Following last week’s introduction to the review series, here is the first one!
In April 2005 the BBC broadcast the first episode of a new series of an old classic. The decision to bring back the programme that had claimed a huge following since its inception in 1963 was viewed with a great deal excitement and anticipation. Now it was a case of whether the show would live up to expectations. Here’s me review.
It is London, England, Earth in the modern era. The day starts and we see what appears to be a typical day in the life of Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) who works at a department store. She has a boyfriend called Mickey (Noel Clarke). She lives with her Mum, Jackie (Camille Coduri). There is nothing special about her.
On this particular day, however, she has a peculiar encounter after work when on investigating some off goings-on in the department store. The dummies are moving towards her and they don’t look friendly. It is then that she comes across a strange figure who grabs her by the hand simply tells her to run. They make good their escape and it is then that she’s introduced to the Doctor (Christopher Eccleston) who informs her that it’s no student prank, but something a bit more serious. When they reach outside, he tells her to scarper as things could get explosive, sure enough when she looks back at the department store the top of it explodes.
As he traces aspects of the links back to Rose’s place, we’re introduced to the quirks of the Doctor in terms of his ability to read books quickly, know an alien and a gay when he sees one and also get accustomed to what appears to be a new face for him. After a brief kerfuffle with a living plastic arm, Rose looks to find out from the Doctor exactly what is going on. He explains the nature of the living plastic and its plans.
He also gives a little insight into who he is in the hope that she’ll forget him. It’s clear however, that she will not easily forget the mysterious Doctor, especially when she hears a wheezing noise coming not too far from where she leaves him and notices the strange blue box that was around has gone and so has the Doctor.
As Rose investigates she comes across a guy called Clive (Mark Benton) who is obsessed with this Doctor. It is clear that this Doctor has been around quite a bit in Earth’s history. Meanwhile Mickey, who takes Rose to Clive, has an transforming encounter with the living plastic. Rose at first doesn’t notice what’s wrong with her boyfriend until the Doctor pops along and removes his head.
As they run from the plastic Mickey, Rose is introduced to the TARDIS and gets that whole ‘it’s bigger on the inside than the outside’ experience as well as getting to know other aspects of the alien that is The Doctor.. He heads for the source telling Rose of the Nestene Consciousness and likewise Rose helps the Doctor discover where the source could be. With the fate of her boyfriend in question, a world conquest and sensing something exciting about being with The Doctor she goes with him to get to the bottom of things.
The Doctor approaches the Consciousness in the hope of giving it a chance to leave on its own. Noting however the advanced technology of the TARDIS the Consciousness take that as a threat and initiate the invasion stage, which obviously starts in London with plastic dummies becoming living attacking forces.
With mayhem and disaster all around and Rose’s Mum at the centre of it all, Rose plucks up the courage to save the day, distracting the holding dummies and dumping the anti-plastic into the heart of consciousness stopping the link and rendering the living plastic back to dummies.
The crisis averted, The Doctor invites Rose to go on board and join him on his journeys. Initially she declines, but he returns to inform her that as well as space travel, the TARDIS travels through time. With no job and little prospects where she is, even with a boyfriend, Rose finds the possible excitement of further adventure too enticing and leaving Mickey behind, she runs into the TARDIS.
Russell T. Davies, the Executive Producer and Head Writer, takes on an unenviable task. Take an iconic programme that has been off regular broadcasting for the best part of 16 years and introduce new viewers to it, whilst also appealing to those who watched that classic series. Do that in 45 minutes with aspects of the new and old in a way that is entertaining and engaging. The fact that seven years later the programme remains one of the BBC’s big money-spinners is testament to the success of this first series and most importantly this first story.
I remember the excitement I had watching this in April 2005. What was the new Doctor going to be like? What would the production values be like? What was the story going to be like? I am glad that they answered those questions overall in a positive manner.
The story is centred around Rose – which is good seeing as though that’s the name of the episode – and we see things from her perspective very well, from the intrigue in coming across the Doctor and the curious interest in who he is to the danger associated with him, the shock of the new and the fascinating insight into what he opens up. Credit goes to Billie Piper in her performance as Rose. Above all else you believe she is who she is.
Eccleston as the Doctor is already the Doctor. There is no nervous first performance. From the moment he tells Rose to run he is comfortable in the skin of the alien. His characterisation already belies different elements of the Doctor from the tendency to be whimsical and funny, to the weariness of a Time Lord who has experienced some of the grim aspects the universe offers. It’s an assured performance and leans neither to the boring or being over the top.
In some places the music is rather cheesy. So for example in the scene in which we’re introduced to the Doctor as he rescues Rose, the music just comes across … naff. It’s not off-putting a lot, but it does detract from the significance of the scene it plays in.
Although the Doctor and Rose character works, some like Mickey just come across a little bit underdeveloped.
The writing of the episode, however, is very good. It introduces the key characters and the aspect of danger and death always following the Doctor. The use of the Clive character is very good in giving insight into who the Doctor is and encapsulating those key elements.
Overall this first episode is a success in launching the highly valued programme again. It has action, laughs and character development and it engaging. It also establishes a good point of reference for future episodes. (DMCD Rating – 68% = 7/10)