It’s the New Who Review…
“…coming right at you.”
Now, there’s a melding of cultures! I don’t know if you folks in England even got to see the New Zoo Revue…I gotta tell you, there are quite a few people who think the show might have benefitted from a Dalek or two, if you know what I mean.
But I digress. 🙂
I recently watched The Eleventh Hour, the first full episode with Matt Smith as the eleventh Doctor Who. For those of you who don’t know, Doctor Who is a very long running television show in England. The main character is a Time Lord, a time-traveling alien who has a fondness for human beings.
Since the show was first broadcast in 1963, eleven actors have played the doctor (not counting movies and such). In a clever plot component, the Doctor actually regenerates. In other words, the fact that he is now played by a different actor is not only acknowledged, it is celebrated.
How do you get eleven actors to play the same character the same way?
You don’t. That’s part of the fun. When the Doctor regenerates, he not only looks different, he is different. Each of the Doctors has a distinctive personality, although they all draw from the same past.
That means that fans can have their favorites…and they certainly all don’t work equally well for everybody. Like many Americans, my first Doctor was Tom Baker, who was a bit reminiscent of Harpo Marx in appearance, although he did an awful lot of talking. ;) He was particularly known for wearing a long, multi-coloured scarf…a trademark well-known enough that someone wearing a long scarf like that might be called “Whovian”, even today (don’t be surprised if you are asked if you eat “jelly babies”).
The show was revived after a fairly lengthy hiatus (almost a decade) in 2005. We are now on our third Doctor since that restart. The first one, Christopher Eccleston, was only on for a short while. Some found his portrayal a bit dark. The Doctor has had a sad history (his race has been wiped out), but he is generally optimistic, even whimsical.
David Tennant, the tenth doctor, was generally considered a grand success. Goofy, but able to be serious when the occasion demands, he walked that delicate line of the tragic genius clown, who can find even his own misfortunes cosmically amusing…but never stops caring.
So, it was with great anticipation that American audiences watched The Eleventh Hour, the first full-episode appearance of Matt Smith as the new Doctor.
I have to say, equally important to the new Doctor is a shift in showrunners. Russell T Davies is generally thought of as the force behind the success of the new set of shows. He is a screenwriter and producer, and spearheaded the revival of the Doctor, as well as the spin-offs Torchwood (one of my favorite shows) and The Sarah Jane Adventures.
The show is now in the hands of Stephen Moffatt. He had written some somewhat darker episodes of the new Who, including The Girl in the Fireplace (which features organ theft).
I did enjoy the Eleventh Hour, and as you probably all know, I’m very careful about spoilers. I liked Matt Smith…although he is a bit angrier as the Doctor than I might like, he was certainly in an unusually frustrating situation. He also seemed to have more of a problem adapting to his new body than we’ve seen.
The episode had some truly silly slapsticky stuff, some really creepy elements that could give kids nightmares, and a tiny dash of adult themes.
I’m going to get a little more specific here, but nothing that would spoil the plot. 🙂
I found the episode a little over-directed by Adam Smith (late of Little Dorrit and Skins). By that I mean that there is an awful lot of camera work. The camera rarely stands still, tracking in on people, changing focus, shifting angles, and so on. He also uses as many sound effects as a Three Stooges short. It’s not a real negative, but I did keep noticing it. He does get nice performances out of the actors, and that’s important.
I like Matt Smith, and I do think he can develop nicely. At this point, the Doctor seems a bit like a five-year old, but that may be because he is still “cooking”, as he says.
The tone of the episode was all over the place, but I expect that will settle down.
We are introduced to a number of characters, but the Doctor typically travels with one companion (sometimes more than one). The companions are an essential part of the show, although they have less permanence than the Doctor himself.
This Doctor’s relationship with the other characters is spot on…he looks to encourage them, but clearly doesn’t mind saying things that they won’t follow.
They did have some nice nods to the show’s history, without overly relying on it. Thanks to the TARDIS Index File wiki, I found out that Mr. Henderson was Arthur Cox (Cully in the 1968 Doctor Who adventure, The Dominators). I was sure he was a cameo, but I wasn’t quite sure who. 🙂
Overall, I am looking forward to the next episode…we’ll see how it develops from here.
“That’s just the beginning…there’s loads more.”
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in The Measured Circle blog.