- Doctor Who: "The Eleventh Hour" reviewed by Matthew Rayner
- April 21st, 2010
“The Eleventh Hour” written by Steven Moffatt, Directed by Adam Smith
Starring Matt Smith and Karen Gillan.
reviewed by Matthew Rayner.
Having now seen the first three episodes of the new Steven Moffatt/Matt Smith/Karen Gillan revamp of “Doctor Who”, I feel qualified to begin forming and articulating opinions on it.
What’s clear so far are the new show’s influences and 1960’s “Doctor Who” figures in that in a big way from the new series logo (perhaps minus the “DW” badge), to Matt Smith’s costume, to Amy Pond’s name, to the sudden and spontaneous return of the St. John’s Ambulance badge to the TARDIS exterior (a feature of the early Hartnell era TARDIS exterior that hasn’t been seen since 1965).
There’s an overall feeling of drawing on the very early “Doctor Who” perhaps filtered via the Peter Cushing Dalek movies, and various comic strips such as the early Doctor Who ones, and Terry Nation’s 1960s TV 21 Dalek comics, and 2000AD, Dan Dare etc.
There’s also an Orwellian influence on the second story “The Beast Below”.
But this becomes more clear as the series goes on and over subsequent episodes. The purpose of this review is to look at the first episode of series five: “The Eleventh Hour”.
Beginning where “End of Time Part II” left off, Matt Smith as the newly regenerated Doctor is hurtling to Earth almost falling out of his malfunctioning and damaged TARDIS.
Cue the new opening sequence – which I actually quite like – and the new version of the theme music which is growing on me but which at first I thought was the worst the series had used ever!
The TARDIS crashes and the somewhat disoriented Doctor meets a very young Scottish girl named Amelia Pond (played by Karen Gillan’s real life cousin) . There follows the extended and very funny sequence as the new Doctor gets the young Amelia to provide him with various different food all of which he spits out or throws out in disgust after tasting with his new incarnation's new tastebuds. That is until he decides what he needs is the combination of fish fingers and custard.
Amelia also tells him about the crack in her wall and the voices she hears. The Doctor investigates and discovers that the crack is in fact a crack in space and time, a split in the fabric of the universe. (This becomes a running theme as the season goes on).
A voice saying "Prisoner Zero has escaped" can be heard, the Doctor opens the crack wider and a giant eye becomes visible as Prisoner Zero's guard looks through for him/her/it. The crack then closes back to its original width.
The Doctor notices something in the corner of his eye but has to get back to the TARDIS which is in trouble. He leaves but promises young Amelia he will be back in five minutes.
The young Amelia sequence is a way of seeding the Doctor into the new companion, Amy Pond's past, and also demonstrates the strength of her character that even as a little girl she isn't scared or phased by the Doctor's arrival or the appearance of the alien eye in her wall.
The Doctor returns twelve years later (re-establishing the idea of the Doctor having very little piloting skills of the TARDIS, a trope of much classic Doctor Who but particularly the Hartnell and Troughton eras of the 1960s) and he is promptly hit in the head with a cricket bat by the now adult Amy Pond (Karen Gillan).
Waking up handcuffed to a heater, the Doctor is faced by his attacker dressed in a Policewoman's uniform, complete with tight, short skirt and stockings.
Amy pretends to be a policewoman and interrogates the Doctor, pretending to call for back up.
Meanwhile at a nearby hospital, coma patients are speaking the word "Doctor", and a young male nurse named Rory has seen some of them walking outside and filmed them on his mobile camera but a Doctor from the Hospital refuses to believe him (even though she also witnessed the patients saying "Doctor") and won't take or even look at Rory's mobile phone camera.
The Doctor points out to Amy the door to the room she never noticed in her house because of a perception filter, and despite the Doctor's warnings she proceeds to investigate.
She finds the Doctor's sonic screwdriver he left behind twelve years ago on a table and is soon confronted by "Prisoner Zero" in the form of a CGI snake. (Reminiscent of the Mara, and designed to sort of look like a rubber one but with more realistic movement).
Amy runs out of the room and reveals to the Doctor that she isn't in fact a Policewoman at all but in fact a kissagram dressed in a policewoman's uniform.
The alien Multiform steps out of the room having shapeshifted into a man and a dog but both the man and the dog bark and growl.
The Eyeball Aliens (known as the Atraxi) arrive and threaten to incinerate the human residence (meaning Earth) if Prisoner Zero doesn't vacate the planet.
The Atraxi's warning plays on all radios, loudspeakers, mobile phones, televisions and communications devices.
The Doctor and Amy arrive at Amy's friend, Jeff and his mother's place and her friends are pleasantly shocked and surprised to see the "raggedy Doctor" that Amy always spoke of through 12 years (and four psychiatrists) is real.
This sequence includes some dialogue triumphs and the Doctor and Amy's banter including the whole "What sort of job is a kissagram?" "I go to parties and I kiss people. With Outfits, it's a laugh!" "You were a little girl five minutes ago" "You're worse than my Aunt" "I'm the Doctor, I'm worse than everybody's Aunt - that's not how I'm introducing myself" scene.
The Doctor works out he has twenty minutes to save the world, but first he has to convince Amy he really is the "raggedy Doctor" from her childhood.
Rory Williams, the nurse from the hospital, turns out to be Amy's boyfriend, and is busy filming the Multiform in Man and Dog shape whilst everyone else is filming the strange events in the sky because he recognises the man as one of the coma patients...this helps the Doctor find the multiform.
The Doctor attempts to draw the Atraxi's attention with his sonic screwdriver but the device is destroyed and the Multiform (Prisoner Zero) escapes and goes to the hospital through the drain and ultimately somehow the ventilation system.
The Doctor sends Amy and Rory to the hospital and makes for Jeff and his mother's house and Jeff's laptop. When he gets there he snatches the laptop from Jeff and his dialogue ("Blimey, Jeff get a girlfriend!") indicates Jeff may have been downloading porn.
The Doctor establishes a communications link with world leaders and other notables (including inexplicably Patrick Moore, the famous Astronomer) and leaves Jeff to convince them to agree to set all the world's clocks and neon signs and everything with displaying numbers to flash zero at exactly the same time. (To draw the Atraxi's attention).
Amy and Rory track down the Multiform in disguise as a woman with two daughters at the hospital.
The Doctor comes to the rescue with a commandeered fire engine.
The Multiform Prisoner Zero warns the Doctor cryptically of the crack in space and time, and the coming moment when silence is falling.
The Doctor uses Rory's phone to signal the Atraxi and transmit to it pictures of all the coma patients that the Multiform has disguised itself as.
The Multiform uses Amy to take on the form of young Amelia Pond and the Eleventh Doctor - the Doctor realises he's part of the disguise because the now unconscious Amy can hear him and he talks to her until her mind projects the image of the Multiform in snake form (its natural state) which it changes back into.
The Atraxi locate and lock onto Prisoner Zero taking it away with them.
The Doctor signals the Atraxi back to Earth with the phone and whilst waiting for them begins changing clothes. (Rory asks Amy if she will turn around whilst the Doctor is shirtless and she answers "Nope" with a cheeky look in her eye).
The Doctor in new clothes confronts the Atraxi and shows them images of Earth history, and the different aliens that invaded or tried to invade (including footage of monsters from the old and new series) and asks them if it was defended. We then see a clip of all the first ten Doctors and finally the Eleventh (who seems to step through his image) - a scene to delight any fanboy (or fangirl).
The Doctor takes off in his TARDIS and it's new 'sexy' interior intending a short ten-minute hop but returns two years later (we later discover in episode two that he returns on the night before Amy's wedding) to pick up Amy and take her on adventures through time and space.
"The Eleventh Hour" is a wonderful start to the new series. The writing and dialogue are very good and the acting is great.
The new Doctor and Companion are both very good and very attractive, and feel right for Doctor Who.
They also have fantastic on-screen chemistry and engage in some nice banter.
Matt Smith looks awesome in his 80s pop star hair and tweedy "Harry Potter" suit at the end of the episode, and Karen Gillan is very beautiful and fiesty as Amy. Her red hair, pretty face and sexy scottish accent drive me wild. (David Tennant's real life accent does similar strange things to me but we only ever got to hear it in one Doctor Who episode - "Tooth and Claw").
The new TARDIS interior is totally cool, especially the new console which is the best bit including the archaic typewriter that is now part of it's controls!
"The Eleventh Hour" is, I think, with the exception of the Telemovie and "Rose" which are in a special category, the best debut episode/story for a new Doctor since "Robot" in 1974.
The episode ends with a preview of episode two - "The Beast Below" which is my favourite episode of what I've seen of series 5 so far. But more on that later.....