Late to the Party: Doctor Who (11th Doctor)

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Oct 9, 2018, 2:03 PM EDT

The 13th Doctor has officially made her glorious arrival and we here at FANGRRLS couldn’t be more excited. In honor of her, and to catch up a few of our FANGRRLS who haven’t yet experienced Doctor Who, our resident Whovians will be helping some of our less TARDIS-fluent FANGRRLS get up to speed on their favorite Doctor. Since we didn’t think any of us could binge 840 episodes, 36 seasons, and numerous specials before the 13th Doctor’s arrival, we’re writing a series of special Late to the Party: Doctor Who articles.

This is my third Doctor Who viewing in preparation for finally settling in to watch Jodie Whittaker's arrival and this exercise has had the desired effect: I can’t wait to see the 13th Doctor get her awesome on! Before we get to her, though, I still have another Doctor to meet. And Kristy Puchko is straight up giddy about introducing me to the 11th Doctor, played by Matt Smith, who has just been cast to appear in Star Wars: Episode IX.

Being a super fan, Kristy was sure to pick out the episodes that best illustrate the relationship between the 11th Doctor and his companion, Amy Pond.

Grab your bowtie, power up your sonic screwdriver, and let’s settle in for five of the very best episodes from the 11th Doctor’s run.


Season 5, Episode 1: "The Eleventh Hour"

The Doctor has just regenerated! Again! (Well, again, again, again…you get it.) While still in his brand-new adult baby phase, he crash lands in a young girl’s yard. The girl, named Amelia, had just finished praying to Santa to ask him to bring her someone to help her with the crack in her wall.

He promises to help her, says he’ll be right back, and then they can go on adventures. (She’s 7, so I’m not sure that’s appropriate, Doc.) Anyway, he doesn’t return for another six months and when he does Amelia has moved and a very sexy cop now lives in the house. But the sexy cop is not a cop at all. She’s Amelia (and a Kissogram)! The Doctor has been gone 12 years! And, Amelia, now Amy, grew up telling stories about her raggedy Doctor who she thought was her imaginary friend.

There’s also a whole plot about the being that broke through the crack in Amy’s wall, but it’s really just a nice way to introduce us to the Doctor’s new companion and her partner, Rory, as well as establishing that this Doctor is just as no-nonsense and fearless as his predecessors.

When Amy decides to leave with the Doctor, it’s the night before her wedding, but she tells him she has to be back for some “stuff.”

My impression:

This episode was lovely. It had all the charm of England, all the mystery of Sherlock, all the science fiction weirdness of Star Trek, and all the whimsy of Narnia. Also, is this Doctor just naturally a lot happier?

I also love what an intense foundation we have for the relationship between this Doctor and his companion. Granted, I haven’t seen how any of the other companions end up traveling with their Doctors, but regardless, knowing someone since they were 7 and then traveling through time with them when they’re an adult is hard to beat when it comes to intimacy. When the camera pans across all the illustrations and dolls Amelia made of herself and the Doctor when she was a child, it just gutted me.

That said, their first interaction is just weird. Why would he make a 7-year-old child make a bunch of different meals for him that he then spits out, throws out the window, and on and on? I know it’s supposed to be a gag, but it’s hard to get on board with such a snotty little jerk. Only at first, of course. And, it doesn’t seem to bother Amy, so I’m over it, but it was a weird gag.

Additionally, this is the first episode I’ve seen where we really spend time in the TARDIS and I totally love it. There are so many things cobbled together to make the interior. Like why does he use a typewriter to choose a destination? What a quirky person.


Season 5, Episode 10: "Vincent and the Doctor"

This episode contains an intimate portrait, revisionist though it may be, of Vincent Van Gogh as he struggles with mental illness, the unexplained things he can see, and the complete rejection of his art by everyone. 

Amy and the Doctor help Van Gogh by tracking the unidentified monster, both from the painting and from what Van Gogh can see. After a few misadventures along the way, the three wait for the monster, which they identify to be a Krafayis, at the church. They fight off the beast inside the church and Van Gogh strikes a killing blow, only to realize the Krafayis was not evil, but blind and likely abandoned on earth because of it. Van Gogh relates to the creature’s pain and mourns his loss.

Before leaving, the Doctor and Amy take Van Gogh back to 2010 to show them how his art will one day be received. The Doctor asks Van Gogh’s super fan to describe Van Gogh and what proceeds is truly touching. They hope this knowledge will prevent Van Gogh from dying by suicide. When they re-return to 2010, they find that nothing has changed, except that the one of the Sunflowers series of paintings now says “For Amy.”

Van Gogh and Amy develop a close relationship throughout the episode. At one point, he tells her about his sadness and how it causes him to paint beautiful things, which he thinks Amy can relate to, but Amy doesn’t feel sad. She just happens to be crying. (Foreshadow much?)

My impression:

This is easily my favorite episode of Doctor Who that I’ve seen. There is so much time spent on providing a portrait of Van Gogh, but what that brings out in both Amy and the Doctor is what is truly stunning.

Amy’s belief that time can be changed and her devastation when it’s not is so beautiful and highlights how tragic her separation from Rory is. Meanwhile, we see the Doctor trying to help and encourage Van Gogh, despite his belief that his fate is fixed. And, it meant the world to me that while Amy and the Doctor both mourn Van Gogh’s death, neither shames his choice to die by suicide. Neither do they shame mental illness—heck, the Doctor even tries to explain to Van Gogh that he is not mad, but rather might be experiencing the effects of depression. It’s a gentle, loving episode that acknowledges mental illness without bemoaning its existence. 

Finally, the scene when they take Van Gogh to see his exhibit at the museum is truly breathtaking and something I think any artist should watch. I know I’ll be returning to this episode whenever I’m feeling lost or frustrated with my art.


Season 5, Episodes 12 and 13: "The Pandorica Opens" and "The Big Bang"

Van Gogh paints something that remains undiscovered until the distant future, when it ends up in the hands of none other than River Song. The painting is of the TARDIS exploding.

Naturally, this results in River luring the Doctor and Amy to Stonehenge under Roman occupation to find the much-discussed Pandorica, which holds the worst monster in the universe. Oh, and Rory’s there, and he’s a legionnaire! (We learn from context that he was dead and actually erased from time, which is why Amy didn’t remember him, but was crying with Van Gogh.)

All of the enemies the Doctor has faced are converging on the Pandorica, but the Doctor can’t figure out what’s inside. River tries to bring the TARDIS to Stonehenge at the Doctor’s request, but is taken to Amy’s childhood home instead and realizes neither the legionnaires nor Rory can actually be real. IT’S A TRAP!

Amy remembers Rory and then, controlled by someone else, he shoots her. Doctor's enemies surround him just as the Pandorica opens. It’s a prison for the worst monster in the universe and it just so happens that monster is the Doctor, who they believe will destroy the universe. River tries to return but ends up stuck inside the TARDIS when it explodes, destroying the entire universe. “I’m sorry, my love,” she says.

That was just the first episode, FYI. Talk about action-packed, interconnected plots.

Rory, at the behest of the time-hopping Doctor from the future, frees the Doctor from the Pandorica using the sonic screwdriver. They place the dying Amy in the Pandorica because it has the ability to heal and preserve the life contained within. Rory, who we’ve now realized is a synthetic replica, decides to stand watch outside the Pandorica as long as Amy is held within. He stands guard for nearly two millennia.

It turns out the universe has ended, but that the time bubble is collapsing slowly. So, while most of the universe is gone, Earth and those near the center of the explosion are still alive. But, if all the stars in the universe are gone, what is the sun? Oh, it’s just the TARDIS stuck in a time loop, as is River, but the Doctor gets her out.

They decide that the only way to save the universe is to fly the Pandorica, holding the Doctor, into the center of the exploding TARDIS, using the particles of the universe that were preserved in the Pandorica to jump start everything with Big Bang Two. In the process, the Doctor will be erased from history.

Amy wakes on her wedding day and proceeds to her wedding, where she’s crying but she doesn’t know why. She interrupts her father’s speech to yell at the raggedy Doctor to return, much to the chagrin of those in attendance. And then, BOOM, the TARDIS arrives in the center of the dance floor and out walks the Doctor. 


My impression:

How can so much fit into two episodes?! I don’t know, but I loved every second.

No one told me that Doctor Who could be so damn romantic. Cross-millennia love stories really get at me and there are two of them with the 11th Doctor! The way he and River weave back and forth into one another lives, leading toward some future in which they marry, just destroys me. Plus, they have this gorgeous running joke about never revealing spoilers of their future. I get chills just thinking about it!

Don’t even get me started on Amy and Rory. This woman remembers him despite the fact that he NEVER EXISTED and he waits for her for two thousand damn years just to make sure the box where she’s resting is kept safe. He had the option of using time travel and this bastard chooses to stand by her. Wow.

Also, for the record, I love River Song so much. She’s such a total badass and I love when the Dalek says, “Oh girl, you won’t shoot me. You don’t have it in you because you’re friends with the Doctor.” (I may have taken some poetic license.) And River responds, “I’m River Song. Check your records again.” AND THEN KILLS THE DALEK BY HERSELF. Damn, River. Damn.


Season 7, Episode 5: "The Angels Take Manhattan"

The monsters of the week are statues possessed by angels in New York City. These angels consume the time energy of humans and trap some on their farm by throwing them back in time and then keeping them locked up.

When Rory is transported back in time by an angel/statue, he runs into River Song. The Doctor and Amy travel back to when Rory was transported, but there are so many time disruptions that the TARDIS almost can’t make it (and certainly cannot travel then again).

When Amy sees an aged Rory die in front of her, his fate is sealed and now they have to disrupt the angels’ power by creating a paradox.

Amy and Rory make a run for it, but get cornered on the roof. Together they jump off the building, holding each other the whole way down, in an effort to disrupt the timeline. Amy and Rory wake in a cemetery and everyone came back where they belong.

Right as they’re about to enter the TARDIS, Rory spots a headstone with his name on it and a previously unseen angel sends Rory back in time, to a time the TARDIS cannot reach. It’s totally devastating, but a determined Amy will not live her life without him. She says goodbye and allows the angel to throw her back in time, trusting she will find Rory. 

Her name appears on the tombstone.

My impression:

This episode had me all in my feelings. The angels/statues may sound lame, but nuh-uh. Those bastards are terrifying! They have long teeth and they only move when people can’t see them, so it’s another fear-the-dark episode!

Then we get this romantic as all get-out, yet devastating, ending?! I don’t know if my heart can handle all this losing each other and finding each other and losing each other and finding each other. JK. I LOVE IT.

I particularly love the ferocity of Amy’s love for Rory in this episode. We got to see him wait for nearly 2,000 years for her, and now we get to see her sacrifice everything for a chance of finding him in the past. The whole way she figures out she can go back is that she sees that there’s space on the tombstone for another name and if that isn’t love, then I don’t know what is!

BRB. I’m gonna go hug my partner as tight as I can for the rest of my life.


Overall impression:

Damn, y’all. 

The 11th Doctor is probably my favorite that I’ve seen. He’s just as brilliant as the others, but he embodies a certain whimsy that I haven’t seen thus far in the Doctor. There’s also a very interesting way that Amy seems to influence him. Her optimism rubs off on him, as we see with Van Gogh. In the same stroke, the Doctor believes Amy is special and refuses to let her ignore that fact.

Really, though, I love, love, love that they didn’t go the romantic route with Amy and the Doctor. (Yes, I've heard that they share a kiss at some point, but I haven't seen it so, I can't comment on it.) It’s so rare to see characters of different genders in friendships that don’t turn sexual. That’s exactly what we get with Amy and the Doctor, a bond as strong as any, based in mutual respect and care. Their friendship even changes each of them, but their individual romances help them find themselves.

What’s not to love? I’d already recently decided that I was into Doctor Who (or that I was going to make it my goal to be into Doctor Who), but this really solidified it for me. I love the 11th Doctor. I love Amy. I love River Song. Heck, I love Rory! And, why wouldn’t I? They’re each rich characters with their own desires and hopes and faith in one another.

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