The BBC’s Doctor Who is the longest running science fiction television series in the world. It began in 1963 and ran uninterrupted until 1989; in 2005 the series was revived. Surprisingly I was never a fan of Doctor Who, in spite of my innate tendency toward this type of show, but the 2010 relaunch has brought me into the “Whovian” fold. Just as Star Trek fans are referred to as “Trekkies” or “Trekkers”, apparently Doctor Who fans are known as “Whovians”. Who knew?
The enigmatic Doctor is the last of his kind, an alien being called a Time Lord. As such he can regenerate his body into an entirely new one when near death, but the process is tricky and unpredictable. This transformation passes his memories from one incarnation to the next, but the genetics of his body put unique personality quirks on how he behaves. He travels in a device called the TARDIS, which can move through time and space, thus providing limitless options for stories.
Matt Smith stars as the new Doctor, presumably on his tenth of twelve possible regenerations if the modern series stays in keeping with the show’s original run. The first episode, “The 11th Hour“, begins immediately after his regeneration from the previous actor, David Tennant. The resulting energy released caused damage to the TARDIS and it crashes in the back yard of a home within a small-contemporary English town. The Doctor is found by a little seven year old girl, Amelia Pond.
Amelia had been getting ready for bed, and praying that someone would come to fix the crack in her wall. As the Doctor adjusts to his new body, Amelia helps prepare several meals for him which are comically discarded. During their food escapades the Doctor observes that this little girl is not afraid of him, or of being left home alone, but the crack in the wall frightens her.
He discovers the crack is actually in the universe itself, a dimensional doorway that an alien called Prisoner Zero uses to escape to our world. Before he can devote his attention to finding Prisoner Zero, the Doctor must stabilize the damaged TARDIS. He tells Amelia he must hop five minutes into the future, but inadvertently comes back twelve years later. Amelia now calls herself Amy, and works as a “kiss-o-gram”, much to the Doctor’s dismay. Prisoner Zero is still hiding in her home from a race of beings called the Atraxi, that have now found Earth by following the Doctor. So without the aid of the TARDIS or his Sonic Screwdriver, which is sort of a Time Lord’s Swiss army knife, he must find Prisoner Zero, and save the Earth from incineration by the Atraxi. If this all sounds absurd, it is a tad but it never plays that way.
The episode is brilliantly executed with stellar performances, and a wonderfully composed musical score. The new production team, and cast make this a pilot episode for an existing series, which is a rare occurrence. “The 11th Hour” is the perfect starting point for those unfamiliar with Doctor Who, and also the perfect continuation of the Time Lord’s adventures. It immediately sets the tone and direction, and provides a great introduction to the Doctor’s newest travel companion. The episode eludes that Amy, and the cracks in reality will be the center of this series’ overall story arc. A series that may be the best yet, if this episode and the series trailer are any indication.