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08 April 2010 @ 05:08 pm
The Eleventh Hour  
The Eleventh Hour clearly had two related functions to play. Firstly it needed to introduce us to the characters of the new Doctor and Amy Pond and that constrained it to a certain style of story in which plot is backgrounded in favour of back-story and interaction. However it also needed to set out Stephen Moffat's stall and to demonstrate what would be different and what would be the same about his tenure at the helm. Given Moffat's reputation as an intricate plotter, those two functions would seem to be somewhat at odds with each other.

Actually, in many ways, they appeared to work together quite well, but only if you assume that part of Moffat's purpose here was to explicitly demonstrate that his work doesn't have to contain an intricate plot. In much of the pre-publicity he has spoken about Doctor Who as fairytale and that was quite clearly the atmosphere being aimed at. The early sections of the story and its closing moments, reinforced rather unsubtly by the incidental music, perfectly evoked a fairytale feel. Simultaneously the tale of a young girl's encounter with the 11th Doctor, allowed Moffat to very naturally introduce us to both of them. Caitlin Blackwood as the young Amelia was amazing to watch, managing to convey a child's eye view of the story while being neither saccarine nor brattish.

Smith was good but was coming across very much as Tennant-lite. Actually, that's a little unfair of me. I found I could view his performance either as someone finding his way into a part while seeking to reinforce the links to what had gone before or as someone simply playing a toned down version of his predecessor. I'm hoping a more distinctive interpretation will emerge in later episodes. Karen Gillan was also good as the older Amy, but she suffered from being outshone by her younger version who was given a more interesting role (let's face it there is little that has not previously been done with the companion, and most of it was happening in Blackwood's lines) in the more distinctive part of the story.

In fact, where the tension between introducing the new management and introducing the new Doctor and companion seemed most obvious was in the segments with the older Amy Pond. The runaround on the village green and in the hospital was traditional fare and notable mostly for the fact that it didn't really get anything wrong, nor leave plot loop-holes as so often happened with Davies' work. But it's purpose seemed to be much more about reinforcing continuity than with telling any kind of distinctive story. It had an emphasis on action and set-pieces which didn't give the older Amy's character a lot of time to breathe. I did like the touches of character we got though, in particular her tendency not to react as genre/show conventions tend to make us expect (e.g. when she forces the Doctor to explain himself by trapping his tie in the car door).

Given the pre-publicity, there was little to surprise me here. We were presented with a competently told and acted story, which was drawing heavily on the template for season openers introduced by Russell Davies while adding a distinctive fairytale element. The new Doctor and companion were both likable and watchable with hints of how they might become distinctive, but the desire to reassure audiences that they would be getting more of the same seems to have robbed the actors of the opportunity to let the characters be properly individual.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/2748.html.
Susanlil_shepherd on April 8th, 2010 05:29 pm (UTC)
It's a bit more complicated than that.

I'll be posting my own take on why and what, though. Just to say that, to me, Smith was only like Tennant in the hang-over effect of all regenerations, and he reminded me more of Troughton and Pertwee, particularly towards the end.
lsellersfic: Doctor Wholsellersfic on April 8th, 2010 05:39 pm (UTC)
Hmm... and therein lies the problem. Everywhere I'm seeing discussion of how he's similar to other Doctors and not what his Doctor is actually like. I think you see hints of what it could be in the performance and, in an odd way, I think his very unusual looks are working against him - it's easy to become fixated on what he looks like and not what he's doing.

I realise it's a horrible brief to ask a young actor to be reminiscent of, yet different from, 10 previous performances without descending into ludicrous wackery of some kind but this seemed to play far more towards the familiar than previous regeneration stories. To be honest, I'm not even sure if that's a good or a bad thing, but at some point he needs to take ownership of the part for himself and I didn't feel that was happening here.
Susanlil_shepherd on April 8th, 2010 06:13 pm (UTC)
I thought he had, myself. He's the first of the NuWho doctors that I could actually associate with the character I knew back in the 60s/70s/80s.
parrot_knight: MattKarenparrot_knight on April 8th, 2010 09:12 pm (UTC)
Steven Moffat has said that the eleventh Doctor's character will evolve and go on evolving. We've only seen very little which will be distinctively 'him' so far, I think.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on April 9th, 2010 08:28 am (UTC)
I'd not heard that, but it's interesting and certainly makes sense in terms of what we saw.
joereavesjoereaves on April 8th, 2010 08:20 pm (UTC)
I think generally regeneration episodes are going to have this issue (admittedly DT's was pretty epic but generally they're a bit simple). It's hard to establish yourself as different while introducing yourself and when they're changing the companion at the same time it is almost impossible (you'll notice they very rarely do that).

It certainly wasn't one of the stand out episodes of new Who, but it did a good, workmanlike job of checking everything off the list (although I've had it with oooh cryptic pronouncements from aliens which will echo throughout the season. It was like the alien monster was channelling the bloody Oood).

I like his companion, although I think I almost liked the kid more, and I think he did a reasonably good job. Now we just have to hope he develops his own identity over the next few episodes.

And steampunk vibe to the TARDIS!

Also I think I ship Eleven/TARDIS ;) Lucas and I were discussing how Doctor/TARDIS is the sci-fi equivalent of Laurence/Temeraire.
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on April 9th, 2010 08:27 am (UTC)
It's hard to compare NuWho with old, since the format and constraints are so different, but several times the brief has been new Doctor + new Companion. It's also probably true to say that in the past the model has often been to have the Doctor excessively wacky/deranged/disorientated in the first episode of a four parter and then let him settle down through the story towards the end.

Give or take the cooking scene my instinct is they are taking the opposite route here.
Gabbygabcd86 on April 22nd, 2010 01:23 am (UTC)
Finally found the links - they were hidden behind incorrect titles. It's now 3AM, and I really didn't need the builder and the three wimmenz with the teeth. *shivers*

Amy Pond (adult, naturally) makes up for it amply, though. And Smith didn't annoy me as much as I expected. I think I saw this on lil_shepherd's review, but he's almost handsome from certain angles. :P

Although the discussion on the doctors, is, as usual, lost on me. Partly because I always end up preferring the newest one, and partly because I came in at 9th. So I'm indifferent. I remember reacting exactly the same to Tennant as I did Smith.

Much love for the sexy new Tardis (didn't realise how ugly the other one was til now), "12 years", "Raggedy Doctor" "Get a girlfriend" and "Basically... run."

Just saw the new sonic screwdriver. Damn.

Just saw the preview. Epic will ensue, it appears. Wasn't the departure of RTD supposed to be the end of Dalek-Cybermen everything and return of those fucking statues? Is it really fair to have both the existential terror of complete annihlation, and the actual terror of those scary fuckers?

*goes to bed, shivering*
louisedennis: Doctor Wholouisedennis on April 22nd, 2010 10:26 am (UTC)
I'm so tempted to ask what you are doing up at 3am on a school night!

You'll like Amy.
Gabbygabcd86 on April 22nd, 2010 02:34 pm (UTC)
Easter Holidays. :D