Definitely a mad man with a box - some thoughts on Doctor Who: The Eleventh Hour

Hey, not all of us download this stuff, you know. Anyway, here are some rambling and SPOILERY thoughts on an episode you probably watched weeks ago:

1. Let's get this out of the way: any doubts I had about Matt Smith (not that I had many, as I was willing to give him a chance) vanished pretty quickly. Way too soon to tell if he's a favorite or not, but I'm convinced he's the Doctor, and that's good enough for me. I really enjoyed how he played this episode, particularly how subtly he showed us some of David Tennant's character tics giving way to his own. I particularly enjoyed how he apparently has little-or-no filter... if he's thinking it, he says it, whether it's clever, funny, rude, or just plain goofy. After a few years of seeing Tennant instantly be the coolest guy in any given room, it's a nice change to see a Doctor who has to actually work for that distinction, only to ruin it again. The Doctor has been a bohemian, a gentleman, a dandy, a clown, and even a bit of a badass, but I don't think he's ever been an outright nerd before. I like it.

1a. Speaking of, I know a lot of people seem to hate the the bow tie, but I dig it. We've had two Doctors in a row who look like they should be fronting bands, and while I liked them both a great deal, I want my nerd action hero, dammit. Also, it reminds me of James Brolin as "P.W. Herman" in the movie-in-a-movie at the end of Pee-Wee's Big Adventure.

2. Unsurprisingly, I am deeply in crush with Amy Pond (and Karen Gillen, for that matter). I felt this way from the initial press photos (they had me at "redhead" and "Scottish"), but finally seeing her character in action sealed the deal. For one thing, in meeting the Doctor as a little girl, she pretty much had the best Doctor-companion introduction in series history. And then to come back to that years later, having been let down by her one time hero and purported imaginary friend, that adds an interesting layer to their relationship where I think she'll continue to be amazed by him, but will also always know how unreliable and frankly full-of-it he can be, and will definitely call him on it. I think she's going to be fun to watch.

2a. Also, the cuteness. The unrelenting cuteness. And the accent, which is also part of the cuteness.

3. Scriptwise, this was a damn busy episode - it had to introduce a new Doctor, companion, TARDIS, and semi-recurring supporting cast, lay the groundwork for the season's main ongoing plotline as well as a few smaller subplots, and deal with its own story and monster besides. But nothing ever felt rushed. The extended run time helped, sure, but it's still an impressive feat that Steven Moffat and co. were able to fit all that in without it feeling like a collection of characters rushing from plot point to plot point.

4. Some impressive thematic juggling going on here, too. Doctor Who was always the show that could be everything - smart, scary, funny, romantic, intense, etc. We get a little bit of all of that in this one, and the transitions never felt jarring. I mean, this was a show that included one of the cutest, funniest scenes I've seen on TV in a long time (the Doctor and young Amelia in the kitchen), then a few minutes later there's a slithering alien snake bug thing that literally made me exclaim "GAH!!!" a bit after that.

4a. Speaking of the kitchen scene, Erin and I had to pause it for a few minutes while we finished laughing at "You're Scottish. Fry something!" Maybe you have to have experienced Scottish cuisine to really appreciate the joke (I'm pretty sure I'm still digesting a tasty but heavy full Scottish breakfast I ate in Oban in 2003), but it pretty much had us on the floor.

5. It was cool to see that this adventure was so small in scale (well, as small in scale as saving the entire planet from incineration can be, anyway). No large-scale invasions or bases under siege, just a single escaped monster chased by an overzealous guard in a small village, the sort of thing the Doctor could wrap up quickly if not for the fact that he's trying to adjust to regeneration and all his toys are currently broken. But even despite all that, he does manage to wrap everything up in the space of an afternoon (by his reckoning, anyway).

6. In keeping with that smaller scale, while I'm certainly curious about the whole crack in space and time, I'm more interested in learning about Amy's life in the 12 year span between her first 2 meetings with the Doctor (I hope we see more about the "Raggedy Doctor" games, drawings, and toys that obsessed her as a child) and the two year gap at the end. Did she just forget herself and get swept up in the idea of finally traveling through time, or do we have another runaway bride?

6a. I very much doubt she's marrying Rory the nurse. And if she is, that's why she's so quick to run off.

7. New TARDIS... I like it a lot. Some folks are saying it's too steampunk, but I think it's a good look, and I like that it seems bigger than ever. Maybe we'll finally get to see beyond the control room.

8. I loved that the Doctor's history lesson for the Atraxian eyeball included not just his past selves and new series monsters, but a few quick shots of wobbly looking original series monsters, too. Way to own the past without being embarrassed by it, Mr. Moffat. The comics industry could learn a thing or two from you.

Overall verdict: I would've been happy to just like this, but I full on loved it. It's so rare - especially when you're a certain type of fan - for something to exceed your every expectation, but The Eleventh Hour did just that. I am a happy nerd indeed.

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