Doctor Who: The Eleventh Hour

What a relief.

The Verdict:

The new era

If I was Steven Moffat — and I’m not — I’d have been trying to do anything I could to invigorate the series while not alienating the viewers who’ve come to love the show under the previous administration. If that was indeed his goal I’d say he’s managed to tick a lot of boxes. This is fresh, funny, energetic… regenerated, even. Old made new. If I’m nitpicking I’d like it to go slightly further in shaking up the tone, even the filming and editing style. The sequence in which the Doctor tracks back through his memory in stop-motion-o-vision was lovely and I’d appreciate more adventurous moments like that.

The new Doctor

I was feeling optimistic about Matt Smith from the clips but was wondering if his performance might come across as a little twitchy and distracted. While he’s certainly eccentric (and that isn’t a bad thing) he’s also pleasingly dynamic. There’s a sense of wildness, a sparkle in the eye, and a steely confidence. He’s very Doctorish, in other words. The script doesn’t go out of its way to differentiate him from recent Doctors, and his performance is not night to Tennant’s day, but he still emerges as his own man.

The new companion

There should be some kind of law prohibiting the use of the word ‘feisty’ to describe women in dramas. I’ll resist therefore. Amy is acerbic, capable, intelligent, funny and in search of something more than her life has so far delivered. She’s the very archetype of the Doctor Who companion. Her childhood encounter with the Doctor is likeable, poignant and sets an odd tone for her relationship with him: he’s everything she prayed for, yet he’s already let her down. Twice. It’s implied that she’s also on the brink of her wedding which if so poses interesting questions about how travelling with the Doctor will change her, and whether she’ll want to just neatly slot back into her old life when she’s done. (Always assuming that the Doctor is capable on delivering on his promise.) It’s unclear if there’s a romantic spark between the Doctor and Amy (although she certainly admired him from the rear…) and while my instinct is to hope we don’t get one, I’m open-minded. We need to see more of Amy, I think. So far she’s more under-written than the Doctor, perhaps naturally since he is building on a well-established character and she’s entirely new.

The new credits

The crash-landing opening I can take or leave. It’s a big, splashy intro to grab the viewer, and it does its job. I can also take or leave the opening credits. I can’t quite get my head around them at the moment but they feel oddly paced with all the lightning inexplicably striking the Tardis near the start, and the theme is not at all the retro remix I was expecting. I’ll have to let them percolate for a bit.

The new Tardis

I’d spoiled myself for the interior through the Radio Times this week. I hadn’t been 100% sold. However it looks fantastic on screen. I particularly liked the etched symbols on the perspex sections of the console, and the general scope and complexity of the set. It’s a place you can see from lots of angles and never quite get a sense of its full geography. Also that set of concentric circles on the ceiling looks strangely reminiscent of the one in William Hartnell’s orginal Tardis set.

The new incidental music

Same as the old music, really, but I hope I’m not being optimistic if I say that for the majority of the running time the music felt more restrained that before.

The new everything else

After the ALL ACTION ALL THE TIME opening we’re rapidy immersed in a big bath of Win. I love the set up with young Amelia Pond, love the fairy tale quality to her encounter with the Doctor and the evil crack in her wall, and found the moment when she sits waiting for him to return heart-breaking. The food sequence is a bit silly but definitely the right side of goofy — something Tennant struggled with in the early days — and demonstrates an admirable ability to shift tones on a dime.

Then there are the games with time, the missing room, the corner of the eye, the creature that looks like multiple humans and animals, the ‘human habitation’, Sir Patrick Moore… the list goes on.

I was slightly less convinced by the resolution of the plot involving an online video-conference of geniuses but not any of the key Who agencies like UNIT or Torchwood. The Doctor’s typing ability plus the reading comprehension of the others must be pretty remarkable. Still, in days of yore that kind of gubbins would have plagued every major plot point, where here it sits amidst a lot of more interesting ideas. Also I’m not quite so inclined to complain about the plotting deficiencies of a season opener since the story is mainly a vehicle to introduce the characters, and this one has to work double time setting up a whole new era.

The new randomness

Liked the brief snippets of previous Doctors, even if Tennant had a Gigantic Heed.

Didn’t that hospital exterior look a lot like the one from Spearhead from Space? Or was it the building from Robot? Just a coincidence I’m sure.

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