Joy of Sets: New Doctor Who – Series 1

Christopher Eccleston

[Contains mild spoilers]

It’s easy to forget what sort of pressure there must have been for the rebooted Doctor Who to be a success back in 2005. Doctor Who was still a cult thing (though a popular cult thing) and the most recent attempt to resuscitate the series had been the Doctor Who movie with Paul McGann.

Rewatching ‘Rose’ as it introduces a whole new generation to the Doctor, the Tardis, the aliens and the monsters, is still a pleasure. It reminds us that it’s often the monsters that could be close to home that are the scariest – shop window dummies that come alive and make a sinister creaking noise as they move – but the fact that the Doctor remains cheerful in the face of danger stops it becoming horrific.

I adored Christopher Eccleston as the Ninth Doctor. He was perfect as the first rebooted Time Lord – sarky, funny, serious, rude and good at running. In fact, the first word he says as the Doctor is one that defined the Russell T Davies era for many: “Run!”

I was hooked from episode one, but there’s no denying that Rose does look (if you’ll pardon the expression) a little plastic compared to later episodes. Though I’m prepared to overlook everything for this exchange: Rose – “If you’re an alien, how comes you sound like you’re from the north?” Ninth Doctor – “Lots of planets have a north.”

Across 13 episodes we get to experience the mercurial nature of the Doctor, always the cleverest man in the room, but so often missing the point – at least as far as humans are concerned.

Reasons to rewatch this box set?

1. Christopher Eccleston (see above).

2. Dalek. Asks hard questions of the Doctor and shows us his brittle, battle-scarred side – it’s not a pretty sight. Also demonstrates that the Daleks have learned to conquer that old enemy – stairs…

3. Aliens of London/World War Three is not the ‘tosh’ that some dismiss it as. It’s not the best of the first series, but forgive the writers for trying to make the younger half of their audience laugh (few things make eight-year-olds laugh as hard as farts after all) and pay attention to a chilling conceit – aliens hiding in the upper echelons of government and planning a nuclear holocaust so they can sell off the planet to the highest bidders – and all the ‘domestic’ stuff that the Doctor hates so much. Russell T Davies captures the fallout of a 19-year-old girl vanishing perfectly – of course her mum would be distraught, of course her boyfriend would be a murder suspect. Including the emotional baggage didn’t turn Doctor Who into a soap opera, it gave it heart.

4. The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances. My personal favourites of the first series. There are still moments that give me chills even on third or fourth rewatch. It has Captain Jack, though at the beginning of his character arc his ways aren’t as winning as they will be, Christopher Eccleston dancing, the gasmask monsters, a reference to Oliver, and “Everybody lives Rose! Just this once, everybody lives!”

The parting of the ways5. The Long Game/The Parting of the Ways. It still had me on the edge of my seat and it still made me cry. There are thrills of fear and love and it’s the moment where we see how the Doctor has made better people not just of Rose and Jack, but Mickey and Jackie too. It’s the story that makes me wish Christopher Eccleston had stayed longer  – even though David Tennant is My Doctor (and I’m itching to get onto Series 2 now). This two-parter was a great ending to a great series.

It’s been an absolute joy to rewatch. Fantastic? I should coco…

Posted by Jo the Hat

1 Comment

Filed under Dr Who, Joy of Sets

One response to “Joy of Sets: New Doctor Who – Series 1

  1. dogdrovenorth

    Just caught an on demand behind-the-scenes for series 1 and enjoyed the explanation of how, in The Long Game, mankind ‘stalled’ after the Doctor stopped all the television channels telling people what to eat and what to think and what to say, and left. When he returns in “The Parting of the Ways” he learns what happened – what he let happen – by being absent.

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