Saturday 3 April 2010

A Mad Man With A Box

BBC One - 3rd April 2010 – 6:20pm
Written by: Stephen Moffat
Directed by: Adam Smith
Starring: Matt Smith, Karen Gillan, Tom Hopper, Arthur Darvill, Nina Wadia, Annette Crosbie, Olivia Colman and Patrick Moore


I have always liked the so-called “new Who” (AKA the Eccleston and Tennant eras), not to the extent that I would record it if I was out, but it always provided good, light-hearted (if occasionally too light) family entertainment on a Saturday teatime. With the dawn of a new Matt Smith-shaped era – and with a new showrunner at the helm following Russell T. Davis's departure – I sat down to watch with great expectations (after all, it's been kinda hard to escape the BBC hype machine in recent weeks); and it's fair to say Stephen Moffat delivered with a superb and dizzying debut.

New showrunner. New Time Lord. New Assistant. New TARDIS. New Sonic Screwdriver – and before the poor Doctor (Matt Smith) has time to adjust to his eleventh regeneration, he crash lands on Earth and has just 20 minutes to defeat a new alien enemy. Well, at least the iconic theme tune is the same – oh, no, wait: that's newly remixed too. Talk about a new brush sweeping clean... and yet, “The Eleventh Hour” wasn't inaccessibly innovative – it was glossier, edgier and had a distinctly more filmic quality (from the – mostly – impressive CG effects to the more dramatic musical score), but it was still comfortingly familiar.

Although he has been on board the show for some time now, Stephen Moffat was clearly out to make a bold first impression in his new head position – “The Eleventh Hour” was Doctor Who Plus: more emotional, more touching, funnier, sexier, scarier and edgier than the previous (and hugely popular) incarnation – but without David Tennant's popularity to fall back on. From the dramatic, flame-hindered TARDIS free-falling across the London night sky to the Piranha-esque "Prisoner Zero" with the ability to take the form of any being it links with psychically, tonight's series opener was an epic thrill-ride.

Based on this first performance, Smith looks set to make the revered role his own with an enjoyably quirky performance (fish fingers and custard!!) packed with humour and a uniquely gawkish quality - yet he was definitely still in control and not out of his depth. His new assistant, feisty Scot Amy Pond (Karen Gillan), certainly made an immediate impact brandishing a cricket bat and wearing a sexy policewoman's kiss-o-gram outfit (see pic, left), but she has a cute, vulnerable quality given her sentimental back story. For Amelia (to give her her birth name) first met the Doctor aged 7 (and played by Caitlin Blackwood) when, immediately following his regeneration, he crashed into her back garden somewhat confused and hungry for apples... this had a severe impact upon the young orphan's life – the Doctor promised to return in 5 minutes but doesn't return for 12 years*, in which time Amy has had to see four psychiatrists to get over her 'imaginary' friend, the “Raggedy Doctor”...

I felt the plot – involving the escaped "Prisoner Zero" being tracked by intergalactic 'police' known as the Atraxi (giant eyeballs) – got a little confusing at times, as decisions were made and people were rushing this way and that in the blink of a (giant) eye. Furthermore, the scientific mumbo-jumbo was babbled at break-neck speed (particularly while the Doctor was borrowing a man's laptop to piggyback on a worldwide phone call to Patrick Moore!!), yet the outcome was predictably simple: the Atraxi left Earth when they realised Smith was the Doctor. Okay, point made: he's back, with a younger face and a bow tie, but he's still fearsome, even to giant eyeballs with the power to incinerate the globe!! Riiiiight... But then plot, logic and reason are really of secondary importance on Doctor Who, and as a piece of fantasy entertainment “The Eleventh Hour” was first rate.

CRaB Verdict: A CRACKing, if complex, opener for Matt Smith and Stephen Moffat; the Doctor is back in business and I'll definitely be booking an appointment for next Saturday.
* What year are we supposed to be in now, then, given that this episode jumps 12 and, in the epilogue, a further 2, years? 2024??!


  1. As far as I've seen, Amelia was aged 6, not 12, when the doctor first met her. As for the year 2024 - is there any indication the episode started out in the year 2010? I may have missed that then, all I know is that his regeneration started in the year Rose met him the first time I think.

  2. Wow, that was quick! Good review, agreed on all points. :D

  3. I really don't like what they've done with the theme music. In fact I'd like to sign a petition to change that. That's as much a classic as the TARDIS. Sure, mix it a bit, and make new versions, but keep the melody there. Now it was barely recognisable.

    I also agree that the episode felt rushed in parts, and it wasn't at all obvious what they were actually doing and why (seems like that recurring problem will of new Dr Who continue with Moffat at the helm). Apart from that there was a lot of promise, and good changes. I'm hopeful.

    (Spotted the blog via Twitter ;-)

  4. @ Anonymous - There was no indication the year was 2010, you're right, but we saw the Millenium Dome, web cams etc. so it has to have been within the last decade. I just assumed that for the interest of continuity if we'd returned to the (recent) past we would have been informed via title cards or a line of dialogue.

    I know Amelia's aunt was meant to be portrayed as irresonsible, but to leave a 6 year old over night seems incredibly bad on her part - particularly one who knows how to fry bacon. I'm sure it was mentioned she was 12, but having only seen the episode once, I could be mistaken...

    @Izzy - thank you. Yes, I wrote it up immediately, lol.

  5. @Kristoffer Welcome to the blog - feel free to follow me and read along :)

    As for the theme music, I held my breath when it first began as I didn't recognise it at all, lol, but when the recognisable tune kicked in i relaxed.

  6. @CR@B Howard. When the Doctor comes back and looks for Amelia, he asks Amy in police suit after a 6 year old girl. Later Amy mentions she had an imaginary friend when she was 7, which was the Doctor.

    But yes, a 6 year old baking and cooking is a bit hard to believe. Then again, kids left alone by irresponsible family members might just develop such skills to survive.

    (also she looked very young for a 12 year old - if I'd have had to guess without any mention of age, I'd have said about 8 years old)

  7. @Anonymous Having spoken to other people who watched the episode, they likewise said they would have guessed she was 8/9 years old.

    Will check the episode tomorrow on iplayer to see if I can hear those mentions of her age which I clearly missed - well heard on your part and thanks for reading :)

  8. Just had a quick zip through the episode and Amy definately says "when I was 7 I had an imaginary friend" so I'll take that as her age unless it is cleared up for certain in a future installment.

  9. @CR@B Howard I had another look/listen myself now, and I can't find back the doctor asking for a 6 year old. I may have mixed that up with '6 months' and '6 doors'. But I did find where Amy says she was 7 when she had an imaginary friend, and that now that friend has come back. It's right after the end of the episode, in the 'Coming Soon' part.

    Forgot to mention though: I think the rest of the review is all spot on :-)

  10. And now seeing you already said that 2 minutes before me :-)

  11. @Anonymous :-D We're both quite the researchers!! lol. Thank you for your comments, hope you stick around and keep following/reading my reviews :)

  12. If you're planning on writing reviews on all the upcoming episodes, than I sure will :-)
    (couldn't find any earlier ones, but not searched your blog a lot, just checked December/January for review of Xmas/NY eps)

  13. @Anonymous This is indeed the first Doctor Who I have reviewed, though to summarise "The End of Time" - I thought Part 1 was so bad I was in no rush to see the conclusion...

  14. Next week's one is the episode I'm most looking forward to - the UK in space! As well as the vampire episode from the writer of Being Human.

    As for the time period of the opening, I take it that the TARDIS flying over London is modern-day (O2 dome) but then I think we hear the time rotor start up, so I assumed a skip backwards in time to crash-land in Amelia's garden some time and distance away from modern-day London.

    But we've had the 'what year is it?' problem ever since Eccleston's Doctor returned with Rose a year after first leaving.

  15. @Daryl Thanks for reading :-)

    I guess this is either something they will make a big deal out of pin-pointing to an exact date in a future episode, or gloss over as a continuity wobble...

    Time will tell.