Monday, March 11, 2013

Doctor Who - S. 1 Favorite Episodes

 The difficulty in picking favorites from a Doctor Who series is that with only 13 episodes, they often all offer something significant and move the story arc or characters along.  But I’ve given it the old college try.  Here’s Series 1 :

 Ep. 1 – Rose

This inaugural episode is a nice set-up for all that is to come.  It introduces all the major players in a natural way, and sets up the tone of the show (an outer layer of silly and goofy but with a chewier , meatier interior).  The show let us know that while in many respects it’s a kids show,  it won’t pull punches with scenes showing kindly Clive being killed and conversations revealing the Doctor’s more intense side like when he tells Rose he can feel the Earth’s rotation.  It gave me and Rose the chills! Christopher Eccleston is, of course, awesome and inhabits the Doctor immediately. 

It has some good funny and classic lines: “Nice to meet you, Rose. Run for your life!”; Rose: “If you’re an alien why do you sound like you’re from the north?”  The Doc: “Lots of planets have a north.”

And do you think the Doctor comes back to tell Rose that they could travel in time as well as space knowing that would clinch it for her? Father’s Day suggests otherwise but I wonder…

Ep. 6 Dalek

This episode is significant because it introduces those of us new to Who to a classic Who villain – the Dalek.  It is also significant in establishing that the Doctor, despite appearances, is pretty messed up inside.  His losses during the Time War come rushing to the surface with the first “Exterminate” and he wars with them throughout the episode.  Doctor #9 is a damaged soul and Chris Eccleston plays him beautifully.

Rose also gets some development – we witness her bravery and her innocent compassion.  This episode illustrates why Rose is important to the Doctor - he needs her youth and heart to balance out the darkness by which he is being consumed.  

Some other thoughts:

  • Doctor Who is unapologetically “rah rah Brittania” and this is one of the first eps  (but not the last)where American’s are portrayed in a less then flattering light – arrogant, greedy, presumptuous, morally bankrupt.  Not that we yanks don’t deserve a some criticism but it makes me a little squirmy:)

  • We get some pretty strong language about how the Doctor feels about Rose, in fact -  Dalek: “What use are emotions if you won’t save the woman you love” this is probably the least coy this show ever gets on the subject.  Of course the Doctor doesn’t confirm or deny this statement, just agrees to let the Dalek free in order to save Rose.

Favorite moments:  The Doctors response to the Dalek; Rose being trapped “Sorry I was a bit slow” and her desperate plea to him that it wasn’t the Doctor’s fault and that she wouldn’t change a thing; the Dalek’s  identity crisis, it’s realization that it is contaminated;  the scene between Rose, the Dalek and the Doctor as the Dalek feels the sun -  Rose: “It’s not the one pointing a gun at me” … “It’s changing. What about you Doctor, what the hell are you changing into?” Doctor: “Oh Rose, they’re all dead” – this scene is manipulative but great acting all around that truly sells it Dalek: “Are you frightened Rose Tyler?” Rose: “Yeah” Dalek: “” ; The exchange between Rose and the Doctor as she tries to convince him to take Adam along. 

Ep. 8 Father’s Day

I actually have mixed feelings about this episode because in most ways it’s a very difficult episode for the character of Rose.  Not just emotionally difficult for her but difficult as a viewer not to want to shake some maturity into her.   It’s difficult to watch.   But it’s this central struggle that makes this such a key episode: for establishing and helping Rose grow and for revealing some truths about Rose and the Doctor’s relationship.  It also introduces the character of Pete Tyler and completes Rose’s little family circle.  As mentioned above I really like Rose’s family and the inclusion of them pretty heavily into the show so it’s good to finally meet Pete.

By this point in the series, the Doctor is pretty smitten with Rose.  Not necessarily in a romantic sense (though if you ask me…) but definitely wrapped up in her, dependent upon her.  And she shows her youth in a big and very believable way.  I’ve heard viewers call Rose a Mary Sue but for me she doesn’t even come close.  She’s a very believable 19 year old and while the Doctor may treat Rose as if she were perfect that’s because for him, she is, at this moment in his life. 

So basically I love this ep because of all the juicy emotional stuff and character development into which you can sink your teeth.   Some favorite moments: Rose uncomfortably wheedling the doctor, trying to sound casual, about going to see her dad; the scene in Pete’s apartment where Rose, again uncomfortably tries to play like everything is cool while the Doctor glares at her and then the conversation after; the scene in the church when Rose and the Doctor come back together; the scene where Pete realizes who Rose is and the scene where he realizes he’s dead in the future; the scene where Pete realizes what he must do and reveals that the Doctor was trying very hard to avoid the ultimate solution.   

Ep. 9 The Empty Child

Doctor Who does “to be continued” episodes really, really well.  This is the first and one of the best.  It’s a great story set up with a bit of alien tech falling in London during the World War II blitz and causing all sorts of havoc.  The child, Jamie, stalking Nancy and the Doctor is seriously creepy and affecting.  The character of Nancy and the actress playing her are great.   “And I want to find a blond in a Union Jack.  I mean a specific one, I didn’t just wake up this morning with a craving.”

The real joy of this episode is the introduction of Captain Jack.  All the interactions between Rose and he are 6 tons of fun.  “Sorry there was Hello twice there. Dull but you know thorough.” – an addlepated and overwhelmed Rose.

Ep. 10 The Doctor Dances

“The world doesn’t end because the Doctor Dances.”  The flirty banter between Rose and The Doctor before and during their transport onto Jack’s ship; The Doctor and Jack’s… charged …interactions.  The denouement of this is emotional and dramatic with an unexpected twist.  The Doctor’s joy at being able to save everyone “Give me a day like this, just one day” “All that weapons tech in the hands of a hysterical 4 year old looking for its mummy”  The final scene when the doctor remembers how to dance.  The healing continues.  “Jack (about the Tardis) - Much bigger on the inside – the Doctor (about Jack) You better be”

Ep. 13 The Parting of the Ways

Religious Daleks ! The Doctor is going through some pretty heavy emotional stuff in this episode - he thought the sacrifice of his people was worth it only to find out that the Daleks live on.  As usual Christopher Eccleston is great revealing the emotional weight underlying the Doctor’s usual wackadoodle demeanor.   There’s a great moment in the TARDIS after rescuing Rose that he just leans into the door motionless for moments as the Daleks scream “exterminate” outside.   He thought he was done with that but it turns out he isn’t

The Doctor and his companions are always best when up against impossible odds and this episode delivers.  We have a lot of bravery and sacrifices being made, and Rose convincing Mickey and Jackie that if she can’t help save the Doctor and save future history then her life is meaningless. The Doctor has shown her a better way to live life and she is distressed at not being able to go down fighting.  She ends up saving the day and wiping out the Daleks so the Doctor doesn’t have to go through it again. 

The Doctor’s tenderness towards Rose is everywhere apparent in this episode: his dramatic declaration that he will rescue her and the big hug when they reunite, his affectionate appreciation that it never occurred to her to run away.  And of course his sending her away so she’ll be safe, not being able to bear sacrificing her as well as all the others.   His dismay at what she has done, what he has put her into a position to do.  Rose saves the Doctor here, in this instance, but it’s clear that she’s been saving him all series. 

This episode kind of encapsulates everything I love about the series:  the doctor’s wacky bravado balanced by the damage he has taken over his eons -long life; the relationships, complex and real;  the big questions; the action; the supporting characters being awesome and kicking ass. 

So many moments to love but a few that I especially like:  the Doctor’s hologram turning to her “Have a good life.”; Jackie bringing the big truck  “What are you Doctor, Coward or Killer?” “Coward, any day.”; Yay, Jack is saved;  the kiss, the stroking;  “That’s right, I sang a song and the Daleks ran away.”

And finally “Before I go, Rose I just want to tell you that you were fantastic.  Absolutely fantastic.  And you know what?  So was I.”  Couldn’t have said it better myself.  Bring on David Tennant!

Whew!  Series one was really stellar!  What are your favorite episodes or moments from series one?  Do you think Rose is a Mary Sue? Anybody have Chris Eccleston as their favorite Doctor?

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