Doctor Who Season 1 Episode 1 - Rose

Doctor Who – Rose (Episode)

Season 1, Episode 1

It’s March 2005. An excited man in his late 30s is sprinting home from the pub. His show is about to start.

It’s been fifteen and a half years since his hero was placed in suspended animation by the evil Lord Grade of Uranus. His expectations oscillate. It will be wonderful! It will be awful! His mind spins into a one-man Stadtler and Waldorf routine. This is becoming entirely unbearable.

He takes to the sofa, TV on. Five minutes early. Damn! Get on with it! This is not a TV show, this is a life event. Hurry up!

And then it comes. The adrenaline-addled man watches the whole show on the edge of his seat and when it’s all over there are tears of joy in his eyes. The Doctor is back and all is good. He watches it three more times just to make sure and retires in a wonderful mood.

So how does this person feel about the episode fifteen and a half years later? It was a wonderful event, but was it a wonderful show?

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It has an awful lot to do in just 45 minutes, it has to introduce a new Doctor, a new companion and hopefully, tell a story. In the old days, you’d have at least 100 minutes to do that. It’s a big ask.

On reflection, the story is perhaps, a little slight but there’s enough of it to keeps thing moving. It was a good move to bring back a less used enemy from the classic series. It gave a bit of continuity without resorting to Daleks or Cybermen. Somehow, that would not have been right.

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Rose – the Nation’s Companion of Hearts

First, we meet Rose. Here is our new touchstone, a noughties incarnation of Ace, perhaps. She’s an attractive, vivacious, working-class Londoner and she’s about to take us down the rabbit hole to end all rabbit holes. There’s a nicely directed transition from Rose’s humdrum day to the first action scene and finally, there’s the man we’ve all been waiting for.

Doctor Who?

Unsurprisingly, there’s no regeneration scene or any mention of regeneration. This is, after all, Season 1 not Series 27. I’m not sure that anyone had really decided whether he was “8” or “9” back then.

The Doctor is suddenly here and he’s on the case. In a huge departure from both later and earlier incarnations, he’s dressed in contemporary clothes. He could walk down any street and not be out of place. There’s nothing flamboyant about his appearance beyond a rather spectacular grin.

Dropping him into an action scene allows for a slow and steady introduction to the new Doctor. He’s a little bit more macho than his predecessors; a little less loquacious and more inclined towards the short-sharp quips of the action hero. He’s quite definitely from another planet but we’re not told where.

He’s doesn’t channel any of the classic players, he’s just treats it as a blank canvas. And it works.

The main mission of establishing a new Doctor and companion is actually accomplished quickly and effectively. They’re sparking off each other nicely and it’s not too long before we’re feeling quite attached to them and the affection continues to grow. We also get the companion’s boyfriend and mother, both of whom will return in subsequent adventures. And if that’s not enough, there’s a cracking joke about the Doctor’s newly acquired northern accent which remains one of my all-time favourite lines from any period of the show.

Rusty has hit a home run, and the rest is a bonus. What we get is a fairly lively romp, albeit with not too much meat on its bones, but enough to turn the episode into a complete show.

In spite of the rather striking sight of the Doctor being backed by a healthy budget, the show feels like it has its feet firmly planted in the original Whoniverse. At the same time, it manages to bridge the missing years in Earth time quite painlessly.

The direction by Keith Boak is spot on and Murray Gold’s music is excellent. The Doctor is back and back in the present day (I haven’t been out too much since) and it delivers something quite wonderful to newcomers and old fans alike. All in all, it’s an absolute triumph.

Viewed as an episode, it’s still pretty good – maybe a seven out of ten. Considered as one of the hardest reboots in history, it goes up to eleven! There can be no doubt that Russell T. Davies deserves a knighthood for this.

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This is the first in a series of mini-reviews as I take a break from my Tom Baker DVDs and re-watch the 21st Century episodes in order. Some, I have watched many a time but there are many that I haven’t seen for a good while. This will be a journey that will take me through various states from euphoria to despair. You will, no doubt, be exposed to relentless ranting about chronic screwdrivers as well as gushing praise for Matt Smith.

The first episode has certainly been a happy revisitation and I’m looking forward to watching The End of the World for the first time since it was first aired. I seem to remember that it involved the Restaurant at the End of the Universe – I’m off to find out …

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Doctor Who and the Jelly Babies


5 thoughts on “Doctor Who – Rose (Episode)”

  1. Spot on review there Pete.

    I’ve not watched ‘Rose’ for a few years, but just adding my thoughts to yours…

    It still stands up reasonably well as a bit of mid-2000’s TV. It certainly re-invigorated that Saturday night slot, with ‘Robin Hood’, ‘Merlin’ and others coming in to mind the schedules while the Doctor was away for the remaining 30 something weeks.

    The CG effects are perhaps a little dated now, but at the time pretty reasonable – except maybe that wheelie bin. I flinch whenever I watch that.

    It also gave the Doctor a regular ‘TV family’ as Rose, Jacquie and Micky would pop up frequently during this season and that’s a dynamic we hadn’t had in ‘Doctor Who’ since the end of the Pertwee era. These soap opera elements also contributed to creating a season narrative, building up to the big ‘Bag Wolf’ reveal during the 2-part season finale.

    We had had a couple of instances of this in the previous 26 years; Toms Season 16 Key to Time arc, and Colins Trial of Time Lord romp, but this was firmly the direction the revised show was headed and that has pretty much continued right up to the latest series (in both family AND season arc elements).

    Anyway, back to my thoughts on ‘Rose’. This was ‘new’ Who and its TV contemporaries were the recently concluded Buffy, Angel and X-Files. I think Stargate-SG1 and some form of Star Trek was still kicking around too, so it had to be brought back in that environment, meeting the expectations of those viewers. But TV had moved on so much in those 16 years between episodes.

    We’d moved away from those not quite as wobbly as we recall sets and multi camera studio bound production, to single camera & multi location and my lord what a change in TV as we were used to that was.

    We were now widescreen (but not HD) and needing to sell the show abroad to be able to finance it, so not only did it need to be appealing narratively, it also had to look the business.

    And it did! Cheers RTD, Chris, Billie and the team. Thanks, you brought back my favourite TV show and 15 years later (31 since the show originally went off air), it’s still around, with a Christmas Special and another season due. But I won’t get into that…

  2. Thanks, Nick.

    Continuity and arcing are bound to be things that I get on to for subsequent episodes (I’m not the world’s biggest fan of story arcs) but I do quite like that thing of having recurring characters. Jackie and Mickey in his ‘tin dog’ role definitely added something.

    On the technical front, yes, you’re right there was such a massive change in TV over the years of exile. Anything from the 80s really does look so different now. I probably don’t notice this as much as other people as I watch an abnormally high proportion of vintage TV but the moment that you become aware of it, it’s right there in front of you.

    There’s a really nice zippiness to the street scenes in Rose and there was just no way of creating that kind of vibe in the classic days.

    The big question is this: am I alone in loving Mickey’s wheelie-bin encounter? I think that works really well!

  3. I guess the technical side is almost the more fascinating for me. if things had gone differently when I finished college, I’d have gone on to be in some sort of production role rather than (shudder) software. So I almost always have some sort of consideration of that element of a show.

    So, consider, if ‘Doctor Who’ was cancelled in 1967 and then returned on ’77, it’d be, in essence, exactly the same show. Different leads, but same TARDIS prop, same console room and a mystery to solve in four to six 25 minute episodes. All studio bound with maybe a day or two of location filming and a couple of model shots

    But cancel it in ’89 and bring it back in ’99 and it’d have to be a totally different show. As I previously mentioned, it’d be up against Buffy et al by then and the requirements would be so much higher.

    I suppose the 96 TV demonstrates this as it was ‘only’ 7 years after cancellation, and my, what a different piece of TV that was!

    Cheers!

    And yes, it’s just you with the wheelie bin!

  4. Damn! I had a feeling it was just me!

    Is the TV movie a fair comparison? I’m not too sure on what defines a TV movie in technical terms but I’d imagine that the budgets would be a lot higher and the schedules somewhat less demanding. I could well be wrong on that – it’s one of the few things I don’t have on DVD so I’ve never seen a “making of …” (added to which, I haven’t seen it for a long, long time).

  5. Lovin’ the review and some pretty cool replies. My tuppence is about the lack of a regeneration reference. Eccleston looks in a mirror and seems surprised by his ears. That’s always suggested to me (and many other reviewers) that Nine was just newly regenerated. And, of course, Moffat retconned it as true with the War Doctor “ears” reference. Just thoughts…

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