Monday, 5 April 2010

Doctor Who - The Eleventh Hour - my review - 9/10

"14 years since fish custard!"

My over-riding impression after watching this episode is that "Doctor Who" is in the very safe hands of Smith and Moffat, and that we may even be at the dawn of a golden era.

We've got new TARDIS, new sonic, new titles, new logo and new music too. The titles aren't radically different from the previous ones, merely a slightly different representation of the vortex. I did notice that both the titles and new arrangement seem deliberately less portentious, almost knockabout as the TARDIS dodges forks of lightning against a real "boom-tish" version of the familiar theme.

I'm sure all of us harboured some level of doubt that the youngest ever actor to play the title role (someone born when the next youngest was the incumbent) could pull off the Doctor-ness convincingly. Matt Smith did it effortlessly and owned the screen in all his scenes, which is what the Doctor should do. As I've noted before, perhaps not here, Matt's not classically photogenic but comes over very attractively, as someone you'd be simultaneously comfortable with and excited by.

And Matt also has the comic timing and awkward physicality to play Steven Moffat's quirky humour. This was most notable in the food craving sequence early in the episode - a scene which gets better with each viewing but could have been a disaster if played wrong. And he is equally commanding when necessary, as he did standing up to the Atraxi on the hospital roof - something Tennant occasionally lapsed into obnoxious with. There's a sense that Moffat is moving the characterisation very slightly, but that remains to be seen I think.

To the episode itself. Though I think this is probably in the top 3 of new Doctor debut' stories, I've given it a less-than-perfect 9. There's one major reason for that - the special effects were 'special' in the derogatory sense of the word. and I hope they improve for the rest of this series. The true form of "Prisoner Zero' was suitably scary but really didn't look to be in the same room as anything else, and the Atraxi was bad in concept and realisation - a giant eyeball in a snowflake! It was as convincing as 70s CSO! I can cope with that level of effect in "The Sarah Jane Adventures" but not in the daddy show.

I'd also have a slight quibble that in a 65 minute episode a little more screen time and purpose could have been given to guest stars Annette Crosbie, Nina Wadia and Olivia Colman, thought the latter did get to be the villain briefly.

And some things were a bit rushed or unexplained such as Jeff and his gran's relationship to Amy (was his gran her Aunt?), what happened to Amy's parents and what year it was at any one time - I'm going for 1996, 2008 and 2010 and ignoring the 1990 date on Rory's ID card.

Amy was a completely new sort of companion - off the scale fiesty and unpredictable, though I'm slightly wary/worried of how she sees the Doctor. Her insisting on watching her 'raggedy Doctor' strip off struck me as a bit odd on second viewing. Nearest comparison I can get is Ace mixed with Donna.

In this though we also got Amelia, the young Amy, Have to say Caitlin Blackwood was every bit as good as if not better than her real-life cousin Karen Gillan, and even managed creepy when Prisoner Zero took her form. Moffat is very strong with giving children unusual roles of course ("are you my mummy?").

The other star of the show for me was director Adam Smith, the first of the completely new hands in that role this year where none of the directors have worked on the show before. He brought magic and colour and slight mischief to bear. He also has the honour of being the director on both the first broadcast episode as well as the first produced ones, which actually follow as episodes 4 and 5. The clips from them look assured as well, as they need to be for the return of the Weeping Angels and River Song.

On a more shallow note, I was very taken with Jeff (Tom Hopper) and notice I'm not the only one, though it is in fact the not so good looking Rory (Arthur Darvill) who we will be seeing more of this series, as he even gets a trip back in time in the TARDIS next month. But is it Rory that Amy was due to marry the next day?

So here's a gratuitous pic of the lovely Jeff with our hero ...

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