TV REVIEW Doctor Who 5.01 “The Eleventh Hour”

Doctor Who 5.01: “The Eleventh Hour”. It’s back, it’s different, and it’s wonderful

Writer: Steven Moffat
Director: Adam Smith

THE ONE WHERE: The TARDIS hurtles into sleepy Leadworth, where a newly regenerated Doctor is soon embroiled in the mystery of Prisoner Zero…

VERDICT: An episode ablaze with confidence, subtly shifting from the cinematic verve of the Russell T Davies era to a quirky new flavour. There’s certainly a pinch of The Avengers in its landscape of an impossible England, all village duck ponds and bright red telephone boxes. And while Moffat’s universe is in many ways a lustier one, populated by kiss-o-grams and internet naughtiness, its chiefly ruled by a children’s storybook sensibility. There’s something lovely about the TARDIS nestling at the bottom of a midnight garden, at one with the fairies while owls hoot, branches shiver and boring old grown-ups remain asleep. There’s a newfound magical lushness to the night photography here. It’s an episode that perfectly understands the way children perceive the Doctor, too, halfway between Santa and an imaginary friend, dining like a king on fish fingers and custard. You can imagine kids being gleefully complicit as the Doctor hurls perfectly fine food into the night with a contempt usually reserved for school dinners. Elsewhere there’s a touch of Sapphire And Steel, mining shudders of menace from a simple crack in the wall of a suburban home. As it’s Moffat it’s all infinitely quotable, naturally – though the wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey reference feels a little self-conscious – and delivers a truly iconic image in the giant eyeball peering through the splintered wall.

STAR TURN: Matt Smith owns the role from the opening moments, so much so that the nostalgic montage of previous Doctors that crowns his debut almost feels like a belated, redundant affirmation. Sure, there’s the occasional echo of David Tennant in his line delivery and some Troughtonesque body language, but overall it’s a unique new take on the Time Lord, whether hungering for apples or boyishly hi-jacking a fire engine – loveable, off-beam, with tantalising hints of a deeper agenda behind that charmingly wonky exterior.

STAR TURN 2: A strong debut from Karen Gillan, too. She proves a terrific foil for Smith, whether flirtily eyeing up the new Doctor or smacking him with a cricket bat, Ace style. She’s good with the physical comedy, too – blink and you’ll miss the throwaway moment where she struggles with her woefully impractical skirt as she tries to keep up with a hurdling Time Lord.

THE JOY OF SETS: That new TARDIS interior is gorgeous. Like a giant game of Mouse Trap.

TRIVIA: Monocle-bothering astronomical treasure Sir Patrick Moore was previously namechecked by Rose Tyler in series one episode “Aliens Of London”.

TRIVIA 2: Leadworth? Why, that’s any anagram of “Dr Who tale”…

MMM SEXY: Amy Pond in sauced-up policewoman’s kit. As respected biologists ZZ Top once noted, she’s got legs – and she knows how to use them.

DID YOU SPOT?: The Doctor half-inches his wardrobe from a hospital, just like his Third and Eighth incarnations.

HMMM: Moffat is clearly seeding a crafty series arc with Prisoner Zero’s declaration that “The Pandorica is broken. Silence will fall.” And there’s obviously more to Amy Pond – and that mystery crack in her aunt’s house.

BEST LINE: The Doctor (to Amy): “You’re Scottish. Fry something.”

Nick Setchfield