Monday, April 05, 2010

Hero, not Zero

So what did we all think to Matt Smith's debut as the new Doctor, eh? I have to say that I was pretty damned impressed. Of course, it's early days and we have another 12 episodes in which we'll see his character bed in, but, on the whole, I really enjoyed it. (Warning! Spoilers!)

The Eleventh Hour was a well-paced story with enough simplicity to ensure that the focus was never quite stolen away from the new Doctor finding his (new) feet and the budding relationship with new companion Amy Pond. In a nutshell, nine year old Amelia Pond has been uprooted from Scotland to England ('It's rubbish') to live with her aunt. We don't meet the aunt or Amelia's parents ('I don't have a Mum and Dad') but the young girl doesn't seem to need them. She's self-sufficient, has plenty of common sense and isn't scared of anything ... except the crack in her bedroom wall through which voices can be occasionally heard. She's not phased at all by the sudden crash-landing of a blue police box in her garden containing a man in a tattered David Tennant costume who claims that he doesn't really know who he is yet as he's 'still cooking'. After some hilarity as Amelia attempts to find the food the new Doctor needs to aid his regeneration, they explore the mysterious crack - which turns out to be in space/time rather than the plaster.

This is where Steven Moffat's superior scriptwriting comes to the fore. He has a knack of making complex ideas simple and, as his Doctor explains, 'knock the wall down and the crack will still be there'. He then widens the crack and we get our only glimpse of an alien prison from which 'Prisoner Zero has escaped'. However, before the Doctor can explore further, the TARDIS cloister bell starts to toll and the Doctor is forced to climb back inside and make a five minute jump into the future to stabilise the engines. The young Amelia grabs her suitcase and patiently waits for his return.

Twelve years later, the Doctor returns. The TARDIS, all-but knackered by Tennant's ecplosive regeneration, is as erratic as it used to be in Baker's and Pertwee's day and is busy reconfiguring its internal architecture. The Doctor soon meets up with Amelia - now Amy - Pond who is still iving in the same house and working as a kiss-o-gram. Prisoner Zero, it seems, has also been hiding in the house for the past 12 years by using a 'perception filter' to hide a room from Amy's senses. Once outed, Prisoner Zero (who has formed a psychic bond with the coma patients at a nearby hospital), impersonates several humans while, overhead in the skies, his gaolers search for him threatening to destroy the Earth if he is not handed over. I won't completely spoil the ending but, let's face it, you know the Doctor's going to win and Amy is going to get on board. I will add a few personal comments however. First, the criticisms.

Sorry, Moff, but the aliens were ARSE. A multi-form that looks like a bad CGI viper eel just doesn't cut the mustard these days. We've come to expect better. And, hanging from the ceiling as it did (apparently) and with those teeth, it just looked like the Mighty Jagrafess of the Holy Hadrojassic Maxarodenfoe after a few months on Slim-Fast. And as for the 'space screws', the Atraxi, what were they thinking? A giant eyeball sitting inside a Christmas tree decoration? Dear Davros no! I hope we see much better as the series progresses ... but the teaser trailer wasn't too encouraging. Lizard people? A miltary green Dalek? A slightly broken Cyberman? The statues from Blink? Well, okay, they're pretty cool and we have a two-parter coming up with them as the immobile bad guys. But still, I hope they're hiding the best stuff from us because otherwise, I'm a bit disappointed.

However (topping up the half-empty glass), there are so many positives to shout about. Matt Smith was very good as the new Doctor; erratic, smart, cocky, brilliant and with all sorts of little echoes of his previous incarnations. Karen Gillan was excellent as Amy - even if she did spend most of time in wide-eyed disbelief at everything that was going on around her. Her character will be an interesting one; disbelieved and in and out of therapy her whole life because of a chance encounter with 'the raggedy doctor' when she was nine, she's hugely sceptical and mistrusting of the Doctor. That said, she also can't resist finding out more to the extent of absconding with him on the eve of her wedding.

The direction was tight and, as I said before, Moffat's script was excellent, peppered with hints of the past (such as the Doctor snapping his fingers to open the TARDIS - as he was once shown by River Song, who is back later in the series) and some brilliant lines. My favourite? The Doctor to young Amelia: 'You're Scottish. Fry me something.' Nice performances from Olivia Coleman and others too. There were also hints of a story arc for this series, rather like the 'Bad Wolf' arc and others, when Parisoner Zero talks about the cracks in the universe and 'Silence will fall' when the 'Pandoracle (did I hear that right?) opens'. Ooooh spooky.

As good a start for a new Doctor as any I've seen. And I'm just old enough (and a big enough fan) to have seen them all.


Andrew Kerr said...

I burst out laughing at the "You're Scottish fry something" line...As a Scots it was best line of show!

I think the show was good but with new crew of writers & producers they are still trying to find the right tone for this 'Doctor'

I'd give it B-...

On an added note check out 'K9' on DisneyXD channel..a truly awful spin-off....I may phone RSPCA to have him rescued.

Persephone said...

Hey, I'll take rubbish CGI if we're going to get wonderful writing and acting. Besides, the Doctor got to drive a friggin' firetruck! Somewhere, David Tennant must be kicking himself. And please say Annette Crosbie is in a recurring role!

I liked it.

Andrew Kerr said...

I do hope you write more on your thoughts about this new series of Doctor Who,once time permits.

Apart from Karen Gillan,I have found the series poor and lack lustered.

The Van Gogh eps was ok apart from the blind prehistoric space chicken which seemed to be the monster.

Eps drags by and I find myself looking at the time.

At the end of each one I ask myself if I should carry on watching rather than looking forward to next eps.

Like Amy's memory of Rory I do wish I could forget this series of Doctor Who.