After a literally explosive regeneration, the brand new Eleventh Doctor survives a crash-landing to Earth. However, he has little time to recover. With a mysterious crack in a little girl’s wall and a missing alien prisoner, the Doctor is in for an adventure. However, with the TARDIS damaged and the sonic screwdriver destroyed, can the Doctor capture the rogue alien before its jailers burn Earth to a crisp?
The casting of Matt Smith was a massive gamble. The new production team, headed by Steven Moffat, after being unsuccessful in attempting to convince David Tennant to stay on for another series, cast the relative unknown, Matt Smith to portray the Eleventh Doctor. Smith, who was 26 when cast, became the youngest actor to portray the Doctor, and due to his unknown status, the announcement of the casting was greeted by the headline “Doctor Who?” in some national newspapers. The eyes of the watching public were truly on the new production team as they put their new series of the show into production.
But you couldn’t tell it watching The Eleventh Hour. In my review for Spearhead From Space, I talked about how Doctor’s debuts were much more effective if they felt like a breath of fresh air, and this episode certainly does this with aplomb. I remember watching this episode in 2010, and Smith winning me over as the Doctor almost instantly. The supporting cast surrounding Smith, especially Caitilin Blackwood, Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill, give strong performances and when Amy turns around to the Doctor and says “Why did you say five minutes?”, you completely believe that the angst and resentment behind those words. Additionally, scenes like the one introducing the grown-up Amy to the audience are really nicely performed by the leads and Karen Gillan is really likeable here.
The weakest part of the episode for me is the villain, but this doesn’t really impact on the quality of the story too much. Prisoner Zero is a completely forgettable villain – there are so many things that can be done with shapeshifters, but this one is just…there. That being said, I still love the moment when Prisoner Zero uses Amy’s mind to turn into the Doctor and Amelia, and the Doctor doesn’t recognise himself. The Atraxi, whilst not the main villain seems like a rather obvious metaphor for the watching world, and whilst not exactly a menacing presence, they do contribute towards the moment where the new Doctor steps through the image of his immediate predecessor. In this episode, with the youngest Doctor and with it following on from one of the most popular Doctors, it feels important to emphasise that this is still the same man, with a different face.
Speaking of allusions to the show’s past, the main one here is obvious – the Doctor picks his new outfit from a hospital changing room, just like the Third Doctor in Spearhead From Space and the Eighth Doctor in the TV Movie/The Enemy Within. There are also some references to David Tennant’s time in the role, such as the sonic screwdriver, and phrases like “You’ve had some cowboys in here”. One of the main changes is to the TARDIS, and personally, I love both the interior and exterior of this one. The St. John’s Ambulance logo is back on the door, I love the shade of blue (it was one of the colours for my wedding!) and the steampunk interior is great.
Summary: A strong opening episode to the Eleventh Doctor’s era. Matt Smith inhabits the role quickly and the episode really romps along. 10/10
Starring: Matt Smith (The Doctor), Karen Gillan (Amy Pond), Arthur Darvill (Rory Williams), Caitlin Blackwood (Amelia Pond), Olivia Colman (Mother), Marcello Magni (Barney Collins), Nina Wadia (Dr. Ramsden), Annette Crosbie (Mrs Angelo), Tom Hopper (Jeff), David de Keyser (Voice of the Atraxi), William Wilde (Voice of Prisoner Zero)
Writer: Steven Moffat
Director: Adam Smith
Behind the Scenes
- This story sees a change to the show’s logo, an unprecedented third variation on the theme composed by Murray Gold, a new TARDIS interior and exterior and sonic screwdriver, along with new lead actors and production team. The St John’s Ambulance logo appears on the TARDIS door for the first time since The War Machines.
- Caitlin Blackwood and Karen Gillan are cousins, a fact that was convinced the production team to cast Blackwood in the role of Amelia. They had not previously met before working on Doctor Who.
- A retailer reported a 94% increase in the sale of bow ties following the broadcast of this episode.
- The first episode since Fear Her to feature no onscreen casualties.
- The first televised episode to feature two different console rooms. The Ninth and Tenth Doctors’ console room was reconstructed and left standing in order to be able to film The Doctor’s Wife for Matt Smith’s second series, at the request of writer Neil Gaiman.
- This is the first time that the Doctor does not use a mirror to find out what he looks like after a regeneration, instead discovering this when Prisoner Zero mimics him using Amy’s memories.
- Nina Wadia voiced Deepa in State of Bliss, a Big Finish audio play making up a part of The Eighth Doctor: Time War: Volume 3.
- Arthur Cox had previously appeared as Cully in The Dominators.
- Eden Monteath also voiced a character named Clara in the Jago and Litefoot story The Man at the End of the Garden.
This is a toss-up between entering the new TARDIS for the first time and the Doctor’s speech to the Atraxi.
I’m the Doctor. Basically – run.The Eleventh Doctor
Up next: Tom Baker’s first episode, Robot!