On Allyn’s “The Eleventh Hour” Thoughts

This isn’t a review of Doctor Who‘s “The Eleventh Hour,” per se, which debuted on BBC1 over the wekeend. I am, honestly, still processing it. Running it in the background, so to speak. What this is, however, is collection of things I’ve written elsewhere, in response to others, about the episode, which serves as a decent “As I saw it…” kind of thing, and may make for interesting reading for those so inclined.

Before the episode, from an e-mail to the Larry Niven mailing list, no spoilers:

The new season of Doctor Who debuted tonight in the UK on BBC 1; it begins airing on BBC America in two weeks. The is the first episode in five years not overseen by Russell T. Davies, who brought the series back in 2005. This is also the first episode since 2006 to not have David Tennant as the Doctor. So, it’s both a creative reboot (different people behind the scenes) and an acting reboot (different people in front of the camera).

Some fans are sad that Davies and/or Tennant are gone. Some fans are ecstatic that Davies and/or Tennant have moved on.

I was fine with Tennant, and I think that he could have stayed for another year or two easily. But I understand why he left; he felt like he and Davies were a team, Davies was leaving, so he felt that it was a good time for him to go and hopefully avoid the typecasting that impaired some of his predecessors.

Davies, however. I could enjoy Davies’ work on the same level that I could enjoy an episode of Star Trek: Voyager; his writing worked on a visceral, emotional level, but if you tried to actually work out his plots, they collapsed under the weight of their own nonsense. (Davies, however, is technically a better writer than virtually anyone who wrote for Star Trek: Voyager, and Doctor Who has generally better production values.) Davies’ work has been described as that of “a first-draft writer” (former DW script editor Christopher Bidmead’s estimation), and while Davies labors over his scripts (see Doctor Who: The Writer’s Tale for examples), there’s a certain unfinished, unpolished quality to them. Davies’ work lends itself toward being armchair script-edited; what Davies produces is good, sometimes even great, but it’s never brilliant, and it’s always a draft or two away from being right. It’s not that Davies can’t be script-edited — The Writer’s Tale shows that there are lots of people who read and comment on his work — but there’s no one who could (or would) tell him when the work falls flat. Davies manages, at times in spite of himself, to hit his emotional marks, but it’s invariably at the expense of plot and logic. And the “gap year” specials were, to be blunt, pretty poor — and so easily fixable.

Damn, I sound like I have an axe to grind…

I respect Davies a lot, honestly. I really and truly do. He did what no one else could — he brought back Doctor Who. Ten years ago the thinking was that the series, if it ever returned, would be a nichey science-fiction thing. Instead, Davies turned it into a mainstream phenomenon that everyone knows. (In the UK, anyway. On this side of the pond, Doctor Who will always be a nichey, science-fiction thing.) And in some ways, I will miss Davies; he was, first and foremost, both Doctor Who’s biggest fan and biggest promoter, and I cannot see Steven Moffat bringing half of RTD’s energy to either.

And since we’re going to hit spoilers for an episode that doesn’t air in North America for two weeks…

About a niche issue from late in the episode, a little girl sitting atop a suitcase:

I feel like we’re going to see her again. I’m not convinced that the late scene with Amelia, sitting on her suitcase, was a dream. I think it’s a suppressed memory that was triggered by the sound of the TARDIS materializing.

And addition to that from Gallifrey Base:

And I think that, much like The Time Traveler’s Wife, we’re seeing Amy’s relationship with the Doctor in a generally linear fashion, while we’re not seeing the Doctor’s relationship with Amy likewise; after the Doctor and Amy part sometime post-whenever, the Doctor goes back and sees young Amelia, but to what purpose I can’t even guess at.

Thoughs on new companion Amy Pond in general:

Well, we know she’s been through four psychiatrists in dealing with her issues with the Doctor.

It’s clear that everyone that knows her is aware of the “raggedy Doctor” of her imagination.

I suspect that the final scenes of “The Eleventh Hour” suggest that the Doctor does, in fact, return to her five minutes after leaving her as a child, only she can’t remember this.

I wonder if Moffat could be planning for Amy what Davies intended for Rose and that the EDAs actually did with Sam — the Doctor has consciously been grooming her for companionship throughout her life.

On the flipside, Amelia clearly had a crappy home life in her youth, so it’s not that implausible that she would fixate on something shiny that walked into her life, related to her not as a child but as a person, showed her something really amazing, and showed her that dreams are real. So it’s not unreasonable that she would be drawn to him as a part of her life.

Yes, I’m arguing that she has a healthy and an unhealthy obsession with the Doctor. 🙂

The bonkers pre-credits sequence, of the Doctor hanging out of the TARDIS as it flies over London:

That was, to me, the most RTD-esque part of the episode. From the zoom-in on Earth to the completely bonkers scene with the Doctor hanging from the TARDIS, these are the things that Rusty would have done. I think they were in the episode, particularly the zoom, just because audiences would expect them — and also to tweak/mock RTD. Those two minutes were Smith’s “Pudsey Cutaway,” basically, a link from one episode to the next.

The logical start would have been Amelia praying to Santa. Then have the TARDIS crash, the anchor thrown out, and the Doctor pulling himself up out of the doors. Then go to credits.

The little girl on the suitcase? Fandom has decided that’s a dream, and that my speculation above, that we’ll see the young girl again, isn’t possible. My thoughts:

Rewatch that scene. It’s clearly not a dream.

It’s also not five minutes after the Doctor leaves.

Amelia has been sitting outside all night, atop her luggage. She hears something. The camera zooms in. She looks up. She smiles.

We then hard cut to Amy sleeping in bed.

The scene, as shot, is too mundane to be a dream. There’s no wonky camera angles. There’s nothing out of the ordinary.

I feel like we’re going to see Amelia again before the season is out.

Let’s reiterate that point and elaborate upon it:

The scene doesn’t play as a dream. Dreams in television and film are signposted with awkward camera angles and surreal imagery. This scene isn’t; it is shot and lighted and acted like the other 62 minutes of the episode. I think the scene is meant to be precisely what it appears to be (and what it plays as) — the Doctor coming back for Amelia after she’s sat outside the entire night waiting for him to return.

To be frank, the idea that the scene is a dream didn’t occur to me until this morning, when I saw that people here and on GB were describing it as a dream. I understand the desire for it to be a dream — if the Doctor goes back for Amelia, he’s polluting his own timestream. And under RTD’s rules, the Doctor isn’t going to do that.

But we’re under Moffat’s rules. And Moffat has shown a willingness for the Doctor to pollute the timeline in the past. "Continuity Errors" — the Doctor rewrites a librarian’s entire history, just so he can check out a book. "The Girl in the Fireplace" — the Doctor is entirely willing to take Madame de Pompedour out of time and wreck French history just because he can.

I genuinely believe that Moffat intended the audience to interpret the scene of Amelia, in the morning, sitting on her suitcase, and looking up when she hears the TARDIS’ wheezing/groaning engines literally. There is absolutely no reason that Moffat’s Doctor cannot go back for Amelia, no matter what the future says.

Now that I’ve gotten bogged down in niche issues, what did I think of the episode as a whole? From a LiveJournal comment:

It’s a very Moffaty story, isn’t it?

Barring the pre-credits sequence, yeah.

(The pre-credits sequence was something out of RTD’s playbook. The zoom to Earth? Check. The absurd action? Check. I compared it to “Pudsey Cutaway” on a bulletin board earlier today, as the more logical place for the episode to begin was with Amelia praying to Santa, then have the credits roll after the Doctor pops his head out of the crashed TARDIS.)

Once we got past that, though, we were in different territory. There’s a vastly different feel to “The Eleventh Hour.” I’m understanding what Moffat means when he compares Doctor Who to a fairy tale; as an adult, I get this, but my inner child really gets this. This owed far more to A.A. Milne (the Doctor and the food being like Tigger and the honeycorns) and C.S. Lewis (adult Amy and the TARDIS being like Lucy and the Wardrobe) than it does to Robert Holmes or Uncle Terrance.

I wasn’t surprised at how much of “The Eleventh Hour” was kisses to the past — given the total reboot behind and in front of the camera, it was almost a requirement to keep the audiences from feeling like they’re watching a completely different show — but I was surprised at how much of it was kisses to Moffat‘s past. There was the creepy hospital ward, there was the relationship through time, there was the alien threat buggering off because they realized who and what they were facing and his reputation. This doesn’t exactly bother me; it occurs to me that, perhaps, Moffat now has a larger canvas — thirteen episodes rather than just two — on which to explore his ideas. And based on the final scene of Amelia at the end, I suspect he’s really going to explore the relationship-out-of-sequence in a way that Doctor Who has never done before.

(The consensus on the boards seems to be that Amy was just dreaming, only to be awoken by the sound of the TARDIS materializing. And there’s some logic to that; Amelia on her luggage serves as a reminder to the audience that she has been waiting all her life for him to return. I suspect, however, that the Doctor does, at some point in the future, return to Amelia, only she can’t remember it, and the sound of the TARDIS’ engines could trigger a supressed memory. I should note that my track record for where Doctor Who is going is piss-poor, so I’m likely entirely off-base.)

Cracks in space-time seems to me to be a holdover from RTD, a logical outgrowth of the damage to the timestream that the Time War engendered. It could be that the Doctor in unaware of their origins, because he doesn’t entirely realize that time was damaged.

All in all, I thought it was pretty fab. 🙂

And I’m liking Smith and Gillen. Of course, I couldn’t helpt but love the latter; she’s Scottish, and she’s a redhead, and I’m perfectly okay with that. 🙂

Some elaboration on the cracks, also from LJ:

The thought occurred to me in bed last night as I was musing on the episode. I’ve wanted some sort of follow-up to the Time War in the past. Not in a character way — I really don’t want to see the angsty Doctor again — but in a universal way. What did the Time Lock actually do to history? Two of the novels in the last year have dealt with “seepage” (my term) of things from a pre-Time War history into the post-Time War history (Parkin’s The Eyeless, Baxendale’s Prisoner of the Daleks), but RTD’s show steered away from doing anything like that. Hell, until “Journey’s End” and the revelation to the Doctor that Dalek-Caan had broken the Time Lock and rescued Davros, it hadn’t occurred to the Doctor that pre- and post- histories could collide. History colliding with itself. It’s an obvious kind of story for a time travel series — if this is possible, then what are the implications and what kinds of stories does it generate — but it’s one that RTD didn’t tell because that’s not the kind of story that would hold any interest for him. Moffat, on the other hand, has written several stories about time looping and colliding with itself — “Continuity Errors,” “Blink,” “The Girl in the Fireplace” — and it’s clear that he’s thought through the implications. So would he take the shiny toy that RTD left on the table, that RTD probably didn’t even see, and run with it? I think he might. And if Moffat did pick up that toy and run with it, at least for this season, then the fears of some fans that Moffat would be running away from RTD’s legacy would be lessened, as he would be dealing front and center with that legacy.

All of that said, I think that Moffat is more than likely to go in an entirely different direction. The crack in the wall, the cracks in spacetime, are likely as not to have absolutely nothing to do with anything that’s gone before.

The one thing I do expect from Moffat is fewer dangling plot points. RTD’s stories were a mass of unfulfilled and half-baked ideas, structured to reach emotional and character points at the expense of plot. Moffat, at least in my experience of his work, seems to have a better grasp of using plot to further the emotional and character points. I’m expecting a more satisfying journey with Moffat, in other words.

That covers it, I think. I’m sure I could take all of these notes and edit them into some coherent, but no, this suffices.

I liked the episode, by the way. It was funny, it was smart, it was joyous, and it was heartrending. Moffat does joyous and heartrending at the same damn time so amazingly well.

Doctor Who is back. :h2g2:

Published by Allyn

A writer, editor, journalist, sometimes coder, occasional historian, and all-around scholar, Allyn Gibson is the writer for Diamond Comic Distributors' monthly PREVIEWS catalog, used by comic book shops and throughout the comics industry, and the editor for its monthly order forms. In his over ten years in the industry, Allyn has interviewed comics creators and pop culture celebrities, covered conventions, analyzed industry revenue trends, and written copy for comics, toys, and other pop culture merchandise. Allyn is also known for his short fiction (including the Star Trek story "Make-Believe,"the Doctor Who short story "The Spindle of Necessity," and the ReDeus story "The Ginger Kid"). Allyn has been blogging regularly with WordPress since 2004.

2 thoughts on “On Allyn’s “The Eleventh Hour” Thoughts

  1. He did what no one else could — he brought back Doctor Who. Didn’t we see Julie Gardner’s name attached to the revival attempt for years before we saw Davies’ name?

  2. I genuinely believe that Moffat intended the audience to interpret the scene of Amelia, in the morning, sitting on her suitcase, and looking up when she hears the TARDIS’ wheezing/groaning engines literally. There is absolutely no reason that Moffat’s Doctor cannot go back for Amelia, no matter what the future says.

    I think you are exactly right here. It fits with Moffat’s absolute love of non-linear plot construction and complex mystery. Moffat famously said: “I’ve been waiting 40 years to see my name over that theme music.” He, like myself, has been a fan since early childhood and a writer since early childhood. I know I’ve been constructing my own WHO season over the past 30 years. I’m sure he has put in massive amounts of thought to what he’d do if he got the glorious chance to control the show. (Heck, haven’t we all?)

    Loved all three episodes so far but I have this feeling: we ain’t seen nuthin’ yet! 😀

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