On 6th April 2010, the late, much lamented Forbidden Planet International blog published my thoughts (alongside others’) on The Eleventh Hour, Matt Smith’s debut as the Doctor.
Join me now as I take a trip down memory lane and muse about my musings. I’m going to look at the conclusions (and predictions) I made then by responding to the eleven points I made in my original review. Or would it be more accurate to call it a response? In fact, it was more of a love letter to the show with a snarky dig at Bleeding Cool thrown in for good measure. (Oh, Matt Badham of yesteryear, you really were an intense little bunny weren’t you? Thank God you’ve calmed down…)
According to my original piece, I saw Matt Smith as potentially becoming one of the best Doctors ever, based on his performance in The Eleventh Hour. It is an amazing performance, which demonstrates an incredible range in terms of its emotion and physicality.
The script asks a lot of Smith. One minute, he is contemplating the crack in Amelia’s wall and what that might portend, his ‘spider sense’ clearly tingling. The next, he walks smack bang into a tree in a wonderfully timed bit of physical comedy. I still think Smith was a fantastic Doctor. See also his performance in The Day of the Doctor, in which, once again, he shows incredible range, pirouetting from comedic moments to dark contemplation of his part in the destruction of Gallifrey with apparently seamless ease (and holds his own against one of the most popular Doctors ever, David Tennant, as well as acting legend, John Hurt).
In terms of being one of the best Doctors of all time… well, I don’t play that game nowadays. Every Doctor is fantastic and I have no desire to make comparisons between them, at least in terms of any sort of list from best to worst.
I also mentioned the dialogue, writing that “Steven Moffat’s script had some fantastically Douglas Adams-like witticisms in it and great patter between the characters.” One of Moffat’s great strengths as a writer is his ability to write funny, which is no big surprise considering his background in comedy. What jumped out watching The Eleventh Hour again though is that he’s not just a funny writer: he’s also very good at tugging the audience’s heart-strings. There’s something incredibly touching about Amelia Pond praying to Father Christmas and asking for his help at the beginning of the episode. We really get a sense of how alone and scared Amelia is; the scene perfectly communicating her fears and worries about the ominous crack in her wall with the voices behind it.
I wrote about Amy Pond and how much I liked Karen Gillan’s performance, which I still do. There’s a part of me though that would have loved it if the TARDIS had returned minutes later as promised and the Doctor had gone on adventures through time and space with Amelia, as a child in tow, at least for a couple of episodes…
Doctor Who: Regenerated?
The Doctor’s regenerative funk is one of the highlights of the story for me. It takes the familiar, makes it new by adding a comedic aspect (the business with the food and the slapstick generally), and gives the Doctor a perfect foil in terms of Amelia. Inspired, I wrote at the time, and I still think so.
I really like the rebooted TARDIS control room, despite the fact there seems to be a sex toy on the console. But, yeah, steampunk, Love it! (I loved the Smith/Capaldi TARDIS control room too.)
I wrote about the episode’s pace in complimentary terms and that’s something I miss about Doctor Who. It’s apparent here and in The Day of the Doctor and the last few episodes of Tennant’s run, all of which I re-watched recently. Those stories whizz (for atoms?) along. The more recent series seemed to have lacked that pace and sense of vigour, which is a great shame.
As already mentioned, I hoped to see more of Amelia Pond as well as Amy Pond in later episodes. That didn’t quite pan out, but I enjoyed what we did get and so I suppose I shouldn’t complain too much… (Doctor Who fans, complaining about their favourite show! Imagine!)
Isn’t it a shame that the alien Atraxi never properly returned? I have slight concerns now about the Doctor using his reputation to scare them away (“Basically… run”) although this idea does, arguably, have a place in a story in which the Doctor is (re)establishing himself.
On the subject of seeing the other ten Doctors, it still gives me a thrill particularly when Smith steps ‘through’ them. Great stuff.
Beginnings at the End
In terms of the opening and theme tune, I wrote, “I like ’em. Everyone else hates ’em (as far as I can tell). Which is good. Because when you’re a Doctor Who fan, you’ve got to be at odds with the rest of the world about something… so [yeah], boo, sucks to you, you’re all wrong.” Matt of 2010, I hope your tongue was firmly in your cheek. Disagreeing with other fans? Great. But at odds with? No. There’s enough division and snarking in fandom. No need to add more. Disagree, by all means but be civil and be kind while you do so, otherwise what’s the point…? Doctor Who is, after all, supposed to be about fun and where’s the fun in bickering?
And finally, I briefly mention the timey, wimey, wibbly, wobbly nature of Moffat’s Who, which I’m not going to go into here because I think it’s a vast subject that deserves a whole article all of its own and that’s a job for another day…
Anyway, that’s what I thought paired with what I think now on the subject of The Eleventh Hour and Matt Smith as the Doctor generally. What are your thoughts and memories of both?
Where did you first see the episode? What did you think of it? Have you changed your views since? And what are your thoughts on Matt Smith as well as Steven Moffatt and his legacy as showrunner for Doctor Who? Please let us know in the comments below…