It’s always heartening when you get the worst bit of something out the way as soon as possible. I can safely say that happened with the first episode of the brand spanking new reboot of Doctor Who with their opening credits – the theme tune wasn’t a patch on the OTT grandiose drums of Russell T. Davies’ reign. Everything after the wobbly purple credits for The Eleventh Hour was somewhere between good and amazing. Just how I like it.
This isn’t a review for people that didn’t watch the first episode of Matt Smith’s incarnation as the Doctor; more fool you and take this opportunity to right your wrongs and check it out on iPlayer before I spoil things for you. The Eleventh Hour was a fresh start to the franchise – new Doctor, new companion in the comely shape of Karen Gillan, new Tardis, new sonic screwdriver and new head honcho in the form of Steven Moffat, who has been responsible for most of the best Who episodes since the show got revived (the spooky clockwork monsters in the Madame de Pompadour episode, the tantalising prospect that the Doctor has a wife in the wonderful Alex Kingston’s River Song and, of course, the super-scary weeping angels in best episode EVER Blink). As a result of all this shiny newness to introduce, The Eleventh Hour was a little busy, a little unevenly-paced but mostly brilliant.
As a big David Tennant fan, I was worried that I wouldn’t take to Matt Smith. These worries proved unfounded. He brought an energising joie de vivre to the part and crucially, didn’t feel like a whole other character. He was a continuation of Tennant’s version, helped by a clever script that was unafraid to reference some of the old Doctor’s moments (‘wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey’), but with added new potential. I look forward to seeing how Smith’s portrayal develops and it already feels like it will be exciting to watch.
Karen Gillan as Amy Pond, the new companion, looks like she will leave all memories of Billie Piper in the dust. After wooden Martha and shouty Donna, I found Amy instantly likeable, brave, feisty, clever and also, stunning (her eyes are just bewitching). How’s that for good first impressions?! Moffat also gave her a great back-story – she met the Doctor when she was little, everyone in the village knew about her ‘imaginary friend’ and here he was, actually real!
There have been a few complaints online about the ropey CGI aliens, but let’s not forget, the Daleks once were made using sink plungers. And the sight of Olivia Colman with a set of gnarling gnashers was just the right mix of scary and silly (I feel this balance is key to Who). The script, even with so much story-telling to do, managed to be mildly witty (a welcome change from the bodily fluids jokes and fleeting gay allusions frequented by Davies) – I particularly liked the Doctor’s line that he had twenty minutes to save the world and all he had was a post office ‘that’s closed’. Anyone (i.e. me) who has lived in a village where what few amenities exist totally shutdown on a public holiday will identify. There was even a stirringly-iconic ‘I am the Doctor!’ moment that showed Smith has the otherworldly authority to pull off the role, despite being the youngest Doctor to date. I could have done without the seemingly endless shots of foods the Doctor’s new body wasn’t a fan of but ho-hum, it seems churlish to complain when there was so much to be thrilled about.
As if the episode wasn’t enough, we were then treated to a preview of the rest of the series. Wow. It looks amazing (then again, these previews always do). River Song and, o-m-g, THE WEEPING ANGELS are back. After the damp squib that was Strictly, the ridiculousness of Robin Hood being killed off and the lacklustre So You Think You Can Dance, it’s time to get excited about staying in on Saturdays.