The Good: Arthur Darvill and Karen Gillan perform well, Moments of special effects, Crack set-up
The Bad: Many of the effects, The new Doctor is immediately unimpressive, Some critical details, Plays for humor ineffectively.
The Basics: "The Eleventh Hour" introduces Matt Smith as The Doctor and the premise does not land because of an erratic execution of the idea.
Any time there is an episode of television whose name is a pun or a double entendre, it gets my hackles raised. In the case of Doctor Who, there is something unfortunately unperceptive about Steven Moffat naming his debut of Matt Smith's version of The Doctor "The Eleventh Hour." Even before the retcon that created the ridiculous limit-breaking "War Doctor" regeneration, "Journey's End" (reviewed here!) had David Tennant's Doctor making a regeneration, but keeping his own face (which Moffat would acknowledge late in his run). Regardless, when it was first produced, "The Eleventh Hour" introduced Matt Smith as The Doctor and the title was intended as a little tongue-in-cheek reference to Smith being The Eleventh Doctor.
"The Eleventh Hour" began Steven Moffat's tenure as showrunner for Doctor Who and it picks up seconds after "The End Of Time, Part II" (reviewed here!) with the new incarnation of The Doctor and the TARDIS plummeting out of the sky. The episode redefines Doctor Who by bringing in a new Doctor and Companion and establishing the fundamental premise for the season of Doctor Who.
Amelia is praying to Santa Claus on Easter for help with a crack in her wall when the TARDIS crashes in her back yard. The Doctor climbs out of the crashed vehicle, famished and hoping for an apple, where he meets Amelia. While Amelia Pond and The Doctor find something for The Doctor to eat, The Doctor realizes that the crack in the wall must be something very scary and he runs upstairs to evaluate the crack. The Doctor realizes that the crack in Amelia's wall is a crack in reality and Amelia tells him that she hears "Prisoner Zero has escaped" through the crack frequently. When The Doctor widens the crack, the pair sees a giant eyeball and a message is transmitted to The Doctor's psychic paper. Freaked out, The Doctor returns to the TARDIS and leaves, telling Amelia he is headed five minutes into the future. Amelia runs back inside and grabs a suitcase so she can run away with The Doctor.
When The Doctor returns, he rushes into Amy Pond's house, insisting that Prisoner Zero is in the house and he is promptly knocked out by a cricket bath. While a young man, a nurse named Rory Williams, surveys the coma ward at the local hospital, he is alarmed when the coma patients all start calling out for the doctor. He tries to show the disbelieving Dr. Ramsden a video of a coma patient walking around the village. Back in the house, The Doctor awakens to find himself handcuffed to a radiator by a redhead in a police uniform. The Doctor blows the young woman's mind by revealing that there are more rooms on the floor than she ever noticed and in the room she never perceived before, is Prisoner Zero. The woman is Amy Pond and The Doctor is far later than the five minutes he intended to be. Prisoner Zero is a multiform, an alien that take the appearance of the coma patients at the hospital, and its jailers come looking for it. The Doctor and Amy have to save the world from incineration from the jailers when they demand the return of Prisoner Zero.
The saga of Amy Pond gets off to a ridiculous start in "The Eleventh Hour." The new Doctor is characterized right away as ridiculous and Moffat's attempts at slapstick humor fall unfortunately flat. The Doctor runs into a tree that is multiple steps away and the gag only works because of Adam Smith's direction - it makes no rational sense. The food montage that follows The Doctor and Amelia meeting is mildly interesting, but it plays right away as far more comedic than compelling. While Doctor Who has comedic moments, playing The Doctor as ridiculous right off the bat is an unfortunate choice for Matt Smith as The Doctor.
"The Eleventh Hour" starts to hit its stride when The Doctor fails to return after the promised five minutes. Karen Gillan bursts on the screen as Amy Pond and her introduction is fun. Amy, as a young adult, is a kiss-o-gram and she reveals that when The Doctor disappeared for twelve years between visits, she was treated like she had an imaginary friend, as opposed to a legitimate visit. Gillan plays Amy as a forceful young woman and she holds her own easily with Matt Smith. Gillan's Amy is presented as far more serious than Smith's Doctor and she becomes the grounding element for the episode.
Gillan and Arthur Darvill have decent on-screen chemistry. While Gillan and Smith have to run and have minimal banter, Darvill and Gillan run, duck, and work together like exactly who their characters are supposed to be. Amy and Rory have known each other for years and they have a relationship and the performers play off one another like they have that type of relationship.
Matt Smith plays The Doctor as ridiculous in "The Eleventh Hour" and concept fails on a number of key details. The Doctor has to save the world and he enlists the aid of the beefcake, Jeff, who has neither the technical skills to write computer code, nor explain to the world's geniuses why they should trust The Doctor.
"The Eleventh Hour" is essential Doctor Who for introducing the crack in the universe that travels through the entire season, the prophecy of the Pandorica and the first reference to The Silence. The introduction of Amy and Rory is more impressive than the new Doctor and most of the episode's special effects. But while the episode is essential, it is not an overly impressive one and it is a somewhat rocky start for the new Doctor.
[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Doctor Who - The Complete Fifth Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the debut season of Matt Smith as The Doctor here!
For other season premieres that redefined a show, please visit my reviews of:
"The Christmas Invasion" - Doctor Who
"The Way Of The Warrior" - Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
"Jesus Gonna Be Here" - True Blood
For other Doctor Who episode and movie reviews, please visit my Doctor Who Review Index Page!
© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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