Doctor Who: The Eleventh Hour
(1 episode, s05e01, 2010)
Is this planet protected?
Before we get there, where were we? Oh, yeah…
In 1996, a young girl named Amelia Pond prays to Santa Claus on Easter about a crack in her wall. When she asks for help to fix it, the TARDIS crash lands on her garden shed. Amelia ventures out to investigate and is surprised when the Doctor pops out of the time capsule with a grappling hook, having just climbed up from the library and now craving an apple.
He has a momentary spasm and breathes out a stream of golden regeneration energy. Despite still “cooking”, he promises to look at the crack in the wall. But first, food.
Apples? No good.
Yogurt? Same result.
Beans? They’re evil.
Bread and butter? Better as a frisbee.
Fish fingers and custard? Perfection.
While the Doctor enjoys his new delicacy, he asks Amelia about her family. She has no parents, but lives with her Aunt Sharon. Her aunt is away and, as the Doctor notes, she’s quite the brave girl.
The Doctor ventures upstairs to look at that crack. Funny thing about that crack is that it would exist even if the wall was removed. It also has a voice, one which repeats “Prisoner Zero has escaped.”
He promises that everything is going to be fine before opening the crack with the sonic screwdriver. What he finds on the other end is a giant eyeball that sends him a message on the psychic paper before sealing the crack again. The Doctor muses about Prisoner Zero escaping through the crack into Amelia’s house, but before he can find it out of the corner of his eye, the Cloister Bell sounds. The Doctor rushes to the TARDIS to stabilize the engines. promising that he’ll just hop five minutes into the future to fix the issue and will be right back.
Amelia doesn’t believe him. Everyone says that they’ll be back, but they don’t come back.
As the TARDIS vanishes, Amelia runs up to her room and packs a bag. She runs downstairs (past the door that wasn’t open a second ago) and waits in the garden for the Doctor to return.
The TARDIS returns, with smoke pouring out of it in the broad daylight. The Doctor rushes in to find Amelia and Prisoner Zero, but instead takes a cricket bat to the face.
At a nearby hospital, nurse Rory Williams summons his supervisor, Dr. Ramsden, to inform her that every patient in the coma ward is asking for her. They all call out in unison: “Doctor!” He also shows her evidence that the coma patients have been walking about the village. She tells him to take some time away, starting now.
The Doctor wakes up chained to a radiator and facing a police officer. He asks the officer about Amelia Pond, but the officer tells him that she moved away six months ago. The officer calls for backup while the Doctor asks her to count the number of rooms on the floor. The officer counts five rooms, but the Doctor proves that there are six. The extra room is guarded by a perception filter, and the officer goes to check it out while the Doctor protests.
He asks her to find his screwdriver, which has now entered the room and jumped up on the table. Prisoner Zero stalks her around the room, but the Doctor tells her not to look at it. Unfortunately, she looks it in the eye and rushes out. The Doctor works on the handcuffs with the sonic screwdriver while the officer reveals that she’s really a “kiss-o-gram”.
The door opens to reveal a man with a dog. The same man is in the coma ward at the hospital. As the Doctor and the woman stall for time, a voice announces that the house is surrounded and will incinerate the house if Prisoner Zero doesn’t surrender.
The Doctor and the woman run for the TARDIS, but the time capsule is still rebuilding. The Doctor spots the garden shed and realizes that he’s not five minutes in Amelia’s future. In fact, he’s twelve years late, and the woman is Amy Pond.
As they move through the village, they find that everything with a speaker is repeating the same message: “Prisoner Zero will vacate the human residence, or the human residence will be incinerated.” They rush into the nearest house, which belongs to Amy’s friend Jeff Angelo and his grandmother. There they discover that the message is being broadcast worldwide in every human language. The Doctor also finds out that Amy has been drawing the Doctor – the raggedy man – since she was a child.
The Doctor deduces that they have about twenty minutes before the Atraxi arrive and destroy the world. Sure enough, there’s a fleet of giant eyeballs in orbit.
The Doctor is not amused when he finds out that he’s effectively trapped in Leadworth. He also notes that he’s still cooking and not yet ready to tackle this emergency. Regardless, as he looks at the villagers all watching the sky change through their mobile phones, he notices Rory taking pictures of Prisoner Zero instead of the sky.
He also proves to Amy that he is the Doctor by handing her the apple with a smiling face that she gave him moments before he left her over a decade (or half an hour, depending on your point of view) prior.
With Amy on his side, the Doctor is introduced to Rory. He learns that Prisoner Zero is using coma patients – its kind needs a psychic link with a dormant mind – and signals the Atraxi with the sonic screwdriver. Unfortunately, the Doctor overloads and destroys the screwdriver before the Atraxi notice, so he’s forced think of another way to solve the problem in the next seventeen minutes.
Meanwhile, Prisoner Zero heads back to the hospital and kills Dr. Ramsden as she tries to rouse the coma patient.
The Doctor returns to Jeff’s house and takes his laptop to break into a conference call among the world’s top scientists. He proves his intellect by producing multiple scientific theories – including the “real” proof of Fermat’s theorem, which is the formula for faster-than-light travel – and a joke, then uses Rory’s phone to write a “slightly intelligent” virus that will turn every digital display in the world to “zero” at the same time. Basically, causing a worldwide inconvenience.
He uploads the virus to the internet, gives Jeff’s grandmother astronomer Patrick Moore’s phone number, and then advises Jeff to erase his internet history before the world notices him.
The Doctor rushes to join Amy and Rory at the hospital. Amy has used her kiss-o-gram police uniform to get past security, but encounters Prisoner Zero in the guise of a mother and twin daughters. The Doctor comes to rescue in a fire engine, breaking the ladder through a window and climbing into the coma ward.
The Doctor faces off against Prisoner Zero, learning that the cracks are spread throughout the universe. The Pandorica will open and silence will fall. Sounds ominous.
The clocks on the wall click to zeroes, sending a message worldwide to the Atraxi that Prisoner Zero is at the source of the computer virus, which is Rory’s phone. The Doctor reveals that he’s uploaded Rory’s photos of the coma patients, so Prisoner Zero shifts into the Doctor’s form with young Amelia through the psychic link with Amy.
The real Amy falls unconscious, and the Doctor speaks to her about the room with the perception filter, asking her to dream about it. When she does, Prisoner Zero’s true form is revealed and the prisoner is captured.
The Doctor then summons the Atraxi, telling them that they violated the Shadow Proclamation by threatening to burn a Level Five planet. He changes clothes, stealing them from the hospital like two of his predecessors, then heads to the roof.
The Doctor confronts the Atraxi as he finishes dressing, asking them a simple question: Is this world a threat?
The answer is no.
Are the people of the world guilty of any crimes under Atraxi law?
Is this world protected?
By whom? Oh, hey… it’s the Doctor.
He warns them to run, so they do. After the Atraxi leave, the TARDIS key glows and the Doctor rushes back to his blue box. When he enters he finds a whole new console room. He takes off to break the new time machine in, leaving Amy and Rory in the garden.
He returns as Amy dreams of being abandoned in the garden as a girl. The problem is that he’s been gone two years. She’s been dealing with abandonment issues for fourteen years. Despite that, he asks Amy to join him in the TARDIS to explore time and space.
She declines at first, so he shows her the console room. It’s a bit of a haphazard mess, but it’s still bigger on the inside. Despite still being in her nightie – there are plenty of clothes in the wardrobe – the Girl Who Waited agrees to go with him so long as the Doctor gets her back tomorrow “for stuff”.
Time being relative on the TARDIS, that shouldn’t be a problem, but the Doctor has a long history of missing the target.
The Doctor tells her that he needs a companion because he’s lonely. He also has a new sonic screwdriver (grown or built by the TARDIS, even) and is a Madman With a Box. With the ominous crack appearing on the scopes, the new pair bid farewell to Leadworth and hello to everything.
Oh, and that “stuff” for tomorrow? Yeah… Amy’s getting married. Presumably to Rory.
I love how whimsical young Amelia is, and I especially love how she maintains that whimsy into adulthood. All too often, kids have that wonder and eccentricity beat out of them by the systemic rigors of school, work, and growing up. But in Leadworth, thankfully, that’s simply not the way.
It’s obviously a defense mechanism for her, possibly to shield separation and abandonment anxieties based on how easily she spools out the line about how everyone says that they’ll be back, but they don’t come back. That led to one of the most heartbreaking moments in this entire episode as young Amelia Pond sat on her luggage in the cold garden and waited for her Raggedy Man to return.
The symbolism is not lost on me: Amelia prays (the Doctor is often referred to as a sort of god figure emerging from the TARDIS, a literal deus ex machina) to Santa Claus (a figure known for bestowing gifts and charity upon the deserving, much like the Doctor among those he meets) on Easter (a religious holiday centered on rebirth and resurrection). The fact that she asks for a policeman is just icing on the cake.
The scene that I come back to quite frequently is the “Hello. I’m the Doctor” sequence. The holographic projections of the previous ten (known) incarnations of the Doctor set the stage perfectly, almost like poetry, for Matt Smith to snug up his bow tie and set himself in the name.
I love seeing which images the producers select for scenes like this, but the Doctors flash by very fast. The creatures, on the other hand, include Cybermen, Daleks, a Pyrovile, the Empress of the Racnoss, the Ood, the Hath, the Sontarans, the Sea Devils, the Sycorax, a Reaper, and a victim of the Vashta Nerada.
Finally, the new title theme was a bit off-putting at first, but I know from experience that it will grow on me. It’s quite the change from the variations from 2005 through 2009.
Even though the rules for the Timestamps Project allow for a +1 handicap for regeneration episodes, this story hardly needs it.
Rating: 5/5 – “Fantastic!”
UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Beast Below
The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.