Doctor Who, Series 5, Episode 1: The Eleventh Hour (The Perfect Eleven?)

doctor who 5


“There’s a crack in my wall”

Is there anything better than the beginning of a new series of Doctor Who? No. And to celebrate the beginning of Series 9, I went back to the start of Steven Moffat’s run as head writer of Doctor Who. He came at a time when Doctor Who had seen better days. The specials over 2009 were terrible, and The End of Time…I can’t describe how much I abhorred the end of the Tenth Doctor. But that’s a rant for a different blog. Moffat was responsible for some of the best episodes of Nu-Who. And, armed with a new Doctor in the form of Matt Smith, there was a lot of hype and excitement for ‘The Eleventh Hour.’ Could Moffat revive The Doctor is terms of quality? Well, he couldn’t go any lower than ‘The End Of Time…’ could he?

Fortunately, it was indeed an enjoyable hour of TV. But had the flaws of the past been improved? Yes and no. The first ten minutes or so were great, paced so differently to the invasive direction of the previous series. There was a noticeably different tempo, a more educated cameraman (or so it seemed), and a different-but-good performance by Matt Smith. It fit in well with the storyline, as there was still a little hint of Tennant’s Doctor, but by the end he had definitely come into his own. There was the typical Steven Moffat storyline build up, expertly and captivatingly done. Both The Doctor and his new companion had cracking chemistry right from the get-go. It seemed like the old Who was out of the window, and the new Doctor was in. 

“I’m the Doctor, I’m worse than everybody’s aunt!”

However, by the time that Amy Pond reached that ‘unseen’ room, one of the major flaws returned again: the dreaded poor CGI alien, this time in the form of a silly electric eel. What? And then we had the silly eyeball spaceship. Who would ever build something like that? It reminded me of William Paley’s teleological argument for the existence of God. The eye looks like it has a designer, but an eyeball spaceship? Come again? Not even God would design that. The orchestra once again threatened to blow the dialogue and the eardrums away. Of course, the whole world had to be at stake. In order to kill one escaped prisoner, the eyeball ship had to destroy planet earth (why do aliens always do this? Kill six billion life-forms for the sake of one escaped prisoner?).

Bad, bad CGI!
Bad, bad CGI!

Moffat knows how to construct a story in the 45 minute time limit, make it interesting AND resolve it logically. He racks up the tension, for example, in ‘The Silence in the Library’, and slowly reveals the mystery at a superlative pace. It shows in this episode, with witty, snappy dialogue and instant gold with Matt Smith’s Doctor. Already, in his first episode, he’s conveyed more emotion than Tennant with one look, one glare of his eyes. He, not Moffat, is the standout of ‘The Eleventh Hour.’ Taking the long and sacred history of The Doctor in his stride, he more than fills the boots of one of Britain’s most cherished science fiction institutions. His speech to the Atraxi sends shivers down the spine and puts a wide grin on the face, as does the moment when he stepped through the images of the previous doctors and sais “I’m the Doctor. Basically, run!” Eccleston now has competition for being the best nu-Who Doctor!

There’s plenty of potential in the episode, only subsumed by the usual Davies Doctor Who theatrics. The deafening boom of Gold’s music and the poor CGI made it clear that RTD’s influence still captivates the people behind the scenes of Who. However, the overriding quality of Moffat’s script and the acting (both of Smith and Gillan) shines through. From fish fingers and custard to murmurs of the Pandorica, to libraries in swimming pools to a lack of a sonic screwdriver, ‘The Eleventh Hour’ is a very good start to a rejigged Doctor Who.

VERDICT: 8/10. Hamstrung by some flaws of the RTD era, ‘The Eleventh Hour’ nevertheless gives us an hour of quality television.

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