Weekly Who: “The Eleventh Hour” S05E01 (Modern Who Retrospective)

My first exposure to Doctor Who came on November 23, 2013, when I first catch glimpses of the 50th anniversary special “The Day of the Doctor”. Impressed by the special, I decided to watched it on Netflix (back where the show streamed during the first half of the 2010s) and I chose Matt Smith’s debut episode “The Eleventh Hour”. And this episode is really a great starting point for people who are new to Doctor Who.

Back when the episode first aired, the show has undergone a major restructure when the 10th Doctor actor David Tennent and showrunner Russell T. Davies left on New Years Day 2010. With their departures, Matt Smith and Steven Moffatt took over their respective predecessors’ roles and retooled a bit of the show as well. While the RTD/Tennent era focus more on the EastEnders style stories with a dash of Sci-Fi adventure, the Moffat/Smith era made the show more of a space fairy tale. And “The Eleventh Hour” is the perfect example of what it’s like during Matt Smith’s tenure of the show.

“The Eleventh Hour” starts where “The End of Time” left off with The Doctor trying to regain control of the TARDIS after his regeneration. Unable to control the TARDIS, The Doctor crash lands to the small town of Leadworth on the home of a girl named Amelia Pond. After a quick snack fish fingers and custard, The Doctor senses trouble when Amelia mentions that she heard noises behind the crack in her wall. When the two investigate, they discover a giant eyeball announcing that a Prisoner Zero has escaped. Before The Doctor could spring into action, the TARDIS became somewhat functional enough to travel. Before he left, The Doctor promises to Amelia that she can come along with him. After The Doctor left, Amelia packed her stuff and waited on her backyard for The Doctor to return.

The Doctor eating fish fingers and custard with Amelia Pond

Sometime later The Doctor returns to Amelia’s house to take on Prisoner Zero only to discover that she doesn’t live there anymore. A policewoman in the house knocks The Doctor out and handcuffs into the wall believing him to be an intruder. The Doctor tries to warn her that Prisoner Zero is dangerous and is living her home, but she doesn’t believe him. To make her believe him, The Doctor tells her to go the room behind that she didn’t even noticed was there. When she enters the room the woman discovers Prisoner Zero, in his original form of a space serpent, who can shape shifts into anyone. The Doctor and the policewoman try to escape to the TARDIS, but it’s lock in order to repair herself. As The Doctor tries enter the TARDIS, not only does he find out that the woman wasn’t a policewoman, but the “policewoman” is Amelia Pond.

As The Doctor and Amelia (who now goes by Amy) escape Prisoner Zero, they found out the eyeball alien behind the crack in the wall turned out to be the Atraxi. The Atraxi has taken over every form of communication device on Earth in order to spread the message to hand over Prisoner Zero. if the people Earth don’t hand Prisoner Zero over, then they will destroy the planet in hopes that Prisoner Zero won’t escape. As The Doctor tries to get Amy’s help, she doesn’t trust him due to years of waiting and many people that the “Raggedy Doctor” is not real. To convince that he’s real, The Doctor gives her the apple with a carved face that she gave him when they first met. Convinced, Amy decides to help The Doctor.

The Eleventh Doctor

The Doctor and Amy then soon meet her “sort of boyfriend” Rory Williams, who was interested in Prisoner Zero’s human disguise instead of the Atraxi like other other people. Rory explains to The Doctor that he wasn’t suppose to be awake, which The Doctor find out that Prisoner Zero can only take form through living, but dormant, person’s mind. After a failed attempt to get the Atraxi’s attention through the sonic screwdriver, The Doctor tries to find another way to get their attention while Amy and Rory follow Prisoner Zero to the hospital where Rory works (where the Doctor would later meet them). Just as they were defeating Prisoner Zero, he later takes the form of young Amelia Pond in order to taunt the Doctor and Amy is still dreaming about the Raggedy Doctor. The Doctor manage to finally defeat Prisoner Zero by telling Amy to dream about what she saw in the unknown room in her house from earlier, which is enough for the Atraxi to discover and capture Prisoner Zero. Before the Atraxi could take him in, Prisoner Zero gives an ominous message to The Doctor with the words “Silence Will Fall”.

But The Doctor is unconvinced that the day is over. The Doctor calls the Atraxi through a cellphone and tells them to meet him at the roof of the hospital. Before they could meet, The Doctor grabs clothes, and multiple bowties, from the hospital’s locker room in order to get a good appearance. The Doctor and Atraxi then meet up at the roof and the Doctor tells them that threatening to destroy the Earth is against a galactic code of law and that Earth doesn’t pose a threat to the Atraxi. As the Atraxi figured who The Doctor really is, they left the Earth. The Doctor then returns to the TARDIS and leaves that timeline. He later returns Amy’s home, when he discovers that he travelled to two year later, and offers Amy to travel with, which Amy agrees.

The Doctor confronting the Atraxi

“The Eleventh Hour” is not only the perfect episode for a new Doctor’s first episode, but it’s also the perfect episode for newcomers who just started watching the series. Doctor Who, at the time of “The Eleventh Hours'” airing, has had 46 years of lore to it that it might sound impossible for anyone who is not aware of what Doctor Who, even on an episode that properly introduces it’s Eleventh Doctor. But with “The Eleventh Hour”, Moffat has properly set what Doctor Who is about to newcomers without bringing too much attention of the show’s past history except for the quick montage of past actors who played the Doctor.

Although we caught a glimpse of him at the final minutes of “The End of Time Part 2”, Matt Smith really shines as the Doctor in his first full episode. During the span of 65 minutes of the episode’s runtime, Matt Smith always steals the scene whenever he’s on screen with his high energy performance. Compared to most Doctors in the past, the Eleventh Doctor can still save the world while also thinking about the safety and well being of his companions at the same time.

The companions of the Eleventh Doctor were also great in their first episode. In my opinion, Amy Pond is a much better companion than Rose Tyler. In Amy’s eyes ,the Doctor is a funny man who has a lot of wisdom and is confident enough to trust his plans even if it sounds outlandish. Karen Gillan really portrayed Amy well as a character who whether her imaginary friend is real, and has come back to save the world. Although it isn’t a good idea for Moffat to portray Amy as a kissogram. Rory Williams also shines as well even though he was only 25% in the episode. He may not be smart as the Doctor, but he is resourceful enough that can help give the Doctor what he is thinking for his plans.

My only gripe for this episode is the villain itself. While Prisoner Zero isn’t bad, he also wasn’t that great either. Prisoner Zero was mostly not on-screen and also hidden for most of the episode. The only time he was threatening was when he was taunting the Doctor as a form of Amelia Pond. But he only do that just to stall the Doctor on getting the Atraxi to notice Prisoner Zero. To be honest, the Atraxi alone would’ve been a better villain. The writers could’ve have them as extraterrestrial cops who thinks of Earth as a threat and use their power of controlling every technology on Earth as a way to destroy the planet.

Still, “The Eleventh Hour” is still a great episode and I would’ve like to thank the 50th anniversary for introducing me not just this episode, but also this series.

Final Score: 9.5/10

Other Observations:

Olivia Colman as one of the forms of Prisoner Zero
  • It seems to be a waste to have Olivia Colman play a bit part in this episode. It’s not like she’s some unknown actress. Olivia Colman was already famous through the TV show Peep Show and the film Hot Fuzz before being on Doctor Who.
  • Even though I’m not a big fan of fish food or custard, the way Doctor Who makes it with “fish fingers and custard” makes me want to eat one.
  • Tom Hopper playing as Amy’s friend Jeff was a real treat in this. The Doctor’s interaction with Jeff in his bedroom is still one of the most funniest moments of the show.
  • Honestly, if Matt Smith kept wearing David Tennant’s old tattered suit throughout his tenure, he’ll still look great.