Saturday, 3 April 2010

Doctor Who: The Eleventh Hour

Doctor: 'Who da man? Oh, I'm never saying that again.'

Season premières are unforgiving creatures. There's often too much to convey in too little time, and this episode had a particularly difficult brief as it had the unenviable task of introducing us to not only a new Doctor, but also a new companion, and a brand new, super-sized TARDIS. So well done to the man (or woman) whose idea it was to grant us an extra 20 minutes of air time. It helped the story no end.

I should start out by saying that I love Matt Smith. From his first interview after landing the role, to his later promotional appearances, in my eyes, he always seemed perfect for the job. Intense, gangly, long-fingered, big fringed, kind of eccentric looking—and all this before flexing one acting muscle. So I expected a lot from Matt Smith, and he didn't disappoint. He totally established himself as the Doctor in just one episode—a tribute to both Smith's acting chops, and Steven Mofatt's writing skills. Plus, I think Matt Smith brings exactly the right amount of zaniness to the role. I loved Tennant, but he sometimes went way too far with his enthusiastic buffoonery. Matt plays the Doctor with considerably more restraint and, for me at least, it totally worked.

I quite like the Doctor's new look, too. It's kind of history professor-esque—with the bow tie, the red braces and the tweed jacket—yet Matt's floppy fringe, his fresh face, tattered old boots and boundless enthusiasm, somehow give the ensemble that contemporary flavour. And the Doctor's new TARDIS looked both beautiful and vast (necessary, I suppose, if it's to house a swimming pool and library). Here's hoping we get to see more of it as the season progresses. Will we ever get to see the Doctor's bedroom, I wonder? More importantly, will Amy ever get to see it? That is where they're heading with this, right? A brand new Doctor, with a gorgeous, new companion—who just so happens to be a sexy kissogram, with a sultry pout and a penchant for wearing short skirts.

Of course, the Doctor Who community has been predictably vociferous in its condemnation of the show's raunchier elements. Firstly, Amy's too slutty (apparently); secondly, the Doctor should never, ever take off his shirt on-screen (despite Tennant ragging off completely in 'Journey's End'); thirdly, Amy should have looked away from the Doctor's naked form immediately, and not have been such a perv (because, as we all know, no young woman has ever enjoyed looking at a semi-naked man); fourthly, the Doctor should never be portrayed as a sexual being (despite his implied love of both Rose and Reinette throughout season two); fifthly... oh, you get the picture. People are dumb-asses.

I've been enthusiastic about Karen Gillan from the beginning, and I've not seen anything, so far, to dissuade me from that view. And I'm not the kind of viewer who automatically loves everything about Doctor Who, irrespective of whether it's good or bad. I was distinctly underwhelmed when Catherine Tate became a permanent member of the cast back in 2008 (and was, conversely, pleasantly surprised when she turned out to be half decent); Freema Agyeman, likewise, wouldn't have been my first choice as Rose's successor (nor my tenth, truth be told... though she did have a few decent episodes); and the Daleks and Cybermen have ground me into a state of weary indifference over the years, with their lame gags and pointless 'delete, delete' mantra. But I have no such qualms about Karen Gillan. Based on her previous work alone (Stacked, Rebus, etc.) she just seems born to play this role. So what if she wears a short skirt? I don't really care if the Doctor wears a short skirt, if I'm honest.

Besides, the character of Amy Pond is fascinating. It's going to be interesting to see how her relationship with the Doctor develops. He's already failed her twice—yet, despite him abandoning her, she never forgot him. She painted pictures of him, she made models of his likeness, she got her boyfriend to dress up as him (Jesus! Really?), and not even years of psychoanalysis, under four different psychiatrists, could shake her faith in her raggedy Doctor. Then suddenly, he's back on the scene asking her to trust him again—which, of course, she does immediately. In many respects Amy's a different kind of companion to Donna, Rose and Martha. She's spent much of her life alone—an orphan—her formative years a confusing mixture of reality and fantasy. Maybe that's why she's a kissogram. A need to escape... to be someone else, somewhere else.

Another thing in Amy's favour is that she's not encumbered by a big family, so we won't have to endure too much in terms of unnecessary family drama, outside of Rory, and the odd visit from Amy's aunt (assuming she's still alive). In fact, the only negative thing I have to say about Amy, or more precisely about the way she was portrayed, is that Adam Smith seemed far t oo enamoured with Karen Gillan's eyes. Make no mistake, she has beautiful eyes, I'm just not sure they're as expressive as the director thinks they are. Sometimes the 'eye close-up' was used to good effect—but at other times it just seemed superfluous.

Prisoner Zero and the Atraxi were a decent effort, but generally unmemorable. The Atraxi looked like a length of CGI-ed ventilation hose. In fact, most of the visual effects were decidedly mediocre—but the villains undoubtedly served their purpose. They gave the newly regenerated Doctor a foe to do battle with, and gave Amy reason to trust in him again. They also supplied some nice 'silence will fall' and 'cracks are opening in the skin of the Universe' dialogue, no doubt setting up some later plot development of world-ending proportions. Unless, of course, Mr Moffat decides to take the lesser trodden path of not threatening to blow up the Universe this season (a tactic which would have Russell T. Davies waking up at night, screaming). Time will tell on that one.

Other Thoughts.

—I like the new rural English setting (despite it being filmed in Wales). London was becoming a bore.

—Who prays to Santa? Mind you, that might be why I keep getting coal and oranges for Christmas—maybe I am praying to the wrong guy.

—Steven Moffat is now the head writer of Doctor Who (replacing Russell T. Davis), and Piers Wenger and Beth Willis are executive producers (replacing Julie Gardner).

—As well as new staff they've also revamped the theme music, the titles and the Doctor Who logo. Not sure about them yet. Maybe they'll grow on me.

—Custard and fish fingers? Nice!

—Another story by Steven Moffat which plays on our childhood fears—this time, it's things which we can only see out the corner of our eye.

—It looks as though Amy's about to get married. To Rory?

—I'm guessing this episode is called 'The Eleventh Hour' because Matt Smith's the eleventh Doctor. Unless anyone's got any better ideas.

—Nice montage of the Doctor's ten previous incarnations, as well as some nifty footage from the Doctor Who movie. I think I saw the Sea Devils in there, too.

—How many times did Matt smack himself on the forehead prior to them getting a usable take? His forehead was as red as a smacked arse.

—Interesting Doctor POV shots—with the camera zooming from person to person, allowing us to see what he sees, all in super quick time.

—The girl who plays young Amelia (Caitlin Blackwood) is actually Karen Gillan's cousin in real life, hence the resemblance.


Doctor: 'I hate yogurt. It's just stuff, with bits in.'

Doctor: 'Why did you say six months?'
Amy (shouting): 'Why did you say six minutes?'

Doctor: 'I'm the Doctor. Basically... run.'

Doctor: 'Come with me.'
Amy: 'Where?'
Doctor: 'Wherever you like.'

Doctor: 'This is when you fly. Today's the day you save the world.'

Doctor: 'Look at you. Oh, you sexy thing. Look at you.'

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