This is what I feel. Steven Moffat took another completely ordinary thing — like a kid saying “Are you my mommy?” and cemetery statuary and shadows — and turned it into something else I have to be afraid of: cracks in the wall.
I live in an 80-year-old building. The paint job in my apartment is eight years old. It’s all cracks.
Oh, and an extra secret scary room in my apartment — something else I have to worry about now. (I’ve heard that this is a common dream scenario for New Yorkers, we who live in tiny places: we dream that our apartments are bigger or weirder than they are. I’ve certainly had dreams/nightmares like that, about staircases that don’t exist in reality or nonexistent crawlspaces leading to rooms I’ve never seen before yet somehow always knew were there. And now those nightmares are gonna be worse.)
And the stuff I can just barely see out of the corner of my eye: I have to be afraid of that now, too. All thanks to this one new episode. So cheers, Moffat, for fucking up my head some more. I needed that.
Of course this is just my way of acknowledging how totally brilliant a writer Moffat is. That’s what I’m saying. I’m blown away by how well he takes the mundane and makes it terrifying. I’m amazed anew by his talent, yet not surprised, because he’s done it so well so often before.
This is what I’m surprised about: I’m already in love with Matt Smith as the Doctor.
I mean, yeah, I figured I’d love him eventually, because he’s the Doctor and I’m in love with the Doctor and I will always be in love with the Doctor. But then on the other hand David Tennant was irreplaceable, right? And Smith is too, too young to possibly pull off the 900-year-old Time Lord.
Except he isn’t. He’s nailed the riveting seductiveness of the Doctor’s:
And the charming alien goofiness:
Oh god, he’s the Doctor. He is a madman with a box. And I’m falling in love all over again.
And that’s another madly brilliant thing about Moffat’s writing in this episode. He embraces our skepticism about the new Doctor through seven-year-old Amelia, who prays to Santa Claus and accepts the utterly bizarre things she sees before her, like a crack in the wall that talks and a crashed box and the soaking-wet man who crawls out of it. She accepts that he’s there, that is, but she doesn’t accept his bullshit:
(I am in love with this kid. What a face! And how awesome would a child companion be? I know it wouldn’t work from a practical production standpoint, but the storytelling possibilities would be fantastic. It’s just what the Doctor needs: a totally fearless seven-year-old girl who won’t take any shit from him.)
And through her, Moffat makes us fall in love with the Doctor all over again. (And Smith helps, too, obviously: I don’t mean to ignore his contribution here. But this could have been disastrous if the episode weren’t so damn well written, no matter how talented Smith is.) Moffat revisits the notion he first explored in “Girl in the Fireplace,” about the child who is swept away by the idea of the Doctor — like so many of us were, if only in fantasy (and some of us a bit or even a lot older than seven). I dunno about you, but this is pretty much how Doctor Who makes me feel on the inside:
But the skepticism comes roaring back, and the Doctor has to prove himself anew to Amelia… now Amy, now all grown up. Moffat explicitly asks for us to give Smith a chance as the Doctor — just believe in him for 20 minutes, like he asks Amy to do. There’s a pun in the title of this episode, too: The Eleventh Doctor has just an hour to win us over. And by the end of that hour, of course, we are won over. And why not? Moffat also plays with the idea that Doctor Who is something just for children with Amy’s dismissal of her own former faith — “I grew up” — and the Doctor’s response: “Don’t worry, I’ll soon fix that.” He does.
It’s all very meta.
It’s also very unusual that a female character is a stand-in for the entire audience, male and female alike.
It’s genius — pure genius — on Moffat’s part to hold off on revealing the regenerated TARDIS interior until we can see it through Amy’s eyes. It’s like we’re seeing the TARDIS again for the first time.
I cried. I did. I bawled. With joy. At the feeling that I was recapturing what made me fall in love with this silly show and this silly character in the first place.
Random thoughts on “The Eleventh Hour”:
• I still don’t like the new logo. It’s too self-referential:
It’s like the question marks on the Doctor’s lapels, or the license plate on Bessie that read “Who 1.” It makes me cringe.
Oh, and I’m not crazy about the new arrangement of the theme music, either.
• I love the food sequence. Food always features pretty prominently in my Doctor Who fan fiction, because food is very important, and we hardly ever see the Doctor eat (at least, we didn’t on the classic series), and life is about food and drink and sensual things like that, and surely that would be one of the most amazing things about traveling with the Doctor: all the new stuff to eat and drink you’d come across!
If fish custard is what he’s gonna be like, though… Hopefully it’s just regeneration crisis, and he’ll settle down into something a bit less, um, disgusting.
If he’s not sure what kind of food the new him likes, it makes me wonder what else would be different about his new body. Like, would he be ticklish in different places? I bet he would be…
• Speaking of regeneration… Smith is basically third-generation Doctor. I was just watching one of the extras on the DVD of “Logopolis,” Tom Baker’s last episode, a bit from a talk show with an interview with Peter Davison, after he was cast as Baker’s replacement but before he actually started shooting. And Davison is talking about how he was 12 when Doctor Who debuted in 1963, so he’d seen William Hartnell but that he felt like Patrick Troughton was “his” Doctor. Matt Smith wasn’t even born when Peter Davison did that talk show — Smith wouldn’t be born till Davison was in his second year as the Doctor. That’s just… wow.
• Hey, wait… The crack in the dimensions? The escaped prisoner? The spiky spaceships? It’s Buckaroo Banzai!
• Twenty minutes to the end of the world? Well, as Ianto Jones said, the world’s always ending…
• American tourist alert!
You can always spot the American tourists in Europe by their matching track suits. It’s sorta frightening, actually. The best way to be an American abroad in Europe and be mistaken for a local is not to dress like this.
• Such a sad-looking dog, doncha think?
• The Doctor got poor Fermat killed before he could write down his proof? Oh, Doctor…
• There’s something a bit screwball in the Doctor and Amy’s relationship:
It’ll be nice if that can be maintained.
• Never before, I believe, has a new Doctor spent almost his entire first episode wearing his predecessor’s clothes:
Rarely before have we seen Time Lord nipples:
Amy Pond is too going to watch the Doctor change his clothes:
Amy likes naked Doctor.
Amy has grown up.
• Are we gonna get to see, at some point, what that new badge is on the TARDIS door?
• A new sonic screwdriver! And it’s green!
This can mean only one thing: there’s a new battery-operated doodad the BBC can sell to us crazy Whovians.
• I’m guessing that Myth computers are going to play a role in this season:
Like how the Atmos logo started showing up in Donna’s season before it became a plot factor.
This, too, will surely be a recurring theme this year: “The universe is cracked. The Pandoric will open. Silence will fall.”
• Oo, and who was Amy about to marry two years later? Rory? Or perhaps Jeff took the Doctor’s advice to, blimey, “get a girlfriend”?
• The new TARDIS is very 1930s, ain’t it?
Very sort of Orson Welles’s War of the Worlds, perhaps…
• This is me, still waiting for the Doctor after all these years:
If Amy Pond waiting 14 years is long enough, what about me? I’ve been waiting 25 years for the Doctor to show up. When does my turn come?
• Great quotes:
“I’m the Doctor. Do everything I tell you, don’t ask stupid questions, and don’t wander off.” –the Doctor
“What’s wrong with me? Why can’t you give me any decent food? You’re Scottish: fry something.” –the Doctor
“Beans are evil. Bad bad beans.” –the Doctor (I concur)
“I’m the Doctor, I’m worse than everybody’s aunt.” –the Doctor
(next: Episode 2: “The Beast Below”)