‘The Black Archive 19: The Eleventh Hour’

❉ The latest of Obverse Books’ Black Archive series thunders along with the same pace as the episode upon which it is based.

“Arnold’s thorough research has allowed him to weave together the clues from Moffat’s pre­-Who writing to give us a satisfying layout of his vision for the programme.  Just as the 21st century series has established that the Doctor’s regenerations are consciously affected by his mindset and surroundings, so too is the outlook of an incoming showrunner.”

 “I’m more interested in beginnings.”

So said Steven Moffat, outgoing Doctor Who showrunner.  The subsequent development of some of his series arcs may bear witness to this statement, but it would seem that many fans are, as well: the debut episode of his tenure, ‘The Eleventh Hour’, was ranked 17th in Doctor Who Magazine’s 50th anniversary poll.

It is this episode which is the subject of the latest of Obverse Books’ Black Archive series, written by Jon Arnold.

Broadcast just three months after ‘The End of Time’, the end-of-epoch extravaganza which saw the departure of Russell T. Davies and David Tennant, ‘The Eleventh Hour’ faced as tough a task to prove itself as 2005’s ‘Rose’.  This book, detailing the journey from Moffat’s accepting of the showrunner position in October 2007, through the casting of new star Matt Smith to the manifesto set out by the episode for the series to come, thunders along with the same pace as the episode upon which it is based.

Arnold’s thorough research has allowed him to weave together the clues from Moffat’s pre­-Who writing to give us a satisfying layout of his vision for the programme.  Just as the 21st century series has established that the Doctor’s regenerations are consciously affected by his mindset and surroundings, so too is the outlook of an incoming showrunner.  Moffat’s view of Doctor Who as a fairy-tale as opposed to Davies’ vision of a contemporary drama; the lead character’s attitude towards human relationships compared to his predecessor; the implications of the Doctor’s meddling with time for his own agenda.  Through his sitcoms based on personal experience to early Who forays such as the short story ‘Continuity Errors’ and Comic Relief sketch ‘The Curse of Fatal Death’, Moffat’s thematic seeds had been planted early on in his career.

Not every plan, however, came to pass: it had originally been Moffat’s wish for David Tennant to continue for one more series, in a timey-wimey strand which would have seen the young Amelia Pond meeting him as she does in the episode as broadcast.  The Doctor who would have then travelled with the adult Amy would have been a younger version of this incarnation, before bringing the series full-circle by arriving at her childhood immediately prior to his regeneration.

With Tennant turning down the chance to return, we were instead granted the wonderful portrayal of Matt Smith, perfectly described by Moffat as, “a young man built by old men from memory.”  Again, Arnold compares his pre-Who career to that of his predecessor, although there are far fewer clues as to the portrayal of Smith’s Doctor to be found in his earlier work than there had been with Tennant.  There are also comments on the casting, costuming and characterisation of Smith’s vintage incarnation.

Having established itself now as a comprehensive and eminently readable guide to the fascinating journeys of classic Doctor Who serials to the screen, this latest Black Archive instalment is no exception.


❉ ‘Black Archive 19: The Eleventh Hour’ published May 2018 by Obverse Books. RRP £3.99 – £7.99. Click here to buy!

❉ Stephen Graham – he’s Scottish, fry something – can be followed on Twitter at @PlopGazette

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