Like every other Whovian, I watched David Tennent explode in a ball of firey stuff on New Years Day, 2010 through tear stained eyes. The energy cleared and a young man with a large chin and a mop of hair emerged. We watched, silent, unsure of what to think as he examined his new body, checking to see if he had legs, eyes and ears, before musing over whether he’d become a girl. Still unsure, we watched as the apparent new Doctor suddenly remembered he was crashing down to Earth in a burning TARDIS… and then the Doctor really emerged. He threw himself around the console, laughing with excitement at the prospect of impending doom, shrugging off the woes from his previous life. Then something strange happened… I began to laugh with him. Uncontrollably. From tears to elation in couple of minutes, Matt Smith had me from the word ‘Geronimo’!
The TARDIS comes hurtling through time towards Earth. Inside, the newly regenerated Doctor struggles to get her under control, nearly being thrown out the doors. A little girl sits at her bed, praying for Santa to come and fix the creepy crack in her wall. Her prayers are answered when a Police Box crash lands in her Garden and she meets the man who will change her life forever.
Struggling through post-regenerative trauma with a broken screwdriver and no access to his TARDIS, the new Doctor must rely on his wits to stop the destruction of the Earth after accidently letting a shape-shifting alien criminal come to the planet 12 years ago.
The Eleventh Hour isn’t the best story, but it served its purpose perfectly. We were introduced to the new Doctor and all of his quirks and mannerisms. We met Amy Pond and Rory Williams, the Doctor’s longest serving companions who would go on to be the first married couple in the TARDIS and the first companions to permanently die since the 80’s, leaving a hole in the Doctor’s hearts. Not to mention they’d produce one of the most important and mysterious characters since Doctor Who first returned to our screens.
Everything about the episode screamed new. It was colourful, bright and alive, with strong characters and a bold new direction, moving free from the inevitable shadow cast by the Russell T Davies’ era. This was the start of something different, and boy was I thrilled to be watching.
Cards on the table, I was always going to love this episode. Richard Curtis is an absolutely amazing writer; don’t let anybody tell you different. He’s able to portray themes and emotions that other writers can only dream of, putting heart into the most mundane of situations. Who better could’ve written for one of the most tortured souls the world has ever known? No, not the Doctor, Vincent Van Gogh.
The Doctor takes Amy to see a Van Gogh exhibition and is shocked to discover a monstrous creature painted in the windows of one of the great artists last pieces. In order to find the truth, the pair travel back to find the creature and meets the man himself.
The second scene comes when Vincent shows the Doctor and Amy the world through his eyes and we see the sky change, the colours come to life and the music of the universe dance in true wonder. Finally, the biggest scene of the entire episode, as Vincent realises the extent of his work and the legend he will become. The floods of tears as Bill Nighy’s character explains the impact of Van Gogh, calling him “one of the greatest men who ever lived”, draws so much emotion it’s difficult not to well up just thinking about it! The tragedy that Vincent eventually commits suicide is offset when you consider that the Doctor and Amy gave him hope and happiness, if just for the smallest of moments.
“The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don’t always soften the bad things, but vice versa the bad things don’t always spoil the good things and make them unimportant. And we definitely added to his pile of good things.”
The Pandorica, a prison built to contain the most feared thing in all of creation, is beginning to open. Vincent Van Gogh paints his terrifying last painting, driving him irrevocably further into insanity. Years later, Winston Churchill acquired the picture, passing it on to it’s intended recipient. Dr. River Song breaks out of her Stormcage prison and steals the painting, graffit-ing the oldest cliff face in the universe to get the Doctor’s attention. The painting shows the future, with the TARDIS’ total destruction.
Okay, so the plot may be a little convoluted with a rather confusing, timey-wimey conclusion, however there are moments in the episode that really define what the show has become. The opening scenes, where we see the Doctor’s allies come together to warn him of his impending danger, was a master stroke, especially the implications that Van Gogh killed himself because he was so distraught that he couldn’t save his friends lives.
The best part of this story by far has to be this scene however, a moment where the Matt Smith truly cemented his rightful place as the Doctor!
The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang left us with as many questions as it answered and set the scene for the rest of the 11th Doctor’s reign, introducing us to the Order of the Silence, who are so desperate to stop the question (Doctor who?) from being answered that they were willing to destroy the TARDIS (in the hopes to kill the Doctor) to do so… or so it appears. All we know is that Trenzalore is still in the Doctor’s future and the question WILL be asked.
When first announced, this episode kicked up a fandom storm. Could we really meet his wife? Who is she? Romana? Suzan’s Grandmother? What we got was something even more obvious and yet perfect!
The Doctor receives a distress signal from another Time Lord. Excited at the prospect of not being the only one alive, he takes the TARDIS to the source, a junk yard asteroid names ‘House’ in a bubble on the outside of the Universe. The TARDIS’ consciousness is stolen and placed within the body of a gorgeous and slightly crazy woman, Idris. With Amy and Rory trapped inside it’s hollowed out corridors, being played with by ‘House’, the Doctor must find a way back inside with the help of his oldest and closest companion.
The god himself, Neil Gaiman, wrote this episode as a love letter to the fans, bringing so much of Doctor Who’s rich history to the story, teasing us about the events leading to him ‘acquiring’ his machine, and how they really stole each other. For the first time we really see the TARDIS as a living creature with feelings and emotions, something she was always intended to be. We learn so much about the relationship the Doctor has with his beautiful (Sexy) machine and for a brief time in a very dark series, the Doctor is happy! Smith’s performance during the climax of the episode is beautiful. The Doctor retreats into sheer dismay as he has to say goodbye to the TARDIS, his one, true love, before she returns to her shell. The final scene, as he gently sets the co-ordinates and timidly asks if she’s still there, only to have her move a lever beside him, confirms the one, constant thing that will never change with the show – The Doctor will never be truly alone.
Amy Pond has been kidnapped and replaced with a Flesh Avatar. As the Doctor destroys the replica, Amy wakes up, scared and pain as the creepy eye-patch lady leans over her, telling her that the baby is almost here, all she has to do is push. Rory and the Doctor travel the universe, calling in favours and debts, building an army to recover the most important woman in their lives. They’re going to war.
What’s not to love about this episode? A religious cult, hell bent of bringing down the Doctor, kidnaps his best friend and steal her baby, a baby that, due to her conception within the TARDIS, has the ability to Regenerate! We see our lead characters in ways we’ve never seen them before, standing up to the post and going to desperate measures to save the one they love.
We’re shown how the Doctor has collected friends who are willing to lay their life on the line, and the way the army talk about his past adventures, of him conquering planets like some great warrior, was another hint towards the overall plan to bring the Doctor back into the shadows.
Then there’s the reveal, which, despite being a little predictable, was delivered perfectly in a way that made for such great tension and drama. Amy has just watched as her baby turned to goop in front of her, her true child taken by monsters intent on turning her into a weapon. She’s distraught, furious with the Doctor for letting this happen. The River shows up and the Doctor takes his anger out on her. Calmly she explains how it IS his fault, he’s gotten too big and made a frightful mistake, but hope remains as, with a beautiful moment of realisation, the truth is revealed and the Doctor runs back to the TARDIS, off to find Melody Pond.
Desperate for answers, Amy threatens River who directs her to Melody’s crib and the words her name in the language of the gamma forests. We watch as the words translate to English – Pond, Melody… River Song…
“It's me. I’m Melody. I'm your daughter.”