Monday, 18 January 2010

Series one #1: "The Doctor’s making house calls"


During this transitional period, it seems appropriate to attempt some sort of evaluation of Russell T Davies’ tenure. There’s almost too much to say about him, most of which has probably been said before, so I’m going to stick to an unbiased evaluation of his first season.

This is the first time I’ve actually watched this series objectively. I wasn’t hugely impressed at the time, but after the event things inevitably matter less, so it’s easier not to find it so frustrating. In retrospect, the flaws are put in perspective, by now simply being part of Doctor Who’s ongoing history.

The fact that this is pretty much the first season within Doctor Who to be made as an interlinking whole, rather than an arbitrary collection of stories, gives it a unique edge. These ten stories form an almost self-contained era in themselves, and, almost despite myself – given what I felt about it in 2005 – this has unexpectedly become one of my favourite seasons.

Review: ROSE
Written by Russell T Davies, directed by Keith Boak, 2005

There’s barely a story here at all (especially since we effectively miss the beginning of the Doctor’s involvement), and as a big return it was underwhelming - but in retrospect… Though painted in broad (even superficial) strokes, and not entirely effective overall, Rose is interesting in offering an outsider’s view into the Doctor’s world (and feels less contrived than later Doctor-lite episodes with a similar premise).

The initial introduction of the TARDIS has to be one of the most effective scenes here, genuinely making the interior seem impressively awe-inspiring – but generally, for an introduction to the Doctor’s world, there isn’t much magic; it’s all outweighed rather than balanced by the mundane elements. (Though it is at least easier now to overlook things like the wheelie bin and ‘antiplastic,’ knowing the series is capable of greater things.)

While I quite like seeing the Doctor in a unusual milieu, the ‘real life’ stuff (football matches and compensation and late-night shopping and “work and food and sleep”) seems a bit forced. It just doesn’t ring true – it’s more like Davies has decided this would be a good approach to take.

However, the introduction of the Doctor-as-terrorist is intriguing, particularly as this is something modern TV would ordinarily be at pains to disassociate itself from. His over-confidence and zaniness can seem forced though (Eccleston does gravitas far better than ‘wacky energy’; his anguish when facing the Consciousness is very compelling). I do find it hard to relate this cocky Mancunian striding around the Powell Estate with the previous Doctors, but I also sort of like that ‘difficulty’. The introduction to the concept of the Doctor as something bigger and more alien than we’ve seem so far, through Clive, shows the TVM how to go about introducing the main character.

I’m surprised to find that a story I’ve always deemed too slight to even dislike per se literally put a smile on my face. I must be becoming forgiving in my old age. It’s very slight, of course, but enjoyable on its own terms: as an easily-digestible introduction to the series. Surprisingly though, it doesn’t feel like it has much to do with, say, series four or the most recent specials. Though this story is trying to be fresh and fast-paced, it feels a lot less flashy than the more recent stories, with a tighter focus - which is definately a good thing.

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