In the first episode of the fifth series of Doctor Who, the Eleventh Doctor crash lands in the front yard of a young Amelia Pond, where the curious child shows the Doctor a crack in her bedroom. When they find out what is on the other side of Amelia’s wall, it ignites an adventure that spans fourteen years. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Doctor Who.
With Steven Moffat now at the helm of Doctor Who, I was completely shocked how new all of this felt.
The show looks absolutely gorgeous. GORGEOUS. I know that the specials were filmed in HD, but even streaming them on Netflix wouldn’t do them total justice. This show looks so crisp now, but it’s also not the only thing working in it’s favor. As the reigns have been turned over to Steven Moffat, he’s also created a story and, with director Adam Smith, a visual episode that is quite literally unlike any Doctor Who episode of the past. There are so many new-ish camera angles or technical devices being used for the first time. (The scene where the Doctor “examines” the people in the village green is SO AWESOME.)
I’ll talk more about the story, but the real gem of “The Eleventh Hour” is Matt Smith and Karen Gillan. There has to be an intense period of anxiety when new companions and, most especially, a new Doctor arrive on the show. It took me less than ten minutes to be smiling from ear to ear. Matt Smith is the Doctor, in his own way of course. What I enjoyed most about his introduction is that he’s not so radically different that we’re unaware of his past. There are visual and dialogue cues to a lot of David Tennant’s Doctor, included the already-missed, “WHAT???” that I loved so much.
But Matt Smith is absolutely different. He’s kinder, in a way, and much less prone to bouts of serious rage like Tennant was. His story is different, though, and I think that context is totally important. When Davies left the show, he tied everything up. (Not necessarily well, but I don’t see any of the old companions or the Time Lords coming back.) So, after traveling alone for so long, he’s become much more at peace with himself. He doesn’t have the same burdens he’d been living with for the past four series. In this sense…Matt Smith is very refreshing. It’s a breath of fresh air into a show I already liked.
Knowing that Karen Gillan was going to be Amy Pond for series five, I was completely taken by surprise at the way the next companion was introduced. The Doctor meets her as a child. A CHILD. Which is not only a great way to compose this story, but Caitlin Blackwood totally knocks it out of the park as young Amelia Pond. Amelia’s life is lonely, having to live with her aunt in that giant house, and I imagine she was left on her own often. When the Doctor arrives, perfectly coinciding with her prayer to Santa to have someone help her with the crack in her bedroom, Amelia seems to have no fear when she meets the Doctor, only a puzzled sense of wonder over this frazzled, soaking wet young man. What’s so wonderful about this is that Moffat sets this opening scene in a way to allow us to explore the Doctor’s new body and personality as he is doing the same thing. I imagine that I will revisit the scene where the Doctor tries to figure out what he likes to eat a million times in the future. It is full of silly, goofy joy, and perhaps the best way to introduce this new Doctor that I could think of.
Watching Amy and the Doctor interact was a real treat and I imagine there wasn’t someone in her life that she could trust so intrinsically until the Doctor showed up. Which meant that once the Doctor realized what was going on and that GIGANTIC EYE peered through the crack in time and space, I wondered how the show was going to deal with the fact that Amy is an adult companion. Moffat does so in a painfully heartbreaking way: The Doctor must repair the TARDIS and promises Amy he will return in five minutes to help her out. She excitedly packs her adorable suitcase, throws on her jacket, and plops it down in the yard where the TARDIS once stood, patiently awaiting the Doctor’s return.
He does return to that house in Leadworth, a brand new TARDIS in hand, but it’s twelve years later. TWELVE YEARS. I’m reminded of “Love and Monsters,” which Moffat also wrote, but this episode doesn’t feel as rushed (or problematic) as that story. Still, Amy had a lot of pent-up anger and frustration after people doubted her sanity (and I’m sure she did, too) because the Doctor disappeared for so long. TWELVE YEARS. Holy god, she sat there on her suitcase all night. I JUST WANT TO HUG YOU, AMY POND. As an adult, though, Amy is a take-no-shit kind of companion. Not necessarily in the same vein as Donna Noble, as Donna was far more vocal and abrasive than Amy seems to be, but she’s quick to stand up and assert herself when necessary.
But this wouldn’t a Steven Moffat episode without some sort of childhood horror being exploited for our own personal terror. Prisoner Zero looked a little too computer-generated to me, but the effect was still the same. The creature existing in the corner of their eyes, using perception filters to both hide in someone peripheral vision or to appear out in the open while camouflaging as other beings, is SERIOUSLY CREEPY. Also, when people would open their mouths with Prisoner Zero’s teeth? NO, THANK YOU.
Moffat also does something unexpected here by having the people in Amy’s life recognize the Doctor. Generally, in a situation like this in fiction, the character is forced to suffer through this alone, but I found it touching that Amy’s friends and family recognized the man from Amy’s alleged “stories.” I do get that it was frustrating for Amy, though, because, quite literally, no one believed her. But it also gives us a chance to get to know Rory better as well. I did not think that he was at all connected to Amy and assumed he was just a side character that would probably die in the hospital, but I WAS SO WRONG! I’ll do just like I did with Mickey and BEG FOR MORE RORY. I’m unsure exactly what his relationship with Amy is, but he makes me laugh and I think it would be neat for the Doctor to have two companions again. LOOK IT IS JUST AN IDEA. I can dream, right? (Also, I’d like more of Jeff as well. Thank you.)
The “twenty minutes” that the Doctor has to save the world feels somewhat closer to an hour with as much action that Moffat stuffs into the climax of this story. Still, it’s great to see the Doctor in a frenzied state of purpose so early into series five. I think that, time issues aside, it was smart of Moffat to structure “The Eleventh Hour” in this manner. The first half is much slower, reflexive, and thoughtful, especially as we get used to our new Doctor. But the second half is the Time Lord in action, programming computer viruses, capturing Prisoner Zero, and confronting the Atraxi with a wonderfully emotional set of images from Doctor Who‘s past.
“The Eleventh Hour” ends on a strange note, but still excites me. I wasn’t surprised that the Doctor asked Amy to travel with him on the TARDIS, but seriously…two years??? Two years? Oh my god, I would be PISSED, especially after the last time. But it’s new beginnings for the Doctor, with a new sonic screwdriver and a new TARDIS (THAT IS ABSOLUTELY FUCKING AMAZING ON THE INSIDE), and a new companion. Who he has to get back the next day. Because it’s her wedding. WHAT. Is she marrying Rory?
Oh god, I am so excited for series 5.
- Custard and fish sticks. My god. That almost sounds…delicious?
- “Wrong with me? It’s not my fault, why can’t you give me any decent food? You’re Scottish, fry something!”
- “That’s bacon! Are you trying to poison me?”
- “No TARDIS, no screwdriver, two minutes to spare…Who da man? Alright, I’m never saying that again, fine.”
- “I’m the Doctor, I’m worse than everybody’s aunt!
- “Am I people? Do I even look like people?”
- “Yeah, it’s cool, bow ties are cool.”
- “Did he just bring them back? Did he just save the world from aliens, and then bring all the aliens back again?”
- What the fuck is the Pandorica? It didn’t seem to phase the Doctor. Did he not recognize the term either?
- I love that we get a new TARDIS, a new Doctor, a new companion, and a new sonic screwdriver. This is really all Moffat’s show, now.
- Ok, I totally saw the shape of the crack on that waveform device. WHY WAS THAT THERE. omg i totally saw the clues omg
- Y’all, I am so excited for Matt Smith and Karen Gillan. You were right. It’s hard not to love them after just ONE episode.