On March 26th 2005 Doctor Who returned to our screens. Exactly ten years later I find myself writing this blog as we find out which stories Rose (not that Rose, my Rose – oh, I knew this would get confusing!) found the most exciting, having reached the first series of 21st Century Who in our watch through, which itself started on exact day the show celebrated its 50th Anniversary. Confusing doesn’t cover it!
But here’s the thing – we’ve reached ‘New Who’, it’s 2005, and ROSE HAS STILL NOT BEEN BORN. We are still watching stories that were broadcast before her time. It’s mind boggling, frankly.
What still feels new and fresh to me, still feels like yesterday, frankly, is, to Rose, something very much of its time. She points out the old mobiles, the clothes, even the effects like they are something from another era, and, with a gulp, I realise she’s right.
Rose immediately likes the Ninth Doctor, more so than I think she expected to. Having been considerably less familiar with Christopher Eccleston’s portrayal than his successors, I think she had come to the assumption that he was less fun, less adventurous, less of a Doctor. Not a bit of it! He’s different, that’s for certain – the way he dresses, the way he talks, the way he walks are like nothing we’ve seen in the Time Lord before – but he’s every bit the Doctor.
Rose, too, was a hit with our Rose. Despite making some real progress with Ace in the final years of the original run, the series has never presented us with a companion who felt so, well, REAL before. It’s not just in the writing – Billie Piper gives a wonderful, naturalistic performance that makes it very easy to warm to her, and our Rose really connected with her, and never more than in…
1. Father’s Day
When Rose described this story as ‘like a soap’ she didn’t in any way mean this in a derogatory way, more that it presents some very real characters, with real lives and emotions, caught up in a fantastical situation that itself was caused by a very human desire – Rose trying to save her Dad on the day he was supposed to die. Our Rose loved the central idea, and understood Rose’s actions and also the emotional territory this then took the story into, as Rose got the chance to finally meet her Dad (and her baby self, in a scene that Rose agreed was ‘similar to Mawdryn Undead and the two Brigadiers’).
Personally I still find it incredible that we are now so far away from them that the 80s can now be considered a period setting, but to our Rose this feels just as ‘right’ as a story set in, say, the 60s was in the McCoy era. She loved the hairdos, and the fashions, and the giant mobile phones!
If the Reapers themselves are never fully explained (at the time, or since!) Rose didn’t really mind, she was more interested in the family story, and Pete Tyler’s bravery as he took it upon himself to save the day, and step out in front of that car. Our Rose knew that Rose wouldn’t be able to save him, not really, but she was glad that she could be there for him. A story that really touched Rose, and will stay with her forever.
2. The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances
Only just narrowly pipped to the post by Father’s Day, this modern classic was a real hit with Rose, who loved pretty much everything about it, from the World War Two setting, the kids (some good performances here!) and the gas-masked zombies to the introduction of Captain Jack Harkness (but, oh no!, he kissed Rose – urgh!) and his ‘squareness gun’ and cool invisible spaceship tethered to Big Ben in the middle of a blitz.
But, again, it was the human story that grabbed Rose, and the little boy looking for his Mummy really touched her, with everyone running away from him when all he really needed was a hug. Amid all the body horror (those gas mask transformations are truly horrible and effective) and sci-fi trappings (Jack and his tech) it was the story of a mother and her son that made this story stand out.
3. Bad Wolf / The Parting of the Ways
This slightly surprised me, the high placing of this epic spacey Dalek tale, two factors that have, in the past, tended to place a story a little lower on the Rose-scale. But there’s so much more to this, and Rose was initially grabbed by the game show element of the story which she found very amusing, even though some of the references are now quite dated (it’s only TEN YEARS!!) and I had to explain some of them. After this quirky, fun opening the story gradually takes on a darker and darker tone, as the stakes are raised and the seriousness of the situation becomes clear. By this time Rose was totally caught up in events, swept along by the action.
Our Rose was glad to finally get some answers to the on-going ‘Bad Wolf’ thread that had weaved its way through the series, and she understood that Rose had created her own trail to lead her back to the Doctor. Those sequences on Earth, with Rose desperately trying to find a way to get the TARDIS to return her to the space station, proved to our Rose that, in Rose Tyler, the Doctor had found someone who would never let him down, even when he put her out of harm’s way. Those hologram messages, left by a Doctor who knows that all hope it lost, touched Rose, and, when it was time for him to go, Rose was upset that this far too brief an era was over. She would have loved to have seen more of the Ninth Doctor.
Wouldn’t we all, Rose?
So what of the rest of the series? Well, Rose loved it, on the whole, and found it hard to choose a least favourite. It’s been a long time since we had so many stories to choose from, and many of the others were bubbling just under the top three. Opener Rose was a hit, mainly for its deft introduction of the main characters (with Jackie and Mickey being popular with our Rose) alongside the return of old favourites the Autons, which Rose was delighted to see after all these years/months. Another favourite was The Unquiet Dead, with its Victorian setting, Charles Dickens and ghostly Gelth – Rose found this one genuinely quite creepy! But bottom of the pile comes…
The Long Game
There were elements of this story that Rose liked a lot, chiefly the actions of failed companion Adam, whom Rose found quite interesting as he was SO not cut out for travelling in the TARDIS (in sharp contrast to Rose, Jack and, to give him his due, Mickey). His forehead implant (and the pay-off at the end, with his Mother’s click of her fingers) was far more interesting to Rose than the main plot of the news broadcasts and the schemes of the Editor and his boss, the Mighty Jagrafess of the Holy Hadrojassic Maxarodenfoe, which Rose simplyfound a little dull. On the whole, she found the story a little flat and static, and, compared the look of the surrounding stories, perhaps a little cheap.
Christopher Eccleston, you were a great Doctor, and your portrayal of the Ninth Doctor was a major part of the success of the revived series. Rose, like the rest of us, was sad to see you go so soon.
But now it’s time for the Tenth Doctor, as David Tennant steps into the role and we move onto Series Two…
(Just a small note here – Rose and I will be grouping the stories as per their release in the boxsets, so Series Two starts with The Christmas Invasion and so on. This will also be reflected in the polls. We’ll also be watching the short red button/Children in Need/etc minisodes and mentioning them when relevant, but not including them in Rose’s rundown or the polls)
Happy 10th Birthday New Who!!