Next in the sequence of Black Archive books about individual Doctor Who stories, this time it’s the first Eleventh Doctor story and the first of Steven Moffat’s era as show-runner.
When The Eleventh Hour was first broadcast in 2010, I wrote:
I think Doctor Who is in good hands. This is one of the stronger debut stories for a new Doctor – up there with Rose and An Unearthly Child. We enjoyed every minute of the hour.
Matt Smith does it with humour and total conviction, and Karen Gillan shows promise too (though hopefully will get a bit more to do in future episodes). You can understand that each of them clicked with Moffat and Wenger as rapidly as we are told they did. Amy’s character starts with reason to be annoyed as well as fascinated by the Doctor, but is herself keeping some secrets from him and presumably from us too.
The actual plot did have a lot of elements from Moffat’s previous Who stories – but these were good stories first time round, and we went in a slightly new direction here: for instance, the Doctor’s visitation of Madame de Pompadour was him dipping into her story, whereas his visit to Amy got her into therapy (which, and this may have been a subtle point, may not be such a bad thing for a child who has lost her parents). Though I hope Moffat’s future stories are a bit more experimental.
Lots of little pleasing points. The montage of the previous Doctors – a great way of establishing 46 years of continuity for new viewers. The Tardis swimming pool (for the first time in New Who, it’s more than just the control room) and new interior (which is nicely syncretic, though children will need to be told what a typewriter is). The final shot of Amy’s fannish drawings of the Doctor and the Tardis, and her wedding dress.
I’m not blown away by the new version of the theme music, but I will get used to it.
I have rewatched it a couple of times since – on a transatlantic flight, I found it in the entertainment system and turned to it as familiar and comforting fare; and also of course it was one of Emily Cook’s lockdown rewatches (a phenomenon that I have not yet seen written up properly).
Going back to it for this review, yet again I thought it was very good, and definitely up there with the 1963 and 2005 debut episodes as one of the strongest starts for a new Doctor and production team. It’s funny and scary, and renewed my affection for Eleven, Amy and Rory as characters. (I recently rewatched The God Complex, in which the Doctor kicks them off the Tardis; they are better served in their debut.) Those who wonder if the Eleventh Doctor or indeed the Moffat era is for them would be well served by starting here (as we did in real life).
This is Jon Arnold’s third book for the Black Archive series, the other two also being reboots, one successful (Rose) and one unsuccessful (Scream of the Shalka). This is another good one; he goes well beyond the story to look at its importance in the overall sequence of Who as a show. The chapters are:
- a prologue about the problem of relaunching Who in 2010
- the casting and characterisation of the Eleventh Doctor
- Moffat’s approach to romance and the characterisation of Amy
- Moffat’s approach to drama more generally, especially comedy; the second paragraph of this third chapter, with the quote it refences, are as follows:
His career is one of the more remarkable of any British television writer: bar one episode of Stay Lucky (1989-93), three of Dawn French vehicle Murder Most Horrid and Doctor Who, Moffat’s work has entirely been on shows he has created or fully authored. Moffat’s initial break was the result of an exceptional stroke of luck. His father, Bill Moffat, was the headmaster of Thorn Primary School. When it was used for the production of an episode of Highway (1983-93), he mentioned to the producers that he had an idea for a series about a school newspaper. He had no interest in a career as a scriptwriter and sold the idea on condition that his son write a sample script. It is worth noting at this point that this was not in any way nepotistic: if the scripts had not been good enough then the production team could have declined them. If they were good then they would have a writer on board at a relatively low cost:
‘She (Sandra C Hastie, Press Gang’s producer) sort of sighed and said “Oh god I’ll read it once, I’m not paying for it obviously but I’ll read one script from him and then I’ll get a proper writer.” So, I sent in a script and she loved it. And with that kind of incredible sort of madness-cum-genius of the woman, says I immodestly, she just decided that I’d write the whole series. Out of nowhere[…]
- the fairytale aspects of Who under Moffat, referencing also the roots of the “fish fingers and custard” scene from Tigger in The House at Pooh Corner
- the crack in the wall and “Silence Will Fall” as respectively successful and unsuccessful foreshadowings of the season arc
- a brief conclusion reflecting on the successful post-Who careers of Moffat, Smith and Gillan
- an appendix looking briefly at the “Meanwhile in the Tardis” extra scene, a bonus on the DVD/Bluray.
Another decent addition to the sequence. You can get it here.
The Black Archives
1st Doctor: Marco Polo (18) | The Massacre (2)
2nd Doctor: The Evil of the Daleks (11) | The Mind Robber (7)
3rd Doctor: The Ambassadors of Death (3) | The Dæmons (26) | Carnival of Monsters (16) | The Time Warrior (24)
4th Doctor: Pyramids of Mars (12) | Image of the Fendahl (5) | Full Circle (15)
5th Doctor: Black Orchid (8)
6th Doctor: The Ultimate Foe (14)
7th Doctor: The Curse of Fenric (23) | Ghost Light (6)
8th Doctor: The Movie (25)
Other: Scream of the Shalka (10)
9th Doctor: Rose (1)
10th Doctor: The Impossible Planet / The Satan Pit (17) Human Nature / The Family of Blood (13)
11th Doctor: The Eleventh Hour (19) | The God Complex (9)
12th Doctor: Dark Water / Death in Heaven (4) | Face the Raven (20) | Heaven Sent (21) | Hell Bent (22)