Doctor Who, Series 5.1: “The Eleventh Hour”

**Warning! Here there be spoilers! DO NOT read ahead if you have not watched through Series 5, episode 1 of Doctor Who. If you have, or don’t care, read on, but don’t get mad…**

Well, I started watching this new series (season, to those unfamiliar with British TV), with a new leading man Matt Smith (tasked with the job of filling the shoes of the masterful David Tennant), led by a new showrunner Steven Moffat (following up the incomparably brilliant Russel T. Davies). There were an unspeakable number of unknowns at the outset.

When we left our beloved Doctor, he had literally just lost everyone in his life AND regenerated into a different form, essentially becoming a new man. He retains the same basic moral compass and drive, but he has different personality traits. It’s easy to adjust to the new look, but how do you depict the shift from one personality to the next and make it believable. As much as I now love David Tennant, I was worried in his first episode “The Christmas Invasion” how he would make the character his own, but show that metamorphosis, rather than just start us all cold with a completely new Doctor.

The same transformation must occur here, and for many die-hard 10th Doctor fans, it’s a scary prospect for the Doctor to change at all. It must be done well.

Not to worry: Matt Smith does an exceptional job. From the first, he needs a grappling hook to get out of the TARDIS, which has crashed. He climbs out and is still adjusting to his new body. His “steering is off” and much physical comedy ensues. Essentially, much of the transformation focuses on his taste buds. He moves from craving to craving before settling on fish-fingers and custard. He then just puts it away and accomplishes the terrifying feat of stuffing his face and speaking. This seems like it shouldn’t work, but it does. It’s done with whimsy, and is a great introduction to the new Doctor. He’s still trying to figure out who he is, what is personality is. By the end, just as in Christmas Invasion, he comes into his own. He came into his own with style–in a clear hand-off as he walks through a holographic projection montage of the previous Doctors, ending in a very similar moment to, “It is defended.”

We also are introduced to the new companion, Amelia Pond, played by Karen Gillan (the actress we met in Fires of Pompeii, 4.2). She isn’t scared of anything, and is a cute, 7-year-old, Scottish girl (Cailtlin Blackwood) when we first meet her. Time passes as the Doctor, attempting to only be gone for 5 minutes, is gone 12 years, devastating the poor girl who falls in love with him. She packed for a trip with him and everything, left to sit, bundled up, on her suitcase.

We meet the older Amy, who is a very bold character. I see a bit of Rose here, but the strength and tenacity of Donna. I really like Amy right away. Maybe it’s because we can connect to her as a little girl, and feel for her as she goes through the 12 year abandonment, then meet her again as she’s a jaded young woman. She is incredibly conflicted. She wants desperately to cling to her imaginary friend, but we find out at the end of the episode that he arrived back the night before her wedding. I have a feeling this may be a similar situation to Rose. I think, in this case, the Doctor needs her right now, as he’s literally lost everything in the universe that was important to him. As the ending revealed, she’s leaving with The Doctor on the eve of her wedding–this may be like Wendy, taking one last trip with Peter Pan just before she decides to grow up, with a bit of Alice in Wonderland mixed in for good measure. I just don’t want the series to end with Amy leaving him. He needs consistency right now, and I really like Amy–she’s good for him.

There’s also a pseudo Mickey character: Rory. I hope I grow to like him earlier than I did Mickey.

We have a mysterious prophecy from the bad guy of the episode, Prisoner Zero: “The Universe is cracked, the Pandorica will open, silence will fall.” I’m assuming that this will set up for the season to come–I love prophecies!

All in all, very pleased with our new Doctor.

Favorite quotes:

“You’re Scottish. Fry something!”

The Doctor: You’re not scared of anything! Box falls out of the sky, man falls out of a box, man eats fish custard! And look at you… just sitting there. So you know what I think?
Amy: What?
The Doctor: Must be a hell of a scary crack in your wall.

“I’m the Doctor! I’m worse than everybody’s aunt. Oh, I’m not introducing myself like that.”

“Who da man?…Alright, I’m never saying that again.”

“It’s cool. Bow ties are cool.”

Next Episode: “The Beast Below

which, as the ending revealed, she’s leaving with The Doctor on the eve of her wedding

2 thoughts on “Doctor Who, Series 5.1: “The Eleventh Hour”

  1. So I completely agree with you that David Tennant is masterful in his portrayal of The Doctor and that Russel T. Davies is incomparably brilliant! Well said:-)

    I’d hesitate to say that Matt Smith does an exceptional job, though I do think he does quite well and certainly has a daunting task ahead of him. Personally, I was a bit bored by the slapstick routine and the kitchen scene (which was inspired by Tigger in a Winnie the Pooh story). I didn’t care for it because it felt immature to me and of course he acted against a 7 year old girl who I thought was a great little actress, but nonetheless made the scene read quite a bit younger. All I learned from that scene was that The Doctor doesn’t know who he is yet and he enjoys fish fingers and custard.

    While I totally agree that the roof scene with Attarax was similar in tone to “It is defended”, I don’t feel like it was nearly as strong a scene as the moment it emulated in Christmas Invasion. At the end of Christmas Invasion, I knew exactly what kind of Doctor David Tennant was.

    Realistically, Matt Smith has not had the life or experience that David Tennant has had, so whereas DT can pull out gut wrenching emotion and establish character in single line readings, Matt Smith isn’t quite there yet for me. That’s okay, I am willing to grow with him as an actor as he continues to grow as The Doctor. However, I do enjoy that he acted alongside Billie Piper in the Philip Pullman adaptations of the Sallie Lockheart novels.

    Now on to Amelia Pond.

    Again, she strikes me as very young and that sometimes works to her detriment. We of course meet her as a little girl who packs her suitcase up and waits for a friend who is twelve years too late. Even before that, her parents are gone and she is being raised by an aunt who leaves her alone. Clearly the girl is going to have abandonment issues. Karen Gillan does very well to maintain the emotional presence of a angry hurt little girl who has never really matured past that. In this episode, I was equally annoyed and intrigued by it. She is brave and she is clever, like a child would be. I don’t feel like she has the insight or experience of Donna or the kick-ass instinct of Rose. If she is similar to any of the companions, Amy is an emotionally complicated version of Martha although not nearly as self-sustaining.

    I have read some other reviews that have mentioned the Peter Pan trope and I think you are right, that is likely intentional. Steven Moffat loves to borrow from things that are familiar, like fairy tales and children’s stories. I think the Peter Pan trope works especially well here as both The Doctor and Amy Pond have quite a bit of growing up to do. Hopefully, they will mature as the season continues.

    I liked the character of Rory. In fact, I quite enjoyed the whole set-up of Amy’s home life to be a bit Sydney Bristow-esque. Family issues. Abandonment issues. A loyal friend who loves her but does not have that love returned. I don’t know, I felt I understood those characters more quickly than The Doctor or Amy.

    My favorite part of the episode of course was the shape shifting Prisoner Zero who delivered the arc for the entire season! AWESOME!!! I also like that the crack in her wall shows up on a screen in the Tardis as well. Well done!

    The dialogue was mostly good. The “Who da man?” was probably the funniest bit for me. I also appreciate the bow tie and suspenders that The Doctor wears, but that part in his hair has to go!


  2. Pingback: Doctor Who Series 6, Episode 1: “The Impossible Astronaut” by Steven Moffat « Elementary, My Dear Reader

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