[A revised and improved version of this essay appears in my book The Eleventh Doctor: a critical ramble through Matt Smith’s tenure in Doctor Who.]
I’ve just finished watching The Eleventh Hour, the first Doctor Who episode to feature the new eleventh Doctor played by Matt Smith. Fiona, the three boys and I squashed in together on the sofa and watched the broadcast — with some trepidation on my part. Now I want to get my first impressions down before they fade.
(I’ll be writing this mostly for people who are already familiar with Doctor Who, and especially the last four seasons, but hopefully it won’t be completely meaningless to the rest of you.)
This was a very important episode because so much has changed: most obviously it was the debut of the new Doctor; but it also marked the first appearance of a new companion, Amy Pond (played by Karen Gillan), which means that cast continuity was zero. By contrast, when David Tennant first appeared as the Tenth Doctor, he inherited the Ninth-Doctor companion Rose Tyler, so we had a fixed point of reference. As though a new Doctor and new companion were not enough, The Eleventh Hour was also the first episode to be helmed by the new showrunner Steven Moffat, who takes over from Russell T. Davies.
So let’s look at those three aspects separately … oh, and the actual episode.
Warning: spoilers follow!
The new Doctor
I have to admit that my heart sank when I first saw pictures of Matt Smith, when he was announced as the Eleventh Doctor to be — he looked like an even younger David Tennant, and I prefer an older, weightier Doctor. (I’ve not done the analysis, but the age trend from William Hartnell down to Matt Smith is inescapable.)
And in some ways, his debut performance bore out those fears: his portrayal of the Doctor resembles that of his predecessor much more closely than any of the other Doctors have — think of the difference between Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant, for example. Smith’s voice is very similar to Tennant’s, and he portrays the character very similarly too — zany to an almost self-conscious degree, with a hard core and, as became apparent in the episode’s final confrontation, the same edge of arrogance. At times, if I’d closed my eyes, it could have been a Tennant episode.
I’m conflicted about this: Tennant was an excellent Doctor, and I can see why the producers might have wanted more of the same; but the essence of the Doctor is surely that everything except his core does change. I hope that Matt Smith can transcend this initial impersonation and create his own Doctor, as both Eccleston and Tennant so successfully did.
Because his version of the Doctor is so Tennantish, it’s hard to make any meaningful assessment of Smith at this stage. I find myself struggling to find much to say about his Doctor that is specific to him. I hope I have more to say next week.
Anyway, he’s not rubbish.
The new companion
I have to admit that my heart sank when I first saw pictures of Karen Gillan, when she was announced as the Eleventh Doctor’s companion to be. The promo picture reproduced above should show you why: here she has Generic Glamorous Young Thing stamped all over her.
Happily, the reality is very different, and it turns out that she can really act. She has a curiously unformed face (rather like Bonnie Wright, who plays Ginny Weasley in the Harry Potter movies), but I was pleasantly surprised to find that this works in her favour. She is like a blank canvas that can readily be painted with whatever emotion the situation demands; and she does this with subtlety. (For an example of the Ginny Weasley resemblance, see the additional photo below.)
Now that writing this blog is making me think more carefully about her performance, I’m realising that she brought much more in the way of distinctive characterisation to her role than Matt Smith (so far) has to his. Whereas Smith gives the impression of being conscious that he is someone’s successor, Gillan seems to be making something fresh.
Of course, this isn’t the first time that I’ve been wrong about a Doctor Who companion actress: like most people I was horrified by the idea of Billie Piper in 2005; but she made Rose believable, memorable and sympathetic. Also like most people, I was sufficiently unhappy about Catherine Tate’s over-the-top special-guest spot in The Runaway Bride that I all but flatly disbelieved it when I heard that she was going to be the regular Series Four companion; but once I’d managed to shed my preconceptions and forget about the Runaway Bride train-wreck, I realised that she was doing a superb job; in fact I think that she is my favourite of all the Doctor Who companions I’ve seen, going right back to the days of Liz Shaw.
So the early signs are good that Karen Gillan will continue that much-better-than-I-expected streak.
The new showrunner
During the last four years of Doctor Who, Steven Moffat’s scripts have uniformly been among the best of their series: The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances in Series 1, The Girl in the Fireplace in Series 2, Blink in Series 3 and Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead in Series 4. In fact I’d say that with the exception of Blink, each of these has been the best story in its series, and Blink loses out only narrowly to Paul Cornell’s superlative Human Nature/Family of Blood.
Not only that, but Moffat’s episodes have been good for good reasons: they’ve been sharp, intelligent, thought-provoking, and apart from whimsical Girl in the Fireplace they’ve been very scary. Not only that, but they’ve shown us new sides of the Doctor that have felt believably in keeping with what we already know about the character while still stretching the boundaries.
So I was delighted when I heard that he was going to be taking over as head honcho from Russell T. Davies, whose episodes have in comparison seemed rather mundane, with the big end-of-series specials too often going over the top in ways that seem silly in retrospect. (Actually, I may be overstating that last bit: my hatred of Last of the Time Lords may be unbalancing my view.)
The question for Moffat is, now that he’s going to be writing six episodes per series instead of one or two, will be he able to keep the quality up? (Conversely, I’ve wondered whether, if Russell T. Davies had only a single episode to write, would that single episode be sensational? Because his best moments are undeniably brilliant. So it’s a shame that he doesn’t have an episode in this series, but maybe he wanted to avoid Matt Busby Syndrome — perhaps he’ll have one in 2011.) For Moffat, I think it’s a good sign that he’s had the humility to keep his writing duties down to six of the thirteen episodes rather than the eight that Davies wrote for his first series. Six may still be too many, but let’s hope not — maybe he has a decade’s worth of great stories cached and ready to deploy.
With all that said, I’d have to say that this initial episode had nothing about it that struck me as characteristically Moffetian, and it could very easily have been a Davies episode in a Davies series. I hope to see Moffat stamp his personality on the show as the series progresses, just as I hope to see Smith stamp his on the title role.
And finally …
The actual episode
Let’s see, now — a quick recap.
The damaged TARDIS (see the end of the last David Tennant episode) careens across London, with the Doctor hanging out of the doorway in an ill-conceived action sequence that is played for laughs. I really could have lived without this. The TARDIS crash-lands in the garden of a house where the young Amelia Pond lives with her aunt. The aunt is out, so the girl is the only one to witness another comedy sequences as the new Doctor tries and rejects various foods before settling on fish fingers and custard. My sons laughed like drains so I guess I shouldn’t whine too much about this bit. This done, we get on with the story. A mysterious crack in Amelia’s bedroom wall turns out to be a gateway to an alien prison from which Prisoner Zero has escaped. The Doctor realises the TARDIS needs attention, tells Emilia he’s going to jump five minutes forward in time, but inadvertently disappears for twelve years, only to meet grown-up Emilia who now goes by the name Amy (shades of Girl in the Fireplace if we’re playing Hunt The Self-Plagiarism).
The Doctor realises that Prisoner Zero has been hiding in Amy’s house all this time, using its illusion powers to conceal its presence and later its nature. The alien jailers, played by gigantic eyeballs, come to Earth hoping to recapture the prisoner and warn that they will destroy the Earth if he can’t be found in twenty minutes. The Doctor realises that the alien can appear in the form of people who it has formed mental bonds with, and is using the likenesses of coma patients in a local hospital. Enlisting the help of Amy and her boyfriend, he writes a virus that will reset every clock on earth to zero, hacks into an Internet meeting of NASA, Jodrell Bank and other alien specialists, and persuades them to upload the virus everywhere. This they now do. The alien jailors realise that all those zeroes are a hint that someone knows where Prisoner Zero is, and trace the virus’s origin as the cellphone that the Doctor carries. After some shape-shifting shennanigins, they recapture the prisoner. The Doctor rebukes them for their high-handedness and warns them away from further interference in Earth’s affairs.
Crisis averted, the Doctor returns to his TARDIS, takes a quick trip to the moon and back to check that all is well with its redesign (didn’t I mention that it was redesigning itself earlier? It was), and returns to invite Amy to travel with him. Only trouble is, he set the time controls wrong again (again!) and two years have passed since the adventure with Prisoner Zero. Amy agrees to travel with the Doctor provided he can get her home by the next morning, which he promises to do; we realise that that’s because her wedding is planned for the very next day. Exeunt, pursued by a bear.
I don’t want to be too harsh on this episode, because series openers are rarely outstanding — in fact, come to think of it, Rose, New Earth, Smith and Jones and Partners in Crime have all been fairly poor by the standards of their series — but I didn’t find much in The Eleventh Hour that I think is going to lodge in my hindbrain the way the empty child, the clockwork robots from GitF, the weeping angels and the Vashta Nerada have done. Maybe that would be asking too much from an episode that also has to introduce a whole new cast, though. Still, although it was enjoyable, it did feel a bit By Numbers.
Next week’s episode might be more indicative of where things are going.
A little bit of actual insight to round things off
If I was disappointed that Matt Smith’s Doctor was too David Tennant-like, and that Steven Moffat’s script was too Russell T. Davies-like, it occurs to me that this might have been deliberate. Given the all-new cast, the production team might have felt that the audience needed something familiar to cling to, hence the recognisable Doctor in the recognisable situation.
If that’s so, I suppose it’s understandable — for a first episode. But Matt Smith had better start being his own man pretty darned quick, and I want to see more of the depth and insight of Moffat’s previous scripts in his subsequent ones.
Update (5 March 2010)
I dug up the ages of all eleven actors to have played the role of the Doctor, at the time that they debuted in the role, plotted the results, and fitted a linear regression through the points. All this and more in the followup article.
Update (12 April 2010 but I should have posted it two days ago)
As soon as I’d watched it, I reviewed the second episode, The Beast Beneath, and liked it a lot more. I plan to write about every episode this series. If you want to follow along, you can find the reviews under the Doctor Who tag in the cloud on the right, or course subscribe to the RSS feed and see the reviews (and other articles) as they come out.
As an occasional Doctor Who fan I was curious how Matt would portray the 11th Doctor. I was disappointed to see a touch of the absurd rather than the mysterious. There seemed to be no strength or authority behind him :-( Despite that I still enjoyed the episode.
I was apprehensive at first, but after watching this episode I’m willing to give him a chance. I think we are going to see a much darker doctor develop over the season. (and if we get to see more episodes like “blink” from steve moffat you know its going to be good !)
I’m feeling that your point raised in your final insight is on the right track. There was so much noise from the fan base regarding the loss of Tennant that I think Moffat threw them a bone. Of course, I think that’s a miscalculation. I would have preferred that they owned the new series right off the bat.
And I share your feelings regarding Davies’ series closers. They really are that disjointed and absurd. I could hardly watch the one with all the spin-off characters and the planets in the sky. Too much shorthand. To little cohesion.
just finished it, I was so surprised, I LOVED him as the doctor. I was really worried but I’m happy I gave him a chance, it was worth it. Now I just need to get used to Amy Pond, not quite sure if I like her yet, I definitely DON’T want another love interest for the Doctor though.
Lin, I strongly agree that the love-interest angle is all mined out, and I’d hate to see the series returning to that. For me, one of the great strengths of the Ecclestone series was the highly unusual nature of the Doctor/Rose relationship — it was obviously very strong and devoted, but also obviously not your conventional romantic setup. I think Series 2 lost some of the alien nature of the relationship by letting Tennant and Piper get too pally. It’s good to see that the Doctor does have genuine and strong feelings of attachment, but if we get that at the expense of his alienness, then we pay too high a price.
kit: and yet, and yet … although Stolen Earth/Journey’s End was way overblown and just didn’t make an awful lot of sense, it still had some fabulous moments — like most of RTD’s episodes. I think of that montage when all around the world everyone is waiting to hear the broadcast from the approaching alien ships, and then everyone’s response as it turns out to be a loop of the single word “exterminate”: that is brilliant. Brilliant in conception, brilliant in execution. So I will miss RTD; but I am not sad to see him replaced as Head Honcho.
I have to agree about the new Doctor – several times I found myself noticing how similar to Tenant he is, which was jarring.
As for the “exterminate” moment in Stolen Earth, my personal favourite was hearing the Daleks speak German ;)
Yes, “Exterminieren!” was a good moment. But, to be fair to RTD, all his big, epic episodes do have superb moments. In The Parting of the Ways, for example, I still feel an electric tingle every time the Doctor’s hologram turns to look directly at Rose as the TARDIS takes her back to her own time. And in Doomsday, the part when the Doctor initially tries to persuade the Torchwood people not to run the ghost shift, then just sits back and says “OK” — very Doctorish and very funny.
I’m thinking you’re perhaps being just a little harsh. There are some big differences here: first – nice, logically coherent story. As much as I loved RTD Who, especially towards then end, there was a lot of deus ex machina and loose endage flapping about. Not here.
Second: gas. Lots of great one-liners. “you’re Scottish: fry something”, “Basically, run!”, inter alia.
Third: MS. Already, I see differences between him and DT. To be fair to him, he’s just finished a regerneration, so there are some hangovers. I think Smith is going to be more child-like and implusive. He doesn’t ‘gurn’ quite a such as Tennant and his face has a strange, slightly other-wordly quality. Frankly, he had me from, “beans are evil. Bad, bad beans!”
But you are right, first episodes are hard to pitch right. Unitl last night, my fave was Partners in Crime, where DT and CT sparked off each other wonderfully. Last night had the same kind of thing. It bodes well.
If it’s any indication, my 6 year old daughter was rapt for the whole show. She loved it.
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Certain bit of me was kind of hoping the new ginga bint was going to stay in that kiss-o-gram gear for whole series.
Best Dalek lines?
“Harriet Jones, former Prime Minister”
“Yes, we know”
Looking forward to the olive drab Daleks shown in the teaser at the end, they just looked so right.
I felt it was pretty similar to the old series as well. But I was a bit more pessimistic than you are.
While I have held issues with the age of Matt Smith as The Doctor, as a long time Whovian I have to say I was fairly impressed by his performance. The regeneration from Eccelston to Tennant was very “who am I?” but, now, from Tennant to Smith is so much more old school. As those who have watched the old series – pre 2005 – will remember, on regeneration The Doctor’s mind is a mess and a jumble, but not in the sense of “who am I” but “who WAS I”. One of the classic regenerations was Castrovalva where Peter Davison portrayed aspects of all previous regenerations including some very excellent mimic scenes of William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton. I sensed a good amount of the similar in this regeneration as Matt Smith portrayed the old coot of William Hartnell and the playfulness of Patrick Troughton; he carried through a bit of Jon Pertwee’s attitude and style; the technical side and humor of Tom Baker; the sarcasm of youth from Peter Davison; and definitely the arrogance and humor of Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy. Finally with the line “Hello, I’m The Doctor. Basically…..run” he absolutely brought over Eccleston and Tennant in the post-Time War loner don’t-f**k-with-me attitude. I went into the episode with reservations but came out hopeful. I’m looking forward to next week to see if things continue in the right direction
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For a good part of the episode, The Doctor was still high on the excess regeneration energy, hence the wackiness. That spring he did from his knees to his feet was very early-Tennant. As I remember (though I may remember wrongly), Tennant’s Doctor spent some time trying to be the same man he was, for Rose’s sake, before he really found his own identity – that’s not a statement about Tennant, but about The Doctor. Instead of “fish custard”, I really was expecting him to find a massive bag of jelly babies and settle on those, small let down, but not major. It DOES make me curious to see what fish fingers dipped in custard tastes like… Matt Smith will find his identity as a Doctor, but we’ll have to wait for a really good defining episode, like Empty Child or The Girl in the Fireplace, to really see, I think.
Onto the ending scenes, the whole clicking his fingers to open the TARDIS thing was, of course, a reference to River Song (was that her name?). He did it because his new lease on life, and perhaps even a fresh outlook, has reminded him that in his future, there are yet good experience to be had, and he approaches his future with renewed hope, not the morbid defeatism he showed as David Tennant, when he knew his end was coming. By the way, anyone spot the obvious Star Wars reference at the end? I’m pretty certain that was the reason his new screwdriver was green and not blue :P. Though speaking of that in the shadow of speaking of River Song, as I’m typing this I’ve just noticed a contradiction. Apart from having a “red setting”, River’s screwdriver appeared to be the same one The Doctor was carrying at the time, but now he has a new one that looks completely different! The easy way out is that he just builds a new one, but still, it feels wrong.
Correcting myself – River’s looks SIMILAR, so yes, he probably does build a new one at some point…
As a rather new, post modern Whovian (exposed starting Eccleston, not really not too interested in Who before that…) The Matt Smith episode so far struck me as a little… pale imitation like.
Amy Pond was the best thing out of the episode. She has potential if they don’t write her into the claptrap characterization of being the damsel in distress. This, honestly, is the way that Tate really shined. She went from being the damsel in distress (Runaway Bride) to the Doctor’s strongest moral center when he needed it most in that very same episode… and this continued on quite brilliantly throughout the series itself. I’m certainly in the boat along with those who absolutely HATED what happened to Tate at the end of the 4th series. Shrieking fishwife. Yeah. Strongest companion yet? Oh hell yes.
What they need to do is AVOID the romantic angle with Amy Pond and she can be just as good. NO LOVE TRIANGLES, NO FLIRTATIONS WITH ROMANCE, NONE OF THAT STUFF… PLEASE!
Martha Jones was so generic. I couldn’t stand her. Shame, because that was the series where Tennant really shined.
Matt Smith himself? Too slapsticky. He’s physical to the point of goofiness. It actually started to annoy me 10-15 minutes into… I didn’t sense any badassery in him despite him trying to show shades of the arrogance. I didn’t sense any fragility within the Doctor despite supposedly being in a vulnerable state due to his ongoing instability just post regen. It’s strange for me to be able to say he was all over the map but didn’t cover enough of the bases. The EPISODE wasn’t too rushed, but his performance certainly was. The urgency felt forced. Question is whether or not he settles into his own character and makes it convincing enough. So time will tell, I suppose.
It was only the first episode, after all. A lot of setup to do, a lot of crap to get out of the way. I hope Amy’s boyfriend ends up being a second companion (already looks like that may be the case) and HE grows as a character due to the influence of the Doctor… and Amy comes to love him more as a person and getting over her childlike infatuation with the Doctor himself. If this ends up being the character arcs for those two… I’ll be ecstatic. I’m really tired of the storylines of groupies and broken relationships… which is why I really appreciated the series with Tate.
While I’m sad to see Tennant go… I actually still miss Eccleston. Tennant had his 4 brilliant years… Eccleston showed so much promise and his time was too short.
Haven’t seen the episode myself, but I will say this. Early Tom Baker episodes gave Tom lines similar to his predecessor, John Pertwee. Part of that was that the stories were written before Baker’s casting, but some could possibly be explained that the regeneration was only recently completed and the new Doctor has not had time to differentiate yet from his previous incarnation.
Why younger, rather than older Doctors? Well, as I recall from something I read/saw/hear way back in the 70′ when I first started watching Doctor Who was that the doctor was growing “younger” as he aged… So, in another 20-30 years we should have a 10 year old Doctor zipping around the space-time continuum. :-)
Anyway, I think this was a decent start to a new season and a new Doctor. I give Matt some time to get settled into the role. I would agree that Tennant was one of the great models for the role – Smith has his work cut out in order to set his own stamp on the part. As for his new companion, I really liked how they dealt with the doctors “I’ll be back in 5 minutes” that turned into 12 years, etc. Of course, the Doctor was never (or at least rarely) precise in his time sense, except when it came to thwarting the designs of serious evil-doers.
Spearhead from Space… Robot… Castrovalva, The Twin Dilemma, Time and the Rani, the first half of the 1996 movie, Rose, and The Christmas Invasion.
Basing the tenure of the new Doctor on any of those episodes would have been a mistake. I avoid Power of the Daleks (because I never saw it, sadly) and An Unearthly Child (because it wasn’t a regeneration).
For me, the critical thing was at no point did I think “he’s too young”– Nor did I find his portrayal particularly Tennnant-ish, although one would expect some Tennant-like mannerisms to carry over. Aside from that, he’s young, energetic, brilliant, full of himself, and just regenerated– How exactly was he supposed to manage not being David Tennant in your mind? Wear a dress? Breakdance? Practice his Venusian Karate? Or perhaps he should have skulked around the corridors with his eyes bulging out in all directions?
Give him a chance, he’ll be fine. As for Amy, I dated someone like her once– Buckle up, it’s gonna be interesting.
Yeah, scary if you are 12 years old.
I loved it, and it left me with the impression that the series is in very good hands.
Smith is definitely a bit Tennantish, but I think it’s probably deliberate, and a good thing. He’s the same person, after all. My childhood memories of pre-RTD Who are a bit hazy, so I don’t know if they played regeneration similarly, but a bit of continuity to start with is surely a good thing. Some material in the episode was definitely a bit slapstick, but it *is* ostensibly a kids show. Not to say that being aimed to some extent at kids excuses shallow slapstick in the vein of Jar-Jar, but I definitely found myself laughing during the food scene, and young Amy and the Doctor eating fish-custard together at the table was surprisingly heart-warming. Besides which – Moffat definitely has a talent for scary-bits. The slapstick may be needed in order to offset the giant alien eel with endless rows of needle-like teeth that hides just out of your peripheral vision. Or possibly the ordinary looking people who open their mouths to reveal eel-like gullets of full of nighmarish needle-teeth. Y’see?
I liked Amy – whereas it took a while for any of the past three companions to grow on me, I like Amy from the get-go.
If the episode had some flaws, it was that it was a bit convoluted, and did suffer from a bit of a forced sense of urgency.
Looking forward to next week.
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I had a thought earlier today, probably a very bad one, but you know who I’d like to see play the next doctor? A bit early to be talking about it, I know, but while the topic is fresh it bears mentioning; I’d like the younger trend to be broken by Chris Barrie, whom you may remember as Rimmer. Strange choice, for sure, but there’s more to him than the smeg head we saw in Red Dwarf.
What is wrong with the BBC?
They’ve disemboweled this franchise. If Torchwood is now better than Doctor Who, you know something has gone dreadfully wrong.
Tennant was awful. Good actor, absolutely childish and implausible as the Doctor.
Now this. This new one is like a refugee from Twilight.
Time to go watch Pyramids of Mars. Where is Tom Baker? Where is Sarah Jane?
The first Doctor I saw was portrayed by Pertwee, I enjoyed Tom Baker and Davison, but never got to watch much of Colin Baker or McCoy.
I was a bit disheartened when I found out the series had been canceled, so when the Movie came out, I was generally just happy to see a new episode – but I can’t say I was all that impressed. Unfortunately it was years before it became a new series.
I thoroughly enjoyed Eccleston’s portrayal, and I would have loved to see him for a couple more years. I did come to accept and enjoy Tennant’s version as well, and it is sad to see him go – he was, in my opinion, almost as quirky and fun as Tom Baker.
Once Smith has cemented the personality of his version of the Doctor, I’m sure we will be saying the same thing about him when it comes time for the Doctor to regenerate again.
I’m still wondering if they have a plan to handle his 12th regeneration…
Finally got a chance to watch the whole episode through. I’m a Matt Smith fan. I loved his portrayal of the post-regen Doctor here. I loved the pathos Moffat threw in there with the 5 minutes -> 12 years. I loved Amy Pond, her baggage, and her attitude. When the episode was over, I found myself wishing I could watch the next one right away. Can hardly wait to see how this season unfolds.
I don’t know how many others reading here can claim to have seen the first episode of the doctor when it was first transmitted (November 23, 1963); I did – and the repeat the following week – and have seen every regeneration since (and what’s going to happen after Smith? IIRC the villain in Trial of a Time Lord turned out to be the doc’s evil 13th regeneration – although is that 13th regeneration or 13th doctor?) and, with a single exception, my initial reaction was “I prefer the previous” – the exception was Colin Baker, to whom I never warmed.
But after a while the new doc always grew on me,hell I even liked Sylvester McCoy, which seems to put me in the minority.
I liked Smith’s first outing, although Tennant is an extremely hard act to follow – he isk I think, my favourite doctor – and thought Amy Pond absolutely gorgeous; it even took me a few minutes to register that her abbreviated skirt was hardly authentic uniform.
I am a little surprised that nobody seems to have noticed/pointed out the parallels with The Girl in the Fireplace.
All in all I am sure the show is in safe hands and that both Smith and Gillan will grow into their parts.
Two words. Tom Baker. Two more. Good night.
Amy Pond .. River Song
Am a Lie … uhmmm
Surely Not postulated: “Amy Pond .. River Song”
> nothing about it that struck me as
> characteristically Moffetian
I think that one of the things Moffat does very well was make the viewer fearful of ordinary things. In this case ‘bad things’ coming out of a crack in the wall and things that can only be seen from the corner of the eye are characteristic of Moffat.
The whole ‘corner of the eye’ thing certainly left one of my kids too scared to sleep which is surely the mark of a good Dr Who episode.
As a bit of an aside, prisoner zero coming out of the wall reminded me of Neil Gaiman’s excellent children’s book ‘The Wolves in the walls’
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I’m seriously relieved simply that the series is continuing!
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I’m only now getting into the 5th series — running behind everyone else in the world, pretty much. For me, Eccleston is still “my Doctor” — I hadn’t watched this show before, and I was immediately drawn in by his emotionally intense yet alien Doctor. I wish he’d done a few more years. I had mixed feelings all through the Tennant era, enjoying some of his work but finding his Doctor too arrogant and self-absorbed for my taste. To me, the Eleventh Doctor seems refreshingly “present” and more aware of the other characters than the Tenth Doctor was. Maybe it was Tennant’s delivery — why does he shout when the other character is standing two feet away? who’s he performing for? — or maybe it was that the Tenth Doctor wasn’t shown fretting over his companions so much, but so far, the Eleventh Doctor seems more concerned about the people he’s with than the Tenth Doctor did. I gather that this is a minority view among the fans, but now that I’ve seen 5 episodes of Series 5, I could cite umpteen examples of the Eleventh Doctor seeming quite aware of his companion(s) and concerned for them; the Tenth Doctor usually seemed to me to be performing for himself and wrapped up in his own little world. So since we can’t have the Ninth Doctor back, I’m glad we have the Eleventh.
Karen, I’d agree with all of that. The boys and I have just finished re-watching almost all of Tennant’s run, and while there is a huge amount to like, I have found myself looking forward to getting back to Smith.
This guy is stealing this entire post, and maybe others of your Dr. Who reviews:
Well, he’s attributing it and linking to the original; I guess I can live with that.
I was concerned when I saw promos for the new Doctor (Matt Smith). The shows are all quite good, but they do not seem to have the realism (I know it’s science fiction) of the last 2 Doctors. The new episodes seem more emotion-based, and you wonder if other planets or other fantastic creatures will appear like the ones you expected from previous Doctor episodes. The lighting seems different, and the storylines are good, but I still think something more of River Song should have taken place. Overall, even though the new show is relaxing and fun, I feel that it is a dream, that these episodes are not real, and later on a new real Doctor will appear.
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I personally like David Tennant best. It was the way he played The Doctor. The way that he was funny, happy, easy going, just the over all way he made The Doctor. Now Christopher Ecclestion is also very important because he was the first doctor i saw, so he`s the actor that got me hooked on the show. I`ll be honest I HATED Matt Smith to begin with, but hes starting to grow on me. The way he does The Doctor reminds me of Christopher Ecclestions way, a little mad at the world, not as happy by smaller things. As for companions I liked Billie Piper. Just the way she was, and the was her and the doctor got along. As for Karen Gillan shes pretty cool, i dont mind her. I still love the show, its just different. One last thing, if you ever think about it, we have no proof the eleventh doctors a Time Lord. He acts very human, and doesnt say much about his two hearts, or home planet.
How could he have regenerated into the 11th Doctor without being a Time Lord?
I know that Tennant remains a lot of people’s favourite. I loved him when he start in the role — I thought his debut in The Christmas Invasion was sensational — but as his time continued he started to become more and more a parody of himself. Smith was a breath of fresh air in comparison, and I love how unmannered his performances are. It took a few episodes for me to tune in, but he quickly established himself as my all-time favourite, and so it remains now.
I recently watched “The Girl in the Fireplace” for the millionth time and I was blown away by David Tennant’s incredible performance. He was quirky and hilarious!
I do agree that Tennant is superb in TGitF. The script plays to his strengths, and he has been long enough in the role to have found his own voice but not long enough to lose his freshness. I would probably rate that episode his best. Certainly when you compare it with by-the-numbers late-Tennant-era episodes like Planet of the Dead, it’s like the difference between day and night.
The difference between the girl in the fireplace and the planet of the dead has as much to do with moffat’s influence than anything, in my opinion.
What do you think of David Tennant’s performances in “The Christmas Invasion”, “The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit”, “Army of Ghosts/Doomsday”, “Human Nature/The Family of Blood”, “Blink”, “Voyage of the Damned”, “Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead”, “Midnight” and “The Waters of Mars” ? I thought he was fantastic in those episodes!
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