Friday, August 5, 2016

Whovian Chatter: The Eccleston Years Series One

Ghost here, thanks for joining.

I'm going to be examining Doctor Who... every single episode.  I'm going to take you on a journey through the 50+ years worth of this show, showcasing the good and the bad along the way.  For each episode I'm going to give you a very brief rundown of the plot, how good/bad the story is, and anything interesting about the episode.  Basically I'll just talk about whatever comes to mind for each of them.  These will be a more in-depth overview of the series as a whole so you can see which stories or episodes (if any) you want to check out for yourself.  Today I'm going to be talking about

The Ninth Doctor
Christopher Eccleston
Series One

The year is 2005 and Doctor Who was finally coming back and being modernized thanks to Russel T Davies and Julie Gardner.  Series one ran from March 26, 2005 till June 18, 2005.  It contained thirteen episodes.  There were a lot of changes associated with the show's return.  Most notable was that the show would return to a 45 minute run time, and would be more episodic rather than having a single story running through multiple episodes; though several two-part and rare three-part stories do exist.  It would also contain a fairly loose (or sometimes extremely loose) story arch across each individual season.  We would start off the series with a brand new 9th Doctor without seeing his regeneration for once.

This season's story arch is Bad Wolf which ultimately meant that people would say the words "bad wolf" in most of the episodes or we would see it written on the screen and it eventually meant something.  Not the strongest of story archs but it's not that bad.  Why was the Doctor missing from our screens since the 1996 movie?  Well he participated in the Time War, a war of massive devastation across all of space and time between the Time Lords and the Daleks.  Both races were seemingly wiped out and the Doctor is the sole survivor.

Series one however is odd.  They hadn't quite figured out a tone for the show so several episodes are good and a few are just outright silly.  This season is unique in the fact that practically every person I've met who has seen this season disliked it heartily, but after watching later seasons they would return to re-watch these episodes and loved them.  I'm not sure exactly why; maybe it's just the charm and different characterization that Christopher Eccleston brought to the role.  Do not judge the new show based on this season... please stick around till series 2.  This is also the only season we will see Eccleston in.  He had disagreements with the production team and decided to step aside at the end of the season.

Episode 1

A young woman named Rose is finishing up her work day when she is attacked by a group of mannequins which are actually an alien race known as Autons.  The Doctor is investigating the incident and saves her.  Rose becomes curious about the Doctor and meets with a man who runs a website dedicated to the mysterious Doctor.  Meanwhile, Rose's boyfriend Mickey is captured and replaced by an Auton duplicate who questions her about the Doctor... who suddenly arrives causing Auton Mickey to go berserk.  The Doctor rips off the Auton Mickey's head to track down the source of the problem but loses the signal when the head melts.  With Rose's help the pair find the Nestene Consciousness (the cause of the Autons) beneath the Ferris Wheel in London.  The Doctor discovers Mickey being kept alive and tries to stop the Nestene Consciousness.  However, it discovers the anti-plastic that the Doctor has on him and begins the Auton invasion.  Rose jumps to the rescue and knocks the anti-plastic into the Nestene Consciousness and causing all the attacking autons to stop.  The Doctor then offers Rose to join him on his adventures through space and time.

For the longest time I thought this episode was garbage.  While it's still not exactly a great episode by any means, my annoyance of this episode was lessened greatly when I became a fan of the Classic Show.  One of the bigger problems is that the Nestene Consciousness is shown as an alien creature but the Autons themselves are never really specified as such; they are never called Autons... nor will they ever be called Autons in the couple of other times they showed up.  Just calling them by name would have helped establish them as an old alien race that the 3rd Doctor had dealt with rather than just being "killer mannequins."  It does it's job ok, sets up the show for people who may not have seen anything before.  It's just not that great of an episode to be honest.

Episode 2
The End of the World

With his newest companion in the TARDIS, the Doctor has decided to show her something unique...the day the sun expands and destroys planet Earth. They land on a space station orbiting Earth to view its destruction by the rich and powerful around the universe including Cassandra the so-called "last pure human" who is now only eyes and a mouth on a stretched piece of skin.  Things start to go south when tiny robots begin sabotaging the spaceship causing several deaths along the way.  It is found out that Cassandra had planted the robots as gifts to kill the others on the space station and make it seem like an accident as she had invested stock in rival companies.  She teleports away.  However, the Doctor, with the sacrificial help of an alien tree woman, reboots the station's emergency drives and reverses Cassandra's teleporter.  With the space station so hot from the sun exposure, the skin flap Cassandra dries up and explodes.

This is an interesting episode.  It gets a whole bunch of aliens on screen all at once to kind of get you used to the sort of things this new series will bring.  It also introduces us to The Face of Boe who we will see next season, though he won't become significant until season three.  Cassandra was a pretty great villain and the use of a jukebox playing Tainted Love and Toxic as classical pieces was pretty funny.  This is a harmless episode.  Nothing overly great but nothing bad either.

Episode 3
The Unquiet Dead

Since the Doctor had taken Rose to the future, it was now time to take her back to the past.  They land in 1869 where a corpse has just gotten up and walked off on its own.  Gwyneth, a clairvoyant who works for the funeral director uses her power to see that the woman's body is heading to see Charles Dickens recite one of his works.  At the recital, a blue vapor is released from the corpse and scares the crowd with draws the attention of Rose and the Doctor.  The Doctor is then accompanied by Dickens who originally believes him to have intentionally sabotaged his reading.  Eventually they track down the funeral parlor and use Gwyneth's power to talk to the blue mist.  The mist is the remains of an alien race known as the Gelth who lost their bodies in the Time War and hope to cross over using a dimensional rift located in the morgue below.  The Doctor offers to have them use the bodies of the dead until they can be taken somewhere to build new bodies, but once Gwyneth becomes the bridge in the rift, the Gelth reveal they plan to kill all of mankind and take over the corpses to rule the planet.  Dickens realizes they live by gas and turn on the gas lamps to maximum causing the Gelth to be sucked out of the corpses.  Gwyneth sacrifices her life to destroy the Gelth as the Doctor, Rose, and Dickens get to safety.

I like this episode more than most people because I have a soft spot for Charles Dickens, especially A Christmas Carol.  The charm of this episode is the Doctor teaming up with Charles Dickens to fight "ghosts." If that's right up your alley then you will enjoy this fair enough.  If not then this is just another middle of the road episode.  This is also the first episode that REALLY mentions Bad Wolf in it.

Episodes 4 and 5
Aliens of London / World War Three

The Doctor returns Rose home only to find he accidentally brought her back one year after they left.  While there and dealing with the domestic nightmare of Rose's family, an alien ship crashes into Big Ben.  The world is on alert as supposed threats of alien invasion are being broadcast and the prime minister has gone missing.  Rose's mother, believing the Doctor to be dangerous, reports him to the official government line, but they pick him and Rose up as special guests.  They are brought to Downing Street for a special summons about this alien crash.  Meanwhile other prominent members of the community are showing up in the prime minister's absence.  It turns out these prominent members are actually the Slitheen family; a family of aliens who can compress their bodies and fit inside human skin suits with the unfortunate drawback of having a lot of gas.  The Slitheen kill all of the alien specialists in Downing Street except for the Doctor and Rose who run into hiding in the main meeting room.  The Slitheen intend to cause a nuclear panic which will destroy the world so that they can sell chunks of the radioactive rock that will be left as fuel for space crafts.  Eventually, the Doctor and Rose (with help from Mickey over the phone) hijack one of the missiles to be launched at the fake space ship and aim it directly at Downing Street killing the Slitheen family in the process.

There's a reason I tell people not to judge the show as a whole by watching the first five episodes.  It seems like they really haven't figured out the tone and that's hammered home in this particular two parter.  While it has aliens planting a fake alien crash, the destruction of the world planned, and aliens infiltrating the British government, it also has a transformed pig, aliens that fart almost nonstop, aliens being defeated by vinegar based products, and ... this dialogue.  "Would you mind not farting while I'm saving the world?"  "Would you rather silent but deadly?"   Also this has some fairly terrible CGI effects when it comes to the aliens chasing people around.  The only good things about this episode are the fallout from Rose accidentally being gone for a year and Harriet Jones who will become Prime Minister next season.

Episode 6

The TARDIS has picked up a distress call and the Doctor lands inside an alien museum run by an insane billionaire who takes a liking to the Doctor.  The distress call is coming from the museum's only live exhibit but the billionaire can't seem to get it to talk.  Rose accompanies a young man named Adam while the Doctor goes to see the alien in distress.  However, to his horror, the alien creature left behind is a Dalek who attempts to exterminate the Doctor on the spot...but his weapon is malfunctioning.  The Doctor taunts and slightly tortures the creature before being escorted away to be examined by the billionaire as he is clearly an alien as well.  Rose and Adam approach the Dalek who speaks with Rose about being in pain.  However, when Rose touches the Dalek's dome, it absorbs some of the time and life energy from her and repairs itself.  The Dalek then begins killing everyone in the compound in an attempt to escape while keeping Rose as a sort of hostage.  The Billionaire releases the Doctor who intends to kill the last remaining Dalek alive.  However as Rose and the Dalek reach the sunlight, the Dalek opens its shell to feel the warmth.  It had sucked up just enough humanity from Rose to not be a pure Dalek anymore.  Thanks to Rose's intervention, the Doctor realizes his actions and lowers his weapon as the Dalek commits suicide for not being a pure Dalek anymore.  The Doctor and Rose bring Adam along in the TARDIS.

This is the first truly excellent episode of the new show.  It reestablishes the dynamic of the Doctor and the Daleks by showing the fear and hatred the Doctor now has for the species which resulted in his people being destroyed.  It showed why the Daleks are a threat but also showed that the Doctor can go too far as well.  Literally the only negative thing I can say is that we pick up Adam who is a tool... though he was designed to be a tool and only sticks around for one more episode thankfully.

Episode 7
The Long Game

The Doctor, Rose, and Adam land on a space station in the future that is purely dedicated the news.  People can access any information they wish through a port surgically added to their skull.  Each working member wishes to get a promotion to the top floor, however nobody ever returns once they are selected.  The Doctor and Rose are curious about this and are confused by the lack of curiosity in the news reporters.  Adam, being tempted by the knowledge of the future, splits off from the group.  He gets the brain surgery and attempts to send information back in time to his family to make them rich.  Eventually the Doctor and Rose force their way to the top floor where they discover the semi-frozen bodies of the people who had been promoted.  It turns out that humanity as a whole have been unknowingly under the control of a large alien who requires the cold to remain alive.  A reporter whom they befriended, followed the Doctor to the top floor and upon learning this truth, cause the heat to be channeled to the top floor, killing the alien.  The Doctor and Rose return with Adam to the TARDIS but drop him off at his home, erasing the message he had left in the process.  They leave him behind as only the best can travel in the TARDIS.

This could have been a much better episode.  The subject matter was pretty interesting and it had some talented people like Simon Pegg who were ultimately wasted.  As it stands, this story basically served as a backdrop to show Adam's idiocy and set up some events for the season finale.  I don't mind things existing in a story that allow later events to happen, but when you do that you need to give us something good going on with the actual story.  We didn't get that.  We got Adam making bad choices.  I wouldn't have minded that if it wasn't for the fact that previous companions had done a lot worse and hadn't gotten kicked off.  It's just not that great of an episode.

Episode 8
Father's Day

Rose has asked the Doctor for a favor.  When she was a baby, her father passed away alone in the streets due to a hit and run.  She wants to go there and be with him in his final minutes.  However when they arrive she freaks out and doesn't go.  She asks to be taken back once more to try again but this time rushes out and saves his life much to the Doctor's disappointment.  This sudden change has not only caused their previous versions to disappear but also caused the TARDIS to change into a regular police box.  Strange creatures also suddenly appear and begin killing every living person in existence in an attempt to heal time back to the way it was supposed to be.  The Doctor forces everyone nearby into a local church as the age of the church can act as a temporary damper for these Time Creatures.  The Doctor continues to try everything he possibly can to allow her father to live and escape the universe dying, but thanks to a temporal anomaly when adult Rose touches her baby self, a creature is allowed entry into the church and kills the Doctor.  Meanwhile, Rose's father keeps seeing the car that was supposed to hit him circle nearby and vanish.  Knowing what he must do, her father rushes out and is struck by the car.  This fixes time back to the way it was supposed to be and everyone who was destroyed returns to existence.  Rose runs to tell her father goodbye.

While it's not the absolute best this season has to offer, this story is a really good one.  We get to really see Rose's personality and family life quite a bit more, as well as seeing the Doctor trying desperately to give his friend what she wants but ultimately failing.  It's a solid episode worth a watch!

Episode 9 and 10
The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances

The Doctor and Rose are chasing down a cylinder-like object that is shooting through the time vortex before crashing on Earth.  The Doctor lands the TARDIS in the middle of World War II's London Blitz to find the object, but Rose gets separated when she hears a child calling for it's mother.  She finds the child but gets wrapped up in rope from a blimp and carried off.  The Doctor returns and hears the TARDIS phone ringing, but a girl named Nancy tells him not to answer.  He does and hears a child asking for his mommy before hanging up.  The Doctor follows Nancy to a house where she is taking care of several children by eating the food from people's tables who have gone into bomb shelters for the time being.  The children leave when a small child with a gas mask on appears and begins asking for his mommy.  Nancy is afraid of this child and warns the Doctor not to touch him.  She then directs him to the local hospital for more information.  Rose meanwhile is rescued by Captain Jack Harkness who tells her that he is from the Time Agency and has some property for sale.  Rose fakes interest and tells Jack that her partner must be  present to buy so they track him down heading toward the hospital.  The Doctor arrives at the hospital to find dozens of patients all with identical cuts, markings, and gas masks permanently grown into their face.  The local doctor explains to the Doctor that the first patient was Nancy's little brother Jamie, but he had escaped.  Before he could finish his story, the local doctor began growing a gas mask out of his face and became like the others.  Jack and Rose arrive in time for the patients to all rise and begin asking for their mommy.
The Doctor acts like an angry father and tells them to go to their room which causes the patients to return to bed, however that also causes Jamie to return to the hospital.  The Doctor discovers that Jamie has become a new species and is growing in strength just as they also find out that Jack is actually just a con-man who had shot an empty medical ship at a place where a known bomb was going to land.  They gather Nancy and investigate the bomb site and find the medical ship had nanobots which were to repair living tissue.  The first thing they found was Jamie's dead body wearing a gas mask and misunderstood that as the template for humans.  The Doctor begins fiddling with the ship which causes an alarm to go of; this forces Jamie and the other patients to come to the ship.  Nancy says it's all her fault and the Doctor realizes that she is actually his mother.  He tells her to be honest with Jamie and the nanobots see her DNA as Jamie's parent.  They recalculate their functions and return the boy to a normal state as well as everyone else who had been altered.  A German Bomb begins to land on top of them but Jack uses his space ship to stop the bomb and head into space.  While there, Jack realizes he cannot remove the bomb or get out of his ship and so is prepared to die when the TARDIS lands inside his ship and the three take off to the stars.

While I really like Dalek, this two parter is the crowning jewel of the first season.  In fact, it's some of the best work the show has done as a whole over the 50+ years. Quite literally the only thing negative I can say about this is that the CGI used to transform that one doctor into his gas mask wasn't quite as good due to the budget and technology available.  Everything else is almost perfect.  The setting is great, the child is extremely creepy, the plot is fantastic, the characters are memorable, the humor is on point, and we pick up a great addition to the TARDIS crew.  "Just this once, everybody lives!"  These two episodes are glorious and you should watch them!

Episode 11
Boom Town

The TARDIS needs to refuel and has landed on top of the Rift that was created in 1869.  Mickey joins them for some leisure time when they discover via the newspaper that one of the Slitheen family, Margaret, had survived and is now the Mayor of Cardiff.  They track her down and listen to her plans for building a nuclear power plant in the city.  The Plant was designed to fail and destroy the planet allowing her to use a piece of smuggled alien tech to ride the explosion out of the galaxy.  The Doctor intends to stop this and take Margaret back to her home planet, however she is a wanted criminal and returning her to her home planet would be the same as sentencing her to death.  She asks for one more request; a last meal at her favorite restaurant.  The Doctor eventually agrees after placing an electrocution bracelet on her.  Margaret attempts to murder/stun the Doctor several times to comedic effect but he is always one step ahead while Jack uses the smuggled tech to try to boost off the TARDIS a bit more.  However, the rift begins to open and tear the TARDIS apart.  Everyone returns to the TARDIS only to find this was part of Margaret's back up plan.  However, as the center console of the TARDIS opens up she looks in to the psychic powers within and smiles.  Suddenly the rift closes as the TARDIS goes back to being normal and Margaret has returned to an egg form; the TARDIS regressed her back to an egg to start a new life.  The Doctor, Jack, and Rose take off to bring her egg home.

This one is a very different kind of episode.  Most adventures with the Doctor have him rushing off at the end but here he catches her early and has to sit around in the consequences of his actions. Not to mention that the scene of the Doctor and Margaret in the restaurant is quite funny.  It also made the whole Slitheen fiasco tolerable.  It's an interesting watch worth your time. 

Episodes 12 and 13
Bad Wolf / The Parting of the Ways

The Doctor, Rose, and Jack suddenly find themselves on various reality and game shows.  The Doctor is stuck on Big Brother, Rose is on The Weakest Link, and Jack is on some sort of fashion show.  However things take a turn when anyone who loses or is voted off gets disintegrated on the spot.  The Doctor and Rose begin acting differently from the other contestants and the managers of the station notice. When the Doctor breaks a house rule, he is evicted on the spot but rather than be destroyed the managers allow him to leave through another door taking housemate Lynda with him.  They search around the area and the Doctor notices the words Bad Wolf on a wall.   Jack eventually breaks out of his show and the three find where Rose is being held.  Unfortunately she is voted as the weakest link and is disintegrated right as they came to rescue her.  They head to the managers on the top floor but nobody can give them any real information.  Suddenly a solar storm appears and the station goes offline.  The Controller warns the Doctor that her masters fear him, but suddenly she is also disintegrated.  Jack finds the TARDIS hidden in a side room and the TARDIS has figured something out.  People aren't being killed they are being teleported somewhere... also that the station is sending out a second signal.  They stop the second signal to see it was concealing thousands of Dalek ships hovering over Earth.  They tell the Doctor to surrender or Rose will die to which he says no.  He will save Rose and destroy the Daleks.
He then materializes the TARDIS around Rose on the Dalek Mothership and, with help from an energy shield, ask the Daleks how they survived the Time War.  It turns out the Dalek Emperor's ship had fallen through a hole in time and has been slowly taking humans and turning their cells into Daleks.  This has caused the Daleks to go insane with hatred as they hate their own bodies for being made from human.  The Doctor returns to the space station to build a Delta Wave to destroy the Daleks while Jack organizes the humans to fight them off.  The Doctor tricks Rose into going to the TARDIS which takes her back to her own home and time with no way to get back.  While there she sees "Bad Wolf" again and believes it to be a link between her and the Doctor.  Eventually with help from Mickey and her Mother, they pry open the TARDIS console and she asks the TARDIS to take her back.  The Daleks are attacking and have killed everyone but the Doctor at this point when Rose arrives full of time vortex energy and referrig to herself as The Bad Wolf.  She brings Jack back to life and destroys all the Daleks around her from time itself before complaining of extreme pain.  The Doctor kisses her and transfers the time vortex into himself before sending it back to the TARDIS.  The Doctor takes off with an unconscious Rose leaving Jack behind.  When she wakes he warns her that nobody is supposed to hold the time vortex energy and that he is about to change.  He tells her that she was fantastic before regenerating.

The production crew keep going on and on about how fantastic of a commentary the killer game shows episode was but I'm not buying it.  It's crap.  Literally it's nothing of value other than delaying the reveal of the Daleks and making us believe Rose is dead for 10 minutes.  The Parting of the Ways however is a very good episode.  The Doctor's recording to Rose that she should live a happy life without him is very touching and the whole thing came together perfectly.  There is a scene where the Doctor can wipe out the Daleks himself but it would kill half the population of Earth in the process so he chooses not to do that.  It was a great end to an underappreciated Doctor.  He had spent the entirety of this regeneration dealing with the loss of his people and he was finally able to forgive himself and save a friend in the end.  A good ending to an uneven season.


Again, I'm not sure what it is about this season that rubbed me the wrong way.  I hated this season the very first time I watched it, but after watching several other seasons and re-watching this, I loved most of it.  I think it's just the uneven feel to the show that makes it a difficult sit the first time.  The first five episodes are either mediocre or terrible but it does pick up mid-way through.  It just has an odd feel to it that is unique to this season which I can't exactly put my finger on.  I always say to people not to judge this show based on the first five episodes or even this entire season alone.  Please join me again as we continue to examine all of Doctor Who.

This is Ghost, fading into the darkness
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