This was perhaps the most anticipated episode for me since the revival of the series in 2005. It was a whole new start in so many ways, and I had been following production of the series closely. The internet was swamped with rumors of a new title sequence, a new version of the theme music, and one claiming that Moffat was planning to return Doctor Who to it’s roots with Series 5/Season 31.
Since this episode opens the Steven Moffat era, I must point out in this review how quickly Moffat communicated the differences between the direction he was going, and what Davies had done the last five years. As always, I will also be reviewing this episode’s approximation to classic
Doctor Who, which will probably be the most difficult part from here on out for me – I’m partial to Moffat.
I’ll begin by covering what I saw as a sign of things to come the first time watching this episode. The title theme had been revamped, but I was a little disappointed that (Murray) Gold had again chosen to orchestrate the majority of the theme. Also, the original bassline is all but completely drowned out by Gold’s “chase” percussion. The main melody sounded good though, echoing back to the days of a synthesized theme.
Remember that “The Eleventh Hour” was to Moffat as “Rose” was to Russell T Davies. Both were their opening stories, and established the kind of show Doctor Who would be in future.
Ok, here are the comparions to show that Moffat intentionally wrote his opener to be a complete departure from what Davies wrote five years earlier:
SETTING: A recurring setting in the original series (probably due to budget constraints) was small, country side English villages. Virtually all of the Earth-based stories set in modern times during the RTD era were set in either metropolitan Cardiff or downtown London. This includes his series opener, “Rose.” Moffat hits a home run by setting “The Eleventh Hour” in the small, rural village of Leadworth.
CHARACTER EMPHASIS: This is probably the most obvious opposite of the two openers. Davies titled his opener after the companion, whereas Moffat titled his after The Doctor. Moffat again wins on this level, because the show IS called Doctor Who, and as such revolves chiefly around the adventures of the lead character, The Doctor. Davies deliberately wrote his opener from the viewpoint of the companion, and as a result she frequently became the front runner of the show, over shadowing The Doctor. Although the emphasis on The Doctor in this episode doesn’t equal that of the emphasis on Rose, the emphasis in this one IS generally balanced between The Doctor and Amy Pond, and is able to cover introducing Amy, the new Doctor, and the problem at hand quite evenly.
CLASSIC VILLAIN/NEW VILLAIN: This was one of the complaints voiced frequently by old fans about the new series. Davies opened with a very minor scrape with some Autons (which they were never even called), whereas Moffat chose to introduce us to a new villain, and a mystery to go with it. Prisoner Zero escaped into our dimension via a crack in Amy’s wall. The crack is revealed to be a fissure in the fabric of space and time. Now, The Master was introduced on the backdrop of an Auton invasion in the Third Doctor’s first story,”Spearhead from Space,” but at that time, it was our first encounter with Autons. So once again, Moffat scores a 1-up against his predecessor.
DOMESTIC APPROACH: If you’ve read any of my previous reviews, you know what I’m talking about. Davies immediately introduced us to a wide range of companion family members to keep us coming back to Earth on a regular basis. It is my belief that Moffat saw this, and wanted to write a companion that had no ties here on modern Earth, leaving the field open for the duo to go anywhere, any when, for any length of time. Moffat established IMMEDIATELY in the opening scenes that Amy had no family except an Aunt, which was never even shown on screen. Ten minutes into “Rose,” we had already had an unfortunate encounter with Jackie Tyler. With Moffat leaving out the domestic approach, he scores yet again.
THE DOCTOR’S COSTUME: Okay, look at all of the previous eight Doctors, and you will immediately notice that their costumes were all quirky, and seldom ever blended in with any time period he visited. Both Eccleston’s and Tennant’s Doctors were dressed in modern costumes, with Tennant at the forefront in his suit and tie. Moffat scores big again by returning The Doctor’s curious sense of style – a tweed jacket, a button up shirt, braces, black rolled up trousers, black boots, and of course, the red bow tie. Bow ties are cool. Sorry, I couldn’t resist. Moffat establishes here that this Doctor would not be eye candy for fan girls, but the lovable Doctor we could immediately connect with due to an item of clothing – a black suit, an oversized coat, velvet magician garb, a multi-colored scarf, celery and cricket, a quilt of a coat, and a question mark umbrella or in this case, a bow tie.
TARDIS APPEARANCE: Although I had no complaints about the appearance of the Davies era TARDIS, I definitely was pleased to see Moffat returning the design to the First Doctor style – white framed windows and the St. John’s Ambulance sticker. The interior is much more fairy-tale looking though. I’m partial to the white walled Fourth Doctor console room. I did notice that the ceiling right above the console is the same disc pattern that the First Doctor’s console had above it. I gave Moffat a few points for bringing back the old exterior, but it never was an issue for me, as I was just as pleased with the RTD outward appearance. So this one is a tie.
COMPANIONS: Granted, Moffat took a completely different approach to introducing The Doctor to Amy, but in the end, we ended up with more or less the same thing we had by the end of “Rose.” A modern day female with a goofy, portrayed as idiotic boyfriend who stays behind. Now, I’m sure we can all agree that Amy is hands down less annoying than Rose, but I was hoping for an extra-terrestrial companion, such as a new Turlough, Romana, Adric, or Vicki. Or Jamie, for that matter. Why not pick one from history that we seem to frequently visit? No score here, Moffat.
CGI USE/VILLAIN SEVERITY: Davies was actually pretty sparing with CGI in his opener, just as Moffat was. At the risk of sounding like Davies actually out did Moffat, I think the Autons in “Rose” were more of a threat than Prisoner Zero was. The Autons were actually shooting people, whereas the most threatening Zero got was…well…..barking while standing still. Zero frequently reared his spiky teeth, but never actually used them. In fact, instead of just attacking Amy when she wandered into his room, Zero playfully stays out of her line of sight.
One thing I just have to mention: LENS FLARES!! What is so special about them that they have become a form of art in film?! There’s a scene with The Doctor and Amy where slow motion reigns supreme, and with no visible source, a blue lens flare is cast across the screen during the slow motion sequence. Didn’t like it then, and I never will in anything. All I can think about is how Abrams butchered Star Trek with them.
That about covers the comparisons between Moffat and Davies, as well as most of what I disliked about this episode. The Doctor saves the day instead his companion for once, which was also a plus. This episode felt more like Doctor Who than “Rose,”so I was eager to see what was next.