Television, TV Thursday

Doctor Who (Modern Series) S1, E1-3: A Classic Reborn (TV Thursday)

For the first TV Thursday utilizing the traditional format, I figured I’d start off with a strong show. My personal favorite TV series of all time: Doctor Who. Which means two things: one, we get to revisit one of the most underappreciated Doctors of all time, and two: we get to criticize decade old special effects and technology! Yay!

Reviewing these three episodes turned out to be one hell of a nostalgia trip. I’ve grown up with Doctor Who, specifically the Revival Series. So watching these again brought me right back to being a little kid, crowding around the TV with my family to watch yet another of the Doctor’s adventures.

And just like I have: these episodes have fucking aged!

But the question is: are they still good, despite their age? Can you watch these episodes now and have a good time? Or should you stick to the more current episodes, such as with Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi’s Doctors? Let’s find out, shall we?

Episode 1: Rose
Directed By: Keith Boak
Written By: Russel T. Davies, Robert Holmes
Starring: Christopher Eccleston, Billie Piper, Camille Coduri, and more
Run Time: 44 Minutes
Release Date: March 26th, 2005

Oh my god, the nostalgia is so fucking real!

In our introductory episode to the new series, we’re introduced to our first human companion, and protagonist of the first season: Rose Tyler. She leads a normal, uneventful life, working and living with her mother. But that all goes up in smoke (quite literally) when she meets The Doctor, a strange man who decides to blow the whole shop up to kill a bunch of living plastic! And just like that, Rose is roped into a life of aliens, mystery and life threatening adventure!

As an introduction episode, this one is practically perfect! We get to know both Rose and the Doctor’s characters fantastically well, especially the Doctor. They’re chemistry is absolute gold, and each line of dialogue between them is amazing! Don’t get me wrong though: not all the dialogue is very good.

Looking at you, “Pizza! P-P-Pizza!”

All the actors are absolutely killing it! Christopher Eccleston is an absolute scene thief! His iteration of the Doctor is fantastic, and he brings him to life! Billie Piper accompanies this act marvelously, and she manages to keep up with the eccentric alien at every turn! The two of them have one of the best companion-Doctor dynamics in the whole series and I adore them!

The story is also fairly well paced. It doesn’t waste your time. You get enough info on Rose to endear you to her, then bam! You’re thrown right into the action! Here’s the aliens, here’s the Doctor, now let’s get off on an adventure! Though Rose does get over Mickey’s possible death, as well as the alien threat, fairly quickly, all things considered.

The visuals are… charming, let’s say. The camera work is quite good, though it’s nothing spectacularly interesting. The lighting does the job, but hey! When you’re working with all natural lighting, you’ll take what you can get.

*Psst! Bit of advice for you aspiring film makers! Don’t use natural lighting. It will ruin you.*

The special effects are laughable and I love them! While all the practical stuff still looks great, as practical effects always will in my opinion, the CGI has done the exact opposite. They have that classic mid-2000s, artificial feeling. None of them are very convincing at all, but to be fair: at least they show us what’s going on!

Unlike Season 11…

The monster of this episode is an… odd pick. They’re effective, yes, and they’re certainly creepy. The idea of all plastic in the world coming to life and killing you, while undeniably cheesy (it wouldn’t be Doctor Who otherwise), is suitably frightening. Not Weeping Angel or Silents levels of scary, but they serve as a good enough introductory villain.

All things considered? This episode holds up decently well. It’s fun, it has some great character moments, and it serves as a great introduction to the new series. Unfortunately, it is aged by old special effects and lackluster lighting. Still, it’s a fun watch that I would recommend, especially if you’re looking to get into the show.

Episode 2: The End of the World
Directed By: Euros Lyn
Written By: Russel T. Davies
Starring: Christopher Eccleston, Billie Piper, Simon Paisley Day, and more
Run Time: 45 Minutes
Release Date: April 2nd, 2005

Picking up right where the show left off, this episode focuses on Rose’s first adventure with the Doctor. So where better to go than the year 5 Billion to witness the end of your home world! If the Doctor doesn’t know how to impress a woman, I don’t know who does!

This is the episode where the show starts to get really creative! We see unique and fun aliens of all varieties, bringing the Who-Niverse (I will never use that term again, I am so sorry) to life for the first time in the Revival Era! From tree people to the Face of Bo, every creature in this episode is delightful, fascinating and classic sci-fi fun!

Though it is a bit odd to see the Doctor flirt with a tree. That’s not racist, is it?

Among these freaky and interesting aliens is Casandra, the ‘Last Human’. She’s a freaky creature, who, despite literally fucking exploding at the end of this episode, returns for a later episode in Season 2. In terms of an antagonist, she does a fine job. She serves as a fine antagonist to the episode, though she hardly stands up to the plethora of other Doctor Who villains and monsters.

The visuals in this episode are a bit better than the previous. The lighting is slightly less distracting, though everything is still oddly bright (then again, they are right next to an exploding star, so I guess it makes sense). The CGI, on the other hand, is still as bad as the last. Though that’s to be expected, given the time period this episode takes place in.

To cap this one off, we get one of the most defining moments of the series. The exchange that differentiates the new series from the old: the extinction of the Time Lords and the Time War. This foreshadows further events in the series masterfully, and it brilliantly sets this Doctor apart from the old.

Until they fuck all of it to hell and retcon the shit out of it. But again: that’s not until later.

This is yet another good, but aged episode. I don’t think it’s as fun or interesting as the first episode, but it does the job really well. I’d still recommend giving it a watch, especially if you’re new to the franchise.

Episode 3: The Unquiet Dead
Directed By: Euros Lyn
Written By: Mark Gatiss
Starring: Christopher Eccleston, Billie Piper, Alan David, and more
Run Time: 45 Minutes
Release Date: April 7th, 2005

Holy shit, I forgot this episode existed!

In this episode, the Doctor and Rose travel back to 1860 and find themselves in the middle of a zombie mystery! The dead are rising again, encased in a strange blue light. Now the Doctor needs to solve the mystery, stop the dead rising, and save the day! Also, Charles Dickens is there!

Side note: this is one of the only episodes where the Doctor is concerned about how his companion dresses! Most other stories, he just lets them dress however they want, no matter the period! It’s charming to see them actually worry about appearances and keeping some semblance of balance through time.

Before, y’know. That gets tossed entirely out of the window. Kind of like a lot of things in this series, now that I go back and watch it again.

Production value wise, this one is on par with the first. The lighting serves the job, yes, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say it looks good. Everything is so oddly… orange, all the time! Though to be fair, they do take advantage of this by making the ghost aliens blue. They stand out quite well in the orange lighting.

But again, I must ask: why in the hell is everything so god damn orange?!

The monsters of this episode are among the most forgettable in the whole series. Gas-based ghosts? In a series with such memorably designed aliens, from the Daleks to the Slytheen, monsters like these are hardly memorable. Hell, even the Nesteen were more interesting than these guys!

Though to be fair: they do look better in terms of special effects. They’ve aged far better.

This is also the first episode where a historical figure gets involved in the action. While I think Charles Dickens is a good pick (he’s one of my personal heroes. I think he was a god damn genius!), his integration into the story is kind of forced. If you pulled him out of the story, not much would change. Still, it’s a fun first step.

On top of that, we get our first foreshadowing to the finale. For the first time, we’re introduced to the Bad Wolf. It’s brief, and it doesn’t give us anything aside from a mystery. But still, it’s nice to have it foreshadowed, rather than having it pop up out of nowhere in the final episode.

All in all, I think this episode is just okay. It’s got some fun foreshadowing, and it serves as a first for many things in the new series. I’d recommend giving it a watch. But don’t expect the same quality as the peaks we’ll get later in the series.

Conclusion: A Solid Start to a Great Series

These three episodes are rock solid. Sure, they’ve got plenty of issues. For a show all about time travel, this season has sure been hit hard by time. Still, these episodes are a lot of fun, and they serve as a great stepping stone for what’s to come.

But we’ve got a ways to go before the show becomes truly fantastic. Though overcoming the rougher episodes make the better ones all the sweeter!

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