Revisiting Doctor Who: Series 1, Episodes 1-5

I don’t want WitterLog to turn into a Doctor Who blog, but re-watching the whole of the re-launched run from the first episode presents too good an opportunity to miss. I am the proud dad of a little boy who turns six years old next month, and I decided, via an iPad and iTunes, to introduce him to the Doctor.

The Lad loves sci-fi and fantasy (he is a Star Wars addict though I won’t let him watch Revenge of the Sith – too violent), but trying to set the scene with an explanation of the Doctor, the Time Lords and the TARDIS was a bit of a struggle. I think he got the gist of it though. As a testament to the programme’s integration into British pop culture, the Lad already knew what the TARDIS was and kept asking “are the Daleks the bad guys in this one daddy?”
HEALTH WARNING: It is quite difficult to decide how old is old enough for the Doctor. The new series has better special effects but is is more violent, for example, than the “classic” series? Who can say. I’ve decided that, on the whole, the Lad can handle Doctor Who. I might decide to omit some episodes from his viewing though, and I will watch them all with him (great excuse for “us” time!).
Episode 1: Rose
As I’ve already mentioned in a previous post, Rose is in my opinion a bit of a mix. A big sigh of relief is due when we realise that this relaunch is very much a continuation of the original run, not a ghastly reboot, and will seek to balance respect with necessary reinvention. So far, so good. Christopher Eccleston is also – in accompanying media – announced as the Ninth Doctor, which respectfully “cannonises” Paul McGann’s all-too-brief portrayal as the Eighth, in case there were any doubters. Eccleston balances light-heartedness with flashes of dark seriousness (and quite a lot of gurning), and Billie Piper’s turn as Rose Tyler shows much promise.
Indeed, it is the introduction of the Doctor to such a mundane setting as a 2005 inner London council estate which is the overwhelming strength of the first episode, acting as a perfect entry point for new viewers. I guess it is for that reason that the central plot, concerning the Nestene Consciousness and its army of Autons, is so.. well… dull. In fact the Auton invasion bit feels like his has been tacked on as an afterthought. But the Time War is first hinted at, and the Shadow Proclamation is mentioned, and things begin to get moving in the right direction.
Continuity gripe: The Doctor seems to have seen himself in the mirror for the very first time. Either he has been too busy to check his hair for a while, or he is very recently regenerated – which seems more likely. In which case, why is it this particular incarnation which is showing up in old photographs and drawings collected by conspiracy-theorist-and-blogger Clive? When has the Doctor had time to visit Krakatoa, the Titanic and JFK’s assassination if he hasn’t even had the chance to notice his own face in a mirror? Hmmmm…
By the way, I may have found the Auton plot uninspiring, but the Lad loved it, I’m pleased to say. Resistance is futile…
Episode 2: The End of the World
He did not, however, like the second episode. “It was bit boring Mum”, was his response when asked by my other half. I agree with him.
But again, in hindsight you can see what is going on. Russell T Davies is trying to strike that difficult balance between winning-over the diehards and opening up a pop culture institution to a new audience. What better way to show-case the nature and scope of the show? Catapult them to the year 5 billion, on a space station poised to witness the consumption of the Earth by a dying Sun, occupied by an admittedly inventive menagerie of wealthy and exotic aliens.
Again, more hints at the fate of the Time Lords, the introduction of the Face of Boe, and an enjoyable vocal performance by Zoe Wanamaker as Lady Cassandara, are in the episode’s favour. But the Lad wasn’t overly impressed (though he did like the various aliens as well).
Episode 3: The Unquiet Dead
Now this is more like it. Another plot designed to re-establish the overarching premise of the show by taking the TARDIS to to Christmas 1869 (Cardiff, to be precise) and roping in thespian national treasure Simon Callow to do his famously entertaining Charles Dickens portrayal – what a lovely coup. The alien Gelth and their spine-chilling modus operandi thoroughly won-over the Lad in this well-crafted Victorian quasi-ghost story. Eve Myles gives a wonderful performance as the ancestor of her own Torchwood character, and the episode reveals more of the abiding sadness which lurks at the heart(s) of the Ninth Doctor.
Was the Lad scared by the reanimated corpses? I did ask. Have you ever had a withering look from a five-year-old? Kids today…
Episodes 4 & 5: Aliens of London, World War Three
Alien space craft crashes into Big Ben. Surgically-modified pig. Big green baby-faced monsters. Mediocre CGI. Fart jokes.
It was like a comedy version of a Jon Pertwee stranded-on-Earth episode from the Seventies, compete with a cameo from UNIT. I rolled my eyes. The Lad adored it. I thought it a bit silly, but I loved that he loved it.
I tried to keep him from seeing the “Next Time” snippet during the closing credits, but failed. The Lad saw a Dalek. He is wetting himself with excitement. To be continued…

About Mark Winter

Dark Fantasy novelist (INFERNAL PREY). Blogging on politics and current affairs (GibberLog), science and history (BlatherLog), sci-fi, fantasy & horror (WittlerLog), business, product development & start-ups (MutterLog). View all posts by Mark Winter

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