Doctor Who Review: The Eleventh Hour

E: I have to admit it.  Ten was my Doctor.  Nope, that’s not an abbreviation of David Tennant’s name – he was the tenth man to fill the roll of The Doctor in Doctor Who history, and he was the one who pulled me in.  As a child, I was completely terrified of the glimpses I caught on PBS of the jaunty oddball with the poofy hair and knitted scarf, running from terrifying robots.  But my sister C introduced me to some of the newer episodes (I believe starting with The Runaway Bride). I thought the Racknoss was preposterously campy, but I loved Donna, and the Doctor, and slowly, slowly, became enthralled by the continuing saga.

Mr. E and I have waited on tenterhooks for the introduction of the eleventh Doctor, Matt Smith.  (Eleventh Hour, eleventh Doctor – cute, Mr. Moffat, very cute.) And finally, the day arrived!   If you’ve seen The Eleventh Hour, or don’t mind spoilers, we’d like to share our thoughts on this subject with you.

E: I have to admit, I am deeply suspicious of any non-Ten Doctor.

Mr. E: You liked Christopher Eccleston as #9, though.

E: Yes, that’s true. I did like 9 when we went back and watched his episodes, but maybe it’s different when you know someone is temporary?

Mr. E: I think that what makes this transition harder is that when they went from 9 to 10, you had the consistency of having Rose with the doctor the whole time (okay, we went from 10 to 9 and back to 10, but still). After that, you had a couple of changes in companions (Martha, Donna), but you had the consistency of having Tennant remain. This time, we’re getting both a new Doctor and a new companion at the same time, and that’s weird.

E: Yes, it’s definitely a lot all at once. But, ah, Rose.  How I loved Rose.  And how much nicer it would have been had Donna stayed on, rather than the atrocity the writer perpetrated on her.  Anyway, I like Karen Gillan’s Amy Pond just fine – although like the Doctor I wish she still went by Amelia.  Amelia Pond has a marvelous ring to it.  I feel fairly comfortable with her off the bat.  It’s Matt Smith I’m unsure of.  I don’t mind at all that’s he’s much younger than his predecessors, but his energy is oddly dispersed, and he’s very soft-spoken, which feels strange. after David Tennant’s verbal gymnastics and laser-like focus.

Mr. E: I liked Rose and Donna too. And I agree that Amy Pond seemed good. She had a good energy and was sufficiently awestruck and excited at the prospect of traveling with the Doctor, and all of that. I liked the aspect of her having met the Doctor when she was younger, and then getting to be his companion when he comes back. As for Matt Smith, I think I like him as well. At least I’m willing to give him a shot. I agree about his soft-spokenness, though – there were several times when I didn’t understand him at all.

E: Matt Smith has a nicely alien look to him – that large forehead with the deep-set eyes reminds me a bit of the cat-nun who nursed the Face of Bo.  He’s got floppy hair, and he lumbers about as if he’s not quite in charge of his body, which is very apt (for now).  And I like the bow tie.  It’s all very Doctor-like, while being completely, utterly different from David Tennant and Christopher Eccleston.  But I can’t get past the difference, somehow. He doesn’t share the sharpness, the forward thrust and precision of those actors, and it’s throwing me for a loop.

Mr. E: I think that perhaps Smith is playing up the uncomfortable-in-his-new-skin thing. Maybe that’s giving him too much credit, I don’t know. Again, I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt until I see how the next few episodes go.  It could also be Smith getting used to the role as well, but since the Doctor would have a reason to be uncomfortable in his new body, that probably works to any new Doctor’s advantage.

E: Mmm,  I guess so.  I’m certainly not going to stop watching it, but I’m definitely reserving judgment.  I will say, however, that I loved seeing the Doctor’s newness through a child’s eyes.  The midnight scene in the Pond kitchen, where the Doctor demands new foods and then rejects them to see what his new mouth prefers, was rather wonderful.  All I could think of was Tigger in Winnie the Pooh,  who was similarly confident (and then appalled) in his search for the foods that “Tiggers like best”?  Fish fingers and custard, good heavens!

That said, hmmm.  I enjoyed the spectacle of the world greeting the apocalypse by taking cell phone pictures. And I liked the whole “raggedy doctor” thing, and the way the people in Amy’s life responded to learning that the Doctor and Prisoner Zero were real.  That was a lot of fun.

Mr. E: I agree about Amy’s friends. It was like she had a childhood imaginary friend that was suddenly walking around in the real world.

E: I know, right?  That was outstanding.

Mr. E: Of course, she knew he was real, but everyone else thought it was just a story. That was definitely fun.

E: The very idea of her thinking she’s going to get back in time for her wedding is laughable, however.  If the Doctor was first 12 years and then 2 more years late, what on earth makes her think he can get her back in the morning?  That really implies that she doesn’t so much care about the wedding.  And yikes – is a kissagram an actual job in England, do you think?

Mr. E: Yeah, I was wondering about that too. What did she say she did? She goes to parties (dressed as a cop with short shorts) and kisses people?

E: Or a French maid. And how many people, anyway?  The host?  Everyone at the party?  Why parties?  I’m baffled.

Mr. E: I’ve heard of a singing telegram, but that definitely seems like crossing some sort of line there. Very odd. And I agree about the wedding thing – I expect that her making it back in time (or whether she really WANTS to make it back in time at all) will be a major plot point of the new series.

Speaking of plots, I thought the plot of this episode itself was pretty standard Doctor Who.

E: Oh yes.  Coma patients are always good for some fun in the Who-verse, but nothing new.

Mr. E: Intergalactic prisoner hiding out on earth, Doctor has to save the world, etc, etc. Not bad, but certainly not any kind of big leap forward in storytelling. Not that I mind – the fun of Doctor Who always seems to be the witty dialog and repartee between the Doctor and his companion more than the plot itself, although I do think they’ve had some pretty interesting and fun ones along the way.

E: I think they must have thought it would be too much to introduce the new characters and have more than your standard issue plot.  It certainly didn’t hold a candle to Blink or Partners in Crime or The Empty Child when we’re thinking about originality.

Mr. E: Hey, here’s an interesting question as long as we’re on the subject of changing Doctors: do you think the Doctor could ever be a woman? I don’t think they’ve ever done that, have they? Could a woman get away with the sort of wackiness of the Doctor’s character, without seeming ditzy or something? And if the Doctor was a woman, would she have to choose a male companion? Talk about uncomfortable in his own skin – I think an actress could have a lot of fun with that.

E: That’s true, it would be really interesting.  The closest we’ve ever gotten is to The Doctor Donna, who was amazing.  So I think it could be done.  And yeah, the shock and the weirdness of it would be a lot of fun. But would they?  Ah, now that’s another question.  I could see some purists getting up in arms about that.  We’d have to ask a real expert if the Doctor is always supposed to be a man throughout his travels, or if he ever switches around.  You’d think, with his adventurous spirit, that he’d be game for it.  Anyone out there know the answer?

Christopher Eccleston

6 comments on “Doctor Who Review: The Eleventh Hour

  1. sapience says:

    The Doctor (while never a woman) has had male companions before. I’ve actually been a little irked at the male companions in the new series: their either present for a very brief period of time, or they’ve been simply an appendage of a female companion (I’m thinking of Mickey here). The older series had a lot more flexibility that way.

    People have suggested that the 12th doctor (or the 13th, if we ignore the idea that the doctor can only regenerate 11 times, and maybe say he can get another 12 lives as another gender) might be a woman. I think a woman doctor could be awesome, but it would probably change the doctor’s character in ways we might not expect. I think she’d probably still have female companions, actually.

    • E says:

      It’s hard to think of Mickey as a companion, isn’t it – he’s really a companion’s companion. And Jack is more like a colleague who drops in occasionally for a joint project. So, yeah. And sure, why wouldn’t a female Doctor have female companions? That’d be fun.

      I didn’t know there was supposed to be a limit to the number of times he can regenerate. I wonder why the writers would put a limit on themselves like that?

      • Hayley says:

        It was established in the old show (back when they were only on the fourth doctor–who knew they’d ever approach 13!?) that Time Lords could have thirteen incarnations. It was a plot point that the Master was reaching the end of his regenerations.

        It has never been stated in the new show that there is a limit, so it remains to be seen whether the producers will explain away or simply ignore the previously-stated limit.

        Before Matt Smith was cast, there was quite a bit of speculation that a black actor (can’t remember his name) would be cast.

        Also–the TARDIS! I really am in love with the tone this series is setting. Matt Smith, fish custard, the crazy-fun TARDIS interior, all coordinate to bring a brighter feel to the show, and I’m looking forward to seeing that continue. (The darker tone in Eccleston’s and Tennant’s seasons was also very good, but I’m glad they’re switching it up.)

        • E says:

          You know what I want to see? THE SWIMMING POOL!!!! IN THE LIBRARY!!!! How awesome is that? The TARDIS is suddenly like Oscar the Grouch’s trash can. So cool.

          I remember that about the black actor, though for the life of me I can’t remember who it was.

          So the Master was on the old show, huh? We keep saying we’re going to rent some of the old seasons (assuming they’re available). Maybe this summer. Do you think they hold up? As I mentioned, they scared the pants off my as a little kid, but I wonder if now they’d just seem cheesy.

          • Hayley says:

            Hehe, Oscar the Grouch!

            Well, Steve has subjected me to some of the old show, and I’ve mostly liked what I’ve seen. You have to be in the mood for it, though: it is VERY different, and is very much a product of its times. There’s no flash-bang, and certainly no budget for special effects–the whole pace is slower. But it’s worth looking into. I have the luxury of having an expert pick the best episodes to get me started on the old show 🙂

            And yes, the Master is a long-standing enemy. Many of the monsters are from the old show: Daleks and Davros and Cybermen, of course; but also Sontarans and a handful that have only been in one episode.

            • E says:

              I vaguely remember the Daleks and the Cybermen, glimpsed out of the corner of my eye.

              Expert guidance is always a good thing! Sounds like you’re pretty lucky. 🙂

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