New Who Openers In Perspective: Rose
In the build-up to Deep Breath, Mark McCullough begins a series looking at past New Who openers.
As we approach the last few days of our wait for Deep Breath, it seems as if the series is further away than ever. In anticipation of the Series Eight we have decided to write a collection of ‘In Perspectives’ for the other series openers.
If we think our wait of a mammoth 241 days was tough, spare a thought for those fans that had to wait over thirteen times that (3225 days). Whilst our reward is Deep Breath, theirs’ was Rose and the return of one of their favourite shows after a very long hiatus.
In 2005 headed by the amazing Russell T Davies (whose role is currently being fulfilled by the equally brilliant Steven Moffat) Doctor Who returned to our screens. Rose was the episode handed the task of reintroducing a show which was remembered only in the hearts of fans. To appease long standing fans whilst simultaneously appealing to a new audience was no easy feat, but one which the episode managed to accomplish.
“It’s an invasion, plain and simple. Don’t talk about constitutional rights.”
The narrative focussed on the story of Rose Tyler, opening with a snapshot of her daily life. We are given a glimpse of a typical day (Which was intentionally designed to be relatable to): waking up early to an alarm, lunch with a significant other followed by back to work. Rose’s daily routine is used as a surrogate for the audience to ease them into the story in a manner which was comfortable to them. RTD uses his knack of creating moments that feel real and grounded to set up an encounter with the Doctor. The scene is excellently portrayed using the contrast between the Doctor and Rose’s attitudes to the situation.
Things quickly escalate as the encounter ends with Rose running for her life as her work gets blown up. The next day she encounters the Doctor again as he searches for the signal which the Auton’s arm is producing. This piques her interest in the Doctor as she seeks out Clive to explain to her who exactly this mysterious man is. Whilst she is inside Mickey falls victims to the Autons and is replaced by an Auton copy. This leaves Rose in a position where she requires the Doctor to save her (again). From here the threat reaches a global level as the full invasion begins. The Doctor is unable to resolve the situation without Rose’s help, both in locating the Nestene Consciousness and destroying it. As a reward for her efforts, the Doctor offers her the opportunity to travel with him in the TARDIS.
“I’m in my dressing gown… There’s a strange man in my bedroom… Well, anything could happen…”
Rose is a very strong character; she is presented as an ordinary young woman who has her flaws and her strengths. Her courage and ability to help the Doctor is a particular high, although her treatment of Mickey shows her in a bad but realistic light. The extension of the cast to include her family and friends offers Doctor Who a new dimension which it never had before. Jackie comes across as a loving mother, we see at times that her relationship with Rose is far from perfect, but there are signs at how strong their bond is. Mickey is presented as the loving boyfriend, so it is rather sad to see Rose be so dismissive of his value at the end of the episode. Her treatment of him just because he was scared, which is a natural human reaction in those circumstances, especially after being kidnapped. The inclusion of far from perfect relationships serves to ground the show and is an example of one of the main strengths of Russell T Davies’ writing.
“I’m the Doctor, by the way.”
The Doctor is the main character of the show. That is fact. The classic series had always placed the Doctor at the fore of the adventure. Rose however relegated him to a somewhat lesser role. For once the story was about the companion and their life. We only saw the Doctor when he crossed paths with Rose. In some ways this was a huge risk, but one that paid off. Not only did it produce a more rounded and realistic companion, something which is a major factor in the continued success of the revived series, but it also helped the Doctor’s character.
The most obvious benefit was the sense of mystery and intrigue which it created about him. We are presented with a powerful and mysterious man who has a majestic spaceship with which he travels through time and space. This fact is cleverly withheld until the end of the episode, until then, it is teased by the studies of Clive who has charted several of the Doctor’s off screen adventures. The sense of danger around the character is established from the off, he first scene involves death and blowing up a shop. Despite this, the character still comes off as likable and someone who the audience becomes invested in immediately. This is exactly what was required by the first episode of a brand new series. It is also worth mentioning that information is held back, and things such as the Time War are teased which gives the viewer good reason to come back for the next instalment.
“They’re made of plastic. Living plastic creatures.”
The monsters of choice for the episode were the Autons, a monster which would have been familiar to long term fans of the show. Not just this but they also represent a large part of our commercial lives, the shop window dummy. This made them a very sensible choice for the return of the show as they brought appeal to both groups which the show was aiming to please. In the scenes where they attack the shoppers, you get a sense of threat, that there will be consequences. What worked even more in the favour of the narrative was that it was realistic.
The Autons themselves were expanded upon by the revelation that they were controlled by the Nestene Consciousness using the London Eye as transmitter. The fear factor of the Autons is increased too by the fact that they can be anything plastic (as shown by the bin) and can still be functional even if the plastic does not remain intact (the arm). Bearing in mind that we live in an age where nearly everything is plastic, the thought of it all becoming sentient is unsettling to say the least. Unfortunately their demise is a little bit too easy as anti-plastic poured into the Nestene Consciousness is enough to defeat them.
Rose is a very simple story which focuses more its characters than most episodes would. In all it achieved what it set out to do, which in a sense has allowed us to be here today. Rose is a beginning, a return, but something completely new. As such I suspect that it is a story which holds a special place in many fans hearts despite the fact that it may not be a strong as some of the other episodes. I shall conclude by saying, if you are trying to get someone into Doctor Who, look no further than Rose.
Throughout this series of In Perspective articles we are going to provide a rating for the episode to allow for some comparisons and to see what elements are actually important to making a good opener. The criteria we have chosen are as follows:
Episode Rating: What it says on the tin, how the episode fares in reviewers’ opinion
Effectiveness as an Opener: The opening episode of a series is one of the most important. It needs to appeal to new viewers and give them something which attracts their attention and makes them watch the rest of the series. It is also important for fans that the opener is strong as it is usually the episode they have waited the longest for. Most openers also tend to introduce new characters, either a new companion or even a new Doctor.
Monster Rating: Several things make a good monster: fear factor, how they are used, are they memorable and do they fit the story. A good monster does not necessarily make a good episode, but as such an iconic part of we felt they deserved a rating.
Character Rating: Whether it be introducing new characters or developing pre-existing ones, it is important that the episode gets its characters right.
The following ratings were produced by taking the individual ratings of five contributors (David Selby, Jack Hudson, Lewis Hurst, Simon Mitchell and Tomas Edwards). These ratings were then averaged to provide a number which should be relatively free of individual bias.
The results are as follows:
- Episode Rating: 8.1/10
- Effectiveness as an Opener: 9.4/10
- Monster Rating: 8.0/10
- Character Rating: 8.5/10
This gives the episode a total score of 34/40