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April 5, 2010

Dr. Who - The Eleventh Hour

Matt Smith is Doctor Who!

With "The Eleventh Hour," the first episode in Smith's tenure as the Doctor as well as the first episode with the excellent Stephen Moffat as producer, Smith makes the role his own.  Those who were worried when David Tennant, the powerhouse Tenth Doctor, left the show, they needn't have.  Moffat gives us a Doctor who's recognizable yet oh so different from Tennant.  Some thought that Smith was too young to play the Doctor with any gravitas, that there was no way we would see the 900+ year-old Time Lord in his portrayal, but I think he proved these skeptics wrong. Or at least he showed that he deserves a chance to further prove himself.

"The Eleventh Hour," which Moffat wrote, opens where "The End of Time: Part 2" left off, with the TARDIS hurtling across the sky over London in flames (interesting how nobody seemed to notice) and with the Doctor hanging from the open doorway.  Flames are everywhere, and the TARDIS control room is burning up.  It finally crash lands in the village of Leadworth, destroying a garden shed in the process.  Young Amelia Pond (Caitlin Blackwood), who has long been scared of a crack in her bedroom from which a voice sometimes emerges, runs out to meet this strange man.

After a funny scene where the Doctor is trying out the likes and dislikes of his new body (first craving apples, then despising them, and so on), he investigates the crack.  He hears the voice say "Prisoner Zero has escaped."  Just then, though, the TARDIS starts making noise and he has to run out and do something with it.  He promises Amelia that he will return in five minutes, and then the TARDIS disappears.  He does return to the house, realizing what he had missed during the investigation, but it's twelve years later, not five minutes.  Amy's all grown up now (Karen Gillan), but Prisoner Zero is still around.  His jailers are coming for him, and they're going to get their man, even if they have to destroy the Earth to do so.

I rolled my eyes at the opening scene with the TARDIS in flames and Smith hanging from the door, especially when it looks like he's going to run into Big Ben with his crotch.  However, once the TARDIS lands and Smith begins interacting with the young Amelia, I knew that Smith would be ok.  The scene with him trying new foods went on just a bit too long (I think he spit out five different foods), but the end of it was great.  Fishsticks and custard?  Ewwww.

His first meeting with the older Amy is great too, with him handcuffed to the radiator and Amy standing over him (lucky Doctor!), when she goes to investigate the room that nobody had noticed for twelve years and the Doctor says "Do I have a face that nobody listens to?", it's all wonderfully done.  Smith adds a great deal of comedy to the role, but none of it takes away from his presence as the Doctor.  There's one bit of slapstick that I did find funny, but more than that would have been overkill.  Thankfully, they get rid of the slapstick after that.

Gillan is great as Amy (and that Scottish accent!  Purrrrr).  I love Moffat's quote about Gillan's casting:  "But when Karen came through the door, the game was up - she was funny, clever, gorgeous and sexy. Or Scottish, which is the quick way of saying it."  It's all true.  She's a strong character, emotionally damaged by the Doctor not coming back for her all those years, but she has moved on and not let it define her life.  Incidentally, some more great comedy was when all of her relatives and friends kept going on about the stories she created about the "Raggedy Doctor" when she was a kid (the Doctor's suit was in tatters when he first emerged from the TARDIS).

How was the story?  It was a great introduction to everything that's new about Doctor Who with the new Moffat regime.  New Doctor, new companion, new style to the show.  Comedy, drama, poignancy (I almost cried when young Amelia runs upstairs and packs her suitcase, then waits diligently out in the backyard for the Doctor to return).  It's a strong story, with some pretty good special FX too (though Prisoner Zero was a bit dodgy at times).

Some small tidbits:

1) I loved the opening sequence!  It's so cool to see the Time Tunnel return, similar to the Tom Baker era.  The reworked theme is going to take a little getting used to, but my first impression was that I liked it too.

2) Also a great nod to the past is the sequence showing all ten previous Doctors at the end.  Not only that, but it's relevant to the story!  I love it when the show acknowledges its past, and it was definitely cool seeing Hartnell and Troughton again (not to mention everybody else, of course).

3) During the crisis, Amy has to call the Doctor's cell phone.  I don't remember seeing him give one to her, so how did she have his number?  Did I miss something?

4) I love how the first time we see the TARDIS interior, it's with Amy's sense of wonder.  The TARDIS has completely rebuilt itself, and the console room looks great.  I don't know, though...a manual typewriter?  Somebody's got a wicked sense of humor.

5) The bits of the story that tie into the season's story arc were a bit too obvious this time around.  I would have preferred a little more subtlety.  Still, it's promising great things to come.

Overall, I loved "The Eleventh Hour" and I can't wait for next week's episode so we can get on with the adventuring.  No more having to introduce the characters or anything like that.

Onward and upward!  Matt Smith, you are the Doctor.  I don't know why anybody was worried.


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