There will be no attempt at all to avoid spoilers below.
Four days and three viewings later, I'm still stewing over The Eleventh Hour. It's not that I didn't like it--I certainly did. It was fun and enjoyable. But I didn't love it.
As almost every other reviewer I've read, I was unimpressed by the title sequence. The new music failed to impress, sounding too drowned out and muffled after the brazen boldness of Season 4's theme. The time vortex was also unimpressive--until the whole thing lights ablaze and the title materializes out of the flames. Now I'm paying attention! I guess I'll just have to give it time.
The Man of the Hour
Nice to meet you, Doctor: quirky, zany, slightly mystical Eleven. After three (and a half?) seasons of Ten, who had shining moments of lightness and fun mixed in with heartrending angst and pounding drama, the new Doctor feels rather...fluffy. Ten really is dead--not just the face but much of the angst, the guilt, and the grief that weighed him down are gone. Eleven is more childlike, constantly in a state of distracted wonder; the darkness that stalked Ten seems to have finally faded.
Don't get me wrong--this isn't necessarily a bad thing. I remember that my biggest doubt about Ten during his regeneration/new Doctor period was whether he would be able to successfully portray the gravitas and depth that his predecessor had--and he did, in spades (albeit with much more clenching of teeth and wild-eyed fury). Now I'm wondering the same thing about Eleven: he can do the light and fluffy and heroic and clever. Can he be serious and dark as well? Or does the regeneration signal the death as well of much of that survivor's guilt and anguish from his past? I can't decide if I'm hoping for that or not.
But enough doubts and negativity--Matt Smith was still wonderful. A couple moments were almost painfully Tennish (cf the cheerful "Hello!" as he climbs through the hospital window; also, the first shot of his face after the TARDIS crashes in Amelia's backyard was very reminiscent of Partners in Crime) but most was purely and beautifully Eleven. As I mentioned above, there's something gloriously childlike about him; he seems enthralled by the minute details of the world he finds himself in, as if he's seeing it for the first time. He can't seem to stop twitching and moving as well--I don't mean the throes of regeneration but the fidgety energy of a six-year old. Watch him interact with Amelia, pounding his fork on the table, tossing water out of a glass as if surprised by his own movement--he looks like a kid trapped in an adult's body.
But then the moment calls for a hero and he's suddenly full of authority and cleverness. He doesn't lose the childlike wonder, just channels it. He's wacky and zany and rattles on a mile a minute, but underneath all of it there's a clever and calculating mind dead set on saving the world. As the episode progresses, he even follows a development, from more childlike (connected with his time with seven-year-old Amelia) to more and more mature, until as the fully realized Doctor he faces first Prisoner Zero and then the Atraxi head-on and proclaims who he is.
Of course, put him with Amy and watch him show his childlike side again--he fidgets with his bowtie as he talks to her like a nervous teenager on a first date. Yet he bubbles with confidence and enthusiasm--which seems to miff his new companion a bit.
A Very Brave Little Girl and a Very Distrusting Kissogram
Amelia Pond is nothing short of delightful. From her first moments onscreen praying to Santa to her cold, fruitless vigil sitting on her suitcase in the garden, the character glows on the screen. Her immediate faith in the Doctor is beautiful, which makes his 12-year delay that much more heartbreaking.
It's almost a shame, because in almost every respect, I prefer the young Amelia to the older Amy. No, it isn't Amelia's eager trust and wonder versus Amy's wariness and bitterness; that's a fascinating part of the character. It's that Amy just wasn't as sympathetic, compelling, or interesting.
Given his 12-year miscalculation, Amy has every right to distrust the Doctor. But she doesn't just mistrust him, she also lies to him repeatedly. First, she pretends to be a policewoman when she's not; she refuses, until pushed, to tell him about the 12-year gap, or who she really is; she tries to disguise or gloss over her relationship (whatever it is) with Rory; and she neglects to mention that she's engaged and getting married in morning, presumably to Rory as well. So many secrets and misdirections do not bode well for a strong relationship between her and the Doctor. Then again, maybe it's about time that the companion has secrets that the Doctor doesn't know about instead of the Doctor always being the enigma.
But beyond that, Amy didn't really do much. She's (hopefully) going to be a strong and active companion with talents of her own--although, say, Martha, who had a definite skill set to use, never got to do much but get in trouble and get rescued by the Doctor, so given Amy's limited qualifications, I'm not too optimistic. Rose rescued the Doctor from plastic soldiers on her first day; Martha saved an unconscious Doctor from death and captured a murderess; Donna, depending on when you count her "first day", saved the Doctor from himself by making him stop or kept the whole world from being turned into Adipose. Amy forced Prisoner Zero to take its own form--being directed by the Doctor when she was helpless and unconscious, after he had already cornered the creature and summoned the Atraxi. Pardon me if I'm less than flabbergasted.
Also, her judgment seems to be less than stellar. She seems perfectly poised to recreate the Rose/Mickey situation with Rory, although heaven forbid she falls in love with the Doctor! Still, on the evening of her wedding, she disappears with the Doctor--despite the fact that he has already proven that his margin of error, even with a fully regenerated body and a new TARDIS, is two years. This is also after having spent a grand total of about half an hour with him since he returned. And as mentioned above, she fails to mention her upcoming marriage at all.
However, Amy definitely has potential. With any luck, she'll be a true Moffat woman, like Sally Sparrow, Nancy, and Reinette before her: strong-willed, capable, independent, and clever. She certainly seems to be headed that way. I hope and expect that the somewhat tenuous chemistry between her and the Doctor will deepen and develop into real friendship and trust.
The Poor Man Doesn't Deserve This
Rory deserves mention as well. I like Rory much more than is probably warranted by his brief screen time. He's not as strong-willed or brave as Amy (like Mickey) and seems to always take second place in her life to the Doctor (like Mickey), but the best guess is that it's him she's marrying. As far as I can tell, he's sweet, willing to be brave in a crisis, and head over heels for Amy, and that makes him endearing. I really hope to see more of him soon.
It's Biggerer On The Inside!
I love the TARDIS. After the Doctor, she might just be my favorite character. And I just love what they did with the new interior. I will be severely disappointed if we don't get to see other rooms in the TARDIS before this season is out.
I love the relationship between the Doctor and the TARDIS as well, and this Doctor portrays it beautifully. From the onset, he's treating her more like a living thing than Nine or Ten ever did. When she shuts down to rebuilt herself, he strokes the door, pouting, "It's still rebuilding, not letting us in." Then, of course, he addresses the TARDIS directly when the glowing key calls him back with one of my all-time favorite lines: "Okay, what have you got for me this time?" When he brings Amy aboard at the end, he receives a new screwdriver from the TARDIS and takes with a murmured, "Thanks, dear." I really hope Moffat and Co. develop this idea more; a sentient TARDIS with a more prominent role as a character (not just transport) would be delightful.
Prisoner Zero Has Escaped
It's like The Girl in the Fireplace and Smith and Jones got shuffled together with dashes of Silence in the Library and the 1996 movie thrown in for flavor. The plot, although definitely creepy (love that "corner of your eye" stuff!) and intriguing, was by no means original or fantastic. I guess it didn't have to be; we really cared more about meeting the new Doctor and companion than the plot anyway.
Perhaps what bothered me the most was that the deadline didn't feel real. The Doctor said that he only had 20 minutes to save the world, but besides the change in the sun's appearance, there was no real indication or sense of impending doom. (Compare, for instance, Gallifrey materializing above Earth in Part Two). And besides that--why did it even have to be the whole world? Incinerating Leadworth, or England, would have been just as effective. What were the Atraxi thinking?
Despite its previous usage, the missed-time idea was heartrendingly compelling. The mistrust and secrets that Amy and the Doctor mutually have will hopefully be further and more richly explored in future episodes. Although the action-plot was just mediocre, the character-plot was lovely. I'm looking forward to more of the same!
Doctor: I hate yogurt. It's just stuff with bits in.
I was really hoping that Amelia would give him a pear!
Doctor: You're Scottish. Fry something.
Doctor: Everything's going to be fine.
Doctor: It's not just a box. It's a time machine!
Amelia: What. A real one?
Doctor: WHAT is that?!
Amy: It's a duck pond.
Doctor: Why aren't there any ducks?
Amy: I don't know, there're never any ducks.
Doctor: Then how do you know it's a duck pond?
Doctor: I've commandeered a vehicle!
Doctor: Okay, what have you got for me this time?
unlocks TARDIS door and looks inside
Doctor: Look at you. Oh, you sexy thing. Look at you!
Amy: That was TWO YEARS AGO!
Doctor: Oh. Oops.
Premonitions and Predictions
"The Pandorica (?) will open. Silence will fall." Hmm.
My first thought was that the cracks in the universe were from the breaking of the time lock in The End of Time, but now I'm not so sure. Please please please, no Dalek/Time Lord/Cyberman plan to destroy reality--please!
Did anyone else notice that when the TARDIS monitor was buzzing at the very end, the shape it was displaying was the same as the crack on Amelia's wall? That can't be a coincidence. We'll see if that pattern shows up again. Maybe this plot wasn't a throwaway after all.
"Why aren't there any ducks?" I dearly, dearly hope that this turns out to be important, like the bees from Season 4 or the dolphins from Hitchhiker's.