Ah, Steven Moffat, bless. He has made us all his bitch.
I'm writing this review slightly late, but still earlier than expected because I just Ewen has already got his up. And I don't want what I write to be influenced by him whatsoever. And so, it's already off to a terrible start. I'm talking about the review itself rather than doing any bloody reviewing! In fact, I haven't even stated what I'm reviewing! What a dog's breakfast. The worst thing is I had half of what's going to ensue written in my head yesterday, but didn't bloody write it on paper or in wordpad for some reason. Absolutely unforgiveable!
0/10, that's what I give myself here.
Anyway, as I was saying, Steven Moffat is pretty damned good. Even when he writes something as unforgiveably shithouse as Silence in the Library he performs a magic act where characters throw up terrifying quantities of witty ripostes as if they've spent an evening fellating Don Rickles to distract from a plot that makes no sense at all. Incredibly it works on 99% of fandom. This, combined with the fact that SitL was his last script and trailers that were either quick and incoherent or coherent and goddamned awful, really did indicate the worst.
I mean, look at the publicity that has gone out - it has been targetted so strongly at the fans that nobody else would even know what it was. I guess it's a luxury you have to not even explain who the main character is when his casting makes the bloody ABC news, but containing no dialogue and a shitload of explosions is a very weird choice. Also, conspicuously selling his own creations back to the fans - what else are we to assume aside from "Kicking back and running this show in auto-pilot"
This also looks very possible at the very beginning of Eleventh Hour, with a quickly forgotten scene of the TARDIS nearly crashing into Westminster and the Doctor floundering about like a buttery flounder with a stupid haircut that could have gone in any story, anywhere in the last four years - it's so similar to The Christmas Invasion and The Runaway Bride it's hard to imagine anyone being excited about it. BUT Moffat flips the script - the entire purpose of this scene is to drop surreally into the new credits sequence.. and so the point WAS that the moment was pure 100,000 pound sterling RTD filler fodder. The last moment of RTDness in the show, those credits are the symbolic crossing-over point.
This occurred to me when I though "This story would have been better to me if it just started with the TARDIS crashed in the Pond garden." Then I realised the story BLOODY DID, because it only starts after those credits.. yes, the shadow of RTD hangs over the story, strongly felt by his absence. It soon becomes very apparent that, consciously or not, 50% of this script from Moffat is a series of "Things are gonna be different from now on!" moments, making this possibly the first ever piece of television targetted (albeit almost certainly inadvertently) towards The Hatedom. This makes me a little nervous about going onto the forums to see the response, because I fear it could be violent, even though the episode is brilliant.
Damn, let the cat out of the bag there. Yes, I really like it.
BUT moving backwards, the anti-RTDs... well, the camera copies that shock-zoom down into London BUT the story isn't actually set there. The Westminster shots are the last glimpse of London in the ep. Instantly the interior of the TARDIS is destroyed. Similarly the screwdriver is destroyed nearly as soon as it appears. Obviously the credits and theme song entirely changed first chance. Immediate references to 'swimming pool' and 'library' in the TARDIS, suggesting we could be seeing more and that it isn't as cyberpunk grungy as it has been. The companion already has backstory of the Doctor so there's no "It's bigger on the inside!" bullshit. Amy's family is incredibly vague and the Doctor doesn't really care. Also, the companion's a stripper rather than a slightly self conscious positive reinforcement feminine role mode.
Yes! What a moment of fridge brilliance! Oh, how we mocked when the photos of Amy were released, talking about how 'stripperific' her policewoman outfit was and speculating that the show was now going to be a glorified series of skin-flicks now that Geoff from Coupling was the producer. And it still can be! BUT the revelation that Amy actually IS a stripper had me stunned, what a good one. Oh, and she is, by the way. I don't know what the in-universe explanation for "Kiss-o-gram" would be but it is oh-so-clearly the G-rated re-write for one of those things kids aren't allowed to learn about until they innocently Google "Japanese cartoons" one day.
Also, what I see as a very good sign - the special effects were not that good.
This could get peoples back ups, assuming that I even have an audience for these mad ramblings, because in the past I have mocked strongly some of the terrible special effects failures of the last couple of years. And I don't have much of a comeback. Except that... none of the effects in this episode were amazing. A lot of the others were.
As we know RTD was loathe to do an alien planet story because the expense would be too high and made a big deal about the special effects. But look at the Multiform in that room with Amy - it's lit wrong and is pretty basic. BUT good enough to be a little scary! And those eyeball spaceships - they don't look real! In fact, they look pretty bad! THIS IS FANTASTIC! If we have a producer who says "just make what you can afford and move on" we can have brilliant storytelling, unlimited storytelling. I guess this goes back to RTD saying he'd never have the courage to write "The Doctor jumps a horse through a mirror" into one of his scripts. Moffat was the courage to write "The Doctor jumps a horse through a plate glass factory on the back of a Sycorax warship that's crashing into the sun. TWICE." and give The Mill five pounds in change to make it happen.
This is the spirit that made Doctor Who great, people. This is why my status-line review on FaceBook was "This ain't your little sister's Doctor Who!" by telling stories we can't afford in the way our American cousins would never try, we're making REAL Doctor Who.
Most people would actually be concerned with the new Doctor. Though I'd say they really shouldn't be. Matt Smith is, in spite of the "DaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrLEX!" scare a very good performer who doesn't hit a wrong note throughout the episode for my money. He hits the right notes for me as a Doctor - talks weird, acts weird and looks weird - yes, he has a horse face. Who are these people who keep complaining about the new Doctors being too 'good looking'? Eccleston was a moled-up beak-nosed cab-door ears skinhead, David Tennant was a bloody gelled scarecrow with a matching chin and a nose that could slice through cardboard and Smith has been tragically born with a second forehead. Do the English have different standards than we Australians?*
Everybody knows how a new Doctor story is supposed to work...
1) The new Doctor is placed in a situation that his predecessor would have handled ably with little difficulty to see how he goes.
2) The new Doctor is effectively out of character until the end of the story.
Moffat knows not to fuck around with these golden rules as they hold true. If Tenner were here he'd find some way to teleport into Sentrassi ships using his sonic screwdriver and Ham them into submission using his power of mad shouting. You might possibly have gotten a Short Trips story written on a napkin out of it. And, as Matt Smith says enough times, he doesn't know what's what half the time.
The other two more sporadic rules are
1) There should always be a crossover companion to ease the transition for the audience.
2) The Doctor's second story should feel like one that wouldn't have been out of place in the Hartnell era.
I have no idea what the deal is with the second one, postulated by a certain Mr Campion-Clarke but thus far it has held creepily true. We'll have to judge next week. As for the former, that has probably been discarded in this new age of companions with their names in lights..
When it comes to the character of Matt Smith's Doctor, it's hard to judge. There are more than a couple of similarities between Robert Holmes and Steven Moffat, and I'm here to suggest another one. As noted, Bob Holmes always wrote for Tom Baker... creepily, even BEFORE Tom Baker had the role. This is actually because he was script editor at the time of the Pertwee-Baker transition and so dictated the Doctor's character. I'm going to go one step further and suggest that Moffat in all his stories so far, has actually been writing for Matt Smith. Interestingly his Doctor seems a tad quieter than David Tennant, and quite a bit more mad. He's also less reliable (he leaves Amy for several years... TWICE, and once for entirely selfish reasons) and is shown to be capable of being a complete jerk. ("You're Scottish aren't you? Fry me something!!!") How these are going to balloon from here on will be interesting to see..
The story is done cleverly, within another "Take that!" of the Doctor being forced to solve a problem without the sonic screwdriver or TARDIS, as he continually points out. There's a slight cheat when you seems to use the superpower of Esper-vision in the park, but I'm in a charitable mood to forgive that - the computer virus idea is very clever and thankfully the 'corner of your eye' stuff to scare the little'uns isn't as clumsy as the "AIR PIRAHNAS IN THE SHADOWS!" bullshit. There are enough twists, involving the possessed coma patients and the Sentrassi (god is that their actual name? The eye-people anyway) to keep things interesting on a plot-based level between all the slick dialogue.
"Okay, Jared," you say wearily "You've fellated this episode long enough. Was there something that you DIDN'T like?"
As it happens - YES! I didn't like Roy. Assuming that's his name. But, erm, he kinda didn't do anything so it didn't matter much. Also I don't think we're meant to like him, the whole character came across as the 'villain' character from romantic comedies. You know, by which I mean the other boyfriends who are usually actually fiancées. Except he isn't one of the evil ones, just ones rendered evil by society for being complete users.
Oh, and the last scene went slightly too long.
No, really, that's it. Usually I'm nothing but a big bubbling ball of negativity, so this surprises me as well. So, I guess that means it has to be 10/10
Oh, yeah, there was yet another "Don't you know who the FUCK I am???" moment from the Doctor to the alien badguys. But it wasn't used to save the day. He gets a free pass on that one.
WHAT THOSE OTHER LOSERS SAID
Lawrence Miles response: You know, Avatar and Lord of the Rings are fucking infantile shit because they rely on CGI. HOW CAN ANYONE RESPECT THAT? What? Yes, I did say Revenge of the Sith was one of cinema's great classics, why do you bring this up? Anyway, I watched Spiderman 3 and it reminded me of going to the cinemas to watch porn in the 70s because it's so fucking Pavlovian! You couldn't put Matt Smith on top of Dudley Simpson! Because that would be gay, and besides you'd need a time machine. BLINK SUCKS!!! Moffat kicked sand into my face in the beach. Prick. STOP PARAPHRASING ME!!!
Sparacus response: This story is drivel. We are in agreement.
Snarktastic response: Why isn't Matt Smith mugging wildly for the camera and screaming individual words of dialogue for no apparent reason? Why isn't Matt Smith wildly exaggerating his facial expressions into bizarre contortions of nose and eye the way the Doctor ought to? Why isn't Matt Smith making his Doctor obnoxious and arrogant and insufferable by speaking in a superior, condescending way to all the human companions? The bit where Smith told the guy looking at porn to get a girlfriend was delivered with such an un-Doctorishly gentle touch; Tennant would have bellowed at him, snapping at him. Instead, Smith just sounds... nice and down-to-earth and genuinely caring. Tennant would never lower himself to that. Smith doesn't even sound like the Doctor; where is the needless and distracting overenunciation of every single syllable?
Android response to the above: I take it this is a stab at sarcasm, if it is maybe a little smilie at the end, as not everyone can tell if this for real or not.
Zygote with keyboard's response: hear we go matt smith not as good as tennant after one episode lol people really need to get real tennants first episode was slagged off by people aswell you cant please everybody and in my opinion tennant was no where near as good as tom baker and jon pertwee its all opinions im just glad to have doctor who on my screens its because of people like the whingers we here slagging people off the series goes off air becasue its deemed unsuccessfull i think you just need to enjoy the programme otherwise your kids are not gonna be able to enjoy the show like the rest of us are fortunate enough to
Family response Only major down part was the trailer and a general groan at Daleks and Cybermen appearance.
Larry Miles' fanbase response: A redheaded companion who back-talks the ER and runs out on her wedding? Could it be that Moffat is creating Donna Noble Mark 2 just to piss Larry off? I would approve, in this regard.
(With fans like that, who needs enemies?)
Arnold T Blumberg response: Hey arsehole, kissograms are actually real! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kissogram
Ewen Campion Clarke response: There's nothing remotely dodgy about a strange man creeping into a house in the middle of the night and spending a disturbing amount of time with a seven-year-old girl.
Charles Daniels response: In order to understand the 11th Hour, you need to understand, first and foremost
that Moffat is the Anti-Oliver Postgate. I first came to understand this while
drinking alco-pops and showing around my Clangers Annuals to passers by.
I would use these Clangers Annuals to entice people into a magical world of their imagination.
It was a great way to chat people up; because for the most part it failed miserably.
Yes, I was chatting up people in a deeply ineffective way.
Because I wasn't playing by the rules. Or more to the point I wasn't playing by
the standard rule book but had instead devised my own strategy.
(Read the entire post. It's bloody brilliant.)
* Contrary to unpopular belief I am Australian, as opposed to a 'humourously angry American"