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Revisiting Doctor Who – The Ninth Doctor

January 7, 2016

A few weeks ago, Eve and I were discussing Doctor Who. Not unusual, this often happens – It was one of the things that brought us together in the first place – but for some reason, I had gotten thoroughly worked up and was ranting off evangelically about the changing face of Doctor Who. Eve took this all with good humour and a lot of patience (as she often does) but she kept having to stop me to ask “Wait, which one was that?” or “I don’t remember that one,” or “Rhys, you’re scaring me.”

That was when we decided to rewatch all of Doctor Who since its regeneration in 2005 to catch up and have a fully-informed conversation (because informed fun is the best kind of fun). So, consider this the minutes of our thoughts on this fantastic journey through time and space.

We’ve recently finished watching Season 1 of the regenerated series, concerning the Ninth Doctor, played by Christopher Ecclestone, and Rose Tyler, played by Billie Piper. This blogpost will take us up to The Christmas Invasion.

  • The first thing that struck us about this first season was just how cheap it looked. 2005 was a long long time ago and this season has not aged well. However, it is equally cheap to judge the season on that in 2015. This was a brand new show and could easily have flopped after a 16 year hiatus.
  • The same goes for some of the acting and writing. Again, this is a fledgling show that had a lot to live up to. It had to make its mark but not overstep it. Some of the ideas in season 1 crop up again later on and get tackled with far more nuance and depth by a show and production far more confident in what they’re about.
  • You could’ve told me this was CBBC and I would’ve believed you.
  • And another thing! Dalek – fun episode but you know it’s got a Dalek in it from the start. There’s the title obviously, and you see the Dalek in the preceding week’s trailer. Why was that not kept a secret, a twist, a reveal? A perfect opportunity wasted!

Let’s have a look at the Doctor.

  • I also thought the Ninth Doctor was under-rated. Rewatching season 1, I am even more convinced of my opinion. Emerging as a loner, a survivor of the Time War, I read this season as the Doctor learning to be the Doctor again. He is superficially happy-go-lucky but with a lot of (thinly-buried) rage to deal with. In Rose, he can barely give a damn about people, especially Rose’s family. However, his hearts melt to the point bleeding by The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances and Bad Wolf.
  • And he is still a violent Doctor. Rose opens with him running around with a bomb, and his first reaction with the Dalek in Dalek is to find the biggest possible gun he can.
  • I knew The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances were the best story of the Ninth Doctor (but I didn’t know that they were by Stephen Moffatt but of course they were). Its creepy, it’s got human depth and, importantly for this Doctor, “Just this once, everybody lives!”
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  • Also noteworthy episodes, for us at least, were Father’s Day and Boomtown, which keep the Doctor in one place  and forces him to confront/examine the experience of having all of time and space to play with. This two episodes hint at what this show could be, more than just a monster-of-the-week pulp sci-fi flick. (Boomtown also improves vastly on Aliens of London/World War Three by dropping all the fart jokes)

…And his companion.

  • I really don’t like Rose as a character. In season 1, I can’t see that she does much more than play the damsel in distress. I await character development.
  • Yes, I know she’s the Bad Wolf. But it took an entire season before she did anything significant (Apart from triggering the events of Father’s Day, which as I’ve said, is quite a worthwhile episode)
  • Do you know who is a better companion in season 1? Lynda-with-a-Y in Bad Wolf. She and the Doctor pair together for one episode but she does more and generates more chemistry with the Doctor than Rose did in the previous season! Give us Lynda!

Lastly, on The Christmas Invasion.

  • I’m sad we didn’t get more time with the Ninth Doctor. So much of season 1 was baby-steps, re-establishing itself. Just think what adventures could have been had with the Ninth Doctor with all the fun and confidence the show gained after the first season. We can only dream.
  • But now David Tennant! This was a development Eve was very much looking forward to…
  • …and he spends most of the Christmas special asleep. Wasted. Meanwhile, Rose does…nothing. The Sycorax rightly mock her for parroting the names of all the aliens of season 1.
  • Then David Tennant wakes up and starts having fun. I think he has more fun in the last 15 minutes of The Christmas Invasion than Christopher Ecclestone had in 13 episodes.
  • Finally awake, the Tenth Doctor tries to figure out what kind a man he is. Great! The crux of every regeneration and a narrative idea that I can really groove on. And it’s done as one long monologue in the last 15 minutes. Wasted. Absolutely wasted.

So in summary, season 1 of the regenerated Doctor Who was a bit of a diamond in the rough for Eve and me. There are some notable stories here and I feel there could be more, or even exceptional, if the show wasn’t simultaneously trying to find its feet, sometimes fumbling the delivery. But I can’t be that harsh. What show ever had a perfect first season, especially when trying to deliver cult sci-fi fun?

Firefly but that’s for a different blogpost.

For what its worth, Eve now understands why I bang on about The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances and why I’m always ready to defend the Ninth Doctor, while I can now fit Father’s Day and Boomtown into a much larger story about a strange man with a blue box.


On to the Tenth Doctor and season 2! Allons-y!

One Comment leave one →
  1. Squitten permalink
    February 7, 2016 11:20 am

    I loathe The Empty Child. Had nightmares of “Are you my mummy?” for a year after that.

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