Doctor Who: The Eleventh Hour Review

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.

About Eoghann Irving

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Comments

  • All the reviews I’ve read so far of The Eleventh Hour peg it as absolutely bril­liant, but really, I have to give it a “meh.”

    The “meh” is more a reflec­tion on the writ­ing in the first episode rather than Matt Smith’s portrayal of The Doctor, which was quite good, I thought.

    ********SPOILER ALERT*************

    The entire open­ing sequence of having a little girl completely alone in a house through the night with a strange, adult man who appeared out of nowhere — a bit creepy. Yes, WE know he’s The Doctor and would never harm her, but in these days and times, I found the portrayal of that a bit irre­spon­si­ble on Moffat’s part.

    I also have to disagree with the reviewer’s asser­tion that in Amy Pond “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.”

    I spent most of the episode think­ing that the writ­ing for Amy Pond’s char­ac­ter seemed to delib­er­ately encom­pass every frus­trat­ing tv and movie cliché about ‘silly women’. The only thing miss­ing was Amy Pond trip­ping over her own feet and falling during a chase. The Doctor screams at her not to go through the door. She goes through the door, and not for the purpose of saving him, or for any urgent assis­tance to him. She just goes through the door because she’s… curi­ous. The Doctor informs her they have 20 minutes to save the world. She wasted what felt like a good 5 minutes of it lock­ing him to a car asking him who he was, when she’d already met him and had spent her entire child­hood draw­ing pictures of him. 

    The char­ac­ter seems to oper­ate on one cylin­der: preco­cious­ness. At a half-hour in, I was long­ing for a sight­ing of the sensi­ble Rose, Martha or Donna. One thing I did like, though, is that down the road, it seems this compan­ion may have an intrigu­ing secret of her own.

    Matt Smith did handle all the pres­sure quite wonder­fully, but I do hope in future episodes his Doctor will be allowed to find some seri­ous moments. 

    As for the alien plot, “meh.” Damn, I was eagerly antic­i­pat­ing some­thing on the level of “Blink” — we got the ‘scary face/sharp teeth/don’t look” thing, but here it felt like a retread.

    All that said, next week I will be right back at my set watch­ing the next install­ment!

  • All the reviews I’ve read so far of The Eleventh Hour peg it as absolutely bril­liant, but really, I have to give it a “meh.”

    The “meh” is more a reflec­tion on the writ­ing in the first episode rather than Matt Smith’s portrayal of The Doctor, which was quite good, I thought.

    ********SPOILER ALERT*************

    The entire open­ing sequence of having a little girl completely alone in a house through the night with a strange, adult man who appeared out of nowhere — a bit creepy. Yes, WE know he’s The Doctor and would never harm her, but in these days and times, I found the portrayal of that a bit irre­spon­si­ble on Moffat’s part.

    I also have to disagree with the reviewer’s asser­tion that in Amy Pond “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.”

    I spent most of the episode think­ing that the writ­ing for Amy Pond’s char­ac­ter seemed to delib­er­ately encom­pass every frus­trat­ing tv and movie cliché about ‘silly women’. The only thing miss­ing was Amy Pond trip­ping over her own feet and falling during a chase. The Doctor screams at her not to go through the door. She goes through the door, and not for the purpose of saving him, or for any urgent assis­tance to him. She just goes through the door because she’s… curi­ous. The Doctor informs her they have 20 minutes to save the world. She wasted what felt like a good 5 minutes of it lock­ing him to a car asking him who he was, when she’d already met him and had spent her entire child­hood draw­ing pictures of him. 

    The char­ac­ter seems to oper­ate on one cylin­der: preco­cious­ness. At a half-hour in, I was long­ing for a sight­ing of the sensi­ble Rose, Martha or Donna. One thing I did like, though, is that down the road, it seems this compan­ion may have an intrigu­ing secret of her own.

    Matt Smith did handle all the pres­sure quite wonder­fully, but I do hope in future episodes his Doctor will be allowed to find some seri­ous moments. 

    As for the alien plot, “meh.” Damn, I was eagerly antic­i­pat­ing some­thing on the level of “Blink” — we got the ‘scary face/sharp teeth/don’t look” thing, but here it felt like a retread.

    All that said, next week I will be right back at my set watch­ing the next install­ment!

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