Sunday, March 27, 2005
Doctor Who - Rose (the review)
So after months of waiting, finally the first episode of the new series of Doctor Who has been transmitted (properly this time and not watched on a PC from the version of the episode leaked onto the internet). I was one of the millions watching last night, and I saw it again this morning. So what's the verdict? I loved it to pieces, basically. It had all the hallmarks of Who as I know and love from the past, but remixed and reimagined for a 2005 audience. It was very clever in a great many ways, managing to appeal to children (the belching wheelie bin being the most obvious example of that) but also to adults (with the Doctor being both mysterious and engaging all at the same time). My 11 year old son loved it, as did my brother, and even some friends enjoyed it, along with their young kids (who were scared by Mickey being eaten by the wheelie bin). The dialogue sparkled, with many, many moments of laugh out loud humour, and impressive visuals. Favourites for me are the 'many planets have a North' moment, the point where the Doctor realises that the London Eye is the transmitter and smiles broadly, plus of course a lot of Clives' explanations to Rose (where I think Russell must have been reading Daniel O'Mahony's Telos Novella THE CABINET OF LIGHT before writing it). Plotwise, I thought it was very clever the way that the story was sketched in using a shorthand form of narrative and editing which gave all the information without labouring the point: we get to see Rose, get a sense of her mundane day to day existance through the opening scenes (mum, work, boyfriend, London and so on), and we immediately know and understand her as a character as a result. I was reminded in the direction of shows like Daniel Peacock's What If which uses a similar shorthand in the editing to get as much information over as possible in the shortest time. I also loved the idea that this is the tail end of a much longer adventure for the Doctor - the story of his involvement with the Nestene Consciousness in some far flung wars, in which the Doctor tried to help but failed, and now the Consciousness has ended up on Earth, hoping to feed and recoup its strength, only to find the Doctor there again armed with 'anti plastic' - whatever that may be. I loved the opening title sequence which was both reminiscent of the old slit scan process but refreshingly modern - but I have to say that I don't think the actual 'Doctor Who' logo works in the sequence ... it's for me far too 'normal' a logo and is fairly unmemorable. I would have preferred a reworking of the old diamond logo personally. But the title music was excellent, retaining all the great elements of the original with a modern twist, as was the incidental music - I appreciated the more upbeat score, again, redolent of children's TV drama of today. Christopher Eccleston was simply suberb as the Doctor. He seemed to have the right mix of the old and the new, and for all the hype about his 'costume', I don't think of it as a costume at all, in just the same way as I never considered the first four Doctors to be wearing a 'costume'. It all really went wrong in my opinion when the 'costume' started to overshadow the Doctor, and to be a statement in its own right: the cricketer, the bright and loud, question marks everywhere ... The idea should be that the Doctor wears whatever he feels comfortable in and that the outfit simply works in whichever adventure or environment he is enjoying at the time. I smiled a lot at his dialogue too: the exchanges with Rose's mum, though somewhat strange and awkward (she seems to be a very desperate woman, poor thing) worked so well with the Doctor's final 'Naaa' reposte; the speech to Rose about spinning through space captured some of that elusive magic for me; and the later exchange with Rose in the TARDIS about being an alien ... lovely. Expecially when she comes back so quickly with not minding that he is an alien. Billie Piper is a revelation. She is so, so good in the role of Rose. Even the cockney/London accent didn't upset me and sounded fairly natural. I liked her very naturalistic interaction with the Doctor a lot, and their partnership bodes well for the rest of the episodes. My only reservation perhaps was that her leaving with the Doctor at the end seemed a little ... forced. After not going with him the first time, why does knowing that he can travel in time as well tip the scales ...? I feel maybe we were missing a line or two from the no-hoper boyfriend Mickey in the interim which set her mind to realising that she should have gone with the Doctor after all ... and then she gets offered a second chance. The Autons were fairly effective as a menace, though the fannish side of me missed the whine which should have accompanied their appearance. I loved the fact that their guns made the same sound as in the '70s though. But again the creatures seemed a little too jerky and uncoordinated for my liking. I think I would have preferred them to be smooth and in control ... but this is a minor thing. As is that I would have liked to have seen the child-Autons shooting at people, and also to have seen bodies falling with the smoke hits billowing from them ... it's very telling that in 1970 we were allowed to see people collapsing when hit, but not in 2005 ... not a single person was actually seen to die as a result of the dummies coming to life. What did amuse me was that when discussing the episode with my son, I referred to the dummies as Autons, and he didn't know what I meant, because of course they're not called that in the episode itself. Curse this prior knowledge ... The large Nestene Consciousness at the end was a neat piece of CGI work, and I liked the sounds it made - a pig squealing noise for the most part, but interspersed with some recognisable words as well. The Doctor talking to it when we couldn't hear (or understand) its side of the discussion did seem to be a little strange, but Rose's acrobatics saved the day, and all ended well. The TARDIS interior was superbly realised, and very well introduced with Rose's initial reaction being to run back outside again. She then does the checking all around the blue box thing, before realising that there is nowhere else to go and heading back in again. But what a console room ... very impressive indeed, if lacking in some of the more homely touches which perhaps should have been there. I'm still quite a fan of the console room from the McGann TV movie, and missed the comfy chairs and library aspects of the room. It all seemed very large, clean and sterile, apart from the console itself which had an organic aspect to it. Maybe later in the episodes we'll see more of the TARDIS and some of the creature comforts which one might expect the Doctor to enjoy will be revealed. Overall I absolutely adored the episode. After sixteen years, the production team had a lot to live up to, and I for one was not disappointed. They managed to recapture the magic of the show in a way which I hope is reflected in the ratings and in people coming back week on week for their 'fix'. One thing which was missing, and which I did regret, was the good old cliff hanger ending. Several others commented on this to me, that they would have liked to have left the episode on a knife edge ... there is no other show which regularly does this (of course most of the American series do this for season ends) and it would have been nice to have included it each time. I hope the lack of a 'key' into next week's episode does not have the adverse effect of discouraging people to watch (or whatever the opposite of leaving them wanting more is). 'Rose' was fast moving and at times almost too fast - explanations came thick and fast, and I missed Rose's comment about 'breast implants' at first because I didn't hear what she said. The editing was frantic, and there was a palpable sense of urgency about the whole thing, which only really subsided in the long sequence where Rose and the Doctor walk to the TARDIS talking about what has happened and who the Doctor is. I can't wait until next week to see the next instalment, and I applauded the little teaser at the end of this episode. So we get to meet Cassandra, the Trees, the Moxx of Balhoon and the Face of Boe ... all at the end of the World ... I've got my seat booked already.