good as the last one. This may not be my favourite episode by the time the series comes to an end but it certainly will be a memorable way of debuting the new Doctor and Amy Pond nonetheless.

Rating: 9 out of 10.


Placey said...

Down here in Australia we are a few eps behind you Northern Hemispherians with Doctor Who 5, "The Eleventh Hour" aired 2 weeks ago, and "The Beast Below" last weekend.
As always, there has been plenty of buzz about the new Doctor Who. I loved Tom Baker's character back in the 80s, and thought noone could better him, so I had to reluctantly admit that Christopher Eccleston was brilliant. I actually looked forward to David Tennant's portrayal as I thought he was great in a completely different series 'Blackpool'. So I was determined to keep an open mind about Matt Smith, and was not disappointed with The Eleventh Hour. Loved the 'Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey' quote, one of my favourite lines from the Blink ep, and thought Amy Pond was excellent as the Doctor's new companion.

shawnlunn2002 said...

The Eleventh Hour certainly opened this season on a brilliant note. It's still my favourite episode so far as well.

Amy gets more intriguing in later episodes and Matt is wonderful as the Doctor.