Friday, 22 November 2013

The Eleventh Hour, The Beast Below & Victory of the Daleks

The Eleventh Hour

Rory and Amy watch the Doctor do his thing.

Steven Moffat, whose stories I love, takes over from RTD. Matt Smith takes over from David Tennant. The first clear era shift in New Who, and thus far, the only one. New credits, new TARDIS interior, new companion, beautiful HD, and the Moff starts by getting it all pretty much spot on. ‘The Eleventh Hour’ was always going to be a tough one to get right – it comes on the heels of five amazingly successful years where Doctor Who quickly became a hit in a way it had never been before. The expectations on Steven Moffat to continue the brilliance were enormous, especially considering his stories had been so good and his pedigree impressive with a list of successes under his belt such as Sherlock and Coupling.
Caitlin Blackwood is amazing.
His first episode as showrunner does not disappoint, I am happy to say. Matt Smith is the eleventh Doctor, spelt out for the first time in the title of the opening episode. He comes across straight away as very ‘doctory’, with a level of eccentricity that Tennant didn’t have, but in other ways quite similar. He talks very fast, he’s a little on the arrogant side. A little? Well, yes…
We begin with the Doctor flying over London in the TARDIS which is exploding like crazy as the Doctor
Amy (Karen Gillan) sees the thing that's been living in her house all these years.
dangles precariously. I wonder if there will be any significance to that?
Enter Amelia Pond. As a young child – they cast brilliantly for the young Amelia, Caitlin Blackwood was just perfect, charismatic, likeable. There’s magic straight away as the Doctor looks desperately for something to eat – that he likes, settling on ‘fish fingers and custard’. A wonderful scene. I
Fish fingers and custard, Matt Smith.
warmed to Smith very quickly. Now the timey wimey stuff. He says he’ll be 5 minutes, but he is 12 years. When he returns Amelia Pond is now Amy Pond, grown up and played by Karen Gillan. Dressed as a police woman with a very short skirt!
Oh well, one for the Dad’s, right? Arthur Darvill is her ‘sort of’ girlfriend. He’s great as Rory Williams. The plot itself is necessarily light, but interesting enough and one that allows us to see how the Doctor, the new Doctor, operates. Getting the smarties of the world to show the Atraxi, rather cool looking space ships with giant eyes, to find prisoner Zero. Some clever stuff. Well directed, very stylish, by Adam Smith. I really loved the use of what comes across as stop-motion capture. Ok no, I don’t know what I am talking about, I admit that. But the bits where people are taking photos of the Atraxi – very nice.
The Doctor invites Amy on board the TARDIS, leaves for a quick test flight, returns two year later. She leaves with him, as the audience discover it appears she is soon to be married as it is revealed there’s a wedding dress in her bedroom! So there’s something akin to a story arc having its seeds sewn right here.
A very effective, fun, exciting and promising start to the Matt Smith era, which I hear  is due to end at Christmas! The teaser for the next episode looks great too, very excited about this series!

The Beast Below

A 'smiler'.

I must admit to be disappointed by this episode. It looks magnificent, but I ended the episode feeling like Moffat, who wrote it, had missed a trick or two with what had the potential to be another fantastic episode. I understand Moffat has said he wasn’t happy with this one, and I can see why because it has so many elements and ideas and great moments but as a whole it just doesn’t work.
Surprisingly it under-runs at less than 42 minutes, including a lead in to the next episode and a sneak peak at it too. It starts with the scary faces, a boy being sent below, it’s a very effective pre-credits start to the episode. The space ship UK, in the future where the whole country has become a floating space ship, looks great. Matt Smith is great, and I rather like the TARDIS interior now too, better than the last one which was very good don’t get me wrong.
Sophie Okondeo as Liz Ten.
‘The Beast Below’ begins being set at school, and a child who gets zero as his score is sent ‘below’ for whatever punishment lies there. And so you think the story is going to be about kids, but it’s not. We’ve got a big space whale attached to this space ship, being tortured as the leaders of Star Ship UK seem to think that will make it go faster. It’s very sad, and the fact that Moffat wrote it saying no-one would have the guts to say ‘stop it, it’s not right’ (as they are all reminded of the truth every five years) is somewhat of an indictment on the human race. Some good bits of casting, the kids are great and I liked the choice of Sophie Okonedo as Liz Ten, but I found her choice of accents to be somewhat strange. I wonder who came up with the line, ‘basically, I rule’. Yes. Hmmm.
Amy holds on above Starship UK.
Matt Smith has to get angry, and he does a good job early on as the Doctor. Amy Pond works really well in this one, Karen Gillan is a great choice to play her. We have the ‘Smilers’, strange almost clockwork men with faces that turn around and reveal a frown when they are not happy, the whale, the whole life of Star Ship UK, there was so much that could have been explored and expanded on. I think it’s a real pity it was only the 45 minutes.

Victory of the Daleks

Ian McNiece and Winston Churchill.

Hmmmm. I’m sorry Mr Gatiss, but this was the worst Dalek story of all time, the worst new-series episode and there’s not much else to say. Well, a brilliant opening 12 minutes. But it goes to show how easily that can be undone. And it is all down to the script. The fact that the new Dalek paradigm looks like awful coloured plastic is by the by.
It lends ideas from the classic ‘Power of the Daleks’. Humans don’t realise what the Daleks are, in fact they think
the Daleks are friends. The line ‘would you like some tea’ being uttered by a Dalek is utterly brilliant. But it’s the fact that this first twelve minutes is so fantastic that makes the rest of the story such utter shite.

The plot disappears. The Doctor gets on board a Dalek space craft which looks like a low-ceiling rehearsal room somewhere, and holds the Daleks to
The new Dalek paradigm. Perfect for four year olds.
ransom with a biscuit. Their plan was to wait for the Doctor to arrive to remind them they were the Daleks so they could create new, crappier-looking Daleks. And then very little happens for the rest of the story as spitfires are sent into space, got ready from an idea within minutes it seemed, and… look it’s rubbish. Then Bracewell is a bomb, the Daleks start the countdown but by remembering what it is to be human, the bomb is stopped and the Earth saved and quite frankly, it’s all appallingly bad.


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