Now it may be that Iâ€™m preaching to the converted, but I avoided considerable spoilerage in the last few weeks (very difficult when running a website of this nature) in order to watch Doctor Whoâ€™s triumphant comeback untainted. Week after week has gone by, hearing of friends and even family who have fallen by the wayside, and downloaded that infernal leak. “Shhh!” I would say to them â€“ and it was even worse in the Forum. I had to read certain posts with one eye (you know who you are!).
But â€“ youâ€™ll all be very glad to know that my effort was worth it. Which is just as well as until just a few minutes ago I was watching the first episode of a brand new series of Doctor Who. Back in 1996 when the TVM aired, I kind of half knew that that was it for that Doctor, no matter how optimistic other fans were. When the end of Survival aired 16 years ago, never did I think we would wait so long for a new series.
It may be that some of you out there disagree with me, that to you Doctor Whoâ€™s golden age is well and truly gone, that the goat is cooked. I tell you “you are wrong”. Doctor Who is back. Not for 90 minutes. For 13×45 minutes. And I just watched it. I saw the TARDIS spinning through the Vortex. I heard the music, bassy and scary, schreeching and grandiose. Iâ€™ll say it again.
DOCTOR WHO IS BACK!
Billie Piper is beautiful. I may have made my opinion of her clear a couple of times in the past, but let me reiterate. She is fantastic. She is Rose. She portrays a shop girl living a humdrum life – the type many of us would like to escape from â€“ who is swept away by the wayward Time Lord. Everything about Billie Piperâ€™s performance in Rose tells me she is perfect. She can act, she can move, she can look, she can express. Billie is Rose.
Christopher Eccleston. The man. He is happening. What has he got â€“ a leather jacket, and pullover, a new sonic screwdriver. Yet he is able to convey amazing gravity. None of this is new â€“ Eccleston is well known for his serious roles. Doctor Who is an opportunity to display more depth and range. Within 5 seconds Ecclestonâ€™s Doctor changes from grinning wildly to describing in total wonder how he can feel the world turning and orbiting the Sun.
The character of the Doctor has been described in the past as “actor proof”. Obviously there is some degree of truth in this. Christopher Eccleston is totally different to anyone who has gone before him. If you taped the show, go back and watch it again NOW. He is subtle, he is heroic, he is alien. He hasnâ€™t got a scarf or crap question marks all over, nor does he wear a Jimi Hendrix outfit or play the recorder. He doesnâ€™t need any of these. Christopher Eccleston tonight shifted as effortlessly into the character of the Doctor as effortlessly as his predecessor Paul McGann. He was brilliant, a revelation â€“ Iâ€™d always thought he was inspired casting, and tonight I was deemed correct. And heâ€™s got another 12 weeks to improve!
As for the story, well it has all the elements that made Spearhead from Space a success â€“ Nestene invasion, (unnamed) Autons smashing through shop windows, the introduction of a strong female character. Comparisons to a 35 year old story are unfair however. This new series takes back some of Doctor Whoâ€™s lost mystery and power, without even hinting that it ever lost it. The CGI representation of the Nestene Consciousness is inspired, as is the inclusion of a character who runs a website about a mysterious character known only as “the Doctor”. Mark Benton is once again untouchable, so very natural in this small role â€“ it is a shame that Clive died, it would have been good to see him again. Then again, this is a show about time travelâ€¦
â€¦but what about Noel Clarke? Usually heâ€™s quite watchable, but there was something about his performance I didnâ€™t quite take to. Once he was playing the Auton Mickey he was fine â€“ I wouldnâ€™t say it was his acting, possibly the character. Giving Rose something to choose between â€“ staying with Mickey or going with the Doctor â€“ he had to be a bit of an unsympathetic character.
Itâ€™s more than that though isnâ€™t it? If ever we doubted, Doctor Who is about an alien and a human friend, fighting monsters around the galaxy and through time. The relationship between the Doctor and Rose is almost instantaneous â€“ there is a spark right away, and this is due to the skills of both actors. It seems that they are going to become very good friends over the next 3 months, possibly even closer than the Doctor and Sarah Janeâ€¦
I have to say something about the TARDIS. Wonderful. Beautiful POV and crane shot as Rose enters for the second time, the detail in the wall, the floor, the struts, the rotor! So much has been taken from the previous console rooms, and it all comes together as wonderfully alien to us in the 21st Century as Hartnellâ€™s TARDIS must have in 1963. Thatâ€™s 42 years ago.
So we get a good opener, wonderful leads, and an amazing TARDIS. There is so much to talk about Rose, weâ€™ll be talking about it when this series is long finished. Camille Coduri is wonderful as Roseâ€™s mother, completing the picture of the everyday life Rose is plodding through. Her flirtatious attempt to seduce the Doctor is perfectly underplayed, and is not out of place in what is essentially a childrenâ€™s program.
I donâ€™t have any kids yet, but if I had we would have been watching Doctor Who together, just like I did with my own father 20-odd years ago. Will kids find the belching bin funny? If the series is aimed at 8-12 year olds, then why shouldnâ€™t they? Will they be scared by shop dummies coming alive? As a child I was fascinated by shop dummies, and I didnâ€™t even see Spearhead from Space until 1995. They are as mundane and everyday as Roseâ€™s life, and like Rose those shop dummies undergo a transformation.
As important as the resolution to the story is, Iâ€™ll ignore it here â€“ itâ€™s only a footnote in history compared to the return of Doctor Who. Rose turning down the Doctorâ€™s first offer to travel with him (although his reaction to her rejection is so wonderfully played) is again a footnote, soon forgotten as she wanders the Universe with him. The Doctorâ€™s references to a “war” that he “fought in” are fast enough to miss, yet no doubt relevant to the overall shape of this series.
What is important is how Rose decides to leave Mickey and travel with the Doctor. It isnâ€™t because the TARDIS travels through space (“Itâ€™s not just for London hops”), and it isnâ€™t because Mickey is an ignorant loafer. Rose wants time-travel. Perhaps next week we’ll find out whyâ€¦