Friday, 24 May 2013

Rooksburg Reviews: Rose

Doctor Who s1e01: Rose

As the first episode of the series, and the first episode of the revival, this episode needed to be good.  And it is, though with a few flaws.

The story revolves around Rose (played by Billie Piper), who is an ordinary girl with an ordinary job in
The Doctor's first appearance in the series revival
London.  As she's about to leave work she has to deliver some money to the chief electrician only to find him missing from his office.  She looks for him, only to find a room full of mannikins- that start to move.  As they close in, the Doctor (Christopher Ecclestone) arrives to save her and whisk her away to safety- before blowing up the building and disappearing.  The rest of the story consists of the Doctor reappearing several times by coincidence, Rose trying to find out who he is, and plastic mannikins rising against humanity.  A pretty good story, let down by a couple of throwaway lines but I'll get to them later.

The most important question on anyone's lips is, is he going to be a good Doctor?  The answer depends on if you're new to the series or not.  If you watched Classic Who, I would say the answer is 'Who the hell is this guy and where's the Doctor?'.  He has some of the right traits; he assumes too much from people around him, he comes across as indifferent, and he's witty... But.  He is also younger than anyone's used to, has an extremely derogatory opinion of humans, and shrugs off the likelihood of people around him dying ('I Hadn't considered that...').  For newcomers to the series, he's a fun character.  He has fun doing what he does, he's mysterious, he has a vague moral code ('Everyone gets a chance'), and you hope that Rose will improve his opinion on humanity.

Rose; the Doctor's latest companion
Speaking of Rose, she is the Doctor's new companion.  There's no particular reason for it, the Doctor just decides that this girl's been showing up a bit lately, she happened to be in the right place at the right time to save his life, and she has a loser of a boyfriend so she may as well go with him.  In this first episode, Rose is a perfect substitute for the viewer.  Everything about her is ordinary until suddenly her life is turned upside down; she does what any reasonable person would and try to find out what's happening, then when she's offered the choice to go on a trip through time and space she accepts after a moment's hesitation.  Honestly my only criticism of her first appearance (note my use of 'first'- it won't take long to get tired of her) is her parting words to her boyfriend Mickey, which seemed extremely harsh ('Thanks for what?' 'Exactly').  There's also the fact she couldn't tell Mickey had been replaced by an extremely obvious plastic doppelganger, but I'll put that down to the storytelling/effects rather than the character.

Mickey is, for this episode at least, loathsome yet pitiable.  He acts like an idiot, a coward, and generally clingy and desperate.  That being said, he still probably doesn't deserve the derision he gets from both the Doctor and Rose.  He is treated as a puppy by both of them, which may be redeemable on the part of the Doctor as he seems to view humans as apes, but not from Rose who is supposed to be his girlfriend- an extremely unbelievable relationship as every moment they share the screen she's rolling her eyes.  Rose's mum, Jackie, is also largely unlikeable in this episode.  After her daughter suffered the traumatic experience of her workplace blowing up, presumably a terrorist attack in the minds of the public, her first comment is 'find a new job' followed by 'get some compensation'.  Her only other notable appearance is when she meets the Doctor and immediately tries to seduce him.

The villains of the story are, like most of RTD's creations, an excellent concept with poor execution.  The thought of shop mannikins coming to life is quite a terrifying prospect and enough to make you walk round a shopping mall with paranoia, but then you find out they have guns in their hands for some reason.  The Nestene Consciousness itself is not so impressive.  It's a big pool of molten plastic, that gets scared when it recognises the TARDIS, which serves as exposition for the Doctor's involvement in the Time War.  The lesser villains are plastic Mickey, and a wheelie bin, which is trademark RTD silliness.

The start of the episode showed an impressive planetary view.  The end of the episode had some impressive
The wholly convincing Mickey duplicate
explosions.  The middle of the episode had... a wheelie bin made of Flubber that looked poor even when it was new, and the plastic Mickey which would even have little kids shouting at the tv that Rose is so stupid for not noticing how fake it looked.

My final notes concern how it holds up in hindsight, and honestly it's not as bad as I remember.  The only truly bad parts of the episode are plastic Mickey and the wheelie bin and the Doctor's complete obliviousness to the London Eye.  It's interesting to speculate when the Doctor had time to be at JFK's assassination considering he seems to have freshly regenerated and spends most of his time with Rose, and if the rumours of a 'missing' Doctor are true then it helps to explain why he is so different from the 8th Doctor, and why he has so much residual hate.  All in all a pretty good start to the series that was sure to bring in new fans and please some of the less-diehard veterans.  True fans of Classic Who are likely to be cringing though.

Next review: The End of the World.

Upcoming Doctor Who Reviews

This year celebrates the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary, and as such I'm re-watching all the 'new' who and seeing how they match up- and how the John Hurt speculation could fit in.

I was a late comer to Doctor Who.  When it got revived by Russel T Davies I paid no attention- I was vaguely aware of an old program about a man in a long scarf in a sci-fi program, but that didn't
interest me so I didn't watch the new series.  Occasionally I'd catch glimpses on tv, but all I saw was lots of running and loud music.  Eventually I was forced to watch it (some family meal in front of the tv or something), and actually found it to be much more epic than I previously thought- this man was standing up to Satan!  From that moment on I was hooked.  It would be a while before I would watch anything before that point, as the dvds were still far too expensive, but I tuned in every week, and towards the end of RTD's run I joined in all the speculation online.

Before I start the reviews, you will inevitably want to know my views on the showrunners- opinion is very much divided between RTD and Steven Moffat, and often bias will skew any reviews.  Russel T Davies revived the series, and did an ok job though it felt far too silly in places (yes, yes, I know- it's a 'family' show and all that, but there's no excuse for farting aliens).  Steven Moffat is highly praised for the individual episodes he's written during RTD's run, and as show runner he's sliding towards a darker and grander feel but at times it's come off as extremely rushed, like he feels every series needs a 'game-changing' revelation.  I've also been of the opinion that RTD's episodes always felt amazing when they first aired, but on re-watching they're rubbish, compared to Moffat's episodes that lack something at first but re-watching after the series is complete often makes a lot more sense.  In short I much prefer Moffat over RTD, but accept that Moffat has flaws, and often it feels like so much more could have been done.

That's my opinion on the show as a whole, next blog I will start reviewing individual episodes starting with the first episode of series one; Rose.