“Amy Pond, there’s something you better understand about me… I am definitely a madman with a box”
Honestly, the other entries in this feature don’t need to exist. Beyond mythology, continuity, character development and personal preference, there is only one place to start watching modern Doctor Who if you want to get into it. The Eleventh Hour is the first episode I saw (which kept me marathoning for a while), the premiere of the show’s best season, and a wonderful beginner’s guide on its own.
Eleven (Matt Smith) gets some of the most charming, memorable establishing character moments I’ve ever seen in this episode. His exhilarating introduction signals this Doctor’s desire to develop a thick skin and forget about all the terrible things he’s done, eventually developing into a persona of reckless callousness and outsized wackiness, which some fans dislike.
This story also introduces two of the most beloved companions in the show’s run, Amy and Rory Pond (Karen Gillan and Arthur Darvill). Having romantically involved regulars beside our favorite Time Lord expanded the narrative and emotional possibilities of Doctor Who, along with adding a subtextual pseudo-love triangle at times.
In defiance of the show’s issues with seasonal arcs, The Eleventh Hour kicks off its most successful overarching story. The balance between serialization and episodic stories is something Moffat and Davies both struggled with, but season five nails that ratio. Each episode works on its own, but has something to contribute to the larger tale.
As I mentioned, this hour almost functions as a reboot in and of itself, with lots of backstory being referenced, a post-regeneration clean slate with new companions, and a bunch of behind-the-scenes technical upgrades. Season five adopts a sort of fairy tale tone, which works really well. Lastly, it’s the first episode with Steven Moffat as showrunner, a position he will finally vacate in 2018.