It's been too long since we last had proper Doctor Who. I don't mean to dismiss the specials that were broadcast sporadically over 2009, it's just that real Doctor Who belongs in the Saturday tea-time slot, and should appear in that slot punctually for thirteen weeks in a row. When that rule is broken, it's never quite the same.
The Doctor is back with a new body, this time that of Matt Smith, a young actor wittily referred to as a 'Time Lad' by the press. Smith is brilliant, and has blown away all the fears I had upon learning of his casting. He's quirky in a dazed, muddled sort of way loping around and gazing at his surroundings as if he's seeing the world for the first time.
All his senses are new to him again, something particularly well illustrated when young Amelia Pond obediently fetches him a variety of foodstuffs - from apples to baked beans - only for him to spit out the half-chewed food in disgust. It would seem the new Doctor is somewhat picky when it comes to his meals.
Amelia Pond is the first character we see, a little girl with flaming hair and a Scottish accent who is praying that Santa Clause (at Easter, by the way) will repair the crack in her wall. You see, Amy's would very much like the voices that can be heard through her wall to stop.
The Doctor, her knight-in-blue box, promptly arrives in her garden and gets on the case, sealing the crack before rushing back to his time machine. He tells Amy he will be back for her in five minutes, before climbing back into the TARDIS and disappearing. Amy races off and packs a suitcase, pulling on a coat and a hat before returning to the spot where she last saw the Doctor. She sits on her suitcase, waiting for a saviour who never comes.
Fast-forward twelve years, and the TARDIS appears again in exactly the same spot. The problem with time-travel is that its generally quite disorientating for everyone involved. When the Doctor comes face-to-face with Amelia Pond in the form of a leggy strippogram, he is understandably confused.
The central plot of this story - The Eleventh Hour - is quite slim and is undermined by some poorly realized special effects. The CGI has a watery look to it, and the central monster of the episode is a giant eye that travels by snowflake. The main strengths here are Steven Moffat's breezy, hysterically funny script and the acting from Smith, Gillan and Caitlin Blackwood, who plays Amy Pond as a young girl. All three are nothing less than fantastic, embodying their characters eccentricities and frustrations to a tea.
There is a wonderful fairy-tale atmosphere throughout. The run-down garden the TARDIS materializes in at the start of the episode looks like it might harbour a legion of fairies, and the quintessentially English village of Leadworth that forms the setting for the episode makes a refreshing change from London. There is heavy stereotyping going on (quaint post-office, thatch cottages, everyone knowing everyone else) but stereotypes do exist for a reason and although my experiences as a country-dweller differ, I can allow Mr. Moffat a measure of creative license.
The episode ends with Amy's joining the Doctor, entering the TARDIS as the episode reaches a crescendo of joy and excitement. The last shot is a slow pan over Amy's room. It starts off by showing Amy's childish drawings of her and the 'Raggedy Doctor' she had adventures with in her imagination, before the camera tilts up to reveal a wedding dress. If it wasn't excessively lazy to recycle titles, 'The Runaway Bride' would make a great title for episode two.
Bring on next week, and the true start of Amy's adventures.