Sunday, April 04, 2010

Doctor Who 5X01: "The Eleventh Hour" by Steven Moffat

I loved it. If this is what new head writer Steven Moffat has in store (and I trust that it is, since he wrote by far the best episodes of the first four series, including arguably the best Who episode ever, "Blink"), then bring on the Moffat Era!

Matt Smith is a winner, taking ownership over the role more or less instantly. Smith's Doctor is not a sea-change from Tennant's -- both are lonely, skinny, manic, floppy haired genius adventurers who have vowed to protect the earth and its people come what may, and in nerd-chic costumes, no less.

Clearly, for this modern era, that's the Beeb's conception of the character, no matter who plays him, and I think that's reasonable. (I mean, what's really changeable there, given the realities of the business?)

But within those parameters, Smith's Doctor is distinctive from Tennant's (and Eccleston's) in a number of interesting ways. Tennant's Doctor (as River Song noted in Moffat's "Silence in the Library") was always so young at heart -- as distinct from world-weary Eccleston -- but Smith is simultaneously Peter Pan and stodgy old Oxford professor, a contradiction that Smith nails seemingly effortlessly and with tongue firmly planted in cheek. It's an outstanding performance.

Which is not to detract from Karen Gillan, who is by far the best female lead they've had in the modern era. She's got the pluck and snark of Sally Sparrow (Moffat's brilliant "Blink") and a deep, timey-wimey relationship with the Doctor reminiscent of Madame du Pompadour (Moffat's "Girl in the Fireplace"). The chemistry between the two is crackling -- I can't imagine either of these roles better cast. Smith pushes -- and Gillan pushes back. Their sharp, screwball banter is pure gold.

Of course, snappy dialogue is one of Moffat's strengths, and the episode is filled with it. Smith's weary, "Get a girlfriend, Jeff" was laugh-out-loud funny -- the best line in the episode -- but there was also, "your friend. Not him [i.e., Rory]. The good looking one."

Jeff's Gran: "I like Patrick Moore." Doctor: "I'll get you his number, but watch out -- He's a devil."

"You're Scotish -- Fry something." And upon eating the bacon: "Are you trying to poison me?"

"Turn around and look." Amy: "Why?" "Because it will change your life."

"I'm not afraid." "No, you're not afraid of anything, so you know what I think? That must be one hell of a scary crack in your wall." Delicious and creepy, perfectly capturing the dark fairy tale vibe Moffat is going for.

The new supporting cast -- Rory, Jeff, Jeff's gran, and the town as a whole -- was well-sketched. (Jeff's Gran in particular got in a number of great lines in her couple of scenes.) Rory (Amy's boyfriend -- presumably fiance by the end of the episode) is very reminiscent of "Blink's" Larry Nightingale, an affable (and probably nerdly) slob.

Anchoring the show to a country village seems like a particularly good idea after the RTD era's sharp focus on London.

Orphan Amy appears to have been adopted not just by her unseen Aunt, but by the endearingly quirky townspeople, all of whom know about her lifelong obsession with this "imaginary" Doctor character.

It feels like the village is a shade of GIlmore Girls' Star's Hollow. (Ironic, if that's the case, that Amy's boyfriend is called Rory...)

And of course, the new TARDIS set is magnificent.

The ending, with the two of them taking off for adventure, was a genuine thrill, as was the (unsurprising but still effective) revelation that tomorrow is Amy's wedding day.

A few things felt a bit off... It was a bit catch-phrase-y for my taste, but hopefully that will fall by the wayside once the new show establishes its ratings dominance (which it's well on the way to doing with 8.45M viewers and a 37% share).

The introduction of the season's arc element (re: the cracks in the skin of the universe, silence falling, "the Pandorica" opening) was the one thing in the episode that felt a bit perfunctory.

And though I liked the music in the episode, the one thing I honestly did not care for was the new opening, especially the new version of the theme.

Still, those are nitpicks. All in all: homerun.


Blogger Chas. said...

You convinced me to be illegal.

Pretty awesome stuff ... especially after the crap lead in that was "The End of Time."

LOVE the new TARDIS set. That being said, I never liked the one from the previous series(es).

I think I am gonna have to be downloading from now on.

4/4/10, 10:09 PM  

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