Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Review: 2005 Dr. Who First Season, "Rose"

Yippee! Amazon had a sale on BBC collections, and I got the first season of the new Dr. Who. Dr. Who ran on PBS when I was in high school and college. The episodes I saw were over a decade old by then, but the stories were still miles ahead of anything on American TV at that time. Yes, the special effects were cheesy, but I liked the BBC's attitude toward them. "Something just happened, but lets not dwell on it. We've got a story to get back to." I liked that a lot better than the Star Trek attitude of "let's bring the whole story to a grinding halt while we gather round and watch the expensive special effect." Bo-ring! STTNG acted like science fiction fans were brain dead idiots who just liked to watch explosions. Ugh!

Now, the great thing about Dr. Who is that it's a children's show. This means I can watch it with my small fry instead of having to sneak in an episode after they've gone to bed, like I have to do with Firefly. With Dr. Who I can say, "It's what The Magic Tree House is based on." So after a brief (for Dr. Who it was brief) explanation we pop in the first disc. The children giggle at the first episode, but by the end of the second they're starting to worry about monsters.

"Does Dr. Who spend all his time fighting monsters?"

"Not all, but a lot."


"Well, first it's to show you that not every alien is a monster. The Doctor is an alien, and he's not bad. Most of the aliens you meet are nice. No matter what people look like on the outside, it's the ones who act bad that are the monsters."

"But why does he fight monsters all the time?"

"Because -- it's a fairy tale, all right? All fairy tales are wonder tales, and science fiction is a special type of wonder tale where everything is supposed to have a scientific explanation. The reason monsters appear in fairy tales is to show little girls and boys that yes, monsters are scary and like to do bad things. But monsters can be fought. No matter how scary they are, they can be defeated by girls and boys who are brave enough to fight them and clever enough to figure out how to win."

They liked that explanation, and have begged to see each succeeding episode.


We have a potential Companion who is not a generic Bond Girl ripoff. She has a life, she has family who will miss her if she's gone. I don't particularly care for her mother Jackie or her boyfriend Mickey as characters, especially not after Jackie's clumsy attempt to seduce the Doctor. Honesty forces me to admit I've got worse relatives though.

I'm reminded of the ad for Pierce Brosnan's remake of James Bond. "The name is Bond. You know the rest." The episode deals with iconic elements in almost a cursory way, because you'd have to be living under a rock not to know them. The exceptions are where those elements would be new and strange to Rose. There we get to see them through her eyes, and the writers and directors wisely give her time to explore her reactions instead of rushing on to the next scene. This is the way science fiction should be filmed. The camera should dwell on people, not explosions.

The Doctor has changed again. He's got the shortest hair and scruffiest clothes we've ever seen on him, which is odd because through all his regenerations he's always been a relatively long-haired clothes horse. He's also much more distant with people and highly irritable. And his "adrenaline junkie" side is far more dominant than it's ever been before. It doesn't look "alien", except that we've never seen it on the Doctor before. He looks and acts like a soldier who's just returned from a long and terrible war, one who's seen too much on the battlefield and hasn't had time to come to grips with it yet.

Ahh -- there has been a Great War of some sort, and the bad guys are among the dislocated refugees. He's followed them here off some battlefield. And apparently they blame him for something that happened in that war, a charge he protests but does not completely deny. What have you been up to, Doctor?

There's a strong X-Files element. Let's hope they don't get silly like X-Files did. After all, we know very well there are aliens out there. We're rooting for one of them.

The special effects are nice, without being overdone. Okay, maybe the belching trash bin was a bit over the top. I think they're trying to remind us it's a British show. It was a little tasteless and juvenile, but sometimes life is a little tasteless and juvenile. As long as they keep that part to a minimum I won't complain.

Their biggest problem was that the pacing at the climax stunk. It's a first episode, hopefully they'll get better.

Mickey has a sensible person's reaction to the TARDIS -- get away from me! Rose has an adrenaline junkie's reaction to the TARDIS -- more! I loved how the Doctor not-quite-begged her to stay. Alien or not, like most people he needs another person around to remind him that he is a person.

All in all, a very impressive start.


anne said...

I hope you enjoy series one as much as I did, The Empty Child and The Doctor Dances episodes were my favourites, when you watch them you'll understand why, the script is brilliant. Dr Who now has the whole family hooked, including my 16yo daughter who usually hates everything programme we like and vice versa so it must be good. We had a wicked kids party to celebrate the start of series 2 which has just ended here in the UK. Take a look at the photos on my invasion blog. Enjoy the rest of the series.

selena paul said...

i like thus brilliant performer, The The Doctor who episodes were my favourites, when you watch them you'll understand why, the script is brilliant he is looking hand some in this character and i really like herdressin sense