The new series of Dr. Who has made the Doctor available to a whole new
generation of viewers. But was that really necessary?
Episode 1: "Rose"
Episode 2: "The End of the World"
Episode 3: "The Unquiet Dead"
Directors: Keith Boak, Euros Lyn
Writers: Russell T. Davies, Mark Gatiss
Starring:. Christopher Eccleston, Billie Piper, etc
Rated NR / 1 hour
(out of four)
The first episode of this new incarnation of Dr. Who begins with Rose Tyler, a
young woman who lives at home with her mum and works at a clothes shop. We
see a montage of her somewhat dreary life all to the dulcet sounds of frantic,
obnoxious music. She wakes up, gets ready for work, etc. There's
some really dreadfully cliché interaction with her boyfriend Mickey, before we
settle down into real-time to watch Rose as she's getting off work, only to get
stuck with one last task before leaving. She has to take something downstairs to
Wilson, the chief electrician.
Wilson's office, apparently, is within a labyrinthine basement. Rose can't find
him, so she wanders around looking for him, which, if she'd ever
seen a scary movie, she'd have known better. Just when all hope of finding
Wilson seems lost, the door to the basement mysteriously slams shut, locking Rose
downstairs. Which wouldn't be a big deal, except that the dozens of mannequins
stored down there suddenly start coming to life.
Rose, of course, flees, but just when death seems certain at the hands of this
mannequin menace, which are lurching toward her like a pack of brain-eating
zombies, the Doctor appears beside her, takes her hand, and says, "Run!"
Finally, some action, for run they do, holding hands, oddly enough,
even though they're fleeing for their lives. Though Rose seemed perplexed by the
basement's layout, the Doctor has no trouble navigating, and leads Rose to the
safety of the elevator. It's a narrow escape though although our protagonists
were running full out and the plastic zombies were lurching and shuffling, the
plastic people are right behind them, and one of them manages to thrust his arm
between the elevator doors. Fortunately, the Doctor is quick to whip out his sonic
screwdriver, which he uses to disable the mannequin's arm, wrenches it off at the
joint, and tosses it to Rose as the elevator closes its doors and whisks them to
The Doctor escorts Rose from the building, only to tell her to forget about him,
wiggle a bomb at her, and tell her to run for her life. He goes back inside to slag
those plastic zombies, and shortly after Rose departs, the whole store explodes and
goes up in flames.
Fate gets the Doctor and Rose back together again the next day, and Rose learns
that the thing controlling the mannequins "want[s] to overthrow the human race
and destroy [it]."
The Doctor and Rose inexplicably bond and the Doctor spouts some really strange
stuff that Rose seems to take in stride, then leaves her and vanishes in his
Telephone Box time machine what we will soon learn is called the TARDIS
(Time and Relative Dimension in Space).
Puzzled after the Doctor's disappearance, Rose goes home to google the Doctor,
and after some pathetically lame search terms, tries "doctor blue box," and
conveniently gets a relevant hit as the first search result: the website of a
conspiracy theorist, who seems to be an expert on the Doctor, and just happens to
live close enough to Rose that she can drive over for a visit.
Rose's boyfriend, Mickey, who has been demonstrating his complete lack of talent
as an actor with every moment he's been on screen, tags along, and waits in the car
as Rose goes into a strange man's house to gather information. Curiously, he
seems more concerned about the garbage can in front of his car, than he does his
sweetheart, and when he goes to investigate this mysterious can, it quickly
becomes apparent that the can is being controlled by the same thing controlling the
mannequins, and Mickey, well, the garbage can eats him. And burps afterward.
When Rose gets back to the car, however, our good friend Mickey is back in the
driver's seat, no worse for the wear, albeit a bit more shiny and Ken Doll-like.
Strangely enough, Rose doesn't notice he's any different. So they go off to a
restaurant for food and conversation, and while Rose tells Mickey about what she
learned, he starts asking about the Doctor.
As if on cue, the Doctor shows up, and Mickey goes berserk. He tries to kill the
Doctor, his hands transforming into plastic cleaver/mallet things, which he uses to
smash everything in sight in his attempts to behead the Doctor. But it's him who
gets beheaded the Doctor manages to pop his head off like cork, then runs off
with Rose to the TARDIS.
With Mickey's head in hand, the Doctor is able to use the TARDIS to track the
source of the signal that's been controlling the living plastic. He explains a bit
about the TARDIS to Rose basically, it's a transporter that also functions as a
time machine and off they go in search of the "Nestine Consciousness" that's
been wreaking all this havoc.
Why? It all comes down to that very basic need: food. The plastic people want to
So, more running ensues, and an altercation with the Nestine Consciousness,
which looks a whole lot like a bit vat of lava. Luckily, the Doctor has just the
MacGuffin to save the day, which he can do at any time once he finds the villain,
but he wants to reason with it first. That's a mistake, of course, leading to some
suspense: will the Doctor and Rose save the day? Gee, I wonder!
They do, of course, in lackluster and predictable fashion anyone with
half-a-brain could have seen the right course of action to take five minutes before
either of them does. And la-de-da, everything's well again, and the loose threads
are all tied up in a pretty little bow.
But before the Doctor disappears again, he offers Rose the chance to go with him.
At first, she refuses, claiming someone needs to look after poor pathetic Mickey
(who was found alive and well at the Nestine Consciousness's lair), though why
anyone would pass up the chance to travel through time and space for a lunkhead
like him is beyond me. But wisely, Rose reconsiders when the Doctor pops back
and points out the time travel part. Apparently, that whole "it can transport you
instantly anywhere in the world" thing wasn't enough for Rose since it's got
time travel, well, in that case, see ya later, Mickey. So, Rose goes off with The
Doctor to have wonderful new adventures, and all is well and happy.
Their next two adventures, "The End of the World" and "The Unquiet Dead", play on
some very familiar SFnal themes (which themes are very likely obvious from the
titles), and unfortunately don't do a whole lot to make them fresh and/or exciting.
"The End of the World" has Rose and The Doctor traveling to the very distant future
to witness the Sun going nova. It's not as tragic as it sounds
humanity had abandoned Earth a long time ago, so it's just a lifeless rock. In orbit
around Earth is a space station from which a bunch of strange aliens and "the last
human" will watch as Earth gets consumed by the Sun's expansion. Technobabble
explains why it's safe to be there even though the Sun's about to go nova. Needless
to say, there are some malefactors aboard the station, and Rose and The Doctor
have to save the day.
This is by far the best of the three episodes I viewed for this review. It has some
cool space FX (including a nice shot of the Earth blowing up), and some of the
aliens are interesting, most notably the tree humanoids.
That said, it's still far from good. For instance, consider the following scene. One
of the station's stewards is sitting at a control panel, which is located
in a room with a large window facing the Sun. This window apparently has some
kind of shielding on it, which prevents the steward from getting burnt to cinders.
You'd think that the deactivation of this kind of shield would be a complex process
to insure that one doesn't do it accidentally. However, the mischievous spider-like
robots that have infested the station (and do the bidding of the abovementioned
malefactors), have no trouble deactivating the shield, as all it takes is one touch of
a button to turn it off, and the steward goes up in smoke.
No daft enough? Well how about this: after some station malfunctions arise, The
Doctor goes in search of the problem. His search eventually leads him to a
cavernous room with a series of hundreds-of-feet-high walkways right out of "Star
Wars". The switch The Doctor needs to throw is at the end of one of these
walkways, which is blocked by a giant spinning fan with blades that would turn a
man into quivering bloody sushi. It's a scene as ludicrous as the one lampooned in
"Galaxy Quest", and for a show to use such a scene in a non-satirical way is itself
After watching this episode, despite its problems, I was optimistic about seeing the
next one. The second had improved dramatically upon the first, so I thought that
the trend might continue. Alas, it does not.
In "The Unquiet Dead", The Doctor and Rose travel back to the late 1800s, and a
good thing too: it seems those titular dead are not just noisome
they're ambulatory and hungry.
The episode was painful, so let me sum up quickly. Our heroes encounter Charles
Dickens. The Doctor acts like a gibbering fanboy. Rose makes no effort to fit in
with the times (except for her clothing). A psychic girl is the key to understanding
the undead menace. It all has something to do with gaseous aliens.
I have a theory: maybe the dead were unquiet because they'd learned that the requisite undead episode was going to be so awful? How would they
know that in advance, you might ask? Maybe the psychic girl told them. Or
maybe they read the script.
For the most part, the show has very much of a B-movie feel to it in the acting,
the writing (and dialogue), the production values...in every aspect. I mean, come
on: living mannequins? (Somebody help me! I'm having an Andrew McCarthy
flash back!) The FX also pale in comparison to the show Who replaces in SCI FI's
lineup (Battlestar Galactica); in fact, the first episode doesn't have much FX to
speak of, and those that are present are woefully inadequate. But some of the FX
sequences in later episodes are interesting (if not visually stunning), such as when
the Earth goes boom in episode two. Which is not to say that an SF show should
be all about the effects, but in this day and age, viewers have come to expect a bit
more. It would be more forgivable if the stories themselves were stronger, but
alas, they're not good enough to make up for the terrible acting and production
In the end, Rose and the show wisely casts aside the deadwood of Mickey
and the talentless hack playing him. (Or have they? Future episode summaries
seem to indicate he'll be back.) But the overall acting doesn't fare much better.
Christopher Eccleston (The Doctor) and Billie Piper (Rose) are a couple notches
above poor, useless Mickey, but neither one of them is going to get nominated an
Emmy any time soon. Eccleston, at least, we only have to put up with for this first
season he bailed on the show and was replaced by David Tennant, who really
can't be much worse (one can hope). Though I seem to be in the minority in this,
as Eccleston and Piper seem to be receiving a lot of praise from the fan community
for their portrayals.
I should point out that I've never watched any of the previous incarnations of Dr.
Who, so I'm viewing this series with a fresh eye, and my opinions are not
influenced by childhood affections or nostalgia. I understand that Dr. Who has a
fanatical following, and for those people, I expect the show will be very popular
and will remain a hit. But while it'll please those fans, I doubt it's going to make
many new ones.