James Bond. Jack Ryan. Ronald McDonald. There are only a handful of fictional characters who have survived recasting. But none have done with as many times as The Doctor. Ten times now a new actor has filled the proverbial shoes of William Hartnell, even more if you include Peter Cushing and all the folks who have picked up the baton in the various productions and media.Well, it's all happened again. After David Tennant's run took The Doctor's popularity to new levels, Matt Smith has stepped into the Guinness world record-breaking show. At the same time, Steven Moffat has taken over as showrunner, and with the other changes we'll talk about so we've really got a whole new show all round. Shall we give it a look? Spoiler alerts on, Hawkwing you have a Ten-Fifty, and GERONIMOOOOO!!!!! THE ELEVENTH HOUR
By Steven Moffat
Directed by Adam SmithThe episode starts exactly where End of Time ended - the TARDIS is in flames, spinning out of control and The Doctor, fresh off his latest regeneration is literally hanging on by his fingertips. Specifically, he's hanging OUTSIDE the TARDIS, sonic screwdriver between his teeth, straining to make it back inside before the ship crashes into Big Ben. Dodging at the last second and flying by the seat of his pants, the ship flies into a new title sequence. We cut to a backyard in an English village, with overgrown grass and a old tool shed. A little Scottish girl is getting ready for bed, saying her nightly prayers...to Santa. Thanking him for all her presents and apologizing for waking him near Easter, she asks for help - there's a mysterious crack in her wall that worries her - she can hear voices coming from it when she's alone. She asks for someone to help fix it, just as there's a terrific crash in the backyard. Grabbing a flashlight, she sees a large blue telephone box on its side in the remains of her tool shed. She thanks Santa for his fast service and runs outside. In a nightgown, sweater and Wellies, she investigates the crash - the box is smoking, and the doors open in a plume of smoke. A grappling hook flies out, followed by grasping heads and the sweaty face of The Doctor, who wildly asks for an apple. He manically chats to the little girl, explaining that he fell all the way back to the ship's library, and so had the ship's swimming pool. She's confused, but not afraid. She asks, seeing the word "police" on his box, if he's a policeman. He grows serious and interested, asking if she'd called for one. She mentions the crack, and as he listens, he's racked with spasms, residual symptoms of his regeneration. She asks who he is exactly, and he explains he's not sure, as he's "still cooking". He asks if she's afraid...not of him, but of the crack in her wall. She assures him he can help, and promptly spins around and walks into a tree. In her house, he bites into an apple and promptly spits it out, disgusted. He proclaims that he hates apples, instead declaring he loves yogurt. He apparently doesn't like it for long, as it joins the apple on the floor after it hits his tongue. They go though bacon, beans, and bread & butter until he settles on microwave fish sticks and a big bowl of custard. Finally sated, he asks more about her. Her name is Amelia Pond ("a brilliant name, like from a fairy tale" he says), and they are not in Scotland but England, where she had to move, and she doesn't care for. She lives with her Aunt (she specifically says she "doesn't have" a mom and dad, and is home alone while her aunt is out. The Doctor realizes that she's an amazingly brave little girl...and for her to be afraid of the crack in the wall, it must be quite a thing. In her bedroom, as he examines the wall, Amelia presents him with a fresh apple, one she's cut a smiley face in, as her mom used to do for her. He keeps it for later. He goes on to explain that the crack isn't in the wall, but in time and space itself, like a tear between two areas that shouldn't touch. The other side of the wall holds a prison, one who has lost a prisoner, and apparently a very dangerous one. The Doctor plans to fix the break by ripping it open all the way, hoping it will them snap shut and self repair. And if it doesn't... "You know when grownups say 'Everything's going to be fine' and you think they're just lying to make you feel better?"
"...Everything's going to be fine."He points the Sonic Screwdriver at the crack and it rips open, revealing a gigantic eye and a booming voice announcing "Prisoner Zero has escaped". The crack seals back shut quickly, and The Doctor wonders why the jailer should tell them about the escape...unless... They race into the hallway, and The Doctor starts to look around for anything suspicious. Before he's had a chance, the Cloister Bell begins to peal from the TARDIS, the alarm alerting imminent disaster. He has to make a small time jump to allow the engine to sync up again. Finding out that the big blue box is a time machine, she asks what we all would, if she can come. He tells her it's too dangerous, but after a five-minute hop forward to right things, she can. She watches the TARDIS disappear, and happily runs inside to pack a bag. she fills a small suitcase with her treasures. As she's packing, we realize that one of the doors in the hallway has opened all by itself. Amelia runs outside with her bag a warm coat and hat and waits...and waits. The TARDIS reappears, but it's plain that some time has passed - it's now daytime. He runs into the house calling for Amelia, saying he's figured out what he didn't notice. Prisoner Zero is in the house somewhere, he says. But the house is empty, or so it appears. He looks around frantically for Amelia, but is only met with a cricket bat to the face, dropping him like a sack of batteries. We cut to a hospital where a male nurse has called the doctor in residence to the coma ward. He claims they all started calling out loud at once...for her. And as she scoffs, they all start doing it again, they all begin calling, "Doctor..." Back at Amelia's house, The Doctor awakens handcuffed to a radiator and a policewoman standing over him. She's on the radio calling another for backup. He asks after Amelia, explaining that he had promised to come back to help her. The policewoman looks suspicious, explaining that Amelia hasn't lived in the house in over six months, and that it's her house now. The Doctor is visibly upset, as he'd promised to come back. Back at the hospital, the patients have fallen silent again and their doctor is confused. The nurse explains that more than these events, he claims to have seen the patients up and walking about the village. He tries to show the doctor photos on his mobile phone, but her beeper goes off and she leaves, telling him to take some time off. At Amelia's house, The Doctor asks the policewoman to count the rooms in the hallway they're standing in. She quickly says there's five, but he draws to her attention that there are six. She's being tricked into not noticing one room, the room whose door opened mysteriously as Amelia was packing. The policewoman starts walking toward it, and then to enter it, all while The Doctor warns her not to, bemoaning that he seems to have a face that no one listens to...again. He looks for his sonic screwdriver to open the cuffs, and realizes it must have fallen out of his pocket when she subdued him. She finds it in the room, where it must have rolled under the door, and then rolled up onto a table. She doesn't see anything in the room, which is hardly surprising since it kept her from seeing the whole room. He advises her that the only way to see it is out the corner of her eye, but advises her NOT to see it. And the girl who didn't listen to all the other advice doesn't listen to that bit, and looks a slavering wormlike alien in the face. She races out of the room and hands him the screwdriver, which he uses to lock the door to buy them a moment. The screwdriver is malfunctioning, so he has some trouble extricating himself; the policewoman claims to have lost the key to the cuffs. The door begins to glow and The Doctor tells her to run, as her backup will protect her. She confesses that's she's not a policewoman, she's a kiss-o-gram girl. She takes off her hat, revealing long flowing red hair. The door bursts off the hinges, revealing...a man and a pit-bull. The girl can't figure out how he got in the room, as all she saw was the alien. The Doctor explains that this IS the alien - it's a shapeshifter. She hears barking, but realizes that the MAN is barking. It's one creature - the dog, the leash and the man are all one creature, and in its haste, it's making the barking come from the wrong mouth. The Doctor realizes that in order to create that form, it'd need a mind to use for memories to get the shape from. A quick cut to the hospital reveals that the alien has taken the form of one of the coma patients. The Doctor tries to bluff the creature, but suddenly a booming voice fills the house, warning Prisoner Zero that if it doesn't "vacate the Human residence", the residence will be incinerated. Distracted by the announcement, The Doctor gets the cuffs off and he and the girl escape the house. He tries to enter the TARDIS, but it's locked shut, rebuilding itself inside. He then sees the shed, the one he smashed to bits, now rebuilt and itself quite old, about twelve years old, he approximates. He presses the girl as to why she said only six months had passed when it's more like twelve years, and she screams "WHY DID YOU SAY 'FIVE MINUTES'?" The penny (or whatever currency is used on Gallifrey) drops. This young woman is Amelia Pond, who he left only five minutes before, but ended up leaving over a decade. She's been through twelve years and four psychiatrists of people trying to convince her she imagined the whole even all that time ago. As they run down the street, they realize they keep hearing the booming announcement. It's coming from everything with a speaker - an ice cream truck, earbuds, cellphones, everything. They run into a neighbor's house and learn that the announcement (and the large eyeball from the crack) is on every channel. The lady in the house knows Amy (as she now calls herself), and is surprised to see she was a policewoman ("I thought you were a nurse...or a nun"). She also recognizes The Doctor. She (and Jeff, her grandson) realizes it's "The Raggedy Doctor", who Amy has talked about and drawn pictures and made up stories about all those years. The Doctor somewhat embarrassed, realizes that "The Human residence" is not Amy's house, but the Earth. He figures they've got about twenty minutes before the alien jailers torch the planet to keep Prisoner Zero from escaping. Running down the street, The Doctor take inventory of his tools. They are in Leadworth, a small village about a half-hour from Gloucester by car, containing a post office (closed) a duck pond (no ducks) and no nuclear power station (not even a little one). While railing about the lack of means to defeat an alien invasion, he starts to have another attack due to his recent (to him) regeneration. The sky turns dark, and the sun turns an odd color - in face it's a forcefield set up by the aliens, preluding their destruction of the planet. The village green is filled with people who all begin recording the odd event on their mobile phones, much to The Doctor's disdain. He then realizes, with the help of a delightful matrix-like pan and scan of the green, that ONE person is not photographing the sky, but a man with a dog, AKA the alien. With a bit of a swagger, The Doctor realizes he can save everyone. He gives Amy the choice of running home and wishing her family good bye or helping him. She chooses option "C" - she grabs him by the tie and traps him in a car door. She demands to know what's really going on, thinking this is all some massive practical joke on her. He reaches into his pocket and tosses her an apple. The one she cut a face into and gave him only minutes ago, as far as he's concerned. She realizes he's telling the truth, let's him go and the run into the green. He runs to the odd man out, who is the nurse from the hospital. His name is Rory and he's the "sort-of boyfriend" of Amy. And apparently he recognizes The Doctor as well - Amy and he used to play games about him as she was growing up, games that included him dressing up as The Doctor. Snapping them all back to the pressing matter at hand, The Doctor asks what Rory was doing. He's photographing the man because he knows the man shouldn't be there, as he's supposed to be in the coma ward. As The Doctor confronts Prisoner Zero, one of the alien ships descends from the sky, apparently scanning for the escapee. They can't find him as he's disguised as a human. The Doctor decides to try to wave the ship down with a bit of a light show - using his Sonic Screwdriver, he makes all the electronic devices in the area go haywire, in the hopes of alerting the ship. His screwdriver shorts out and fries, ending the display, and the ship moves on. In the confusion, the alien morphs and flows down a storm drain. With time running out, he comes up with a plan. He races back to the neighbor's house to borrow his laptop, and tell Rory and Amy to get to the hospital and clear everyone out of the ward. Barging into Jeff's room, he grabs the laptop...and tells Jeff to get a girlfriend. He hacks into a global video conference to offer his help. He provides a brief of scientific facts to prove who he is and tells them to pay attention. He writes a computer virus and tells them all to get it sent out to as many people as they can. He hands the laptop to Jeff and tells him to guide them along. He tells Jeff that if he plays this right, these movers and shakers will all be offering him jobs and projects. It's his moment to save the world...as long as he deletes his browsing history first. Rory and Amy make their way to the coma ward floor and find a woman clutching her girls' hands, explaining that a man with a dog frightened them. But when the mother's voice comes out of one of the girls' mouths, they know this is Prisoner Zero in a new form. Chased into the ward, the alien taunts Amy, reminding her that he hid in her house for twelve years and she never noticed. The Doctor arrives in a firetruck, smashing the window with the ladder and climbing in. He asks the alien to drop its disguise and surrender. It explains that this time its jailers (The Atraxi) will surely kill it, so that's a no. The alien seems to know more about The Doctor than it should, namely, that he's a Time Lord. The Doctor tells it to open another crack in space and escape, as it did before - the alien reveals that it didn't do it. But who did? Prisoner Zero is rather surprised that The Doctor doesn't know where the cracks (plural) came from, and starts taunting him over it. Ignoring the taunts, The Doctor glances at the clock and notes that his virus has hit. Across the world, every device with a computer chip is resetting to zero - clocks, LCD screens, news tickers, all reading zero. It's a virus that the Atraxi will notice, a clear message that the Prisoner is hear. They will, he says, track the virus to its source, the phone that The Doctor is holding in his hand. And that phone contains pictures of all the coma patients Patient Zero has been using as cover forms, including the one it's in right now. Prisoner Zero simply says she'll take a new form, but The Doctor says it can't, as it takes quite a long time to form a link with a subject. Prisoner Zero reminds him that it's had years to establish one - with Amy. She drops to the ground as Prisoner Zero forms a link with her, and it transforms into ...The Doctor. To be more precise, it transforms into young Amelia Pond, holding The Doctor's hand. The alien says that's because he's all she thinks about, and he insists it's because she's still a little bit awake. He talks to her, asking her to remember the form of the alien she saw in that missing room in her house. She hears him, and does...and the alien changes form in kind, effectively impersonating itself. It is quickly found by the Atraxi and eliminated. All seems well, the sun returns to normal, but The Doctor's not done. He tracks the Atari's ship and contacts them via Rory's cell phone (apologizing in advance for the bill). He alerts them that Earth is a protected planet and they need to come back and get called on the carpet. The Doctor heads for the roof, but not before finally changing out of the ratty clothing he's had on since his regeneration (and as far as Amy knows, all her life). Heading to the roof with a number of ties around his neck, the Atraxi ship comes down to converse. The Doctor makes a few clear points - the Earth is not a threat to the Atraxi, its people are not guilty of any crime of the Atraxi, and most importantly, the planet is protected. The Atraxi scan the media of the planet and find a montage of aliens who have attacked the Earth, all driven off by The Doctor. There's a quick series of images of all the incarnations of The Doctor, ending with the newest one, who simply says to Atraxi, "Run." And run they do. As they race off, the Doctor's TARDIS key warms up in his pocket, alerting him that its repairs are complete. Before Amy and Rory realize it, he takes off back for her backyard. He enters the TARDIS, amazed by what he sees. Amy and Rory enter the yard just in time to see it fade away. Amy is crestfallen. We cut back to the past for a moment, where young Amelia Pond is still waiting for The Doctor to return, the sun just coming up after her exciting night. She's obviously getting upset, but hearing the TARDIS' old engines makes her look up and smile. We cut back to the present, and we realize Amy is in bed asleep, and is woken up by those very same engines. She races to the window and throws up the sash, and what her wondering eyes should appear is a funny blue box in her backyard. Grabbing a bathrobe, she finds The Doctor standing in front of the TARDIS, apologizing for popping off so quickly. He offers her a chance to come with him, and she can barely speak. The adventures he just had...happened two years ago. Oops. He snaps his fingers and the TARDIS door opens, revealing the amazing sights within. She walks in and can't believe what she sees. She's almost annoyed that he's so sure she's coming, but he gleefully assures her she will. She asks if she can be back in time for tomorrow morning, and he assures she can. She agrees, asking why he chose him. He says there's no reason, but on the small display screen appears...another crack, just like the one on Amelia's wall. She agrees, and they happily fly off together, yearomter madly ticking away. Back in Amy's bedroom, we scan across a huge collection of arts and crafts of The Doctor and Amelia, drawings of the Tardis, a neatly packed suitcase...and a wedding gown. This episode just sparkled. Matt Smith grabbed the role with both hands and never let go. Moffat's plot and dialogue are stellar, both in the dramatic and humorous veins. The new TARDIS set is amazing, with multiple levels and spectacular detail. Everything about the show is shiny and new, and is just dripping with pride and glee. Five minutes in I was tweeting "David WHO?" This is the perfect place to join The Doctor on his adventures, and if you haven't hopped on before, this is the time. Smith's Doctor is gleefully arrogant, reveling in how well his plans come together and absolutely swaggering around the new TARDIS as Amy stands there in her nightie, just as she was twelve years before. Karen's Amy Pond is another of a series of people whose lives were changed by only a brief meeting with the Doctor, including Elton Pope and the members of LINDA from Love and Monsters and the delightful Sally Sparrow from Moffat's Blink. More than the others, he's affected her whole life. BACKGROUND BITS AND BOBS - Trivia and production details CREDITS WHERE CREDITS ARE DUE - The opening credits are at once subtly familiar and wholly different. While last year's theme had a more military sound to them, not it's got an ever-so-slight rock and roll feel to them. The time vortex look more like a column of smoke as opposed to one of energy. I'll be curious to see if the credits do not change as the show progresses - this trip seemed much more chaotic, based on the dire straits the ship was in. (SPOILER ALERT - they don't) ALL IN THE FAMILY WAY - If you found the resemblance between the younger and the older Amy Pond to be uncanny, there's a good reason - they're cousins. From the Scottish side of the family, Caitlin Blackwood and Karen had never met until the first reading for the episode. GUEST STAR REPORT - Matt Smith has only been acting professionally for a handful of years but has assembled a nice collection of recurring roles on British TV series and a spectacularly violent deleted scene in In Bruges. He's the youngest actor to play The Doctor, beating Peter Davison by several years. Moffat reports they were originally looking for an older actor, but Matt walked in and just nailed the audition. Having now seen his work, I can see why. Karen Gillan is also a newcomer to acting, but did quite well on The Kevin Bishop Show, a British sketch show. Carrying on the tradition of pulling regulars from past performers, she played a soothsayer in last year's Doctor Who episode "The Fires of Pompeii" Steven Moffat first offered his services as a writer for Doctor Who at the age of eight, and has pretty much been aiming for it ever since. Becoming an established television writer with the series Press Gang and Chalk, he got to live his dream in an oblique way, getting to write the Comic relief special Doctor Who parody The Curse of Fatal Death, featuring Rowan Atkinson (et al) as The Doctor, Press Gang (And Ab Fab) alumna Julia Sawalha as his companion and Jonathan Pryce as The Master. He's won three Hugo Awards for Doctor Who (out of four successive nominations) and show no sign of stopping now. Annette Crosbie (Mrs Angelo) is a true veteran of British acting, with over 50 years of credits. She was in the recent production of Little Dorrit (As were Freema Agyeman, Arthur Darvill and Russell Tovey) and had regular roles in Hope Springs and One Foot in the Grave. All but unknown in the US, Sir Patrick Moore is one of England's most well-known astronomers, hosting the show The Sky At Night for fifty-plus years. He's written over 70 popular books on stargazing, and is as well known to the UK as Carl Sagan was (And Michio Kaku is) to America. He also has a wry sense of humor - for his 50th anniversary broadcast, he appeared as a Time Lord, claiming to be doing the 100th anniversary of his show in 2057. She only got a minute or so on screen, but did the impersonated mother clutching her children's hands look familiar? Olivia Colman is a regular with comedy team Mitchell and Webb, but you probably saw her as PC Doris Thatcher in Hot Fuzz. THAT'S WHAT TIMELORDS LIKE BEST - Successfully pegged by several online pundits, Steven Moffat has admitted that The Doctor's dietary adventure was inspired by Tigger's first appearance in Winnie the Pooh, in which he claims that a steady string of foods are his favorite, and decries their existence as soon as he tastes them. It's a perfect way to get across the shifting nature of his body, as well as get the series off with some tremendous laughs. WILSON BRYAN KEY, PRAY FOR US - fans of subliminal advertising and conspiracy theories might note that in the montage of electronic billboards in Asia and across the world, the only one that was unaltered and in English (at least in the uncut British copy provided by BBC America) was for Marlboro cigarettes. Yes, I'm sure it was really there and all, but it's the kind of thing they go out of their way to cover up in America. I recall Sony digitally removing ads for competing companies in shots of Times Square in Spider-Man. "I'M NOT DONE YET" - The Doctor's first adventure after a regeneration is usually fraught with confusion and comedy as his friends try to process what they've seen. But this is the first time since the Pertwee transformation that he had to go through it alone. Then he was forced to regenerate by the Time Lords at the end of The War Games and exiled to Earth, where he's found by and later assists UNIT. He has a solo adventure just after regenerating into Tom Baker as well - the TARDIS is seen to be taking off at UNIT headquarters ad is seemingly stopped by Sarah Jane and The Brigadier, but later events show he may have in fact just been returning. It's revealed some time later that while still in the throes of post-regenerative confusion, he came to the aid of the Mordee expedition, botching a repair to their ship's computer that would eventually cause the societal schism that would be shown in The Face of Evil. "IS THIS WORLD PROTECTED?" Of all the monsters featured in the mini montage viewed by the Atraxi, only one is from the old series; the Sea Devils. That's because they'll be returning later this season. "THE PANDORIC WILL OPEN...SILENCE WILL FALL" - We've already gotten some very big reveals as to the season's long-form plot is. The Cracks in time and space are going to be popping up all over the place, and Prisoner Zero's strange threat. The crack appearing on the scanner as The Doctor insists there's no special reason he chose to tale Amy along suggests there might be more to the choice, whether he knows it or not. COMING SOON ON DOCTOR WHO - The montage of teasers includes a number of guest appearances and characters, including the return of Alex Kingston as River Song, Bill Nighy and Toby Jones, and Tony Curran as Vincent van Gogh. A fun year indeed. NEXT TIME ON DOCTOR WHO - Britain in space, mysterious smiling men, Magpie Electricals, and something strange in the basement. And what's with all the glasses on the floor?