03 April 2010

Doctor Who: 05:01: The Eleventh Hour

I want to say put your fears away, that Steven Moffat has successfully taken Doctor Who into a new era. That he has, in the season opener, put some doubts on how -and if he could- make the show work after the four year, successful run of both Christopher Eccelston and David Tennant as the Doctor. That he could replace Russell Davies as show-runner.

You could say that he has.

With The Eleventh Hour, the fifth season begins just after the events of the fourth season finale, The End of Time. The Doctor, having regenerated, is trying to save the TARDIS, which is plunging towards Earth, out of control and severely damaged by said regeneration of the Time Lord. The TARDIS crash lands in the back garden of seven year-old Amelia Pond in the small English village of Leadworth. Amelia takes him inside and helps him satisfy his strange food cravings before taking him upstairs to show him the crack in her bedroom wall. There the Doctor discovers a crack in time and space itself, and on the other side is a prison run by the Atraxi. The Atraxi deliver a warning to the two: “Prisoner Zero has escaped.”

Pondering the situation, the Doctor thinks this Prisoner Zero is somewhere in Amelia’s house, but before he can help further, the TARDIS Cloister Bells go off, and he warns that if the engines of his TARDIS are not stabilized, it will incinerate. He promises Amelia he will return in five minutes, and leaves. She packs and begins to wait for him. Unfortunately, 12 years pass and Amelia Pond -now known as Amy - is working as a kissogram when she encounters the Doctor again.

Realizing that Prisoner Zero has been hiding in Amy’s house, the Doctor also figures out that he has 20 minutes to save the Earth.

From the word go, Matt Smith’s take on Doctor is familiar -he has the same sort of energy of David Tennant’s version - yet he also makes him a bit more kooky, I guess. There is the mad energy of the second and even the fourth Doctor, but there is some sweet whimsy of the ninth Doctor as well.

Then there’s the near perfect introduction of grown-up Amy, played by Karen Gillan, as the Doctor’s newest companion. The actress brings depth and warmth to Amy, and she never shy’s away from the apparent "mad man with a box" that has come into her life. And while Rose was also pretty much fully realized companion in the first season, Amy’s is done much better here and one hopes they’ll make her even more fully rounded as Rose eventually became.

There are some weaknesses, though. Mostly with the visual effects. The Prisoner Zero in its true form is rather disappointing, and the story itself is rather pedantic. But, perhaps, that was not what this season opener was about. Moffat’s seems to have decided to concentrate of the characters of both the Doctor and Amy, and there he is more successful.

Finally, I must comment on the new opening and theme. It’s a rather jarring difference between the fourth and fifth season title sequence, with a more darker look to it. Gone is the bright oranges and reds of Eccelston’s and Tennant’s eras, replaced by angry clouds and lightening and a huge flow of yellow energy. The score returns back to the early days of the original series, bringing back the ghostly whistle of that era (and reminding me of where The X Files theme came from).

In the end, that is what makes Doctor Who unique: it’s ability to change as the years pass, to renew itself, to be different, yet the same. Its comforting that after 47 years, the show can still surprise you.

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