RUSSELL T. DAVIES
'THE COMPLETE FIRST SERIES' COLLECTORS' EDITION DVD BOX SET (BBCDVD1770) RELEASED IN NOVEMBER 2005.
When Rose Tyler meets a mysterious stranger called the Doctor, her life with never be the same again. Soon, she realises that her mum, her boyfriend, and the whole Planet Earth are in danger. The only hope for salvation lies inside a strange blue box
26TH MARCH 2005
After what seemed like forever, the haunting and familiar, yet wholly re-vamped, Doctor Who theme music began to play, accompanied by an interesting and dynamic new title sequence. The whole montage was much more faithful to the classic series than I had anticipated - almost a fusion of the Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker titles; timeless and contem-porary in equal measure, and utterly, utterly perfect.
Above: He's back... and it's about time!
And then... then things really kicked off.
A fast montage of present-day London. Rose Tyler, the eponymous heroine, entering an ill-lit storeroom full of what the series fans in the audience know to be Autons
I watched Rose with my fiancιe, her stepfather, and her eight-year old cousin. For forty-five minutes none of the adults in the room spoke save for myself, and that was only to answer the eight-year olds plot-related questions. As soon as Christopher Eccleston appeared on the screen he had us in the palm of his Gallifreyan hands, and the pace of the story carried us through to its conclusion before we even had a chance to decide what we thought of this new Doctor; of this new show. Whilst the forty-five minute format has had (and will no doubt continue to have) its detractors, I consider the runaway speed of this new show to be one of its strongest weapons.
When he arrived Roses flat I really began to like this new Doctor. I have always admired Colin Bakers Doctor for being arrogant in that pompous, almost unlikeable sort of way,
but Ecclestons Doctor is arrogant in a cool way - hes not conceited, hes convinced. Its interesting to watch his respect for Rose develop over the episode as he realises she is more than just another ape that he is here to save; after all, in the end she saves him.
Hes gay and shes an alien!
There is huge comic potential for the new Doctor too - take him dismissing Jackie Tylers seductive advances. Anything could happen, she says saucily. No, says the Doctor, calmly turning and walking away. It was downright funny; so much so, that for a moment I
was worried that it was going to be too funny, but that is not the case at all. It is funny in the way Doctor Who always was; in the way that Patrick Troughton, Tom Baker and most of
the other Doctors were. The only difference now is that the humour a little more risquι,
and much more of the moment.
That said, I did find the whole wheelie-bin sequence really quite unbearable conceptually, and I wasnt all that taken with the CGI used in it either. Nevertheless, its inclusion is justified to a certain extent as the eight-year old that I watched the show with was covering his eyes and wouldnt go anywhere near any wheelie bins the following day!
Further, Russell T Davies script is littered with some very subtle, but nonetheless delightful touches. For instance, I liked
the Doctor checking his appearance in Roses mirror, implying a recent regener-ation; very recent indeed, in fact, if he hasnt even looked at himself in the mirror yet. It was nice to have this link to the old series, even though nothing has been set in stone as yet. There would certainly have been no point in doing a Time and the Rani-style regen-eration; it would have served only to confuse the new audience, and on the same note it would have been deplorably wasteful just to bring back Paul McGann for five minutes when he deserves a much better send-off after all his years of hard work for Big Finish. At least this way the door is open for a flashback episode later down the line, once the new viewers have had the chance to get used the shows basic tenets, regeneration included.
Um... The inside's bigger than the outside.
However, it was not until Rose walked into the TARDIS for the first time that I was really sold; the scene really could not have been executed with any more aplomb. Roses wonder and exasperation; the Doctors short, blunt answers... and thats just the characters. The TARDIS interior is without a doubt the best of the lot - very alien; epic and weathered. The production team really have done the most superlative job, right down to creating a beautiful threshold effect whereby the interior of the ship is visible from the outside when the doors are open. When I was a child watching the series I could never quite work out the relationship between the Police Box exterior and its futuristic interior I always knew that the latter was inside the former, but in my minds eye I envisaged some sort of hallway between the Police Box doors and those huge, white roundel-covered doors (which when fully open, often appeared white and roundel-covered on the exterior too, bizarrely). In this new TARDIS though, on the inside you can tell that the doors are the Police Box doors it all fits together so very wonderfully. An absolute triumph.
Furthermore, when the TARDIS materialises by the London Eye the interaction between
the Doctor and Rose is brilliantly written and performed, wonderfully emphasising the Doctors alien values, particularly his apparent lack of compassion. This again reminded
me very much of Colin Bakers underrated Doctor, or even William Hartnells, who at times were both much more concerned with the greater good than just one human life. Baker
often said that he wanted his Doctor to be able to step over a dead human body and then cry over a dead butterfly, and I think Eccleston has the potential for the very same kind of powerful contradiction in his performance; that innate alien quality that suggests he knows and understands far more than we apes will ever be capable of.
That's not true! I should know, I was there, I fought in the War.
It wasn't my fault... I couldn't save your world. I couldn't save any of them.
Most appealingly of all though, behind the new Doctors facade there is another layer - a layer that reveals a disturbing new facet of his character, and potentially alludes to a time of his life that even the Doctor Who bookworms and audiophiles arent privy to. The mention
of this war, and the Doctors apparent guilt at not being able to save the Nestenes world. Was the Doctor a soldier in this galactic war? Was he an interfering pacifist, trying to stop the bloodshed? Or was he something else...? This first episode succeeds spectacularly in the sewing the first seeds of what promises to be a fascinating mystery
The turn of the Earth. The ground beneath our feet is spinning at a thousand miles an hour,
the entire planet is hurtling round the sun at sixty-seven thousand miles an hour, and I can feel it.
We're falling through space, you and me, clinging to the skin of this tiny little world, and if we let go-
As for the episodes conclusion, in this day and age Rose saving the Doctor was almost a political necessity, and it also explains the Doctors growing respect for her as well as why he asked her to join him in the TARDIS. Her reluctance to leave Mickey and her Mother was also wonderfully played, but it was her hanging up the phone on her rabbitting Mother and the brutal exactly line to the brilliantly cowardly Mickey really made the last scene, I felt.
Inevitably though, many viewers - most of them Doctor Who fans - were not as impressed
as I was. As they were quick to point out, the plot of Rose is straightforward and throwaway, Davies story being used as a simple device to carry the characters rather than vice-versa.
It is called Rose though, not Doctor Who and the Autons III. And to be fair, how many series can you think of in todays cut throat world of telly with a wholly plot-driven first episode? Not many that have ran for long, Id wager. Youve got to nail the characters first.
That said, I certainly thought that the Autons were as formidable and memorable a foe as
I remembered them being back in the days of Pertwee, and their inclusion here was a truly inspired choice. Whats more, Davies has not just rehashed the same old Auton story for
a third time; at least, not quite. He appears to have taken the general formula for an Auton story, broken it right down, kept what would have been the last two episodes of a classic serial, and then crammed it all into forty-five minutes of breakneck action. Anti-plastic is
a real time saver, see...
I was surprised to hear that some were complaining about the scenes in Clives shed where he shows Rose the evidence that he has gathered about the Doctor. This was one of the highlights of the show for me, made even more enjoyable thanks to all the jokes poked at
the series fans, particularly the online contingent. Granted, it would have been nice to have seen some pictures of Doctors one through eight, but again, I think it would only alienate new viewers and even perhaps taint the mystique of this new Doctor. For now, at least, he must be the Doctor.
The Doctor is a legend, woven throughout history. When disaster comes, he is there.
He brings the storm in his wake, and has one constant companion... Death.
Clive have pictures of him at famous events many years ago such as the
Kennedy assassination (beautiful reference to An Unearthly Child, by the
way) and with a family due to sail on the Titanic?, I think that the answer
is appalling obvious: the Doctor is a Time Lord. He travels through time.
These photographs, whilst taken in our relative past, may actually have
been taken in the ninth Doctors future - his life is far from linear after all!
How did the seventh Doctor put it? perhaps in the future. My personal
future, that is. Which could be the past
Really though, Doctor. Tell me. Who are you?
So theyve modernised it, but Doctor Who is still just as magic as it ever was; perhaps even a little more so, in fact, given that it is that little bit more relatable now, thanks to Davies sublime juxtaposition of the utterly mundane and the utterly fantastic. And best of all, the whole show is British through and though, right from the Doctors glorious northern accent
to the London Eye. Fair dues, its not exactly what many hardcore Doctor Who fans would have made it and, to be absolutely frank, it is not even my perfect idea of what the series should be, but it is the closest that they have ever got, and that is the highest praise that I
can give to this magical new enterprise. I await the end of the world with bated breath...
Copyright © E.G. Wolverson 2006
E.G. Wolverson has asserted his right under the Copyright, Design
and Patents Act 1988, to be identified as the author of this work.
It is not clear how much time has passed for the Doctor since the regeneration depicted in The Day of the Doctor, however it is implied that this has been very recent indeed (Couldve been worse. Look at the ears!). If this is the case, then the photographs that Clive has of him in this incarnation (at the Kennedy Assassination, and stood with the family scheduled to sail on the Titanic) must have been taken in his personal future, at some point after this episode but prior to The Parting of the Ways.
When is now? At the time of transmission, it was assumed that this episodes present was synchronous with the audiences. However, this would not be made explicit until the final scenes of The End of Time, in which Rose advises the moribund tenth Doctor that the year is 2005, to which he responds by telling her that shes in for a hell of year. This makes it plain that the events of Rose occurred in 2005 (presumably on or around the date that the episode was transmitted).
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