Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Review: Doctor Who 5.1: The Eleventh Hour

So, you know how I started reviewing Doctor Who half-way through Season 31? Well, I needed something to fill space, so I thought I'd go back and fill the gap. Here goes...

Eleven emerges, and I loved him pretty much immediately.
Doctor Who - Season 31, Story One - The Eleventh Hour
Written between 7th and 10th October 2012

It's no big secret on this blog that I found both Russell T Davies and certainly the Tenth Doctor rather, shall we say, perturbing - especially as they entered the latter stages of their tenure. I didn't like the way that The Doctor was being written and I certainly didn't like the way that the series had become so focused on the modern pop culture at the expense of decent concepts and ideas. There were a few good ideas in places, but there was also a hell of a lot of shit, and so when I woke up on Easter morning in 2010, I was looking forward to something bigger, better and, more importantly, different.
     Different was exactly what we got. Gone were the massive sweeping shots of London, the dingey backstreets and graffittied counsel estates. Doctor Who was suddenly this very country-based, middle class affair with an overall air of fantasy and fairytale. Gone were the chic trends and modern fashions - this new Doctor likes tweed and spacey wacey timey wimey junk. The stylistic and thematic changes put in by the new regime were apparantly almost immediately, and it's just as impressive now as it was then. The story's split role as an introduction to the overall Moffat era, its characters and as an adventure in its own right was handled incredibly smoothly, and The Eleventh Hour is perhaps the most successful opener since Season 25's Remembrance of the Daleks, and even by this point, Moffat's best script for the series.
     Matt Smith's portrayal is the first that, I felt, had to try to win me over. The Classic Doctors, I loved them already. Nine and Ten, I was too young to care. Eleven was all shiny and new and I felt all big and clever - so this new Doctor better be good, or I'd be very unhappy. At first I was knocked by the crazier parts of his persona, especially the way he strangely disposed of strange food. The "moment" so to speak when he first grabbed my attention, similar to "Run" or the Lion King speech, was the line, "This must be some scary crack in your wall." Suddenly this ridiculous replacement had soul, vision, a life of his own. Eleven's characterisation has done a reverse-Sylvester, and is a lot darker at the start than he would eventually turn out to be. In Season 31, I really loved the way that The Eleventh Doctor captured what Davison had tried to do so many years before - an old man in a young body, still trying to act as if he was young and naive despite the myriad of things he'd seen and done.
The old chic is dead, long live the tweed.
     Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill (although less of the latter, as he only really becomes an important character in a few weeks) actually make an interesting entrance. All of the prior NuWho companions had been introduced in a fairly simple manner; companion meets Doctor in strange circumstances, they have an initial adventure, then he invites them along. This is altogehter more interesting and possibly quite disturbing at the same time. Following what we'll find out is a very common theme in the Moffat era, The Doctor unwittingly manages to psychologically affect a young Amelia Pond in such a way that she becomes obsessed with him and even into adulthood refuses to accept that he isn't real. Both the magical crack in her wall and The Doctor's influence have made Amy a very vulnerable individual hiding under a bolshy outer shell. This epsidoe sparked up some controversy because that bolshy outer shell happened to include Amy's career as a kissogram, which highlights another Moffat theme - intense fetishisation of women.
     It was fresh, it was new, and it was damn awesome. The Eleventh Hour signposts a few of the problems of Moffat's era, but on its own it's a solid hour or so of brilliant writing that serves not only as one of the best post-regeneration stories in the series but also as one of the best episodes of the entire New Series. Matt Smith, Karen Gillan and Mr. Moffat were here to stay, and we loved it.


NEXT WEEK: The first normal-length episode in two years, and Moffat's first blunder.

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