Sunday, June 28, 2009

My Review of Doctor Who's 1x01: "Rose"

Written by Russell T Davies
Directed by Keith Boak

Okay before I start anywhere in my review I should let it be known that I am only semi-new to the world of Doctor Who. By this I mean I’ve only seen bits and pieces of the old series, the magazine I buy on a religious basis Dreamwatch originated from being a fanzine for the series and not only do I realise it’s not only influential in the sci-fi and fantasy genre but it’s also a British institution and cultural icon.

So why would I even dare review if there was a risk of making a blunder that pedantic fans could crucify me for missing out on? I like it a lot as a show and be honest I fancied a change of pace from the usual type of shows I do review and what could be more of a change than Doctor Who?

So 26 seasons, a failed TV movie, eight previous Doctors and a 16 year break from our screens and our 2005 debut begins with an ordinary girl named Rose Tyler going about her usual day – saying goodbye to Mum, lunch with her boyfriend and finishing the day at her job, only to go back and hand the lottery money to Winston downstairs.

Hardly riveting stuff until she finds herself under attack by Living Plastic Shop Dummies and rescued by an odd looking man dressed in leather who tells her to forget him, only when she’s just processed the fact he’s stopped her assailants – temporarily. Fat lot of good that is!

It’s unlikely to forget the guy that saved your life when the next morning he turns up at your council flat and another attack happens in your living room while your Mum is drying her hair but what the hey? You can keep your head firmly lodged in the sand and choose to live a life of ignorant bliss or better yet, you can look for some answers about your mystery. Thankfully Rose leans towards the latter option and more power to her for that decision.

On their second encounter The Doctor gave her some tiny answers – he feels the Earth moving around him in the literal meaning of the phrase and that’s he something of a one man army. Obviously to all viewers, whether you’re new or old to the Who universe this raises more questions than answers and it also proves that there was a universe far more mysterious and even fatal long before The X-Files, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Lost crashed into our collective consciousness and Rose’s attempts to get answers are fun.

Enter Clive, something of a Doctor Who fanatic, he beats most stereotypes by being a well together happily married man with children while having no intentions of harming anyone. The in-joke about him being a potential danger when he first meets Rose is handled well in my opinion. Although Clive dispenses some pretty impressive appearances of The Doctor throughout various time periods, his conclusion of The Doctor being an alien is hardly going to shock, is it? Even non-sci-fi viewers would’ve deduced that one pretty quickly but it’s moments like this that show the accessibility of this new remake/continuation/take your pick.

More interesting was Rose’s plank of a boyfriend Mickey being swallowed by a bin (more Living Plastic – I kid you not) and replaced with a copy. How Rose didn’t recognise this as soon as she got back in the car and even at the restaurant was baffling but the ensuing fight with Plastic Mickey and The Doctor was fun, although Rose’s first reaction to the TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimension In Space) and her and the Doctor’s arrival in London’s City Centre led to an interesting discussion on humanity.

As a girlfriend, Rose would naturally feel grief for Mickey and worry over having to tell his mother that he’s dead. The Doctor however would feel bad that Mickey was caught in the crossfire of a never ending war but would rationalise it with thinking of the bigger picture. Rose used the alien card when The Doctor didn’t appear as concerned for Mickey as she was. Up until that point she had handled the alien part just fine.

Rose being built as the new assistant for The Doctor was obvious from the start. Both her and The Doctor were drawn together and then sought each other out and it was Rose who saved the day against the Nestene Conscious, the leader of the Autons, our Living Plastic fiends. Their destruction came only out of Rose’s bravery – the real Mickey was useless and The Doctor had been outnumbered. I suppose I should note he came in peace, the Conscious chose to ignore and Rose was within her right to do what she did but we all know that, so yay for Rose.

Even The Doctor was impressed with how she handled herself and gave the opportunity of a lifetime – becoming a companion. When she declined at first I knew she didn’t mean it and it rang true when she overly ran to the TARDIS at the end. Let the fun begin.

As Doctor and assistant, there’s an instant likeable chemistry with Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper. The casting of an ex-pop star in normal circumstances could’ve been a disaster but Piper works a treat and is perfect for a down to earth, street savvy assistant.

The supporting players don’t fare as well with Rose’s mum and boyfriend being a tad annoying for their own good but with time they could improve, although it’s easy to see why The Doctor isn’t particularly fond of Mickey. His cowardice was quite laughable at best here. I also see problems with him and Rose now The Doctor looks set to play a bigger part in her life.

Also in “Rose”

The opening credits which I like are very Farscape like. Especially with the logo.

Rose (re Autons): “Who were they, students? Is this a student thing or what?”
The Doctor: “Why would they be students?”

Rose worked in a store called Henriks, which I had guessed was up market before Jackie’s “airs and graces” comment, while Wilson was an electrician. I don’t know who Derek was unless he was security.

Jackie: “Well anything could happen.”
The Doctor: “No.”

The Doctor (re magazine): “That’ll never work. He’s gay and she’s an alien.”

We didn’t learn much about Jackie in this episode – is she divorced or widowed? Employed or not? She seems to know a few people whose speciality is seeking compensation though.

Rose: “So what you’re saying is the entire universe revolves around you?”
The Doctor: “Sort of, yeah.”

Hits list – Doctor = 17,700,000 hits, Doctor Living Plastic = 53,700 hits and Doctor Blue Box = 493 hits. Clive’s website actually exists as well.

Clive (re The Doctor): “He has one constant companion.”
Rose: “Who’s that?”
Clive: “Death.”

Rose: “If you’re an alien, how come you sound like you’re from the North?”
The Doctor: “Lots of planets have a North.”

We saw the Doctor during J.F. Kennedy’s assassination, persuading the Daniels family not to board the Titanic and in 1883, Sumatra. Wouldn’t images of previous Doctors been a smart move to have used there?

Rose: “You were useless in there; you would’ve been dead without me.”
The Doctor: “Yes I would.”

Rose has got no A Levels but she does have a Bronze in gymnastics. A heroine who isn’t academic but still smart in her own right.

Trying to appease both long term Doctor Who fans and enticing newcomers must have been an unenviable and daunting task for Russell T Davies, but “Rose” is an impressive enough debut to satisfy both sides of the spectrum. A likeable cast with a fast, fun and energetic debut and one of the best screen tag teams in a while, the BBC finally have a real reason to rub their hands with glee and now we finally have a real reason to watch Saturday TV at least for thirteen weeks of the year anyway.

Rating: 7 out of 10.

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