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Who Review – Episode 1: The Eleventh Hour (Series 5)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Doctor and Amy Ponnnnd

The Eleventh Hour

Written by Stephen Moffat
In Doctor Who fandom, the first story of a new Doctor is a pretty important one. Usually it is indicative of tone, and the direction of the upcoming season, and of course, the personality of the new Doctor. Over the years, these introductory stories have been pretty good – Spearhead From Space, Robot, Castrovalva, and The Christmas Invasion to name the better ones. The less said about The Twin Dilemma and Time and the Rani the better, unless of course one enjoys engaging in mockery. Which, of course, I do…

The Eleventh Hour wipes the slate clean and introduces a new companion, a new Doctor, a new enemy threat, and even a new TARDIS! A brave choice, but a wise one. This has only happened twice before – the beginning of Jon Pertwee’s time (and even then, the Brigadier became a regular character to keep some continuity), and the reboot in 2005 with Christopher Eccleston. Even the 1995 US made-for-television version with Paul McGann felt obliged to write in the regeneration from #7 to #8 – which was undoubtedly a dramatic mistake, but nevermind.

The Grand Moff (not a nickname I created, but one that I’ll gladly steal) condenses what would usually be a whole post-regeneration episode of the Doctor running around with amnesia, falling down, strangling his companions, falling down again, into a glorious few minutes of screen time. Surely, despite the TARDIS undergoing a radical and painful remodelling, the transition from Doctor #10 to #11 was pretty smooth on the swiss cheese brain front – at least compared to the others. We get a delicious scene showing the Doctor trying to figure out what his favourite, post-regeneration food is (“…you’re Scottish, fry something…”). Funny, yet punctuated with moments of creepyness (invisible monsters) and heartbreak (“I’ll be back in five minutes…”), and all seen through the eyes of a child. This opening will surely rank among thee best moments of Who in the years to come.

I can imagine that writing a script like this would have been a much different exercise for Moffat then writing the one-off episodes he had done for the previous four seasons. He’s the showrunner now, so he has to do a lot of the introductory bits, and he has to please everyone – giving nods to the kids, the adults, the fans, and the casual Who watchers, of which there are many. But, naturally, he pulls it off, giving us an episode that ticks all of the post-regeneration story boxes, as well as a decent alien threat, a dash of goofiness, a good amount of creep, and a grand heroic conclusion.

Russell T Davies’ influence here can not be overstated. While this is Moffat’s baby, Davies knew how to appeal to both kids and adults, and his stamp on the show still remains – the Doctor using a cell phone to link in to the uber-secret-computer-genius’s-conference was something that would have felt right at home in a Davies’ script – same with the fire truck bit – sure it’s goofy, but it’s also a lot of fun.

I’m going to hold my comments about Matt Smith until later – one episode is not enough to make any firm judgements. He’s definitely got a ‘doctorish’ look about him – and by that I mean he’s slightly odd. Maybe it’s the chin. In any case, I know he’ll be fine, but I want to see more!

Has there ever been a more perfect time to be a Doctor Who fan? Not only is the show enjoying great ratings in England, and it is currently the number 1 downloaded show on the US and Canadian iTunes store, but it just happens to have one of thee best television writers of any genre as its showrunner. This season will also feature a script from Richard Curtis, and next season – hang on to your butts – will have a script penned by a certain someone who happens to have the same name as Neil Gaiman! Trekkies can have JJ Abrams – I’ll take the Grand Moff any day.

Next week, The Beast Below.ohwrotcodllewopemearg

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Monday, May 3, 2010 11:32 am

    But isn’t the series basically running itself into the ground with such quick regenerations? There’s only one more to go and then the 13th one is supposed to be evil, right?

    (My god I can’t believe I actually remember all that from Kingston).

  2. SarahP permalink
    Tuesday, May 4, 2010 1:42 pm

    I’ve worried about the same thing, but as with most Sci-Fi, there’s always a way around it.

  3. Tuesday, May 4, 2010 3:56 pm

    I agree that it would have been nice if Eccleston had stuck it out a little longer, but he gave the show a great kick start, bringing both really strong acting and star power to the role. Without him, the show may not have been as successful from the get go.

    And I’m not that concerned about him only having two more regenerations left – if the current series lasts that long, they can always figure something out to extend his life. And yes, the 13th Doctor was/is supposedly an evil incarnation, the Valeyard, or if not necessarily the 13th Doctor, than a separate manifestation that ‘got loose’ during the change from 12-13.

    The classic series never revisited this idea, but from a little research online I learn that some of the novels in the 90s did – though whether these are considered ‘canon’ are not is up for debate. If whomever the showrunner is when #12 decides to pack it in decides to do something with the Valeyard, it could be done in an interesting way. And hopefully Matt Smith stays on for at least three series, if not four. Five if we’re lucky.

  4. Wednesday, May 5, 2010 11:40 am

    And why does the Doctor keep getting younger? Is that planned or just . . . something else?

  5. Friday, May 7, 2010 11:30 am

    I think it’s called ratings…

  6. Friday, May 7, 2010 11:36 am

    Although, to be fair, while #11 is the youngest yet, #5 is actually the second youngest and 6- 10 all hover around the late-30s, early 40s age mark. #4 was also around 40.

    So as far as I know, it’s not some extraordinarily drawn out Benjamin Button thing…

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