The 11th Hour (a Dr. Who Review)

deviant art/dtd studios

Long time readers of the blog know two things about me, if nothing else, 1. I am a huge Dr. Who fan who watches from both a fan and academic perspective and 2. I oppose the tweening of SciFi, including Dr. Who.  While I oppose the tweening of Dr. Who and other SciFi shows, I have seen every episode of Dr. Who, found things to like in some of the lesser seasons, and overlooked how poorly the low budget translated in the first season of the Dr. Who reboot, all because I truly love the mythos and the magic of the show and because I have the privilege to do academic work on it as well. So, you should know that I watched the 11th Doctor’s debut with the same fan energy and intellectual commitment as I would any other.

The Plot

Matt Smith as the new Doctor, is still transitioning from his former self. As such, he is having a hard time controlling the TARDIS and other well known devices (ie the screw driver). However, time does not wait for a Time Lord to sort things out, so the Doctor finds himself in small town England discovering the prison break of a dangerous alien through a crack in a young Scottish girl’s wall while he is still transitioning. As the episode unfolds, the Doctor moves in and out of Amelia Pond’s life, with little regard to his impact on her, while trying to stop the escaped alien’s guards from incinerating Earth.

BBC 2010

The Good

Karen Gillan does a great job as companion, Amelia Pond. She brings a nice mix of dead pan/incredulity and excitement to the role. Her cynicism, born out of unintentional abandonment by the Doctor when she was a child, seems much more palatable than that of Donna Noble. While Tate’s Noble was often judgmental and grating, Gillan comes at Pond’s cynicism from a place of hurt that wants to heal. And while both characters embodied a healthy modern interpretation of how anyone would react to the Doctor, Gillan’s character also lacks the sometimes questionable crassness of Tate’s choice in her role as Noble. This is important not only for the longevity of the character but also because of the sometimes negative stereotypes about the working class that Gillan’s Pond seems to shed.

For me, it was also a nice nod to Doctor’s past that Pond is Scottish and allowed to speak with her Scottish accent. While it may just represent the shift to a Scottish producer, ie Moffat, one needs only ask how many people in the Whoniverse have had to stifle their accent to get the job done to know this is an important shift in the ethnic representations of the show. One quibble, however, is that Gillan’s accent fades in and out throughout the episode. At some points her accent is thick enough that some N. American audiences will have trouble understanding her and at others she sounds English. Given that Gillan is in fact Scottish, the shifts feel very odd. They also represent a very minor indication of a larger problem with directing in this episode: often, the decisions the actors make seem to be completely without direction or directed by someone whose vision needs more editing.

The Bad

BBC 2010

The plot of “The 11th Hour” is essentially rehash of several different Dr. Who episodes with a dash or two of Torchwood ones. There is nothing new nor fresh about the escaped alien prisoner and the possible explosion of the world. In fact, I think one of the first Tennant episodes covered the same territory early in his time as the 10th Doctor. Worse, according to the “First Look” information, Moffat came up with the idea based on the combination of wondering about what caused a huge crack in his son’s wall and curiosity about what one sees or misses out of the corner of their eye. I don’t know what is worse, Moffat’s insipid inspiration or the fact that he thinks this rehash was born solely out of it. Given that Moffat wrote some of the most moving episodes of Dr. Who and that he is a long time fan of the show, I expected so much more from his first time at the helm.

despite tagging on this image, the real copyright belongs to BBC 2010

In keeping with the tweening of the series, I think this is the first time the show has every wasted 10-15 minutes on toilet humor. While many of the Doctors have included transition jokes, like spitting out food they once liked or mocking the clothes they once wore, Moffat has Smith tasting an endless supply of increasingly liquid based foods and then spewing them out from different camera angles. He is aided in this stupidity by the young Amelia Pond, who is there to remind us: this is funny. Perhaps this kind of humor is entertaining in the genres Moffat is more familiar with as a writer, but in Whoville it plays like a bad episode of Pee Wee’s Playhouse minus the irony and wit.

No one watching the episode with me laughed. In fact, the combination of a young amused child and an adult behaving like a two year old with his food made everyone at my house question the taste level of season 5. It did not help that the background music to these scenes was the same cartoonish score they use in children’s programming … I’m not sure any adult watching was particularly interested in seeing Smith spit out his food over and over again, but I feel fairly certain no one was entertained by him finally settling on yellow pudding spooned into his mouth with fish sticks. As the father of a young child, Moffat may have been nodding to new parents, but let’s be clear, that is not his demographic. Intimately tied to the poor directorial decisions in this episode is the potential to alienate true Dr. Who fans in order to get younger hipper ones. (And can I just say, I resent that fans are characterized as neither young nor hip in these decisions?!?) Worse, none of this inane behavior is tied back to the plot with the exception of an apple he rejects at the beginning of this farce.

That Face, London’s Royal Court 2007

Also in keeping with the tweening of the series, Matt Smith’s Doctor Who is given to vernacular. At one point, near the end of the episode, he throws up his arms and shouts “whose your daddy?” While even the characters around him frown with disdain, the fact is they put in the script and the show. Something that clearly is meant to stick is Smith’s constant thumbs up to both the camera and the people around him when he talks. It’s an affectation that both annoys and speaks more to the age of the actor than the remaking of the character. His other references are a little less well known, and some involve unsuccessful, or banal, gay innuendo.

Moffat is straight and it sho. Davies introduced us to a mainstream SciFi world in which sexuality was fluid and characters identified across the spectrum. In Davies’ Whoniverse, characters who had picked a team were still at ease switch hitting or at least flirting with the idea. It made the series hot without resorting to typical sexist and otherizing gazes that permeate Moffat’s new world order. Surprisingly, given that Moffat gave us the first incarnation of Captain Jack Harkness, Moffat’s Whoniverse is a landscape in which Davies’ well scripted fluidity falls flat. While many of the jokes are at no one’s expense, they are executed by Smith in such a way as to permanently cement the character in a heterosexist narrative. The circulation of images of Smith from his outstanding role as Henry in That Face, a play about a confused young man, sexually molested by his mother and forced to wear her dresses, are misleading at best. The PR machine hopes that the sight of Smith in a dress will call up the playful goodness of both Tennant and Barrowman and ensure that those of us who are drawn to the queering of scifi will come a running. The reality is, that Smith looks no more comfortable in a dress in these shots than he does making gay innuendo in The 11th Hour, nor, at least in the case of the former, should he, since the decision to put him in a dress is not his own. Effectively playing opposite transmisogyny and homophobia is not the same thing as being able to embody sexual ambiguity or effectively convey insider humor. You don’t have to be gay to get it but you do have to be able to act beyond the basics.

Similar failures can be found in the handling of women in this episode. There are two women besides Pond, one of whom is a woman of color. The women of color, an Asian, plays the stereotypical role of dragon lady doctor. The other woman, an elder, fulfills the same role most non-main character elder women have on who, i.e. the quirky busy body who recognizes the Doctor immediately.

While Pond is a strong and funny woman with a mind of her own, the character also embodies several female stereotypes. As a child, she unquestioningly allows a stranger into her home and cooks him a number of meals without question. Despite being young, she is at ease in the kitchen. Smith’s Doctor is comfortable allowing her to stand on tiptoe to heat his food rather than help or do it himself. In fact he orders her around like she was made to cook and serve him. As an adult, Pond is a “kiss-a-gram” worker, which I can only assume is the tweened up side of sex work. Despite the fact that we are supposed to believe Pond is a Police Officer, she is in a uniform with shorty shorts and fishnet stockings with the proverbial line up the back of each leg. The camera makes sure to give us several long slow shots of her legs in these first reintroduction scenes, lest we miss it. And Pond wears this outfit throughout the episode despite it being inappropriate for the amount of running she needs to do. If you look at the image at the start of this section, you will see Gillan running while trying to hold the shorts down so as not to flash anyone. It’s insulting.

Thai Soldier

In fact, many of the early reviews have had little more to say about Gillan or Dr. Who than that they are “sexy.” SciFi Wire’s review is almost entirely about Gillan’s fishnet stalkings and the long slow shot that introduces them. Other reviews have been illustrated by similar montages to the one above, which was taken from a review that mentioned nothing else but Gillan’s “sexiness.” Not only does this behavior prove my point that Pond’s intelligence is overshadowed for many viewers by the objectifying camera gaze and costuming, but early releases of other shots of Gillan’s wardrobe imply that her skirt length will likely always be this high. Like many young actresses weened on a watered down version of “girl power” Gillan sees using sex appeal on the screen as empowering. When she is the one making the costume decisions, determining the angles at which she is shot, and how she embodies the character, she is absolutely right. As a femme, I could not possibly argue that being in control of one’s sex appeal is anything short of powerful. My concern here however is that Gillan is not the one making these decisions nor are they being made to increase the character’s power or depict female sexual power in general. Instead, Gillan’s gams, wide eyes, and fiery hair, are being used to bring in the pre-teen male viewer. Her body has been part of the marketing campaign to get people to watch the first episode and her costumes are part of the ploy to keep them watching. Why not trust that Gillan is an outstanding actress and market her as such? Why not trust that Dr. Who has a loyal following that would watch, and has watched, some very unattractive people in major roles on the series? These are the questions I think we need to ask about gender while watching this latest incarnation of the show. Moreover, they are questions that I think run markedly counter to previous visions for the show, especially with regards to the sort of feminist revamp of the companion role in it.

It should be noted that the gaze is supposedly shifted when the Doctor changes his clothes near the end of the episode. In a particularly homophobic moment, Pond’s boyfriend freaks out about Doctor Who changing his clothes in front of them and demands he stop. The Doctor simply tells him to turn around if he is bothered, which he does amidst loud proclamations of disgust. Pond, on the other hand, stands there drinking it in with a wide smirk on her face. Rather than subversive, this scene serves two purposes: 1. to once again cement the overarching heterosexist vision of the new series and 2. shift criticism of the sexist cinematic gaze by equating Gillan with the viewer. The problem with the second, is that there are no accompanying slow shots of Matt Smith’s body to objectify him nor his potential objectification steeped in oppressive gender norms. Put another way, he is an object for a brief moment and only to Pond, while Pond is an object for anyone interested throughout the episode, in the marketing campaign, and possibly throughout the season.

In Style Magazine/unattributed

When Pond signs on as the new companion, she is not allowed to pack her own things like other companions. The Doctor simply tells her, there’s plenty of leftovers in the TARDIS for her to choose from. This episode was full of leftovers, the female companion should not be one of them.

Moffat also fails to adequately address the transition from Tennant’s broken-hearted refusal to have a companion in the last season to Smith’s open search for one. Pond asks the Doctor why he wants her to come with him and he responds by saying he was lonely and had started to talk to himself. The Doctor had been lonely for quite some time and that did not seem to matter. Worse, the previous Doctor had spent a considerable amount of time considering the impact of his presence on the women around him. This first episode of the 11th Doctor was defined by this same preoccupation, the Doctor drifts in and out of Amelia’s life irreparably changing who she is and how people see her, and yet he is the only one who does not seem to notice. He does not ask her what has happened to her since his last visit on either return. When he finds out that she has been forced to go to a series of mental health providers and mocked by townspeople, he neither apologizes nor attempts to rectify it. There isn’t even a moment when he stops to think about what he has already done to her life in the context of his promise to never disrupt another companion’s life again. And while we are all clear that the Doctor could not possibly keep from causing disruption in people’s lives, and that he is better with someone than without them, it does an extreme disservice to this storyline to have the 11th Doctor not only fail to recognize his impact but to appear indifferent to it in the face of some serious consequences.

When he whisks her away, he doesn’t even bother to find out if she has other plans, and in the ultimate rehash, it turns out she does: like the other red-headed companion of late, Amelia Pond is joining the Doctor when she is supposed to be getting married. The mix of old storylines and new anti-introspection bravado is one of the largest disappointments of the series next to the fish stick pudding stupidity. While the Doctor is supposed to be new each time, there is no reason to write in so much old information only to leave it unresolved. From the failure to address his impact to his ignoring all the references to Pond’s crush on him,  this Doctor’s self-absorption insults the storyline to date and fails to reflect the critical lessons he has supposedly learned. Again this is a failure on the part of both directing and writing, either give us a new Doctor divorced from past issues or deal with his past in a legitimate way. At the very least, direct Smith to look tone down his mania and look introspective in these moments.

dtd studios 2009

Finally, my opinion of Matt Smith as the Doctor remains on shaky ground. According to one of the people who watched the episode with me, Matt Smith’s performance “was so over the top” and annoying. It was as if Smith had watched Tennant at his most manic and turned it up 20 notches. He was in constant motion throughout this episode in ways that were dizzying rather than plot related and he also delivered most of his lines in a yell that was meant to convey urgency and really just came across as loud. While Tennant’s babbling and occasional grandiosity were endearing, precisely because they were meant to highlight the strange and “human” parts of Dr. Who, Smith’s seems like a bad parody for the Graham Norton Show. It grates early and often.

At least one of my companions walked out based on the combination of the food scene and Smith’s performance and another said several times that he would not be watching again as long as Smith was in the role. (Smith has a 5 year contract, so that is a really long time to not watch.) For my part, I tried to remember something Tennant himself had said about a photo from his first episode, “Oh yeah, that’s me doing my best impression of Eccleston.” In that episode, Tennant seemed oddly out of place as well. He still wore Eccleston’s signature leather jacket and tried to strut around the way Eccleston had. It was only in the second and third episodes that Eccleston’s ghost wore off and Tennant’s new version of the Doctor came to life. At the time, I remember worrying that Tennant was the wrong choice for the role; looking back on it, I think his ability to both embody Eccleston and make that embodiment seem strange and wrong, was an early sign of his genius. While I can’t say that Matt Smith is that kind of genius, his performance was clearly a parody of Tennant and did show signs of recognizing the subtleties of human interaction and the compassion that makes the Doctor so magnetic, even if those signs were rare and fleeting. If both Smith and the director can move away from the mania, I do think he has a chance to make the character his own and to give us something worth watching. My viewing companions, disagree.

Conclusions

Ive seen some really bad episodes of Dr. Who over the years, so it would not be fair to say this is one of the worst one’s I’ve ever seen. What I can say is that it was both insipid and insulting on multiple levels. The writing had little to no redeeming qualities and the plot had even less. The acting was uneven, with the supporting characters far outshining the main one. Both sexism and heterosexism seeped into this episode in complete defiance of the standards previously set. And yet, Gillan’s performance and Smith’s mostly hidden, but still slightly visible, potential make me want to give it another go.

Moffat is best known for his comedic writing and I think that is going to work against him here. However, he is a life long fan of Dr. Who, who has written several introspective and powerful episodes of the reboot in his time. I believe he can give us a brilliant new Doctor if he tries. Perhaps all he needs is for the acting, writing, and directing teams to gel. For now, belief in the franchise is all that will be bringing me back to watch the show next week that drove other fans watching in my house out of the room (and in one case to drink).

You should note, other people really loved this episode and their reviews are available online for those looking for a contrasting opinion.

46 thoughts on “The 11th Hour (a Dr. Who Review)

  1. now that the series has ended, I wonder if you thought that overall structure bore some relation to the novel Lolita, with the dream sequence in Upper Leadworth (drab existence, married, pregnant, dead), standing for the end-piece of the novel?

    • It has been more than 20 years since I read Lolita & would not be comfortable making specific comparisons given significant age differences & less significant relationship differences in the characters; but I do find your question intriguing.

      My final verdict on the show was that it was a loud and clumsy march toward Moffat’s immature (as in developmentally out of step w/ his age not “childishness”) need to proclaim his takeover of the show & distinguish it forever from his predecessor. It seemed like a pissing contest in which the absent player had previously won & Moffat was rewriting himself as victor. But more on that in a post perhaps.

  2. sorry Prof. Sussuro – I meant the form of the novel, not the content – that would be ghastly. It struck me well before the final episode, and just about held true at the end, although not quite in the way I thought it would. I don’t know if you’ve seen it all yet, so I can’t say any more.
    Take your point about Steven Moffat – there’s a scene in The Pandorica Opens where the Doctor is railing against his assembled foes – reminiscent of the first episode, and it’s easy to substitute the dialogue – “I’m Steven Moffat, I can do what I like!” (etc)

    • Yes, I was thinking of that scene myself as well as the dual montages (the doctors melting into Smith episode 1 & then the flash of all of them again in the final episode)! It’s all so much posturing.

      You’ve intrigued me with the Lolita question; I’ll be doing some thinking on that …

    • I think you missed the point of my critique which was about heterosexism not heterosexuality. See the excerpt from the post below where I spell that out:

      Moffat’s Whoniverse is a landscape in which Davies’ well scripted fluidity falls flat. While many of the jokes are at no one’s expense, they are executed by Smith in such a way as to permanently cement the character in a heterosexuality and a heterosexist narrative … You don’t have to be gay to get it but you do have to be able to act beyond the basics.

      • admittingly, i did have to read the extract 4 and a half times just then to understand what it said (all work and no tea makes melissa a something something). But, atleast i understand what you mean now. The whole equality thingy is not as well expressed as in other british dramas, but no use crying over spilled milk.

        btw, it’s very clear that you’re smart…maybe put some jokes in your blog every now and then? a pun perhaps?

      • Melissa my blog is analytic in nature but there are several puns through this space, many times I actually write after them “pun intended”

  3. I don’t mean to be rude, but I personally love Doctor Who and Matt Smith and I feel that you didn’t really get the point as far as Doctor Who needs to change and appeal in the new mainstream of media to survive as a long running t.v. show. Matt Smith is a wonderful addition to the Doctor Who line and I feel he keeps it going as well he needs to. He has huge shoes to fill coming after David Tennant and he’s trying the best he can to keep the Doctor Who legacy running. Though I do agree about Amy Pond being a very stereotypical woman, she’s not very modest after we’ve had Rose and Donna on and as we’ve all seen ratings didn’t drop when they were covered up. They don’t portray her character very well, and personally she looks like a skank and the only downside to Matt’s Doctor is that he doesn’t make her change. We remember back to the first season of the new Doctor Who when the Doctor made Rose change. But, I do love Matt Smith and he doing a wonderful job as the new Doctor.

    • I’m not upset about the fact Dr. Who changed. The critique in this post is not about changing Dr. Who, he has changed 11 times and I have watched ever single one. The point for me, is the changes made this time around and the particular acting style, writing, focus, and execution of the current version of Dr. Who by Smith, Mofatt, etc. It’s ok for us to disagree about Matt Smith’s version of the Doctor, but there is more to this post than that.

      And I don’t think that the show needed updating to survive, it is the longest running sci fi show on air and has a huge international following.

      I’d also disagree with your assessment of the point of the female companions and their relationship to Dr. Who, as well as the fact that you omitted Martha in your list of the last 5 years of regular companions. I think every companion grows on their own as a result of traveling with Dr. Who and that many of the Doctors, as well as one of my fav companions, Sarah Jane, have said that they choose companions who are meant to be great in their lives. The point is that they grow together not that the Doctor intentionally changes them or forces them to be different. At series end, I actually liked many aspects of Amy Pond’s character, many of them alluded to in this post. Again, my issue was with the sexualization of the companion for marketing purposes, the reception of that marketing, and the failure to trust fans to watch without this sexed up campaign.

  4. Have you ever realised that you are VERY negative towards the new doctor, you wrote a tiny bit about the good, and then there was LOADS about the bad. I, personally, think Matt Smith is a good doctor, mainly because he is younger and fitter than David Tennant.

    • I don’t think it is a secret that I don’t like him based on his acting on the series as a whole, the script reviewed here, and the directorial decisions surrounding both. But yes, I do realize some people prefer to discuss looks.

  5. Did any of the people commenting bother to read any of your other reviews of this season? I thought your reviews were fairly even overall & that you said a lot of positive things about Matt smith in some of the other posts. Seems to me the biggest problems you mention are sexism & rehashing of old plots. I agree we should stop talking about looks and start talking about whether mpffatt has brought anything new to the table.

    Personally I wish they would have gone with the initial rumor to make Dr. Who a woman this time around. Tho, I guess that means we’d still be debating looks …

    • No most of the people commenting here did not read the rest of my season reviews, which include praise for Smith when the writing and directing come together later on. Smith has it in him, it just isn’t always there, and no he isn’t among my favs but he is not alone in that. I’m sure there are people in my favs list others don’t like. I think with my pop culture posts fans seem to be all or nothing and forget that this is not a fan site or even a scifi site but an academic analytical blog.

      Interestingly, I’ve heard a lot of people say that about a female doctor, and I think maybe that has to do with the stellar performances from the main female characters this season.

  6. a note on comments on this thread. There are several posts about this season on the blog. Comments that are about the overall arch of the season, the Doctor’s growth over the season, or taking issue with the review of the first episode based on happenings later in the season are OT. This post was written slightly after the N. American premiere of the first episode, prior to the air of the second one, and cannot reflect anything beyond that. Also, offensive comments insulting anyone, including offensive language or hate speech, in this thread are ToS violations and won’t be approved.

    As always, comments are welcome, regardless of whether we agree or not, but they to need to be on topic. If you want to comment on other episodes, find the post about those episodes and feel free to comment there.

  7. Alright so I will first say that I sort of stumbled across this blog post, so I haven’t read the rest. While I see and take note of some of your problems with the show, I disagree with some (respectfully, I support disagreements in opinion). For the food, I suppose it is juvenile, but I compared it to David Tennant’s whole moment of “what kind of man am I?” in the second season. I think it was supposed to represent the change in Doctor, though they did bring it down more for children. Personally, I believe in this episode (and a few others) Smith seems a bit like a cheap Tennant knock-off, but I think he’s struggling more with the transition from the Tennant Doctor to his own. He has enormous pressure on him, Tennant was among many people’s favorite Doctors. As for the part in which Rory turns away, I saw it as more of the beginning of Rory’s awkwardness which reappears later in the series, and I saw Amy Pond’s job as a “kiss-a-gram” not as sexist, but showing her personality as well-strong, independent, and a little wild. While I personally did not notice much of the rehashing, I will admit it was there, it just didn’t bother me as much. But as I said, this is my view, and I don’t have a problem with yours, I just disagree with it.

    • interesting points and many worth considering. I will say where we definitely disagree is on the issue of sexism; something can be sexist and still have elements of subversion (in this case establishing Amy’s more cookie – sp? – side), and things that are dressed up as subversion can actually be quite regressive (parts of Amy’s Cookie – sp? – side).

      • Well I certainly do see your point, I just don’t completely agree with it. It’s not exactly respectable and Amy is certainly put in clothing that is purposely short, I guess I just don’t see it as outright sexism, more of a byproduct of writers that weren’t really thinking and marketing strategies that, unfortunately, are used everywhere, but yes, i agree, it does send the wrong message. I forgot to put in that I do completely agree with your comments on how the writers totally disregarded the whole transformation that Tennant went through regarding his companions and disrupting their lives. It leaves the viewing confused because they just ignored it so completely.

  8. And also. The human race would most definatly take out their mobile phones to take photos of the sun. We’re idiots like that! The writer of the series is very clever and has brought things that we humans are scared of towards our faces. Well done!!!

  9. He actually says: “Who da man?!”, not “whose your daddy”.
    Both are phrases from two completely different generations of humans, let alone WHO fans.

  10. I’ve only found this post of yours today and found it quite interesting. Mostly because I found in it some points that disturbed me in the show that you point out so clearly. Thanks.

  11. Thank you for this post, it’s nice to read some good critical analysis of the new season (well not so new anymore I guess) and I too am bothered by a lot of what you mentioned, especially the discontinuity with the issues and realizations that the 10th Doctor had, and the more rigid conventional portrayal of sexuality. I’d love to read some of your other Doctor Who reviews, but I can’t seem to find them. Could you possibly post a link or direct me to where they are?
    Thanks.

  12. Dear Author,
    I have just found you blog today and the points you made about the first episode were and still are valid and fair.
    I agree that they used the costumes of Amy Pond as a marketing ploy and I can also tell you that it has worked. I like Amy Pond because I wish I was kind of like her, being 16 I have a very unexperienced view on the world so don’t hold it too much against me. I wish that I had the confidence that Karen Gillen expresses in her character with the whole sassy, don’t mess with me personality.

    When I first saw this episode I loved it and even the childish things because I feel like, yes, they tried maybe too hard to differentiate the seasons it had a fun playful attitude to it. I started watching Dr Who when my boyfriend introduced me and have seen all of the new series and intend on watching the classic seasons as soon as possible. I don’t really know enough to comment on the rehashing as to me I found the plot humorous and exciting.
    I intend to read the rest of your blogs in Series five and leave some questions in my wake.
    Thank you for being honest and I will try to be the same.
    Cheers,
    Laura

    • welcome to the blog Laura. I’m glad you found something redemptive in it but I am sad that feminism has lost so much intellectual and social justice ground that mainstream keeps re-packaging the Spice girls as revolution. Being sexy and sassy for yourself is one thing, doing it to sell product or get a leg up (pun intended) is another.

  13. Maybe I’m just naive, but what exactly were the examples of heterosexism? I’ve watched this episode several times but haven’t really noticed any, and I myself am gay so I’m not insensitive to the issue (in fact, I have an annoying habit of jumping at any comment that might possibly be a homophobic slur). The one that you mentioned- Rory’s discomfort at seeing the doctor undress- has more to do with Rory’s personality than Moffat’s homophobia, I thought.

    • I mention several subtleties in the episode in this post. Taken together and especially in comparison to other seasons/series and the advertising campaign I think they build a fairly strong case. I’m also concerned about how much fans want to excuse certain characters’ behavior (this isn’t aimed at you in particular but rather a reaction to the larger discourse of Moffat and Smith can do no wrong, that seems to permeate fan sites these days). Heteromasculinity is partially built on the idea of naturalized homophobia so that discomfort around other men and other men’s bodies is normalized in order to hide its marginalizing underpinnings. Without the homophobia, such discomfort would neither be necessary or in most cases exist, and then we could talk about personality. Think about how the same scene would have been handled by Davies even if Rory were still repressed. Now think about the differences you imagine in the context of the other subtleties in this and other episodes contrasted with the advertising campaign mentioned in the post.

      The good news is that apparently the writers have taken in some of the criticism about sexuality (across the spectrum) and have promised to make some changes in the new series.

  14. Now that I read your blog about the first episode of the fifth series, I actually understand why I stopped watching for two months. I can’t really put it in words like you, but there were many points in the episode that made me stop watching. Thank you very much for posting this, it really helped me understand.

    I shall look for your other post about the fifth series of Doctor Who.

    Xx

  15. Okay, now that it’s season 6, do you see that it all had a meaning?
    Matt Smith’s sexiness combined with the Doctor’s age and moral compass helped create the undefinable relationship between Amy and the Doctor.
    The whole thing with the food was funny. I’m sorry that you have to be so serious all the time, but it was! And it sort of introduces you to Silly Doctor 11.
    Each doctor is different and it was a contrast from Tennant because Smith did not want to be alone.
    I thought he was brilliant. I thought that the sexism was there, but I can get over it now that they show Amy as a smart, powerful woman. BUT I thought the sexism was there in your article, too. She is a good kisser (as both the Doctor and Rory Williams have expressed throughout the series) and she can do what she wants. Amy Pond is a free, fun spirit. She does have a serious side though, so the I think the whole ease in the kitchen thing was to introduce that she becomes a bit of a babysitter SOMETIMES for this silly, slightly immature Doctor.
    And SO FUCKING WHAT if Karen and Matt are attractive? They’re brilliant characters.

    • I’ve said this before, but since it has been a while I will say it again: (1) any comments related to series issues beyond the first episode of this season are inappropriate on this thread. (2) this is an academic blog NOT a fansite. If your sole contribution is “these people are hot so I like the show” you are in the wrong place.

      In response to your question about series 6, no I don’t think “it was all worth it” and if you want to discuss it further you can do so when I write my review of the first episode some time in the next 3 weeks. One correction: sexism is prejudice or discrimination based on biological sex. Talking about or analyzing sexism is neither prejudicial nor discriminatory.

  16. Oh, um, Rose didnt pack, either. It wasnt the other companions that had left them, it’s the TARDIS that has them. Just sayin’.

    • I’m not really sure what you are “just sayin’ ” given that my point is that Pond is the only one in recent history in which attention is given to her not being able to pack and needing to dress in leftovers. Your comment doesn’t address nor contradict the truth of this issue.

  17. hi,
    i just wanted to share my opinion.
    I personally loved David Tennant but i love Matt Smith as well and think he is doing an excellent job of portraying the doctor.
    I agree with you though about Amy Ponds wardrobe! Shes a good character and actress but i think they need to make her a little more professional, after all she is working with the doctor!

    • I am sorry your comment did not get approved sooner, it got sent to the spam folder and I have been lax about going through the spam lately.

      That said, I am curious about what you mean when you say “professional”? Do you mean Amy should wear more clothes or a certain type? I think I am most interested in seeing her choose whatever she wants as long as the encouraged gaze does not objectify her.

  18. Let me say first of all that it’s a relief to an analysis-cum-review of a Doctor Who episode that lasts more than two paragraphs! Since few out here in the backwaters of Canada even know of the series it’s been hard to get my fix of debate😄

    I was also wondering why many elements/lessons learned by the Tenth Doctor do not carry through to the Eleventh, but after rewatching the episodes ‘The Next Doctor’ and ‘The End of Time’ I think I know the answer. What 10 (I’ll refer to the Tenth Doctor as 10 onwards) was most frightened of was losing his personality (in Time Lord tersm, I suppose, life) through regeneration. I think that regeneration not only erases the previous form’s character but waters down the intensity of their experiences (here, I realize opposition will cite 8 to 9 as a counterexample, but really, what ever lightens the impact of causing the extinction of your species?). In ‘The Next Doctor’ 10 didn’t even bat an eyelash when Jackson Lake told Rosita to go back to the TARDIS instead of help with the investigation. 10 obviously knew that companions are a larger help than hindrance (even though he halfheartedly tell them not to run off) and that misogyny had no place in his interactions, but he wasn’t even suprised when his supposed ‘next’ incarnation commits all of the above mistakes. This is the only explanation for 11’s actions- that and 11 is most likely an incarnation with an already insensitive personality. Either that, or Moffat did decide to do away with decent character development. As a recently converted fan (thanks little brother!), I certainly hope not.

    I don’t believe that Rory turning away was an example of homophobia, but that he’s a bit of a prude (type that locks himself in stall to change at gym etc.) and uncomfortable with his own body and others (i.e.: lack of self-confidence as opposed to homophobia). The whole scene just served to juxtapose his personality with that of Amy’s and the Doctor’s more daring and who-gives-a-damn-what-you-think natures. I think few would be comfortable if a stranger of either gender began to strip down in front of them, and openly ogle them while they did so, so Rory’s shocked reaction is explainable.

    All said, I will be reading more! Thank you for the intelligent discourse and I will be looking forward to your posts on the new season!

  19. I absolutely loved Matt Smith’s energy and i really enjoy him being the 11th doctor. Also, although the episode was a bit predictable, i thought it was overall enjoyable and fun to watch.

  20. i think you have just gone too deep into it

    i think you made your mind up much to early on and that now after you have (i hope) watched the rest of the series you don’t think the same otherwise it seems you just don’t understand what doctor who is about

    • [please note I edited the comment above for ToS but am responding to the entire comment]

      Again, this is an ACADEMIC BLOG not a fansite. I publish, teach, and give invited papers on RACE, GENDER, and SEXUALITY in, among other things, popular media like Dr. Who. I often use this blog to flesh out ideas that will ultimately end up in print in academic publications or form the basis for discussion in courses I teach. And as this thread has already addressed, the entire season is reviewed episode by episode on this blog as are many others. If you want superficial fan chatter about the actors appearances, funny moments, quotables, or spoilers you are in the wrong place. If you think you have the right to demand that I write a fan-only post about an entire season when this post was written at the time of air and with the express purpose of reviewing the first episode, you are not only in the wrong place you need to check your sense of entitlement.

      The blatant assumption that both you and others in this thread have made that A) this blog should meet your needs rather than the purposes for which it was started and B) that a person who has watched Dr. Who for its entire 30 year run is ignorant because they disagree with you is the kind of arrogance that makes me question the purpose of blogging all together. (And I would ponder that question regardless of the embedded erasures that seem to underline so many of the comments in this and similar threads, all though I find the fact this happens in the context erasure telling.)

      Imagine going into a French restaurant and complaining because they don’t serve Big Macs and then calling the owner stupid because he tells you to go to McDonald’s instead of making you one. Several comments in this thread, approved or otherwise, have done exactly that.

      Now imagine that you walked into a French restaurant and insisted it was McDonalds and called anyone who disagreed with you a fool, while other patrons tried to eat. How would you react to similar behavior if you were one the people trying to eat? What if you had been among the people calmly pointing out McDonald’s is across the street, down the road, or not even in this town but there are maps one can follow to the next town?

      This is not McDonald’s and I will not tell you again. You will not get a Big Mac here. You will not even get a hamburger. The insistence that you should be able to, while fascinating given the context, is out of line at best.

      Participating in the comment thread on this site requires a certain amount of intellectual engagement and willingness to speak intersectionally and with some sense of socio-historical context; it is part of ToS here. I’m sad to say that outside of the posts that supremacists like to spam, this is one of two threads where the insistence on base level engagement & desperate need to avoid or erase intersectional analysis requires me to enforce ToS instead of pleasantly enjoy the fact that my readers know where they are and have chosen to engage accordingly. (And no, ToS is not about agreeing with me, it is about communication standards and intellectual engagement and if you actually read this blog regularly or even the flow of comments in this thread you would know that.)

  21. I have to say, I completely agree with you. I quite didn’t realise why I didn’t like Matt Smith until reading this post, but now I have some very specific reasons. I found the plot of the whole season way too similar to season four, with the universe about to die, and his companion being a spunky red head who ended up being the saviour of the universe (Donna Noble much?). The only reason I kept watching was because I liked Rory, and wanted to see Amy actually appreciate him. I had to wait for season 6 to see that. I was horrified to see ‘hot vampires’ in this season, sure there was a werewolf in the second season with Rose, but that was before they were in Twilight. Overall, I agree that the doctor was over glorified, and never really questioned or tested, unlike the 9th and 10th doctors were. It was definitely sensationalised and adapted to suit tweens more than long time fans.
    thanks for a great review, I’ll be reading the rest of them as well!

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