not here to kill it.
I've gotta give it a chance..."
regenerated into a ninth incarnation, the Doctor is just passing-by planet Earth.
is he involved in his usual meddling? What is he 'hunting'?
Who is Rose? Will she get in the
way, and threaten the existence of the planet?
EPISODE ONE REVIEW Spoilers
I wish I were an old codger. About
fifty years old, would be fine. It would be mean that I could have watched the
very first DOCTOR WHO episode in 1963, and would be able to
compare the thrill & anticipation
of that ‘debut’ with the 2005 ‘debut’.
But as I am not, I can’t.
I get is the 1980 ‘re-invention‘ of DOCTOR
there was a radical change - new theme & Titles, new music, new production
crew, new writers and a re-working of an old favourite (the Fourth Doctor). The
instant that the new theme punched through the TV speakers and the star-field
swept forward it was unadulterated chills down the spine.
Would ROSE have the same effect 25 years later?
WHO was never going
to be easy. Ferocious fans expecting ‘classic’ WHOand expectant Executives requiring a ratings success.
I say, re-launching not re-creating as is
often said, with Head Writer/ Executive Producer, Russell T Davies cited as ‘re-creator’. He’s not;
he ‘s merely, like John Nathan-Turner (Seasons 18-26) before him, a ‘custodian’.
So it was with much trepidation that I view the first episode of (what ‘they’ pompously
call) DOCTOR WHO - SERIES ONE,
Thumping, triumphant theme tune - that pays
homage to the Pertwee era (with a nosegay of McGann’s outing) - signals
the start of new adventures for this Ninth Doctor. The scope of adventures are
equally defined by the macro opening shot of a small blue planet hanging in space
and the focussing within the four walls of a small London two-bedroom flat where
Rose Tyler lives with her Mum.
This episode revolves around Rose. A levelheaded
and extremely bored-with-life 19-year old whose job at Henricks department store
is about to change her forever. And all because of a Lottery ticket: Rose, it
So, what about the key elements of the production? Script, Direction, Acting,
Cinematography, Music, Design and FX.
The script, unfortunately, is so typical
of modern TV drama for the masses. Unchallenging, served up by a very large spoon
that has a label tied to it saying ‘Spoon’,
and seemingly spare lines exorcised from CORONATION
STREET circa 1975. The most
exorbitantly staid of which comes from Jackie Tyler (Rose’s mum). Only
Finch’s the Butchers would have more ham so blatantly displayed. Unfortunately,
the series’ Head Writer has made it aware that Jackie will be a re-occurring
character so we can only expect more the same mediocrity.
The dialogue between the Doctor and Rose is more meaningful with a balance
of lightweight, good-humoured banter and, at times, suitably serious so much
so that it resembled a Time Lord litany. A revered master and garrulous pupil.
A combination of deft scripting and ambitious
direction was distilled into a quite sublime set piece. The Doctor and Rose leave
her block of flats and for 90 seconds ‘chew-the-fat’ and laying out the story so far (and what
is to come). A continuous ‘camera-shot’, tracking the characters
without cutaways or close-ups.
A second set piece was equally beguiling
and, again, relayed the plot for new viewers. ‘Clive the investigator’ could have been a total disaster
due to parody connotation but it worked in chronicling the Doctor’s past
Holding a mirror up to itself, DOCTOR
WHO has never been so self-aware. This
was not a cheeky wink to the camera or an in-joke - it was full on! Superbly
understated by Mark Benton (with Billie Piper).
Clive: He has one constant companion.
Rose: Who’s that?
A superb character examination summed-up
in a singular word. Now, that’s
clever scripting. A word chosen for its depth and relevance within the contemporary
The direction, in partnership with the Cinematography,
was workman-like for the budget and the restrictions that shooting a drama on
a single camera brings. Throughout the later CLASSIC
SERIES, direction attempted
to be more cinematic that the experience (and technical multi-camera format)
of the crew could allow. We only saw the possibility of what DOCTOR
be like in Paul McGann’s
TV Movie but, now, as seen in ROSE, we witness a quantum leap in scale and attainment.
A music score can either add flesh to the bones or disguise inadequacies therein.
This jury is out - to return with a guilty (of being too obtrusive and inappropriate)
or acquitted (due to insufficient evidence to commit). It’s a borderline
WHO has always been at the forefront
of TV Design and FX. We have to look no further than the programme’s relationship with ‘blue screen’ (or
colour separation overlay), model shots and Quantel.
However, with the appointment of MillTV, the series has the ability to exponentially
expanding into a universe not previously explored.
The animated auton hand releasing itself from the Doctor, hanging in mid-air
and then leeching itself onto Rose was impressive. Blink and you would have missed
it. The much previewed department store explosion, again, executed with the skill
expected from an award winning ‘effects house’. And the TARDIS take-off?
Point to a child who didn’t think that it actually vanished into a turbulence
of space-time vortex. Again, it owed much to the 1996 TV
Eccleston and Piper.
Do they carry it off as the Doctor and Rose Tyler? Is he too dark or too funny
as the Time Lord? Will she throw off the millstone of being the partying-hard
wife of Chris Evans?
Answers: Yes, and yes.
This Ninth Doctor (who has recently regenerated)
is a constantly gurning (read: Troughton), surly (read: Hartnell), avuncular
(read: Pertwee)… need I
continue. This character is a true gestalt, without his own ’hook’ onto
which the audience can cling (he doesn’t have that easily recognisable
series ’trademark’ - literally a stripped down man. A Doctor for
all seasons. Risky or calculated? 13 episodes to decide.
Billie Piper has the hardest role in DOCTOR
WHO. Within 45 minutes she has had to validated her acting ambitions and silence
those critics (including eyeofhorus.org.uk) who lambasted the BBC for their choice
calling it ‘stunt casting’.
Fortunately, cynics would not need the full duration of the episode to realise
that Piper is a natural talent. DOCTOR
WHO requires a breadth of skills to be
employed by an actor unlike any other modern TV drama, and it is evident that
she has them - and showed them. And we are lead to believe that this is NOT Rose’s
At times, she was mesmerising.
Oh, the other constant companion of the
Doctor, the TARDIS. Where’s
the door to other part of the infinite space? Resembling a bowels of a stripped
bare airship, the console room is too junkyard than technology. The metal-grille
flooring, through which can be seen lighting and cabling seems sloppy design
(perhaps, behind the grilles could be affixed white opaque Perspex, back it to
give the flooring a more defined appearance.
The hat stand is back but lets hope that we see more the idiosyncratic knick-knacks
from the Doctor’s travels.
Overall, this first new (series) episode
for over 15 years, ROSE was enthralling, pacey (the first 22 minutes felt like
just 8 minutes), faultless (just - see ‘Things
to look out for…’), witty but not slapstick, and serious but not
As I write, it has been announced that this
episode has achieved 10.5 million UK viewers (with another 500,000 watching the
repeat on BBC3). In today’s
multi-channel broadcasting, that is impressive and comparable to CORONATION
EMMERDALE and, sometime, EASTENDERS.