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Re-Watching Doctor Who: Series One

25 Jul

I started writing this a while ago. In fact, I’ve now finished watching series two, and I’ve been taking it slow at that. I’ll hurry up with my writing, but first, some assurance; the rest of the posts wont be as wordy as this one; I got a bit carried away, but I know what to focus will be from here on out.

Anyway, read on…

Doctor Who 1

Overview

With this new series, Christopher Eccleston takes over the role of the Doctor from Paul McGann. It’s a shame that McGann didn’t get much of a chance to prove himself, but having recently watched Doctor Who: The Movie, I can agree that starting completely afresh was the right way to go. It’s not that the Movie was bad, but clearly, it wasn’t good enough to kick-start the new series that the BBC, Universal Studios and Fox wanted it to. Not only that, but I’m not sure I could happily watched an Americanized version of Doctor Who.

I mean, don’t get me wrong; I love American television for the most part, and I watch it far more than British TV. But Doctor Who is British. Very British. And it should remain that way forever.

The Doctor

But for those of you who aren’t proper ‘Whovians’, the newer Who is not without it’s changes. Gone is the proper British accent used by the Doctor’s of old, as the 9th Doctor takes on a more northern accent. This Doctor is far more aggressive and destructive than his other counterparts, as a result of his guilt over killing all the Time-Lords in the Time-War.

Of course, Classic Who aside, at the time Christopher Eccleston’s portrayal of the Doctor had nothing to be compared to, for better or for worse, and so at the time, to new viewers, seemed to be the pinnacle of ‘time-travelling alien-y’ type science fiction. Re-watching the show, I’ve decided that although I do like the ninth Doctor, to me, he comes off as a bit smug, which is not really something I would have gone with when trying to reintroduce an audience to a character.

Another problem is his short stint in the T.A.R.D.I.S.; I feel that if he had had longer, he could’ve become a more rounded character, rather than the Godlike being who can feel “the turn of the Earth”, but does little more than just shouting at problems as Rose or some other character solves them.

Which is another revelation in itself. This Doctor doesn’t actually do much, does he? (Spoilers, I guess? Although this came out almost ten years ago, so if you’re actually interested in Doctor Who, you’re falling behind a bit…)

  1. In Rose, whilst the Doctor does provide the solution with his ‘anti-plastic’, it is Rose who finds the Auton’s secret base, and dispatches the Nestine Consciousness.
  2. The End of the World, admittedly, is slightly different. In this episode, the Doctor’s Time-Lord senses and powers do turn out to be the key to saving Satellite Five, and ending the Lady Cassandra.
  3. But then The Unquiet Dead returns to the same pattern, as once again, the Doctor, besides providing some sort of inspirational patter, is forced to step aside as Gwyneth uses her weird ghost-y powers to get rid of the Gelf, whilst Charles Dickens of all people draws them out with his intuitive thinking.
  4. Aliens of London
  5. and World War Three see the Doctor take a bit more of a progressive role, but in the end is stuck with seeming a bit incompetent. How can he manage to pinpoint the End of the World party exactly right, yet fails to land in at least the same month that he originally took Rose from. I know this has been something featured in the show for years, but his fluctuating skills when it comes to the T.A.R.D.I.S. are just a bit silly at this point (seeing as they haven’t yet been explained in The Doctor’s Wife).
  6. Dalek, again, sees the Doctor as being useless; captured; unable to give proper advice; he even becomes the problem in the end as his hatred for the Daleks is such that Rose has to stand between him and the titular villain.
  7. The Long Game is another example of where the Doctor gives a new character a push to save the day where he again has failed. This time, it is Cathica who is inspired by missing out a promotion to investigate further, and subsequently overheat the monstrous Jagrafess, whilst the Doctor simply stands by for the majority of the episode.
  8. Father’s Day is even more of a failure for the Doctor. He comes up with a plan, only to be eaten alive. What more is there to say?
  9. In The Empty Child
  10. and The Doctor Dances, the Doctor is once again reduced to influencing others to fix the messes he is faced with. Although his role in this episode is a bit more proactive, as he sets out to find Nancy, the ‘sister’ of the ‘Empty Child’, in the end, he saves the day through pure dumb luck, as he would have had no means of besting the child had the nano-genes not identified Nancy as it’s mother.
  11. I’m kind of glad I’m getting to the end of my brief (Doctor’s role in the) series analysis, as it’s making me more and more cynical towards the ninth Doctor. I’m not even sure what happens in Boom Town. His savvy keeps him from getting murdered, sure, but in the end of the day, it seems more like it is the T.A.R.D.I.S. itself that defeats the last Slitheen on Earth.
  12. Bad Wolf
  13. and the Parting of Ways is a bit more redemptive for the Ninth Doctor, and serves as a good end-song, I think. Having spent a whole series being useless, and pushing other’s to defeat the varying alien hordes, the Doctor steps up; outsmarts the game-shows of future earth; masterminds a small breakout; figures out a way to wipe out the Daleks; and ultimately saves Rose from dying by sacrificing himself. Although really, it was him ‘saving the day’ in The Long Game that gave the Daleks their chance to invade… so.. yeah.

Of course, it should be noted that in that last one, towards the end the Doctor does effectively give up and is left to be himself saved by Rose once again.

Throughout the series it seems, the Ninth Doctor acts mostly as enabler, a kind, yet broken man who is able to find the best in others, even when he cannot see the same within himself. Perhaps this was Russell T. Davies’ intent then? Make the Doctor’s inability to deal with all the situations a part of his shell-shock? Personally, I doubt that; I think it is probably more coincidence. But whatever, this all transitions me quite nicely onto my next topic…

The Companions

Rose Tyler. The audiences surrogate on the show; Rose does a good job of helping introduce new audiences everywhere to the ‘Who’niverse. However, as a person who watches Doctor Who for The Doctor, it annoyed me at times when Rose seemed far more capable than the Time-Lord himself. But despite her clearly being older than nineteen, Rose’s youthful nature was probably my favourite part of her character, as despite coming off as a little stupid at times when constantly hanging around the Doctor, she still manages to become a more developed character. Rose makes it clear where R.T.D’s real interests lie, and in this case, it’s not too big a problem.

Adam Mitchell. I suppose Adam really stands on the border of being a companion, as he only actually travelled to one destination with the Doctor and Rose. In a way, he serves the same function as the Doctor; he’s there to make Rose look good, and as such is portrayed as slightly self-centred and unlikeable, I suppose, despite the fact that the majority of people would probably be much more like him than Ms. Tyler.

Captain Jack Harkness. A real fan favourite, Jack brought some real change to the show. Flamboyant, exciting, and action-orientated, Jack is definitely one of the better, and more interesting characters to be introduced by R.T.D (which is probably why he got his own spin-off). And, perhaps my favourite thing about Jack is that for a brief time, he distracts from the annoying Doctor/Companion love affair, which admittedly does get better in Series Two, but frankly isn’t as necessary as all the new writers seem to think. But more on that later.

(Sort of) Companions

Mickey Smith. Back in 2005, Mickey was perhaps my favourite character. To be blunt, as an eleven year old who didn’t really care about character development and all that malarkey, it was probably because he was one of the few main characters, or in fact the only main character at the time, who wasn’t white. Of course now, almost double that age, I have an appreciation for other things in the medium of television. But back then, it was all about who was cool, and how many ‘splosions went off.

But one thing that I still enjoy about Mickey to this day, is his representation of how the Doctor really can ruin someone’s life. Sure, he gets a bit of a better rap in series two, but for series one, he’s just the help; he’s labelled an idiot by the Doctor time and time again and his girlfriend is stolen from him, yet he remains the loyal underdog till the end, never truly leaving Rose’s side.

The Enemies

And then of course, there are the enemies of the Doctor. Let me just say now; I’m only talking about those I deem actual antagonists; I’m not going to talk about antagonists who are just there due to the situation, and thus have no ill-feelings towards the Doctor, a history, or actual evil intent.

Throughout series one, just like any series I suppose. The enemies are a bit hit and miss. The Jagrafess. Bit boring really, isn’t he/she/it? Jag’s just a blob of goo with beady eyes and a mouth; not exactly a compelling antagonist. Same goes for the Gelf, really. They’re a tad more visually interesting, but for the most part, they’re also kind of boring.

But, the 2005 revival did bring some more interesting foes to the table.

The Lady Cassandra is a far more interesting and humorous villain than the other two combined, even more so when she’s further developed in series two. And so for that reason, I’m going to leave her until the next post.

Then there are the Slitheen, another interesting and imaginative creation of R.T.D. Both the Slitheen and Cassandra are good representations of R.T.D’s imaginative mind, and are something that the show is starting to lack in its newer seasons. Plus, they all have actual motives, beyond, “Rawr, I’m evil”. Episodes like the one they’re featured in make the show far more interesting to watch. Plus, as previously stated about Cassandra, they endow the show with a much needed bit of humour.

And then there are the classic villains who make their return. The Autons have never really been the most compelling of villains, but they certainly have that cool factor. They’re one of the more interesting plot-villains, brought out for episodes where character development is key. Even without the generally much-needed character in a villain, they still an interesting enough idea to warrant multiple returns.

The Storyline

But of course, the Autons have nothing on the Daleks. Originally just appearing in a one off as what seemed like fan-service, with a bit of back-story for the Doctor’s new outlook, the Daleks make their big return in the series’ finale, in one of the more different episodes of Doctor Who. The only problem is their defeat. The Bad Wolf powers gained by Rose reduce the Daleks to Auton status with a wave of the hand, something that unfortunately continues on for the rest of the shows new history.

But although the Deus Ex Machina that is the Bad Wolf makes fools of the Daleks, it’s seeding throughout the series is an intriguing part of the show that I definitely miss. Of course, there are over-arching themes in the newer series, but none of them seem quite as thought out or well placed as they were under Davies. The writing and commitment, if a bit silly or basic at times, ends up working far better than Steven Moffat’s. Again, I have more to say about Moffat (whose writing I do love, but have issues with), but that should be reserved for a later series. The episodes tie together well, and Davies seems to take much more of a hands-on approach in the writing, sharing his ideas throughout his team and making sure each episode had some sort of ramification, whether big or small.

At the time I was sad to see him go, but now that he’s gone, I miss Russell T. Davies.

You never know what you’ve got until you lose it.

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Posted by on July 25, 2014 in Film & TV

 

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