Vintage Viewing: Doctor Who, Series One

Doctor Who, Series One*
The Ninth Doctor
c. 2005

– – –

Here’s what I know about Doctor Who, as of April 29, 2011. There’s this guy called the Doctor. He’s a really old alien, basically. I don’t know why he’s on Earth, or why he changes forms all the time instead of just dying like a normal person, but the fact remains that he does. I know he has companions, up to three at a time. I think Wikipedia told me that. He rides through time in a thing called a TARDIS, which is an acronym for something I can’t remember, and helps people. Or something. I know there are weird little bad guys called Daleks. I know there’s an episode called “Blink” that is supposedly terrifying. I think it has something to do with gargoyles . . . or maybe it was statues. I’ve heard people yammering something about “The angels have the phone box.” I know that Doctor Who is classified in the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest running science fiction TV program. I know that this incarnation of the Doctor is the ninth, and that Russell T. Davies resurrected Doctor Who after fifteen years in the television graveyard. I know that Neil Gaiman sometimes likes to write episodes. I know that at some point, Elizabeth Corday is going to show up and I’m going to be all, remember when your husband died of a brain tumor and there was something about Hawaii and a balloon and crying**? I’ve also been warned about farting aliens, but I’m not worried. I’ve already got one of those in my life.

And that’s it. That’s all I know. So here’s the plan: I’m going to watch this show for the very first time ever, and I’m going to keep a viewing diary, which will eventually become the full post you are about read below. I’m acknowledging right now that I’m semi-stealing this idea from Mo Ryan’s coverage of Breaking Bad. Because there are only thirteen episodes per series, I like the idea of giving episode by episode coverage, but I don’t want to commit to an episode per post. This way, you get to experience these episodes along with me, and I don’t have to do so much in-depth thinking. It’s a win-win, really.

– – –

1X01 — “Rose”

Who are we kidding? As soon as those opening credits started, with the techno music and the phone box shooting through a wormhole, I knew I was going to love it. I actually said it, out loud to know one, while alone in my empty house: “I am going to love this.” It’s also a good sign when I like the main characters right away. Rose Tyler is a charming sort of everywoman who is stuck in a humdrum life with a seriously dumb boyfriend and a clingy mother. The Doctor seems pleasantly insane. It’s a good combination. In general, this episode does a really nice job of setting up the tone for the rest of the series, and as pilots go, it’s one of the better ones I’ve seen. It’s kind of silly, with just a hint of pathos. I love all the bright colors, and the way that seriously weird stuff is just taken for granted (i.e. the Autons taking the form of living mannequins, which were extremely creepy, by the way). The main challenge the episode has to deal with is making that moment when Rose chooses to go with the Doctor believable. You have to believe that she would choose to fly around with a half-mad alien in his time-traveling police box because it honestly seemed like the better option. And I did believe it. I wanted to go with them.

  • Time Lord. Time war. Autons. The sonic screwdriver. Lots of new concepts to learn!
  • The inside of the TARDIS is huge. I’d seen it before just from catching bits of episodes on TV, but I never realized it was inside the TARDIS. Pretty neat.
  • The BBC style of filmmaking always weirds me out at first (something about the lighting always feels kind of exposed, and the camera always moves in this swooping panoramic way that makes me a little dizzy), but I quickly became used to it.
  • The Doctor makes some remarks that imply his regeneration is a relatively recent one, despite all those instances Clive found in historical photographs. Do we ever find out just how recent? It’s probably not important, but I’m curious.
  •  I’m still not sure why he does what he does, and how it’s allowed. Are there no concerns about time travel in this universe?
  • On an ending note, British people call trash cans “wheelie bins.” Adorable.

Favorite Line: “Nice to meet you, Rose. Run for your life.”

1X02 — “The End of the World”

Despite the ending to the last episode, which strongly implied this whole lark with the Doctor was going to be a giant, happy adventure, it quickly becomes apparent that there’s more to it than that. I don’t think the Doctor’s choice to take Rose five billion years in the future in order to witness the destruction of her planet is based on any sort of “Hey, won’t this be fun” kind of attitude. I think he did it deliberately, and with a very specific purpose in mind. If Rose is going to be the Doctor’s companion, she’s going to have to open her mind to all sorts of things, and come to terms with a ton of others, for example that her friends and family and home and and all that other stuff that is important to her, doesn’t really matter in the bigger picture. Five billion years from now, it will be as if humanity never existed at all, and the few historical facts that have drifted down to her ancestors are confused or just plain wrong. This is a time when Britney Spears is considered classical music, and the last of the humans is a complete freakshow. Nothing of Rose’s world survives, and it doesn’t matter. The whole thing is pretty much summed up when the Doctor tells her, “Everything has its time and everything dies.” I also think it’s important to note that dealing with death is something the Doctor struggles with just as much as Rose does, as evidenced by that tear he sheds when Jabe confronts him about being the last Time Lord. It’s not like showing Rose the end of the world is automatically going to cure her fear of death or her fear of things ending. It’s more like the Doctor saying, hey, welcome to the club. I like that the show is letting us know this is its perspective right from the beginning, because it’s not just Rose that needs to adjust her way of thinking. As viewers, this is the show letting us know that we need to do so as well.

  • Platform 1, the year 5,000,000,000.
  • New gadgets: Psychic Paper and Superphones.
  • So the Doctor is the last Time Lord. I suspected as much. He tells Rose that his planet, Gallifrey, was destroyed in the Time War. Looking to learn more about that in future episodes.
  • The TARDIS’s telepathic field is responsible for Rose being able to understand other languages. Space shows often have to deal with the language barrier, and I think this show’s treatment of it holds up pretty well in comparison. The most common fix for this is some sort of translation device (i.e. the translator microbes on Farscape, or the Universal Translator on Star Trek). It certainly fares better than Stargate’s ridiculous policy, which is to simply ignore it and pretend that everyone in the entire universe speaks English.
  • The year 12,005 is the New Roman Empire. Color me intrigued (I hope we go back there).
  • Lady Cassandra is played by Zoë Wanamaker, whom I only know because of the first Harry Potter film. She plays Madam Hooch.
  • I’m really digging the tone of this show. For me, the best shows are the ones that can be silly and moving at the same time. Life isn’t just one thing, it’s many things all at the same time. It’s why I love shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Farscape. It’s not enough for a show to make you laugh or to make you cry. To be great, I think it has to do both.

Favorite Line: “No, I mean it. I would rather die. It’s better to die than to live like you – a bitchy trampoline.”

1X03 — “The Unquiet Dead”

I’m not really a huge fan of ghost stories, but I was a fan of this episode. Somehow, the show understands how to let us as viewers experience the wonders of time travel right alongside Rose, so their trip back into the England of Charles Dickens is just as magical as it sounds like it would be. In fact, that word ‘wonder’ seems to be Doctor Who‘s watchword. The Doctor seems like the kind of guy who doesn’t just travel through space and time just because he can, or even just to help people. He does it for the joy of it. That’s why the appearance of the cynical Dickens character is so brilliant; he’s not just a kitschy cameo. Dickens thought he’d seen it all, that he knew everything there was to know in the world, but the Doctor and Rose brought the wonders of possibility into his life again. The episode also had some nice character moments for Rose and the Doctor. Yet again, the Doctor has to remind Rose that she needs to get rid of her pre-conceived notions, yet he also lets his emotions and his guilt get in the way of his decision making. He lets his guilt over what the Time War did to the Gelth override any sense of caution he might otherwise have had, and Gwyneth loses her life for it.

  • Cardiff, Wales, 1869.
  • New concepts: The Bad Wolf (apparently this will be explained to me later on). The Gelth.
  • This episode marks our first trip back in time. If the way Dickens was handled can be used as an indicator of how historical figures will be used in the future, I think it’s safe to say they’ll be used very well.
  • Part of my time-travel questions are answered in this episode. The Doctor tells Rose that “time is in flux,” meaning he has no concerns whatsoever fucking around with history. He’s not worried about the Butterfly Effect, or becoming your own grandfather, or paradoxes, or any of the stuff time travel stories are traditionally worried about. It’s kind of refreshing. (I would still like to know the history of all this, though.)
  • How often does the Doctor miss his mark? He was nine years off this time (1860 Naples vs. 1869 Cardiff).
  • The Doctor claims he has seen the fall of Troy, World War V and has pushed boxes at the Boston Tea Party.” Yeesh.

Favorite Line: “Even my imagination grows stale. I’m an old man. Perhaps I’ve thought everything I’ll ever think.”

1X04 — “Aliens of London”

Despite the presence of those farting aliens I was promised, this one kind of drags along. All the scenes in 10 Downing Street kind of kill the mood the rest of the episode is trying to set. Or maybe it’s just that two-parter should have actually been just one episode, although I guess I’ll reserve judgment on that until I’ve seen “World War Three” (the awful CGI on the Slitheen didn’t help, either . . . although they’re very cool and creepy after they shed their human skin, just not while they’re “unzipping”). This episode has further cemented my quickly developing thesis that the main theme of Doctor Who is perspective. What better way to gain perspective (to see things in a different light, look at the bigger picture, realize your place in the universe, [insert more cliches here]) than to travel through time and space on a daily basis? To someone who’s seen as much as the Doctor has, humanity and its problems must seem small, and we as individuals must seem even more limited. I also really enjoyed the surprise of “First Contact” happening at the beginning of the series rather than the end as usually happens in the TV universe.

  • London, 2006.
  • New stuff: The Slitheen: “gigantic, corpulent, baby-faced aliens;” UNIT, the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce.
  • The Doctor is 900(ish) years old.
  • Why didn’t Rose and the Doctor just get back in the TARDIS and go back to twelve hours after Rose left instead of the twelve month time frame? I mean, they have a time machine. Wouldn’t it just cancel out all that “Rose is missing!” stuff?
  • Seriously, is the Doctor missing his mark going to become a thing? Is he doing it on purpose?
  • Harriet Jones is played by Shaun of the Dead‘s mum!
  • OMG, it’s a pig.
  • When did the aliens first arrive on Earth? And how long have they been here? I think both of those are the same question so I’m not sure why I just typed both.
  • Rose’s mom is really annoying.

Favorite Line: “Would you mind not farting while I’m trying to save the world?”

1X05 —  “World War Three”

Thank goodness this episode isn’t actually about World War Three, because I definitely couldn’t have handled that emotionally right now, what with The Rapture happening tonight and all.*** Instead, we get Rose and The Doctor, and the inimitably cheerful Harriet Jones, future Prime Minister, preventing WWIII. Also, Mickey and Rose’s mum help a little bit. I know I’m a Doctor Who virgin and all, but these two episodes felt very messy to me, and I definitely think something needed to change. Condensing, deleting, I don’t know. I guess I just don’t think this story was important enough to warrant a two-parter. The bits with Rose and her mum were emotionally satisfying (even if her mum does still annoy me), but I think it probably could have had a little more oomph to it. Plus there’s the fact that the Slitheen were completely ridiculous in every way. Bad CGI that was completely different from the waddling done by the actors done in prosthetics. Bad acting on the part of the aliens. It felt a little too silly. Am I wrong here?

  • London, 2006.
  • Flaws aside, the episode was still very entertaining, even though I might have freaked out a little when I thought they were going to nuke themselves, when it turned out to just be a plain old missile.
  • The Doctor’s password is ‘buffalo.’ Huh. Fun fact: every time I hear the word ‘buffalo’ I think about the part in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone when Professor Flitwick tells the kids, “Never forget Wizard Baruffio, who said ‘s’ instead of ‘f’ and found himself on the floor with a buffalo on his chest.” Kills me every time.
  • The Slitheen aren’t a race, apparently, but a family of aliens from Raxacoricofallapatorius. I guess that makes them Raxacoricofallapatorians. Awful name.
  • I really started to like Mickey after this episode. Hope we see him again.
  • Why does the Doctor have such a problem with family and settling down? Am I reading too much into this?

Favorite Line: “You’re a very violent young woman.”

1X06 — “Dalek”

The Doctor, the Dalek, and if I’m not mistaken, the first really great episode of this series. This is far and away the best episode the series has produced so far in terms of what we might call “quality television.” There are three things in particular that make this a great episode for me. 1) The concept of the Dalek itself. I’d heard a lot about these guys in theory just from hanging around the internets for years, so I knew it was coming, but having this type of villain, especially one that has a history with the Doctor, really adds that element of intense pathos that I’d really been missing in the series so far (though there were hints of it in “The Unquiet Dead”). The Doctor feels very strongly about this guy, and in turn we begin to feel strongly about the Doctor. 2) It smartly continues to use Rose as a viewer stand-in, but not in a way that feels cheesy or obvious. Rose knows nothing of the Daleks at the beginning of this episode, so the presence of her character gives the story an excuse to inform us as well, but she has an even more important function than that, which is that Rose’s presence as an impartial observer really emphasizes how far out of whack the Dalek is pushing the Doctor’s emotions. Her calm sanity and sympathy for the Dalek contrast with the Doctor’s manic, emotionally intense performance. This in turn leads to my third point, which is that 3) It’s a very good sign for this show and my future liking of it that things aren’t just going to be black and white, good and evil. I like that the Doctor’s actions in this episode are called into question, and I like that this episode is more about two beings (the Doctor and the Dalek) who are more alike than either wants to admit, rather than just being a cut and dry, “Oh, no! The Dalek is going to kill everybody!” kind of episode. It’s about loneliness and grief, two concepts that really never get old no matter how many times you choose to explore them.

  • Utah, 2012.
  • New Stuff: The Daleks, and further information about the Time War.
  • New Companion: Adam Mitchell. I wonder how long he’ll stick around. (Don’t tell me.)
  • It was really bothering me where I’d seen Diana Goddard before, but don’t worry, I figured it out. She was on Stargate SG-1 for a while as Osiris. I don’t expect the two shows have much casting in common (Vancouver vs. London) so it kind of threw me for a loop.
  • How often do Rose and the Doctor stop to sleep? Aren’t they tired by now? And how about eating? Is there a kitchen in the TARDIS?
  • Favorite Line Runners-Up: “You just want to drag the stars down and stick them underground beneath tons of sand and dirt and label them. You’re about as far from the stars as you can get,” and “You would make a good Dalek.”

Favorite Line: “I am alone in the Universe?”

1X07 — “The Long Game”

This one was super funky. Lots of extended metaphors going on (i.e. The Editor), so that’s enjoyable.I really like the way that Doctor Who portrays the future. It’s very . . . messy. Probably the most significant thing about this episode is the character of Adam, who I honestly expected to stick around a little longer than just one episode, but he very nicely highlights just exactly why Rose is such a good companion. Adam turns out to be sneaky, stupid, and greedy. And I could be wrong about this, but I’m pretty sure that the title of this episode is hinting that we’re not exactly done with this storyline. Sure, the long game could refer to the duping of the human race by The Mighty Jagrafress of the Holy Hadrajassic Maxaraddenfoe, but somehow I don’t think so.

  • Satellite 5, in the year 200,000
  • New Stuff: Kronkburgers, The Mighty Jagrafress of the Holy Hadrajassic Maxaraddenfoe (whoozy whatsit?), Satellite 5, the Vomit-o-matic, the brain chips . . . The future is gross.
  • The year 200,000 is the Fourth Great and Bountiful Human Empire. When were the first three?
  • So far, this show travels forward more than it travels backward. Out of the first seven episodes, only one has featured the Doctor and Rose going back in time. This is unacceptable.
  • On that note, from a production standpoint, I’d imagine it’s easier to create a possible future than it is to recreate an accurate past, so I will give them a little slack on this. (But only a little.)
  • The lovely and wonderful Simon Pegg guest stars in this episode, but his character is decidedly not lovely and wonderful. Also in this episode is Christine Adams, who I know from a stint on Pushing Daisies as Emerson Cod’s dog-training girlfriend. Coincidentally, that show had her snapping a lot as well.
  • A lot of callbacks to “The End of the World,” including The Face of Boe, who has apparently become pregnant. That thing is so creepy.
  • Wikipedia tells me that this episode had the working titles of “Adam” and “The Companion Who Couldn’t.” It would have been a very different episode from Adam’s perspective, and frankly, I don’t think he would have deserved it.
  • And finally, we get some indication of what kind of lines the Doctor draws about interfering in time. He kicks Adam out of the TARDIS for interfering selfishly, but what exactly is the difference between what Adam wanted to do and what the Doctor does every day? This isn’t a dig, I really need to know the rules.

Favorite Line(s): “Is a slave a slave if he doesn’t know he’s enslaved?” “Yes.” “Oh. I was hoping for a philosophical debate. Is that all I’m gonna get: ‘Yes’?” “Yes.” “You’re no fun.”

1X08 — “Father’s Day”

This is exactly the sort of thing that normally drives me INSANE about time travel stories. They almost always make sense emotionally, they have a sort of emotional/story backbone to them, but in terms of actual logistics and logic and the laws of physics and that sort of thing, no sense whatsoever. For me, the emotional logic is more important than the actual logic, but I always find myself asking, “Wait, what happened?” anyway. Of course Rose would save her dad, of course it would cause problems and paradoxes, and of course he would sacrifice himself in the end: the story practically writes itself. I just wish all of this reset button nonsense would straighten itself out. There’s gotta be a way to write time travel stories without them, and oh, look, there’s the rest of Doctor Who to prove me right. Why does this bother me so much? I have no idea.

  • London, 1987.
  • New stuff: The Doctor is apparently able to recall the TARDIS by using only the key. He mentions that the Time Lords used to prevent bad things like paradoxes from happening, and also that he once had “a family.” Will we hear more about them?
  • Just awful CGI on the Reapers. Awful, awful. Makes a scary concept seem silly.
  • We finally get a hint that the Doctor does have at least some rules that he follows in regards to time travel, and although they’re not specified, he does tell Rose he is allowed to change the past, “Because I know what I’m doing!” Something about not using the TARDIS for person gain, I bet.
  • Why do the first Rose and Doctor disappear when the second Rose saves her father from being hit by the car? It’s never explained.
  • Billie Piper sure can cry. And Christopher Eccleston is kind of scary when he’s mad.
  • Heard “Never Gonna Give You Up” while Rose was in the car with her dad. There’s a Rick Rolling joke in there somewhere, but I’m too dumb to find it.

Favorite Line: “The past is another country. 1987’s just the Isle of Wight.”

1X09 — “The Empty Child”

Ooh, this was a fun one. The creepy child, the air raids, the setting. The sexual tension. Captain Jack. The whole thing, really. While “Dalek” is technically a better episode, I think “The Empty Child” (and “The Doctor Dances”) is a more purely enjoyable piece of work. The “villain” is actually kind of terrifying. There’s something about that child being so persistent and evidently stupid that scares the absolute bejeezus out of me. Not to mention the gas masks, which were apparently custom made for this episode by the costume department (even if the CGI is still a bit wonky). Great job, guys. Way to give me nightmares. I like that the focus of both episodes is on a small portion of the community. The Doctor seems to have a knack for finding the most human element wherever/whenever he goes (which so far are those persons that seem to be different somehow) and sticking with it. Nancy intrigues him, and because she intrigues him, she intrigues us as well. It feels very personal, somehow, like she’s not just a case of the week. Doctor Who is doing a great job of humanizing all of its characters week by week, and that’s something I’m very much appreciative of. It would be so easy for them to be cardboard cutouts. We’re never going to see most of them again. And then there’s Captain Jack. I knew I was going to like him, but I didn’t anticipate liking him as much as I did almost instantly. Fantastic casting, no wonder they gave him his own show. I also love the way he was introduced, with his mysterious backstory and missing memory; there’s a lot to be mined there in the future.

  • London, 1941.
  • Why is it always London? Why is it always Earth? I know the story reasons for these questions, but this is the Doctor! This is the TARDIS! Shouldn’t they be going . . . elsewhere, elsewhen?
  • New stuff: Time Agents, the Time Agency. What’s that about? Nanogenes, Chula warships.
  • New Companion: Captain Jack Harkness. You guys, I had no idea he was American. No idea whatsoever. How did I not know that? Whatever, he’s dreamy. (And Rose agrees with me.) Hope we get some actual background on him soon. (This series is very frugal with its backstory.)
  • Rose is obsessed with Star Trek, Spock in particular, which I find hilarious.

Favorite Line: “What was I supposed to say? You don’t have a name. Don’t you ever get tired of ‘The Doctor’? Doctor who?”

1X10 — “The Doctor Dances”

I really, really enjoyed both of these episodes. I said it above, but it bears repeating. “The Empty Child” definitely had promise, but it all could have been easily wasted if the climax of this episode had botched it up. As it stands now, I’m sure if I were to go back and rewatch “The Empty Child,” I would actually enjoy it more the second time around, knowing how it all works together. Everything from part one has a satisfying, and in most cases, surprising, conclusion in part two. Jack joins the Doctor and Rose in the TARDIS, Jamie and all the other masked assholes are saved, Nancy gets her son back, we eventually win the war, and perhaps most significantly, the Doctor’s usual state of pain and grief is suspended by the happy ending they manage to achieve. It’s important to note that there isn’t an actual “bad guy” in this two-parter, unless you want to call grief and loneliness bad guys. The nanogenes were simply fulfilling their programming to the best of their ability, and Jamie was just a little boy looking for his mother. The reason Jamie seemed so sinister and perverted as the “villain,” is because he was based in something so innocent. The reveal that Nancy was Jamie’s mother was a surprise to me, and I loved the Doctor’s response. It was incredibly gratifying to see him that happy, to see him finally win one.

  • London, 1941.
  • I loved the moment where Rose tells Nancy that England will survive. It seems to represent everything this series stands for; a moment of transcendence, or something kooky like that.
  • Loved the introduction to the pansexual Captain Jack, or should I say omnisexual? Because of the family friendly nature of Doctor Who, we don’t see any actual sexytimes (and we have to talk about the Doctor’s sexuality in terms of “dancing”), but we do get to hear about how Jack plays for both teams all the teams ever, everywhere. I think that’s funny. British censors are funny.
  • Speaking of “dancing,” the episode uses it to parallel Jack and the Doctor nicely. Here comes this guy who just oozes sex appeal, and he’s a sexy con man from the sexy 51st century, and over there is the mysterious, apparently sexless, Doctor. I know this was riffing on years of sexless Doctor Who history, but it also turns into a very nice character moment for both Rose and the Doctor (and hints at some things to come? Yes? There better be some damn romance in this series, that’s all I’ve got to say).
  • The lady with the leg that grew back was hilarious.

Favorite Line: “Everybody lives, Rose. Just this once! EVERYBODY LIVES!”

1X11 — “Boom Town”

I do not like the Slitheen, and I was not excited for this episode, but it surprised me. A lot. The thing that I liked most about it is that it’s a talking episode. Scenes revolve around conversations, not action, and therefore, character becomes top priority. In fact, there’s movement for everybody except Jack. The situation with Margaret pushes all of the characters to reveal things to each other and to themselves. Dealing with the bad guys afterward, having to realize they’re people, too, that’s not something the Doctor is used to. Margaret is such an uncomfortable figure in the TARDIS because she represents consequence, a fact of which she is very aware. As she points out to him, the Doctor is never in one place for very long, and with the exception of his companions (a word chosen very carefully, I think), the Doctor makes no long term relationships with any of the people he helps. And as so often happens in stories, the line between good and evil are just an inch of intent away from one another. Although the Doctor does work for the forces of good in the universe, he follows rules governed to protect the sanctity of life, the measures that he takes and the power that he holds does not on the surface look that different from what Margaret and her ilk do. “Only a killer would know that,” she tells the Doctor over dinner. In the end, killing is killing, no matter how you look at it. Of course, Margaret’s an evil asshat while saying all this, but it doesn’t mean she’s wrong. Even though the Doctor becomes angry when Margaret calls him a God, there’s a reason he’s called a Time Lord, I think. Something Margaret doesn’t understand, however, is that the Doctor doesn’t look back not because he’s a coward, or because he’s morally bankrupt, but because it’s too painful for him. The B-Story finds Mickey in parallel to Margaret, confronting Rose with some harsh truths she doesn’t want to hear, and finally standing up for himself. I found this scene refreshing. Ever sine “Rose,” Mickey has seemed like a huge doormat to me, and his epiphany here signals not only a change in his own life, but in Rose’s as well. Like the Doctor, she has less and less to hold on to.

  • Cardiff, Wales, 2006.
  • New Stuff: The soul of the TARDIS, the rift (even though technically it was introduced in “The Unquiet Dead”).
  • We finally learn why the TARDIS is in the form of a police box: it got stuck that way after the Doctor traveled to the 60s.
  • Captain Jack is fitting in nicely. There’s a real sense of camaraderie between all of them, especially at the beginning of the episode (something that Mickey picks up on right away as well).
  • The DVD special features informed me that this episode was almost called “Dinner With Monsters,” or “What Should We Do With Margaret?” I like that last one the best. “Boom Town” is a really bad title.
  • That ‘Bad Wolf’ thing we’ve been seeing since “Rose” is finally mentioned out loud by the Doctor, who appears to be very frightened at first, but then seems to quickly dismiss the notion of words following them through time and space. I’m pretty sure that’s a clue. Plus, you know, the title of the next episode . . .

Favorite Line: “Always looking on because you dare not look back.”

1X12 — “Bad Wolf”

Shit, talk about your consequences. Even though I thought the actual execution of the games came across as really dated and cheesy (a problem that is only going to get worse with time, I think . . . the further away from 2005 this gets, the lamer it will be), this episode turns out really nicely (and by nicely, I mean horribly, because WTF?). The Gamestation is so disturbing in the same way that Jamie was so disturbing in “The Empty Child,” because the idea of them is perverting something innocent (children, games). The Big Bad (Wolf) is of course the Daleks. I should have seen that one coming. Probably if I would have given it any sort of thought, I would have, but I try not to think too far ahead when I’m watching a show like this. I want to be surprised, and I want to concentrate on what the show is telling me about now, rather than what it will be telling me in the future. And what it’s telling me about now is that the Doctor seriously needs to rethink his life. It hits him like a sledgehammer to the face that all of this YUCK is his fault. He didn’t stick around after he “fixed” it the last time, in “The Long Game,” so now not only is the human race just kind of fucked, but the Daleks are EVERYWHERE and it’s all because of him (at least, in his mind . . . the Doctor has serious guilt issues). At some point, you’ve just got to sit back and say, yes, I’ve made a huge mistake, but you know what? THESE GUYS ARE EVIL AND I AM NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR ACTIONS. He should get a bumper sticker for the TARDIS that says that. He should probably also make out with somebody, prefereably Rose, because that would reduce his stress levels by like, a LOT.

  • Gamestation (Satellite 5), the year 200,100.
  • New stuff: the transmat, the Gamestation, the Bad Wolf Corporation, exo-glass, deadlock seals,
  • The Doctor has two hearts! Cool and poetic.
  • True story: One time I met the lady from The Weakest Link. She was very short and nice, and so of course I didn’t recognize her.
  • Wikipedia tells me that we were supposed to see Jack’s naked buttocks in this episode, but that the BBC vetoed it. Damn you, BBC censors! (I could see this becoming a regular thing that I say.)
  • “Well, ladies, the pleasure was all mine. Which is the only thing that matters in the end.”
  • The Doctor is a badass.

Favorite Line: “No! ‘Cause this is what I’m going to do: I’m going to rescue her! I’m going to save Rose Tyler from the middle of the Dalek fleet, and then I’m going to save the Earth, and then, just to finish off, I’m going to wipe every last stinking Dalek out of the sky!”

1X13 — “The Parting of the Ways”

In which I eat my words (even though my words are only about an hour and a half old at this point). ROSE is the Big Bad, but she’s not our Big Bad, she’s the Daleks’. “I am the Bad Wolf. I create myself.” Trippy, but awesome. What she becomes after she looks into the soul of the TARDIS is the epitome of what this show is all about: hope, wonder, possibility. But it’s even cooler than that. The Doctor comes full circle this season. At the beginning he’s a guy with a dark past (a REALLY dark past) that he’s doing everything in his power to repress, hence the reason for his aversion to family and emotional ties. As Margaret the Slitheen pointed out in “Boom Town,” this lack of connection resulted in the Doctor forgetting that his actions have consequences, even the ones with noble purpose. He just never sticks around long enough to figure out what those consequences are. In many ways, this season is all about the Doctor relearning what he probably knew before: that sometimes you do have to stick around for a while and take responsibility for yourself, that human connection is a GOOD thing. This is where Rose comes in: she’s his connection to life, his companion (which is why of course it has to be her that saves them all). The climax of “The Parting of the Ways” finds all of this coming to a head. The Doctor’s hatred for the Daleks and his grief for all that was lost in the Time War (and the possibly futility thereof), his desire to rid the galaxy and himself of the Daleks once and for all (despite the consequences), his desire to protect the one person in the universe, the entire space time continuum, really) that he really cares about, and the conflict that he feels between doing what is right and what he believes is necessary . . . all of that is running around in his crazy head. In the end, the Doctor can’t destroy the Daleks because it means destroying billions of humans, and his own “humanity” in the process.

The Doctor does the right thing by not killing the Daleks, and some people might consider that a cheat, but that’s the point. Doctor Who isn’t a story about what war does to good people, it’s a story about a man who refuses to let war turn him into a monster. It’s a story about an optimist. In many ways, it’s just a space fairy tale. Don’t believe me? I’ve got proof. Rose tells the Doctor, “I looked into the TARDIS, and the TARDIS looked in to me.” Friedrich Nietzsche famously said, “He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. Gaze not into the abyss, lest the abyss gaze into thee.” This is exactly what the Doctor has been struggling with all season, and what he finally comes to terms with in this episode. In this context, then, Rose’s actions, and the presence of her very glowing white self destroying all the Daleks while the time vortex flows through her, can be read as the show making its ultimate mission statement. The TARDIS is not the abyss. The TARDIS and the Doctor and everything he stands for is the opposite of the abyss. But using all that power has a price all the same. Nietzche’s abyss is a vacuum, an emptiness. What happens to Rose is the opposite. Instead of making her hollow and empty inside, with only anger and hatred left to sustain her, like the Daleks are now, and like the Doctor is danger of becoming, she is filled up to the brim with life, so much so that it almost consumers her, all that power. And it’s the Doctor who pays that price for that power, but not in the way we expect (at least, in the way Rose expects). And so we say goodbye to the ninth doctor, and welcome the tenth.

  • Gamestation (Satellite 5), the year 200,100, and London, England, 2006.
  • New stuff: Delta Waves, bastic bullets, the Time Vortex, the Emperor Dalek, the Doctor’s regeneration,
  • New Doctor: Barty Crouch, Jr. (Sorry, couldn’t help it.) Goodbye, Christopher Eccleston. I’m going to miss your face.
  • Am I the only one who thinks the Daleks are funny when they start freaking out? “DO NOT BLASPHEME. DO NOT BLASPHEME.”
  • “And if you want to remember me, you can do one thing. That’s all, one thing: Have a good life. Do that for me, Rose. Have a fantastic life.”
  • Rose: I see everything. All that is, all that was, all that ever could be . . .
    The Doctor: But that’s what I see, all the time. And doesn’t it drive you mad?
  • Is this how Captain Jack becomes immortal? Because of what Rose did? Somehow or other I knew he was immortal, and I just assumed it was already a thing, but I guess it wasn’t. I love it when story has consequences!

Favorite Line: “Come here, I think you need a Doctor.”

– – –

*’Season One,’ for those of you who don’t speak British.

**Oh, my God. Don’t watch that video. It’s 9:20 PM on a Friday night and I haven’t seen ER in over seven years and I still cried. You stupid, emotionally manipulative piece of crap show. ILOVEDYOUSOMUCH.

***As I’m writing this, it is currently 2:30 PM PST on May 21, 2011. If you’re reading this, either a) The Rapture didn’t happen, so sorry to all of you who were looking forward to being beamed up to Heaven to hang out with Jesus, or b) We are all currently experiencing Hell on Earth, but there’s still internet, so at least that’s a plus. Sorry you didn’t get to go hang out with Jesus. But don’t worry! There’s still hope for you yet, or at least that’s what I remember from reading the first five Left Behind books when I was in high school.

****It took me waaaay too long to watch these first thirteen episodes, and I know exactly why. It’s because I had to work myself up to write about them afterwards, before I could move on to the next episode. God! Writing ruins everything. (I fully plan on watching the entire reign of the tenth doctor straight through, and then writing about it after. It’ll be less detailed that way, but I’ll have more fun, so I guess you can tell where my priorities are right now.)

18 Responses to “Vintage Viewing: Doctor Who, Series One”
  1. Yaaaaaay! I have seen anywhere from 2-5 episodes from each Doctor, which is enough to get a feel for the show and know that it’s wonderful, but not enough to get a sense of continuity. Hopefully I’ll be able to pick it up after I finish S1 of FNL.

  2. Melissa Robles says:

    I will just rewrite everything I sent you on Twitter.

    1) You will David Tennant as the doctor. If you don’t, we can’t be friends anymore.

    2) Time And Relative Dimension In Space = TARDIS

    3) River Song a.k.a Elizabeth Corday a.k.a Alex Kingston doesn’t appear until Silence in the Library in Series (season) 4.

    4) Blink is terrifying. You will never look at angel statues the same way again.

    5) Also, “Are you my mummy?”

    6) You are nowhere near finished crying. Just wait.

    • Ashley says:

      1. I know that I will like him. I have faith in myself.
      2. I knew that, but I was too lazy to look it up.
      3. Boo.
      4. Everyone says it’s scary, but I am doubtful. We shall see.
      5. I wanted to smack that kid.
      6. I am the queen of crying. I so believe you.

      P.S. You need to watch Farscape.

      • Mia says:

        Great, horribly-tempting post that makes me want to go back all over again.
        1) I have faith in you too… and admit I had huge doubts and massive love for Senor Eccleston.
        3) Some people despise River Song, but I personally have loved her.
        4) Don’t Blink. Do pee your pants.
        5 & 6) – Agreed

  3. Melissa Robles says:

    Edit: damn typos.

    1) You will love David Tennant as the doctor. If you don’t, we can’t be friends anymore.

  4. This was great! I’m very excited about you starting this. You can have all sort of backstory on Captain Jack, eventually. You just have to start watching Torchwood to get it. (It’s worth it, most of the time. And definitely worth it when you get to the Children of Earth mini-series.)

    I really liked The Doctor Dances/Empty Child, but I can’t believe you got through that discussion without a single “Are you my mummy?”

    You’ll also get more background on the Doctor later, and I suppose earlier as well if you wanted to go back and watch the old series.

    I don’t like the Slitheen either.

    My favorite line from Parting of the Ways is “And you know what? So was I.” It just sums up Nine so well.

    I love the Face of Boe, and I always thought it would make an awesome Halloween costume. I just have no idea how to make it.

    • Ashley says:

      I was going to try and watch Torchwood before Miracle Day comes out, but I’m not going to make it. It took me too long to get through these first thirteen episodes. Sad face.

  5. Weston says:

    Oh man, you’ve been sitting on this for over a month?

    Fantastic overview, look forward to the next one.

  6. Cassandra says:


    I’m so glad you’re enjoying it. This was a great read. =)

  7. Jennie says:

    I had a lot of comments in my head but by the time I got to the end, they all fell out. Wow, good story, Jennie, tell it again! Anyway, I love Eccleston (I feel bad because he gets overlooked sometimes) but I ALL CAPS LOVE Tennant, so I’m excited for you to watch the next season.

  8. Jen says:

    I read most of this. I have a really hard time reading other people’s opinions of my favorite show of all time, especially if it is their first time watching. It is just way too close to my heart. It’s only because I like you (and I knew you would like it) that I could read it at all. I am such a weirdo.

    Yes, this is how Jack became immortal.

    Don’t worry, the doctor goes into the past plenty and meets historical figures, mostly authors, which makes it fun.

    If you liked this series, it only gets better from here. David Tennant is an amazing doctor and Matt Smith turned out to be pretty damn good as well.

    If you want to watch Torchwood, it’s a good show. Very different vibe, though. I really like Jack, so I’ve always enjoyed it.

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