The Doctor -
Rose Tyler -
The Sarah Jane Adventures
TIME TRAVEL SHOWS
Life on Mars
Ashes to Ashes
The Flipside of Dominick Hyde
ROSE - first transmitted March 26th 2005
The first of the new series and it got off to a shaky start. Rose Tyler is a normal girl in a dead end job, still living with her mother and hanging out with a loser boyfriend. When she is attacked by killer mannequins, she meets the Doctor and uncovers the fact that he may be the key to saving the world from a deadly threat. Christopher Eccleston is great as the Doctor, impossibly cheerful in the face of danger and cleearly not of this earth. Billie Piper makes a good debut as Rose. The return of the autons (killer mannequins) is a nod to the classic series and it roots, but the nestene consciousness is just a big blob with dodgy fx rendering. The main problem is the pacing. There's so much to get in that it's all a bit rushed and breathless. "Rose" is not as good a start as we had hoped for, but far better than we expected.
THE END OF THE WORLD - first transmitted April 2nd 2005
Now we're off and running! The Doctor takes Rose to the ends of the earth, literally. The sun is about to go nova and the rich and powerful of the universe have to come to watch aboard a space platform. Clearly, he knows nothing about human feelings as he is surprised when she is upset about seeing the world reduced to ash. They are soon both distracted by a plot to kill all on board. This is a great story with wonderful special effects. The scene where Rose is threatened by the falling sun shield is pure tension and there is a lot of humour as well. Zoe Wanamaker is a hoot as the last human alive (barring Rose, of course). Even the monsters are great, including living trees and metal spiders (although these are bit too much like the ones from 'Minority Report' for comfort. If it carries on like this, the series will be a big hit.
THE UNQUIET DEAD - first transmitted April 9th 2005
They've done the far future, so now it's into the past, Victorian Cardiff to be precise and all is not well at Meeks Undertakers. The dead are abroad, and I don't mean the dead drunk in Ibiza. The latest reanimated corpse is terrorising the theatre where one Charles Dickens (the indomitable Simon CallOw) is giving readings from his A Christmas Carol. What is bringing the dead back, why does the young maid seem to have a psychic link with them and what is up with the gas supply. THE UNQUIET DEAD is full on horror with the Doctor Who twist. The series lays out its stall, sending the kids back behind the sofa where they belong. We're only 3 episodes in and already the series is exceeding all hopes and expectations. This episode is fast, exciting, scary and funny. It shows that the Doctor is far from perfect and capable of making huge mistakes. Rose is confronted by her own prejudices by the past and Simon Callow gives his disillusioned scribe real pathos.
ALIENS OF LONDON - first transmitted April 16th 2005
The Doctor takes Rose home, but it isn't one day that's passed, but a whole year and her mother and boyfriend have been coming to terms with her loss. All of that, though, is put to one side when a giant spaceship smashes through Big Ben and into the Thames. The Doctor is called in by UNIT, but there are aliens in 10 Downing Street already. After the downright scariness of THE UNQUIET DEAD, this episode lightens things up quite a bit. There are farting aliens wearing people suits and the Doctor is reduced to watching the drama unfold on the television. The consequences of Rose's absence are handled well and sincerely, but quickly give way to the fun of the invasion and, of course, the kids will love the farting aliens. Penelope Wilton is also good comic value as the ineffectual MP from Fydale North.
WORLD WAR III - first transmitted April 23rd 2005
The aliens of the last episode are revealed to be Slitheen and they have infiltrated the government in order to make the world believe that there are alien spaceships in orbit bristling with massive weapons of destruction (!) and a first nuclear strike is required to save the country and the world. There are no such spaceships of course, so what is going on? This is almost a stage farce with aliens, Doctors and assorted others running across the screen from room to room in hot pursuit of each other. It's all a bit silly, but great fun. Doctor Who passing sly comments upon the Iraq War and the claims about wMD? Whatever next? The scenes in which Rose and her mother are forced to come to terms with the danger of a life with the Doctor are quite touching and well-acted. This is another episode where the driving force is money. Is there a theme developing?
DALEK - first transmitted May 13th 2006
Yes, the one that we've all been waiting for and it is a cracker. The Tardis materialises deep in an underground museum that is home to a host of alien artifacts collected by a rich american. The Doctor is set to become its star exhibit until he finds out that it already has one, the last remaining dalek. Can the Doctor shut it down when it goes on the rampage and before it destroys all human life? Why hasn't it killed Rose outright when it kills everyone else? Ever thought that you'd cry for a dalek? Well, you just might and for the Doctor as well as we find out a little more about the passing of the time lord race, apparently in the same time war when the Doctor destroyed the entire dalek race, possibly taking his own with it. This insight into the character is priceless, as is the episode. DOCTOR WHO is just getting better and better.
THE LONG PLAY - first transmitted May 7th 2005
The Doctor, Rose and a young man they picked up from last week's show, arrive on a space station in the future through which all of the galaxy's news is filtered and which seems to be holding back the advancement of human civilisation. And why is it so hot? This is a more standard Doctor Who episode. There's something in the attic and it's controlling everything. It, disappointingly, turns out to be another amorphous blob (a la the Nestene Consciousness in ROSE), but with teeth this time. Simon Pegg has fun with the role of the editor and there are some funny comedy moments with the opening of people's foreheads. It is a measure of the new series that we can feel let down when an episode is only'really quite good'.
FATHER'S DAY - first transmitted May 14th 2005
The Doctor takes Rose back to the day that her father was killed so that she can be there to comfort him instead of letting him die alone. What she does, of course, is to save, irrevocably altering the time line. This summons up a horde of flying dragon beasties that will sterilise the wound in time by eating everybody. The Doctor can't think of a way out and Rose's dad turns out to be less than the hero her mother told stories about. Or is he? Despite being terrifically entertaining, FATHER'S DAY has a confused and bitty plot. How will a wound in time be sterilised by monsters eating all the people, surely they will have to eat the whole universe? How come Rose watching the accident the first time doesn't see herself interfering the second time? Why does only the exact bit of the past that they need to put things right keep being replayed. In a series about a time traveller, I would have hoped that a story about time travel paradoxes might have held together better. Still, it's fun seeing the Doctor beaten and eaten.
THE EMPTY CHILD - first transmitted May 21st 2005
It's World War II, the blitz and an air raid is in progress. Rose has gotten herself mixed up with a conman from the future who is almost too charming for her to bear and the Doctor has got mixed up with a child who is not a child and is looking for his mummy whilst turning anyone it touches into gas-masked zombies. The BBC Doctor Who website assigns each episode a fear factor once it has been shown. They might want to rethink the policy and put the fear factor on the week before because this is the kind of episode that could seriously freak kids out (welcome back, Doctor). This episode is fantastically directed with more creepiness and atmosphere than we've seen since Nigel Kneale shows. It is one to watch before showing to the kids. Bring on part two.
THE DOCTOR DANCES - first transmitted May 28th 2005
Forget the duff title (it refers to some stuff and nonsense about the relationship between Rose, the Doctor and her new conman friend) and feel the action. This is less creepy than last week's scene setter, but there is plenty of tension as the gas mask zombies chase the trio around the darkened hospital and the source of the plague that is rewriting the origins of human DNA is finally...ahem...unmasked. Not the high point of last week's creepfest, but a satisfying conclusion that has some genuinely touching moments. Oh yes, and the Doctor does dance.
BOOM TOWN - first transmitted June 4th 2005
It is a measure of the confidence of the production team that with the first season not even over they feel that they can give us an episode that is almost completely given over to an examination of the characters. STAR TREK-THE NEXT GENERATION didn't try that until Family in season 4. What plot there is revolves around the last of the Slitheen family (no, they didn't all get vaporised in World War III using new-found political power to build a power station in Cardiff that will wipe out the planet, but give her enough power to go home (or somewhere else, at least). The meat and drink of this episode, though, is an examination of the characters and motivations. Mrs Slitheen is a clever, erudite, manipulative woman (no wonder she makes such a good politician) and she is able to get under the skin of her captors and make them re-examine their lives and motivations. The Doctor is faced with his rootless existence and the many creatures he has killed, Rose is faced with the life and lover she has left behind and Captain Jack is faced with a TARDIS that proves to be the Deus Ex Machina that saves them all. Not the best episode and it feels almost like padding, but all was forgiven with the glimpse of next week's episode and a fleet of dalek warships.
BAD WOLF - first transmitted June 11th 2005
The Doctor, Rose and Captain Jack are all kidnapped off the Tardis and appear in a series of TV shows being run on Satellite 5 100 years after the events of THE LONG GAME. Ths being the future, the shows are different. Being evicted from Big Brother means being evicted from life, an extreme makeover show means being made over in surgical terms and being The Weakest Link gets you more than a caustic telling off from the Anne-droid. Once out of their various life-threatening situations, the Doctor and Captain Jack attempt to save Rose and find out that Satellite 5 is transmitting thousands of channels of rubbish to a humanity locked in their homes because of environmental devastation which began when the news channels that were manipulating them were abruptly shut off. Faced with the realisation that he is responsible, the Doctor finds that his recent life has been manipulated with patience and evil dedication by his worst enemy. No, the daleks did survive the Time War, a whole fleet of them, and they are coming to Satellite 5. I'm still not sure what sort of a dalek plan would require the graffiti-ing of Bad Wolf onto the Tardis, but hopefully all will be revealed next week, not least whose voice was heard saying "They survived in me" when the Doctor asked how the daleks survived the Time Wars in next week's preview clips.
THE PARTING OF THE WAYS transmitted July 1st 2006
The dalek fleet is coming for satellite 5 and earth, Rose is a prisoner and there is no hope of success. Pretty much situation normal, but the Doctor has a plan. A delta wave will destroy the all the daleks within range and satellite 5 has the transmitting power. unfortunately, the wave will also kill all the humans on earth. Still, since these daleks have been created from mutated humans and now worship their emperor as a god, that is perhaps the better option. Still, at least Rose, newly rescued, is safe, having been sent back home. She isn't going to take lying down and breaks into the heart of the Tardis. Captain Jack is dead, the daleks have broken in and the Doctor is about to be exterminated. Is it the end? Not if Bad Wolf has anything to say about it. Going out in a blaze of...well, blazes, The Parting of the Ways kept up the generally high standard of the series without being a classic. The plot was excellent, but the pitched battle with the daleks turned out to be a damp squib, the emperor dalek was another dodgy special effect and the Doctor fails again and has to be rescued by external forces. This has been the one real weakness with an otherwise top notch series. Rose killed the Nestene consciousness, Gwyneth the maid saved them all in The Unquiet Dead and the Tardis has had to step in twice now to sort things out. Even Rose's father stepped in and saved the day. I know that the team was looking for strong female characters, but surely the Doctor should be the one that wins it sometimes. Still, that is a quibble. As for Bad Wolf being the force of the time vortex channelled through the Tardis and into Rose Tyler, spreading the words through time and space to remind herself to create herself in time to save humanity - huh? What's that about. Still, Saturday nights are going to be empty until the Christmas special The Christmas Invasion (rubbish title that). Chris has gone, Dave is here. The Doctor is dead, long live the Doctor.
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