Starring Matt Smith and Karen Gillan
Originally broadcast: BBC1 18.20 hours GMT Saturday 3rd April.
Hey, it’s that time of year again when one really has to watch one’s p’s and q’s because there’s a new series of Doctor Who on the box and no reviews can possibly be written unless one chooses to plaster it with a thousand and one spoiler warnings. So be that as it may, if you are one of those people who worries about spoilers please turn away now and why are you on the internet looking up stuff about the new series of Doctor Who anyway?
Figure 1 Man with Dog says woof.
Are they gone? Good, than I shall begin.
There have been changes in the world of Who. Some of the personnel who help put the show together are the same, we still have Murray Gold, Mark Gatiss and Nicolas Briggs. It is still filmed by BBC Wales. However we have a completely different management team and what seems to be a very different ethos to the production. Moffat has made a number of iconography changes. We have a new logo with the initials DW. A new title sequence where the TARDIS rolls down a cramped menacing vortex spewing sparks of electricity through its blue clouds.
But most of all we have a new Doctor in the shape of Matt Smith; a man who seems to have slipped into role almost effortlessly springing from David Tennant’s still glowing after image at the end of ‘The End of Time’.
The David Tennant / Russell T. Davies era ended officially three minutes before the end of this adventure when the new Doctor sprang briefly into existence as his Tardis burnt around him. He stayed on screen long enough to apparently upset many thousands of ginger people with an off the cuff gag before leaving us his catch phrase ‘Geronimo.’
I must admit I had major reservations about the choice of new Doctor at first; he is the youngest ever Doctor, a man who grew up in the Wholess interval between 1989 and 2005. But never mind all that; I felt he pretty much nailed the part in the first few minutes. After his machine crashes into young Amelia Pond’s Aunt’s shed and he climbs out and asks the bewildered girl for an apple. In a nod to the Tom Baker era he talks of climbing out of the library through the swimming pool; I say the Tom Baker era mainly because of ‘The Invasion of Time’ where the script writer bulked out most of the last two episodes with shots of Sontarans crawling through labyrinthine corridors in Victorian warehouses. And I do remember a scene of Lela swimming in the TARDIS pool.
Figure 2 Fish-fingers and custard.
This being a regeneration story one expects a fair amount of pratting about as the Doctor gets used to his new body. In this case the regenerative crisis takes the form of strange cravings for food. He does also cough up some star-dust, much as David Tennant’s Doctor did back in ‘The Christmas Invasion.’ Mercifully after sating his strange appetite for fish-fingers and custard he agrees to investigate Amelia’s wall. He goes upstairs to find a crack in the fabric of space-time has linked Amelia’s room to a prison cell manned by gigantic eye-ball creatures from some 50’s b-movie. After sealing the crack he gets the unnerving feeling that he has let something nasty out of its cell. However the Cloister bell is sounding and he has to return to the TARDIS to try and stop it from going critical in Amelia’s garden. He pops in declaring that he’ll just take it for a short hop into the future.
Well, then we get one of those rare moments in Doctor Who where the programme actually utilizes the time-travel concept as a central part of the plot and character development rather than just as a means of getting from A to B. For the good Doctor whisks himself away and pops out of the TARDIS to find that Amelia has become Amy and as a result of his visit 12 years before has worked her way through a small army of psychiatrists. She also works as a kiss-a-gram (this is still pre-watershed TV) and has ‘sort of’ boyfriend who is a nurse in a local hospital.
Figure 3 Amy meets her Raggedy Doctor.
We get to meet said boyfriend in the village square just as the village is having a bit of an Independence Day moment. The big eyeball aliens are demanding the return of Prisoner Zero. They’re going to blow up the world if he doesn’t come out.
The Eleventh Hour is I think possibly one of the best regeneration stories for a very long time. So far and I write this within weeks of the new season starting, it is Matt Smith’s best outing. The plot roars along at a fantastic pace and there’s enough spectacular Wows and even a good few Oh’s on the way. There are some lovely nods to classic Who, for example the Doctor stealing his clothes from a hospital ward in the same way as the Jon Pertwee in ‘Spearhead from Space’. The Doctor also has to resolve the plot without falling back on the ever-present sonic screwdriver, which has pretty much evolved into part magic wand part I-pod, part light sabre over the last few years.
Also we have a very fascinating introduction to the Doctor’s new companion, Amelia Pond who becomes Amy, a girl who is everyday without being mundane. I find it refreshing that Amy’s (Karen Gillan) boyfriend Rory Williams (Arthur Darvil) isn’t portrayed as an instant object of fun. Unlike Mickey in the first series who was there to be the stupid boyfriend, Rory is already starting to notice strangeness in the world. For example he has started to notice that the patients on the coma ward have been appearing at random in the little village where they live. It is the chap with the rottweiller who he is trying to photograph when the Doctor notices him. With this episode the Doctor is given the ability to rewind his thoughts like a HD TV and focus in on previously missed details. This is how he homes in on Rory and then pokes a finger into his forehead, which seems rather rude.
Another introduction carried out this episode is the new TARDIS interior and to a very minor degree the exterior as well. In a nod to the ‘60s Dalek movies the TARDIS now (or should that be Tardis) carries a little St Johns Ambulance logo. As we look at some of the later episodes we will find other more overt references to the Peter Cushing films. As for the interior, well I must confess I am still trying to work out what is going on, there as an awful lot of junk in here as if one has stepped into Steptoe’s yard although thankfully without a stuffed bear in the corner. The TARDIS itself undergoes a kind of regeneration in this episode as Moffat’s new broom sweeps away more of the previous era. And possibly, if one were to be very cynical, an opportunity for more play sets to put your action figures in on Christmas day.
But credit where credit is due the new production team have given us a fantastic intro the new era (apparently we are to consider this series one officially, five colloquially and thirty-one literally DWM ).
So by the end of the episode the TARDIS is all set and ready to go, this season’s plot arc thingy ( well something had to survive the RTD era) in the shape of the ubiquitous crack in time and space introduced, and the Doctor now resplendent in his geography teacher chic patched up suit and dickey bow tie. Just time enough for him to steal his assistant away on the eve of her wedding and go off on a series of adventures.
One could say Geronimo I suppose.