The Eleventh Hour proved to be a lively introduction to the new 'raggedy' Doctor, and a really vibrant start to series 5. Penned by the new series Svengali Steven Moffat, it presented us with our first opportunity to scrutinise Matt Smith's performance as the time traveling hero, and was also the first time we would meet his future companions Amelia Pond and Rory Williams. It really was an episode of firsts: a new Showrunner, new Doctor, new companion, new TARDIS interior and a new bow tie - bow ties are cool!
Moffat injects a heavy dose of humour into the proceedings, having been previously known for his hit comedy series 'Coupling'. The opening exchanges between Smith and the young Amy, played wonderfully by Caitlin Blackwood, are nothing short of an absolute delight. There are a lot of lighthearted moments as the Doctor begins to filter through the physical changes, new likes and dislikes and discovers new sides to his persona, even an appreciation of fish fingers and custard!
Moffat plays with the regeneration possibilities to full effect and gives himself artistic license to explore the process with the character, whilst Smith gleefully runs hither and dither, at one point colliding with a tree while his internal compass finds its bearings.
Very quickly we learn the unflappable Pond has noticed a suspicious crack in her wall, which of course requires closer examination. It turns out that it is due to the loss of the absconding outlaw Prisoner Zero, a giant snarling space eel. He/it is an image changing alien that can replicate any form of creature and likes to turn up at the precocious child's house while her Aunt is out and about - typical!
After faffing around the Doctor disappears for 'five minutes' to sort out numerous glitches in his big blue box, only to return a trifle later than promised by some twelve years. He emerges from the hissing and billowing TARDIS to find a grown up, disgruntled Amy Pond dressed as a Police Woman - I suspect this was purely for the Dads in the audience! Understandably Amy is somewhat less than happy about his disappearance, reappearance, broken promise and shocking time keeping issues.
Elsewhere Nurse Rory (the future Mr Pond) discovers a ward full of coma patients calling out for the Doctor, but you know straight away it's not for the one with the stethoscope. There's a tinge of 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers' about it all, there's even a man barking!
Amy Pond stomps about the village in her kiss-o-gram police uniform, managing to look both alluring and psychotic in equal measure, as the Time Lord tries to save the world in twenty minutes. Even armed with the knowledge that the planet is about to be obliterated, Pond traps the Doctor in a car by his tie. It's evident at this point that this companion is not going to be the eye fluttering, breast popping, eye candy that a Who audience has often been used to. She's going to ask our eponymous hero awkward questions and tell him where to put his sonic screwdriver.
Unfortunately the intrepid redhead came as part of a double act, the hapless Rory being the significant fly in the ointment here. I was later to find the Ponds slightly annoying, like turning up to see Rita Ora in concert only to find her Mum occupying the stage for the first twenty minutes. It's not that Arthur Darvill's acting is shocking, far from it, but if I didn't know he was an actor I would have genuinely thought that he was as useless as his character and I have always rather unkindly thought of him as the Third Wheel. I suppose I have to accept that I may upset some fans over this issue and admit there were episodes where I forgot that he irritated me and others where he only mildly annoyed me. In fact Moffat played havoc with my emotions in later shows, snuffing Rory out only to bring him back again.
After dealing with introductions and regeneration issues, The Eleventh Hour eventually concentrates solely on the threat at hand, this is when it gets a bit busy and frantic in parts, like a race to the finish line. If I had to grumble, it would be smallish grumble concerning the last ten minutes or so which were a little anti climatic, the Doctor almost scolds the species like a Geography Teacher irked by a student not completing the necessary homework assignment. I have to also add that some of the CGI looked slightly substandard for Doctor Who at that time (including Smith dangling from the TARDIS doorway as it hurtled around many London tourist attractions, and the Atraxi's rooftop appearance - a giant eyeball on a Christmas decoration!).
There were certainly times where The Eleventh Hour is genuinely inventive and on point, but the second half of the script tends to be a bit predictable and saggy. Although it was better than any of Series 1 with Christopher 'Ecclescake' and was easily on a par, if not exceeding, the introduction of David Tennant.
Moffat had a lot to do in one jam packed handover episode, but generally from this outing I think I knew that our beloved Time Lord was in safe hands and my concerns over Matt Smith and this young newby Doctor were without foundation.
Script Writer, Poet, Blogger and junk television specialist. Half English, half Irish and half Alsatian, Tom is well known for insisting on being called Demetri for reasons best known to himself. A former film abuser and telly addict who shamefully skulks around his home town of Canterbury after dark dressed as Julie Andrews. Follow Tom on Twitter