Saturday, December 11, 2010

200 Moments: The Eleventh Doctor!


The Eleventh Hour
THE GOLDEN MOMENT: The Doctor invites Amy aboard the TARDIS, surreptitiously turning off the scanner as he does so.
WHY: The whole story has been about the production team convincing us that the dude with the mad hair and the chin is a worthy successor to David Tennant. The story is told almost entirely from the new Doctor's point of view. We're as bewildered as he is when WPC Stripper beats him up with a cricket bat, or irritated at everyone else in the village knowing who he is, frustrated at the stupidity of the Atraxi, and betrayed when the TARDIS and sonic screwdriver break down. The Doctor is our audience identification character just this once, not the beautiful redhead or her gormless boyfriend who both like dressing up for their own kinky amusement. And now the Doctor is declaring the official end of the Gap Year by getting a full-time companion. Ah, but Amy's hiding something, like she always does, and we/the Doctor are asked to wonder what the hell she's covering up now. We barely notice the Doctor switch off the TV with the crack on it, and those that do assume that - like Eight or Ten before him - the new Doctor is ignoring the story arc to bite him in the ass in the season finale. Or is it? As the said season finale screens we find out the Doctor was deliberately scanning the crack and keeping Amy around to examine further. Suddenly his awkwardness about being lonely (an explanation we'd taken as absolute gospel fact) is no longer straightforward. Suddenly, we're not inside the Doctor's head any more. We're in a new TARDIS with two new travelers that don't yet quite trust each other... or us.

The Beast Below
THE GOLDEN MOMENT: Amy tries to tell the Doctor about how she's fled her wedding and it reminds the Doctor of how he fled Gallifrey.
WHY: Whenever I visualize the Doctor's past on Gallifrey, it always defaults to the incarnation who mentioned said past. I don't think of William Hartnel in long dusty Time Lord robes, I think of Tom Baker at the back of the lecture hall, mocking Borusa and chatting to Drax. I think of Jon Pertwee's disintegrating friendship with the Master. Colin Baker awkwardly trying to get the Rani on a date. David Tennant bouncing Susan's mother on his knee. Paul McGann on a hillside with his dad, watching fireworks. Sylvester McCoy sneaking into Vaults and nicking every Gallifreyan superweapon not nailed down. And now I can't see any Doctor but Matt Smith stealing the TARDIS that first time, because he could, because he wasn't ready for life as a grown-up, because he was scared what would happen if he stayed. "Hello," the new Doctor says, confirmed in my mind as the Eleventh in the way no amount of returning monsters could achieve.

Victory of the Daleks
THE GOLDEN MOMENT: The Doctor totally loses his control and physically attacks the "Ironside" Daleks.
WHY: Steven Moffat noted that it would be all-but pointless to try and reboot the Whoniverse when he took charge, since it would take much more time to explain that everything was now different rather than putting faith in the audience to have some short term memory. But, in that macheviallian Scottish brain of his, he's come up with an idea to use that - the Doctor is the same one who lived through the RTD era. But everyone else has been rebooted. So when the Daleks start acting like servants to the British army, it's not like Power of the Daleks - there the Doctor and his companions knew the tin gits were up to something, and the Daleks were constantly panto-ing it up and rubbing their protuberances with glee that any moment the carnage would begin. But here, the Daleks' performance is perfect. Winston Churchill knows for a fact they're robots. And Amy, who's faith in the Doctor has been dented by fourteen years of disappointment, sides with the Paisley scientist who built them, having no memory of Journey's End. Maybe - just maybe - the Ironsides are innocent. Maybe the Doctor's wrong. Either way, he's got no one on his side, his own allies refusing to believe his claims, and the nasty suspicion the Daleks are going to destroy all civilization. And the Doctor totally loses it, screaming, spitting and resorting to mindless violence. His screams for the Daleks to exterminate him aren't suicidal grief like his last two bodies, but a psychotic desperation to prove himself right and that the Daleks are a threat. But the Daleks simply offer him more tea, and Amy and Churchill begin to wonder how much of a "madman in a box" the Time Lord really is...

Flesh & Stone
THE GOLDEN MOMENT: Believing her hand is turning to stone, Amy decides to stay and face death at the hands of the Angels. The Doctor proves her mistaken by biting her still-flesh-and-blood hand.
WHY: Poor Amy Pond and her suicidal death wishes. They've been there all the time, of course - consoling Bracewell that she knows how it feels to want to blow your brains out, killing herself and her baby rather than living without Rory, not to mention all the times she deliberately walks straight into danger. Having been robbed of her parents and the Doctor, it's a miracle the self-destructive wise-cracking babe isn't in a padded cell somewhere. Yet here is the first time the Doctor ever gets a hint his new friend might be tired of life, as she calmly resolves to die, saving the Doctor so he can fulfill his destiny with River Song. It's notable that in the last three adventures, the Doctor had almost no interest in Amy's safety, but from hereon in she's his number one priority and woe betide anyone that tries to hurt her. And how does he rescue her? He bites her hand with his amazing Space Teeth. Amy's noble resolve vanishes into a whinge about how her hand hurts, focussing on this minor triviality instead of her life being saved. The Doctor and Amy are two of a kind: they don't like to dwell on the big picture, and they do it the most exciting and hilarious ways possible.

The Vampires of Venice
THE GOLDEN MOMENT: After negotiating with the Saturnyans, the Doctor declares all-out war against the fish-vampires without the smile leaving his face.
WHY: Never has the Doctor's reputation as a goblin or trickster felt more appropriate. Having somehow penetrated the enemy base and sitting on the throne like he owns it, he begins flirting outrageously with his mortal enemy... who, in turn, begins flirting right back with him. Pausing only to work out a few piddling plot details, the Doctor learns that innocent Isabella is now fish food. "I'm a Time Lord, you're a big fish... think of the children!" the Doctor says lustfully. "This ends today. I will tear the house of Calveirri stone by stone. And you know why? You didn't know Isabella's name." As the Roger-Delgado-esque Stewart tries to escort our hero off the premises, the Doctor viciously shrugs him off, not even looking at him. "Take your hands off me, Carlos," he said pleasantly, and strides out of the palace without looking back. It's no wonder the forces of this universe and many others come to fear him and will unite against him...

Amy's Choice
THE GOLDEN MOMENT: The Dream Lord mocks the Doctor when they are alone in a stolen van, racing to rescue Amy and Rory.
WHY: It should be one of the Doctor's most heroic deeds. He's stuck in what is almost certainly a dreamscape, but is using precious time to save the lives of Leadworth villagers who probably aren't even real, putting all his faith into the Ponds' ability to survive. Surely not even the Dream Lord can undermine this moment? "Is 'friends' the right word for the people you acquire?" he jeers. "'Friends' are people you stay in touch with. Your 'friends' never see you when they grow up. The old man prefers the company of the young, does he not?" It's a nasty twist on the RTD view that the Doctor need companions to function, taken to the extreme the Doctor discards companions when they become cynical and independent - and while it will take some time, the Doctor will prove the Dream Lord wrong by giving Amy and Rory the life they've dreamed of, but they'll still want to travel with him. The most hideous of all insults thrown at the Doctor ultimately becomes his greatest triumph.

Cold Blood
THE GOLDEN MOMENT: Silurian Malokeh reveals what he's really been up to.
WHY: Sounding a bit too much like "Mengele" to be comfortable, this black-aproned, white-coated Silurian with with the surgical mask and the disturbingly huge drill has clearly been the scariest monster in the story. Poor Amy strapped down, about to be "dissected" by the creepy, scapel-weilding maniac... and they we find out he's got a small boy wired into the system too. But as the situation calms down, the evil scientist reveals he's just been studying life on Earth, ensuring that none of the subjects are harmed in any way, and is horrified at the idea people think he's been cruelly experimenting on innocent people. Elliot's dad realizes his paranoia was unjustified and, with one more connection made between homo sapiens and homo reptillia forged, the Doctor and Malokeh do a funky high-five hand routine. "Malokeh, I rather love you!" the Time Lord beams. The nastiest monster was a big softy, and one to be mourned almost as much as Rory when he stupidly gets himself shot dead later on...

Vincent and the Doctor
THE GOLDEN MOMENT: Vincent sketches their foe for the Doctor and Amy... casually destroying one of his paintings in the process.
WHY: Brian Epstein once bemoaned his memory of watching John Lennon crumpling up song lyrics he'd been working on and throwing them into the fire without anyone else ever getting to see what he'd written. Who knows, maybe those abandoned tunes could have been amazing... but at the time they were just scribbles filling up notepaper. They were nothing. And Vincent van Gogh thinks of his paintings at that moment as nothing more than canvases taking up valuable space at his house. Even though they've just fought an invisible giant chicken, the Doctor and Amy are horrified as Vince smothers a painting with a layer of fresh paint. Miss Pond cannot even summon up a wisecrack. Once can only imagine how poor Dr. Black would have reacted to this destruction. It just goes to show that anything can become the most important thing in the world, and sometimes we're lucky enough to see them in that particular context.

The Lodger
THE GOLDEN MOMENT: Craig discusses the unofficial house rules with the Doctor.
WHY: With his naive and childlike charm, the "weird and can cook" Doctor has convinced Craig to let him stay in the spare room. "My door, my place, my gaff!" he laughs. "If you ever need me out of your hair," Craig adds knowingly, "give me a shout." Craig winks and the Doctor nods and winks back. "Why would I want that?" the Doctor whispers conspiratorially. "Well, in case you want to bring someone round, a girlfriend or a boyfriend..." The Doctor nods. "Oh. I will, I'll shout if that happens. Something like 'I WAS NOT EXPECTING THIS!!!'" And our hero not only proves that he's unaffected by the new Straight Agenda, but he puts as much effort into appearing normal as he does as bluffing his way as an inspector on an Earth colony or a visiting ambassador from the Federation: ie, not quite enough.

The Pandorica Opens
THE GOLDEN MOMENT: The Doctor eulogises Rory Williams, but the love of his life has no idea who the Time Lord is talking about.
WHY: Despite all the bollocks about people who falls through the cracks ceasing to never have ever existed, it's quite clear that the unfortunate souls simply... stop. After all, if Amy's parents were wiped from history, Amy wouldn't be here, would she? But she is, and thus simply can't remember who they were or what they were like - but she can feel their loss. The Doctor isn't just trying to get her to remember her dead boyfriend, but also the family torn away from her that have left her endearingly eccentric and suicidal. "People fall out of the world sometimes, but they always leave traces, things we can't account for - faces in photographs, half-eaten meals, luggage... rings. Nothing is ever forgotten." Amy stares at the engagement ring for a moment. "So," she says with forced-cheer, "was she nice?" The Doctor face-palms, his attempts to get her to remember Rory leading to a half-assed Rose Tyler Nostaliga moment he'd often have with Martha J. Comedy is, after all, tragedy happening to other people, which makes Amy one of the most powerful comedy characters of all time.

The Death of the Doctor
THE GOLDEN MOMENT: Sarah tells Clyde and Rani about the other companions of the Doctor she has researched.
WHY: In the 1990s, fandom became a miserable bunch. What, thought we, was the bloody point? Suddenly, any companion and every companion had to suffer as much as us, if not more. As Doctor Who had wrecked our lives, so must the Doctor have ruined his companion's lives! The published fiction of the time became almost dedicated to having the Doctor bump into old friends who wished they've never met him - particularly if you were Peter Anglihides! Tegan is a bitter spinster with huge mental problems, Zoe is a brain-fried loser in a dead-end job, Sarah Jane Smith is an antisocial recluse churning out potboilers to a small fanbase... As the 21st century began, the BBC books campaigned to actually kill off all the companions they could, from Dodo to Harry to Ace and all points in between. Pick a companion and they've had a rubbish life since leaving the show - from Romana rotting away in a Dalek cell for 20 years to Mel being stabbed to death for the crime of being too annoying. In one sequence, RTD brutally decanonizes a dozen ranges of spin-offs and, in the antimatter opposite of Children of Earth, gives us an ending that's not only happy but gives us hope for the future.

The Boy Who Saved The Proms
WHY: For those who wish for some impossible dream where Christopher Eccleston had stayed as the Ninth Doctor for more than one year, they would have been deprived of so much. Eccleston's Doctor may have been gritty, dark, Northern and interesting, but he certainly wasn't a hero to children. Would any child want to travel with a man who would abandon them to dissection or maroon them in the past for failing to meet his often-hypocritical standards? Would you trust him to keep you safe, let alone defeat the monsters? You couldn't even sit in a cafe without the fear he'd run up to you and steal your stuff without so much as a word of warning. And you definitely wouldn't be able to have the Ninth Doctor running around an audience with a thermonuclear bomb and a toothbrush desperately looking for someone better qualified than him to defuse it - in short, a six year old up for some fun and games. Tom Baker famously noted that the role of the Doctor was actor-proof and anyone who could deliver the lines and not bump into the monsters would be brilliant at it. But that's in a TV studio: live in a moment of complete and chaotic improv, Matt Smith shows why Moffat was right to kick out the rest of the "respectable" thespians and stick with the drunk giraffe with the hair of an idiot, resulting in a piece of mad on-the-stop extemporizing that looks for all the world as though every word has been scripted, debated and rehearsed. If the Ninth Doctor asked you to put a wire in your mouth that could kill you and thousands, would you do it? If the Eleventh Doctor asked you? Hand me the psychic thread, dude!

A Christmas Carol
WHY: The Young Ones did it. Double the Fist did it. Kasabian did it. And now Doctor Who does it. This will live in history. Oh, and yeah, I haven't actually watched the damn thing.

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