To begin my reviewing quest, I’m going to rewatch (mainly for the second time, some for the third or fourth) the last series of Doctor Who. It’s where I started the show, it’s what inspired this blog, and it’s a great way for me to pass time while I contain my excitement for the new series to begin.
I’ll be sticking mainly to reviewing the episodes in the context of their original broadcast, but I’ll also be looking out for things I notice on repeat viewing and things that link to the series’ arc as a whole. On we go…
EPISODE 1 – ‘THE ELEVENTH HOUR’
An introduction to a new Doctor will always need to make a statement. An introduction to a new Doctor following on from possibly the most popular Doctor Who ever needs to make a big statement. All this from a new show-runner taking over from a hugely succesful predecessor? It’s critical.
What The Eleventh Hour does so well is simultaeneously break away into a signature style while reminding loyal viewers that it’s safe to keep watching now David’s gone. It’s still Doctor Who, but not quite as we know it.
In fact, I would say it sticks mainly to the latter. The episode plays like a greatest hits, full of memorable moments and containing flavours of past Russell T Davies openers (hidden prisoner like in Smith and Jones, the regeneration ‘breath’ of Tennant’s entrance The Christmas Invasion) and, perhaps more importantly, nods to Moffat’s own offerings during RTD’s tenure. We get “wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey” and the “duck!” message straight from Blink, we get the coma patients of An Empty Child/A Doctor Dances, and most overtly we get The Doctor meeting Amelia/Amy across her timeline in the style of The Girl in The Fireplace. Moffat is saying ‘yes, this is the show you’ve all followed for the last 5 years, but remember all those good bits I put in? Expect a whole lot more!’ You may think this is a criticism, but far from it. It’s not derivative, it’s celebratory. A bright start to a brand new era of the show, both old and new.
The opening episode also has to open the show up to a potential new audience, so part of it’s remit is to explain who the hell this man is hanging out of a blue box over London as we begin. I say it does manage this succesfully, mainly because this is the first episode of Doctor Who I sat down and watched fully. It had never interested me before. Yes, I’d caught bits and I knew the gist, I knew the basic history, so that probably helped, but I was hooked to this over my dinner and began following the show soon after, so it definitely did something right. By the end of the episode Moffat has re-established the Doctor as a time-travelling Timelord with a companion and we’re all happy and comfortable.
As a new viewer I therefore didn’t know why Matt Smith was dangling out of the TARDIS at the start of the episode on first viewing. Now of course, I know that it is as a direct result of the regeneration from The End of Time. Not a vitally important piece of knowledge for the casual viewer perhaps, but in retrospect it’s fantastic that the huge emotional turmoil suffered by the Doctor in that episode is immediately contrasted so well with his crash landing in young Amelia’s garden and the brilliantly comedic scene that follows. The emotional shackles are off, new Doctor, new man, and new taste buds.
Within seconds of Matt Smith sparring with Amelia about food he becomes the Doctor. His comic timing is excellent (“Bad Bad Beans!”,”You’re Scottish, fry something!”) and it’s clear that while this new regeneration is working himself out, he’s clearly not weighed down with the emotional baggage of his predecessor. I don’t want to cast judgement on emotional baggage, this IS drama after all, but fresh start, fresh perspective.
Without completely listing everything that happens in this episode, what we get is a fantastic performance from Smith, encompassing the role by both being obviously the Doctor but also completely his own man. He’s nerdy yet charming, self-assured but not completely self-aware, completely the enchanting raggedy Doctor. A very different animal but ultimately recognisable.
The episode’s storyline itself is somewhat forgettable, lots of running around after a shapeshifting alien before tricking it into disguising itself as itself and getting arrested, but it doesn’t really matter. This is about The Doctor and Amy, a new lead character, and a completely different dynamic with a companion he has just met yet already seems to owe so much. He left a little girl waiting for 12 years and then 2 more, and Karen Gillan completely sells the anger and frustration of being let down by her imaginary friend but still finding him impossible to hate.
We are also introduced to the mysterious and all-important crack in the wall, ‘side-companion’ Rory, and Moffat’s signature use of creepy catchphrases continues with “Silence Will Fall”, which we STILL don’t have a resolution for as we head towards season 6.
By the time Smith has donned his bowtie and walked through the rather cool montage of doctors to firmly introduce himself, I’m sold, and so is Amy Pond, who, despite having to wait ANOTHER two years, agrees to follow the Doctor into the TARDIS, and who can blame her after that introduction?
FEZ SEZ: “A stunning introduction to a new hero. Funny, clever, intruiging and mysterious. Plays like a greatest hits and still feels completely new”
The arc stuff I spotted:
- “The Doctor in the TARDIS doesn’t know” what causes the cracks…
- Amy’s parents aren’t there, but that apple looks so fresh…
- How do you know it’s a duckpond if there’s no ducks?
- Amy’s GETTING MARRIED!!
- There’s a shadowy figure in the kitchen, could that be FEZDOC???!!!:-)
- I won’t lie, after watching this episode about 5 times, I still don’t completely understand which bits with young Amelia are taking place as a result of the cracks or as a result of the Doctor’s Big Bang exploits.
- “The Pandorica is Open. Silence Will Fall”. It’s begun!