In the interests of truth-telling, I actually have seen the one and only series of the new Doctor Who featuring Christopher Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor. When this version of the show was new, I used to have it play on the Sci-Fi Channel as I screwed around on my computer on Friday or Saturday nights (whichever nights it was on). I maybe only half paid attention, but I do more or less recall how it went and being mildly upset when he regenerated at the end of the series…even though I knew it was coming.
Why did I stop? I don’t know. I will say it helped that I thought Billie Piper was a very attractive young woman, and I have some vaguer recollections of the Tenth Doctor’s stuff, but at some point I stopped and never went back.
Anyway, here I am getting back to the next stage of Doctor Who.
Roughly nine years after the failed American co-production and sixteen years after the original series was somewhat suddenly canceled, Doctor Who was back on the air with a new Doctor, a new companion who may be a bit more capable than most, and a lot of familiarity while still updating the show for a more modern audience with a hint of more serial storytelling and mystery, mostly involving a moment when the Doctor mentions being stuck in a war when the monster-of-the-week questions how much the Doctor himself is responsible for whatever happened to said monster’s homeworld.
But what sets this Doctor apart from, well, all the others is that for the first time we have a case where everyone working on the show is arguably a fan who grew up with Doctor Who. Yes, past Doctors may have been fans, but this time that fandom extends to the people behind the scenes as well.
So, with a more modern style of TV storytelling and a bigger budget than any Doctor Who ever had, and a bunch of fans behind the scenes, what can we expect from this new show?
Well, there’s a lot here that’s familiar, but set up in a manner that introduces the concepts to a new generation of fans, and it’s told through the eyes of new companion Rose Tyler. We meet Rose in an opening montage, a young woman living with her slovenly mother Jackie, working out of a department store, and hanging with her well-meaning if not-very-bright boyfriend Mickey. And then one day she goes down to the basement of her store and gets attacked by Autons.
Yeah, the Nestene Consciousness is back for the first time since the Third Doctor last handled those living mannequins and their plastic-based consciousness. And yes, we do have Autons going on a rampage, killing people with those hand-gun thingees.
But what to make so far of this new Doctor? The episode shows us the character through Rose’s eyes as we see her try to figure out who and what this mysterious Doctor is. Conspiracy theorists suggest the Doctor is somehow far older than he looks, and some of the Doctor’s overall behavior suggests that he’s just regenerated. He’s a little manic, but overall heroic. He has the TARDIS, and he even has a good explanation when Rose asks why he has a Northern accent. After all, lots of planets have a North.
And, most tellingly, knowing full well the Nestene Consciousness is looking to wipe out the human race through an invasion, actually tries to negotiate with them rather than drop his anti-plastic into the vat where the main consciousness is sitting. True, the Consciousness is only on Earth because its own homeworld was destroyed, and the Doctor might have had something to do with that, but that’s all a mystery for now.
However, the show is back, and it’s a bit lighthearted for the most part, showing the Doctor, here seen as a man who doesn’t quite respect the human race just yet (he’s a bit condescending to the whole species), but still working to make sure nobody gets hurt if he can help it. He’s a bit callous as seen when the Autons capture Mickey and replace him with a rather shiny-looking plastic double, and quite frankly, Rose is fairly instrumental in saving the day. She’s the one who realizes the Eye of London is the Consciousness’s transmitter much faster than the Doctor does.
As for the other supporting characters, the Doctor takes an instant dislike to hapless Mickey, inviting Rose and not him onto the TARDIS, and makes a bad impression on Jackie when she tries unsuccessfully to seduce the strange man in the leather jacket.
That said, when a plastic garbage bin eats Mickey (he’s fine), the CGI is a bit cartoonish. I actually wonder if the show could have done better and just opted not to since, you know, the old show didn’t exactly have top-of-the-line effects. Still, this was a fun start to a new era, and even if Eccleston had such a short run, that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun with it.