With the announcement of David Tennant leaving Doctor Who, fans feverishly awaited news on who would replace one of the best Doctors ever to grace the screen. On January 3, 2009 the identity of the new Time Lord was revealed. Matt Smith, a somewhat unknown actor, was tapped to become the eleventh iteration of everyone’s favorite duel-hearted time traveler.
At the age of 26, he is the youngest actor ever to portray the iconic character created by Sydney Newman, C. E. Webber and Donald Wilson more than 50 years ago. Following the announcement, fans, rightfully so, where initially quite weary. “How could anyone replace David Tennant,” they said. But, as the premiere grew near and more footage was released, those same weary fans became… let’s say, cautiously optimistic. And, for Doctor Who fans, that’s as good as it gets.
In “The Eleventh Hour,” we not only get to see Matt Smith as The Doctor, but also Karen Gillan as Amy Pond, the new companion, and Stephen Moffat’s debut as the new executive producer and head writer of the series.
Is Matt Smith really “the” Doctor? How will Karen Gillan compare to the former companions? Will Stephen Moffat be able to fill the proverbial shoes of Russell T. Davies?
It takes but mere moments for Moffat’s presences to be felt. Toppling through time and space, the TARDIS, under the control of the newly regenerated Matt Smith, crashes into the garden of a young Amelia Pond. Young Pond, played the cousin of Karen Gillan, has bigger things to worry about than some time traveler. You see, she has a crack in her bedroom wall.
A crack, while seemingly innocent in our world, takes on a new life under Moffat’s pen. The crack is not a mere crack in the wall, but in time and space itself. “Prisoner Zero has escaped" can be heard, with the help of an empty glass, through the breach. As the Doctor wields his sonic screwdriver to close it, something, or someone, unnoticeably escapes.
With the appearance of another problem solved, The Doctor promises young Pond that he’ll return in five minutes. With a broken TARDIS, five minutes turns into twelve years where we’ve got a grown up Pond still living with the alien that escaped oh so long ago.
It’s wonderful approach to introduce not only this week’s antagonist, but also the series new companion, with a slightly different name, Amy Pond.
A New Companion
Pond, played by Karen Gillan), is a brilliant companion. While easily one of the most beautiful companions, Pond also has one of the best personalities – one that would make Donna Noble proud. Some women may swoon at a time traveler in their presence, but Pond is still angry from being left so many years ago by The Doctor and has no problem letting him know it.
Gillian, as Pond, has the potential to provide as much depth and insight to the world of Doctor Who as Catherine Tate playing the gregarious Donna Noble. I only hope she’s given that chance.
An Atraxian Threat
The rest of the episode centers around the Atraxi, an alien race that is after Prisoner Zero. After following The Doctor and Prisoner Zero to Earth, they’re looking to retrieve the alien convict. With the TARDIS inoperable while repairing itself and The Doctor’s beloved sonic screwdriver destroyed, the Time Lord must resort to using his whit’s to defeat the alien prison guards threatening to incinerate the planet.
A brilliant episode in its own right, “The Eleventh Hour” gives fans a chance to see how Moffat will handle the day-to-day Doctor Who stories as all can’t revolve around the dark storylines that he has been known for. Still, Moffat being Moffat can’t help but add a foreboding tone to things with the crack in the wall and notion of looking out of the corner of your eye.
While I wouldn’t say that the monster (Prisoner Zero) is one of the best in the Doctor Who universe, watching how the The Doctor handles this new threat, without the use of his familiar tools, is what makes this episode shine.
Smith IS The Doctor
Smith’s Doctor is somewhat professor-like, but with the quirky and eccentric personality that we’ve seen in most iterations of the Time Lord. That being said, there’s also a hint of a darker side to this Doctor. While the previous Doctors may appear to be passive, Smith’s Doctor has no problem escalating situations, if required.
Throughout the episode, Smith, as the still regenerating Doctor, will sometimes slip in nuances that reminisce of David Tennant’s Doctor. A wonderful nod to the past. While wonderful in his portrayal through-out, it’s not until he don’s his new wardrobe and faces off with the Atraxi that we get to see Smith’s Doctor, Moffat’s Doctor and - I’m happy to say - our new Doctor.
Matt Smith IS The Doctor. Amy Pond IS the companion. And, Stephen Moffat is still as brilliant as ever. Enough said.
What did you think of “The Eleventh Hour?” What do you think of Matt Smith as The Doctor? Is Amy Pond a good companion? Are you looking forward to what’s coming next?
Watch Doctor Who, Saturday @9pm, on BBC America.
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