Review: Doctor Who revival Season 1

The 50th anniversary of Doctor Who got me a bit hyped up again. I’d sort of cooled off on Who in the last few seasons, not enough to stop watching it, but enough for me to start to feel a bit apathetic. I mean nothing against Matt, I just think the writing has gone a bit off the rails. I’m sure it’s all very clever but it just didn’t have the sentimental fun of the Russel T Davies era.

Christopher EcclestonPerhaps I was looking back with Rose-tinted glasses (pun sort of intended), so I decided to dust off the boxsets and watch the 2005 revival season, with Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor, flanked by the incomparable companion Rose Tyler (Billie Piper).

Doctor Who was still recovering from its cancellation in the 80s, and its failed attempt at a reboot with its 90s TV movie. It wasn’t a sure thing, and there was no reason to think it would return to being one of the biggest shows on the BBC. As a result, it had a noticeably slimmer budget for effects, but they stretched it pretty well. The sparing use of showstopping graphics meant that the scripts had to be stronger.

I think for the most part they succeeded with that. Out of all the stories, I’d struggled to pick a particularly duff one. Some of the two-parters felt a little spun out, but that’s not isolated to this season. The one-parters with their slightly smaller scope than later one-parters did feel simple enough not to rush, and they were all the better for them.

The “Bad Wolf” story arc was more of a reward for regular viewers than a penalty for the casual viewer, something I feel is important to an extent and something the most recent seasons fall down on. Even regular viewers struggle with the 100mph nonsense pseudo-science explanations these days I think, and it’s reflected in the viewing figures.

rose tylerThe “Aliens of London” and “The Empty Child” two-parters were very well done, it’s quite nice to see how seemingly unnoteworthy characters were introduced, only to become recurring characters, like Harriet Jones and Jack Harkness. In particular the events in the finale spawns a whole other series, Torchwood, with Jack Harkness in charge.

Plenty of time was devoted to soul-searching and difficult moral situations, like “Aliens of London” followup “Boom Town”, and “Dalek”. The latter was a thrilling display of the might of the Doctor’s oldest enemy, and yet it felt like one of the prime offenders of namedropping the Time War without really advancing the mythology. I mean we’ve only really properly approached the subject now, eight years later!

Some of the dialogue was pretty cheesy, occasionally going for some old-time romanticism with some of the Doctor’s dialogue. Particularly naff was penultimate episode “Bad Wolf” which sends up reality TV in a fairly uninspiring fashion. Perhaps I just didn’t really warm to the Doctor. I’m suppose to want to go on an adventure with him, but his moodswings from scowling Timelord to cheeky Northern chappy were too extreme and often for me to ever feel totally comfortable with him.

Either way, a solid season, and I hope the second one holds up just as well as I remembered.

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