Doctor Who, Eleven For Eleven: The Best (And Worst) of the 11th Doctor

“It all just disappears, doesn’t it? Everything you are, gone in a moment, like breath on a mirror. Any minute now, he’s a-comin’.”

“Who’s coming?”

“The Doctor.”

“You–you ARE the Doctor.”

“Yup. And I always will be. But times change, and so must I.”

The Doctor discards his favorite fashion accessory. The next man won't be needing this ...

On Christmas Day, two ongoing sci-fi stories I, perhaps foolishly, genuinely care about — two sets of characters and events and interesting things that exist only in our imaginations — were radically altered. Well, at least for the foreseeable future. One, which I’ve already talked about, is being shifted and changed around for a spell, a bit, an intriguing moment before, I hope, correcting its course and soaring for a new and interesting and transformative future. Not that I believe that’s really going to happen, but as I’ve often said, Hope Springs Eternal.

The other, however, which I’m going to talk about today, is forever changed once again. An era has ended, a hero has left the stage, and it seems unfortunately bow ties are no longer cool.

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Doctor Who, Eleven For Eleven: Closing Time

“What the hell are you doing here?”

“Oh, I’m the Doctor, I work in a shop now, here to help. Look, they gave me a badge with my name on it in case I forget who I am. Very thoughtful, as that does happen.”

There are times to get all bent out of shape over problems with plot, and logic, and diminishing returns, and other niggling concerns, and then there are times where it makes a lot more sense to focus on the positives of a story, the things that do work, the things that make the story enjoyable despite all those nagging flaws. The time to get all bent out of shape over the problems is when those are the chief elements on display, such as in a story like “Let’s Kill Hitler,” one of the big continuity episodes. “Closing Time,” Gareth Roberts’s sequel of sorts to last year’s “The Lodger,” is no such beast; the plot is a secondary concern to watching Matt Smith’s extra-alien Doctor once again invading the life of James Corden’s Craig Owens, this time during an all-important weekend where Craig is supposed to prove to his family and friends that he can take care of his baby Alfie on his own. Unfortunately, this also coincides with a Cyberman invasion from beneath a department store — not their finest hour, but it’s pretty much just an excuse to keep the Doctor around and give him something to do when he’s not tormenting Craig with his ability to speak baby, quiet less developed life forms with a mere “shush,” and the fact that everyone still seems to really, really like him. Again, you’ve probably already seen it, but if you haven’t, spoilers do follow. Continue reading

Doctor Who, Eleven For Eleven: The God Complex

“The rooms have … THINGS in them.”

“Things? Hello! What kind of things? Interesting things? I like things. Ask anyone.”

“Bad dreams.”

“Well, that killed the mood.”

If modern DOCTOR WHO episodes were judged solely on the basis of how much they felt like classic DOCTOR WHO episodes, “The God Complex” would the king of the Eleventh Doctor stories. Certainly there are thoroughly modern elements to the story, most of all the deconstructionist climax and the heartstring-tugging ending, but the mystery, the setting, the use of a mythological story as a backbone, and the endless corridors are all very much in keeping with the formula of classic WHO. However, what puts it in the running for best of the season, to my mind, is the way the classic elements of the formula are executed, not just in a more modern way, but with such panache. And yes, while I’m coming to this a few weeks late, I will warn you on the off chance that you missed it, spoilers do follow. Continue reading

Doctor Who, Eleven For Eleven: The Girl Who Waited

“I got old, Rory. What did you think was going to happen?”

“Hey, I don’t care that you got old! I care that we didn’t grow old together.”

In which one of the turns of phrase the show smugly pats itself on the back for is co-opted for a bit of glum drama in which an old lady spends twenty-some-odd minutes grumbling and snarling at her two dearest friends and acting as a bit of a plot obstacle. There are certainly things to recommend “The Girl Who Waited,” like the fantastic scenic design both spare and lush, standout performances from the two regulars who AREN’T Matt Smith, and some nifty slow-motion swordplay. It also affords us another deeper look at the characters of Rory and Amy, why they’re together, and how deeply they care for one another. Really, you put all this together and it’s clearly a very good episode. It just doesn’t strike me as one I’d be fired up to revisit any time soon; there’s no clever hook, there’s no moment that got punching the air. I admire the hell out of it, and the ending is punch-to-the-gut painful in the best dramatic fashion, but I don’t see myself watching and rewatching it the way I’ve already done with “The Doctor’s Wife” and “A Good Man Goes To War.” Then again, I do find myself liking it more on the second watch — I’m writing this as I make my way through it the second time — so this may change. Certainly I see myself watching this a third time over giving “Let’s Kill Hitler” its second proper viewing. As always, spoilers follow. Continue reading

Doctor Who, Eleven For Eleven: Night Terrors

“You’re supposed to be a professional! I’ll never get him to sleep now! You’re so — irresponsible!”

“No, Alex. Responsible, very. Cupboard bad. Cupboard not bare. Stay away from cupboard. And there’s something else, something I’ve missed, something … staring me in the face.”

This week, the Doctor gets a distress call from a young boy named George who’s terrified that monsters are going to get him. All his life, his parents have been putting the things that frighten him into his cupboard. Given that it seems that everything frightens George, that’s got to be one full cupboard. So the Doctor drops in and has two tricks to pull off: first, win the trust of George’s dad, Alex, and second, figure out what’s in the cupboard and how to deal with it. A relatively straightforward little DOCTOR WHO adventure, just the sort of thing to rinse out the bad taste “Let’s Kill Hitler” left in my mouth. I think it says something that I couldn’t even fathom sitting through “Let’s Kill Hitler” a second time but I’ve watched “Night Terrors” twice. I could probably sit through it a third time. It’s no great shakes, but it’s a satisfying forty-two minutes of Matt Smith being charmingly eccentric and director Richard Clark shooting the eerie hell out of one of Mark Gatiss’s better DOCTOR WHO scripts. Again, spoilers follow. Continue reading

Doctor Who, Eleven For Eleven: Let’s Kill Hitler

“More guilt! Come on, there must be someone left in the universe I haven’t screwed up yet!”

Interesting, mostly fun, a little bit disappointing but a lot surprising: that’s how I’d describe “Let’s Kill Hitler,” the mid-season premiere of DOCTOR WHO’s thirty-second proper season-slash-series. After a cute opening that introduces an obnoxious new character who seems strangely familiar, the TARDIS crew winds up going along with the plan outlined in the title, only to get things a bit wrong and get sidetracked by some very classic-WHO-on-a-good-budget sci-fi stuff that’s wandering around World War II-era Berlin, as well as the resolution of some of the lingering business from the spring. That’s one thing I didn’t really expect: some closure. As always, spoilers follow. Continue reading

Doctor Who, Eleven For Eleven: A Good Man Goes To War

“You make them so afraid. When you began all those years ago, sailing off to see the universe, did you ever think you’d become this, the man who can turn an army around at the mention of his name? Doctor: the word for healer and wise man throughout the universe. We get that word from you, you know. But if you carry on the way you are, what might that word come to mean?”


So it all, up to this point, comes to this: a kidnapped Amelia Pond, trapped on an asteroid occupied by a mysterious military force. The Doctor, being the Doctor, has a plan to rescue her, and it involves unleashing some serious wrath on the cosmos. Continue reading