The Eleventh Hour ★★★★★

New decade. New Doctor. Steven Moffat expertly reboots the format with a charming introduction for Matt Smith and the “little girl who waited”

122

Story 203

Advertisement

Series 5 – Episode 1

“Oh, you sexy thing. Look at you” – the Doctor

Storyline
The Tardis crashlands in the village of Leadworth in 1996, where a youthful, newly regenerated Doctor befriends young Amelia Pond over a dish of fish fingers and custard. The child is troubled by a mysterious crack in her bedroom wall. The Time Lord comes back 12 years later where his friend has grown up and is now Amy. She is unaware that an escaped shape-shifting alien, Prisoner Zero, is hiding in her house. Atraxi law enforcers are hunting it down, bringing the village and the world into danger. With the help of Amy and her boyfriend Rory (a nurse) the Doctor saves the day. He returns in 2010 with a remodelled Tardis and invites Amy to join him.

First UK transmission
Saturday 3 April 2010

Production
September 2009 to January 2010. At St Cadoc’s Hospital, Caerleon; Johnsey Estates, Pontypool; Llandaff Cathedral Green; The Vicarage, Rhymney; Abertillery Hospital; London helicopter shoot; Upper Boat Studios, Pontypridd.

Cast
The Doctor – Matt Smith
Amy Pond – Karen Gillan
Rory Williams – Arthur Darvill
Amelia Pond – Caitlin Blackwood
Dr Ramsden – Nina Wadia
Barney Collins – Marcello Magni
Mrs Angelo – Annette Crosbie
Jeff Angelo – Tom Hopper
Mr Henderson – Arthur Cox
Ice-cream man – Perry Benson
Mother – Olivia Colman
Children – Eden Monteath, Merin Monteath
Atraxi voice – David de Keyser
Prisoner Zero voice – William Wilde
Himself – Patrick Moore

Crew
Writer – Steven Moffat
Director – Adam Smith
Producer – Tracie Simpson
Music – Murray Gold
Production designer – Edward Thompson
Executive producers – Steven Moffat, Piers Wenger, Beth Willis

RT review by Patrick Mulkern
First nights are always nail-biting – even for a 900-something Time Lord. Some Doctors debuted with instant classics (Patrick Troughton in The Power of the Daleks, 1966) while others turned up with undercooked turkeys (Sylvester McCoy in Time and the Rani, 1987). But the big question has always been: is this new Doctor any good? And then, will the audience accept him?

The stratospherically popular David Tennant cast a massive shadow. And if anyone was pining for the tenth Doctor, I sympathise. Truly. Dig deep enough and I’m still sore about Jon Pertwee morphing into Tom Baker way back in 1974 – on my ninth birthday!

But it’s obvious from the off that the 11th Doctor will be up there with the greatest. Despite his youth, Matt Smith instantly embodies our ancient hero, the “mad man with a box”.

Loping, loose-limbed and long-fingered, his “raggedy Doctor” bowls in like Shaggy from Scooby-Doo! and at the end of the episode he emerges as a fogey-but-fun physics lecturer who wouldn’t look out of place in Wallace & Gromit.

Both he and new pal Amy Pond are a cartoonist’s dream. Karen Gillan has a Celtic luminosity, a full moon phizog and (in her kissagram cop outfit, not the Stan Laurel nightshirt) unbridled sex appeal. Her legs go all the way up, as my gran used to say.

It’s all change at the top. Revamped theme music – I still miss the hypnotic menace of the radiophonic original. New title sequence – a sort of space/time colonoscopy. And a remodelled Tardis… As the Doctor purrs: “Oh, you sexy thing. Look at you.” It’s a cruise ship lounge designed by Willy Wonka and rather gorgeous.

So incoming Who-meister Steven Moffat has tweaked the essentials, but what of the episode itself? The Eleventh Hour – a generous timey-wimey 64 minutes – offers funny lines (“You’re Scottish. Fry something”), directorial flourishes and a host of blink-and-miss star turns. Olivia Colman before she was HUGE huge. A shame we wouldn’t see Annette Crosbie again… There are nostalgic nods to the past and a seeding of tiny details that aren’t coincidental.

The threat of the Atraxi’s evil eye doesn’t bowl me over but, as it scans the Earth, it symbolises the sharp scrutiny viewers would be giving every detail of this opener. And its voice? Veteran actor David De Keyser dubbed The Flashing Blade and was thus one of the key storytellers for any British child of the 1970s.

The most enchanting moments are the top and tail scenes between the Doctor and Amy. They emit a strong scent of Roald Dahl and Raymond Briggs and, as with the very best Who, unfold like a bedtime story appealing to the child in all of us.

Advertisement

The tone is set for many more nightmarish fairy tales in the series to follow.