Sunday, April 4, 2010

Doctor Who: ''The Eleventh Hour'' Inside Trekker Review


The Dawn of an Era is upon us, but for the third time in 5 years, so is a new Doctor. And so the question was: will Doctor Eleven go down in history as a great Doctor or will we want to forget him as soon as the episode is over?

I was very excited to finally see what Steven Moffat had written as his first episode as the new Doctor Who show runner. I was also really looking forward to Matt Smith's first appearance in the role of the Time Lord. I had no real fear that Matt Smith would be good, but as a fan of David Tennant's Tenth Doctor, I was a bit worried as to how I would actually react to this new Doctor.

I have to say that I soon as a few minutes had passed my worries completely vanished. At the end of the episode all I could think of was that the mission was accomplished.

Though a bit different in style and feel, The Eleventh Hour was a rollicking, hectic, funny, scary and suspenseful story that brought the viewer along on a fantastic roller coaster ride.

Matt Smith was absolutely brilliant as the Doctor, bringing the same manic energy as David Tennant did, but with a different dash of charm. He was also more subdued than Tennant in his deliveries, speaking in a lovely soft voice.

Karen Gillan was also quite good and gave the viewers a different kind of companion. She was curious and brave, less in awe of the Doctor than Rose or Martha - she was more like Donna in a way – but with a different type of spunk and energy. This was important since we, the viewers, are meant to see each Doctor Who adventure in the eyes of the companion, not the Doctor.

The plot was simple but the story simply grabbed you by the arm and never let off.
The Doctor's Tardis crash lands in young Amelia Pond's backyard
The episode opens up with a Doctor barely hanging on for his life, gripping the sweep of the Tardis door, dangling dangerously outside, with the Sonic Screwdriver in his mouth, with the Tardis basically on fire and exploding and out of control. There's even a funny moment when the Tardis and the Doctor are heading right for Big Ben and he barely avoids getting his privates squished by the lightning rod at it's top.

The opening sequence – and the entire episode - is, of course, accompanied by the great Murray Gold's bombastic music. Gold has been with the series ever since it debuted in 2005 and his scores are always fantastic: who can forget the wonderful chorus when the Tardis towed the Earth back in place in Series 4's Journey's End? But I digress here.

Young Amy: ''Who are you?''
The Doctor: ''I don't know yet. I'm still cooking.''

Since the start of the episode takes place minutes (one minute apparently to be exact) after the ending of The End of Time and the Tenth Doctor's regeneration, the Eleventh Doctor is still wearing the same outfit throughout most of the episode. It will take about ¾ of the episode's running time before the Doctor changes into his Eleventh Doctor's garb in a sequence that reminded me of the time when the Eight Doctor found his own outfit through the Halloween Costumes lying around in the hospital locker where he had previously died and regenerated (But I digress yet again). It was a simple but yet efficient scene when Doctor Eleven found his new outfit. After all, he had to change.

The opening sequence was different with a different logo and different letterheads which were rendered in a metallic style. At first I was a bit lost until the theme music creeped in a few seconds later. I was in familiar territory.

The plot of the Eleventh Hour itself was quite simple: After the Tardis falls to Earth, the Doctor finds himself in England, in the courtyard of a desolate home, where young Amelia Pond comes upon the Tardis and the Newly Regenerated Time Lord. A Time Lord who has no idea what he looks like at that point. Ensues a rather ridiculous scene where Amy prepares different food for the Doctor who basically hates everything since he's still regenerating except for fried fish and custard – together – which he eats with gusto.

The real story begins when Amy mentions a crack she's discovered in her room which automatically intrigues the Doctor who goes to investigate. There, with the help of the trusty Sonic Screwdriver, he discovers that a certain Prisoner Zero has escaped and that a big-eyed alien, its guardian presumably, is looking for it.

On the other side of the crack is a prison, from which Prisoner Zero has escaped. The big eye belongs to its Atraxi guardian.
Of course, Prisoner Zero escapes into Amy's house, and the Doctor has to leave young Amelia with a promise to return in five minutes because the burning and regenerating Tardis is chiming with that ominous cloister bell sound that we've all heard before. The five minutes really turns into 12 years for Amy Pond, who had waited for the Doctor in vain and, as we later learn, had to consult 4 psychiatrist – that she bit – because they had told her the Doctor was all in her mind. It was funny stuff well played by both Matt Smith and Karen Gillan. The delivery was perfect.

The Doctor is handcuffed to the radiator by an older Amy Pond, real profession: kissogram.
Then the Doctor has 20 minutes to save the world by bringing Prisoner Zero to the Atraxi (or vice versa) or the whole world will be incinerated (something that wont sit well with the doctor). In this 20 minutes we have a duck pond, cell phones, laptops, firetrucks, hospitals and the Shadow Proclamation. And running. And ducking. Whewwwwww!

The reunion between the Doctor and Amy is not an easy one as the Doctor doesn't realize yet that he has been gone for twelve years and Amy is not sure that it's her Doctor that has returned.

The Doctor Pleads with Amy to help him.
As for the alien itself, it turns out to be a multiform who's original form is that of a giant, transparent grey eel with big teeth (rendered in somewhat poor CGI due to the BBC budget cuts) which can mimic people from the memories of comatose patients because apparently that's what it does. On the other hand, the Aliens that are looking for Patient Zero are called the Atraxi, whose ships happen to look like giant silvery snowflakes with a huge eye in it's center. I found they were very reminiscent of the Racnoss's ship from the Runaway Bride Christmas special.

The Atraxi's ships, hovering above planet Earth.
So the Doctor had twenty minutes to save the day and he did so (with two whole minutes to spare) with the help of Amy Pond, her boyfriend Rory (whom she used to make dress as the Doctor – this really made me laugh and showed Amy's obsession with the Doctor) and a friend called Jeff whom I decided to call Captain Awesome UK (in reference to Captain Awesome from Chuck whom he reminded me of).

Rory, the Doctor and Amy
The entire episode was full of energy and Matt Smith conveyed with brilliance the spirit of the Doctor. Ever since Christopher Eccleston's Ninth Doctor and culminating with David Tennant's Tenth, the Doctor has been a figure bound with limitless energy. A character larger than life who was simply dashing about the universe and saving it. Smith's Eleventh Doctor was at once charming, childish, and Time Lordy. In fact, he was perfect.

The multiform is taking over Young Amy and the Doctor's appearance.
Smith's interpretation of the Time Lord was spirited and enthusiastic but not overly so. Most importantly, he was simply adorable and boyish. I for one salute Steven Moffat's astuteness in choosing Matt Smith as the new Doctor, he clearly saw something in him that we would relate to.
The Doctor gets completely naked in front of Rory and Amy to change, with Rory turning his back and Amy drinking it all in.
''Hello, I'm the Doctor. Basically, run.''

This was also Steven moffat's series now. It was no longer Russell T. Davies. There was a slight but definite change in style. Yes, the opening was very ''Davies-like'' but then the atmosphere changed when the Tardis crash landed in young Amy's backyard. The music became more ominous. There was a crack on the wall that was really a crack created by two parts of space and time that should not have come together. There was a scary alien with huge serrated teeth that became even more scary when impersonating other people - the man and his dog for example. There were comatose patients lying in an hospital ward who all called the Doctor's name at the same time and things that can only be seen by the corner of the eye. Moffat all the way.

Look closely at the lower wave. It looks like the crack in young Amy's wall.

On his views about what and who the Doctor should be, Moffat was always very vocal that the Doctor should be a guy in his 40s – though with boundless energy nonetheless. In a 1997 interview with Doctor Who magazine #279 Steven Moffat said: I don't think young, dashing Doctors are right at all. The Doctor should always be a little more Picard and a bit less Kirk. He should be 40-plus and weird-looking – the kind of wacky grandfather that kids know on sight to be secretly one of them.
Doctor Eleven, played by 27 year old Matt Smith, is the youngest Doctor ever. A wise and perfect casting decision by Steven Moffat.

There you have Steven Moffat, who in 1997 gives his opinion as to what the Doctor should be like, only for it to be shattered in the rebirth of Doctor Who in 2005. Sure, Christopher Eccleston was in is 40s but he was far from being the grandfather type! And so was David Tennant who was even younger. We know that the Mof was looking for a man in his 40s when he was looking to cast the Eleventh Doctor but it is sort of funny that he ended up hiring the youngest actor ever to play the role of whom he envisioned as a ''wacky grandfather.'' So I have to raise my proverbial hat at his definitely extraordinary choice of Matt Smith.

Going back a bit storywise with the episode, I am taken by Prisoner Zero's statement to the Doctor that the “Universe is cracked, the padorak (sp) will open, silence will fall.” Are we to think that we are currently looking at some sort of new Bad Wolf story/theme that will reverberate throughout series 5? In my opinion the answer is yes. I believe that Steven Moffat has a huge arch planned for us this season. And again, I am reminded that the Doctor mentioned Venice specifically during the episode and we do know that there will be an episode titled Vampires of Venice later in the season. Coincidence? I think not.

The Doctor and Amy go for a trip in the Tardis
So all in all, it was a great first episode and a perfect introduction to the newest cast and crew of Doctor Who. Every character was well-cast and likeable. There was not one that I didn't like (as was the case of Mickey and Martha later in the series for me).

My grade for the episode: A

Some Favourite moments:

  • Young Amy praying to Santa
  • When the Doctor revealed there was a pool in the library (a room we've never seen before and I hope we'll see it)
  • The Doctor walks right into a tree because it's early days and the stearing's a bit off.
  • While chained to the radiator, the Doctor inhaled sharply, reminding me instantly of David Tennant's Tenth Doctor.
  • When the Doctor couldn't wrap his head around the fact that Amy was a kissogram
  • When the Doctor took the laptop away from Jeff and it was clearly implied that Jeff was looking at porn
  • The Doctor writing a computer virus by texting on a phone.
  • The Doctor mentioning Twitter
  • The Doctor gets naked with Amy Pond looking on with an interesting smirk on her face as her fiancee asks her if she's going to turn her back and she answers no.
  • When the Doctor refers back to the Shadow Proclamation
  • When Amy Pond's first comment upon entering the Tardis was not: it's bigger on the inside; but rather ''I'm in my nighty'' – classic.
  • When we get to see all the Ten Doctor incarnations that came before.
  • The Doctor clicks his fingers to open the Tardis doors, as he did at the end of Forest of the Dead. Total. Squee. Worthy. Moment.
  • The Doctor working with NASA, Jodrell Bank, the Tokyo Space Center, ESA, a certain Patrick Moore and CSIPRO from the comfont of Jeff's room.
  • The world's clocks are set to Zero - like Prisoner Zero - in order to save the world.

Some Favourite Quotes in no particular order:


  • The Doctor: ''Can I have an apple? All I can think about. Apples. I love apples. Maybe I'm having a craving! That's new, never had cravings before.''
  • Young Amy: ''Are you OK?'' - The Doctor: ''Just had a fall all the way down there right through to the library. Hell of a climb back up.'' - Young Amy: ''You're soaking wet.'' - The Doctor: ''I was in the swimming pool.'' - Young Amy: ''You said you were in the library.'' - The Doctor: ''So was the swimming pool.''
  • The Doctor: ''Twenty minutes. I can do it. Twetnty minutes the planet burns run to your loved ones and say goodbye or stay and help me.'' - Amy: ''No.'' - The Doctor: ''I'm sorry?''
  • The Doctor: ''Get a girlfriend Jeff''
  • The Doctor: ''Who the man? Oh, so I'm never saying that again. Fine.''
  • The Doctor: ''Hello, I'm the Doctor, basically, run.''
  • Prisoner Zero: ''The Universe has cracked, the pandorac (sp) will open, silence will fall.''
  • The Doctor to his newly regenerated Tardis: ''Oh, you sexy thing.''
  • The Doctor, upon seeing Patient Zero as himself: ''Well that's rubbish. Who's that supposed to be?'' - Rory: ''It's you.'' - The Doctor: ''Me? Is that what I look like?'' - Rory: ''You don't know?'' - The Doctor: ''Busy day.''
  • The Doctor: ''I'm saving the world. I need a decent shirt.''
  • Amy Pond: ''I grew up'' – The Doctor: ''Don't worry, I'll soon fix that.''
  • The Doctor: ''I'm the Doctor. I'm worse than everybody's aunt.''

8 comments:

  1. What a thorough review! I especially enjoyed seeing all the screencaps of the episodes.

    Sadly we don't get the episode in the US for another two weeks.

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  2. YAY! Very thorough review indeed!
    Jeff reminded me of Captain Awesome too! LOL
    They sure chosen a great story to be ep 1 and I have to admit that Matt's lovely in his own way. Completely different from DT but quite like him sometimes.
    His "What? What? WHAT?" and when he licked the shed were very DT-ish.
    Very good first ep!

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  3. What a great piece! I loved everything that you loved, so it is of course perfect! Thanks so much for sharing that older info from Moffat, really interesting! Please keep doing these!

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  4. Can we get a still with Jeff and his laptop?

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  5. This was cool! I must admit i had my doubts about Matt Smith playing the Doctor, but by the end of the episode i thought it was an excellent casting choice and was eagerly awaiting the next episode!

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  6. In review of other episodes from Series 5 there appears to be a possibility that other timelines exist for the 11th Doctor. So I don't know if this was a continuity error or something deliberate.

    After the 11th Doctor tells the Atraxis to run, he takes the key to the Tardis out of the pocket of a brown tweed jacket and holds it in his hand. But the sleeve of the jacket he's wearing when he holds the key is blue tweed, not brown tweed.

    Since the brown tweed jacket is part of his Doctor's persona, why is the jacket blue? Is this an alternate timeline or a really sloppy continuity error?
    Just wondering.

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  7. Lovely review, and very lovely pictures. The most marvelous thing is that while Matt Smith is the youngest Doctor, his Doctor is one of the oldest. He really is as old and weary and wise as a grandfather, all in side that childish, manic energy. Matt Smith is a brilliant genius.

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