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Dr. Who: Hours Past The Eleventh Hour

Turned Up to Eleven
To quote myself quite a while ago (and Violet Bicks an even longer time ago) ... I think I got a date!

Things I disliked (just to get them out of the way quickly):
  1. And Look! There's only one! The opening theme. It was complete rubbish, she said with an adolescent whine. Seriously, I have always loved the original Ron Grainer theme with its marvelous electronic, theremin-ish feel, courtesy of Delia Derbeyshire. When I was young, it signaled "Dr. Who" to me. But when I first heard Murray Gold's reworking of it, back in 2005, I let out this huge sigh of relief, much to my own surprise. I hadn't realized that I'd been hoping for something to take the core musical theme past itself. This is a return to the source, sure, the same way Gold returned to the source back in 2005 — but without taking something new from it, or bringing something new to it. Ah, well. It's survivable, particularly since I caught the TARDIS singing. As long as She sings, I'm happy. And there, you see, I heard a difference and didn't mind it. The change in Her song felt like growth to me, not a retread. Oh, stop grumbling, woman.

Things I liked:
  1. Matt Smith. People had worried that Matt Smith was too young for the role and, while I wasn't worrying, I was aware of his youth. Within a minute of his appearance, in the midst of his first conversation with Amelia, he was simply The Doctor. He was a much much older man than anyone might have thought he could become. I'm talking inside and out, too. Smith carries himself in a mature manner, moves his face in a mature fashion, all the rubber-mask antics notwithstanding. More importantly, you look into his eyes, and he's somehow captured — or at least begun to capture — the reality of an ancient alien. I'm pretty certain this isn't my wishful thinking and perception speaking here, but an accurate analysis. Kudos to Smith for the acting skill, and hurrah for the character.
  2. The Eleventh Doctor: Matt Smith may have written fanfic to get himself into the Doctor's head, for which choirs of angels should sing him to his sleep, and for whom a fannish crown surely awaits. But the Eleventh Doctor bears no trace of that. There is no delighted fanboy peering out between the cracks of the Doctor's personality, and that was one of David Tennant's, and therefore Ten's, biggest failings. Bless his heart, Tennant was the ultimate fanboy. Much as I like him for that, because he really seems like a jolly young man, it obscured the Doctor more often than I liked.
  3. Amelia "Amy" Pond, or, as I've seen her referred to several times already, Wee Amy. Even though folks seem to have used it when they spoke about young Amelia, I find it a seductively sweet sobriquet in general. Which, by the way, is probably not right for her. I caught glimpses of steel in Karen Gillan's portrayal of the adult Amy, flashes of sophistication (did you catch that almost raised eyebrow of appreciative assessment as she looked at the parts of the Doctor we couldn't see? That's Coupling, right there, or at least something of the good parts of that Steven Moffat show.) She's not wee inside, methinks, not at all. I also have to praise young Caitlin Blackwood for her presentation of Amelia when she really was wee. She sold me on Amelia before I met Gillan's interpretation, with her blend of phlegmatic (almost irritable) pragmatism and unmistakable curiosity. While I thought there was a bit too much telling rather than showing of her intelligence and imagination as a child, I still liked her a great deal.
  4. Rory: from the little we see of him, he's smart, he's skilled — he's a nurse, which is one of those fantastic careers whose practitioners I respect like whoah because I don't have the practical empathy to do it myself; he's willing to believe, even if he's a bit of a linear processor when it comes to digesting the Doctor's reality; he notices when things are Wrong and he tries to gather information about said Wrongness. His failings ... those have to do with things I'll mention in the next section. Him? I think he's pretty worthwhile. I also think that the actor's name, Arthur Darvill, is perfect for a British skiffy show. Don't ask me why. Perhaps it's the "Arthur" part.
  5. The TARDIS. I can't tell you how pleased I was to see the warm red-gold lighting emanating from Her (well, actually, I just did, didn't I? *rimshot*) I'd liked the preview shots of Her interior, because they weren't a retreat to the sterile white room of the past; the multi-level console room, for instance, is brilliant, because it proves, just by its existence, what we've always known about Her immensity, but the lack of coral saddened me — oh, how I loved the coral! And the floors had looked a tad smooth and shiny.  I"d been hopeful, but I'd still had that niggling worry about what She'd look like in motion. Seeing the warmth of the place, seeing the hatstand, which reminded me of both the Fourth and Eighth Doctors, seeing the stairs off to who knows where in Her depths, it was all wonderful, even if the time rotor looked the tiniest bit twee, like some county fair art show second prize winner. I'll love even that soon enough.
  6. The Doctor and the TARDIS. I think he's going to listen to Her more as Eleven than he did in his previous incarnation, perhaps the way Nine did. And I appreciate that; he showed Her a great deal of love and respect, and that's fantastic.
  7. The crack in the universe, and the warnings of things to come. I have come to want to see an underlying arc (can an arc be underlying?) in DW seasons (I'd been a fan of them since seeing the Key To Time episodes when I was much younger), and I'd worried, I admit, that we would be treated this season to a series of rollicking, fun, totally un-connected stories. They would be wonderful, but ... arcs are one way, one very good way when they're done well, of making an imaginary universe real. They're the weft of the tapestry. Our own universe may be completely random — may be — but a created universe is, by its nature, not random, and it needs a pattern to strengthen its reality. A a crack in the universe, a threatened silence, and the tiniest hint that the Doctor may have had something to do with it? A nicely spooky foreshadowing of ... whatever is to come.
  8. Also, most of the incidental music, which was several times better than the opening theme.
Things I raised a slightly-exasperated eyebrow over:
  1. The Moff's recycling of Girl in the Fireplace themes. Really? For your debut? I understand what Moffat says about wanting DW to be a bit more about The Fairy Tale, and I'm confident that he understands both the wonder and terror of Faerie. He certainly wanted to introduce them hard and fast in this first episode. I also understand that he may have wanted to re-imagine, and revisit, GitF, or have another shot at some of that tale's conceits and themes — Time as a trickster and a heartbreaker, and a Timelord who can't really control it — and bully for him. A good writer always wants do-overs, because good writers are always certain they can Do It Better. But not for the first episode, not if you want to avoid the susurrant whispers of "tired ... lazy ... dead horse ..." that, in all honesty, probably aren't deserved but are to be expected when you jump with the first thing that enters your undoubtedly brilliant head. Save it for later; if it's a good idea, it'll keep. Wow us the first time out with something we haven't seen before (or at least not recentlly.) Then you can coax us into revisiting the ideas you love.
  2. The useless boyfriend. As I said above, I like Rory. But the Moff played him more than a little bit as a fool. He certainly made Rory as passive as Mickey was when we first met him in Rose; look at the "comic" way he backed down from the Exasperated and Oblivious (tm) medical administrator. (That, by the way, also smacked of lazy writing; better writing would, at the very least, have seen Rory push the phone in front of her face, only to have her make some irritable comment about Photoshop. As it was, it screamed, "Because The Plot Says To.") Moff has put the pieces in place for a recurring character, but I don't want to see him as a Useless Male, anymore than I want to see Amy as a This Side of Unpleasantly Irritable Female. Those are the down sides of Coupling characters, and I hope they don't show up too often in what he personally writes for this season.
  3. The rootlessness of Amy, and the potential infantalization that I shouldn't worry about, seeing as how it's only the first episode, but I have to mention it. I've read some reviews in which the writers have cheered Amy's real life. Someone mentioned that it felt as if she had a real life, and not just a back story. I'm afraid I felt just the opposite. We meet Amy as an orphan, whose absent guardian leaves her alone at night with no explanation. We meet her again, 12 years later, and she's still alone, living in that mysterious house — and how does a "kiss-o-gram" messenger make enough to keep the house up? Did the conveniently dead parents and the conveniently still-absent aunt gift her with an annuity that still, somehow, requires her to dress up in pink tights and a miniskirt to earn her daily bread? She has a boyfriend she denies is her boyfriend, much less her fiance two years later,  (and that is a potential piece of emotional callousness that is too reminiscent of Sally Sparrow for my liking. I like Amy, and I don't want to see her Sparrowfied.) Compare that with Rose, who had a real family and real friends immediately (even if Jackie and Mickey were played initially as boorish comic relief, that soon gave way before the three-dimensional characters they became, and the real two-way bonds of affection between them and Rose.) Also, — and this may be a nitpick, or, worse, me reading something into the story that isn't there and isn't going to be there — but for the grave and surprisingly adult Wee Amelia to give up that wonderful name, as the Doctor notes, and take up the decidedly less mature-sounding Amy ... it was unsettling. Still, I am more than willing to see how her life develops. She seems worth it, particularly if being with the Doctor brings back some of that wonderful gravity I saw in Wee Amelia.
  4. The food follies. That was far, far, far too obviously trying for laughs, and was very forced. Bless Matt Smith for being willing to do it, though.
All in all, even with my raised eyebrow and that Incredibly Rubbish Opening Music which I Really, Really, REALLY Dislike this was a winner. A clear winner, with a real Doctor, a wonderful alien Doctor, and a fine Companion, and a TARDIS of Wonder and hints of Faerie and hints of Horror (yes, I know they're one and the same) and I'll be on my sofa next week, you can bet.


( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 5th, 2010 02:13 am (UTC)
I just spent the last two hours transcribing the first twenty minutes, that is, Amelia's part. Phlegmatic. That was the word I was looking for. Or, as a psych counselor might say, shut down due to what seems to be some kind of trauma involving her parents.

I *love* Amelia.

I was really angry at first that she didn't get her trip. Then I realized that if she had, the Doctor might never have caught Prisoner Zero. A cruel choice there, my Lady TARDIS.

Apr. 5th, 2010 05:43 am (UTC)
Holy crap! You transcribed it?!? That, my friend, is pure dedication! (Howcome, howcome, howcome, she asked?)

... shut down due to what seems to be some kind of trauma involving her parents. I think you're right about that. I wonder if that will come into play later in the season? She's wonderful, though.

I wonder if the poor TARDIS was even fully aware of Amelia being left out in the dark with her suitcase? She was still fairly badly injured at that point.
Apr. 5th, 2010 02:39 pm (UTC)
I've used transcriptions several times in my writing, to see what exactly was said, to see who was where when something was happening, and for flashbacks. Also, I think that they are cool. And, for some reason, it was kinda fun in a mindlessly playing solitaire kind of way.

I think that, even injured, that the TARDIS would know that when the Doctor said, Back to Amelia!, that she must instead save everyone on the planet. I think that it would have been so obvious to her that she wouldn't even have to think about it.

To see not only all of time and space, but all of the AU threads -- very godlike, our Lady TARDIS. I think that she can process the information better than her Time Lord, and that she is certainly wiser than he. But he comes up with the amazing plans, he knows how other sentient beings think -- she must love how clever he is.
Apr. 6th, 2010 08:38 pm (UTC)
I think she has the potential to do all those things ... but I also think she is a little bid more mad than her two-legged charge, in the sense of being unstable; I suspect it's because TARDIS models weren't meant to develop self-awareness; the ones which did, I think, may have been deliberately destroyed, with the cover of being "broken" or "obsolete." (remember, he rescued her from a scrap heap, and was dismissed by other Time Lords as being obsolete.)

If She came from a background like that, She will have more than Her share of dysfunction, and, as a being that developed where no "being" as such was expected to develop, she might be inherently just a little insane. In which case, I think, it is not safe to assume she does anything for anyone for any logical reasons, or at least any linear reasons.

Of course, that doesn't negate the possibility that she did just as you said. Sometimes her desires and the proper ways of the world may be congruent.

(Rose has been the only two-legged being to brave Her soul (I'm pretty certain even the Doctor never did that), so we may never know.)
Apr. 5th, 2010 02:44 am (UTC)
The theme was definitely also my biggest problem with the episode. I didn't like the visuals during the credit sequence either. We shall see if they grow on me. At any rate, if something had to stink about the reinvention with Team Moffat, this is a fairly minor aspect of the show.

The Doctor and the TARDIS. I think he's going to listen to Her more as Eleven than he did in his previous incarnation, perhaps the way Nine did. And I appreciate that; he showed Her a great deal of love and respect, and that's fantastic.

I was excited by this too! Especially since Ten severely annoyed me during EoT by postponing his regeneration so long that he exploded and thus damaged the TARDIS. That was a lousy thing to do to his most faithful companion, the TARDIS. I grinned at Eleven calling her a "sexy thing" and "dear" and the amount of initiative the TARDIS showed.

Someone mentioned that it felt as if she had a real life, and not just a back story. I'm afraid I felt just the opposite.

Exactly! I like what I saw of Amy so far, but I feel like we only know adult Amy in relation to the Doctor. Her job exists mostly for a joke. Even during her brief interactions with other people, they almost all mention her Raggedy Doctor obsession. I feel like all we know of her is that she's (a) fiery and tempermental (because she's a redhead, and of course redheads are all like that *sigh), and (b) obsessed with the Doctor, even if trait (a) means that she won't take any crap from him. That's all fine, especially for just one episode, but I do hope that as time goes on we learn more about who she is, and not just how she operates as a foil to the Doctor.
Apr. 5th, 2010 05:45 am (UTC)
I second everything you say about Amy (who I truly hope will start calling herself Amelia at some point), but there were enough flashes of personality from her (which I think come as much from Gillan's acting abilities as from what the Moff wrote for her) that we'll see her as a fully-fleshed person in a satisfyingly short time.
Apr. 5th, 2010 04:27 am (UTC)
I LOVED Matt Smith! He is the Doctor, fully and completely. And the shot of all the Doctors (it was all of them, right?) near the end there? *sigh* I'm such a sucker for that. :)

Amy seems like she's going to be pretty awesome.

But yeah, um, Mr. Moffat? Please don't keep recycling your themes. You've got to be more creative than that... right?
Apr. 5th, 2010 05:47 am (UTC)
Oh, I loved the role call of the Doctors, too. It was such a tip of the hat to history, and a great mark of respect (and yes, indeed, all of them were there.)

I know Moffat is very creative. I think he just ... well, heck, I don't know what he was thinking, but I know he'll be giving us better as the season proceeds.
Apr. 5th, 2010 04:33 am (UTC)
I agree with a lot of what you said here. I... will try to get used to the remixed theme, and the opening in general. But not the best way to start a new episode.

I was REALLY annoyed by the GitF retread-ness, and the OmCom retread-ness, and the repeated warning phrase. I'm not quite as sure as you about Moffat in general, so it was not heartening to have that hitting me in the face.

Still, otherwise, I liked the plot pretty well. I loved Matt Smith within minutes, which I had honestly been expecting, if I'd admit it, and Amy seems cool - as long as the Doctor obsession is sort of a red herring. I don't mind that she doesn't have family, since we've been hearing that she wouldn't, but I do wish her boyfriend wasn't an idiot.

And I wish the version I watched didn't have the BBC Spoil Everything (TM) trailer, but that's not really the episode's fault.
Apr. 5th, 2010 05:50 am (UTC)
We will never not have some network certain that spoilers are the Way To Go, which is bloody irritating, isn't it?

The bothersome thing about Rory's introduction was that Moffat seemed to want it both ways: he has all the building blocks of an interesting character, and then he puts the blocks together to build ... a blockhead. I hope the blocks are put in the proper order in future.
Apr. 6th, 2010 03:55 am (UTC)
The theme. Eek. I've yet to see ONE person who does not hate that remix. What were they thinking? The new opening sequence on the other hand, wasn't half bad.

All the rest of it I agree with, and my squee was pretty strong, but the way the Moff seems to be revisting things is concerning. When Eleven told Wee Amelia that she'd "Had some cowboy's in here" I very nearly face-palmed. That's the same kind of reuse of dialogue that utterly spoiler Forest of the Dead for me.
Apr. 6th, 2010 03:30 pm (UTC)
Hmmm ... I remember the "cowboys" comment and, now that you mention it in connection with reuse, I remember that it was similar to, or used in its entirety, from something else. I can't remember what from, though. Can you tell me?

As for the opening theme music, I believe I saw one — count em, one! — indicating approval. That's sad. Do you suppose they'd ever be smart enough to retool it before the end of this series?

Apr. 6th, 2010 06:15 pm (UTC)
Let's hope so. They had fun shuffling around with it during the Specials anyway...

It's from The Girl in the Fireplace, which makes it especially awful, because I think he says it to young Reinette.
Apr. 6th, 2010 08:32 pm (UTC)
Oh, right. Ick, didn't that actually come when he went into her mind, later in life? I remember thinking, "Wow, are you saying she's undergone some emotional abuse in her past? Are you saying she has wild memories? Or are you just being an insulting git?" Don't know how I'd managed to forget it.
Apr. 6th, 2010 10:36 pm (UTC)
I always figured he meant the clockwork men who had been scanning her brain - because I don't even want to think about any other possibility.
( 15 comments — Leave a comment )

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