Doctor Who Rose

It feels kind of weird, sitting here comfortably, after something that I’ve been waiting for for twelve years has just, well, happened. I suppose, if I were still in Grade 6, I’d be jumping up and down in excitement. As a 23 year old who was just about to lose interest in Doctor Who, my reactions are a bit more restrained.

So, where to begin?

As it’s been a while since Doctor Who was on the telly, ‘Rose’ has to introduce the idea of the series to a whole new family audience. So, rather than trying to do the ultimate Who adventure, instead it follows a day in the life of Rose Tyler, shop assistant and all-round cutie. Of course, this day intersects with the Doctor’s attempts to save the planet from an Auton1 invasion, and things get a little messy for both of them. It’s an approach that reminds me of Buffy’s ‘The Zeppo’, and it works really well. Certainly compared to the fun, but flawed 1996 telemovie starring Paul McGann,2 it makes a lot more sense.

We’re falling through space, you and me, clinging to the surface of this tiny little world. And if we let go… — The Doctor

Subsequently, the plot isn’t really up to much. The episode feels like the end of an old fashioned Doctor Who adventure, after the Doctor has:

  1. Found out the Autons are attacking.
  2. Attained a means of destroying them.
  3. Located a key location in their plan and gone there to destroy it.

When I put it like that, I’m not at all sorry that we missed it; I presume future episodes will also be slicing out the fat of the old Who structure.

While the story isn’t deep, Rose is brilliantly introduced — which is of course, the point. Having never heard of Billie Piper before her casting, I never had the “oh my god, a popstar acting in Doctor Who” fear that others may have experienced. I did have an “oh my god, hottest companion ever” feeling though. The good news is that Billie proves herself above both of those stereotypes. ‘Rose’ would be lost without a great actor as Rose, and Billie Piper turns out to be just that. Reminding me a lot of Sarah Jane in the classic series, Rose has the perfect balance of grounding in the real world, and excitement for the Doctor’s insane world. Rose has gotten near-equal billing in the promotion for this series, which she deserves. Also, it’s probably the way it should have always been.

The Doctor’s other constant companion, of course, is the TARDIS. And it’s also perfect. The console room has been pristine white, it’s been Jules Verne style wood. An organic look was the only direction left, and they’ve done it brilliantly. There are so many cool things about the console room that I can’t be bothered working them into sentences. * The huge supporting struts. * The glowing insides of the console and time rotor. * The back of the real-world door of the TARDIS, complete with reverse ‘Police Public Call Box’ light. * The crazy gadgets incorporated into the console. Here’s hoping we get some close-ups later. * The coral-like textures. * The hatstand.

It’s wonderfully alien. It could do with some homely touches though — perhaps Rose will see to that. The outside of the time machine is the same old Blue Box. Well, except it doesn’t look so wobbly as it used to. Solid, reassuring and innocuous.

The tone of the show is interesting. At times it reminded me of the lighthearted freewheeling of Wonderfalls. There’s some ridiculous stuff happening here, which sometimes works, and sometimes doesn’t as much. There’s a scene with a wheelie bin might make you cringe, but might make you laugh out loud. There’s some of the worst Photoshop work you’ve ever seen. There’s a plastic hand changing direction in mid-air. In places, the show feels like a live-action cartoon. When I think about it, that’s not quite so different to a lot of Doctor Who either.3 But when the story comes down to the wire, it has an edge, and it has danger. And this is largely due to Christopher Eccleston.

After the vanilla Paul McGann version,4 Eccleston’s Doctor is a welcome shaking about of the quintessential character. Short tempered, but happy. Supremely confident when everything’s going right, but quick to panic when his plans go awry. Scornful of the human race in general, but willing to accept he’d be dead without Rose’s help. Grounded in the real world, yet still containing that trademark Time Lord arrogance. And finally, a return to the Doctor wearing clothes and not a costume. Even if this is Eccleston’s only season in the role, it’ll be a fantastic one.

‘Rose’ is a good opening story. It’s not great, but it sets things up for greatness so deftly that there’s no doubt in my mind it’s coming.

  1. The Autons are plastic forms manipulated by the Nestene Conciousness. Depending on who you believe, the Consciousness is one of the Great Old Ones that managed to jump across the destruction of the previous universe, and emerged in ours with terrible powers. For the purposes of this episode, it’s a big blob in a vat, and so it should be.
  2. Ah yes, the telemovie that opened inside the TARDIS, somewhat draining the excitement of getting in there for the first time. And confusing the hell out of casual viewers: “Nice cathedral. Now what’s that blue box bumping around that swirly thing for? I don’t get it.”
  3. And yet, it was Star Trek who got a cartoon series. Odd.
  4. Don’t anyone go calling Peter Davison the vanilla one.
4 comments posted — most recent by Tom on 17/03/06