As I write this, The Doctor Falls aired two days ago. In fact, two days ago, we were 15 minutes into the episode (and it was amazing – but more on that in good time).
I’ve got a mega-summer this year, following the torment of exams, so, I decided that now would be the perfect time to begin a Moffat era marathon, running throughout the summer and into the Autumn, so I can watch The Doctor Falls on Christmas Eve, before the Christmas special airs on Christmas day.
This has been an era of the show that a lot of my growing up has happened under, and so I am very much looking forward to looking back over it from a critical point of view, and more importantly a personal point of view, before it all ends this Christmas!
So, back to the beginning, with The Eleventh Hour…
It’s really, *really* good.
And you’ve got to admire the fact they actually pulled this one off.
I mean, Moffat basically is Eleven in this scenario, and his team are Eleven’s team. You’ve got to remember that the show faced cancellation at the end of Russell T Davies’ era. Moffat was lucky to get a go in the first place. And so this whole scenario is a new era facing judgement. The BBC and the Viewers, or the Atraxi, is looking at the show, or humanity, and is going to judge it for whether it’s good enough or not.
Moffat turns up with nothing, apart from Matt, Karen, Arthur, Piers and Beth and the rest of the crew, and he has to make this show good enough for the judgement of the BBC and the Viewers. Eleven has no sonic, no TARDIS, nothing apart from Amy, Rory, Jeff, Patrick Moore and his gang, and he has to save the world from the judgement of the Atraxi.
And they both pull it off. Moffat pulls it off spellbindingly, delivering a perfect script, I mean I am in awe of how sleek and tight a script it is. The cast do it magnificently. Murray is astonishingly good, as per usual. Adam Smith’s direction is fast paced, clever, quirky. Meanwhile, Eleven concocts the perfect plan, Rory’s got his camera phone, Amy dreams of the Atraxi to unmask it, Jeff is on his laptop and talking to Patrick Moore so they can send the computer virus – they all come together to win.
They both turn this nothingness they’re faced with into something magnificent. They both pull it off, and they both do it perfectly. And I mean perfectly.
I’m gonna talk about growing up in a minute but I love how Moffat has made this story feel sort of half-cooked. I love that Moffat deliberately writes Eleven as Ten at times – “you’ve got some cowboys in here”, and Eleven does several Ten-esque stunts (elegantly jumping over fences – unlike Eleven, who would be stood around fumbling before falling over them). It provides a new spin on regeneration that we haven’t really seen before – because we have a Doctor who isn’t going through a crisis or anything, but we have a Doctor of which the ghost of the previous incarnation is shining through, until the climax when we definitely know that this is the Eleventh Doctor now, basically, run. And the story is similar, in that it’s simple, RTD-esque, 20 minutes to save the world. Except it’s warped, we’re looking at that RTD narrative from a new angle. We’re looking at it from an angle where the companion has met the Doctor as a kid, where the setting is a small village. In one of his Eruditorium pieces Sandifer refers to Series 5 as a cracked mirror of an RTD series and I agree with him, especially here. It’s an RTD era story, an RTD era opener, but warped. It’s great.
Now, as I’ve grown up, this is a story that has come to mean a lot more to me I think than it ever did on first broadcast. Because this is a story about growing up and the demons of that – Amelia is just a kid at the start, and not only do demons literally slither into her house in the form of Prisoner Zero, but she’s forced to grow up. She’s dragged into the grimness of the real world, told that stories and dreams aren’t real, and made to conform. Amy’s story has had a lot of resonance for me for a multitude of reasons which will become clear over the course of this marathon, but one of those aspects I’ve always related to, several years down the line of first broadcast, was her troubles in growing up, and that difficulty of finding contentment in reality.
It’s especially powerful because I originally saw this as a kid, and experienced it as Amelia, with eyes full of wonder and a love for fairytales. I even planned out my own Doctor Who series as a kid! I wrote stories about it (never really grew out of that one), I drew pictures, did comics, etc. I had this whole fictional universe in my head that I could escape to. Amelia a child experiencing Doctor Who. And now I experience it as Amy, as someone who has been turned deeply cynical and miserable at the world and the horrors that come with it. Someone who has been forced to conform, but with reluctance and still with that refusal to conform completely.
The key comes in the fact that Amy is still Amelia at heart, she may have lost that innocence and naivety, she may now be cynical, but she’s now an adult experiencing Doctor Who. She hasn’t given up on hope or optimism yet – she hasn’t given up on Doctor Who. Even when she thinks the Doctor (the show) left her behind, she always, always hopes, even when it’s buried deep inside her and it seems as if all hope has been lost. Those intrinsically Who-ish qualities that Amelia learned about still live with Amy, albeit in a very different form.
And Amy turns to stories. The story of Doctor Who. She resents the cynicism and conformism that was imposed upon her and runs from her adult life and all her responsibilities, back into the hope and optimism she had as a child, and now it burns as brightly as it did back then. Because at this point, Amy hasn’t learned to reconcile her anxieties with fairytales, and so she does the only thing she can and she flies into her own, real life fairytale.
Amy’s childhood through adulthood is unconventional in that it’s also the transformation of a younger viewer to an older viewer. And her fairytale is being able to fly with Doctor Who, and she gets to live that. And isn’t that the fairytale of all Whovians? And that’s why it has doubly resonated with me, because not only does she run from her anxieties, she runs from her anxieties to a fairytale that she loves and that I personally love as well.
As I say – that’s something that I’ve come to realise as I’ve grown older. And I feel more connected to this tale than I did as a kid. Because I’ve loved it for as long as I can remember, I’ve loved the action, the monsters, the music, the Doctor being epic, ever since I was a kid. But watching it now, I have that new angle. I have Amy’s angle, not just Amelia’s. I’m seeing it from Amy’s eyes.
And as this marathon progresses, I look forward to running from the world with them all, in this most wonderful fairytale.
The Eleventh Hour – 10/10