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!