Sunday, 4 April 2010

In praise of Doctor Who Eleventh Hour

Last night I watched Dr Who The Eleventh Hour on a hastily arranged TV in the venue I was about to perform my Socks show in. I loved it. Best 1st episode ever, I would contend.

An awful lot of plot to squeeze into an hour, and in many ways it was Moffat's most Russell T Davies-ish story. Big alien invasion, new companion, running round big villages rather than being in his usual claustrophic spaces, and a plot involving the entire world coming together to save the day. But unlike the similar RTD plots, all of Moffat's plotlines are resolved, all the questions are answered, and when you get the answer, you are satisfied.

I loved RTD, he revived Who, he constructed it as an engrossing soap opera that would draw in young, old, male and female viewers alike, and he found the best writers and allowed them to flourish. What I always had a problem with were elements of his writing which could be characterised by the phrase "Oh, that doesn't matter" or "they won't notice that" or even "I'll explain later."

Though some of my favourite Dr Who shows come from RTD and result from the unfettering of his brilliant imagination - Gridlock, Midnight, Turn Left and Love & Monsters are works of genius that no-one else could have come up with. And he was the master of The Moment, little exchanges between characters that you could watch 100 times (The Doctor and Rose discuss their future in The Impossible Planet, Rose & her Mum discuss Rose's future in Army Of Ghosts), or big page turner moments (I Am the Master, get out of the way, Barcelona, the lines are endless) or big impressive images (from The Face of Boe and the dozen aliens he squeezed into End Of The World's first crowd scene onwards) and cracking concepts that go beyond common sense in a good way (a while planet stuck in a traffic jam? an alien that's just some words repeated? The whole of history changed because you turn left instead of right?).

But it was RTD's plots, and the resolution thereof, that always frustrated me. A premise would be set up, an element introduced, a trap set, a puzzle raised, and then at the end of the episode it would either be forgotten, or solved in such a disappointing way as to make you feel the plot had been made up as it went along. From makey-uppey toys ranging from Anti-Plastic to Ozterhazen Keys, and of course the cure-all magic wand that was the Sonic Screwdriver and psychic paper, to plot elements that didn't even merit the word Maguffin (the worst being Donna, in the End Of Time, who mustn't remember anything at all, ever, or her head will explode destroying the entire universe, when in fact all that happens in the three people standing next to her fall over.)

RTD was also guilty of hitting the reset button and pretending that everything had never happened. The Master takes over the world, shoots the president, and it takes a whole year for Martha to get everyone to say the Dr's name, which somehow turns him into a god for a minute. Then the button is reset and we forget it all. The same in Journeys End where everyone pilots the Tardis home, a second Dr is sent off to another universe with Rose, and no-one remembers the planet moving. And once more with End Of Time, same schtick. Same memory schtick. It started to devalue the currency.

But with Moffat the opposite was the case. His plots are so tightly constructed that you could hit them with a hammer and they'd ring like a bell. Whether his characters and their relationships will prove so realistic, so captivating as RTD, is the test we await. Certainly last night he pulled on the heart strings with 7 year old Amelia, and delivered some killer relationship lines ("Why did you say five minutes?" being the best of a good bunch), killer comedy lines ("Beans are evil. Bad bad beans"), and a magnificent twist with the final shot of the episode. But are his characters in danger of becoming inhuman cyphers serving his plot? Let's see.

For now, I am so enjoying the plot so far, and its punched-up dramatic moments, that I'm happy. Watching the episode a second time I found moments I'd missed the first time, all of them good, none of them throwaway (I'd missed the point of the "look in the mirror" line when Amy has to be reminded she's in uniform, and forgotten the importance of the people Rory is photographing on his phone).

I am also the biggest fan of Moffat's use of reincorporation. He will introduce an element in the conversation, steer everything miles away from that idea until you've forgotten it, then bring it back to perfectly tie up the point that we started at. Good examples of reincorporation in 11th Hour are "must be a very scary crack in your wall", "Duck", the apple, and he'll trust the viewer to solve these little links in their own mind, secure in the knowledge that no random element appears in a Moffat plot without it having some purpose that will be revealed later. Why is Rory trying to show the other Dr in the hospital the photos on his phone? Why are the coma patients all calling for a Doctor? How many doors were there on the first floor when we first saw it? All good questions, all answered by the end.

And who didn't love seeing all 11 Doctors in one big on-screen montage? I believe the appropriate word to say at that moment is squeee. (And don't think we fans missed the significance of the Dr stealing his outfit from a hospital - again.)

"Now, basically, run!"

Keep it up, I'll be back for more next week.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...