The Way of the Word

4. April 2010

Review: Doctor Who – 11th Hour

Filed under: general — jensaltmann @ 15:46
Tags: , , , , , , ,

The 5th season of Doctor Who just premiered, with Matt Smith as the 11th Doctor and Karen Gillan as Amy Pond, his new companion.

The TARDIS crashlands in the garden of young Amelia, who invites the still regenerating Doctor into her house because, well, for one thing she’s weird that way. There’s also this strange crack in her wall. It turns out that that crack is not in the wall, but in spacetime, and something called Prisoner Zero escaped through it into our world. The Doctor has to fix the TARDIS before he can do anything else. He promises Amelia that he’ll be back in five minutes, then takes off.

12 years later (yes, he still has those problems steering), the situation hasn’t much improved. Prisoner Zero is still at large, and the Atraxi, his jailors, are coming to get him. If they don’t find him, they will incinerate the entire planet. The Doctor has 20 minutes left to save the world. And he has to do with without the still regenerating TARDIS and without his sonic screwdriver.

In a way, Smith’s first entry as the Doctor is very reminiscent of Tennant’s: the Doctor is still busy regenerating (although 11 has an easier time of it than 10), and he already has to save Earth from an alien armada. While it might seem a bit less imaginative on the surface, the similarities of the premise work nicely to spotlight the differences between Tennant’s and Smith’s Doctors.

Smith approaches the Doctor with the same manic energy that Tennant brought to the part, but combines it with Ecclestone’s dangerous edge. There are also some new aspects to this Doctor, uniquely Smith’s, that I’m curious to see developed in the coming episodes. Such as the way he uses his senses, and the way that the mania that both Ecclestone and Tennant had seems to occasionally tilt over into madness. As the Doctor himself says, “I’m just a madman with a box.”

“Hello. I’m the Doctor. Basically… Run.”

The Eleventh Hour has several good lines, the above is my favorite, mostly due to Matt Smith’s delivery.

I came to Doctor Who with the relaunch. I watched and enjoyed the entire Ecclestone season, but dropped out a few episodes into Tennant’s tenure. It just didn’t work for me. Matt Smith as the Doctor, at least on first impression, works very well for me.

I’m less sure about Amy Pond, the new companion. At first glance, it appears that the writers are trying to create someone who represents two of the most popular NuWho (as the relaunch is frequently called) companions: Rose Tyler and Donna Noble. She’s strong-willed and independent, takes the weird in stride, but apparently a bit crazy and not too bright. Unlike the previous companions, Amy (because of the haphazard nature of their first encounters) seems to have harbored a lifelong fixation on the Doctor. We’ll see how that plays out, and whether or not Amy can become her own character.

The TARDIS redesign is, for me as a German, something of a blast from the past. The new console uses many many househould utensils for props, just like the German sci-fi show Raumpatrouille did in 1965. It looks sillier than Tennant’s TARDIS, but in a somewhat steampunky way. It works, that’s all that matters.

I’ll be back next week. As should you, even if you (like I) didn’t enjoy David Tennant as the Doctor.

Verdict: recommended


  1. Good review. I was trying to figure out what made Smith appeal more to me than Tennant, and I think you’ve found it – that ability to turn menacing. Well, maybe not menancing, but alien to certain manners that Tennant all to readily embraced.

    I’m just so happy I can be proud of Dr. Who again.

    (shameless promotion of my own blog and review of Eleventh Hour)

    Comment by Oli — 4. April 2010 @ 16:38

  2. Smith didn’t feel menacing to me in this episode. The trailer hints at that quality, though. What he was, though, was confident, which in this case had a similar effect. I don’t expect Smith’s Doctor will be as touchy-feely as (what I’ve seen of) Tennant’s was, and that even if, there’ll be an edge of steel in it that Tennant didn’t have.

    Comment by jensaltmann — 4. April 2010 @ 17:06

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