Doctor Who: The Eleventh Hour


Rating 3

Written by Steven Moffat

Directed by Adam Smith

Starring Matt Smith (The Doctor), Karen Gillan (Amelia ‘Amy’ Pond), Arthur Darvill (Rory Williams), Annette Crosbie (Mrs Angelo), Tom Hopper (Jeff), Nina Wadia (Dr Ramsden), Marcello Magni (Barney Collins), Olivia Colman (Mother), Perry Benson (Ice Cream Man), Caitlin Blackwood (Amelia Pond as a child) and Patrick Moore (himself)

The newly regenerated Doctor is clinging to the outside of his TARDIS as it hurtles out of control and crashes into the garden of a house in the English countryside, where he encounters seven-year-old Amelia Pond. She is not scared of him or perturbed by his bizarre behaviour, but she tells him about a crack in her bedroom wall that frightens her. He investigates and discovers a crack in time and space, through which “Prisoner Zero” has escaped. Returning to his TARDIS, he tells Amelia he will be back in five minutes, but does not rematerialise again until twelve years later. Amy, as she is now known, is less than impressed with his tardiness, but they still have to deal with the alien creature that has been hiding in her house that whole time.


‘The Eleventh Hour’ marks the beginning of the new era of Doctor Who, introducing the eleventh Doctor, played by Matt Smith, and a new companion, played by Karen Gillan. Steven Moffat has assumed the role of Head Writer, taking over from the departing Russell T Davies. It also marks the arrival of Piers Wenger, who took over the role of Head of Drama at BBC Wales from Julie Gardner in January 2009.

The return of Doctor Who in March 2005 after what had more or less amounted to fifteen years in television wilderness, give or take the brief reign of the eighth Doctor, Paul McGann, in a not entirely successful film-length version in 1996, had seemed like a risky proposition. The decision of Russell T Davies to cast Christopher Eccleston in the lead role undoubtedly took some people by surprise, but it was surely not as contentious as his decision to cast Billie Piper as the Doctor’s companion. It proved to be a triumph, although Eccleston stood down after just one season and most fans seem to prefer his successor David Tennant.

Tennant played the role for three seasons, plus various “specials”, between December 2005 and December 2009, by which time I think the show was starting to feel a little tired and in need of some fresh ideas. To be clear, Russell T Davies did a remarkable job of resurrecting something that seemed to be dead and buried outside of a very loyal and long existing but decidedly entrenched fanbase. This fanbase continues to debate and argue with vehement intensity the merits or otherwise of the Davies era and the changes he brought to what remains the longest-surviving and possibly most successful sci-fi series in television history.

I am great supporter of Russell T Davies and I liked David Tennant as the Doctor, but I do think they chose the right time to step down. I hoped that Steven Moffat, who wrote ‘Blink’, which many fans would argue is the best episode of the RTD era, would take the show in a new direction. Having watched ‘The Eleventh Hour’, plus the clips of forthcoming episodes, I am not sure to what degree this is going to happen. For my own personal tastes, Doctor Who with David Tennant had latterly started to become rather too frenetic. The stories no longer had time to breathe; the Doctor had little time for reflection. If anything, Matt Smith seems to be an even more frenetic incarnation of the character. One television critic has already compared him to Jim Carrey.

I do appreciate that the Doctor Who of 2010 is made for quite a different audience to that of 1985 or 1975 or 1965. This is an audience brought up on computer games; in an era when celebrities are expected to “twitter” every minute of every day so that we can become their artificial “virtual” friends. I am clearly showing my age, but I do increasingly feel slightly out-of-step with a world in which everything is instant.

‘The Eleventh Hour’ draws on themes from previous Doctor Who episodes. An obvious example would be ‘The Girl in the Fireplace’, another Steve Moffat script, that took place during David Tennant’s first season in 2006. There is, perhaps, a slight sense of déjà-vu for this reason. The story felt like it quickly ran out of ideas, but to contradict myself somewhat, at the same time I think it would have benefited from being told across two episodes or as a 90-minute extended episode. I was impressed how quickly Matt Smith seems to have settled into the role, but it would have been nice to have spent a bit more time introducing this new Doctor and also his new companion and done so with a little less haste.

One criticism of the revived series that I have previously disagreed with really hit home here. The background music was very intrusive, especially in the opening scenes, rather taking away from the otherwise near perfect mix of humour and creepiness and the sense of claustrophobic foreboding that was clearly the intended ambience. Equally, the alien creature was uninteresting. Patrick Moore makes a pointless and uninvolving cameo apperance as himself, which is a bit of a letdown. However, of much more importance than any of this, I liked the new Doctor and the new companion.

Although not perfect, ‘The Eleventh Hour’ is a very good start to the new era and I am very interested to see how the series unfolds over the next twelve episodes leading up to the Christmas special in December 2010. It does seem that the Daleks and the Cybermen will be making an appearance in this new series, which I find disappointing. Personally, I think they could do with a rest, but then I have never particularly been a fan of either.

‘The Eleventh Hour’ was watched by an audience of appoximately 8 million viewers, nearly 37% of the total television audience in its timeslot.

Review posted 5 April 2010


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