Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Eleventh Hour - "Everything's going to be fine."

The Eleventh Hour (TV story) - Tardis Data Core, the Doctor Who Wiki

Series 5, Story 1 (Overall Series Story #203) | Previous - Next | Index

"Hello. I'm the Doctor. Basically ... run."
Hip deep in "Trial of a Time Lord" at the moment, so taking a break while waiting on the next disc to come to revisit the beginning of Matt Smith's run. I don't know about you, but for me, the lingering image from this story is that moment when Eleven steps through the projected image of the Ten and symbolically emerges as the new Doctor. (The definite article, as it were.) Yes, there's the famous fish fingers and custard moment and, of course, it's also largely about meeting Amelia Pond ... but all that other stuff takes a back seat to that moment, that (none too subtle but oh so effective moment) where Matt Smith assumes the mantle and owns it.

Or, is that Moffat's moment? I mean, sure it's Matt that steps through and adjusts his bow tie, but this is the beginning of the Moffat era as well, not just the Smith, and the former is going to outlast the latter, and in terms of redefining the series, it's the questions about Moffat's vision that, I think, will give fandom more to chew on (and disagree over) than the generally well-liked, if not quite as much as Tennant, Matt Smith.

For instance, there's a weird sort of tension on display where the story feels more like a fable or a fairly tale than a science fiction show, but not a fable for kids. It's a got a kid in it, sure, but she grows up pretty quick (in screen time) to a rather attractive young lady with a dubious job.  Is the show going to become too ... fantastic, in the being made of the elements of fantasy sense ... and is it too sexy for younger audience? Not that I've got a problem with Amy Pond's short skirt, but her job -- kissogram?! -- and her skipping out with the mysterious young bloke the night before her wedding, her psychiatric treatment, are these signs that she's a bit cracked? Perhaps a result of being disappointed by the Doctor as a young girl? Or being orphaned and left in a house with a dangerous alien prison escapee all those years? Are we supposed to be wondering if she's damaged? And then wondering if the Doctor is supposed to be fixing her? And, if so, isn't that a bit sexist/paternalistic? Just need competent fella to come along and straighten out the mixed-up little girl?

Cracks start appearing, the Pandorica and the Silence are mentioned/prophesied by Prisoner Zero.
Amy, she's going to be just fine. Sure it gets a bit rough, she gets put through the ringer and zapped back in time and all, but you know what I mean. She remains feisty.  With benefit of hindsight -- having seen the Doctor's tomb and knowing that he leaves behind a scar, not a body -- we can reflect on the damage the Doctor does just by being the Doctor, by traveling through time trying to fix things but sometimes mucking up before setting things right, or resetting the whole universe and whatnot. (And, because I've been watching "Trial of a Timelord," I can't help but think the Valeyard was such a rubbish fool. If he'd wanted to build a case against the Doctor from the vantage point of his existence, he could have made a much more credible case just from the history that was available up to the time of the Sixth.) Anyways, Moffat's much more interested in the unintended consequences and the price of the magic.

There's that wonderful moment in "Pyramids of Mars" where Four tells Sarah she just doesn't understand the burden it is to be a Time Lord who walks in eternity no less, and I wonder if maybe the best part of the Moffat vision of the show is we grok that pretty thoroughly thanks to him; but, if it's maybe not also to detriment of the legacy he's leaving that (1) we pretty much got that in spades from Davies's run already, and (2) that Four had Sarah Jane behind him, rolling her eyes and mocking him, and Amy and Clara aren't his "best friend"s in quite the same way.

Sarah Jane wasn't a perfectly designed character, in fact, the more I read About Time the more some obvious oddities that'd escaped my notice leap out. I'll credit Lis Sladen's endearing portrayal for my glossing over them rather than chalk it up to my own blockheadedness. Please don't read this as "Oh, it was so much better back in my day, these new companions can't hold a candle blah, blah, blah," because I really do think we've had an extraordinary run of talented actresses playing intriguing characters that have had much more to do than the classic series companions did. It's just that I'm also concerned about how pointed and well-argued some of the feminist critiques of the Moffat era in particular, are. The show feels much more professional, competent, and serious this time around. Not that it's without whimsy, certainly not, just that it takes itself, and its mission of being whimsical, a bit more seriously.

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