The Eleventh Hour – the children who waited

It’s all there in The Eleventh Hour.

Even the title. Even Eleven’s number – or what we think is his number. He’s the ‘eleventh hour’; the last possible moment before disaster. He is, I suspect, the last regeneration of the Classic Doctor.

The clock is ticking throughout. In this story, it never, ever reaches twelve – until the Doctor has finished regenerating, and he and Amy start to leave Leadworth.

Eleven has a story to tell, and that story is the story of Doctor Who. The story of the madman in the box. The madman who crashed to Earth, crash-landing (they had to repeat the first episode because of the Kennedy assassination) in front of an astonished little girl. She has no idea what Doctor Who is – except that The Doctor’s weird. And that he’s promised to take her on a series of magical adventures.

And then he goes away again. And as PhaseShift has pointed out, this is exactly what Doctor Who did to those of us who were children during the Classic period; he turned up, he promised magical adventures – and then he went away. There was a gap of some years and he turned up again (we were adults now), saved the world – and vanished again. Amelia Pond is us. We were all the ‘girl (or boy) who waited’. We were all that child who was told that the Doctor (and the stars) aren’t ‘real’.

Eleven, in this story, is at the beginning of Doctor Who. Regenerating (which is central to the show’s survival). Travelling in a police box that doesn’t exactly work. Not entirely certain who or what he is. Likes fish fingers – with custard. He wants to make a show for the child. He wants to help keep the children safe.

But there’s a crack in the wall. And that crack is a crack in Eleven’s world.

Eleven: Two parts of space and time that should never have touched, pressed together.

And the Cloister Bell starts ringing.

Eleven: Give me five minutes and I’ll be right back.
Amelia: People always say that.
Eleven: Am I people? Do I even look like people?

That was what we were all told. Five minutes and he’d be right back – Doctor Who was never officially cancelled. We sat on our suitcases in the garden, and we waited. And waited. It was half past eleven, but it never reached twelve.

And while we were waiting, we grew up. Grew up to become police officers and nurses and nuns. We dabbled. And then the raggedy Doctor came back for another adventure. Not really a new adventure for a new Doctor; a continuation. In the movie he had to face his old adversary, the Master. In this return he’s still got to deal with Prisoner Zero, the left-over from his first appearance who may also represent the fall-out from the Time War. And the clock’s been reset again – twelve years later, and it’s not yet Eleven.

Who is the man behind the curtain? The man in the coma? Or, given what we just saw in The Name of The Doctor, was it a man behind the curtain? Was Clara there, writing the show from her coma?

It wasn’t just those of us who were obsessed, the Amys; there’s also the Rorys and the Jeffs. Rory the nurse, Rory the Roman. He watched the show, he played the games – but when he grew up, he was able to put it behind him. Except, not really. Not quite. Even though he always knew Doctor Who was a game (for children), he’s still a little more open to the weird than the sensible adults around him. People in comas don’t walk around. But Rory isn’t going to ignore what he’s seen in favour of what he’s been told.

All these people live in Leadworth; an anagram of Dr Who Tale. Amelia really is a little girl in a fairy tale – she lives in the story-land of ‘Doctor Who’, where all the computers run on Myth – and the duck pond doesn’t have any ducks. Amy is a Pond – without ducks; that is, something is missing. Eleven is in his eleventh hour – twenty minutes before the clock hits Twelve.

And Rory joined the Royal Leadworth Hospital in 1990; the Whoniverse currently consists of different time periods and outright continuity errors, all joined together with gaffer tape – and with the cracks and joins frequently rather obvious. A production error, they said, when everyone spotted that ID badge. ‘Production error’ was a phrase rather frequently used in explaining certain details of this story.

Eleven: Amy. Believe for twenty minutes.

Classic episodes were usually twenty minutes long (excluding credits). You had to believe in the Doctor – for twenty minutes.

Rory: How could he be real? He was never real! He was just a game, we were kids. You made me dress up as him.

Rory’s phone – his part in saving the world, which is also the Whoniverse. His phone has photos of Prisoner Zero. Eight photos, eight disguises. If, right now, Eleven is (in the meta) playing the ‘movie’, there are eight bodies for the Doctor. In the Classic Series, all those eight disguises for The Doctor are male. In the photos, those eight disguises for Prisoner Zero are both male and female.

Eleven: The coma patient dreams he’s walking a dog, Prisoner Zero gets a dog.

And if the writing team (henceforth known as ‘Clara’) dreams of a tin dog, the Doctor gets a tin dog. In this case, the tin dog is Jeff (who also played games about the Doctor when he was a kid). It’s twenty minutes to twelve and now it’s Jeff’s turn to stand up and save the world – it’s his bedroom. He’s one of the fans who, like Rory and especially like Amy, is now growing up to save the Whoniverse (after deleting his Internet history).

Twelve minutes to Twelve.

Prisoner Zero: If I am to die; let there be fire.

Prisoner Zero: The universe is cracked. The Pandorica will open. Silence will fall.

Prisoner Zero. The Doctor who brings death in fire. Who cracks the universe. Who causes the Pandorica to be opened.

Who causes Silence to fall.

The imaginary Doctor. Amelia (who will grow up to be a writer) is dreaming of the magic Doctor. Rory spent his childhood playing The Doctor – and grew up to be someone who saves lives. Jeff played those games with them – he grows up to rewrite the world through the Internet. The Doctor is both himself, the person behind The Name of The Doctor – and a memory. More than a memory, he’s also a dream; one that inspires. ‘The Doctor’ is an important name. ‘The Doctor’ is a name that should make children grow up to save the world.

After they’ve battled the aliens in the big spaceships, of course. Everything’s better with spaceships.

Rory: Did he just bring them back? Did he just save the world from aliens – and then bring all the aliens back again?

Yup. Fun, isn’t it?

Eleven: Time to put on a show!

And then he leaves again. We waited for years, and we got the Doctor back – for one adventure only, then he went off in his TARDIS. Amy and Rory are left behind; the girl who waited and the boy who didn’t think it was real.

Until, at last, the Doctor comes back again. We waited years; now finally, we can step inside the TARDIS again and watch the adventures of the Doctor.

Amy: It’s you. You came back.
Eleven: Course I came back, I always come back. Something wrong with that?

The clock in the TARDIS turns round and round. For the first time in the episode it goes past Eleven, and reaches Twelve; the real, true number of this incarnation. Halfway through Twelve, the 12 seems to reset again – but back to 12. It’s only 12.30. And then we reset again. This time, it’s back to 1.

In Closing Time we see Amy and Rory – now married and no longer in the TARDIS – walking past a huge poster of Amy. The caption reads: ‘Petrichor – for the girl who’s tired of waiting.’ Petrichor – the smell of the rain on the dry earth.

We waited. Through fourteen years of drought. We all waited, consoling ourselves with our Dr Who Tale. Then, finally, came the smell of the rain.

Eleven: Goodbye, Leadworth! Hello – everything!


17 comments

  1. :-) :-) :-D
    Would love to know if this has been going on at any sort of conscious level with SM, or if it’s all his subconscious; but you argue the meta-case in this (and for Clara) extremely well.

    So what happens when the clock flips through to 1? (Mischievous thought – It’s a closed loop – back to Hartnell, end of series…?)

  2. @Wolfweed – we’re past Michael Grade now. We’ve just seen the Doctor’s tomb; and discovered that the rumours of his death were greatly exaggerated :-)

    John Hurt’s probably playing Russell T. Davies :twisted:

    Uh, not literally, but if we are going through the history of the show, we’re now in the planning stages of Nu-Who – where Russell T. decided that, to bring the show back, he had to junk continuity in the most dramatic way possible – by blowing up Gallifrey and killing all the Time Lords.

    @ScaryB – if you look at the scripts, you can see that this ‘meta’ can be reduced to a one-line precis for each script. They need a script with a grandfather that lives vicariously through the lives of others, they need something from Pat Troughton’s era, they need something where the Doctor can play scientist, they need the Doctor to be scrapped, they need a script where the Doctor is missing for half an episode, they need a script where the Doctor is taken over by aliens. And the ongoing themes are the frozen heart, the Doctor seeing himself as a monster, mutually assured destruction – and references back to previous incarnations.

    Pitches in by Tuesday, please :-D

  3. OK @Bluesqueakpip I’ll take your challenge:

    The Doctor and his (female) companion change bodies, whereupon the companion (in the Doctor’s body) looks in the mirror and thinks ‘I look beastly’.

  4. @Bluesqueakpip – I’m going to have to re-watch that one. Wasn’t that Zoe W’s character flying around though, and not a straight Doctor-companion switch?

  5. @Bluesqueakpip – Wow, I’m remembering things I didn’t even know I remembered! And I thought I was just riffing off your ‘sees himself as a monster’ theme.

    I’m weirdly proud of myself. :-) But of course, I’ve blotted my copybook and will have to think of a new plotline!

  6. @Bluesqueakpip

    This is an interesting meta take on Moffat’s reign. I too, – echoing @ScaryB‘s point – wonder how much of this is intentional. I remember, at school, having an art lesson which studied various paintings and being told of hidden meanings amongst the brushstrokes – reams and reams of analysis made by scholars. Surely, some bright spark asked, the artist didn’t think about all this at the time? No, replied weary teacher, but his / her subconscious did.

    I think also we project ourselves onto culture we admire, which is why it’s so important to keep these things alive. Good post.

    Not sure this is what you’re looking for but here goes.
    A pitch: a little girl runs out of a city into a barren landscape. She’s terrified, looking over her shoulder as the city recedes into the distance. She’s safe – but keeps on running, gasping for breath, barely able to stand. She collapses to the ground. A man stands over her, looking down, he raises his hands. The Doc appears just as electrical charges emanate from the man’s hands, striking the girl in the chest. She convulses. The Doc cries out but the girl disappears, The man looks up, sees the Doc and smiles, then moves with lightning speed back to the safety of the city. The Doc runs towards the city, as the huge gates begin to close. Faster and faster, closer and closer, the gates shutting as the gap becomes smaller and smaller. The Doc squeezes through as the gates clang closed – he is trapped.

    Inside, the city is crowded – a hive of humanity, all desperate to escape. The only ones that leave are the old, who die in the street and disappear. The Doc is determined to change history and manages to help one young boy out of the city. He runs across the barren land but the man appears again, this time wrapping bandages round the boy’s head until he too disappears. The man looks up and smiles at the Doc before returning to the city.

    The Doc tries a third time, this time with an adult woman. He finds a way out for them both and now they are running. running. The man is upon them in an instant. The woman stands in his path, telling the Doc to go, go now. The man is upon her and gives her a long kiss – mechanical, no passion, until she too disappears. The man turns his attention to the Doc – now some way off, with the TARDIS even further away. The Doc makes good time but the man is quicker. As the Doc opens the Tardis door, the man reaches him and the Doc collapses. The man drags the Doc inside the Tardis, kneels beside him and places his hands on the Doc’s temples – everything blurs as the Doc disappears.

    The Doc awakes in the Tardis with parts of the console attached to his temples. Clara stands there, relieved that the Doc’s resuscitation instructions – taken from the Tardis database – have worked.

    In a hospital emergency room, a little girl is brought back to life with a cardiac resuscitation machine.

    After a serious road traffic accident, a little boy’s life-threatening head wounds are bandaged by a paramedic.

    A collapsed female jogger is given the kiss of life in a park.

    Back in the Tardis, Clara is relieved – she thought the Doc was going to die. Almost, says the Doc, I was halfway there.

    Obv needs alot of work .

  7. @WhoHar – ooh, that’s good. It’s a facinating inversion of life vs death.

    But, to link it to your opening story – what does it say about your subconscious? :-)

    Re the art teacher – I’ve always been an un-artistic person and more a literal person. I wonder if seeing “hidden meanings amongst the brushstrokes” says more about the observer than it does about the artist. When an artist is long-dead, how can we possibly know what s/he was hiding, or suggesting?

    Which is perhaps why I’m drawn like a moth to flame to bonkers DW theories! S Moffat is definitely alive, with a living body of work in the current DW series, so whilst there is a element of people seeing what they want to see, there are also concrete answers to be found. Which is something not possible with ‘old’ art, or indeed contemporary art where the artist is unavailable to answer questions.

  8. @Shazzbot – Thanks. It means I think, that my subconsious is “away with the fairies”.

    My pitch is a bit stream of consciousness I’m afraid. The original idea was to have a villain who appears to be killing people but is in fact saving them and I like hte concept but it needs some nuancing.

    I too am pretty literal and have always been a bit sceptical of the subconscious stuff until I started writing myself, so I am now learning to see stuff on differernt levels. The likes of @bluesqueakpip and @Juniperfish have this down to a fine art I’d say.

  9. @Bluesqueakpip“this ‘meta’ can be reduced to a one-line precis for each script. “

    The Doctor and his companion(s) arrive at a planet where the native people speak entirely in music, but not being able to play an instrument, one [modern-day] companion whips out an iPod, plays some James Blunt, and the Doctor and his companion(s) are promptly slaughtered in the most gruesome way.

  10. @Shazzbot

    “The Doctor and his companion(s) arrive at a planet where the native people speak entirely in music, but not being able to play an instrument, one [modern-day] companion whips out an iPod, plays some James Blunt, and the Doctor and his companion(s) are promptly slaughtered in the most gruesome way.”

    I think I’d pay to see that.

  11. @WhoHar – “The original idea was to have a villain who appears to be killing people but is in fact saving them”

    Well, your idea is so much more clever than ‘The Curse of the Black Spot’ and I would have much rather seen a televised version of your story.

    Although, Amy swinging a sword was pretty good telly. :-) Can you at least make Rory die somewhere in there? ;-)

    I don’t want to sound snarky (it’s so difficult in writing without a setting); your idea really is so much more literate, moving, and thought-provoking than what the DW people came up with in CotBS.

  12. Great post @Bluesqueakpip

    I see your metanarrative and I riff you:

    The Doctor falls through his own time-stream. He is now Through the Looking Glass (the wall between Doctor and Hurt Doctor starts to crumble).

    The cracks in time are the work of the Doctor.

    Eleventh Hour: The TARDIS burns in the paradox and it falls, unerringly unstable, into the garden of a little girl. Just the other side of the crack, a monster is escaping. Just the other side of the mirror, something dark has eaten the ducks.

    The Beast Below: Later, he takes her with him. A beast below the surface needs to be killed. He looks in the mirror. It loves children.

    The Victory of the Daleks: His old enemies and his favourite little corner of Earth. Auto-destruct! But the tin-man has love in his heart not ice. There is no detonation.

    Time of the Angels/ Crash of the Byzantium: Things that were sealed in are stirring in the depths. They rip out the spine but the voice lives on. His companion counts down, “four” “eleven”… The crack opens wider, he misses his wife. The stone-hearted feed on time; he throws them back in.

    The Vampires of Venice: All the lost children and she, the Pied Piper. He looks in the mirror and doesn’t rejoice. He kills her, the last of her. Genocide, he knows. He falls through the cracks and doesn’t know how not to.

    Amy’s Choice: The split infinitive in his timestream. Once more Through the Looking Glass. There’s a monster in the man. The play within the play.

    The Hungry Earth/ Cold Blood: Something dormant is now awakening; a war between species narrowly averted. Again too late though; the cracks devour love.

    Vincent and the Doctor: A monster is lost, alone and blind. He calls it “evil” and crafts a mirror to see it. A friend with a true eye envisions it sorrowing.

    The Lodger: Dark-mirror TARDIS hunts for a pilot. The girl on his ship steers away from the numbers.

    The Pandorica Opens/ The Big Bang: Something soaked in the blood of millions, more terrible even than all of his enemies, there it is, locked in a box. He steps into his own time-stream. He’s Through the Looking Glass again. Do not pass go, do not collect two hundred years. Everything explodes; we’re going back to the start.

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