Sunday, 17 April 2011

Doctor Who: The Eleventh Hour

“I’m the Doctor. I’m worse than everybody’s aunt.”

Blimey, I’d forgotten this was an hour long. That’ll be another massive epic to review, then. And one with an unusually large number of things worthy of comment.

The first thing to notice is how utterly different this is in style. The picture, the quality of the colours, the style of shooting from newcomer Adam Smith- it all feels subtly different, more “fairytale”, as even acknowledged in the dialogue. Even Murray Gold’s musical style has changed to fit this.

And there’s very little reference to what’s happened before. This is clean break, with old characters and themes left in the past and new plot threads and themes beginning to be seeded- many of which, a week before the 2011 series is due to start, are very much still ongoing. Oh, and Matt Smith is superb.

We’re introduced to our new Doctor through the eyes of a child, Amelia Pond, and this immediately gives him a wonderfully dreamlike, fairytale quality. The interaction between the two is a joy. But behind the foreground, with its fish fingers and custard, are some interesting questions: where are Amy’s parents? Why is she all alone in that big house? Why should a whopping great crack in the fabric of reality have appeared in a little girl’s wall? This is wonderfully surreal, but I’m sure there are implications following on from all this which have yet to play out.

We know, far before Amy tells us that twelve years has passed, that some years have passed and that she’s the same person, to a large extent because of the pre-publicity but surely also because it’s obvious, and supposed to be. I don’t even care that it’s sort of repeating The Girl in the Fireplace. Karen Gillan and Amy are great. I love Amy’s kookiness and bloody-mindedness. Also her… dress sense. It’s, er, a bit of a shame that some of her outfits are only mentioned rather than seen…

Moffat certainly knows how to do scary, but we knew that. The perception filter around an entire room is a great concept. But the CGI realisation of Prisoner Zero in its natural form is the scariest thing ever- a massive worm thing with razor-sharp teeth!

Rory’s great, too. Arthur Darvill’s comic acting is top notch. I love his reaction to the Doctor, recognising him as Amy’s imaginary friend, as does everyone. It’s most amusing how everyone knows who Amy is, including the man whose car door she uses to get the Doctor to talk.

One thing that surprises me is the casting of Nina Wadia. Isn’t she a bit too well-known for such a tiny part?

Another thing that’s very Moffat is the gradual realisation of how serious the threat is. It’s only after we’ve heard the phrase a few times that we learn the “human residence” which is going to be “incinerated” is the whole planet. Also, there are no ducks in the duck pond, another potential indication of something odd. This scene is our first full introduction to Leadworth, archetypal English village in which there’s “twenty minutes to save the world, and I’ve got a post office. And it’s shut!”

The sequence where the camera moves around weirdly on the village green is rather cool, though also a bit random. But it’s part of the new, fairytale, fast-moving aesthetic, and I’m liking it.

The showdown, in the traditional regeneration story cottage hospital, has Prisoner Zero coming out with some interesting dialogue: “The universe is cracked. The Pandorica will open. Silence will fall.” The seeds are being sown so early, and at the time of writing they haven’t all even sprouted yet.

The coda (“Did he just save the world from aliens and then bring all the aliens back again?”) is our proper regeneration story moment, as the Doctor, in his new clothes (“Bow ties are cool,” apparently. Yeeees…), steps out from behind a series of clips of his ten predecessors.

Interesting that Amy quite blatantly perves over the Doctor’s naked body while he changes! Interesting also that there are glimpses of a Northampton accent in this new Doctor (listen to the unmistakably Midlands vowels in “One more, just one”). Although I’ll admit he’s no Alan Moore.

Two years later(!), the Doctor is back with a shiny new fairytale-style TARDIS interior and a new sonic screwdriver, and opens the TARDIS with a click of his fingers just as River Song told him to. He persuades Amy to travel with him- a sign that he no longer has the demons of his previous self- but is she running away from something? The final shot is of what seems to be her wedding dress…

Excellent. A very high 5/5.

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