John Walker's Electronic House

Doctor Who: The Eleventh Doctor Hour

by on Apr.03, 2010, under The Rest

It’s good to be right.

Matt Smith is absolutely fantastic. Stephen Moffat was born to be in charge.

“Box falls out the sky, man falls out a box, man eats fish custard.”

Moffat remembered that Doctor Who is a programme for children to watch, and designed to scare them. The opening ten minutes, a series of slapstick and extremely silly lines, were like a rebirthing for the series. A reminder of what it was about – not grimacing, innuendo and snogging, but alternating between laughs and being frightened.

The story is coherent, pleasingly daft, and not resolved by waving the sonic screwdriver at things. That in itself was incredibly refreshing. In fact, rendering the screwdriver inactive had to be a statement that Moffat did not intend to continue such lazy writing.

It was certainly a shame that Moffat has been left a legacy of a world perfectly used to being attacked by aliens, and disappointing that he chose not only not to reset this (surely it could be done so simply – reprogramme some alien device to undo the knowledge of the Doctor, and all related subjects, from humanity’s minds) but to further it. I guess the damage is done, but I had rather hoped Moffat would not wish to perpetuate this situation.

Once again Moffat’s deft skill with picking on those things that frighten children was displayed. Cracks in bedroom walls – surely the obsession of every child at some point during a scared, sleepless night. Mysteriously appearing doors in houses – certainly a topic that plagued my own childhood dreams. And then the idea that something monstrous can only be seen if you focus incredibly hard on your peripheral vision. Absolutely brilliant. And then those teeth – those brilliantly chilling teeth – guaranteed to be the subject of a few thousand nightmares this evening. Exactly what Doctor Who should be doing.

Matt Smith was absolutely terrific. Eccentric, continuing Tennant’s abandon, but in a way that’s completely his own. It’s unclear why we were shown his clutching at one of his hearts on a couple of occasions, being warned he wasn’t cooked yet, when that led nowhere. But otherwise he was set up as an interesting Doctor, cocky and strangely blasé. His Odo-like face is fascinating, as 900 years old as it is 27. And Karen Gillan’s Amy Pond is by far the most potentially interesting assistant in years.

It’ll be interesting to see if Moffat has larger plans in place for his arc. Silence is falling, we’re told. Hopefully this means something that’s not only well planned, but also interesting enough to warrant a season’s build-up. Something Davies routinely failed to do in a way that was beyond inept. It was disturbing that he was unable to recognise the success of his Bad Wolf motif to such an extent that when asked to explain how it was resolved, most people will say, “Er, something about the Rose/TARDIS thing, right? I dunno.” And then after that they became so dull as to barely be noticeable, culminating in the prophecies around Donna that were apparently building up to her making a phone call and then falling unconscious. If this falling silence is going somewhere, I shall be extremely happy.

Things bode well. With Moffat writing six of the thirteen episodes, and Gatiss back writing a Dalek episode, at least half should be splendid. The interesting choice of Simon Nye writing another should at least be aiming for comedy. Goodness knows what fist of it Richard Curtis will make, but I’m sure it shall be celebrated as a masterpiece no matter how bloody tedious the result may be. Hey, maybe it’ll be fun. Who knows.

RTD is dead, long live Moffat.


29 Comments for this entry

  • The_B

    I must admit, in a world where everyone ‘knows’ the Doctor, I thought it was a bit weird that apparently nobody believed Amy – including, we were told, three psychiatrists – about the ‘Doctor’. I mean, even if it didn’t look like the ‘Doctor’ everyone seemingly knows about, I’m not sure everyone would have dismissed her claims. And unless I’m mistaken I’m sure the Doctor himself alluded to a fair few people about the fact his appearance changes, although granted I’m not sure how many of those were aliens or killed soon after.

    A minor niggle though, overall it was fantastic and sets up very high expectations for the series. I didn’t really ever get why RTD’s series openers were considered by many to be a bit rubbish really, but watching tonights certainly exposed the flaws in RTD’s openers a lot more to me.

  • LewieP

    What I will say:



  • The_B

    I quite liked that, personally. I mean I know the skirt length was a bit of a giveaway that she wasn’t a real policewoman, but I thought regardless it was a rather nice way of subverting the assumption of the viewer, as Moffat knew pictures from the filming would leak.

    And if it had been ‘hen party costume’ I think that might have smacked a little too much of the RTD era.

  • John Walker

    I think the word “stripper” got BBCd there.

    Although the Doctor’s observation skills were not at an all-time high, not noticing that policewomen rarely wear skirts that short.

  • Blackberries

    Hah. Saw this on iPlayer a couple of hours ago, and right away checked here to see if you’d had a wordthink about it. You hadn’t so I went ahead and watched – just finished.

    I enjoyed it throroughly. I’ve not really been keeping up with it for a couple of years, warned off by lacklustre episodes whenever I did manage to watch, and general negativity surrounding its direction. But I found this episode fun, interesting, and even a little tense at times. I’ll happily carry on watching: though I did cringe when I saw Daleks in the “coming soon” reel. They are not scary when they -keep coming back-!

    Favourite moments:
    Little girl praying to Santa.
    Quick montage of the previous doctors as he warns of the aliens.

  • Thomas Lawrence

    The_B: keep in mind that she first met the doctor as a child – twelve years before most of the events of the episode and fourteen years before the presumably “present” timeline that appears at the very end. Hence, if people know about the Doctor in the universe “now”, that still wouldn’t matter to how Amy’s wibbling would have been perceived through the late nineties and early-mid 00s.

    I’d also question how far it’s actually true that the world knows about the Doctor in 2010 – the thing where everyone in the world was told by Martha to “believe in the Doctor” was completely retconned out of having happened (urgh), and I don’t recall another instance when the Doctor made so public an exposure – perhaps I’m forgetting some throwaway element of one of RTDs ludicrous epics?

  • Daniel Rivas

    What’s wrong with a world used to alien encounters?

    I quite like that. It’s not as if Doctor Who characters were ever going to seem just like normal people anyway. Even if they were unaware of what’s going on, it was never going to feel like the real world. So why not a properly alternate Earth, rather than just a weirdly off one in which everyone is from London or Cardiff or both?

  • The_B

    Was the whole everyone turned into The Master at Christmas forgotten about, I (perhaps ironically) forget?

    Thomas: I suppose, but as you say, we have no idea if the ‘present’ timeline is when he met her as a child or during the events of Eleventh Hour. Although correct me if I’m wrong, during the opening sequence, wasn’t the Millennium Dome and London Eye in clear view, so we could assume Doctor/Pond as a child occurred at the earliest around 2000? (Again this doesn’t disprove anything, the way the timeline jumps around it’s near impossible to pinpoint the exact date.) I think I assumed he’d come from the last adventure, but then he did jump all around and had just come from 2004 to say Goodbye to Rose before he regenerated…

    I think though it was more Rory’s exclamation of “but he was imaginary” that led me to assume people still thought as such.

  • Thomas Lawrence

    The “but he was imaginary” was referring to the Doctor as described in Amy Pond’s drawings etc., not to the Doctor as known from any other source. I assumed we were meant to assume that no-one encountered in this story knew who The Doctor was beyond a child’s imaginary friend.

    You’re right about the Dome and Eye, I think – continuity blip, or are we actually meant to think that Amy comes from 2014 (or later?). Hilarious! This could quickly become a new UNIT dating controversy….

  • Thomas Lawrence

    Oh and IU think everyone was meant to not have remembered they were turned into the Master (which does’t even begin to address the problems that particular stunt causes if you think it through – film records etc – but RTD rarely worried about such things. I any case the Doctor isn’t directly mentioned or implicated in the whole human race turning into John Simm – you’d only asociate the Doctor with such a disaster if you’d already heard of him, after all)

    Last night’s resetting of ALL THE WORLD’S COUNTERS TO ZERO is a comparatively minor disruption considering (I did have to wonder what that did to the stock market…)

  • Richard

    Silly or not, I’m assuming that the world’s awareness of aliens and weird stuff has been reset between seasons until there’s some plot to the contrary. Continuity isn’t exactly Who’s finest trait anyway – for good reason – and I’m much more interested in seeing Moffat’s take on Who that watching him continue RTD’s.

    What did annoy me though was that RTD has so thoroughly beaten the idea of universe-shattering disasters at the end of every season that having yet another alien mouthing some cryptic arc-word drivel has lost every last scrap of its power. Really hoping that Moffat has some big twist/subversion planned for the end of the series, because when Not Olivia Coleman started whispering about silence falling, I almost expected him to wince and go “Not AGAIN…”

  • Robert Morgan

    Yes, Moffat has a better idea of the medicine kids require than did RTD. Who knows, maybe Moffat realises that the problem of earth knowing about aliens is the sort of thing 30 something men moan about on the internet. Being one of those men, I share that instinct. But more importantly to me the 10 year old Who fan would have been that nobody takes away my spaceships smashing into Big Ben.

    You either don’t have the grand setpieces (unacceptable this century) or you do a stupid reset button every time on that. It’s a problem that doesn’t matter.

    I think, as ever, Whedon solved it the best way it could be solved, keeping grand intervention to a minimum and adding some sort of need to forget amongst people, but that too was unsatisfactory.

    I can’t help wanting to stick up for RTD when you guys do this. He did an incredible job on the reboot – problems of taste, relevance and balance, how much to keep the same, how much to annoy the internet. That stuff impresses me more than Moffat’s scripts. Moffat has been gifted the ready-made untouchable hot property. If he’d been given the reins from the start, there probably wouldn’t be a world-beating Who to improve (as Moffat undoubtedly has).

    And RTD knows all this stuff. I remember right at the beginning he said that he’d brought the sonic screwdriver back because occasionally you want the Doctor to open a door (because otherwise the plotting is tediously pedantic), but it should never resolve a proper problem. And obviously, he’s broken that rule over and over, but not as often as it feels he has.

    The problem with RTD is as an actual scriptwriter, though he could still do the occasional brilliant episode.

    And I like your suggestion that “Amy Pond is by far the most potentially interesting assistant in years”. You’ve got far less apparent interest one episode in than any of the RTD assistants offered you up. The reason we’re all so interested in Amy is that she’s unspeakably gorgeous, the hottest assistant ever (Adric excluded).

    Oh, and Mark Gatiss will never write anything other than plodding, lifeless, fan-pleasing pastiche.

  • Patrick

    I’m with Richard on this one, I’m assuming that the world has forgotten most of what RTD inflicted on it. Moffat very deliberately didn’t have the Doctor jump into that video conference and say “hi, it’s the doctor, you rang?”.

  • MrsTrellis

    I do not feel the need to watch any more episodes. I did not watch any of the last series because the 2008 xmas special was so appalling that I’d rather have chewed my own foot off than watch any more of them.

    I was told to watch this because apparently Stephen Moffat is the new Jesu who will make the world anew, and, more impressively, Doctor Who watchable again.

    I now conclude that Doctor Who was never all that good; there is too much decent TV on at the moment for me to bother with this any longer. I’m off to watch the new series of Ashes to Ashes instead, which I’ve always considered to be better scifi than Doctor Who ever was.

  • MrsTrellis

    PS: The score was so awful, cliched and overblown that it made me want to turn off in the first 30 seconds.

  • The_B

    Actually in the ‘anally specific attention to detail’ stakes that’s a pretty good point there – when the spaceship crashed into Big Ben during the events of Eccelstone era, were we ever told it was rebuilt? I forget. If not, the fact it was still intact last night may have been an indication. But then the fact we’ve had an entire incarnation of the Doctor between those events probably indicates otherwise.

    Thomas: to be fair actually, Amy coming from 2014 not all that impossible, thinking about it. Apart from that date sounding incredibly futuristic when it is, in fact only four years away, the events in various Christmas specials set any ‘present day’ adventures about three or four years ahead anyway. Unless we’re assuming he went from 2004 to Young Amy era and came back to 2008 for the events of most of Eleventh Hour before finally collecting Amy proper in 2010.

    I doubt they’re going to mention the year to be honest and just leave it to us obsessive Who-geek types to fuss over the details, and when the actual product is as good as it is it’s only the worst people who can let that get in the way of the great entertainment.

  • TheApologist

    A lot of talk about writers, producers and continuity in the comments – fair enough. But As John says, this was back to child-like fun and scares with an immensely likeable character at the centre, and I thought it was great!

    Really looking forward to watching him and amy have their adventures :)

  • Pace

    This doesn’t seem to be airing in the US for a couple weeks. Why? WHY??

  • EthZee

    I suggested in one of your earlier posts, John, that overhyping Stephen Moffat may have been misadvised. I hereby offer you an apology: you appear to have been correct. This episode was indeed awesome and a promising start to a new DW. Me like lot much.

  • EthZee

    Okay, I actually have a keyboard now rather than trying to type using a bloody playstation controller. Thoughts!

    Funny and scary. The monster wasn’t a farting bug-eyed alien like the Slitheen, but something that will actually terrify children, and this is a good thing. I did think the cgi alien looked a bit ‘wanky’, but to be honest most of the non-humanoid aliens have always looked wanky, we’re not exactly talking huge effects budgets here.

    Very funny at times. The bit with the laptop was ace (though I did get a bit confused as to how this other guy that The Doctor had just met seemingly knew how to create computer viruses and how he knew this. Anyone care to explain?)

    New assistant is interesting; I’m willing to admit that this isn’t because of any particularly good character quirks on her behalf (I’m sure she’ll develop as the series goes by) than due to the fact that I fancy her.

    I like the look of the new episodes. And yes, OH NO THE DALEKS HAVE RETURNED AGAIN; but I’m interested by the fact that these ones appear to be Union-Jack-Daleks. Maybe ersatz-daleks instead?

    Yes. Anyway. I metaphorically eat my hat, John.

  • Pope Gregory IX

    For me, the humanity’s knowledge of the hidden universe is unearned. Buffy pulled it off, but knew not to attempt it until long into its run (The Prom, Graduation Day part 2), and even then only concentrated that awareness on a group of people who had been subject to a slow-build over three seasons. Earned, it certainly was, and these moments were more powerful and poignant for it. Tee Davies didn’t get that and didn’t get how it would detract from his attempts to have New Who play out in a recognisable modern world.

    The Moff had two options, or so I thought. Retcon humanity’s knowledge of all the shit Davies let them see, or write around it, ignore it even. I could have bought that. But no, he chose a path I hadn’t even considered: do exactly the same thing; so we have yet another invasion fleet for humanity to file alongside the rest. Bah.

    If that gives the impression I’m down on the episode, I’m not. It was too long, but the first 40 minutes or so were mostly marvelous. The last 20 had a few too many Tee Davies-isms (creepy-looking, but passive and unthreatening villain who lets the Doctor talk at him/her while putting his plan into action; the invasion fleet thing; Patrick Moore; MURRAY GOLD). It’s a promising start, just not the promised land (yes, ahh).

  • Nick Mailer

    A load of banal rubbish. I don’t know why I allowed Walker to convince me to re-audition this ill-conceived children’s programme.

  • John Walker

    A couple of things. First, while I agree the return of the Daleks is a little soon, they do appear to at least be featuring in an alternate past, rather than yet again in the current present. From the glimpses we’ve seen, they appear to be a British weapon in an alternative WW2, which is a novel idea at least.

    Secondly, while yes, Amy Pond is gorgeous, that’s not the motivation behind my excitement. It’s the fairytale. That’s a really fascinating theme, and her growing up believing in the Doctor as all around her teach her he isn’t real, her passionate belief in the fairytale of the Doctor, and the mess this has made of her childhood: that’s far more interesting than just grabbing a girl off the street as has traditionally been the case.

  • The_B

    Bloomin heck. So earlier John, you said Kissogram was BBC family-friendlifying ‘Stripper’.

    Apparently that wasn’t enough for some people. The number of people who just want to be offended astounds me sometimes.

  • innokenti

    Yeah. Rather enjoyed.

    I think that we needn’t be worried about the Doctor and Earth as it looks like the series is going to (mostly) concentrate away from present-day Earth and go elsewhere. As it should. For most of the time.

    Things look good.

  • Rodafowa

    If you measure it against other Moffat-scripted episodes, I thought it was a bit disappointing. If you measure it against other NewWho series openers, it was completely fantastic. I could pick nits (crikey, the new theme tune) but my only major beef was that much as I liked Matt Smith and Karen Gillan (he’s certainly a lot cuter than he sounds in his reviews) I’m about ready for a Doctor-companion relationship that’s not based around unrequited love. This is, what, at least the third time since the reboot?

    Actually, my major issues are that and the new theme tune. Ye gods.

  • Nick Mailer

    I find Matt Smith’s intonation offensive. Either be posh or be a cockney, but I’ve had it up to here with this half-arsed estuary laziness.

  • jsutcliffe

    The most important point, that criminally hasn’t come up here, is that yogurt _is_ just stuff with bits in. Now _that_ is the stuff of childhood nightmares.

  • Alex

    I don’t mind the new theme, but I don’t think I’ll ever love it, either. This version has my heart forever.