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This One Goes To Eleven

April 5th, 2010

The new series of Doctor Who made its BBC America premiere on April 17, a mere two weeks after it aired in the U.K. If you are reading this review before that date, it’s because I discovered the wibbly-wobbly, time-wimey WordPress hack that allows me to post retroactively. Where I sit it’s Monday, April 19.*

BBC America was certainly brave in choosing to delay the debut of the 11th Doctor. They had to know that Doctor Who fans are no longer living in an era where they have to worry about PAL-to-NTSC transfers. It can’t have escaped their notice that there are several methods by which television shows can almost immediately be shared worldwide. Yet they held their ground, and I salute them.

It was tough waiting out those two weeks.

So, anyway, the 11th Doctor.

It’s a tradition to fear the arrival of a new Doctor Who. Oh sure, most of the time you’ll be fine. You’ll get a Peter Davison or David Tennant, and you can afford to exhale. But every once in a while someone tries to slip you a Colin Baker.

I remember the first time that I saw this early promotional photo of Colin Baker as the 6th Doctor in Starlog magazine. I believe that my first thought was WHAT THE FUCK THEY HIRED A CLOWN. (Yes, my thoughts know where to find the Caps Lock key.)

So, even since Ronald McDonald and his Amazing Technicolor Umbrella, I’ve greeted the announcement of each new Doctor Who with suspicion. And with Doctor Number 11 looking uncomfortably like Crispin Glover (stays Crispin even in milk!), I was especially nervous.

I needn’t have worried. Matt Smith hits the ball right out of the park (remember to insert equivalent cricket term here). He owns the Doctor, playing him as a charming madman.

(WARNING: ALL SPOILERS FROM THIS POINT ONWARD.)

His early scenes with Caitlin Blackwood, the child actress who plays the young version of new companion Amy Pond, are a delight. Especially fun is the sequence in which she tries in vain to find foods that the newly regenerated Doctor will like, only to have him repeatedly spit them across her kitchen. Little Caitlin is so good, and has such a rapport with Smith, that for a few moments I hoped for an entirely different take on the traditional Doctor/companion relationship. But I suppose dragging a seven-year-old into an endless series of dangers wouldn’t be such a hot idea.

That’s okay, because the all-grown-up Amy is a bit of all right as well. That’s her to the left, wearing the Dr. Elizabeth Shaw Memorial Miniskirt.

Keeping in mind that Doctor Who is now in the hands of writer/producer Stephen Moffat, the man who brought us the saucy comedy Coupling, it’s perhaps not much of a surprise that Amy’s livelihood involves delivering “kiss-o-grams.” (Oh, so that’s what we’re calling it these days!)

Karen Gillan as Amy is a lot of breezy fun. At first glance it looks like she might be part of one of the all-time-great Doctor/companion double acts.

The introductory story, “The Eleventh Hour,” isn’t much more than an excuse to reintroduce the series and provide Amy and the Doctor twenty minutes to save the world. It’s about an escaped alien “multiform” and the belligerent intergalactic police officers that track it to Earth.

Amazingly, the Atraxi–who resemble an eyeball stuck to a snowflake**–manage to beat even the Judoon for sheer bull (rhino)-headedness. At least the Judoon are competent, if overzealous, law officers. The Atraxi method of recapturing an escapee amounts to broadcasting the same unhelpful message over and over again, then threatening to incinerate the planet.

Again, the Atraxi and “Prisoner Zero” are really just a distraction; the real story here is the first (and second, and third) encounter between Amy and the Doctor. And, as he did in previous scripts such as “The Girl in the Fireplace” and “Blink,” Steven Moffat enjoys playing with the implications of someone whose relationship with time is, at best, relative.

My present-day self can’t wait to catch up with the future me who is writing this review! Only another twelve days until the premiere!

*If you’re seeing this on April 5, don’t worry. You have eight entire days to prepare for the arrival of the meteor.

**Thankfully they do not wear the kiss-o-gram costume!

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