New Who: The Story Thus Far – Series 1 (Episodes 1-6)
John Hussey begins a new series analysing the revival, starting with the first half of Series One.
It’s 2014 and I thought it would be good to do another series long set of articles. This time I shall be building up to Series Eight and the arrival of Peter Capaldi as the Twelfth Doctor. In this series I will be looking over the revival series with each article discussing the seven series that have aired since 2005 and I will review how successful or unsuccessful I believe they were and how they also have helped to form the continuous storyline for the Doctor within the current era of the show.
Series One – Episodes 1-6
Back in 2004 it was finally announced that Doctor Who would be returning to our screens after being off air since 1989 (with the exception of the airing of ‘Doctor Who’ in 1996). The question of the matter was how would the show handle against a modern audience and age, especially since being off-screen for so long? As it turned out it did very well and established the foundations of its return and re-running on a yearly basis once more.
Series One began with ‘Rose’ which in my eyes was a very bold move to make within the eyes of a writer. It showcased the shift in perspective and how the Russell T Davies era would establish its narrative structure. The central focus of the episode was upon new companion Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) rather than the usual foundation of concentrating on the Doctor, especially since it was the first appearance of the Ninth Doctor (Christopher Eccleston). This was one of the things ‘Rose’ lacked; the whole post-regeneration introduction of a new Doctor. We saw no change from the Eighth Doctor (Paul McGann) to the Ninth Doctor (although at the time we weren’t aware of a secret incarnation set between the Eighth and Ninth Doctor until ‘The Day of the Doctor’). He was just there, with little hints to the already established fans that he had gone through regeneration recently by the comments of his new face and ears upon looking in the mirror in Rose’s flat.
The narrative concentrated on Rose’s journey into the world of the Doctor and in turn formed as the basis of introducing a new audience to the show. Rose was, in a sense, the audience’s eyes and she wanted to delve into the world of the mysterious man that had tipped her world upside down and thereby gain the answers the new audience wanted to know. In that respect the episode worked to draw in the new audience and re-inform older fans that it was still the same show they grew up with. The whole scene between Rose and Clive Finch (Mark Benton) was made to make the Doctor mysterious and to make you wonder just who this strange man was. The episode slowly brought into light just who he was and re-established familiar sights from the Classic series, i.e. the TARDIS within its latest design.
The other nice nod to the past, which helped to re-establish Doctor Who to both old and new fans, was the inclusion of the Autons (though never actually mentioned onscreen by name) and the evil alien entity that controls them, the Nestene Consciousness. Sadly, they weren’t used as well as their creator’s (Robert Holmes) stories, ‘Spearhead in Space’ and ‘Terror of the Autons,’ but it was nice to see them return even if their appearance was less than what it deserved in terms of screen time. ‘Rose,’ for its minor flaws, did what it was meant to do and that was bring Doctor Who back on to the air and get people old and new talking about it again, allowing them to grow with anticipation for the next story (which now got teased through the clever introduction of a ‘next time’ trailer).
‘The End of the World’
With ‘The End of the World’ we were given more information about the Ninth Doctor to chew on (which related to older fans especially as it gave them valuable information about what the Time Lord had been doing while off-screen all this time). The introduction to the Last Great Time War came about as a reference near the end of ‘Rose’ where the Ninth Doctor stated he failed to save the Nestene’s world and many others against the Time War. This was explained in further detail when Jabe (Yasmin Bannerman) spoke to the Time Lord about it in private which gave us a strong hint that something terrible had happened within his past, something to even make him shed a few tears of sadness. It was learnt at the end of the story, after admitting the truth to Rose, that the Time War cost him his own species and planet (Gallifrey, though not mentioned onscreen by name) leaving him the last of the Time Lords. It was also hinted that within the war him and his race fought against another race but their name wasn’t mentioned (at least not yet).
‘The End of the World’ served to explain more about the world and life the Doctor leads with him taking his new companion, who reluctantly gave away her life in modern-day England to travel at the mere mention of time travel, to the end of her planet to demonstrate a point of his power as a space/time traveller. This led to many complications between their relationship and squabbles erupted as Rose became scared of this new life and frustrated at not knowing a thing about her pilot. The Ninth Doctor at first kept himself to himself knowing too well the memories of his past acted as a burden to him due to the sorrow it brought upon him. The story continued the idea of the companion having a close relationship with family members when Rose was given the opportunity to phone her mum Jackie Tyler (Camille Coduri) in order to reassure her that her family was okay whilst she travelled. By the conclusion of ‘The End of the World’ the Doctor and Rose’s relationship had strengthened somewhat from how they were in the previous story and the events that occurred throughout their latest adventure. It was nice to see a development taking place between them, a simple sign that character development was a key aspect of the new series.
‘The Unquiet Dead’
‘The Unquiet Dead’ saw the Ninth Doctor and Rose travel to the past, straying off course from Naples to Victorian Cardiff, where they bumped into Charles Dickens. The episode introduced us to two things. Firstly, a new writer (the first since Russell T Davies who acted as head-writer) in the form of Mark Gatiss who would be a continuous influence on the show until this day, and secondly, the continued idea of the Doctor meeting historical figures (something that had been done in the Classic series and now became a series by series concept). ‘The End of the World’ saw a travel to the far future with ‘The Unquiet Dead’ going down the opposite roots to give both Rose and the new audience a wider range of what the TARDIS can do. By travelling to the past Rose was given her first taste of knowing she can die before she was ever born; a statement that time isn’t a straight forward route and can take on many different directions. Charles Dickens’s inclusion within the narrative allowed for a sweet bit of fictional character development which transformed Dickens from a very Scrooge-like character (due to the fact he thought he had grown tired of the world by doing the same thing over and over again and believing to know everything in the world of science) to a brand new man full of charisma and enthusiasm.
We also got another look into the effects of the Last Great Time War in the form of the Gelth, a race of higher beings that had lost their physical forms and were reduced to gas-like creatures seeking refuge within the dead. Due to this, it had driven them near enough insane as they wished to kill the whole of humanity in order to inhabit their bodies. The Gelth became the starting point for Mark Gatiss’ darker macabre styled episodes which featured darker tones of a gothic nature (something that was touched on a lot during the Robert Holmes and Philip Hinchcliffe era of the Classic series) which in this case had the inclusion of the undead. Through the Gelth we were introduced to the Rift which became a massive part of the spin-off series Torchwood. The other reference to Torchwood came with the character of Gwyneth (Eve Myles) who resembled the character Gwen Cooper who was recruited by Captain Jack Harkness in modern-day Cardiff. Also through Gwyneth we received the first reference to the ‘Bad Wolf arc’. Such a simple word that seemed like nothing would slowly become something of relevance.
‘Aliens of London/World War Three’
The Ninth Doctor and Rose’s next adventure in ‘Aliens of London/World War Three’ really gave a new flavour to Doctor Who in the form of actually delving into the question of how the companions loved ones react to their travels with the Time Lord. In Rose’s case it became quickly apparent to her that upon returning home that she had been away for a year and everyone thought she was missing or dead. Her boyfriend, Mickey Smith (Noel Clarke) -- who was first introduced in ‘Rose’ as a bumbling idiot -- was now put on the spot of being a suspect behind her disappearance (being in fact the only person who actually knew where Rose was). It was nice to see both Mickey and Jackie receive character development, especially with the former. With Jackie it was more about the acceptance of Rose’s new life with the Doctor, while with Mickey it was a full-on character development from being the wary boyfriend to the more supportive computer genius helping the Ninth Doctor save the world. He also began to respect the Doctor a little more (with the Doctor doing the same thing back to Mickey – even offering him a place onboard the TARDIS which Mickey turned down due to not feeling ready yet) and stopped being scared of him like within their first encounter with each other but his wariness still remained as a form of caution over Rose’s safety.
‘Aliens of London/World War Three’ established the foundation of the two-parter slot within the new series (always, with the exception of ‘The End of Time’, having different titles for each part unlike with the Classic series). There would always be three two-parters (until Series Seven) the first being around episode four-five, the second around episode eight and then episode twelfth-thirteen being the final two- parter for the series. The episode also set the Davies foundation and tradition of being very Earthbound and the companions lives back at home, with their families being a central attention within certain two-part stories and story arcs. This idea worked and didn’t work in different scenarios and situations. With Rose Tyler’s character it was touch and go. It worked better within Series One I find (and I shall touch up upon that later on within the series). Right now it felt fresh within ideas and had possibilities that worked on a dilemma point of view, especially when it came to the Ninth Doctor deciding on taking action against his enemy at the cost of risking Rose’s life against Jackie’s wishes. It was also in that scene that we got the first glimpse of romance between the two characters, something that would certainly progress over time. The two-part story also made way for new character Harriet Jones (Penelope Wilton). She was originally a MP for Flydale North who aided the Ninth Doctor and Rose in stopping the Slitheen Family’s attempts at destroying the Earth. This was simply her stepping-stone for further character development in future stories/returns.
Like ‘Rose’, ‘Aliens of London/World War Three’ gave references to the past by re-introducing the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce (now renamed the Unified Intelligence Taskforce). U.N.I.T. got brought back but unfortunately the Ninth Doctor didn’t really get much of a chance to work with them and as quickly as they entered most were killed instantly by a trap they were lured into. We were also given another reference to the ‘Bad Wolf arc’ in the form of a boy spray painting the words onto the side of the TARDIS. The Slitheen family was an interesting villain who had potential to be greater enemies within the show (sadly of course they only ever returned once more for a major appearance but at least they became popular villains for the spin-off show The Sarah Jane Adventures). Their greed for money certainly made them a deadly foe for the Ninth Doctor to face and made them almost totally evil due to the fact they were destroying Earth merely for the profit of selling it. Unfortunately the Slitheen were the only major villain that Davies created within his five year run that became a reoccurring villain.
We now come to the midpoint within Series One in the form of ‘Dalek’ which really did begin to shake things up. The whole idea that the Daleks were the deadly foe that the Time Lords fought within the Last Great Time War just shocked you, whilst making perfect sense within story contexts (who else would cause the Time Lords to go to war?). It was certainly a well thought out re-introduction of the deadly pepper-pots whilst also serving as a nice stepping stone for new fans to get onboard and witness the terrible creatures for the first time. The Ninth Doctor received major character development through his bitterness and hate towards the last surviving Dalek. The sorrow of losing his people and planet to his greatest enemy just made him burn inside and demonstrated almost a whole new side to the Doctor. We had seen him angry before many times over in the Classic series, but now he really just seemed to snap more than ever before. The affects of the Time War was within him and facing the Dalek just brought it all back with a fiery vengeance.
Rose proved to be a great help for the Doctor in giving him some form of healing. She was there to point out his wrongs; what he was becoming due to the Time War. It wasn’t the Doctor she saw but almost another Dalek in human form. He was becoming no better than the creatures he sworn to defeat over and over again by trying to commit cold-blooded murder. The Dalek itself showed an interesting side of depression and sadness. This all led to bloodshed as it went on a frantic killing spree due to its despair of being the last of its race. ‘Dalek’ was all about facing the terrors of extinction and the consequences it can have psychologically upon the mind. It was thought by the end of the story though that the Ninth Doctor had finally achieved victory by being the last survivor of the Time War. We got another reference to the ‘Bad Wolf arc’ through Henry van Staten’s (Corey Johnson) private helicopter being called ‘Bad Wolf’ One. ‘Dalek’ also reintroduced the idea of having more than one companion. Adam Mitchell (Bruno Langley) didn’t really get much time to shine within the narrative apart from demonstrate his high intellect which got him nowhere against the Dalek. His reasoning for joining the TARDIS was more out of sympathy from Rose rather than the Doctor actually allowing him onboard. This however would be one the shortest companions trips in the history of Doctor Who (and in my eyes, a waste of an opportunity).
Top Three Best Moments from the first half of Series 1
3. The Ninth Doctor explaining to Rose Tyler the dangers of his life in ‘Rose’.
The simple comparison between himself and the chaotic thought of clinging onto the surface of a super-fast spiralling planet was just fantastic and really portrayed an atmosphere of mystic around the Doctor whilst also giving a perfect description of both the good and bad within his adventures.
2. The Ninth Doctor finally telling Rose Tyler the truth behind his past in ‘The End of the World’.
This moment really was an emotional scene for both the characters and the audience as we received the dark discovery of the Ninth Doctor’s past. He came about after escaping the aftermath of the Last Great Time War which left him the only survivor of two mighty races. It really did give more depth to the Ninth Doctor’s character.
1. The Ninth Doctor confronting the Dalek in the Cage within ‘Dalek’.
This scene was just powerful and full of emotion. The Ninth Doctor was faced with a dark scenario and became scared, angry and saddened all at once and these feelings blended together in one epic performance that really showcased the inner-feelings and damages the Time War had done to his persona.
My Verdict so far
- ‘Rose’ – 7/10
- ‘The End of the World’ – 10/10
- ‘The Unquiet Dead’ – 9/10
- ‘Aliens of London/World War Three’ – 9/10
- ‘Dalek’ – 9/10
Join us for part 2 tomorrow, looking at the rest of the Series 1.