Following the Doctor’s regeneration, the TARDIS plummets back to Earth, damaged and out of control. The time machine comes to rest in the 1990s, where the Doctor has to seek the help of the first person he finds – namely, a little girl named Amelia Pond who is home alone. In exchange for her help, the Doctor investigates something that’s been troubling Amelia: a crack in her wall through which she says she can hear voices. It turns out that her fears aren’t unfounded: the Doctor finds something from another dimension behind her wall, but he seals the crack and seems fairly sure he’s solved the problem. He promises to return in five minutes; Amelia packs a bag and sits in her garden, waiting for the TARDIS and the mysterious Doctor to return…
The TARDIS rematerializes in the garden, but it’s been only moments for the Doctor – he’s just realized the significance of the crack in the wall. But 12 years have passed for Amy Pond – and for the being behind her bedroom wall. The Doctor finds a door where no door should be in Amy’s house, containing a being known only as Prisoner Zero, which then escapes. As the Doctor works to find the dangerous escapee, Earth receives a signal from an alien race called the Atraxi: if the people of Earth cannot contain Prisoner Zero, the Atraxi will wipe out all life on the planet, just to make sure the escaped prisoner is dealt with. There are only 20 minutes left to save the world, and the Doctor isn’t exactly in peak condition…
Season 5 Regular Cast: Matt Smith (The Doctor), Karen Gillan (Amy Pond)
written by Steven Moffat
directed by Adam Smith
music by Murray Gold
Guest Cast: Arthur Darvill (Rory Wiliams), Caitlin Blackwood (Amelia Pond), Nina Wadia (Dr. Ramsden), Marcello Magni (Barney Collins), Perry Benson (Ice Cream Man), Annette Crosbie (Mrs. Angelo), Tom Hopper (Jeff), Arthur Cox (Mr. Henderson), Olivia Coleman (Mother), Eden Monteath (Child 1), Merin Monteath (Child 2), David de Keyser (Atraxi voice), William Wilde (Prisoner Zero voice), Patrick Moore (himself)
Notes: The lightning and thunderclaps in the new opening titles hearken back to the very origins of Doctor Who; the unaired pilot version of An Unearthly Child featured thunderclaps in the theme music, though these were removed before the remount of the series’ first-ever episode. The redesigned TARDIS exterior resembles the police box as seen in the two Peter Cushing Doctor Who movies in the 1960s, while the new set for the TARDIS console room includes elements that recall the early William Hartnell stories (the large metallic light fixture above the console), the Davison/Colin Baker era TARDIS (a sound effect that occurs several times in The Eleventh Hour’s final scenes) and even the TARDIS as seen in the 1996 TV movie (the scanner screen as an old TV hanging above the console). Caitlin Blackwood is a good fit as young Amy because she’s Karen Gillan’s cousin in real life.
A made-for-DVD short, Meanwhile In The TARDIS, bridges the gap between The Eleventh Hour and The Beast Below; it’s a bonus feature on the series 5 DVD box set.
LogBook entry & review by Earl Green
Review: The first moments of Steven Moffat’s reign as Doctor Who showrunner has to pick up the pieces left over by the final scenes written by Russell T. Davies, but once the TARDIS is finished vaulting over the top of Big Ben, we’re off to the races – and yet we’re in very familiar territory too.
The alien threat in The Eleventh Hour almost seems tacked-on; every time the emphasis shifted from the Doctor and Amy to Prizoner Zero and the Atraxi, I found myself wanting the pendulum to swing the other way; I suppose it’s unreasonable to hope for a story that’s bold enough to not have the world under threat. We learn so little about the Atraxi and their prisoner that, by the time the Doctor sends both packing, it’s difficult to care about the alien menace of the week. Perhaps the best thing to come from the Atraxi plotline is the neat little montage as the Doctor asks them three questions and then advises them in no uncertain terms to leave Earth alone; the Atraxi’s visual review of Earth history owes a little bit to the extended ending of James Cameron’s The Abyss, but the third and final question triggers a montage of the ten previous Doctors, and ends wonderfully as Smith walks through a floating image of David Tennant – an inspired way to hand off the torch for anyone still bemoaning Tennant’s departure.
But even more inspired is the relatively quiet storyline building the Doctor’s relationship with Amy. His recurring appearances at different points in her life smacks more than just a little bit of Moffat’s Hugo-winning The Girl In The Fireplace, except that unlike that story’s tragic ending, Amy gets to join the Doctor on his travels, something she’s obviously been waiting her whole life to do. (As formidable a presence as Karen Gillan is on screen, I find little Amelia an even more indelible image: the scenes of her waiting in the garden for her time-traveling friend to return are simply heartbreaking, and yet we’re talking about two very brief scenes with no dialogue – and they don’t need dialogue either. Though I’m fairly certain it won’t be happening, it would be interesting if Amelia was a recurring image throughout the season.)
Matt Smith has the chops for taking over the TARDIS, though it seems like much of this story has him acting more or less like Tennant, really only coming into his own at the end. But it seems likely that the show is in good hands, both in front of and behind the cameras. The new, surprisingly ’90s-ish title sequence (and the very different arrangement of the theme tune) will take a bit of getting used to, but the Moffat era is off to a good start; now I’m ready for Smith to make the role his own, and for Moffat to really take control.