Witness a machine turn coffee into pointless ramblings...
08 April, 2010
The New Doctor Is In the House
Matt Smith's tenure as The Doctor began this past weekend with the episode "The Eleventh Hour". At an hour, it was longer than the normal DW episode but it had to squeeze a lot into that hour. Firstly, there's the story. Secondly introducing the new Doctor and his new companion.
As for the first, it was alright.
It begins with The Doctor hanging from the doorway of the TARDIS as it tumbles over London before crashing into the backyard of a house in a rural village. He emerges (above) and meets little Amelia Pond. Left home alone, she welcomes the stranger in and attempts to satisfy his weird culinary cravings. (Fish fingers and custard finally does the trick.) The Doctor learns about the large crack in the wall in Amelia's bedroom which is no mere masonry problem. It is actually a crack in time and space which leads to an Atraxi prison. A voice echoes, "Prisoner Zero has escaped."
Before he can mend the time-space continuum, The Doctor is alerted by the TARDIS' Cloister Bell signifying immanent destruction. And so he races to its aid and promises Adelia that he'll return in five minutes. In an unsurprising bit of time dilation, five minutes turns into 12 years but The Doctor does return. He discovers that little Amelia has grown up into Amy and that Prisoner Zero has, in fact, been living in her house the whole time but has avoided detection by placing a perception filter on one of the rooms. Furthermore, the escapee has been mimicking coma patients in the local hospital. The Atraxi find out Prisoner Zero's location and threaten to destroy the Earth if it doesn't surrender. Lo and behold, it's up to The Doctor to save humanity once more.
If anything, the story mirrors "Smith and Jones", the episode which kicked off Series 3 and gave us Martha Jones. Alien hiding out on Earth trying to avoid captors who are of another alien race. Arguably, most of Doctor Who is recycled from previous episodes and a myriad of other stories but this one just seemed average. It wasn't particularly fresh to my mind. Not bad, just seemed to be more of the same without any twists of the plot.
“The Eleventh Hour” also serves as a good example of how the show suffers from the new shorter format. As I noted above, Prisoner Zero utilizes the thoughts of coma patients in order to co-opt their physical form. There was one brief scene when they all began speaking at once. It seems to me that reducing the show’s running time meant that it wasn’t able to utilize these spooky verbal vegetables to their full extent. They were a wasted opportunity to add some chills to the thrills and spills.
One thing that I really enjoyed was a scene that takes place on the village green. People are there taking photos of the Atraxi ship in the sky and The Doctor scans the scene for Prisoner Zero who has taken human form. Not seeing it, he traces back in his memory scanning all the details he's observed thus far. This was shown with a jerky stop-motion sequence that was accomplished with a still camera and it is really great. Stylistically speaking, Doctor Who is not notably adventurous. There are occasional flashbacks but, for the most part, it utilizes conventional narrative techniques in a very linear way. This scene, however, really sticks out.
As for Matt Smith…I was a bit disappointed that the new Doctor seemed just like the previous one. Instead of something new we got that wacky professor thing – always talking to himself very quickly and some very physical goofiness. The whole food spitting thing grew very old very quickly for me, although the line about Adelia being Scottish so she should fry something was funny. It's not that he was unlikable but rather that I was expecting his regeneration to yield a completely different personality. But I realize that his new look is only one episode old and I’m hopeful the histrionics will be toned down.
Amy Pond, the new companion, is a beautiful lass with a sexy brogue. As with all the companions in the new series, she is dependent on The Doctor yet very much her own woman. Here, she relies on The Doctor for figuring out the alien angles of the situation but she knocked him out when he had returned 12 years late and thought he was a simple intruder. In addition, once she overcomes the perception field and is finally able to see the door that she has been blind to all these years, she overcomes her fear and enters it to investigate despite The Doctor's pleas against doing so. She will no doubt make an able companion.
Despite "The Eleventh Hour" being a bit of a letdown, it is just one episode. Smith has only just begun to grow into the role and I fully expect him to make it his own. And I, for one, dig the new outfit – professorial jacket and bow tie. Good, nerdy stuff. Also new are the TARDIS interior, show logo, and theme song. Here are the latter two: