Apr 21 2010 5:16pm

Doctor Who S5, Ep 1: “The Eleventh Hour”

The Doctor is in, and the world is a better place for it! Doctor Who premiered on BBC America on Saturday, and it was well worth the wait.

The story of “The Eleventh Hour” was pretty simple. After regenerating in “The End of Time,” The Doctor and his TARDIS crash-land in the backyard of a young girl in a small English town. The girl, Amelia Pond, had been praying to Santa to deliver her someone who could help her fix a scary crack in her wall through which she hears voices. Upon hearing the crash, she rushes outside and believes The Doctor to be the answer to her prayers. He helps her seal the crack, after receiving an alien message about a “Prisoner Zero” having escaped, and is willing to take little Amelia traveling with him. But when he gets in the TARDIS to take a “quick 5 minute” jump to the future to stabilize it, he doesn’t come back.

That is, he doesn’t come back until twelve years later to find that Prisoner Zero is still on the loose, and Amelia Pond now goes by Amy and is all grown up.

And she is not happy with him.

But no one, not even a hardened Amy Pond can resist The Doctor, and so she and her boyfriend, Rory, help The Doctor save the world in twenty minutes and defeat Prisoner Zero.

And after another two-year time lapse (The Doctor standing her up has become a nasty habit), Amy joins The Doctor in the TARDIS on the condition that she be returned “in time for stuff.”

And by “stuff” she means something to do with the wedding dress hanging in her closet.

The Prisoner Zero story was a simple, straightforward one that wasn’t particularly interesting in and of itself, but as this episode was all about introducing us to the new Doctor and companion it doesn’t matter. It is here that the episode excels, because never in Doctor Who, and certainly never in the new series, have both a new Doctor and a new companion been so instantly and fully realized right from the start.

Matt Smith’s Doctor is amazing. He owns the part from the word “go.” As there’s already been so much press about him and his youthful gangliness and old-soul eyes, I won’t mention those. What I will mention is how wonderful it is that we see the Doctor interact so well with a child! It’s surprising how rare it is that The Doctor deals with children, considering that the creators always assert that it’s a show for children. But here we not only see The Doctor interacting with a human child, but treating her like a person. He doesn’t look down on her, or think he’s better than her. He even treats her rather like an adult as he’s ordering her to cook things for him, and gives her the respect of laying out the possible dangers of the crack in the wall honestly, even if he has to put it in terms she understands. You know how adults always tell you everything is going to be all right, and you think that they’re just saying that because they don’t want you to know how bad it really is...? Everything’s going to be all right. This eleventh incarnation of The Doctor respects children as capable individuals, and it’s great to see.

Not that it was difficult with this particular individual. As wonderful as Amy Pond is, and I’ll get to her, I’m really sorry that we’re not going to get more of Amelia Pond. Caitlin Blackwood, who happens to be Karen Gillan’s cousin, gives a brilliant, spot-on performance that kind of had me wishing that she did get to travel around in the TARDIS for a bit before growing up. I hope we see more of her elsewhere, and if I had my way, I’d make her the star of every television show.

And now for the best bit: the fact that Amy Pond is already, in only one episode, the best companion ever. Yeah, I said it. Best. Companion. Ever. Yes, Sarah Jane was great. Yes, Donna was amazing. But Amy Pond is, right now, the reigning champion of all companions. Why? Well, as if her brilliant, sarcastic wit, her fearlessness, and her complex view of the world wasn’t enough, she will always have the most interesting backstory. She has history with The Doctor, and therefore, has a more complicated relationship with him. As Steven Moffat said in my interview with him, she is challenging the world to disappoint her, and Moffat has given us, in Amy, a complete, complex woman. And this is just in the first episode! I can’t wait to see where she goes from here, and Amy is in brilliant hands with Karen Gillan. Gillan brings an amazing balance of comedy and deep sadness to the role, and it is she, perhaps even a bit more than Matt Smith, who will keep me tuning in.

This season of Doctor Who seems to be offering us the most balanced Doctor/companion relationship in history, and it’s very exciting! Exciting, too, is the new production style. Granted, I was very lucky to see this episode for the first time at an advanced screening in a movie theater, but that only highlighted what I saw again on my television screen. Doctor Who looks more like a film than a television show. It’s gorgeous! I love the new steampunk-ish, fairytale feel—from the new interior of the TARDIS, to The Doctor’s new, bow-tied look.

If you’ve never seen an episode of Doctor Who—which is doubtful for this readership, but one never knows—“The Eleventh Hour” is a perfect place to start. Doctor Who is brilliant, and deserves a larger audience on this side of The Pond. So, tell your friends. Hell, tell your enemies. Doctor Who airs on Saturdays at 9PM ET on BBC America, and if they’re not watching it or recording it, they are missing out on something really special.

Teresa Jusino was born on the same day that Skylab fell. Coincidence? She doesn’t think so. She is a contributor to, a webzine examining geekery from a feminine perspective. Her work has also been seen on, on the sadly-defunct literary site, edited by Kevin Smokler, and in the Elmont Life community newspaper. She is currently writing a web series for Pareidolia Films called The Pack, which is set to debut Fall 2010! Get Twitterpated with Teresa, Follow The Pack or visit her at The Teresa Jusino Experience.

Angel Banchev
1. Tiranas
Oh, how much i envy you for the chance to a full theater treatment of any episode of the Doctor. Yes, the production value is very high and it definitely shows, both in the effects department and in the storyes and that is one of the things that is immidiately obvious about Doctor Who. British TV shows can be so nifty sometimes.

The fact that Amy has history with the Doctor indeed makes her a Companion that is going to have some interesting dinamycs with him, even more so than Donna and knowing how Steven Moffat is, we should expect some interesting "things" there.
Plus i just have to point out the conversation Amy has with the Doctor while he is chained and the backup bit. That had me laughing out loud for quite a bit. And, oh boy, i can just imagine how much you'll like the second episode. Did i say some british shows are nifty ?

The last bit in your review about this season as a starting point for a new viewer. Yes, definitely agreed with you, plus that would be a good way to go back an see what all the fuss about David Tennant was about when the announcement about Matt Smith came out and an excellent opportunity to see the awesome that is the Doctor and the smarts that this show has in regards to character development. Let's face it, the show it about this demi-immortal demigod-like person and how his character evolves in the ages. That for me is one of the strongest points about the Doctor. His face may be different, but he is the same person, the same soul since the beggining of it in the first season ever of the show.
Alex Brown
2. AlexBrown
I loved the play-off between Nine and Eleven ("Hello. I'm the Doctor. Run!" and "Hello, I'm The Doctor. So,"). And yeah, Matt Smith blew me away. I could easily watch an entire ep of him eating bizarre food combinations. He's just fantastic. I knew he'd be good (he had the Neil Gaiman seal of approval), but he's bloody fantastic!

And I like that he's both like and unlike all the other Doctors. Eleven seems like a natural progression rather than a total retcon (which I was dreading having happen). And the way he speaks...frak quote Alan Sepinwall: "Smith also, like Tennant, seems to take great joy in saying certain words, here with the way he turned "laptop" into a five-course meal.")

This certainly wasn't one of the best eps ever created, but it was fun and earnest and fast-paced and jolly exciting and had me squeeing for the next 3 days.

I'll save my Amelia/Amy comments for the next ep... ;)
Mike Foster
3. zephyrkey
My appreciation for Matt Smith and Karen Gillian only increases as the series goes on (i'm watching them as they come out in the UK, as I'll try and avoid spoilers ;D), but this episode was so solid, perhaps not in the storyline sense, but in the way the relationship between the Doctor and Amy is set up right off the bat. The dynamic between the two is rich and it isn't just the Doctor leading and the companion following all of the time. Amy seems to be fairly secure in who she is as a strong and very independent woman, and that sets off nicely against the somewhat childlike Doctor.

Speaking of childlike, I agree that Amelia was amazing and I too sincerely wish that we could have seen more of her. Her praying to Santa at the beginning was hilarious, but it was also fantastic to see the qualities we later see in Amy beginning to grow in her as a child. And the way the Doctor interacts with her is great as well, though I think the whole "Doctor being good with kids" thing was fairly evident in nine and ten as well.
Chris Dearman
4. ChrisD
About time you guys got caught up. I told you it was good. Thanks to iPlayer I've seen this episode about seven or eight times now. I don't think that food scene is ever going to get old. I agree the Prisoner Zero story isn't the strongest but that really doesn't matter when all of the interaction between Amy/Amelia and the Doctor is just superb.

There doesn't seem to be much love for the new theme tune at the moment. I wasn't sure about it myself at first but as I have been somewhat obsessing over Doctor Who for the last two weeks I can report that it does grow on you.
Dave Miller
5. Borogove
From the Patches n' Parrots crowd, keep an eye out, because Prisoner Zero has definitely introduced a "Bad Wolf" type story arc.
Kathleen J
6. tanaudel
They did a good job of making both characters interesting and likeable when starting from scratch with both (Tennant had the benefit of Rose reacting to the change in the Doctor). I also liked the Peter Pan overtones - the childish/likeness, the repeated "never grow up", the late return, the echo of Wendy's "I thought you'd show up at the wedding and forbid the bans".
Josh Kidd
7. joshkidd
@Borogrove There was definitely some series-length story line set up by Prisoner Zero and the crack in the wall.

There are a few additional things that I'm curious about.

1) Who exactly is Amy marrying? I would not assume that it's Rory, even though I think we're expected to do so.

2) Will we see a return of Jeff? (Possibly related to the above.) He was certainly given a significant setup that was left dangling.
Lily of the Valley
8. Lily of the Valley
I was actually quite excited to see a companion like Amy. Out of all the ones I've seen so far, Donna has been far and away my most favorite, but watching Ms. Pond lock the Doctor's tie in a car door...she's easily number 2 in my book already! After ONE episode! Lord knows what the rest of the season will bring!

And I agree; Matt Smith is wonderful as the Doctor. I was a little wary, after seeing Tennant in the role for four years , of a new actor, but I can say that my fears have been laid to rest and I am eagerly awaiting the next episode.

Also: I've been spamming my friends with Doctor Who for the past week. I converted one already just by convincing her to watch Blink. x)
Teresa Jusino
9. TeresaJusino
@ChrisD - I actually have no problem with the new theme music! Think it goes with the new look of the opening credits, and is fine by me...

@Borogove - Nice! Though that's not really surprising as every season of the show has had their "thing": Bad Wolf, Torchwood, etc. But I'm looking forward to this season's - whatever it is!

So glad to hear from so many of you, and I hope to hear from many more! Glad to finally bring you a place where you can dissect these episodes. Sorry we have to stick to an American timetable - blame my parents for conceiving me here. :)
Lily of the Valley
10. Zombie_Chow47
Loved the way it played with previous conventions and ideas from other Doctor Who Episodes:

1) In the previous times when a new companion was introduced we met them first and then followed them and their reaction to the doctor which usually occured in the day time. This time around we met the doctor flying over london at night and follow his meeting of the new companion.

2) The use of Run. The past two doctors would often tell their companions to run away from the threats that they were about to face where as Dr. #11 tells the aliens to run from him.

I'm sure there are more but I can't remember them right now.

Loved Moffats returning themes and ideas from his previous episode writings.

1) The threat combines an element of a common childhood fear (lose of a mother, monster under the bed, is that inanimate object moving, what is hiding in the shadows and what is with that strange crack in the wall).

2) Strong Female characters as previously mentioned in the Moffat's Women articles.

3) Time travel out of order/A person cursed to take the slower path/the long way back.

4) No violent death on screen. As of this episode Moffat has yet to actually kill anyone off in a violent death in any of his written episodes. There have been deaths usually by natural causes. Strange when you consider his work on the BBC mini-series 'Jekyll' which featured a lot of violence.

I watched it on ABC iView around midnight (the first legal chance I had) and I don't think I stopped smiling for a whole hour after the episode.
Andy Leighton
11. andyl
I'm quite surprised at the scheduling in the USA. Doctor Who is (and has always been) a family show. Aren't the 6 and 7 year olds, the age when I started to get addicted to the show, in bed before the programme has started, and certainly before it finishes.

@Zombie_Chow47 No Violent death on screen

Rubbish, Moff killed plenty of people in the Silence In The Library two parter. Of course they were all resurrected in a digital simulation a bit later but their physical bodies still died horrible deaths.
Chris Dearman
12. ChrisD
Teresa - I should clarify that I didn't mean to imply that I thought you had been unfair to the new theme, just that that's been what I'd been reading elsewhere online.

The BBC released a report about the number of complaints they receive each time a new doctor takes over so actually if the music is the biggest thing people are finding to complain about then the new team are doing quite well.
Lily of the Valley
13. Soloce
I actually was a bit disappointed with our new Doctor (also living in the UK and having seen the next couple of eps). It feels like they forgot there is a new doctor and are still writing for David Tennant, and Matt Smith is just doing a long Tennant impression. When the Doctor changed from Chris Eckelson (sp?) there was a dramatic personality shift that I don't think we've seen here.
Lily of the Valley
14. boquaz
I had seen one (maybe?) episode of Who before. Given the lack of good stuff on and the good reviews, I decided now would be a good time to get started. Somehow (osmosis?) I knew enough about the Doctor to explain the basic backstory to my wife so we weren't confused about who or what anything was.

I liked it, my wife liked it. Good pacing, good dialog, great characters. That food scene was really good.
Lily of the Valley
15. Zombie_Chow47
@ andyl

"Rubbish, Moff killed plenty of people in the Silence In The Library two parter. Of course they were all resurrected in a digital simulation a bit later but their physical bodies still died horrible deaths."

It comes down to interpretation of the words "on screen" and wether or not a person believes being inside of a computer for the rest of eternity is alive or not.

The interpretation for me is that at the moment of the characters "deaths" they were transferred into the computer and saved and can have a new life inside.

With the other interpretation that they did indeed die consider this: the vashta nerada kill from the darkness meaning we don't actually see them making their attacks at most we get a funky future suit that wobbles a bit and then a scooby doo skull for a face. Considering some of the other creatures and their mode of attack and what was shown on screen for them I still consider Moffat a low violence/low death guy (on Doctor Who anyway, I've already mentioned Jekyll).

The bodies died. It's up to interpretation and personal beliefs after that point wether or not one is to believe they are alive or not.

To qoute another UK production "Choose Life".
Gary Schaper
16. Garyfury
@andyl : Doctor Who has always been very much a show appreciated only by a cult / fannish audience in the US, and although it has been drawing more viewers in the US than ever before, it's still not very far away from that.

As regards Matt Smith and the new direction of the show, the only thing I can add is that having the new Doctor spend his first five minutes being Tigger was marvelous.
Lily of the Valley
17. Brian2
One thing that was very striking was how much the Doctor had evolved in the direction of the potent figure that River Song described. There are what seem deliberate references to things she'd described: the Doctor snapping his finger rather than using his key to get into the Tardis, and his telling the aliens to run, and their doing it. And I must confess I like that a lot. After all, as a demi-god, the Doctor has been a bit of an underachiever up to this point in his life, as if he couldn't quite sort out how to be powerful and be decent at the same time, and was playing safe. With the Tennant Doctor you saw a bit of him not handling the power very well, perhaps because he was still a bit broken from the Time War. Now he seems a lot more integrated. You enjoy the swagger because you know he's a solidly good guy all the way down.

Speaking of emotional integration, it's telling that, given the chance, Amy simply enjoys watching the Doctor get undressed, while her friend can't handle it. That's particularly interesting given the context, not only what she does for a living, but her history with the Doctor. (Not to mention the life-threatening circumstances, of course, but in a story like this, that's not exactly in the foreground.) An impressive woman, Amy, though of course she's just as mad as he is.

Something I like to do when I see somebody attractive is to imagine her at various ages, young and old, rather than fastening entirely on the surfaces of an ephemeral stage in life. (I'm not underrating that, mind.) It gives a bit more perspective on who a person actually is, and if you really like someone, you end up liking them more that way. I wouldn't be surprised if Moffat did that too.
Lily of the Valley
18. a-j
We're past ep.3 here in the UK and those of you elsewhere (or elsewhen) I reckon you're in for a treat. I was very suspicious of Matt Smith's casting but based on Stephen Moffat's Dr Who episodes and the excellent 'Jekyll' I was hopeful. My hope was rewarded. Enjoy.
Lily of the Valley
19. Inconstant Reader
Two things I loved that haven't been commented on yet:

1) Amelia praying to Santa is so pragmatic — after all, Santa frequently gives you what you ask for. That told you a lot about her in an instant.

2) The Doctor giving Amelia 3 rules to follow that every Companion breaks:
Do exactly what I say.
Don't ask stupid questions.
Don't go wandering off.
Alex Brown
20. AlexBrown
Inconstant @ 19: Yes, every companion breaks them, but at least Rose and Donna were capable enough and clever enough that they knew they were breaking them and why, and used that violation to actively do something. Martha did not, well not really, besides she was more concerned with getting the Doctor to reciprocate her love to really do anything productive. As far as ep 1 goes, I would lump Amy into Martha territory as well.
Chris Dearman
21. ChrisD
Milo - I think you're being a little unfair to Martha as she did pretty much save the day single handedly in both Family of Blood and the series finale.

As to whether Amy is going to be the same or not? Well, I'll be interested to see what you think after episode 2.
Alex Brown
22. AlexBrown
ChrisD @ 21: I've seen the first 3 eps, but I won't comment on them - or Amy - until Teresa does the blog posts.

And Martha, well, she just sorta fumbled into her world-saving. Or she was pressed into it by the Doctor. Rose and Donna were clever enough to figure stuff out on their own (or do the wrong thing at first but clever enough to figure out they were wrong and right it), but Martha had to be told what to do and when in order for it to get done (see: Blood and the series 3 finale). ***SPOILERAGE*** Yes, she did save him and the world, but only because he told her how. She started out awesome and smart, but by the end I think even she knew she was failing and left to go hook up with Mickey ***END SPOILERAGE***. I didn't dislike her or anything, I just thought she was a wasted companion, one that could've been a great friend but they had to force her into falling for him.
Lily of the Valley
23. KristenM
I think Matt Smith is brilliant, and he's *not* doing a Tennant impression. We all made the leap of assuming that the darker traits of The Doctor were holdovers from Nine, and learned what Ten was made of as we went along. This Doctor is a bit mad, a bit childlike himself and also vastly darker. We only got tastes of it, with Ten and most pointedly towards the end of Tennant's run.

I shan't spoiler, but I can say that there is quite a lot of foreshadowing going on. Not just this series' big bad, more that they're layering in a lot of things that aren't likely to be resolved quickly.

Amy Pond is easily the most-fully fledged and diverse companion of New Who. Don't expect just one thing from her and don't assume that you know what they're gonna do with her, at any point. Karen Gillan is bloody amazing, and Caitlin Blackwood completely blew my mind in every scene she had.

I'll have a bit more to say on a recurrent theme in the post for The Beast Below. In the meantime, I fully agree that this ranks along the first series of New Who as a great introduction point. They weren't kidding about abandoning prior connections, but in this episode, they've forged a history between The Doctor/Companion that more than makes up for it.

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