And so it begins again. Matt Smith makes his first full appearance in The Eleventh Hour, the season 5 première of Doctor Who. Smith is the eleventh actor to play the role of the Doctor in the long running series and the youngest. A fact that has caused a lot of comment among certain sections of the press and fandom.
As a fan for several decades I’m passed the point where a regeneration has me worried if the show will “ever be the same again”. It’s always worked out so far. But a new Doctor does raise a lot of curiosity about what else will change in the series. So I approached this episode with a great deal of hope and a little concern. Advance comments from the UK were almost entirely positive so my hopes were raised higher and higher. Could an episode of Doctor Who possibly live up to them?
Yes, yes it could. The plot of Eleventh Hour is not particularly strong, but as an episode it’s wonderful. Ever since Doctor Who returned they’ve had a problem with the episodes that introduce the new Doctor. They’re too short. Something has to give. In this case Steven Moffat decided that it was more important to properly establish the Doctor and his new companion Amy Pond rather then spend a long time developing the threat. I’d say he made the right decision.
It’s neither the aliens or the plot were what made this episode. Rather it was Matt Smith’s new Doctor offering a combination of enthusiasm, quirkiness and joy. This is a new Doctor and we see neither the battle weariness of the 9th or the loneliness of the 10th. Reborn he cannot wait to jump straight into the next adventure.
The other key element in this story is Amy Pond played by Karen Gillan. Moffat spends a lot of time and effort making the viewer care about Amy Pond even before she becomes the Doctor’s latest companion. I don’t believe this particular angle has been used before and I liked it. I’m also optimistic based on this first outing that we’ll have a companion who is both competent and independent without being combative. Her interactions with the Doctor were effective at progressing the story without sounding foolish.
Stylistically things were the same yet different. The directorial style was a little sharper than I am used to seeing, the new look TARDIS was wonderfully steam punk. Nothing radically new here, but a refinement to the successful formula. One completely new element was seeing something from the Doctor’s point of view. It worked well this time, but I can see it getting very annoying if they do it on a regular basis.
And while the production was generally slick, I have to say that the opening sequence looked a bit cheesy and Prisoner 0’s special effects weren’t great. But I’m nit picking.
The reality is that I sat and enjoyed every moment of this show. Early on I laughed at the Doctor’s antics and then was completely sucked in as it slowly shifted to a darker, more urgent tone.
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