Doctor Who – The Eleventh Hour

OK, I’ve calmed down enough to write as coherent a report as I’m ever likely to on the first episode of the first (according to some BBC sources), the fifth (according to most people who aren’t in marketing) or the thirty-first (according to people who were paying attention all those years ago) series of Doctor Who, so here goes.

So, we pick up much where we left off – the Doctor has regenerated, and presumably because he held it in so long, the outburst of energy has made a bit of a mess of the TARDIS, leading it to crash. This does involve the Doctor hanging out of the doors for added entertainment value, but that’s a quite acceptable bit of silliness.

We then get a regenerated title sequence: which is, like the Doctor himself, the same but different: a new version of the theme music, a new (and with an incredibly HD-friendly level of detail) version of the time vortex thingy, and the new logo. All good so far.

The TARDIS does the crashing thing, and the Doctor meets a lonely young girl called Amelia Pond who has a slight inter-dimensional crack in her bedroom wall[1], and who tries to give the Doctor something to eat. Apparently apples and yoghurt aren’t what Tiggers Doctors[2] like best, but fish fingers in custard are.

The TARDIS is a bit upset by all the exploding and crashing, and needs a quick five-minute trip into the future to sort things out. Amelia wants to come along, but the Doctor thinks this is too dangerous, and promises to return. And so he does, but when he gets to Amelia’s house, she’s nowhere to be found. Could the nasty thing in the room you can only see out of the corner of your eye have done something? When he comes round after being hit by a cricket bat, he finds himself handcuffed to a radiator and confronted by a police woman, who doesn’t seem at all pleased to see him.

Well, there is a nasty thing in the room, which not only has far too many teeth and a tendency to dangle from the ceiling, but also the ability to take on the appearance of any lifeform that’s in a suitably dormant state, such as the ward full of coma patients in a conveniently nearby hospital.

And of course, it’s a prisoner that’s escaped through the crack. And of course, the prison guards are threatening to incinerate the human residence if Prisoner Zero doesn’t come out. And of course, they mean the planet, not Amelia’s house. And of course, it’s been twelve years (and four psychiatrists) for Amelia, who now prefers to be called Amy if you don’t mind, not five minutes. And of course, she’s not really a policewoman, she’s a kissagram[3]. And of course, everyone thinks she had this imaginary friend when she was a kid, and they recognise the Doctor from all the pictures she drew. And of course, the sonic screwdriver burns out and the TARDIS locks the Doctor out while it fixes itself.

All of which is a great set up for a just-regenerated Doctor. He’s not quite sure who he is, where all his bits are, and what to do, but he deals with the threat by a bit of Doctorish stuff. The nasty alien thingy is taken away by the delightful jailers.

And then comes the OK, he really is the Doctor bit. Rather than letting the alien jailers pop back to where they came from, he grabs a mobile phone from Amy’s (sort of) boyfriend Rory and orders them to come back. He then confronts one of them (a lovely shiny star thing with a very big blue eye) and points out that Earth is a level five planet, and that incinerating it would have been naughty.

The alien wossname takes a look, and suggests that the Doctor is not of this world:

No, but I’ve put a lot of work into it

And then lets them see who he is, with one of those lovely little things where we see flashes of previous Doctors and monsters. Once they realise who (and what) he is, they zip off faster than a very fast thing, never to return…

The Doctor then gets the signal he’s been waiting for – the TARDIS key is glowing. He runs back to find its exterior has been completely replaced. It’s still a 1950s Police Box, but it’s all new and shiny and lovely. And inside? Inside it’s all new, too. The controls are still a crazy mixture of bits from who knows where, like a manual typewriter, for instance. Which is interesting. If the TARDIS can effectively regenerate itself like that, it could presumably make the exterior change to any shape, too. So we have to assume that either it’s still a Police Box because the Doctor likes it that way, or because the TARDIS itself likes it, or is at least used to it.

Anyway, the Doctor takes a quick trip to make sure everything works, then pops back to see Amy to ask her to travel with him. She’s a bit reluctant at first, seeing as he left two years in her past, meaning he’s been keeping her waiting for a total of fourteen years, but eventually she agrees, on condition she can be back for the following morning, when she has some “stuff” to do.

And off they go, with the Doctor first reassuring Amy that if she’s concerned that he’s just a madman in a box, that’s it’s quite OK because

I’m definitely a madman in a box!

Which, while it lacks some of the majesty of the description from The Family of Blood:

He’s like fire and ice and rage. He’s like the night and the storm in the heart of the sun. He’s ancient and forever. He burns at the centre of time and he can see the turn of the Universe and – he’s wonderful

is another excellent summary of the Doctor’s character.

And you think that’s all? Hah! Not even close. We also got some nice set-ups for future episodes. Prisoner Zero lets on that it didn’t make the crack, it’s a fundamental part of the universe, and that something bad is going to happen, and

Silence will descend

which sounds a bit of a worry. Oh, and that “stuff” Amy’s supposed to be doing? It probably has something to do with the wedding dress she’s got in her bedroom..

So. Wow. As a series opener, this one set the bar very high. And Matt Smith? Totally bloody brilliant. Now I’ve seen him, I understand why Steven Moffat and the other execs ripped up their plans for an older actor as soon as they saw him. He’s magnificent. All arms, legs and hands. Especially hands. And with that edge of madness that we haven’t really seen since Tom Baker was at his best.

Lots more fun to come. Quite apart from World War II Daleks, we appear to be getting Cybermen at Stonehenge, which is a combination I wasn’t expecting…

[1] Which the Doctor does describe as “wibbly wobbly, timey wimey”, which made me happy
[2] Seriously – I’m sure Tigger turning up at Pooh’s house in the middle of the night was the inspiration for this
[3] Which accounts for her skirt being so short!

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