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Who is the Doctor
The Unofficial Guide to Doctor Who â" the New Series
By Graeme Burk, Robert Smith
ECW PRESS Copyright © 2012 Graeme Burk and Robert Smith
All rights reserved.
Written by Russell T Davies Directed by Keith Boak
Supporting cast Camille Coduri (Jackie Tyler); Noel Clarke (Mickey Smith); Mark Benton (Clive); Elli Garnett (Caroline); Alan Ruscoe, Paul Kasey, David Sant, Elizabeth Fost, Helen Otway (Autons); Nicholas Briggs (Nestene voice)
Original airdate March 26, 2005
The Big Idea Ordinary shopgirl Rose Tyler encounters a mysterious man called the Doctor, who is in the midst of foiling an invasion by creatures made of living plastic.
Roots and ReferencesThe X-Files (Clive's website and conspiracy theories). The Doctor flips through Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones. The music from the opening montage was inspired by the Pixies' song "Cecilia Ann."
Adventures in Time and Space The Autons, and the Nestene Consciousness controlling them, appeared in 1970's "Spearhead From Space" and 1971's Terror of the Autons. The scene of the shop window dummies breaking out is a recreation of a famous scene from "Spearhead From Space." TARDIS stands for "Time And Relative Dimension In Space," going back to the original derivation of the word from 1963's "An Unearthly Child." (From 1965 to 1996, the D stood for dimensions, plural.)
The Bad Wolf Effect The meme that defines this season, Bad Wolf, doesn't appear in this story (unless you count that Rose is wearing a red hoodie, which brings to mind Little Red Riding Hood). However, this episode does set up another important element of this season's ongoing story arc, as the Doctor tells the Nestene that he fought in a war, which eventually will be called the Time War. The Time War becomes very important as the season develops and influences several key events in episodes to come — as it does here, with the Nestene looking to invade Earth because their homeworld was destroyed in the war.
Who is the Doctor? We're introduced to a brand new Doctor, in medias res. Although the history from Clive's website suggests a large backstory to this ninth Doctor, the fact that he looks in a mirror and comments on his ears suggests that he's recently regenerated. The two details aren't incompatible: his adventures at Kennedy's assassination and Krakatoa may well have not yet happened to him (or he simply hasn't had a chance to look in a mirror). While the new Doctor is quite a step away from past Doctors — he's outwardly tougher and he wears a leather jacket rather than the Victorian or Edwardian style of his predecessors — there are also a number of clues that reassure us that this is the same show. He carries a sonic screwdriver, the Nestene Consciousness calls him a Time Lord and his morality is consistent: he can't kill the Nestene Consciousness without first giving it a chance. In among the dizzying array of changes that the New Series brings, it's this last point that's probably the most important: the Doctor's moral centre is unchanged.
The Doctor and Rose Rose is an ordinary girl, working in an ordinary job, with an ordinary life. She's a teenager and, outwardly, there's nothing special about her. Even her climactic decision to get involved in the Doctor's world — via her bronze in gymnastics — actually reveals that she hasn't really excelled at anything. And yet, the Doctor is immediately drawn to her, taking her hand in a way that's incredibly sweet, even if it does occur amid an atttack by plastic aliens. It's Rose's compassion and humanity — two qualities that the Doctor clearly struggles with, thanks to some as-yet-unidentified trauma — that the Doctor's drawn to. For her part, it's clearly love at first sight, as a mysterious and attractive older man turns her world upside down and then invites her to join his thrilling and dangerous lifestyle.
Monster of the Week The Nestene Consciousness is made of living plastic and can control anything plastic. It can make plastic copies of people and uses Autons (which are never named in the episode itself, though they are in the credits) as its invasion force. The Autons resemble shop window dummies, but with guns built into their hands.
Stand Up and Cheer The scene where the Doctor has to explain what a police box is should be a boring scene, but Christopher Eccleston instead proclaims, "It's a disguise!" as though it really were the cleverest disguise in history. This is a plot point for new viewers, a nod to the series' history for long-time viewers, a character point about the Doctor and a really funny joke rolled into one. This is the moment when you realize that — despite the leather jacket, the northern accent and the gruff exterior — Christopher Eccleston truly is the Doctor.
Roll Your Eyes Mickey getting his hands stuck in melted plastic is quite good. His fighting with a poorly rendered CGI wheelie bin is a bit silly. But its final burp after it's swallowed him is downright embarrassing to anyone over the age of 12.
You're Not Making Any Sense Given how observant and curious Rose is in every other respect, it does seem incredible she doesn't notice that, after visiting Clive, her boyfriend has a darker complexion, different hair, a plastic sheen and a tendency to stutter mechanically.
Interesting Trivia Mickey telling Rose not to read his emails is a little bizarre. Is he cheating on her? That seems the obvious conclusion, although he could just be planning a surprise party, for all we know. It's meant to indicate frission in their relationship, so that when she leaves him for the Doctor at the story's conclusion we don't feel that Rose is heartless, but it's an odd way of going about it. Especially as it never gets resolved.
The website Rose uses to look for information on the Doctor is searchwise.net. It isn't a real search engine, but a "prop" search engine used in a variety of films and TV shows. This neatly circumvents using an actual brand name, which public broadcasters like the BBC avoid unless absolutely necessary. Oddly, searchwise.net only turns up one link to the search term "Doctor Blue Box": that of Clive's webpage. It's a little bizarre that there aren't traces of the Doctor all over the internet.
The Doctor uses anti-plastic to kill the Nestene Consciousness. There are two strange things about this: the first is that we're never told anything more about what the substance is, not even given a technobabble explanation. The second is that the Doctor is carrying it at all. Although he claims he wasn't going to use it, the very fact that he's walking around with a substance that can entirely destroy his enemy has to be seen as an act of war. The Doctor is supposed to be the man who doesn't use weapons, so why was he (presumably) spending hours in the TARDIS laboratory brewing up a fiendish bioweapon?
Rose lives on the Powell Estate, a housing complex in Peckham, London. These kinds of estates are operated by local councils in a bid to supply uncrowded housing at reasonable rents for working-class people. While many Classic Series companions were decidedly middle class, Rose's background marks her as an everywoman. It's a subtle way to endear new viewers to a character who has to be likeable and sympathetic from the outset, as we see the Doctor's world through her eyes.
The new TARDIS interior features coral-like pillars, a hexagon pattern on the walls and a metal mesh floor. For the first time in Doctor Who, the exterior TARDIS doors directly open onto the interior; we even see the back of the Police (Public Call) Box sign inside the console room. There's a ramp from the door up to the central console, which consists of a central glass pillar with pipes inside and a six-sided console. The organic nature of it, suggesting the TARDIS has been grown rather than built, is a superb touch.
This episode, infamously, was leaked onto the internet a month before its broadcast; on March 6, 2005, an employee at a Toronto dubbing facility contracted out by the CBC decided to make a copy for himself and put it online. (He then got fired. Let that be a lesson to you.) The main change from the viewing copy to the final, transmitted version is that a stereo mix of the original Delia Derbyshire theme music was used.
The TARDIS Chronometer It's established in "Aliens of London" that this story is set mostly on March 6, 2005. The TARDIS is seen throughout London: outside Henrik's, near the Powell Estate, in the alley of a restaurant and across from the London Eye. Each time, a little more is revealed for new viewers: it first dematerializes offscreen, then the interior is shown, then a materialization from within and finally one from the exterior. This gives viewers new to Doctor Who an idea of the TARDIS's capabilities without drowning them in exposition.
Fantastic? (RS?) After 15 long years of waiting, after all the cul de sacs and dead ends, Doctor Who finally returns and it's on the BBC on Saturday nights, starring a heavyweight actor as the Doctor and a celebrity as the companion in a continuation of the original series. For fans who'd been waiting, this was everything we could have possibly dreamed of.
But what of the episode itself? How can the story — how can anything — live up to the hype, the promise and the dreams fans have had for 15 years?
"Rose," fortunately, is fantastic.
It's not just okay, or as good as could be hoped for in the circumstances, it's utterly, utterly wonderful. There are so many great things about "Rose," from the Doctor's entrance and Rose's day to Clive's description and the disembodied hand actually attacking from behind the sofa. The first five minutes alone will have you grinning like a fool — and it's a grin that will stay with you for the next 24 hours.
The new show is smart, sassy, witty, scary, laugh-out-loud funny, touching and clever. It has all these things in spades; although for my money, it's the humour that succeeds best of all. Everything from "Give a man a plastic hand" and "Lots of planets have a north!" to Clive's wife being surprised that a girl would be interested in a website about the Doctor makes this an episode that you just can't help loving.
The opening montage gives us Rose's day in 30 seconds and then you hit the ground running. Although it appears light and fluffy, this is actually plotted incredibly carefully so that, without even realizing it, casual viewers are absorbed into the Doctor's world. If you're used to the Classic Series format of a longer story built over several 25-minute episodes, this takes some getting used to: there's a sense we've stepped into episode three of a four-part story in the Classic Series.
What's amazing is the introduction to both the Doctor and the sensibilities of the show. At first, he's a mysterious man who blows up buildings for his own agenda. In a post-9/11 age, this has the potential to be rather unsettling. Rose experiences the TARDIS as you or I would: running out and walking all around it before asking blunt questions. It's through her eyes that new viewers are meeting the Doctor and seeing his world. She gets to ask all the questions that the brand new viewer at home is wondering about and gradually her skepticism breaks down until she's ready to embrace both the Doctor and his universe. Stunt casting a celebrity pop singer sounded like a recipe for disaster, but Piper pulls it off beautifully by creating a character who's completely believable and grounded.
This premiere episode is a character piece, not a plot-driven spectacle. Which is fabulous, because it's the characters we really care about. There's a reason it's called "Rose" and not "Return of Some Extraterrestrials." For a series that needs to appeal to the general public in order to survive, making Rose the focus is crucial. And Russell T Davies is exactly the right man for the job: with extensive experience in kitchen-sink drama, he knows how to get an audience's attention and keep it.
What blows everything out of the water, though, is Christopher Eccleston's Doctor. He's incredible. What's more, he's unlike any Doctor we've ever seen and almost the complete antithesis of what you'd imagine the Doctor should be. He's not the genial old professor of the past, he doesn't wear flowing cloaks or hats and he doesn't speak with Received Pronunciation. But none of this matters, because he's utterly convincing. Right from his first appearance, you're never in doubt that he's the Doctor. What's more, he gets actual acting to do and carries the role with a boyish enthusiasm that's instantly infectious. He had me at "Run!"
I'm amazed at just how great "Rose" is. I honestly never thought they could recreate the series I fell in love with and prepared myself to adapt to whatever new incarnation it appeared in ... but somehow they have. There are lots of little moments that really set it apart, but the whole thing unfolds like a dream. Doctor Who is back, but "Rose" is so good that it's like it never went away.
Second Opinion (GB) When it comes down to it, the new Doctor Who is so successful because of the first seven minutes of "Rose." That introduction pretty much distills what is, and what will forever be, great about Doctor Who. An ordinary person goes to a basement and not only faces something out of a nightmare but something incredibly daft. She meets a barmy man who is smarter than anyone else but also seems to be charismatically bonkers. There's an exciting chase, and a brilliant speech, followed by the best exchange of dialogue: "I'm the Doctor by the way ... what's your name?" "Rose." "Nice to meet you, Rose. Run for your life!"
No wonder everyone became hooked. What's even more impressive is that it's these seven minutes that drive the rest of the story.
Like the very first Doctor Who story, 1963's "An Unearthly Child," "Rose" is about an ordinary person who gets caught up in a mystery and finds something extraordinary. While the Doctor's very first human companions, Ian and Barbara, only discovered the TARDIS, Rose gets a primer on everything that Doctor Who can be: monsters, danger, death and a scary, mad, eccentric hero. The focus on Rose pushes the whys and wherefores of the Doctor into backstory, which is maddening for those who want to know what the Doctor is all about, but it makes the mythology that much more intriguing. Likewise, there are old monsters in "Rose," but they're used more as shorthand for what an iconic Doctor Who monster should be like. And the Doctor is a full-fledged hero from the first second we see him.
A scene in a Doctor Who revival like the one where the Doctor has to fend off an Auton arm while Rose blithely makes coffee was beyond even the wildest dreams of many fans. Here, Russell T Davies has remembered something important: Doctor Who is, at heart, a comedy where everything is treated with utter seriousness and yet nothing is taken truly seriously. You may wince at Auton Mickey, but you can't deny the power that draws you into the story.
It's a shame that Keith Boak's direction is so lacklustre, not even meeting, much less exceeding, the possibilities of the script. Fortunately, Christopher Eccleston's performance manages to cover any directing flaws. By the time he does the speech about feeling the turn of the Earth ... well, we would pretty much follow him anywhere. And Piper is wonderful. The episode only works because we believe in Rose Tyler: a person stuck in a dead-end life who has so much potential when finally given the opportunity to show it. Piper makes Rose the best friend we've never had.
With all those masterstrokes, Doctor Who has become a force to be reckoned with once more. It's back, baby. Oh yes it is!CHAPTER 2
The End of the World
Written by Russell T Davies Directed by Euros Lyn
Supporting cast Simon Day (Steward), Yasmin Bannerman (Jabe), Jimmy Vee (Moxx of Balhoon), Zoë Wanamaker (Cassandra), Camille Coduri (Jackie Tyler), Beccy Armory (Raffalo) Sara Stewart (computer voice), Silas Carson (alien voice), Nicholas Briggs (alien voice)
Original airdate April 2, 2005
The Big Idea The Doctor takes Rose to witness the end of the world, where there's flirting, disaster and a Scooby-Doo-esque mystery.
Excerpted from Who is the Doctor by Graeme Burk, Robert Smith. Copyright © 2012 Graeme Burk and Robert Smith. Excerpted by permission of ECW PRESS.
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