Spearhead from Space
|Production Code||Series One Episode One|
|Dates||March 26, 2005|
With Christopher Eccleston, Billie Piper,
Camille Coduri, Noel Clarke
Written by Russell T. Davies. Directed by Keith Boak.
Executive Producers: Russell T Davies, Julie Gardner, Mal Young.
|Synopsis: A young woman's life is turned upside down when she meets a mysterious stranger called the Doctor.|
Return Of Some Extraterrestrials by Robert Smith? 9/3/05
The first episode of the long-awaited new series accidentally leaked its way onto the net. It's given fans a chance to whet their appetite, particularly fans located in countries without a television deal in place. The leak has prompted a lot of media reporting on both sides of the Atlantic. But perhaps the biggest shock to fans is the realisation that, finally, it's real. Doctor Who is back!
But what of the episode itself? How can the story, how can anything, live up to the hype, the promise and the dreams we've had for fifteen years?
Rose, fortunately, is fantastic.
It's not just okay, or as good as could be hoped for in the circumstances, it's utterly, utterly wonderful. There are so many great things about Rose, none of which I'm going to spoil. But after the first five minutes I was grinning like a fool and that grin never left my face for the next 24 hours.
The new show is smart, sassy, witty, scary, laugh-out-loud funny, touching and clever. It's got all these things in spades, although for my money it's the humour which succeeds best of all. Doctor Who, as a television show, was fundamentally a funny show. That's something that got lost when it made the transition to fan-produced property and something which I'm very glad to see return.
Perhaps the biggest adjustment long term viewers may have to make is to realise that it's a character piece, not a plot-driven spectacle. Which is fantastic, IMO, because it's the characters we really care about. There's a reason it's called Rose and not Return Of Some Extraterrestrials.
Rose herself is fabulous, carrying much of the episode. She's recognisably a companion, but without some of the more embarrassing touches. Billie's acting is the real shock though: it's fantastic. Stunt casting a celebrity pop singer sounded like a recipe for disaster, but I'm extremely pleased to report that she's amazing.
What blows everything out of the water, though, is Chris Eccleston's Doctor. He's incredible. What's more, he's unlike any Doctor we've ever seen and the complete antithesis of what you'd imagine the Doctor should be... except that he's utterly convincing. Right from his (fabulous) first appearance, you're never in doubt that he's the Doctor. What's more, he gets actual acting to do and carries the role with a boyish enthusiasm that's incredibly infectious.
I'm amazed at just how great Rose truly is. I honestly never thought they could recreate the series I fell in love with, preparing myself to adapt to whatever new incarnation it appeared in... but somehow they have. There are lots of little moments that really set it apart, but they're best seen without spoilers. Try and see this without ruining it for yourself if you can, it's really worth it. Doctor Who is back, but it's like he was never away.
Just because I can by Kathryn Young 13/3/05
I am sitting there "hunched over my tiny computer monitor with the tinny sound" watching Rose (actually my computer screen is larger than my tv and has better resolution, but heck - I thought I'd make someone's day) and I thought to myself: "eh gad this is awful." But then I smiled to myself and laughed out loud. I could make excuses like this is only a rough draft nicked off the internet or that it was only the pilot, but I didn't have to. This is Doctor Who. Doctor Who on tele has always been bad.
From William Hartnell's "stop buggering me" to the giant skateboarding prawn of The Keys of Marinus and Sylvester playing the spoons on Kate O'Mara's breasts in Time and the Rani. Doctor Who has never been slick and great and Matrix-like. Doctor Who has never really been cool. Keanu Reeves saves the human race by wearing dark sunglasses and a big shiny coat. Sylvester saves the universe from the gods of Ragnarok by playing the spoons. Spot the difference in coolness.
And even though we have "I'm a teen sensation and I wear a pink fleecy polar" Billie in this, this new incarnation is still not cool.
Take the Doctor. I hope this is not a spoiler if I say that Chris Eccleston looks like he has been hit in the face with a cricket bat. I keep asking all the girls what they think of him and the answer tends to go like this:
"Ahh, yes, well, I had no idea his nose was no big. Tell me more about that cute one in the frock coat again. He is that bloke from kidnapped isn't he? Oh he was in Withnail too wasn't he? Ohh sorry, what were we talking about again... oh yeah that bloke with the big nose."I am sorry, I know how you blokes like Chris, but every time I see this story I have an uncontrollable urge to go and watch the TV movie, "do girlie things" and sigh a bit.
Slightly smothered in (presumably Fitz's) leather jacket Chris tends to bound around the place like some sort of giant jiggling toy with a sense of timing and a sense of humour that makes Sylvester in Time and the Rani look sophisticated, dark and menacing. It is like that old adage: you can stick a sheep in a leather jacket, but he still will not be the Fonze. So basically a weird looking bloke with big ears and an ill fitting odd looking clothes fulfills an important Doctor Who criteria... a weird looking bloke in ill fitting odd looking clothes.
But there is a hint of an Andy Cartmel master plan lurking underneath. Or at least I hope there is otherwise Rose is going to beat him to death with a shovel out of sheer irritation very soon.
I found the TARDIS a tad "intestinal" for my liking (Don't get me wrong - the outside is still big bold beautiful and bright blue). However, if I was a complete anorak who had read all the books I could argue that the gastric juice motif is definitely in keeping with the idea that TARDISes are actually sentient creatures of some kind then I might consider it quite clever, but I'm not that sort of complete anorak so that thought never crossed my mind.
But this new TARDIS interior also fulfills traditional Doctor Who criteria. Just like the original white one the new TARDIS configuration is incredibly impractical. There is nowhere to sit down, lots of nasty sharp edges and nothing to hold onto when you get buffeted by time eddies or some such. At least the Gothic look one had a few comfy armchairs, inviting alcoves and lots of books.
That I cannot spoil, because there isn't one. Personally I think it is a bit mean of them to only give the Ninth Doc 45 minutes to save the world. That is a bit of unfair upping of the bar. Even Sylvester had at least three episodes in Ghost Light. As Rob? says the episode is called Rose for a reason. That was something I hadn't considered and is a very good point: the story is about "some boring chick from a council estate" (good thing she happens to be a very successful singer as well). However in this modern day and age I would have thought they could have provided a story too. Everyone complains the TV movie drowned in its own fan wank. This pilot seems to drown a bit in its own "Billie wank", but if she brings in the ratings I don't care and I think I'll trust young Russell on this one as he seems to know his stuff.
Everyman and their robotic dog
Rose also typifies Doctor Who fandom. They made the series, then they sent out lots of advance copies to people all over the world and said: "now what ever you do - do not leak this on the internet." I am going to repeat the important bits: "do not leak this onto the internet... Leaking this onto the internet will not even enter your mind."
And you will never guess what happened next. It was like they had been taking lessons from The Master - their cunning plan went hideously wrong and it was leaked. Oodles of Doctor Who anoraks got hold of the little sucker and watched it. All the other Doctor Who anoraks who hadn't seen it erupted saying Russell T Davies would be very disappointed in them, they had ruined the new Doctor Who for everyone in the whole world and they should immediately go to bed without any supper. And basically they were told to get stuffed.
Does it meet the standards?
There is a Doctor - check
There is a rather irritating companion who you have vague homicidal thoughts towards - check
There is a big blue box - check
It is bigger on the inside than the out - check
There is "tidely bom tidely bom" music at the end and at the beginning - check
There is a totally crap monster who you feel vaguely sorry for - check
How can they go wrong?
A Review by Jo Eadie 28/3/05
The absolute, absolute highpoint of the episode has to be those first fifteen minutes – conveying just what it might be like to have the Doctor pass through your life, a sense of awe and mystery that only a new beginning like this can allow. Just as you’d think, he’d be frustratingly elusive, nothing but trouble, blowing things up around you, and without time to explain. Indeed, given the sheer pace at which the episode then unravels, its (paper thin) plot nicely conveys what it might be like to be Rose, wandering into a story towards the end, with just time to point out the hatch that leads to the villain’s underground hideout before the whole thing wraps up. Rose’s confidence that she can see what he can’t sets up a dynamic that’s bound to appeal to children – the older person is too caught up in their own plans to notice what’s in front of their faces, the younger one has to explain it to them. Consequently, you end up with the odd reversal of roles to the point that he’s so childish that she is obliged to act as the parent. It’s one way of ironing out the power imbalance between Doctor and companion – even if it does lead to laboured jokes like the Doctor’s inability to spot the Millenium Wheel behind him. You’ve got to wonder whether she’ll really be happy ditching Mickey for someone else who can’t take care of himself and doesn’t understand her emotions! Maybe she makes a habit of this sort of relationship.
And on the subject of Mickey – Noel Clarke’s turn as the unfunny comedy boyfriend outstayed its welcome the first time around, and it would be hard to watch the episode again without skipping his scenes (the unfunny comedy dustbin and the unfunny comedy champagne cork). Having said that, there’ll be some nine-year olds out there who are still laughing over those bits – and frankly, their opinion is going to matter a lot more than mine when it comes to keeping the series alive!
Back to the high-points: a full-scale riot that reminds you that an alien invasion would be a Very Scary Thing indeed, a sublime turn from Mark Benton as the Doctor’s stalker, the touch of genius by which you can see the TARDIS interior through the door from outside, the Doctor’s ongoing touching faith that you must always try to negotiate with a monster first, the Doctor’s ongoing ruthless pragmatism that you should nevertheless always go in with a phial of anti-plastic (or is that “ANTI-PLASTIC!”), and of course the squirming discomfort of his trying to explain to a vat of living plastic why it was in his pocket. Is it just me, or is there a sly lesson there about disarmament? You might tell your opponent that you weren’t planning to use your weapon of mass destruction – but you ought to know that if you’ve got it, they’ll assume you’re trying to start a war and retaliate. I could go on: the inventiveness and delicacy of the script in picking out all the implications of life as a being too clever, too moral, too well-informed, too alien, and having too much fun; there’s a bigger, chunkier police-box for a bigger chunkier doctor; the background music riffs so neatly on the theme tune in a range of ways. Oh to be nine again, and then I could laugh at the jokes as well.
There are two decisions the series has taken, which don’t sit comfortably with me – although they each have their own dramatic integrity, and I have no doubt will work well with many viewers. The first is the Doctor’s contempt for everyday humanity, expressed several times in the story. In one sense, it’s the culmination of the weariness that all the Doctors have shown in one form or another at hanging around with humans – but the sheer vitriol behind is unsettling. Would you trust this man with the fate of the universe? He’s clearly sick of the job. Personally, I think it’s the inevitable result of all that smiling – the Doctor’s repressing too much anger, and one day it’ll all come out in him turning into Richard E. Grant.
And the second discomforting choice, sadly, is the new TARDIS control room. I felt I had so prepared myself for the shock of the change – after all, McGann’s H.G. Wells version was an enormous shock, but hugely pleasurable. But no – this one is just too, too creepy. It has all the eerie bombast of McGann’s, without the cosy furnishings – as if the Doctor had taken up residence in the lair of a Batman villain. Where the old white control room was reassuringly clean, bright, and well-organised, this one is downright freakish - illustrated so beautifully by Rose’s impromptu exit the minute she runs into it for safety: because let’s face it, having to choose between this ominous orange and green monstrosity and the raging auton outside, you’re hard-pressed to know which might be more of a health hazard.
I suspect that, like the Doctor’s impatience with humanity, it’s to add to the sense of his alien-ness. In a sense, by being so very loveable and friendly, Eccleston’s Doctor is going to need these other touches to make him more of an outsider, otherwise he’d merely be, as Russell T. Davies has put it, your best friend. What he is instead, is your best friend on drugs.
So overall, a great big glittering confection for the Easter weekend. It’s sweet and shiny and it makes you smile; it’s a little bit sickly and you can’t wait to go back for more; it seems like too too long since the last time you had it - but maybe, like even the biggest and best chocolate egg you can only go back to it so many times.
He's back - and it's about right by Mike Morris 1/4/05
Aaaaarrggh, it's back! It's back on the telly! Like - on the telly! The BBC continuity announcer actually said, and now - Doctor Who!
Part of the difficulty with reviewing Rose is - well, funnily enough, Logopolis is a good analogy. See, Logopolis is so bound up with sending Tom off, it's just so emotional to see him go. And as a reviewer, well, you're trying to put a neutral perspective on it. Yes, okay, Tom dies. But if you ignore the emotion of that, just how good is Logopolis? Actually, not very.
And Rose - look, I felt post-coital after it. It was just so good to have a new Doctor, and a good Doctor, and a good companion, and a story that was so recognisably Doctor Who (and not in a bad way, or derivative way; just a story that felt like Doctor Who). But I figure that, as a reviewer, I've got to try and be balanced and analytical, don'tcha know. The truth is that, yes, we have a new Doctor and he's Grrrrrreat; but the story itself was slight to non-existent, the characterisation of everyone bar the two stars was sketchy at best, and that the Doctor solved all problems by waving prepackaged gizmos at them. It may well have tasted pretty good, as meals go, but there was pretty much no substance there. If you ignore the fact that the Doctor's back...
Which is the rub. Because, in fact, it's not something I can, or should, ignore. The fact is that this story was designed to achieve one thing and one thing only; to introduce and establish these two characters. And it did it brilliantly. Absolutely brilliantly. In much the same way that Logopolis is designed to be Tom Baker's last story, so one shouldn't ignore the emotion of that departure. Yes, Logopolis has a very rickety plot. Yes, Rose barely manages to tell a coherent alien invasion story. And the truth is that neither of those things matter all that much. They aren't the primary purpose of those stories.
In truth, this was a salutary lesson in how to re-establish the Doctor as a character. Just as the telemovie fell into almost every trap imaginable, this one neatly avoided all of them.
Lesson 1: Don't regenerate him at the start of the story. Don't let us spend ten minutes getting used to one Doctor, then turn him into someone else. It's confusing for casual viewers and means that we don't care enough about the character who dies. As even Sylvester McCoy noted, one of the problems with the telemovie was that he shouldn't have been in it. As it is, Rose contents itself with hinting at the "new body" angle in a way that most viewers can ignore if they choose to, or seize on with delight if they so wish. The Doctor fiddling with his ears is beautifully understated. The (brilliantly conceived) internet Doctor-tracker refers to him as "this one", and notes that the title of Doctor might be hereditary and passed on from version to version. Rose completely misunderstands this, thinking he's referring to the Eccleston Doctor only, thus allowing the whole question to hang nicely in the air.
Lesson 2: Don't explain it all. The story smartly hints that we're watching the very end of a larger-scale story, establishing a certain level of mystery about this character. His initial appearance is joyfully inexplicable, and by the time we're getting a grip on who he is, he's gone. The scene in Rose's house establishes his character - sharp, sarcastic, and largely on-top-of-it-all, which is nicely undercut by his reaction to Rose's mother when he realises what she's really after. But it doesn't actually tell us anything about who he is. The wiggling of the ears suggests that this body's pretty new, but the three "sightings" at different time periods makes this ambiguous. The lovely "I can feel it" scene is similarly vague, although at the same time establishes all we need to know.
And as for Eccleston - oh, he's so damn good! What surprised me wasn't the dangerousness he brought to the character, but the joy and good-humour. The guy has, after all, made a career out of playing pretty miserable bastards, so this is a shocker. Check out his delivery of "Go home" to Rose, or the defensive way he refers to his TARDIS's disguise. For all that, he brings a certain vulnerability with him that really makes it all hang together, stops him being a wise-cracking action man. When Rose asks him who he is, he almost looks like he's never considered it before; the way he turns and says "You know what we were saying", in such a halting, confused manner is utterly winning.
Lesson 3: Get the companion right. Well, this story's named after her, and we see it solely through Rose's eyes. Much of what has been said about Rose has worried me - the constant reassurance that she wasn't going to be another screaming girl was vastly annoying (Sarah, Leela, Romana, Tegan, Nyssa and Ace account for over a decade of female companions and barely have half-a-dozen screams between them). Actually, Rose isn't different at all; she is the perfect generic companion. "Generic" because she's obvious companion material from the off - a bit bored with life, a nice sense of adventure, persistence, getting herself into trouble. Perfect because she's a very believable and real character. Billie Piper's appearance in The Canterbury Tales was a revelation, showing that this woman wasn't a teenie-bopper who'd decided to try acting, but a genuinely excellent young actress who'd somehow got waylaid into being a teeny bopper (although Honey to the B was quite catchy, really). In this she's wonderful; given what a startlingly beautiful woman she is, she manages to make herself seem like a very plausible scrubber, and makes this character come squarely to life. She steals the scene by the London Eye with a look. Best of all is how well she treads the line between scepticism and annoying stupidity. She reacts to the TARDIS as anyone would, then deals with it. She accepts the Doctor's an alien at just the right time. She brings with her a sense of wonder, but takes everything in very quickly. And she's smart without being implausibly smart. She'll be great. Not groundbreaking or anything, but that's not a bad thing.
Lesson 4: Don't get too much money. This story looks reassuringly cheap; for all the protestations to the contrary, the fact remains that Rose (for its time) doesn't look any more expensive than, say, Ghost Light or The Curse of Fenric (with the obvious exception of it being shot on film). The CGI is pretty unconvincing - the wheelie-bin bit is particularly naff. And yet this made me feel pretty comfortable. Not in a "oh, the bad effects are the joy of Doctor Who" so-bad-it's-good nostalgia sense, but in the sense that part of the reason that Doctor Who works is that it can't rely on visuals - it has to rely on good storytelling and dialogue. The fact that there isn't the money for crowds of extras means that the dialogue has to be sharp to keep us interested, and that the story must be inventive with its effects to make them work. That wheelie-bin scene is genuinely fantastic, just because it's so bloody imaginative and frightening in concept. Yes, they have money, but not too much that they can get lazy, and that's a good thing.
As for the story itself; well, it's far, far too short, more like watching an edited-down version than a story in its own right. Micky and Rose's mum are both incredibly cartoonish, and it's difficult to care what happens to them. All Rose's mum does is look into compensation; Micky doesn't even do that. It's equally true when we see that internet-guy's family (agh, wish I could remember his name - but that says a lot in itself) being gunned down - the fact is that we haven't known them long enough to care. It's barely explained who the Autons are - certainly their plan isn't coherent, or not explained as such. Is it really just to gun everyone down? Well, how would they tackle, say, the army nuking the area? Are they going on the rampage in other cities too? How long have they been here? There's also a wopping great incoherence in the plot, in that it states that the dummies aren't Autons as such, but normal plastic dummies that the Nestenes can control; well, the last time I checked, no-one was making dummies with handgun attachments! Meanwhile, the Doctor tends to defeat them by waving gadgets about. He's got a bomb; that's handy. The sonic screwdriver kills them; even handier. And finally, anti-plastic. Ingenius! Isn't all this a little prepackaged?
To get back to that question of the story doing what it has to do. Yes, it achieves that admirably, but it could have done more. I find it hard to understand, for example, why this story isn't a two-parter. It would have allowed for a deeper emotional connection, something a bit more substantial of the exhilaration of IT'S BACK!!, and I do feel it was a big mistake. It's reassuring that there's going to be some two-parters in this season, which will give it more meat; I always felt that Doctor Who's generally longer stories are a key part of what made it special (one might suspect that there'll be more of these if a second series is commissioned, as RTD will be a bit more confident when it comes to pushing the boat out).
It's understandable, though, that we were given a palatable hors-d'ouevre for the rest of the series, and while I can't see myself watching Rose over and over again in five years time, it's effective at what it does and the lack of depth is forgivable. The Turing Test this ain't, but it's slick, confident and impressive, and convincing us that the main course should be good, the ingredients are excellent and the chef knows what he's doing. There's little enough substance, but I suspect that will follow (the teaser for the next episode looks fantastic).
The Micky duplicate gave me the willies. Very funny but really pretty creepy, particularly the first shot of him. Other scare moments were marvellously done - the hand attacking the Doctor was hilarious, and when it then attacked Rose it was suddenly very frightening. However, I felt the direction on the whole wasn't quite as good as it might have been. There was a cracking pace to it, but - for example - the scene where the Doctor is seen, again and again, in older and older images, is very similar to Madeleine Stowe finding a picture of Bruce Willis in the trenches in Twelve Monkeys, but just doesn't have the same oomph. To be fair, that's at least partially attributable to the shortness of the story - there isn't time to build up tension - but a similar case is the opening scene with the dummies in the basement; it's similar to the scene in Greatest Show where the clowns attack Ace, but nowhere near as tightly shot, or therefore as frightening. The finale was also a bit sloppy, with the Autons grabbing the Doctor and then seeming to hold onto him for ages until Rose could save the day. Unusually, the scriptwriting gets rather clunky here also, with the Doctor's quoting of constitution articles seeming weirdly portentous - an unsubtle retreading of the Doctor's ultimatum to Davros in Remembrance, in fact - and the whole "I fought in the war" angle dropping into the narrative very clumsily.
And listen; Police Boxes were made of concrete! Concrete! Not wood! Concrete! Okay, the prop was always obviously wood, but you don't have to say so!
Good TARDIS interior. Rose's first trip in there is fantastically handled, and for the first time ever they've taken care of the interface between inside-and-out very well - with the Police Box doors still being visible internally, it's visually very believable that one thing fits inside the other.
Overall, this isn't so much a story in its own right, and shouldn't be judged as such - fortunate, since it doesn't work well in that regard at all. But as a curtain raiser, it's very good indeed; in many ways, though, it's the next couple of stories that will really give us an idea where this series is going and how it will work.
I'm rather excited, really. I suspect this series might be absolutely fantastic and take over the world. Then everyone will realise that Doctor Who fans were right all along, and we shall be venerated as gods.
Oh, some family comments, for the old "general public" angle:
"Very good. I thought he was great and it was very fast. It was about the two of them really and I really liked them." My sister (14) - 9/10.They're all watching it next week.
"He was a very good Doctor and he was very funny. It was good and the dummies were cool but I thought it was too quick, like he was saving the world in three-quarters of an hour." My brother (12) - 7/10.
"Brilliant. I thought the two main characters took control really well. They've brought it right into the 21st century." My mum (not a day over 30, honest) - 9/10.
And as for me; this was great fun and sets up the characters beautifully. So it did everything it should. Slight, giddying, exuberant, and very impressive.
We've missed you! by Andrew Feryok 4/405
Warning: I'm trying to keep things broad here since I know a lot of people may not want the story spoiled yet. The few spoilers I will provide will either be obvious things that are already apparent from publicity stills, or from clips available at the BBC website.
This was the highlight of my day! A friend had gotten a copy of the episode off of the internet because the BBC couldn't be bothered to give us Americans an airing schedule for the new series! When I heard he had acquired a copy, I spent the entire day in high anticipation. Finally, after many agonizing hours in class, I finally got out and raced to his room. And then it happened... Doctor Who was back! (cue hallelujah chorus)
It wasn't exactly what I was expecting, but it was one hour of pure entertainment, which was all I asked, and bode extremely well for a new series. I guess I will break this into good and bad:
The Autons! If you haven't noticed by now from all the pictures circulating throughout the web, the Autons are the villains of this story. Once again, it's about time! The series had always wanted to bring these bad boys back to Doctor Who after Terror of the Autons but the censors wouldn't let them. Nowadays, the Autons are extremely mild compared some other shows, so they are allowed to come back! They look great and it is interested that they are portrayed like the T1000 in Terminator 2; able to form their appendages into a variety of shapes. Definitely a cool monster to start the new series with.
The Doctor! Although it took me longer to warm to Eccelston than it did with McGann, I can see some potential in Eccelston. His goofy humor reminds me of Tom Baker in his first story. If they keep this aspect, he could rise very quickly on my list of favorite Doctors. And the scene with the London Eye, which can be seen in a clip at the BBC Doctor Who Website, is a priceless gag!
Okay, despite my enthusiasm for the story, there were a few things I was disappointed with. First: the pacing. I realise that they wanted to eliminate the episodic format and go for a more Star Trek pace, but I think they lost something in the process. There is no build up of the story, no time for atmosphere or setting the scene (which the Episode 1s of the old series were adored for). The story feels extremely rushed with a lot of running around, spouting extremely quick explanations, and it's over before it even seems to have begun. Where's the Doctor or Rose's investigations? I hope that in future, they will either learn to use the 1 hour time slot more efficiently, or go for more two parters to allow for more fleshing out of the stories. Otherwise, it feels as if we are being plopped into the middle of Episode 3 or 4 of a story already going on!
Thats the big gripe out of the way. The other two aren't so serious. The Doctor's outfit. I'm getting used to it, but it did kind of worry me at first when I saw publicity stills. As a friend of mine aptly put it, he looks like "thug Who"! Fortunately, his personality makes up for it, but I wish he had something a little more eccentric like his predecessors. Oh well. Fans probably thought the same thing when they saw Colin Baker's coat, and we got used to that (well, some of us anyway).
Lastly, the opening titles. I liked the titles very much. It looks very Whoish, but the theme music just doesn't seem to go with the pace of the show. The creaters opted for the '60s version of the theme which is quiet, and mysterious. It just doesn't seem to match the frenetic and excited pace of the story or the title sequence itself.
Overall, this pilot episode is promising. It has some good things and bad things and I am not expecting everything to be perfect the first time through. I don't anticipate them hitting thier stride until midway through the season. As long as they maintain the Doctor's humor as they have, and keep things imaginative and creative, I anticipate this being a great new series! Of course, they could have the Doctor standing on an empty stage reciting technobabble and I would be happy! I can't wait for Episode 2 now. Maybe my friend will get a copy of it off the internet as well? Otherwise, it may be a long time before I get to catch up with the series.
I saw the trailer for the next episode on the BBC website. Boy does that look good! A story set in the future. What a jarring shift after Rose! The series seems to have continued to maintain it's tongue-in-cheek humor, which is a definite plus. The design looks wonderful and it looks like we are going to be in for a great story next week. Hope I can get to see it!
Rose-Tinted Glasses by David Massingham 9/4/05
New. Doctor. Who.
Three words which, when combined, send a shiver of excitement down the spine of any self-respecting Who fan. We heard these words in one sentence in September 2003, and now the words have stop being just words have become Rose, the first story of the brand new season of the greatest show that ever there was.
It was always inevitable that any reaction that collective fandom had would be anything but balanced, whether it would be decrying the death of the old or basking in the glow of the future. As it happened, fan reaction to Rose has been generally overwhelmingly positive, and the general public seems to be quite pleased too. And this is good, as we want to see this succeed; even the individuals who don't take to this new incarnation of our superhero want to see people love it. This is going to be the show that will enrapture a whole new generation of children, just as it did for us when we were kids.
However, Rose is not perfect. It is, actually, really quite flawed. Before I go into what I perceive as the negative aspects of this episode, I should first make one thing clear. This is Doctor Who, and it's back. It feels like Who in a way that the TV movie never did, and it is glorious in its Who-ness. No, it doesn't bare any resemblance to Survival, the final gasp of greatness of eighties Who; but it is Who in spirit, not form.
Christopher Eccelston IS the Doctor. He is a mass of energy, he is enthusiastic, he is filled with wonder and adventure, he is eccentric, he is funny, he is melancholy. He is all these things and more, and it all adds up to one of the best debut performances for any Doctor. This is a man we want to spend the next year with, flying around the universe in a rickety old TARDIS, seeing the wonders of creation. And with the Ninth Doctor, everything is wonderful. Much has been said of the audience seeing the adventure through Rose's eyes, but it is Eccelston who makes everything seem all the more amazing. When he is trying to find the monster in order to reason with it or defeat it, his first reaction upon realizing its location is a wide-eyed "Fantastic!". When he says that, it's fantastic for the audience as well.
Billie Piper IS the companion. The companion in this case is Rose Tyler, and she is everything that a companion should be - a normal everyday person caught up in a crazy adventure. She gets scared, cause why the hell wouldn't you; she gets excited, because this has never happened to anyone else; she is amazed, because the TARDIS interior rocks a big fat one. Rose is the point of contact for the audience, and she is great fun to watch.
These are two elements of Rose which will be seen in every episode. The constants. The TARDIS is another constant, and it is brilliant. The console room is a thing of beauty, quite simply the best version so far (though, it must be said, are there any doors to other rooms, or is the TARDIS simply the main chamber?). Rose's introduction to this room is one of the nicest scenes of the entire story, with the Doctor's "Right, where do you want to start?" hitting just the right note to lead into a no-nonsense explanation of the fantastic telephone box. It's a clever and well-written scene which is both funny, disconcerting, and exciting.
Okay. These are the most important standing norms of Doctor Who, and the new production team got them right. I must admit that while watching this story my mind was spilt in two. One half was analysing Rose as an indicator as to the quality and direction of the rest of the series. For the most part it passed. I think that this new incarnation of Who shows a lot of promise - the Doctor is great, the companion is great, the TARDIS is great, the script is generally quite clever and Whoish. There is no time to develop a fully immersive story ala Inferno or The Curse of Fenric, and it's a pity that we will only get three two parters, but I recognise that this is the safest way for the show to survive in the 21st century. However, the other half of my brain looked as Rose as a singular self-contained episode, and it was disappointed in a number of areas.
It is not awful, nowhere near. I think that a number of fans are looking at Rose simply as an indicator of the show as a whole and seeing good things, and that is great, because the horizon shows promise. It would show more promise, however, if this story didn't show a preoccupation with pandering to children. There are a number of moments where the show seems to take off its family audience cap and talks directly to (and in one notable case, down to) the kids. Personally, I don't see any sense in this. I have seen The End of the World, and that story does a very good job of appealing to a wide audience without alienating anyone. And it didn't need one single "wacky" boing sound effect or burp joke to do it.
Ah, the bin. Catch that sly reference to it above? I'm sorry, I know some people don't see the problem with this scene, and I know that some even enjoy it. I don't mean to insult anyone, but... I fail to see how it was a good idea. I'll admit that I never found the expanded arsenal of the Autons in Terror of the Autons particularly effective either - I mean, killer daffodils? Deadly chairs? The, um, doll thingy? Never my cup of tea. I like the KISS principal... Keep It Simple Stupid. Rose does for the most part, but moments like the bin burp and Mickey's impression of The Mask seem, to me at any rate, to be designed purely to appeal to kids. The "classic" series had moments like this of course, but this is the first episode of a reboot of the show. Besides, I never liked the more childish scenes from the original series anyway. As I recall reading in a DWM article once, there is a difference between childish and childlike.
Speaking of Mickey, he's a bit irritating, isn't he? That is of course the point, but I daresay that we will be seeing more of him down the line. I hope the actor playing him decides that playing the part so damn broadly in future stories isn't such a good idea, because he annoyed me a fair deal, particularly towards the end of the story when he became a spineless inbecile. I know some found Jackie a bit much too; I thought she was alrightish, but she didn't set the world alight.
As for the plot, well, there isn't one. Which was probably a good move - in forty-five odd minutes, you don't really have the time to introduce two lead characters and two major supports while telling a multi-layered complex story, so RTD wisely stayed clear. Unfortunately, the last fifteen odd minutes by necessity has a lot of end of the Earth style running around, and it isn't executed superbly. This comes down largely to two factors, I feel - absolutely awful music, and rather bland direction. The music I am referring to is that dance adventure theme which runs throughout Rose, starting with the rather subpar "introduction to Rose's life" sequence which begins the episode (in retrospect, I feel this is subpar largely because of the music, but when the story first started and my grin of "Doctor Who is back!!" was splayed across my face, the smile slowly died away until it had entirely faded by the time Rose was searching for Wilson... don't worry, it came back by the time the Doctor said "Run"). This music is, quite simply, abysmal, and sounded dated before the 1996 telemovie. The rest of the music was okay, but that one theme which they insisted on playing five or six times really is the pits. Honestly, I found it very distracting... I can think of Keff scores that I preferred.
The direction is, as I said, rather uninspired. What paciness Rose has comes straight from the script, and Keith Boak doesn't seem to know how to direct an action scene. The finale inside the shopping mall is pedestrian, confused, and muddled. There was always going to be problems trying to top the great Spearhead from Space scenes, but even when you have the opportunity to actually break window glass, it seems that Keith Boak is not your man. The attack would be utterly devoid of tension if it weren't for the contrasting scenes of the Doctor fighting in the grasp of the Autons, and again, the script is the one to thank there, what with all the desperate "we're screwed" type things that the Doc was spouting.
Oh, that said, Billie's dialogue before the fly-kick was a bit of a mistake, Russell.
I am a fan, and I reserve the right to nitpick. But some of these complaints are actually major issues with the quality of Rose. Until I saw The End of the World, I was seriously wondering about my sanity after thirteen episodes of dance adventure themes (Murray Gold, thankfully, improves). Essentially, some silly scenes, and the sloppy direction and music reduces what could have been a strong story for the ninth Doctor. It does remain an entertaining and fun episode, though. Look to the scene in the elevator, or the Doctor and Rose in her apartment, or the spinning-Earth speech, or the explanation for the TARDIS's shape and the Doctor's accent, or "Wilson's dead", or Clive, or the creaking of the Autons... I even have a soft spot for the Auton Mickey smashing up the restaurant with his hammer hands. There is a lot of good here despite the flaws.
All the same, I wonder if in five odd years, Rose will be as well-regarded as the last week seems to suggest it will be. I doubt it, but I fully understand the kudos it is receiving - the important elements are all there, and they are all quality. The script is clever and witty for the most part, and things can only get better in that department. The production crew seem to understand the show for the most part (burps and berks aside).
I don't want it to sound like I am lamenting the return of the show. I'm not - it's going to be great, especially with Christopher Eccelston, Billie Piper, and Russell T Davies at the helm. I just don't think Rose was great.
That said, it was not bad either.
6.5 out of 10
A Review by Jonathan Hili 11/4/05
Rose represents a very powerful beginning to the new Doctor Who series. There are lots of strong elements present, but I have also some misgivings, which I think, after viewing the second story, The End Of The World, are justified and will perhaps be entrenched within the series.
First, though, the good bits.
The pace of the story works incredibly well for what the serial set out to achieve. Essentially, this is a story introducing the Doctor and Rose, and giving the audience a taste of what the world of Doctor Who involves. In this it succeeds admirably, and so to quibble about a less than detailed subplot involving the Nestene invasion is really irrelevant. I'm actually quite surprised that some aspect of a story was told behind this introduction. It was clever of Russell T. Davies to involve the audience towards the end of the Nestene plot (and choosing a relatively straightforward invasion plan too), and we manage to get some semblance of a story with the impression that it has been going on for some time. For this story the pace worked brilliantly because of its aims, but I feel future episodes that are centred around story-telling rather than characters will suffer from the 43-or-so minute format.
The atmosphere built around the Nestene invasion and the mysteriousness of the Doctor was very effective. The initial sequence of Rose in department store's basement is chilling; Clive's elaboration on the Doctor slightly sinister and apocalyptic; and the denouement taking place in the Nestene base as well as the attack by Autons in the department store desperately exciting. That the Autons manage to pose a threat and gun down shoppers without a massive body count or gore being shown is a credit to the director.
The special effects are superb. Never has Doctor Who reached this height - and what a height! They're so good, I'm not surprised the viewers that know Doctor Who of old don't go dizzy for a bit wondering if this is still the same show. The Auton design is very realistic and their movements threatening, inhuman and still managing to convey the sense of being alive... yet not quite alive. The CGI rubbish bin has a great liquid quality and the Nestene Consciousness looks far better than the hairy tentacle monster from Spearhead From Space.
The inside of the TARDIS is magnificent in its scale. It has a creepy dark green glow that is perhaps more suited to the Master than the Doctor, and one has to wonder how he can see anything in there! I think the general design of the TARDIS is spot on, but its atmosphere has to be lightened somewhat - the Doctor isn't a creepy alien who likes to skulk about in the dark and brood. At least, I hope not! The TARDIS, I believe, should have a homely feel, which is well lit and inviting. When Ace calls the TARDIS "home" in Survival, she isn't talking about anything that looks or feels like the new TARDIS design. The telemovie TARDIS, while less alien with the wood panelling and very Wellsian, carries a more accurate spirit of what the interior should be like, even if the current design is better.
As for the characters, Rose shines as inspired, both actress and character meld beautifully together and she is really the star of the show. I shan't go on about how good Billie Piper is as Rose - everyone else is saying that already, and rightly so! Hopefully she will continue as such a strong character throughout the series, and I'm glad she's coming back for the second series.
Rose's mother is wonderfully stereotypical and has some great lines about compensation and "skin like an old Bible". Mickey is fairly lame and hopefully a character we don't get to see again. Clive is well used for what he is there for. I must say his demise was rather touching, not emotionally, but in the sense that it gave a real presence of threat to the Autons.
Now to the Doctor. I both like and dislike him. This is appropriate for the character of the alien Time Lord, who is not one of us and should not always be seen as someone we can approve of continually, being far more complex than Superman. But unfortunately I think I dislike him for the wrong reasons. There are times when you can't help but dislike or even loathe Hartnell's, Colin Baker's or even McCoy's Doctor, but usually this is because of your human response to their seemingly inhuman actions: they act selfishly, or see the bigger picture and not the individual, or are dubious in their intentions, making them seem slightly evil. As an alien not part of the human species and foreign to human culture, this is all well and good. Yet this is not why I dislike Eccleston's Doctor so much. I actually thought the scenes where he apparently forgot or disregarded Mickey because he was focused on the bigger picture were great. His alien aloofness too is depicted well.
What I'm not liking about Doctor number nine - and from the look of the second story, what we are going to be stuck with - is that he seems to be a manic buffoon who wears broad, inane grins for no apparent reason and both makes and laughs at the lamest of jokes. Most of the attempts at comedy by Eccleston and Davies are misplaced: the slapstick with the Auton arm, the truly appalling "armless" joke (couldn't they have come up with something both original and witty, like Tom Baker's, "What a wonderful butler, he's so violent!"?), the price war joke, etc. There are times when the silliness works: the mucking about with the cards, the Doctor's child-like zeal at the prospect of danger when he pulls off Auton Mickey's head, the "fantastic" line, etc. But there are other times when one has to wonder what the director or actor were thinking. It's okay for the Doctor to crack jokes, laugh and be silly (and silly looking) but these actions should fit a relevant context (such as putting off an enemy) not just be put in here or there to make him look alien. Ultimately it makes him look laughable and ridiculous. (One reviewer rightly pointed out that one problem with Eccleston's approach is his attempting to show all the lust for life the Doctor has but doing so by shoving it down your throat every second.)
This Doctor's total disgust with humanity is also very strange (he disparages humans three or four times in the episode). This may be only a trait he retains for this first episode, just to show that he isn't "one of us". Let's hope so. I don't mind a Doctor who occasionally puts humans in their place, but to constantly denigrate the species, well... one wonders why some with that attitude even bothers to help anyone. His thanks to Rose at the end of the story seems to suggest that his dislike for humanity is only temporary. (Indeed in The End Of The World, the Doctor only makes one jibe against human beings.)
I do't have any problems with the Doctor's northern accent. The colloquialisms and slang are fine, but a bit overused (too much "ya" instead of "yes", etc.) and instead of being a medium through which the richness and beauty of the English language is explored (something a great writer like Robert Holmes handled only too well), Doctor Who now seems to be on the same level of pedestrian and unartistic dialogue that most shows on telly inhabit today. The sign of a lazy writer, Mr Davies. Perhaps most people won't have a problem with this point; it's probably the English teacher in me that is annoyed by it. Yet there is another issue that is more of a problem. The Doctor now has a northern accent because the actor playing him is from Manchester. Fine. But highlighting this difference in the story was a huge mistake. Invariably what the Doctor sounds like, as well as what he looks like, is going to be different all the time because of the different actors playing the role. There should be little differentiation, however, between the character based on the attributes of the actor. When you write the role of the Doctor you write it based on the character of the Doctor, not if the actor has a northern accent, is short, has gingivitis, etc. No character ever asked the Seventh Doctor why he sounded slightly Scots. In the telemovie the mistake was made:
Grace [trying to excuse the Doctor's eccentric behaviour to the policeman]: "He's British."What crap. He only sounds British because he is being played by a British actor and for an American audience, which should be irrelevant. That is the universality of Doctor Who, that anyone can play the character. Similarly, if the Doctor regenerates into a woman, the fact shouldn't be emphasised. That the new series made the same mistake when Rose asked the Doctor why he sounded like he came from the north suggests they haven't really got a grip on things. Either that, or it was another attempt to score a cheap, lame joke. At least the "lots of planets have a north" was funny. (I'm getting the impression that this Doctor Who series is going to delight in cheap jokes - as Rose tells the Doctor in the second story when he says something - I think it was a joke! - about the "Deep South".)
Doctor: "Yes, I suppose I am."
In fact, Russell T. Davies seems to introduce a lot of lewd or sexual dialogue into his stories. Rose has more than its fair share: Mickey's "any excuse to get you into the bedroom", Rose's mother trying to pick up the Doctor, the Doctor's "he's gay and she's an alien", the mention of breast implants, etc. While the world we live in is obviously sex-obsessed to the point of ludicrousness, the world of Doctor Who should be relatively free from such tripe. I call it tripe because it is used cheaply, as either a poor joke or an attempt to seem "contemporary" and "relevant". Some sexual jokes can work really well but only if they are in character and not forced. Thinking ahead to The End Of The World, it seems this trend continues however.
Regardless of these criticisms, Eccleston's approach to the Doctor is fresh and full of energy. His intensity and sudden changes of expression from hardness to softness (for example, during the wonderful "world revolving" speech) add a lot to the character. The way the Doctor is introduced is perfect and the mystery as to his identity is kept up throughout the story. The Ninth Doctor's ability for quick thinking is superb and while this might leave the audience in the dark for some time - since he doesn't seem to explain anything he does, for example, what the sonic screwdriver is (which he uses way too much for my liking) - it adds tremendously to the intelligence of the character. It's a real shame that Eccleston won't be around for much longer as the Doctor because his character has real potential to be one of the best.
Apart from some misgivings to do with the Doctor^'s character, dialogue and length of the episode, Rose begins the new series in style. It is atmospheric, exciting and effective in its intentions. Welcome back Doctor Who! 7.5/10
A good start by Michael Hickerson 18/4/05
Those of you know me in real life are probably beginning to wonder if I'm OK. Why? Because it's been four days now since the new episodes of Doctor Who started airing in the United Kingdom and I have yet to mention anything about them.
For those of you who don't know, I'm a huge Doctor Who fan. I stumbled across the show close to 20 years ago and it's been an obsession of mine ever since. The show ran for 26 seasons in the UK before taking a short 16 year break and now, it's back. Three weeks ago, the first episode of the new series leaked out onto the Internet. Many of my good Doctor Who friends on-line made me aware that I could preview the episode early.
But, I decided I'd have will power. I'd wait for the episodes to play here in the United States. Surely some network executive would see the light of picking up new episodes of the greatest television show ever made and airing it. Alas, that hasn't happened yet, proving once again that most network executives are idiots.
My will power lasted all of five seconds. Within seconds, I was getting the software needed and pulling down a copy of the first episode. I couldn't wait to see it. I watched the little percentage meter throughout the day as it slowly scrolled up and up. Finally, I had the entire episode.
I burned it to CD and sat back to take in the first new Doctor Who I'd seen since the 1996 FOX movie.
Starting it up, I have to admit I was a bit nervous. For years, Doctor Who has existed and been kept alive by the fans. There have been novels, audio stories, all kinds of fan fiction. And the best part was-if an audio story or novel didn't jive with yow you saw Doctor Who, you just ignored it. You said - it's not a TV episode, so that doesn't count. But now, we've got a new series, one that is run by an admitted fan of the show. The biggest danger is that the vision that producer Russell K Davies has for the show might not be the same one I have-or that a zillion and one other Whovians out there have. This could be very, very dangerous.
Also, I have to admit that while I love Doctor Who, I'm not necessarily the target audience anymore. Much has been made of the fact that Doctor Who is made for the intelligent 12 year-old. Yes, there are things for the older crowd in there, but I'm long past the age where I'm a target audience for my favorite show. So, while I was happy it was back, I was also taking the approach that the show wasn't being made for just me, the way I wanted it. It was being made for a new generation of fans. Let's face it - they had me watching just because it said Doctor Who. The real challenge was going to be bringing in the new Doctor Who fan.
All this was going through my mind as I sat down to watch the first episode of the new series.
Well, that and "Cool! New Doctor Who!"
The prospect of new Doctor Who just thrills me to the tips of my toes, to be quite honest with you.
So, I'll admit I went into the first episode of the new series with cautious optimism. I was determined to give it a fair shake, but hopefully not be too gushing of a fanboy about it. But I also didn't want to dismiss it too easily if it didn't meet up to my huge expectations for it.
One episode into the new series and I think we've got something here.
Wisely enough, Russell K Davies spends the first hour of the new Doctor Who re-introducing us to the universe of Doctor Who. How?
By introducing us to the companion first.
Over the years, the best way to get to know a new Doctor is through how his companions or friends react to him. This was, in my mind, one of the huge shortcomings of the FOX movie back in 1996. It not only had to get us a new Doctor, but also a new companion as well. As an audience, we had no way to know much about the new Doctor because we didn't know much about anyone he was interacting with.
This time around, Davies takes care of that. The episode is called Rose with good reason. It focuses on the new companion, Rose. We follow her around and see her life, her various interactions with the new Doctor and her learning more about who the Doctor really is. The new Doctor, played by Christopher Eccleston, is on screen for about half the episode, if not less. The only times we see him are when his path crosses with Rose. I love this for a couple of reasons. One is that for years the central mystery of the show was just who is the Doctor. That sense of mystery has returned a bit with this storyline. Also, by establishing Rose a bit, we the audience have a way to get to know and understand the Doctor. We get a few hints about the new Doctor - he seems a combination of Tom Baker, Patrick Troughton and Sylvester McCoy. But Ecceleston brings something of his own to the role. What it is yet, I'm not quite sure. There is a definite chemistry between the Doctor and Rose - in that the new Doctor seems to need an audience for his brilliant feats and his defeat of alien monster. Rose seems to fit that bill and I like the give and take between the two. It feels like some of the best Doctor/companion teams for the original series.
That's not to say Rose is really all that original a story. It's not breaking a lot of new ground. It's a re-telling for the classic Pertwee era story Spearhead from Space which introduced us to the third Doctor. That's not exactly a bad thing. If you're going to emulate a good first story for a Doctor, you might as well go for one of the best. Rose borrows heavily from Spearhead from Space even down to the main villain of the piece, the Autons. And just like in the 70s we see the real terror of the Autons is that they can make normal every day things made of plastic become scary. Back in the two original Auton stories, things like phone chords, plastic flowers and policemen became scary. Here it's trash bins and shop dummies (also used in the original). And it works. The Autons work well as villains and monsters - even taking over Rose's boyfriend at one point and making him one of them to lead her into a trap and flush out the Doctor.
They know the Doctor can stop their invasion, by defeating the Nestenes. In the end, the Doctor does this by using a bit of "anti-plastic". No technobabble here. The Doctor, typical to the Pertwee era, just comes up with some stuff that defeats the enemy and saves the day. We need no long-winded ground-in-hard-science explanation. The Autons use plastic as a weapon, so the Doctor uses anti-plastic to defeat them. Makes sense to me. Just in the same way that mushrooms can clean up toxic waste and defeat giant maggots. It makes sense within the context of the story.
So, overall, the story is a nice one. It's not great, but it's still twenty times better than the story that started the McCoy years with Time and the Rani. It shows some potential. It's left me curious and wanting to see more. It's done what a good pilot should do-hook you into the characters, the series and the premise and left you wanting for more. I am hopeful that as the next twelve or so episodes unfold, it continues to build on all this.
All I know is that, for now, I'm satisfied. For the first time in 16 years, I have new Doctor Who to look forward to next week... er, I mean whenever it makes it to the United States.
Wonderful! by Joe Ford 26/4/05
My hat's off to Russell T Davies and his team for supplying us with a great first episode. Don't get me wrong this isn't the best piece of writing we have ever had on the show but it introduces the show to a whole new generation of kids with considerable skill. It was sexy and funny and fast and all the great things about modern television.
I remember seeing a drawing in DWM of the eighth Doctor being rampaged by Autons on the streets of San Francisco and I remember thinking what a great pilot that would have been, certainly infinitely preferable to the story we eventually got. Obviously Russell T Davis had the same idea and he utilises the Autons skilfully in this first episode to really get the kids attention. When they come smashing out of the windows and shooting innocent bystanders I am certain that today's children will be equally as enraptured as those of the 1970's.
What Davies has done that is especially clever is to introduce the series through so much that people will recognise. You have a recognisable main character (Rose) in a recognisable setting (London) with a recognisable monster (shop window dummies). How can anyone fail to understand that? It was the domestical scenes that impressed me most about this episode to be perfectly honest; there was a lot of subtle touching between the actors that suggested real intimacy between them and the grounded, believable performances sold the story just fine. The gritty, down-to-Earth locations (the flat, the garages, the restaurant exterior) were well counterpointed by the more fantastical locations (the beautifully lit London Eye, the Nestene Lair) and made them seem wonderfully otherworldly.
Christopher Eccelston is such a brave chap to take on a role with such baggage and I have to congratulate him for pulling it off with so much charm. I wan not sure about him for the first ten minutes or so, he seemed to be a bit goofy and McCoy-ish but he soon settled down and behaved as if he had been playing the role for yonks. I especially liked his scene on the Thames and his sudden burst of anger, condemning the human race as stupid apes. And the Doctor's huge grin when he realises just what Rose is trying to show him behind his back is to die for. Simon and I both agreed he was totally hot.
A huge round of applause though for Billie Piper who after the initial shock of her casting I was behind one hundred percent. What a revelation. Warm, witty, believable and totally hot. Forget Mary Tamm Rob, this is the girl that would turn a man straight! This episode is all about Rose and I would argue that the success of the pilot rested on Piper's shoulders as much as Eccelston's and she managed to connect with the audience with effortless ease. There were too many scenes where I was punching the air with delight but her "We can't hide inside a wooden box!" and "You were right, you ARE alien" were superb moments. Billie makes entering the TARDIS an EVENT, which is something that was far too often forgotten in the series after An Unearthly Child (except, amazingly, for Tegan in Logopolis) and I loved how the story explored how she loved being caught up in the excitement of it all (she is grinning like a nutter when they start running around London). Davies capitalises on the wish to escape our humdrum lives and leap into adventures with outer space and I found impossible not to identify with Rose.
Ooh somebody has been watching far too much Farscape! The new TARDIS interior is certainly eye catching, probably not as much as the TV Movie's attempt but they have captured the scale and the awe of that last attempt. It has a very organic feel to it that I liked a lot, for once you get the idea that this isn't just a giant computer but a living organism in its own right. I could certainly see a lot of scope for lots of imaginative camera work in upcoming episodes.
Too much humour? I don't think so, this has to appeal to the kiddies after all and burping wheelie bins and gaping Mickeys are just the right way to go about it. Whilst Eccelston and Piper are playing their roles for all the depth they can get away with (well, in a script about a 900 year old alien who fights shop window dummies), Noel Clarke goes for a much broader performance and he has come in for some heavy criticism which I think is a mite unfair. Whilst I could have done without his "P..pizza!" pronunciation I really enjoyed the wheelie bin scene, which was as silly and as scary as it needed to be. I also quite enjoyed his reluctance to help the Doctor, why all the people who meet him some around to his way of thinking?
Didn't you just love Jackie Tyler? What a hopeless character! All that guff about compensation was hilarious (well, Simon laughed). And her reaction to the Auton massacre was perfect, utter confusion and then sheer terror (the poor actress looked like she had walked into the wrong programme at first!).
I do have to comment on the special effects which were much, much better than imagined after listening to some ungrateful gits over at Outpost Gallifrey bemoan the quality of the production (and if that sounds like dismissing other people's opinions Mikey, good!). Nothing made me go "WOW OHMIGOD THEY MUST HAVE SPENT MILLIONS ON THIS!" but there were certainly enough great set pieces to confirm that Doctor Who has entered the new millennium. I loved headless Mickey smashing up the restaurant and the Nestene creature, both were highly convincing pieces of CGI. The lighting was excellent and gave the entire episode a real sense of style; Davies' comment that he would rather watch beautiful images than ugly ones certainly looks as though it has made it on screen. The whole episode was a delight on the eye.
The direction could probably have done with tightening up at bit. Compared to eighties Doctor Who this was a triumph but compared to other SF shows that are on the market these days (I'm thinking of the slick and quick Battlestar Galactica and the trippy and sensual Farscape) it didn't quite have the oomph all the time. Certain scenes (such as the montage at the beginning and the wonderfully frantic climax) had real energy and style whilst others (the more domestic scenes) were directed more akin to a modern soap.
I don't want to walk away from this review sounding negative however because this was everything I had hoped for and more. Considering he had to introduce all the core elements of the series and try and tell an individual story (which was a little thin but perfectly serviceable) as well, Russell T Davies has done us proud. This is everything we could have hoped for and more, distinctly British in flavour but far more interesting and well made than anything I have seen in Britain in ages.
This is Doctor Who for fans and the mainstream audience. I never thought the series could make the connection between the two but I have never been more pleased to be wrong.
A New Beginning by Adrian Loder 8/5/05
When I first heard that Doctor Who was returning, I was incredibly excited, but also somewhat fearful. After all, the original storyline for the telemovie involved Borusa's consciousness becoming entrapped in the TARDIS and advising the Doctor in his travels - something like Knight Rider in space. Imagine if that had gotten good ratings and spawned a series - it gives me nightmares. There was also the possibility of a series reboot, or a re-do of all the old stories, both things I had no interest in.
Instead, what we got with Rose was something that felt very much like the original series. Some things were different, and the show had clearly been updated for the 21st-Century, but it felt like the Doctor Who of yore, like a resumption rather than a restart, with just enough to make it clear that we've picked up more or less where we left off, but without so much gratuitous catering to longtime fans as to bog things down.
I very much enjoyed the way this Doctor was portrayed in this first episode - he needed an assist from Rose, but otherwise was taking care of business the way the Doctor always has. Rose was well-played, although I wasn't real keen on the more touchy-feely aspects of things here, a small portent of things to come. I can take or leave Rose's mother or her boyfriend, Mickey, but again, a solid beginning, and one which fulfilled its most important purpose, namely establishing the series and its leading characters. The presence of an old foe was a nice touch.
All in all, a solid beginning, nothing special as Doctor Who goes but it did everything right in reassuring the longtime fans while introducing the show successfully to a new generation. I give it 7.5/10.
A Review by Charles Tuck 13/5/05
So here it is first episode of the new series. It’s got an old foe, a new assistant and, most importantly, a new Doctor.
So after 2 minutes or so, Rose enters the department store basement…. And suddenly, the Doctor and Rose are sprinting away from an angry mob of Autons, talk about fast paced. A brilliant start to the new series!
Let’s start with the Doctor; he’s humorous (like Tom):
Rose: The Doctor?He’s dark (like McCoy):
The Doctor: Hello!!
The Doctor: And if we let go…And he’s jolly (like…well, Tom):
I’ve got the anti-plastic! Yes, the anti-plastic!
A good start to a good Doctor!
Next is the star for this episode, Rose! Thank god we didn’t get another awful screamer. Rose has a good story behind her, she’s funny:
Rose: Breast implants!(Or is that my childish mind at work?)
She’s quick to understand, and she doesn’t sit around screaming like umm… MEL!!!
The Autons are good and now seem to have the ability to physically change the plastic, cool! The attack on the general public is well realised but, unfortunately, not that original. The Nestene conscious is much better as molten plastic then a big load of tentacles. As in Terror of the Autons, there is a good variety. The plastic arm was impressive and the bin would have been rather frightening if the infamous burp was not added. The plastic Mickey is rather weird but the body’s rampage was scaring yet funny…
Overall, Rose is an excellent start to the new series but not quite a classic.
Wow! by Brian May 27/5/05
Doctor Who returns to the small screen for the first time in nine years, and as a proper television series for the first time in sixteen.
It's been worth the wait!
The programme jumps into the twenty-first century with considerable style. It's definitely style at the expense of substance, but that's what the debut episode needs. Rose has been one of the most anticipated Who events ever, and the expectations are great. But it goes above and beyond the call of duty, with an appeal to new fans that won't alienate the old faithful. The direction and editing is definitely 21st century TV: quick, snappy montages with rock video pacing, imaginative close-ups and a terrific assortment of camera angles. The music is modern and catchy (although we need to wait a few years to see if it's dated or not) and, lo and behold, we have believable special effects! CGI in Doctor Who - who'd have imagined it?
So how else has Doctor Who caught up with the times? Well, for a start, we have characters, both central and incidental, who don't speak BBC English; we have "common" people who live in depressing London housing estates and have normal lives and relationships. Rose Tyler comes into the Doctor's life with an overbearing but good-hearted mother and a rather bland boyfriend, but she's loyal to him and lets the Doctor know accordingly. Doctor Who now exists in a world of mobile phones, internet conspiracy theorists and BBC 24; it also acknowledges the fact that some of its own institutions are now anachronistic - Rose asking "What's a police public call box?" is classic!
As for Rose and the Doctor, they're excellent. Billie Piper is wonderful - she makes Rose warm, endearing and immediately likeable. And Christopher Eccleston is similarly brilliant as the ninth Doctor - he's full of manic energy, with a mischievous streak, wicked sense of humour and a very detached, alien persona.
The longstanding Doctor Who fans will also be pleased by Rose; there's plenty to satisfy the die-hards who were around when 1970s and 1980s stories were new. First of all, the Delia Derbyshire theme is back - not all of it, but in the stings that start the opening and closing titles. It's a facet of the programme that should never have gone away. The TARDIS noises are the same. The writing refers to the Kennedy assassination, an event that's indelibly linked with the show's beginning. We don't have the time to waste on a post-regeneration subplot, but it's acknowledged fleetingly. An old enemy is brought back; indeed, a whole scene is paid tribute to, coming from a story that was just as much a new beginning for the programme; Spearhead From Space brought Doctor Who into the 1970s and in colour. And, in my opinion, the Auton rampage in Rose pales in comparison to Spearhead. The great effects are present in this new version, but the original wins hands down - but it's the reference to it that matters. By the way, I'm also glad the Auton noises - the hands dropping and the sound effects of their guns - are the same as in 1970.
The plot is minimal - it's a truncated version of Spearhead, without much detail or elaboration. The Autons and the Nestene Consciousness are on Earth, ready to invade. And that's about it. The limitations of telling a story in just 45 minutes are revealed, but plot is not really a major factor in this episode, and deliberately so. I referred to the style over substance element in Rose - well, plot is the central part of this. We're not meant to know the whys and wherefores of how long the Nestenes have been hiding under London; their simple plan of conquest is revealed, and after a brief race against time struggle the Doctor defeats them just as simply with his vial of anti-plastic. But this episode is meant to showcase the return of Doctor Who and save the complicated plots for later, after the introductions - the ninth Doctor, Rose and the new face of the programme - have been made.
After we've see all thirteen episodes of the new series, Rose may not be the best story. Who knows, it may not even be fans' the top four or five. But it has the task of bringing Doctor Who into the living rooms of viewers who live in the year 2005; to people who expect a bit more from their television. It has to appeal to fans old and new. And it succeeds admirably.
Personal note 1: that burp should have been left out.
Personal note 2: I adore the TARDIS set, especially the police box doors visible from the inside.
By Any Other Name... by Phil Fenerty 5/6/05
Rose is an OK introduction, suffering from a paper-thin plot and the need to re-introduce a sense of mystery and danger to the character of the Doctor. The special effects were hardly ground-breaking, and suffered a lot in places from being too 'obvious' (e.g. the signal emanating from a famous London landmark). The Nestene Consciousness was better realised than in Spearhead From Space (which could be interpreted as being damned with faint praise), and it was good to see the Doctor at least trying to interact with it rather than destroy it straight away.
The main problem I feel is that the story blasts on through at 200mph. The forty-five minutes allotted passed in seemingly half that time, with nary a pause for breath. The few character moments we had ("I can feel the Earth turning in Space" and "There's a strange man in my bedroom") were good, but too few and far between. Rose would have benefited from another 15 minutes to give the plot more meat and the characters more room to breath.
But there is plenty which is good: Eccleston's first outing shows promise, the Doctor being less certain of himself and more distant at times. When Rose chides him for not telling her that Mickey might be OK, we realise that this isn't the Doctor we're used to: not Jon, who would have had consoling words for Jo, nor Peter who would have tried to buck up Tegan with 'Brave heart.' This is a more alien Doctor, one hurt and desensitised by the events of the War he has fought in. Eccleston has put a lot into creating this part, and it shows in his performance. From his first speech ("Run!"), he makes the part his own, in a way no incoming actor has done before. Only Hartnell, the original, showed such confidence and presence as the Doctor from the word go.
Billie Piper as Rose is a revelation. She can act. Not only that, she can act well, and makes one believe in the part. She is a shop-girl with a nose for trouble, she is a humanising influence on the Doctor, she could be our new best friend. Giving Rose the limelight for the first story was a bold decision, but it worked. For the first time since An Unearthly Child we get to meet the Doctor through the eyes of a real person, one not used to time travel and alien invasions. It was a masterstroke, and one we should applaud Russell T Davies for.
The Auton dummies are reasonably well realised, and we finally get to see them smash out from the windows in which they are displayed. What was missing was the "first part" of the story, showing how the Autons were made (I'm assuming there is a factory somewhere in Kent where the owner has been supplanted by an Auton duplicate) and insinuated into so many shop windows in such a casual fashion.
Indeed, when Rose (we) get into the story, the adventure is half over. The Doctor is in the process of making Henrik's department store "safe" and has (presumably) dealt with other Auton outposts. There is something unsatisfying in this, a sense that there is more to be told, that we don't have all the facts.
Who does have all the facts? Clive doesn't, but he has a lot of them. He's the 21st-Century Doctor Who fan, all internet-savvy and anal retentive geeky. Why is he obsessive about the Doctor? We aren't really told. But he has amassed lots of information and sightings about the Ninth Doctor (without ever really picking up on the trail left by his predecessors) and shows Rose that this is someone special. There are a couple of nice in-jokes there, including his presence at the Kennedy Assassination (22nd November 1963, of course) and more of these are included on the website (unpromoted) which the BBC have set up. It can be accessed via the BBC Doctor Who site, and is a clever piece of fluff to demonstrate how the series has moved into the computer age.
The rest of Rose's life is well detailed, from her slightly flirty mother to her deadbeat boyfriend. Noel Clarke plays the part well, and it is easy to see why Rose, given the choice of staying with him or travelling with the Doctor, would jump into the TARDIS. It's a nice touch that Rose is stronger than Mickey, and shows both how capable she is and how much of a foil for the Doctor she will be.
No review of Rose would be complete without mention of the infamous "wheelie-bin" scene. Suffice to say that, as a tension-breaker for the little ones (who might not have ventured near bins ever again if traumatised by the shot) it worked well. It wasn't overdone (as the farting was to some extent in Aliens of London), and there could be a plausible reason why the burp occurred (which I'll leave out in the spoiler-free environment we still have). One scene does not deserve to be held up to ridicule this show, when there were entire stories in the 1980's with more childish stupidity than in the two seconds of television shown here. Deriding the entire show because of this is truly clutching at straws.
If this is Doctor Who for the 21st Century, then I like it. It is bold it is witty , it has great special effects and it is able to attract great actors to appear in it. Despite the shortcomings in the plot and structure of Rose, its sheer bravado carries it above much of the lacklustre, by-the-numbers episodes of Doctor Who seen in its declining years.
Overall: bold and beautiful.
Getting on with it by Jordan Wilson 13/6/05
This is the first time I've felt completely undecided over the critical success of a film/television production. Whilst far from perfect, this opening episode is a quirky romp that reenergizes a previously-waning series. The seemingly relentless 45-minute format is welcome, although this suggests little consideration for character development in the near-future. Christopher Eccleston provides what may transpire to be the most intense Doctor, although he plays second-fiddle to Billie Piper's unexpectedly well-acted Rose - who effectively "saves the day". The superficial Auton plot succeeds in introducing the protagonists, although the situations and scenarios are somewhat so-so.
Camille Coduri and Noel Clarke's respective acting leaves much to be desired. Mark Benton's Clive and the whoisdoctorwho.co.uk site could be deemed cringe-worthy - was this aspect necessary? Likewise, some of the more self-demeaning moments: Auton Mickey's "double take" and the Auton wheelie-bin's belch. The opening and closing theme is excellent homage to the Delia Derbyshire/Ron Grainer original, although Murray Gold's incidental music is all wrong. Additionally, Russell T. Davies' dialogue requires strengthening, although there are admittedly some chirpy one-liners. Keith Boak's direction does the job.
Overall, this entry radiates an underlying "getting on with it" attitude, with which it succeeds, unlike the contrasting Doctor Who (1996) tele-movie - which introduced the new Doctor at about the half-way point. This new Doctor's simplistic and less dandified choice of attire emphasizes this new cutting-to-the-chase approach. The Autons are never referred to by name, suggesting that references to the past will be minimized and used only where necessary - these stories will stand on their own. The new Doctor shows promise, although Billie Piper may well threaten to upstage him (again?).
Bottom-line: He's back... and it's certainly about time! Just take it lightheartedly and not too seriously. ***
A Review by Ron Mallett 24/6/05
Well it's finally arrived, the new series had arrived in Australia. It's slick, expensive, but is it Doctor Who? The starting sequence and music smacks of the TV Movie - oh dear oh dear, they never learn do they! The effects are a rehash of the seventies time tunnel that look like they've been slapped together in ten minutes. What made the traditional theme arrangements (bar the McCoy one I suppose) exceptional was that they were atmospheric. Once again we have an arrangement that sounds as if its been performed by the National Philharmonic Orchestra! Also the use of actors' names on the starting sequence is very American, a country where the shows are just vehicles for the real products on offer, which are the actors. It wasn't quite all negative though, Christopher Eccleston is a passable Doctor, some of it was well shot but that's not much compensation for the anticipation that has been built up over the past year. He can play up the alien eccentric potential of the character... but he's dressed like an extra from Queer as Folk. Also, one of the fundamental problems becoming evident is that 45 minutes is not long enough for a story to be properly developed. Season 22 illustrated that you really needed two such episodes (the equivalent of a 4-parter) to explore a set of ideas properly. And that's the rub isn't it, we need a story.
The situation is rather inverted: normally the Doctor meets his companions as a consequence of a story, the companion in this case was the story as rather bluntly illustrated by the title. There is a kind of self-conscious symmetry with the relaunch of the show into the colour era in 1970 with Spearhead from Space, but in that classic piece of sci-fi, the Autons and to a lesser extent, the Doctor himself was the main focus of the story. Yes, and I think that's the rub, there was very little story evident at all: the Doctor is on Earth looking for the Nestene Consciousness, the Doctor has been fighting them in the Auton War (snigger) and has obviously recently regenerated, he is armed with anti-plastic (snort) so he already has the solution, Rose saves the day by pushing an auton hiding the anti-plastic into the alien entity. That's about it. The majority of the episode focused on Rose, her job, boyfriend, mother, how she gets to work, what she wears... you get the picture. To be honest with you I don't care about Rose Tyler, I can already tell that she's an annoying slapper... I'm a sci-fi fan and I respond to thought and originality, I want concepts, new concepts and I'm afraid I didn't get it. What we got was a lot of retarded Buffy the Vampire Slayer relationship-orientated crap that would appeal to die-hard fans of Big Brother (i.e.. morons).
I can only imagine the collective disappointment of true fans across the country. Instead of delivering Who which Big Finish have been able to do very well, we have been dished up with a kind of teenybopper, derivative fanboy rubbish that will appeal to only an audience with a very small attention span... in a year they will have lost interest and the true fans will still be here. This is what happens when you stand on the shoulders of genius and don't offer anything original yourself. I think Russell T. Davies should stick to superficial, populist human interest, relationship orientated soap operas like The Second Coming and Queer as Folk and leave sci-fi to the Shearmans and Cornells of this world who have only been given an episode here and there while Davies can indulge himself. When any show becomes too much the baby of one man, it tells: everything from the casting to emphasis on romance has Davies' signature written all over it.
My final verdict is that the only way from here is up... or perhaps, out.
A Review by Sean Neuerburg 14/7/05
From the opening moments of this brand new series, the first impression I got was, "This is someone else's show." It was Rose, living her daily life, showing you exactly it was like to be on Earth without ever hearing of anything like the Doctor or time travel. That changes pretty quick.
The story starts fast, giving you the drive-by look at Rose, then putting her up against what devoted fans like myself would recognize as the Autons. Then we see the Doctor as another drive-by, rescuing just a random person. His comes off as fun, but with priority, non-human but with respect for what a human can do. (All of this can be found in the short scene in and after the elevator.)
This is what separates this story from the classic series right off the bat. Rose is being introduced to a brand new world, and we get no other perspective, and we are introduced in the same way. If this story was told from the Doctor's point of view, it would be a very different story. We would feel more at home with this new Doctor, and we would make the same jumps he does. Instead we are left with the very human Rose Tyler, and what should be second-knowledge to the classic fans is now just as breathtaking as the first time with the way it is presented.
Clive stands out in the guest cast here. He seems exactly what the normal Doctor Who fan would be like. (And should be like. No one wants to be Whizzkid from The Greatest Show in the Galaxy!!) His scenes with Rose are great, and his insistance that there is a bigger world out there only leaves you wishing that he knew the whole story. His ultimate fate seems pointless, but is moving in its own desperate way.
Noel Clarke got the short end of the stick with Mickey in this story. His villianous part was as creepy as it was fun, but the rest of his appearances seem pathetic and sad. (It will be good to note that this is the sole poor showing that Mickey has in the whole season.)
As for the Autons themselves, they seem to be underused, which makes sense. The story is designed to be about Rose (hence the title), and her discovery of the Doctor's new universe. While it is nice to see them, their attack at the episode's climax is a bit slow and predictable. If it had been done more like the zombies attacking in "Shawn of the Dead," you might have captured a bit more of the terror that was supposed to be there. But, other than the deus ex of "anti-plastic" (and what the hell is that supposed to be?), the enemy satisfies.
All in all, and good story, but what will turn out to be in the weaker few of the season. An excellent start, and an excellent introduction of Rose and the ninth Doctor. 7/10
A Review by Finn Clark 26/1/06
Perhaps the most impressive thing about Rose isn't that as a pilot it has a huge checklist of things to establish about the new series, but that it does so with such confidence that you never notice the magnitude of the task. It introduced the Doctor, Rose and the secondary regulars of Mickey and Jackie. It re-established the show's fundamentals (the Doctor, the TARDIS, monsters, time travel) for newbies. It told a good old-fashioned tale of aliens infiltrating present-day London. It pressed the nation's Doctor Who buttons, capturing that elusive Whoish feel and reassuring us that Yes, He's Back. It had killer monsters without being too scary. It was fun!
It's not perfect for me. Personally I'd have preferred something nastier and more brutal. Rose's Autons are forgettable. It's hard to imagine children remembering Rose for its monsters, the way Spearhead from Space seared itself into the popular imagination with killer window dummies. The burping wheelie bin is practically played for laughs, as in general the episode seems more interested in playing with CGI than terrifying its audience.
The first thing that must be conceded before criticising Russell T. Davies is that he's right and we're wrong. Spearhead from Space wasn't the dawn of a new Golden Age. Season Seven's viewing figures were poor. Russell T. Davies on the other hand revolutionised British television with a success beyond anyone's wildest expectations, be it hardcore fanboys, the general public or TV professionals. Doctor Who got a new lease of life, with spin-off shows, Christmas specials and more. Future seasons will evolve yet again. Doctor Who always has and always will, but Russell T. Davies deserves credit for giving it another opportunity to do so.
As a pilot it's astonishing. Pilots suck. It's not quite a law, but it's a good general principle. Rose isn't quite as revolutionary as Remembrance of the Daleks, which reinvents the 7th Doctor and the Cartmel era from the ashes of Seasons 23 and 24, but then again Ben Aaronovitch wasn't going back to first principles. Rose assumes nothing from its audience, but (this is the clever part) never makes that obvious. It establishes Eccleston's Whoniverse in a manner that works for existing fans and newbies alike.
Even on rewatching, Rose is "Big Stupid Grin" time. It feels right. It hits my Who buttons. Those pilot moments don't slow things down in the slightest... for example, compare the 1996 TVM with Rose for how they establish the TARDIS. The TVM plonks the bloody thing in front of us with the opening credits, whereas Rose keeps us in suspense. We don't even see the first dematerialisation. Furthermore when Rose steps inside for the first time, we don't see what she does but simply her reaction as she flees back towards a monster that's trying to kill her.
The theme music is better than I first thought, when I was comparing it to the flawless Dream Who that exists only in my head. Rewatching a mish-mash of all eras of the show, I was surprised to find for instance that I prefer Peter Howell's theme music to Delia Derbyshire's. Murray Gold's version doesn't try to clone the past, but it has urgency and an alien wail. I particularly like the introductory sting. It's certainly miles ahead of the TVM version, which is fun and similarly orchestral but deeply wrong! Anyone bashing Murray Gold's arrangement clearly hasn't watched the TVM lately.
On the other hand the TARDIS console room is fine, but it can look rather empty. I like the fact that it acknowledges its predecessor with a similar Time Rotor, but I preferred the TVM version.
Billie Piper is obviously great. She gives the story its heart. However Eccleston improved for me on rewatching. In March 2005 for me the jolly grinning side of Eccleston's performance felt fake, but what I didn't know is that that's deliberate. Knowing what's going on underneath, this time I had no problems with him. He's emotionally scarred from the Time War. For example, compare the Doctor's invitations to Grace Holloway and Rose Tyler to come with him and see the universe. McGann's expressionless as he steps into the TARDIS, but in contrast there's obviously a lot hanging on Eccleston's offer. We're seeing under the jolly mask.
It's a dynamic introduction for the 9th Doctor, with good lines and line deliveries. Eccleston's vivid and the script plays its part by giving him plenty to do: a decent confrontation ("I'm talking!"), one-liners, mysterious backstory... One of my favourite moments was the Doctor's reply to, "Are you an alien?" That's this episode all over, communicating important character information but adding a little twist thanks to subtleties of writing or acting. For once we have a Doctor who isn't going, "Wheeee, look, I'm alien!"
And of course a pissed-off Eccleston is a scary Eccleston. This Doctor can mean business.
I also like Mickey Smith and Jackie Tyler. They're deliberately the antithesis of normal Who regulars: common as muck and not very bright stay-at-home types. They don't want adventures. They're here to provide contrast with the Doctor's life throughout the season, but that doesn't make them bad characters or badly acted. Noel Clarke can't be accused of underplaying, but for those who don't mind a little theatricality he's very watchable. I'm an even bigger fan of Camille Coduri, who doesn't miss a trick. She plays all the angles of Jackie: the warm-hearted mother and the ghastly old bat, sometimes in the same scene. I loved the line: "It's aged her, skin like an old Bible," said in Rose's presence!
There are serendipitous links with the TVM. Both stories namedrop Genghis Khan. Both stories have also decided that TARDIS materialisation creates a wind, although here it's more convincing. In the TVM we thought "Terminator rip-off," but here it's more like, "Obviously a huge box appearing out of nowhere causes air displacement."
It's lovely to watch. Even when the script has a huge info-dump, for instance, it looks dynamic as the Doctor and Rose stride along. I also can't think of another story since Dalek Invasion of Earth that shows London looking so London-y, rather than just giving us a few cordoned-off streets with an absurd lack of traffic or passers-by. Attack of the Cybermen, for instance, has such a bland metropolis that it's just not true.
The direction has some storytelling problems, though. I said I'd have preferred more horror... maybe that was deliberate, but I suspect some of it was the director having trouble with the dramatic tone. Surprisingly the best example isn't the wheelie bin, since that was always going to look odd. Remember the severed Auton hand throttling Eccleston in the background as Rose chatters on obliviously? That gag should have worked better than it did. Ironically it would have been funnier had it also been scarier.
Overall it's lovely, if a little lightweight. It's a blast from the past with the under-rated virtue of having badass monsters, though the Autons might have been better showcased had the story not also had to set up the Doctor, the TARDIS, the companion and the entire series format. Nevertheless it's brimming with confident charm and I adore its ending. "Thanks." "Thanks for what?" "Exactly." Rose runs in slow motion as the music plays, leading into that "Oh My God" trailer for next week's episode. That's what travelling with the Doctor should be. I love it more every time I see it. The revolution started here.
One Day I Shall Come Back. Yes, I Shall Come Back. by Greg Littman 21/9/06
Rose is a good episode and was a fine launch for the new Doctor Who. This is Doctor Who finally given both the budget it deserves and the quality of actors it deserves, with a script that has more highs than lows. On the other hand, there were also some serious flaws, particularly a tendency to destroy suspension of disbelief in an attempt to get a laugh. I'll go through the episode more-or-less chronologically below.
Rose opens excellently, setting us down firmly in the mundane world of modern London, in the life of mundane Londoner, Rose Tyler. Billie Piper is a very natural actress, and utterly convincing here as a normal human. These scenes are probably the closest thing to real life that has ever been shown on Doctor Who, and the effect is to convince the viewer that this story takes place in the real world, making it all that more exciting when the SF elements are introduced. I'm not thrilled that the entire season focused on the Earth, but in this episode, when we are just being introduced to the protagonists, the terrestrial setting is spot on.
The mundane calm doesn't last lost enough to be boring, however. We are soon given an exciting Auton attack on Rose, which soon causes Christopher Eccleston's Doctor to burst onto the scene and save her. Eccleston is utterly convincing as the Doctor here, playing the part with a sincerity and urgency that makes us accept his character and his situation.
It would have been all too easy to have the Doctor and Rose strike up an implausible partnership at this point, but instead, after the Doctor has saved the day, he vanishes and Rose must hunt for information about him, giving Davies a chance to play up the Doctor's mysterious nature. This is the first time since William Hartnell's reign that there has been such an opportunity to treat the Doctor as an exciting enigma, and Davies handles the job well (although the conspiracy theorist, Clive, goes just a tad over the top at times).
The reaction of the humans to the Doctor as they learn more about him is probably the most realistic we have seen in the series, again helping the viewer to believe the story. The humans show fear, suspicion, amazement - all the things that one might expect someone to feel when confronted with something alien. The classic series often failed to provide us with realistic human reactions, preferring just to get on with the plot, so this was very nice to see. In particular, Rose's introduction-to-the-TARDIS scene is probably the most believable introduction-to-the-TARDIS scene I have seen, outdoing even Ian and Barbara.
Mickey is the only really disappointing character, an artificial coward-clown in the Shaggy mold. Also, frankly, I just don't think that Noel Clarke is a very good actor. As if Mickey wasn't bad enough in himself, when Mickey's character is present, the rest of the world stops acting realistically too: wheelie bins burp, Rose fails to recognize that her boyfriend looks like a monster and is acting insanely, and the Doctor becomes more interested in doing a comic-waiter routine until his cover is blown than he is in going ahead and neutralizing the alien creature. Such silly elements destroy suspension of disbelief and the tension is lost. Silliness is nothing new to Doctor Who of course, but that doesn't mean that it has ever been a good thing.
Shortly after Clarke's "funny" sequences, there is a wonderful scene in which Rose confronts the Doctor over his lack of concern for the dead-or-captured Mickey. The Doctor retorts that he has the entire planet to think about and can't be concerned about one person's life. This is a Doctor facing up to the frightening realities of his situation, and the scene would make the Doctor's situation seem frighteningly real if it were not for the fact that we've just been shown surreal comedy.
The showdown with the Nestene Consciousness at the end is suitably climactic and it was a terrific touch for the Doctor to be concerned about the well-being of the Nestenes, rather than only being concerned about humanity. He wants to help them, even though they are in the wrong. Too often in the classic series, the Doctor has shown a disregard for non-human life (especially if it is ugly and/or invading), and the fact that this Doctor doesn't discriminate makes him both more convincing as an alien and more convincing as a good guy.
The defeat of the Nestenes is an anti-climax, though, and the Doctor plays no part in it apart from bringing along a vial of "anti-plastic", a deus ex machina MacGuffin that lets the author kill Nestenes without ever explaining how (Davies scripts generally seem to end with a deus ex machina of some kind). Rose is the one who does all the work: swinging across the room on a hanging chain to kick the potion out of an Auton's hand and into the Nestene Consciousness. Even as a pure action sequence, it isn't very exciting, since she stops to give a speech about herself before doing anything.
All that remains is for Rose to sign on as a companion. This was a great opportunity to take a new perspective on an old Doctor Who cliche, but the scene is pretty perfunctory and advances the plot at the expense of characterization. The one really good element is that Davies has the Doctor invite Rose onto the TARDIS, instead of following the old tradition of having the companion just stumble aboard or stow away; it makes a lot more sense for the Doctor to choose his companions than to just accept people at random. However, Rose is not nearly as impressed as she should be at the prospect of seeing the universe, and Noel Clarke is terribly unconvincing as the cowering Mickey: he gives the impression that he is embarrassed to deliver his lines and is just going through the motions. Also, Rose is inexplicably nasty to Mickey when she decides to go with the Doctor, which makes her a less likeable character; it isn't enough for her to choose the Doctor over Mickey, she also has to call him a "stupid lump" and tell him "thanks for nothing".
All up, this episode is a mixed bag, but the good outweighs the bad. The script contains some silly scenes, but it contains some very good ones too, and when the actors are given good material to work with, they shine.
A Review by Joseph Gillis 25/7/07
The first episode of the revival of Doctor Who truly set the standard for what I consider the best of all the revived series so far. It has everything: great mix of entertainment, seriousness and returning monsters to please everyone.
The episode is also the first to be set around a character that is not the Doctor, in the form of Rose Tyler. Rose was brilliant in this first season: her actress brought great depth to the role, she was not a damsel in distress and she actually reminded me of a cross between Susan Foreman and Jo Grant. Christopher Eccleston really made the Doctor really dark. I know a lot of people complained that he looked wrong, but I thought he was absolutely perfect in the role. Everyone else shines well: Jackie Tyler didn't do a lot, but Noel Clarke was brilliant as Mickey, introducing him as Rose's idiot boyfriend.
You may find this in all of my reviews, but I like returning monsters' episodes more than ones with new creatures. This reintroduced the Autons, an often underappreciated group of plastic dummies, and made them look as cool as they did in Spearhead From Space. The Nestene Consciousness made its grand return to television in this episode and looks brilliant. The only thing I have problems with is why would no one question the way the Doctor was dressed in that drawing of him that was supposedly dated to when Krakoa erupted?
Other than that last little point of discontinuity, a spectacular start to a spectacular season!
A promising start to the new series of adventures by Cameron Burn 12/10/08
Doctor Who is not your average Sci-Fi TV show. It is so much more. It is the longest-running Sci-Fi TV show of all-time and probably television's most successful show ever. So let's get this straight before I review episode 1.1 of the new Doctor Who adventures Rose, there are two main types of Doctor Who fans. One type is the hardcore classic series fans to whom Doctors such as Baker and Pertwee are gods and can't help but criticise every single minor dissapointment in the new series. Secondly are the new fans introduced to Doctor Who probably by this series and are therefore indebted to most episodes. I come somewhere in between the middle.
I have seen quite a few of the classic serials and am starting to turn towards them more now that they're taking a break in the new series and have watched every single episode of the new series so far and tried to assess them as critically as possible. Rose is a good episode written by Russell T Davies and directed by Keith Boak (director of a few Holby City episodes and a couple of Hotel Babylon's too, so has work experience with the BBC) but is an obvious introductory note for things to come so can't be compared fairly with some of the big episodes. As a fan, I certainly didn't hate this episode but was hoping for a little bit more. One of the great things about this episode is the characterisation of Rose, an ordinary shopworker whose life changes completeley when she meets an odd-looking man dressed in leather who some people call the Doctor. Rose is an instantly likeable character but unfortunateley gets more annoying as she progresses through each series. Secondly is the Doctor himself. Eccleston plays him with the right amount of eccentricity and intelligence but also keeps him as a gentle, lonely man whose lust for adventure often means there is never a dull moment around him.
There is instantly a likeable chemistry between Piper and Eccleston that will expand throughout the series and this keeps the tempo up. Less intriguing are Rose's family and friends. Jackie Tyler is the stereotypical eastender who seems to be meant as a funny character but turns out a boring, annoying and generally uninteresting character. More intriguing is Rose's boyfriend Mickey, whose comedic moments tend to work (unlike Jackie's), but is still quite uninteresting and whingey in this episode.
The Autons are back (see Spearhead in Space and Terror of the Autons) and are portrayed this time as living plastic dummies in shops. I thought it was a good idea that Rose saved the day instead of the Doctor, so he could see her potential but, although the Autons were well realised, the Nestene Consciousness was rather uninspired and didn't prove much of a challenge. Perhaps Russell should have created his own monsters for this opener and made the Autons into a double episode.
Overall, a good bit of television and sets the standard for episodes to come, but Russell needs to show more promise in the writing area. Although the direction and acting was fun to watch.