Checking out Doctor Who: Rose

Welcome to 2005. Doctor Who is finally back on TV, after being cancelled by the BBC in 1987. The Doctor Who Movie did well in the UK when it aired in 1996, but was up against the final episode of Roseanne in the U.S. The Eighth Doctor did not get his series picked up by Fox. It wasn’t until 2003 when the BBC announced Doctor Who was returning. Russell T Davies, a lifelong fan since watching the First Doctor regenerate in 1966, was chosen as the show runner.

There are several differences between Series 1 and the classic show. Before production began, the BBC chose Cardiff, the capital of Wales as the base for Doctor Who. Both Davies, and Julie Garner, the executive producer, are from Wales. The serialized 25 minute episodes were replaced with 13 standalone or two parter 45 minute episodes. But more importantly the mythology would be continued. Once production was started, Christopher Eccleston was announced as the Doctor, and Russell T Davies wrote to Doctor Who Magazine, stating that Eccleston would be the Ninth Doctor, continuing the story of the Eighth Doctor and all the proceeding Doctors, though Davies did use the conciet of the Time War to give some distance from the Classic Series. The Time Lords and Gallifrey have been lost in a war against the Daleks – more on that in my next post.

“Rose” begins much the same way An Unearthly Child did way back in 1963. We meet Rose Tyler, which is living with her mother, Jackie, in a council flat. We see her at her boring retail job at a department store where she shares a sandwich during lunch with her boyfriend Mickey. When she’s the last one to leave work, she has to drop off the lottery money at the basement office. There are some unused mannequins that come to life and chase after her. Rose is cornered when a man reaches out to grab her hand and urges her to Run!

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We know who he is, but Rose is left bewildered. He guides her to the exit and tells her to go back to her boring life. He’s going to blow up the relay on the top of her building. He’s the Doctor, by the way. As Rose flees the store before it’s destroyed we catch a glimpse of a battered blue box parked in an alley.

The Doctor shows up at Rose’s flat the next day. He had tracked the signal that had animated the mannequins and it led him to her. Unknowingly Rose had brought a mannequin arm from the store and it still has life in it. Once the Doctor takes care of it, Rose follows him outside. He tells her the bare minimum, that the mannequins were living plastic controlled by an alien bent on invading Earth. But he has anti-plastic that he’ll use once he finds the source. Before he disappears again he urges her to forget about him.

But Rose can’t. She Googles The Doctor and finds a website filled with photos of him taken at various points in time. There’s a man who looks just like him posing with a family right before the Titanic set sail. There he is as a face in the crowd in Houston the day JFK was assassinated.

Christopher Eccleston, Russell T Davies and Billie Piper, first day of filming in Cardiff. (Source)

When the living plastic captures Mickey, The Doctor finds Rose a third time. Together they locate the source of the alien invasion. Rose is reunited with Mickey who is understandably freaked out. When the living plastic captures the Doctor, Rose swings in on a chain to rescue him. The anti-plastic tumbles down into the alien, destroying its link to the mannequins. At the end of the episode, the Doctor invites her to travel with him in his TARDIS. At first she declines, feeling obligated to Mickey and her home life, but when the Doctor returns only a minute later she reconsiders and runs aboard.

“Rose” does an excellent job establishing Rose Tyler as the companion. The Doctor is shrouded in mystery as we see the Time Lord through her eyes. We don’t see inside the TARDIS until she runs in while fleeing the mannequins. Her shock at the transcendental dimensions mirrors Barbara’s and Ian’s in An Unearthly Child. It’s a great episode to hook new viewers who hadn’t seen any of the classic series or who were born during the Wilderness Years. For older fans, it’s a fresh take on the Time Lord. Finally, after 42 years, there’s mystery around him again.

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