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In April 2010, a new era began when Matt Smith embarked on his first series as the Doctor. The casting of such a young actor proved controversial in some quarters, but the Eleventh Doctor soon earned the respect of fans and critics around the world. Over the next six pages we reappraise all the stories in that groudbreaking series, while Steven Moffat - who at the time was making his debut as showrunner - shares his memories with TOM SPILSBURY. “I loved all these episodes,” says Steven. “It was sort of a golden time on Doctor Who, that first year. It’s golden because it was long enough ago that I’ve forgotten how rancid with exhaustion, misery, paranoia and fear I was. Ten years on, it’s all just sunny and lovely…”

The Eleventh HOUR

Written by Steven Moffat Directed by Adam Smith

You never get a second chance to make a first impression. A new Doctor means millions more extra viewers tuning in; the trick is to keep them watching, not just for the rest of the episode but for the one the week after.

So it’s interesting to compare the opening of The Eleventh Hour with the introductions of other Doctors. Both Rose (2005) and The Woman Who Fell to Earth (2018) begin by rooting the story in the familiar, with what looks like conventional domestic drama - showrunners Russell T Davies and Chris Chibnall’s areas of television experience. They both hold off on revealing the Doctor for as long as possible, telling the story through the journeys of the companions, who are confronted by terrifying monsters before, finally, the Doctor heroically sweeps in to the rescue.

Steven Moffat’s background, however, was in comedy, so The Eleventh Hour’s hook is not familiarity, but in giving the audience reasons to laugh. Our first sight of the Doctor comes barely 20 seconds into the episode, as he’s introduced dangling out of the TARDIS doors like Harold Lloyd in Safety Last (1923). Moments later, he narrowly escapes a painful encounter with the spire of the Big Ben clock tower. The Doctor’s entrance is the opposite of heroic; he’s introduced as a galactic Frank Spencer, doing the equivalent of roller-skating down a flight of stairs.

Then the new Doctor is given a whole prologue with young Amelia (Caitlin Blackwood), in which he continues to be a figure of fun, walking into a tree and trying out diff erent dishes before settling on fish fingers and custard. In the script, there was even more comedy designed to make the new Doctor win over viewers with a kind of hapless, Tiggerish enthusiasm. There’s one tell-tale moment where the Doctor proudly proclaims, “Fish custard! This is mine. I invented this!” This isn’t a million miles away from a moment in Moffat’s sitcom Coupling (2000-04), where Jeff says of his impressive Spider-Man routine: “I invented this dance!” (Earlier in the same scene, Patrick admits to having lured Sally to the bar with “a clever lie” - a phrase that occurs in The Eleventh Hour and some of Moffat’s other Doctor Who stories.) Indeed, one could draw an evolutionary line from Colin in Moffat’s first series Press Gang (1989-94) through Jeff to the Eleventh Doctor. This is not to suggest that they’re the same character, because the moment the Eleventh Doctor is faced with a sinister crack in the wall of Amelia’s bedroom the ‘comedy act’ drops away and he becomes deadly earnest.

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About Doctor Who Magazine

WORLD EXCLUSIVE: JO MARTIN IS THE DOCTOR! The latest issue of Doctor Who Magazine has an exclusive interview with Jo Martin, who guest-starred as the Doctor in Fugitive of the Judoon and The Timeless Children. Other highlights include: • Ray Holman reveals how he created the costume worn by Jo Martin’s Doctor. • A celebration of ten years of the Eleventh Doctor with new insights from former showrunner Steven Moffat. • An exclusive preview of the new, animated version of The Faceless Ones. • A disc-by-disc guide to the new Season 14 Blu-ray box set. • The second part of an interview with Timothy Combe, director of Doctor Who and the Silurians and The Mind of Evil. • Plot Devices revisits some of the real historical figures the Doctor has met over the years. • The Fact of Fiction continues its epic exploration of The Daleks’ Master Plan. • How to recreate the Fifth Doctor’s costume. • A new series of articles begins with a look back at The Fishmen of Kandalinga. • Updates on Doctor Who luminaries, past and present, with Time and Space Visualiser. • Public Image looks at how Doctor Who is doing in the TV ratings. • Share your views about the latest series of Doctor Who in the annual season survey. • Part One of The Piggybackers, a new comic-strip adventure featuring the Thirteenth Doctor and her friends. • Big Finish previews and reviews, news, prize-winning competitions, The Blogs of Doom and much more!