Considering Doctor Who: The Eleventh Hour
Steven Moffat's debut shows promise
but fails the girlfriend test
The girlfriend fell asleep.
Steven Moffat's maiden voyage as the 'show-runner' behind the venerable franchise was a long way from a disaster, but by no means was it a triumphant success, either.
|Amy Pond (Karen Gillian) and the eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith), exploring the new, steam-punkish TARDIS.|
Granted that, following on the heels of Russell T Davies', bloated and self-indulgent finale, my expectations were running pretty high. After all, Moffat was responsible for both "The Doctor Dances" and "Blink" (the latter of which even the girlfriend enjoyed; and she is not much interested in SF or even science fantasy when you get right down to it) and so it was that I'd more and more often taken to shouting "Doctor Who!" or mumbling bars of the theme song at random moments with an ever increasing frequency as "Easter Saturday" approached.
Now, with Easter past, the Moffat era is officially upon us.
And the girlfriend fell asleep. In that unintended critique lies a most accurate appraisal of Moffat's opening salvo.
Wit, thy name is Brevity
Now, Doctor Who is a type of program very nearly extinct in 21st century Anglo television — a genuine family program, meant to thrill and frighten small children, to fascinate and excite older kids and to bring a childish grin back to the faces of those of us long past the age of majority. No easy task, that.
So I forgave Moffat the early scene in which Smith's newly-reconstituted Doctor played at being A.A. Milne's Tigger and tried — and then spat out — just about every kind of food there is. Most little kids love gross abuse of food nearly as much as they do fart jokes and who am I to deny them that pleasure if I get to enjoy digs about internet porn a little later on?
And truthfully, as a set-piece, the food bit wouldn't have been so bad had it not come after about five minutes of not-so-good CGI and not-so-exciting shots of The Doctor (almost) falling out of an out-of-control TARDIS. Which was another, though less successful, set-piece.
And I suppose that was the problem with the entire episode. It was less than the sum of its parts.
|Prisoner Zero' — won't somebody please think of the children!?!|
Moffat's sense of humour and of the creepy was in full-view but also was somehow not fully fleshed-out. Worse, the episode's monster in its human guise was neither particular scary nor very believable; and in its native alien appearance it seemed too much (and really inappropriately) like a hentai octopod for a family show — I wasn't so much worried Prisoner might kill the Doctor's newest companion as I was it might rape her. (Also, what in the world is Prisoner Zero hanging from?)
All that said, though, Moffat's sense of humour and feel for making the familiar terrifying (the man did invent the gas-mask people and the weeping angels, after all!) does seem to be intact. And as for the other elements of the "new" Doctor Who which do work me, well ...
- Matt Smith's take on the Doctor is clearly a work in progress, but one that definitely feels on the right track; if he hasn't quite nailed the character, he's charming and funny and I think will even develop a certain gravitas before very long at all. I'm absolutely certain the first slash has already been written and that lots more is on its way;
- Karen Gillian is also fine, showing a good mix of naivetée, moxy and sweetness. It's going to be fun watching her character develop over the course of the series (though the young actress who played Amy as a little girl showed remarkable poise — I almost wish Moffat had been crazy enough to send the Doctor into time and space with a child); and
- The new TARDIS. I adored the last version, but I think I'm going to come to love this new iteration as well. The archaic typewriter and glass tubes, the analog meters and Brazilesque view-screens are a lovely counter-part to the futuristic organic look of the previous five years.
All told, I think I'm going to enjoy the next nine weeks quite a lot; but I fear the girlfriend won't be coming along for the ride.