Saturday, May 15, 2010

Doctor Who: Series 5, Episode 1 - The Eleventh Hour (8 Pints)

My first TV review will be of one of my all-time favorite shows - Doctor Who. In the future I hope to go back and review all of the new series episodes, but for now I'm just tackling this year's episodes, starting with the series premiere, The Eleventh Hour.

Our adventure begins with a newly regenerated Doctor (Number 11, played by Matt Smith) crash-landing the TARDIS in a little village called Leadworth after nearly blowing it up in the process of regenerating. He's landed it on its side, on top of a shed in the back yard of a house where a young girl named Amelia Pond lives. Amelia assumes he's been sent to help her, answering her prayers that something be done about a rather sinister crack in her bedroom wall, and the Doctor being the Doctor, he obliges and gives it a look. Upon inspection, he discovers that the crack is actually in the universe, in reality, not the wall, and he forces it open to see where it goes. A giant eyeball comes to the now open tear and declares that 'Prisoner Zero has escaped', then the crack closes. Before the Doctor and Amelia can begin to look for Prisoner Zero, the TARDIS alarms go off, warning the Doctor that the engines are going to blow. He rushes back to the TARDIS to fix it, promising Amelia that he'll return in five minutes.

He returns, unwittingly, twelve years later.

Now he must convince the grown up Amy (once Amelia) that he's real, and that the world will end in twenty minutes unless he helps her. Then he actually has to, you know, save the world.

I found this episode to be beautifully shot and very fairytale-like in tone, which fits the story nicely. I think that the aliens in the episode - both Prisoner Zero and his captors - are a bit hit and miss, and really are only there as a device for the writer to introduce us to this new Doctor and his companion. Obviously that was the intent of the episode, I'm just saying that I found it a little too obvious as the actual plot is never really fleshed out much. Who is Prisoner Zero? What did they do? Who are the aliens (Atraxi) that are after it? All we ever get is the basics - Prisoner Zero escaped a prison somewhere, and the Atraxi will destroy the Earth before they let it get away.

The other thing that bothered me was how Prisoner Zero found the coma patients in the hospital. I get that Amy's boyfriend Rory is a nurse there, and that they must have hitched a ride on him, but it's never really explained. And - spoiler! - if Prisoner Zero needs comatose people to imitate, why doesn't it just knock anyone out that it likes, as it can clearly do near the end of the episode? Also, if Prisoner Zero has been using these coma patients as covers to go out in public for twelve years, why the hell can't it figure out which mouth to talk with? Surely it's had to talk at some point by now, even if only with an annoying passerby. Also, in a small village like Leadworth, why is Rory the only one that notices that these people shouldn't be out walking around? Everybody knows everybody, right?

These are just minor complaints, really. On the whole I found the episode to be rather good and it hides a lot of little Easter Eggs on repeated viewings. I'm sure there's even more stuff in there that will become obvious by the end of the series, as well.

I like this new Doctor. Matt Smith is a quirky, eccentric, alien Doctor and a welcome change from David Tennant's moist-eyed, quivering-lipped, fuck anything that moves Doctor. Seriously. The Madame de Pompadour, Queen Elizabeth, two years of Rose wooing... I'm not a Ten hater, and liked his Doctor a lot, but Smith is bringing the Doctor back to his awkward, asexual and alien roots. Ten felt very human at times. Eleven is definitely not.

Amy presents an interesting companion - a girl who grew up with an imaginary friend only to find out that he's real. It's clear, even without Prisoner Zero saying it, that she's still very much a child inside, that she never really grew up in many ways. She acts adult and has a moderately sexy job because she's playing at being an adult. She's doing what adults are supposed to do. We find out at the very end that it's all a show, and she really is still the little girl wanting to run away through time and space with her imaginary friend.

I'm looking forward to it.

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