David is coming to New Who for the first time, having loved Classic Who as a kid. Tehani is a recent convert, and ploughed through Seasons 1 to 6 (so far) in just a few weeks after becoming addicted thanks to Matt Smith – she’s rewatching to keep up with David! Tansy is the expert in the team, with a history in Doctor Who fandom that goes WAY back, and a passion for Doctor Who that inspires us all.
We are working our way through New Who, using season openers and closers, and Hugo shortlisted episodes, and sometimes a couple of extra episodes we love as our blogging points. Just for fun!
“The Eleventh Hour” – S5E01
The Doctor – Matt Smith
Amy Pond – Karen Gillan
Amelia Pond – Caitlin Blackwood
Rory Williams – Arthur Darvill
After four seasons of reviews, I finally got to encounter Eleven! I’ve tried to stay clear of spoilers, but people really have talked up Matt Smith and to be honest I expected to be a bit disappointed after having my expectations set so high. Plus, I loved David Tennant, so it was always going to be tough for a new Doctor to measure up. And, this is really petty and irrational, but there is part of me that struggles with the idea of an actor who is younger than me playing the Doctor – it just doesn’t seem right! So, sitting down to watch this I didn’t have high hopes.
But, I am happy to have been comprehensively proved wrong. Not only is this a very strong episode in its own right (Which I am sure will discuss later in the review), it also serves as a wonderful introduction to a new Doctor and a new Companion. I was a bit dubious when I saw the new title sequence, but fortunately it was all uphill from there!
You’re not alone, David! I remember well the waves of fannish skepticism around Matt Smith’s casting, not least because of his age. They lasted until about ten seconds into “The Eleventh Hour,” I believe.
And here I am, back at what was, for me, the beginning. “The Eleventh Hour” was where I started – I wanted to watch the Neil Gaiman episode (season six) but thought it would be a bit silly trying to jump on there. So I decided to start with the beginning of Matt Smith’s era, and this episode. It sure worked its magic on me, because as you know, I’m now a massive fangirl! I’ve seen this ep a bunch of times now, and it’s still shiny and lovely – adore Matt Smith, adore Amelia, and Amy and Rory aren’t bad either!
Oh I didn’t know that, I thought you watched the Neil Gaiman episode first! I think this is one of the best jumping on points of the show, up there with “Spearhead From Space” and “Rose”.
I can delay gratification, see! 🙂 I agree, I think it’s a great starting point for people wanting to test the waters (very hookable indeed – I’m living proof!).
In the past, I’ve found that a lot of the attempts at humour have seem a bit forced, or gone too far towards slapstick and fat jokes, but there are some genuine laugh out loud moments in this episode. In fact, the whole thing is sparkling, lots of great dialogue and action. I missed the writer’s name at the start but I wasn’t surprised to discover it was Moffatt, it had him all over it.
I particularly enjoyed the sequence at the start. Caitlin Blackwood is the perfect foil for the madness of Matt Smith, and the way she doesn’t even blink an eye at his outrageous behaviour is a delight. The food scene is hilarious (though him not liking bacon nearly pushed the suspension of disbelief too hard!), but there is just the right mix of seriousness. His quote about how her being scared of the crack in the wall must mean it was something *really* scary was a perfect illustration of the perceptive mind beneath the clown and said volumes about both his character, and hers. Great writing.
“The Eleventh Hour” is one of my favourite stories of all time – I think one of the best opening stories for a Doctor and a companion ever. And after having to nudge and coax my kids for some of the later Tennant seasons, I didn’t have to nag them at all to put on this DVD. Little Jemima thinks the earth orbits around Amy Pond, and while Raeli is more of a Ten/Rose girl, she has a soft spot for any story with Young Amelia.
I agree with you David that the opening scene with Caitlin Blackwood (who by the way is the cousin of Karen Gillan, her older counterpart) is brilliant, setting up the Doctor as funny and serious and odd and all the good Doctor things. I adored Tennant before he got the part and so was easily won by him, and Christopher Eccleston had me at “Run,” but I love how much of this story and the first ten minutes in particular is about the Doctor as a person, how alien and how human he is.
Had no idea she’s Karen’s cousin! That’s cool 🙂
My heart breaks for Amelia, every single time she sits on that suitcase.
Every single time. Right there with ya.
It’s hard to judge how much of what makes this story work so well is Moffatt’s writing and how much is Matt Smith’s portrayal of the Doctor. He inhabits the role so instantly, it’s impossible not to immediately go along for the ride. Watching it this time, I was interested to see how many Tennant-esque tics he uses – of course, as far as I was concerned when I FIRST watched it, that was just Matt Smith’s Doctor, but now I can see how much he riffed off Tennant. But I think it’s a clever use of the style, just enough to remind long time viewers that yes, he IS the same character, and yes we WILL learn to adore him too!
I also feel like the look of the show has leaped ahead somehow – there is some gorgeous, arty direction in this story, particularly the use of reds and TARDIS-blue in the first few scenes, but somehow everything just looks shinier. It’s impressive that Murray Gold, now pretty much the only ‘name’ member of the production crew who has been there since “Rose” in 2005, manages to make the music sound completely different to anything we’ve had in the show so far. A whole new palette for a whole new Doctor…
The special effects are excellent throughout this episode, especially the sequence at the start with the TARDIS flying over the city and the Doctor hanging on for dear life. While the SFX at the start of the new run were a radical change from the Classic series, this is another leap again and just shows how times have changed and how accessible good effects now are.
I loved the music in this episode! There have been episodes where the score jars or even overwhelms the story, but it’s perfect in this.
I’m pretty fond of the steampunkish aesthetic of the newly regenerated TARDIS – heavens, I’m turning into one of those fans who has OPINIONS on the TARDIS console!
This one is my favourite of the New Who TARDIS console rooms. I like the tactile nature of it, and the way Smith interacts with the bits. There’s a coziness to this one that I feel is more ‘classic’ than the more grand, austere 9-10 console. Also the orange just makes me think about Axons.
It looks pretty slick on the outside now too! The old girl has had a revamp inside and out.
While I quite like the look of the TARDIS in this episode, I have to admit that I still feel the occasional yearning for the classic white design!
We also get some interesting additions to TARDIS canon in this one – it’s the first time we ‘see’ and hear about the details of the internal decor being rearranged, and it’s fascinating the way that this is tied into the Doctor’s trauma and his regeneration. In the past, changes were mostly not mentioned at all, or in the case of say The Five Doctors, discreetly referred to after the fact.
The idea that the TARDIS can actually grow/make a sonic screwdriver is pretty fascinating, and gives a whole new perspective to that time the Doctor gave K9 away to Leela and then found himself a new ready made duplicate in the cupboard!
So, grown up Amy. What do you think of her in her first outing?
I had no idea how to take Amy when I first watched this and it took me a while to warm up to her. This time around, I really really liked her from the word go. And interestingly, it’s not just because I now have a history with her. This time, I really noticed how hurt she had been by the Doctor’s absence, and how much that had affected her entire life. And even though she still jumped at each opportunity to go travelling with him, I think this time I saw her really thinking about what she was leaving behind when she eventually left. Although I think she was a bit blase about his assurances of being back by the next day – given his track record, it seemed fairly naive!
I liked her from the moment she hit him with the cricket bat! My first impressions are really positive, and I am looking forward to seeing exactly what sort of companion she becomes. I always find it interesting when the show explores the ramifications of the Doctor’s actions beyond the end of an episode, as in the “Face of Evil”. One of the strengths of New Who has been examining the impact an encounter with the Doctor has one people, and how ex Companions often struggle to go on with their life. We get the Reader’s Digest version here, in the space of fifteen minutes (or less!) it becomes pretty obvious how much that brief encounter with the Doctor has shaped Amelia’s whole life. Not just in the drawings, but in the way she seems unsettled and distrustful. The Doctor can be pretty cavalier about these things, but to his credit he seems to realise exactly how much he has hurt her.
The revelation that she is not a real police officer was played pretty well, I thought, and added an interesting layer to her character, without being too creepy. As we discover her job, it only adds to the sense of someone who is dissatisfied with her life and doesn’t quite know what she is meant to be. I say that not because of the nature of her job, but her obvious embarrassment about it.
Happily, she seems like she is going to be much more than a damsel in distress, and certainly holds her own in the witty banter stakes. It will be interesting to see what the dynamic is going to be like over the course of the season. I have to admit to being a little concerned about what is going to happen with her wedding, and poor Rory!
Oh, you’re in for SUCH a ride…!
So, on to the rest of the episode! Another example of Moffat’s unerring ability to build tension, subtly and effortlessly. From the crack in the wall to the revelation of the prison, there is a sense of something not right about the house. Each oddity, like the unnoticeable door (“dim”, as Stephen King would put it) builds the unease. And, Moffat certainly has a knack for creating creepy monsters! It wasn’t so much the real form of Prisoner Zero that got to me, it was serviceable but not exceptional. It was the “human” form, or its disguise, that really disturbed me. The way the talking was out of sync with the mouths, and the juxtaposition of human features with alien was something that stayed with me long after the episode.
Moffat’s got the whole “take something ordinary and make it super scary” thing down…
I like the way that the Prisoner Zero snake thing and the whole stressful countdown is used every step of the way to show us what kind of people Amy and the Doctor are, building their characters. We learn that Amy is bold and reckless and untrusting – and also that she stands up for herself. I adore the bit where she shuts his tie in the car door, and the poor old gentleman asks her so politely for his car back. You get the impression she has been terrorising this village since she was eight.
I love love LOVED the Mrs Angelo and Jeff byplay – the way the Doctor just bursts into the house and expects them to believe everything he says, and do the impossible. And it’s gorgeous that they all recognise him as Amy’s “raggedy man” – he really did leave a mark on her!
I also like the fact that everyone around Amy has heard of the Doctor because she’s been banging on about him since she was a child – they’ve all seen the artwork and heard the stories. One of my favourite Rory lines of all time is when he says ‘you made me dress up as him!’ It does suggest that while Amy has this massive loss in her life – the empty hole left by her absent parents and so on – she has had a village community around her who cares and pays attention. It’s a nice balance against the idea that she spent her whole childhood biting psychiatrists and suffering her aunt.
Yes, I loved the real sense of exasperated affection that the village had for Amy. You could tell that they had adopted her as their own daughter, albeit a rather wayward one. And the way that they recognised the Doctor and didn’t even bat an eyelid, but just treated it as somehting that had only been a matter of time and was straightway filed under Amy shenanigans – brilliant!
On this rewatch, Rory was just brilliant from the first. On my original viewing, I didn’t realise he would be important – with the backward looking perspective, I love how much of his character is revealed in this episode. He’s introverted and shy, but clearly devoted to Amy, actually rather good at his job, and funny as all get out.
All true but at the same time – he plays Rory so YOUNG which is lovely because it gives him lots of space to grow into.
I can already see that Rory is going to be one of the characters you root for and hope has a happy ending. He seemed so devoted to Amy and willing to put up with anything to be close to her, even if it means playing second fiddle to what he must have deep down thought was an imaginary friend. I do worry though that it won’t be an easy road for him; it’s a bit of trope, the steady dependable guy who is around all the time competing with the flashy, worldly guy who ducks in and out of someone’s life and you can see that someone can easily get hurt here.
While that is a little Bridget Jones’ Diary, Rory reminded me more than anything of Tim in the British version of the Office (more so than Jim in the US version), with the whole hangdog resignation about him.
The shooing off the aliens scene is awesome. For me, coming new to the series with this episode, I reckon this is what really hooked me. I had no idea what had gone before, in either Classic or New Who, but that speech by Eleven, couple with the lovely flash through of all the Doctors, well, I was in.
Well I have all that baggage going for me! But it’s SUCH a powerful scene, with the music and the images, and him choosing his costume all at once. Matt Smith is going to (spoilers, sorry David) give a LOT of great speeches during his tenure, with appropriate pomp and ceremony, but it’s hard to go past the significance of this one.
The rooftop scene is amazing, and was the perfect contrast to the hyperactive, funny Doctor of earlier in the episode. It is vitally important that we get to see both sides of his character, and he reminds me of Seven in particular in the way he can be an amicable clown, but can turn on the big bad Doctor who the monsters are afraid of when the situation calls for it. Quite often throughout the show we see the Doctor through the viewpoint of humans, and he is taken just a very clever, but otherwise human, character. I do enjoy the moments we see that he is, in fact, a player on a cosmic scale and that the Earth is very lucky indeed that he has a peculiar fondness for it.
Comparing him to previous Doctors – Christopher Eccleston quite literally hit the ground running, while David Tennant spent half his first episode asleep, building up to a reveal of what kind of Doctor he would be in the last moments of The Christmas Invasion (and, it could be argued, that reveal wasn’t entirely accurate). I think Matt Smith splits the difference here, giving us a Doctor who is very active even before he properly finds his feet.
I can’t criticise this story. It’s honestly one of my most beloved pieces of Doctor Who of all time. And oh, if you spend any amount of time around kid Doctor Who fans, the whole fish fingers and custard thing has become so RIDICULOUSLY iconic that it’s giving Tom Baker’s scarf and jelly babies a run for their money.
There’s ain’t nothing to criticise. It was my gateway drug and I’m still hooked!
Like some of Moffat’s other work, this would be the perfect episode to show someone with no familiarity with Doctor Who whatsoever. It’s clever, it’s funny, it’s creepy – and had some beautiful emotional moments. It’s hard to believe that the season can get any better, but if it maintains this level of quality then I can’t wait!
For me, this season isn’t just about the new shiny direction that the show had taken (in all senses of the word) but also it marks the time that I started becoming aware of trock (Time Lord Rock!) and the Ood Cast, a brilliant podcast (that started their proper song and dance, comedy skits version of themselves with this season) which means that nearly every episode from now on has multiple musical accompaniments in my head.
So here’s a musical number for The Eleventh Hour: Chameleon Circuit’s Still Not Ginger
“Father’s Day”, S01E08
“The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances”, S01E09/10
“Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways”, S01E12/13
Season One Report Card – David, Tansy, Tehani
“The Christmas Invasion”, 2005 Christmas Special
“New Earth”, S02E01
“School Reunion”, S02E03
“The Girl in the Fireplace”, S02E04
“Rise of the Cybermen/Age of Steel”, S02E05/06
“Army of Ghosts/Doomsday”, S02E12/13
Season Two Report Card – David, Tansy, Tehani
“Smith and Jones”, S03E01
“The Shakespeare Code/Gridlock”, S03E02/03″
“Human Nature/Family of Blood”. S03E08/09″
“Utopia/The Sound of Drums/Last of the Timelords”, S03E12/13/14
Classic Who Conversation podcast – Spearhead from Space (1970)
Season Three Report Card – David, Tansy, Tehani
Classic Who Conversation podcast – Genesis of the Daleks (1975)
“Partners in Crime”, S04E01
“The Sontaran Stratagem/The Poison Sky, S04E0708”
“Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead, S04E0910”
Turn Left, S0411
The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End,S04E1213
Season Four Report Card – David, Tansy, Tehani
The Next Doctor / Planet of the Dead / The Waters of Mars
End of Time