Saturday, April 17, 2010

Doctor Who, "The Eleventh Hour": Suspender animation

"Doctor Who" is back with a new man (young Matt Smith) in the lead role, and a new writer (Steven Moffat) running the show, and I have a quick review of the new regime coming up just as soon as I drink a bowl of custard...
"Hello, I'm The Doctor. So, basically... run." -The Doctor
At the time Matt Smith's casting was announced, I said that Moffat's previous "Who" episodes - which tended to be the highlight of each season - made me trust him implicitly, even though I had no idea who Smith was. By all accounts, Moffat had no intention of hiring the youngest-ever Doctor, but was so blown away by Smith's audition that he had to hire him - and Smith's work in "The Eleventh Hour" showed us exactly what Moffat saw in that audition.

Smith's young, yes, but there's a gravity to his performance that made it clear this gawky kid with the Flock of Seagulls haircut had, in fact, been around for hundreds of years and all the previous lives viewers have been watching for the last few decades. And just as David Tennant built on the character as played by Christopher Eccleston and made his Doctor less wounded and more exuberant, Smith's take on the character seems to have the enthusiastic eccentricity of Tennant(*) while playing the character as less reckless and prone to anger. Ten was arrogant, where Eleven is merely cocky.

(*) Smith also, like Tennant, seems to take great joy in saying certain words, here with the way he turned "laptop" into a five-course meal.

Smith also brings a great physicality to the part, not only in the slapstick like The Doctor's first few minutes at Amelia Pond's house(**), but in the odd, alien walk he adopts. Moffat's script certainly plays up Smith's rubbery features - when he asks Amy, "Do I even look like people?," the answer is clearly meant to be "no."

(**) I, frankly, would have watched at least 20 more minutes of Smith's Doctor trying and being disgusted by various foods in Amelia's kitchen.

And after playing Eleven as out of sorts for much of the episode, running around in the tattered remnants of Ten's wardrobe, Smith shows Eleven clearly getting his act together as he assembles a new (stolen) outfit. It's a great build-up for the character, and Smith owns every moment of it.

"Eleventh Hour" is also a great build-up for Karen Gillan's immensely likable Amy Pond, who has by far the most interesting, emotionally resonant backstory of the modern companions. There's an element of Donna Noble in there, in that Amy had to wait a while to get aboard the TARDIS (and in the end turns out to be another runaway bride), but it's one thing for a middle-aged woman to wait, and quite another for a little girl, who grows up with The Doctor at the forefront of her imagination. He has a powerful hold over her psyche, and that's going to complicate her obvious attraction to him (check out the look on her face as she watches him strip) and give this relationship elements of all three previous major modern companions.

For that matter, there were a lot of familiar elements in "Eleventh Hour." Amy's era-spanning relationship with The Doctor isn't dissimilar to the situation between Ten and Madame de Pompadour in the Moffat-scripted "The Girl in the Fireplace," and the Atraxi and Prisoner Zero felt like they could have been villains from a Russell T. Davies episode. (Moffat no doubt deliberately chose some more generic bad guys, so as not to distract from the establishing of Eleven and Amy.)

I know some "Who" fans who were dissatisfied with parts or all of the Davies era and were hoping Moffat would completely clean the slate and take the series in a different creative direction. Clearly, that's not going to be the case (Moffat, unsurprisingly, has nothing but positive things to say about Davies' run on the show), and what changes we see are going to be on a smaller scale. Moffat's both a funnier writer than Davies (here's just one clip from his insanely great Britcom "Coupling") and better at (or more interested in) creating an unsettling level of tension, but overall this is the Davies formula with a slightly different flavor. And as I loved most of the previous four seasons, I'm okay with that.

Very promising start to the semi-new era.

A few other thoughts:

• Moffat brings back a few elements from his previous episodes on the series with Tennant: The Doctor snaps his fingers to open the TARDIS doors, just as River Song told him he could back in "Silence in the Library," and at one point he uses the phrase "wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey," which is a phrase Ten used to explain the time-space continuum to Sally Sparrow in "Blink."

• The design of the Atraxi ships looked very much like the Kryptonian technology from "Superman: The Motion Picture," with bonus giant eyeballs.

• One notable change from Davies: Moffat and director Adam Smith attempt to show us how The Doctor sees the world, being aware of all angles and events everywhere he goes. How do you feel about him suddenly having Matrix-vision? True to what we know about the character, or a crutch in an episode that was otherwise designed to take away The Doctor's crutches (the TARDIS and the sonic screwdriver) to show him saving the world through sheer cleverness?

• In the UK, "Doctor Who" is seen as a family show first and foremost (Moffat once told me, "The entire point of `Doctor Who' is to frighten children"), and so Moffat had to play it safe with Amy's profession, claiming she's a "kiss-o-gram," when her embarrassment in that and other scenes suggests she does more than kiss when she's dressed as a cop, or nurse, or nun.

The UK is a few weeks ahead of us, and I'm sure some of you who live on this side of the pond have already watched additional episodes through extra-legal means, but we're going to stick with the usual "Doctor Who" spoiler policy around here, which means no talking about any episode (on any level) that has yet to air in the United States.

Keeping that in mind... what did everybody else think?

82 comments:

Lauren said...

How accessible is the show to someone about to have their very first Doctor Who experience? Do they explain the reason for the new Doctor, etc.? I'd love to get into this show, but I have a thing about having to watch in order, which is impossible here...

Anonymous said...

I really liked it. I thought it would be hard to like Smith after watching Tennant, but he does a really good Doctor. And I can't take my eyes off Karen Gillan when she's on screen.

I only wished that they didn't reveal the wedding dress at the end (though I assumed it was her wedding she referred to), it would have been nice to let the mind wander for a bit. Also noticed that the screen in the TARDIS that the Doctor taps showed the same crack that was on the wall. Interesting to see where this goes.

Plus, this is the first time I get BBC in HD which makes Doctor Who so much better to watch.

Kensington said...

What I love about The Eleventh Hour is how well Matt Smith makes the role his own. By the time he's eating custard and empathizing about how scary the crack in Amelia's wall must be, he was the Doctor, as far as I'm concerned. He's already proven himself to be a grand choice.

Now, that said, I do have some quibbles. I've watched the episode several times in the last couple of weeks, and I still cringe every time the Doctor says "that must be a hell of a crack in your wall." For whatever reason, I had to rewind that several times because it just sounded wrong to me that he would say "hell" to a little girl, and I couldn't quite convince myself that I'd heard the line correctly. I don't like the Doctor saying "hell" to little girls.

(Now I know I'll be in the minority on that, and I'm an old stick-in-the-mud for even noticing it, so go easy on me.)

Also, I half wish they'd removed the opening scene and allowed us to meet Eleven just as Amelia did.

Finally, I wish BBC America hadn't run those "inside Dr Who" commercials from BMW during the episode because they kind of spoiled the idea that there's something odd going on with regard to Amy. I don't think that was supposed to be clear until the crack showed up on the TARDIS scanner screen in the second-to-last episode.

Still, all-in-all it's lovely to have Dr Who back, and Matt Smith is so good it almost makes it worthwhile that it's been two years since we had a proper season.

Kensington said...

Lauren, just give it a go. After the opening scene, which only lasts about 40 seconds, I think just about anyone could watch this fresh.

jarodrussell said...

"...the tattered remnants of Eleven's wardrobe..."

Ten's wardrobe?

Kensington said...

Sorry, sorry, I meant "second to last scene," not "second to last episode."

I HAVE NOT SPOILED ANYTHING OUTSIDE OF THE ELEVENTH HOUR, I PROMISE!

floretbroccoli said...

I quite enjoyed the episode and look forward to see what Moffat has up his sleeve for Eleven.

But has the music always been so pervasive? I almost never notice music in the background of TV shows, but THIS music seemed to be in the foreground for much of the episode.

lizriz said...

I loved him, and I'm so surprised. My fav moment was actually when he said that that must be a hell of a crack in the wall, because I felt like he could already see she's had to be so grown up. She's taking care of herself, and I felt like the adult speak was recognizing that.

I will say that I didn't think Amy was doing much more than appreciating naked man bod in the scene where he changes. It was pretty clear to me that she was making sure that he *didn't* want more and he *would* get her back for the wedding, before she agreed to go with him. I mean, I'm attracted to lots of guys; it doesn't necessary mean much more than physical attraction most of the time. :)

And just to finish by being completely contrary - sorry - I was SO GLAD they showed that dress at the end, because it was totally obvious, and I'd hate to have to read one word of speculation about it. So I was glad they just acknowledged the obviousness of it so we can move on to more interesting things and just have it hanging out there.

Anonymous said...

Lauren:
I have not seen this episode yet, but I would just jump right in anywhere. I started somewhere in the middle of Yennant's first season and watched episodes out of order on BBCA and managed to catch on pretty quick. It's a great show, give it a shot! :)

Alan Sepinwall said...

Yes, Lauren. Show's incredibly accessible to newcomers. Which you wouldn't expect of something that's been around as long as Doctor Who has.

Lauren said...

Excellent..thanks everyone..I'm sure there will be one more Doctor Who fan in the world by tomorrow!

Kensington said...

Also, people should probably try to watch the first broadcasts of these episodes rather than the repeats because, as I understand it, the repeats will be edited to fit within an hour whilst the premieres are going to get expanded timeslots.

If you have BBC American On Demand, though, I'm sure the episodes will be uncut.

Mark S. said...

I've never watched Dr. Who before (even though I am a science fiction fan), so I decided to rectify that with the new series. And I loved it (my review). It's easy for a newcomer, such as myself, who's never seen any episodes to jump on and hang on for the ride. If you haven't watched it, then do yourself a favor and watch it. It had humor and a lot of action with likable characters. What else could you ask for.

Anonymous said...

@lizriz

I guess my real problem wasn't the dress reveal, but rather that they didn't come up with something unexpected and more interesting. But I get your point about not wanting to draw it out.

Kensington said...

It's funny about that wedding dress. I don't quite remember if I guessed a wedding when I first saw the episode two weeks ago, but my friend turned to me tonight and said "is she getting married?" at the moment Amy asked about being back in the morning.

I'm thinking that almost everybody watching guessed it, too.

Jeff W. said...

I was wondering how they were going to handle introducing both a Doctor and a Companion at the same time, but Moffat managed it wonderfully. Amy already has as rich of an emotional backstory as any of the other companions, even if it borrows liberally from Moffat's other young, pretty, resourceful female characters, and my doubts about young Mr. Smith were erased within the first ten minutes. I hope Moffat's as good of a showrunner as he is a writer, but for now he has my trust. This is still very much Doctor Who.

Captcha word: whoidsh (really). How the Doctor feels right after regenerating?

Kensington said...

One more thing (sorry! I like talking about Dr Who!), that little girl who played Amelia is a treasure!

How adorable was she? I loved how tough she was yet still vulnerable enough to get excited, and I melted inside every time she laughed.

When she ran back to her bedroom and packed up her teddy, I died inside because I knew she was going to be disappointed.

Heart-breaking!

Sister T said...

I think I read somewhere that the little girl who plays Amelia and the woman who plays Amy are cousins.

I love how Moffat introduced the new Doctor through the eyes of a child, letting the audience share in the wonder and excitement. Just wonderful writing.

Also good characterization of Rory and Jeff and Amy's connection to the small village community. I got a bit of a Stars Hollow vibe from Amy's life in how everyone seemed to know her and the Raggedy Doctor.

Chris Lawrence said...

I think the "Matrix vision" was there largely to let the audience see the Doctor figure something out from his perspective. Hopefully it won't be overused but I thought it was very effective for the "Where's Waldo" scenario. Even if it turns out (somewhat too-coincidentally) that the odd thing out is Amy's boyfriend.

I'm not entirely sold on the new arrangement of the theme yet but I really liked the incidental music at the roof climax. Reminded me a bit of some of the music from Mass Effect 2 (in a good way).

I like the seeming contradiction of Eleven being more self-confident than Ten (at least towards the end) yet also younger at the same time. That said I think it's early days to say that Eleven is less arrogant than Ten, and I'm not sure Amy, given her youth, will be as good at restraining the Doctor's darker impulses than Donna (in particular) was.

Alanna said...

Excellent review, made even better by the link to "Lesbian Spank Inferno". Such a clever, delightful (and underappreciated) show, for which I've given Moffat a lifetime pass. Fortunately, his Doctor Who writing -- and hopefully exec-producing -- is just as clever and delightful.

Craig Ranapia said...

Yes, Lauren. Show's incredibly accessible to newcomers. Which you wouldn't expect of something that's been around as long as Doctor Who has.

To be fair, Alan, Moffat and Piers Wenger are as sensitive as Russell Davies and Julie Gardner were before them that Doctor Who just woudln't survive as a giant slice of fan service. I know it sounds ridiculous now, but back in 2005 I was wondering how well DW would do in appealing to a target audience that, in large part, wasn't alive when it went off the air sixteen years eariler.

Jeff W. said...

Alan: please encourage Dan to keep watching Doctor Who so it can be a regular podcast discussion.

lizriz said...

I'm definitely NOT sold on the new arrangement of the theme. That kinda broke my heart.

And I agree that the little girl was really good. And they definitely looked related. Otherwise it's rather amazing that they found a little girl that looks so like her AND can act. :)

Matter-Eater Lad said...

I think what I liked more than anything was how different this episode DIDN'T feel. Same show, slightly different approach, is a very good tone to strike (particularly since I found the late-period RTD backlash mystifying at best and obnoxious at worst).

Anonymous said...

For those wondering, it is VERY accessible to newcomers. I hadnt seen one episode ever. Ive watched the three newest, and just watched blink, and there wasnt anything confusing or that required prior knowledge. Jump In!

Tom Galloway said...

Re: Lesbian Spank Inferno. A couple of years back at San Diego, I took advantage of its Torchwood (for newbies, a Doctor Who spinoff show aimed at adults which spent most of its first season of shows with the attitude of "It's alien, let's have sex with it") panel to request that they hire Moffat to write an episode titled "Lesbian Spank Inferno". Julie Gardner's response was "He's *busy*!" (this being after it was announced he'd be show running Doctor Who).

Moffat has experience as show runner, although I believe he wrote all the episodes of those previous shows (Coupling, Press Gang, Joking Apart). Still, the man can definitely write and plot (the last Coupling second season ep "The End of the Line" does an amazing job of having multiple, seemingly completely separate, plots come together in a 40 minute episode), so I'm thinking he can recognize a good script by others.

There may be something else unusual about Amy. Per the Bleeding Cool site, if you freeze frame Rory's id badge, there's something interesting about it.

Finally, as to who the Doctor really looks like this go round, find the closing credits music number for Buckaroo Banzai. Particularly about 40 seconds in, Peter Weller as Buckaroo bears a marked resemblance to Eleven, from head shape, to hairdo, to wardrobe. And Doctor Who scribes Paul Cornell and Neil Gaiman (the 2011 season, although the script's already written) both agreed with me on this when I mentioned it to them.

Toby O'B said...

Karen Gillan and Caitlin Blackwood (young Amelia) are indeed cousins. And at the Paley Center for Media event this past Monday, Ms. Gillan revealed that the filming of the episode was the first time that they actually met.

When I first saw the wedding dress, I figured the big mystery was: is she marrying Rory the nurse or Jeff the neighbor? But having seen it again, now I'm wondering if it might just turn out to be a red herring - could it just be one of her Kiss-O-Gram costumes?

As with a similar scene in "The Next Doctor", I enjoyed seeing the parade of the Doctor's past incarnations, and this time with #11 stepping through the images to take his proper place.....

Alyson said...

The wedding dress as kiss-o-gram costume theory is interesting, but seems really unlikely, no? Especially if we're assuming that "kiss-o-gram" really is code for "stripper".

I immediately assumed when the camera cut to the wedding dress that Amy was marrying Rory - the implication I got was that Jeff is gay. I do think that Amy as runaway bride is disappointing in that it's been done already - it's hard to top Donna Noble in that respect.

James said...

this was my first doctor who, I went in with only the thinnest of knowledge, and I found it very accessible and extremely enjoyable. first grade entertainment and I will definitely keep watching. it doesn't hurt that the redhead is stunning either.

Craig Ranapia said...

The new series has always been good about saving the Daleks for big stories with real weight...

To be pedantically nerdy, Donna didn't exactly runaway from her wedding - though she should have. She was kidnapped, sort of. :)

M.A.Peel said...

I liked the Doctor's line "You are a Scot in an English village, I know what that's like," since Moffat is Scottish. The youth and overall sexiness of the Doctor and Pond is a good thing.

And the BBC will be thrilled to hear of new people joining in. When they were planning the event at the Paley Center, they were very aware that DW isn't that well known here outside of a small devoted following.

Matthew L said...

By the way - if anyone's curious, fish custard? Not that bad. Like everyone else, I was repulsed by the thought of it, but then I came across some videos on YouTube of people trying it, all then surprised to say that it wasn't bad So after watching those, I tried it and no, it's quite edible. It was certainly nicer than, say, my former flatmate's cooking.

And Matt Smith really is great. I'm loving his portrayal of the Doctor.

Matthew L said...

And thanks for the link to the "Inferno" episode of Coupling. That's one thing I did find funny about this episode of Doctor Who - that the man who wrote that passionate defence of a man's enjoyment of p0rn later wrote a scene in Doctor Who where the Doctor (in a family-friendly way) tells someone off for enjoying p0rn.

(Incidentally, I first discovered Coupling when, flipping through TV late at night, I came across a half-finished episode of this British comedy. Two mnutes later, there was a scene where a blonde girl walks into a comic-book store and expresses excitement at the discovery of a lost episode of 1960s Who - a discovery that had in actuality only taken place a few months earlier. Since I too was excited by the discovery, I stayed on watching. Later that week, I found a rerun of the "Inferno" episode, watched that, and was blown away by its brilliance. One of the things I love about the show is the confident way it is structured - it plays with time, or rerunning scenes from different points-of-view, that remind me a lot of some of the games Moffat has played with time on Who.)

Ruth said...

I absolutely loved "Eleventh Hour," and was so incredibly impressed with Smith's performance. I actually liked the part of the episode where they tried to show us how the Doctor thinks - I thought that was nice for a change to have a visual illustration of how his brain works, something different from the Eccleston/Tennant years. Very much looking forward to the rest of this season!

belinda said...

I've always thought How I Met Your Mother was at least a little inspired by Moffat's Coupling with its wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey devices as well.

Ah, good times. Great show.

Anyway, Doctor Who...

So far, so good. I was actually a little tired of Tennant's incresingly emo Doctor when the specials rolled around so I was definitely excited to see a new Doctor with a little less baggage and (a little less excited, because I really, really liked Donna, and her (non romantic) relationship to the Doctor ) a new companion, all manned by the awesome Moffat. After this episode, I like them both, and am curious to see what this season will bring.

I do wonder if Matt Smith is playing Eleven a little too much like Ten on purpose since Eleven was still sort of going through the regeneration process in this episode. I think from Nine to Ten, there was a definite shift in personality and demeanor (and I didn't favor one over the other. I liked both Nine and Ten), but here, from Ten to Eleven, there seems to be less of a distinction. I'm hoping that this is a choice and we'd see more of Eleven as Eleven in the later episodes.

Stellar Drift said...

"By all accounts, Moffat had no intention of hiring the youngest-ever Doctor,"

Really? Seems to be the trend - hire kids to appeal to the kids - the older demographic are no longer wanted.

"I, frankly, would have watched at least 20 more minutes of Smith's Doctor trying and being disgusted by various foods in Amelia's kitchen."

Heh, I thought it was 20 minutes to long as it was.

@Kensington
The following episodes have "american length"

Jon88 said...

Karen Gillan and Lauren Ambrose: separated at birth?

Karen said...

I thought the plot was brilliant and I loved Amelia/Amy Pond, but I wasn't 100% sold on Smith as Eleven. The notion that Eleven was still "cooking"--still in transition from Ten to Eleven--makes sense, except for that not seeming to be the case when Nine turned into Ten. For now, Smith just feels like Tennant Lite. But I'm willing to give him a chance.

The wedding dress reveal was weird to me, because when Amy introduced Rory to the Doctor as her friend, and Rory insisted on "boyfriend," that means he either doesn't consider himself her actual fiance or he is in complete denial about her actual fiance and neither of those things make sense to me.

I very much trust Moffat, however, and since I love the new showrunner and the new Companion, I'm willing to reserve final judgment on the new Doctor.

Hate the new theme music, though. Gack

Paul C said...

The choice of attire for Smith - braces & bow-tie - helped convey that he is a much more mature Doctor than his age would suggest. He fitted into the role really well I found, anytime he got remotely arrogant or cocky there was enough of a charm to it that he wasn't annoying. Nice to see that he noticed he couldn't get away with everything (epic fail on "Who da man!").

Karen Gillan found her character really quickly. She was quite sassy and very likeable in general.

The show should be in great hands with Moffat. His episodes have always been the stronger ones and 'Blink' is rightly regarded as the best one since the relaunch. Yeah, he knows what he is doing. As evidenced by the great piece of dialogue with The Doctor to young Anelia, "You're Scottish, fry something".

Loretta said...

@ Karen: The events of the vast majority of the episode occurred two years before the very ending of the episode. So Rory could very easily have turned from "kinda boyfriend" into fiance over the course of those two years. That is not to say that he is for sure the fiance, but there's no logical barrier to him being the one.

Also, I agree with everyone else--I think Smith is a brilliant doctor, and I'm totally on board with him. Much less on board with Amy Pond--I found the young version very engaging, but was less impressed with Karen Gillan.

Craig Ranapia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Craig Ranapia said...

Really? Seems to be the trend - hire kids to appeal to the kids - the older demographic are no longer wanted.

Really, Stellar Drift. If you don't mind, I think I'll take Moffat's word that he wasn't intending to cast "younger" (and was actually getting quite pissed with the Beeb for nudging him in that direction), but Matt Smith came in and nailed the audition.

Do you really think that Moffat and Piers Wenger aren't going to be very careful, and keep all their options wide open, when casting what I don't think its hyperbole to call the highest profile role in British television?

As for the idea that you've got to cast "kids" to appeal to the younglings, I'd just like to note that Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant were forty and thirty-five respectively when they got their Tradis keys. (For compariative purposes, Tom Baker was also forty.) Hardly one foot in the grave but not spring chickens either, Drift.

Girl Detective said...

I was surprised to find the opening and music different, but I get why they did that, even if I missed the familiarity of the old.

A more Doctor literate friend told me that each time the Dr. regenerates, he gets younger looking, so the older he looks, the younger he is and vice versa, hence River Song's holding his face and saying how young he looked.

Loved the fish custard.

Craig Ranapia said...

A more Doctor literate friend told me that each time the Dr. regenerates, he gets younger looking, so the older he looks,

Not so sure that's true -- hell, the only way you could have cast anyone who looked younger than Peter Davison was to hold open auditions in kindergardens. :) I don't mean to sound snarky or ageist, but I suspect the major requirement is a pretty sound constitution. I saw an interview with David Tennant, and don't think he was entirely joking when he said being The Doctor was better than belonging to a gym with all the dashing around he did. :)

Nathan said...

I'm one of those guys who can't wait and have already watched "The Eleventh Hour" several times. The real test for me was when I showed it my 11 year old niece. Tennant was very much "her" Doctor and she has said for months how weird the new guy looks and why did Tennant have to go away. Her reaction to Matt Smith and series 5 of "Doctor Who?"....loved it. I asked her what her favorite part was and her answer was "all of it."
Yeah there are things we could could pick at but when push comes to shove Matt Smith stepped out the gate owning the role. He is like some bizarre love child of Patrick Troughton...my personal favorite Doctor...and Tom Baker. Amy Pond is easily the best and most interesting companion of the revived series and the hottest companion since Leela.
Anyway, as River Song said in series 4, no spoilers but it only gets better.

BigTed said...

Even if these actors were hired for there skills alone, it seems likely that someone at the BBC thought it would be a good idea to have too young, good-looking new costars to generate some "Torchwood"-style romantic/sexual tension.

But I really hope that's not the way it plays out, because it would draw on two annoying trends: One, a relationship between a man and a woman who first met when he was an adult and she was a child. (Which, as Alan points out, we also saw in "The Girl in the Fireplace." It's also a plot element that a lot of people found disturbing in the film "The Time-Traveler's Wife.") The other is a relationship between a very young woman and a man who's much, much older. (One of the weird thing about shows like "The Vampire Diaries" is that people would never accept a story about a teenage girl and a middle-aged man, but it's okay if he's centuries older but looks young.)

On the other hand, they don't seem to care about updating the special effects very much at all. The snake monster looked like something out of "Beetlejuice."

BigTed said...

...their skills....

Craig Ranapia said...

Even if these actors were hired for there skills alone, it seems likely that someone at the BBC thought it would be a good idea to have too young, good-looking new costars to generate some "Torchwood"-style romantic/sexual tension.

I'm sure you're right - Moffat's said as much, but in the end the call was his and Piers Wenger's (who is also the head of drama for BBC Wales). In fact, if my memory serves Moffat has also said that when Smith came in to audition he was on the verge of offering the part to another actor but Matt Smith just really nailed the audition to the floor. (Am I the only person would would sell the soul of my first born to have that audition tape as a DVD extra?)

And dare I say it, while Matt Smith was hardly a household name he'd gotten very good notes for his performances in the two Sally Lockhart one-offs (starring Billie Piper) and the critically acclaimed but widely ignored drama 'Party Animals'.

Matt said...

I'm a little concerned by how much Moffat seems to be drawing from "The Time Traveler's Wife"--the River Song arc owed a lot to it, and does the basic setup of Amy (young girl encounters time-traveler and is affected by it), but this was a tremendously effective premiere. And Karen Gillan could be the next Christina Hendricks.

Doug S said...

I liked it lots, but isn't anyone else a little put off by how quickly and easily Eleven invited Amy along? Ten, at the end, seemed so anti-companion, that I'm having trouble believing the regeneration could affect his personality so quickly and strongly.

It's great to have it back, and even with the new theme song and new Tardis decor, I am happy the cheesy f/x are still in play. That opening scene looked like 1991.

Nicole said...

The opening scene is actually supposed to be 1996 because Amy is now 21 and it is supposed to be 2010. It's not specifically confirmed in the show, but I think it was in Doctor Who Magazine.

I thoroughly enjoyed this episode, especially after the somewhat disappointing past few specials. It seems as though Matt Smith has brought back the joy of being the Doctor, and that is rejuvenating on its own. I also appreciated the quick review of all the Doctors and Eleven bursting through Ten to confirm that yes the Doctor is back.

I did notice that the new TARDIS had a screen that showed a line suspiciously similar in form to the crack on the wall. This is probably going to be the "Bad Wolf" theme that we saw in earlier seasons.

The new theme is okay, but only after the first few seconds. I do like the return of the original stereophonic sounds, but I could do without the thunder and lightning.

Any concerns I had with Matt Smith as Eleven in the brief glimpse we saw in The End of Time have now disappeared and I really liked Amy as well. I hope there is a way for them to meet up with Young Amelia, because she was truly memorable.

Craig Ranapia said...

I liked it lots, but isn't anyone else a little put off by how quickly and easily Eleven invited Amy along?

Quickly? Are you talking about when Lil' Amelia asks for a ride? Hell, as far as post-regeneration trauma goes that's pretty mild. Colin Baker's first act as The Seventh Doctor was trying to strangle his companion, while in the grip of a paranoid delusion. :)

And it's pretty rude to tell a girl you'll be back in five minutes and take the long way round. Emily Post would not be impressed.

Craig Ranapia said...

Matt:

All due respect to Audrey Niffenegger, but if she tried to sue Steven Moffat for copyright infringement she'd get laughed out of court. Jack Finney's Time and Again and Richard Matheson's Bid Time Return are similar tales of time-crossed lovers and I wouldn't for a moment call her a rip-off artist.

I'd also note Niffenegger was around three months old when Who premiered, and time travel is a SF trope older than the genre itself.

Matt said...

Oh, she'd absolutely lose a copyright infringement action (and I'm a copyright lawyer), but I'm just a little concerned we're going back to the well a little too often.

Craig Ranapia said...

Matt:

That's a perfectly fair concern, even the most talented writers/creatives can easily get stuck in thei creative comfort zones. Personally, I think the greater risk for Moffat (and this was around long before he started writing for DW) is that's he's really good at the "timey-wimey" non-linear narrative structures, and always respect the ingenuity involved. But sometimes they can feel too much like the writer saying "look at me! I'm so clever" rather than telling the story in an engaging way. Take the "flash-backs/forwards/sideways" in Lost -- when they work, they're brilliant. When they've become a lazy shorthand, they're just annoying attempts to increase sales of Dramamine and sick bags.

Kensington said...

Doug S.:
"I liked it lots, but isn't anyone else a little put off by how quickly and easily Eleven invited Amy along? Ten, at the end, seemed so anti-companion, that I'm having trouble believing the regeneration could affect his personality so quickly and strongly."

But drastic changes in personality and tenor are primary characteristics of regeneration. It's part of what makes a new Doctor so intriguing.

That said, I suspect there's more to the Doctor's invitation than we might think, and I fear he's hiding something from her that's related to the crack. I suspect it's why he turned off the scanner when it displayed an identical crack at the episode's end.

Also, something seems to have happened with regard to young Amelia. In her last scene, we see her sitting in the garden waiting for the Doctor to return. As we hear the TARDIS materializing, Amelia quickly looks up and smiles.

Did the Doctor do something timey-wimey and go back to see Amelia after leaving Amy? If so, why doesn't she remember it? If not, what exactly happened in that last scene with Amelia?

Nathan said...

As for 11 quickly inviting a companion on board...well, I think you could make the case that one of the main story points for the specials was making The Doctor realize how much he needed a companion as a counterbalance to keep him and what he can do in check.
And as for anyone worried about Moffat being able to tell a story from start to finish I direct your attention to Moffat's "Jekyll" from a few years ago.

Sister T said...

In Niffenegger's second book, Her Fearful Symmetry, she references David Tennant, Doctor Who and the almost the entire plot of Girl in The Fireplace. So FYI, Niffenegger has fully embraced the similarities between her story and Moffat's.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Nathan, not everybody loved the denouement of "Jekyll," actually, though the mini as a whole was a lot of fun.

Kensington said...

Just as Eleven is so quickly willing to take on a companion again, I also like to think of Eleven effortlessly shrugging off all of Ten's angst about "dying," perhaps even feeling a bit chagrined about why Ten made such a fuss at the end.

After all, he's fine, isn't he?

Tyroc said...

LOVED IT!

The fairytale introduction was so well done.

I now look forward to the episode where they have Amy Pond visit her American cousin (played by Felicia Day, of course.)

Jape77 said...

As much as we wanted to like it, it came across to both my wife and I as a noisy mess -- the soundtrack was out of control and over the top from the getgo, and the only reason I stayed with it was because of Karen Gillan ... ok, and the giant eyeballs in space. That bit of silliness worked for me for some reason.

While I realize they wanted to make a break with the previous Doctor and series, I found it confusing why #11 behaved like the scientists and leaders of the world had never heard of him. What, he couldn't just log on the laptop and say "It's the Doctor, get me UNIT"?

And if they were going to ignore the Doctor's past, why then go all montage-y with the homage to the other Doctor's in the big eyeball shot?

Alan Sepinwall said...

What, he couldn't just log on the laptop and say "It's the Doctor, get me UNIT"?

He could have, but that would have been just as much a crutch as the TARDIS and the screwdriver. Moffat was trying to show The Doctor succeeding entirely through cleverness, and he had to leave all the familiar tools and alliances behind to do so.

Illuminati Ganga Operative Persona said...

What, he couldn't just log on the laptop and say "It's the Doctor, get me UNIT"?

He could have, but that would have been just as much a crutch as the TARDIS and the screwdriver. Moffat was trying to show The Doctor succeeding entirely through cleverness, and he had to leave all the familiar tools and alliances behind to do so.


To show he is clever he must do something that is tactically stupid?

Anonymous said...

My gut tells me based on the first three episodes there's going to be a lot of bumpy roads in the first season. There's some growth to be had on both the acting and the writers.

Watch the newest episode for evidence of poor writing and questionable acting.

JWIII

Craig Ranapia said...

To show he is clever he must do something that is tactically stupid?

Now, remind me why the hell would The Doctor want anything to do with an organisation whose response to a crisis the last time he came across him (in The Stolen Earth/Journey's End), was to destroy the planet and every living thing on it? UNIT's response in 'Planet of the Dead' was also rather "shoot first, ask questions never" which he's had problems with ever since the Third Doctor was exiled to Earth in the 70's.

Illuminati Ganga Operative Persona said...

"Now, remind me why the hell would The Doctor want anything to do with an organisation whose response to a crisis the last time he came across him(in The Stolen Earth/Journey's End), was to destroy the planet and every living thing on it? "

Ok, that sounds like a better explanation than the other one, however not wanting to talk to unit doesn't preclude him saying I am the doctor to these people, at least one of whom he knows.

Master Prudent said...

But those people don't know he's the doctor because he's got a new face. He had to prove it with his genius formula and... joke.

(But frankly I didn't give a damn about the monster plot given how enjoyable it was to be spending time with a funny Doctor and a supporting cast not given to kitchen sink melodrama.)

Anonymous said...

I greatly enjoyed the premiere episode but at the same time there was a slight disappointment when it ended with him dressed as a typical Dr Who and her being a fairly typical companion. There was something fresher about his rumpled clothes before and her less formal tagging along.

Also, while Gillan is so attractive it almost makes me nauseous, the Dr's interactions with the little girl were really interesting. It might have been more fun if he'd kept her around instead, something different. Gillan is stunning, really, but the little girl version made me care about a character on Dr Who more than I can recall caring before.

The plot wasn't much but the actors and overall spirit were so good I didn't care.

So thumbs up from this American but with a few misgivings.

Matter-Eater Lad said...

"a supporting cast not given to kitchen sink melodrama"

That's rather a strong conclusion to reach based on one episode in which the supporting cast featured for, maybe, 15 minutes of the episode's running time, isn't it?

Gary7379 said...

I have been looking forward to this premier for a couple of months now and I was very pleased with the episode. I have been an on and off Who watcher since it first appeared on the PBS stations in the late ‘60s. Each iteration of the Doctor has its plusses and minuses but all are likable. I am a much more rabid fan of the series in its present, modern incarnation. Certainly the EFX are much slicker but they never seem to overwhelm the story and they can still be a little campy. I think that Amy Pond will be one of the more likable companions right from the start. Her enthusiasm is infectious. I only have one complaint about this first episode in that it seemed to me that the background music was very loud and it overwhelmed the dialog in several places especially in the first half of the episode. I had to pause and rewind my DVR many times to figure out what was being said. Looking forward to the rest of the series.

Master Prudent said...

"That's rather a strong conclusion to reach based on one episode in which the supporting cast featured for, maybe, 15 minutes of the episode's running time, isn't it?"

Given how quickly the sledgehammers came out the last three times? Nope.

Tracey said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Alan Sepinwall said...

Hey Tracey, most of your comment was fine, but you discussed something that was part of the previews for the next episode, which goes against our local No Spoilers policy.

Anna said...

I was disappointed. I wanted a NEW doctor, not Ten 2: Electric Boogaloo.

Christy said...

What's not to love about a companion who whacks The Doctor up the side of the head with a cricket bat the second time she sees him?

Didn't like the new opening credits.

This will be the first Doctor since Pertwee that I haven't crushed on. I liked having crushes on the Doctor.

Loved the homage to all the Doctors with Eleven walking through Ten.

The scary monster, seen out of the corner of the eye was a fail. It was too reminiscent of the Weeping Angels without the awesome fright.

Just re-watched with the 14 year old nephew I turned onto Dr. Who last year. Every few minutes he was exclaiming about how much he liked the new Doctor Who. And Amy. Me? I'll give them time.

Kensington said...

Christie:
"This will be the first Doctor since Pertwee that I haven't crushed on. I liked having crushes on the Doctor."

You can crush on creepy-looking Tom Baker and Owl-faced Sylvester McCoy but not Frankenstein-headed Matt Smith?

Really?

Nicole said...

Matt Smith in interviews has said that his doctor changes significantly from the first episode to the thirteenth and so the Tennant-lite mannerisms seem to be intentional. He is already less emo than when last we left Ten, and that is only a good thing.

They don't air Doctor Who Confidential here, but they should because there is a scene where Matt Smith is speaking with the director of this episode for one of the scenes in the village and you can tell that he has thought about this character thoroughly. Just based on that snippet, I can see why Moffat thought he was right for the part and cast the Doctor younger than intended.

Tracey said...

Ack! Sorry about that, Alan! I didn't think of it as a spoiler, because it just confirmed something that seemed clear enough to me in the episode.

I'll behave better next time!

Ingrid said...

"Eleventh Hour" is also a great build-up for Karen Gillan's immensely likable Amy Pond, who has by far the most interesting, emotionally resonant backstory of the modern companions.

I could not disagree more, Alan. The backstory is good, and the scenes with Amelia as a girl were great, but I simply could not stand grown up Amelia. She was annoying on a level that not even Rose Tyler achieved, and that is a lot to say.

chris said...

As an aside - was the conversation about "no ducks on the pond - never been ducks on the pond" some strange way of Amelia Pond telling the Doctor she was a virgin?

DopeAddict said...

"This is important -- why did you say six months?"

"WHY DID YOU SAY FIVE MINUTES???"

Loved it. I can't stop re-watching it. It presses all my buttons. This 44-year-old is enchanted by it all. After 15 minutes the RTD/DT era was consigned to my dustbin. And not before time. The previous era now seems positively maudlin in retrospect. And that fabulous red hair!

Such a tragic childhood, poor girl. But she's off on wondrous adventures with The Raggedy Doctor and now all's right with the world.

Or is it...?