But how did they do? Read on for my thoughts on new Who but be warned – here be spoilers if you haven’t seen the show. And I don’t want to give anything away, but there were at least 10 moments where my brain nearly melted at what I was watching.
To start with the main man.
Matt Smith’s new Doctor
The moment on the roof was one of my favourite scenes in all of new Who, as we saw a projection of every Doctor before Matt Smith, until he walked through the images and told the Atraxi to run.
If I hadn’t been watching it in a room full of schoolchildren when I first saw it, I would probably have shouted ‘FUCK YEAH!’ right there and then as the message is clear – he is The Doctor now.
He had a hard act to follow in David Tennant, but by the end of an exciting episode he had started to put real flesh on the bones of his Doctor besides big hair and the collision of angles and eyes that he calls his face.
His madcap Masterchef introduction – which I could take or leave but which was funny too (You’re Scottish. Fry something!) – progressed to almost non-stop action as he battled to save the world without the TARDIS and with a sonic screwdriver on the blink.
Given the weight Doctor Dave was carrying towards the end of his time, it was refreshing to see the Doctor just throw himself into saving the world for the sheer thrill of it again, and without an endless stream of psychic characters making gloomy predictions for a dark future.
He looks … right … but how that manic and chirpy enthusiasm stands up against greater threats we will have to wait and see. I am looking forward to the Moff adding more depth as the series progresses too.
To me, she was much more interesting than the Doctor, and not just because Karen Gillan is absolutely beautiful and was wearing a sexy policewoman’s outfit.
I loved Moffat’s idea to have her wait to join the Doctor in the Tardis, for years and then years again (a bit like Madame de Pompadour).
What does that do to someone? That sense of disappointment, of longing, stretched over that amount of time? And what has that little girl who her auntie would leave alone (for night after night?) seen and felt in a house hiding a monster, all the time hoping the raggedy Doctor no-one else really believed in would re-appear and whisk her away?
Given that depth of feeling – beautifully shown by the slow camera pan over her toys and drawings and ultimately her torn wedding dress, based on the Doctor’s ripped clothes – what will happen now that her dreams have come true? Now the prince has arrived to rescue her?
Can the reality live up to them? And what will she do to make sure it does, what risks will she take?
One note of caution though. No Doctor/assistant love in please. Done. To. Death.
Just like Amy, the Moff has been waiting for years to get to travel with the Doctor, and all that love and thought was poured into a near perfect and multi-layered first script.
Just like statues that move when you can’t see them and the fear of the dark, using a crack in a wall as a key plot device was another genius example of him transforming the everyday into something world shattering.He had flagged up the fairytale element too and it was all in there, from the poisoned apple to the evil monster lurking just out of sight.
Having the Doctor click his fingers to open the TARDIS was a fantastic grace note as was texting DUCK! to Amy, echoes of Sally Sparrow there.
Whereas Moffat’s predecessor’s scripts increasingly came to focus on incredible, mercurial moments, Moffat’s moments like those described above are always part of a compelling whole.
That is still true after watching The Eleventh Hour – give or take one or two things – which was packed with only-catch-it-on-the-second-or-third-viewing references and fantastic quotable dialogue which generated real chemistry between the main characters, even Rory, who was only in it for a bit. While it is just the beginning (and we still have to see how an episode written by someone else stands up) it was a great beginning.
This is one of those few things. The focus of The Eleventh Hour was always going to be on The Doctor and Amy, which meant the shape-shifting Prisoner Zero (and the giant-eyed Atraxi jailers) were neither here nor there really – one dimensional and undercooked.
They both looked very Sarah Jane Adventures to me as well which I suppose was the reduced budget coming into effect.
Now that the leads have been established, hopefully we will see better and more convincing villains in the future.
Seeding the plot
I always love picking out the overarching plot lines in Who like the bees disappearing, Torchwood and Vote Saxon, and guessing which ones will pay off down the line. In The Eleventh Hour, I picked up on a couple.
The most obvious was the cracks in the universe, with Prisoner Zero saying as a consequence of that, silence will fall (ironic, given that my blog went tits up as soon as the episode started) and the Pandorica will open. I have no idea what that means but it will be fun finding out.
Anything else? Well, did anyone see the laptop the Doctor used was made by MYTH? Again I have no idea who or what that is or whether it will pay off, but it was on screen for long enough to catch my attention.
Having had a dig around, the Y in MYTH was actually Psi – the 23rd letter of the Greek alphabet and is used (among other meanings) to represent a quantum mechanic wavefunction in physics, used to describe the momentary states of subatomic particles. Again, no clue what that is but it is not out of place in Who and could be linked to the radio wave the Doctor tuned out on the screen in the reborn TARDIS, near the end of the episode? Then again, as Barrie pointed out below, the radio wave was the same shape as the crack in the wall, so … <head exploded>
It is also linked with supernatural or psychic activity, so again, maybe it will be something or maybe not, but one to keep an eye out for anyway.
A new look for new Who
The style of this episode was definitely evolution, not revolution, albeit with some more flashy directing than we have seen before.
I’m reserving judgement on the new titles until I’ve seen them again, but they were always going to change.
Apart from some quicker cuts and a more fairytale air, there was one massively new stylistic trick – the ‘what am I missing?’ scene as the Doctor replays his memory to find the key piece of information – in this case Amy’s boyfriend taking a picture of Prisoner Zero instead of the Atraxi spaceship hovering overhead.
I may be wrong, but is this the first time in new Who we have actually been inside the Doctor’s head and seen the world as he does? Did it ever happen in the old shows?
It was an interesting idea to take that step, but I’m not sure if it worked or was necessary. I also think there is something to be said for retaining an air of mystery behind the Doctor’s powers and abilities, of not revealing how his mind works, but just relying on the fact that it does in some magical way.
The Eleventh Hour
Even though it was an hour long, I got the sense the Moff struggled to fit everything in given the demands of introducing a new Doctor, new characters, new plot strands, a new TARDIS, and so on and so on.
Given that it was the Moff though, he managed it brilliantly with the Doctor feeling as well as looking the part, Amy being especially interesting and the potential plot seeds dangling tantalisingly before our eyes.
The look and tone of the show was tweaked sufficiently to allow the new team to put their own stamp on it but not too much to make it radically different from its predecessor.
While some elements of The Eleventh Hour didn’t work or get enough screen time to work – especially Prisoner Zero in the spare room – overall it was a wonderful and exciting introduction to new Who.
Bring on next week.
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