Doctor Who

Blu-Ray Review: Doctor Who – The Complete First Series (2005) – I Want a House Call!

In contemporary England, a young lady by the name of Rose goes about her daily life as a department store clerk. One night just before leaving, she goes to perform an errand she forgot in the basement and happens upon mannequins who seem to come to life. A man appears out of nowhere and helps her escape. He tells her to run for her life and promptly disappears.

So begins the most recent incarnation of the British science-fiction television series, Doctor Who. Featuring Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor and Billie Piper as Rose, it brought a contemporary feel and edginess to the show so long loved on both sides of the pond. There is great chemistry between the two actors as well, creating a sexual tension that I never remember detecting before in the series.

Fans of the series in its previous incarnations remember the cheesy special effects. This was usually as a result of budget constraints, but it also came to be an endearing part of the series. Even in the years after Star Wars, I can remember the dated-looking effects of Doctor Who with a good amount of fondness. In this newest incarnation, the special effects are a step up from the old series, although they aren’t too spectacular in keeping with the campy flavor which is a tradition in the series. I am glad the producers seemed to be able to strike a balance between updating the look and feel of Doctor Who.

What really propels this new series along are the stories, however. The Doctor is back in what is now his ninth incarnation as a Time Lord. They have the power to regenerate, which explains all of the changes in actors over the years. The stories throughout the season follow an arc of sorts, but at the same time, the episodes are very individualized. If I missed a week during the broadcast on the Sci-Fi Channel, I didn’t feel lost. The boxed set of all thirteen episodes makes it easy to follow the season all the way through.

The Daleks are back as if thee could ever be a Doctor Who without them. My eleven-year-old daughter has a new favorite phrase – EXTERMINATE!!! – with which she drives everyone crazy. Yes, a British science-fiction series has transcended the generations and crossed to the ocean to be enjoyed by an American pre-teen. But the temptation to greatly update the Daleks was also resisted and they are in the tradition of the earlier season which will keep fans of the old series very happy.

The stories during this season primarily center around Earth, as the Doctor seemingly courts Rose with his ability to travel through time and space. After their first encounter with the Plastic People on Earth, they travel five billion years in the future to watch the sun destroy the planet (uninhabited by this point) along with other intergalactic dignitaries only to uncover a nefarious plot. Then it’s back to Earth in 1860 England to battle mysterious beings, In the current day, just as the Doctor is tempted to leave Rose with her family and friends, he encounters aliens who disguise themselves as part of the British government.

There are many great stories and many terrific characters brought into the show. One of my favorites toward the end of the season was Captain Jack Harkness (portrayed by John Barrowman), a hunky, sophisticated, and utterly charming man who competes with the Doctor for Rose’s affections. This has led to a spin-off series for Jack and I hope it gets airtime in the U.S.

The acting is really good throughout the series. I totally enjoyed Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor. He really brought something different to the role in many ways while at the same time there seemed to be hints of the Doctors of the past. It didn’t seem to be intentional, but a good choice of actors on the part of casting, but that’s the beauty of acting in that when it’s done right you’re not sure if it’s deliberate or coincidental. Those moments don’t feel forced, either. Eccleston comes off as bossy, brash, and obnoxious at times, while a few moments later he could make me weak in the knees with his charm and understanding. He’s a daredevil taking Rose along for the ride of her life and for the first time, the Doctor seems to have fallen in love. Never in all the years I’ve seen him with all the different traveling companions has this happened. It’s something new and it seems to suit the two of them quite well.

Billie Piper is good as Rose. She is torn between the ties to her family and her sometimes-boyfriend, and the life of excitement the Doctor entices her with. What young woman in a dead-end job wouldn’t be smitten with a man who comes into her life and promises to take her traveling the world, or in this case, the universe? Piper is believable as Rose because she has a good bead on that line of thinking and keeps Rose young and adventurous, not worldly. Even as the Doctor is berating her for things she does that he considers “stupid”, I knew she was beating herself up all the more. This is especially true in Father’s Day where Rose finally gets to meet the father she never knew, who was killed when she was just a baby. She seems to take a lot of abuse from the Doctor, but it seemed to look after a while that he was beating himself up more than her, and she was beating herself up at the same time. Yet the tension is still there between them, unspoken.

Rose’s mother is portrayed by Camille Coduri as Jackie Tyler. She is a mother-in-law many men can identify with, but at the same time she loves her daughter and is just looking out for her. She just can’t see that Rose won’t be satisfied with the life of a department store clerk; she longs for adventure. It’s a longing she gets from her father and perhaps that’s what Jackie sees and what frightens her. But Jackie is a loving mother, if a bit daft at times, and her appearances throughout the season really serve to bring Rose back to the reality of what her life was like and what the world she left behind was like. Coduri really pulls off the role quite well, especially in light of what she’s supposed to believe – that her daughter is off traveling through time and the universe with this “Time Lord”.

From the villains to the guest stars, I didn’t have a complaint throughout this season. I enjoyed it immensely, as did my eleven-year-old daughter. Watching this together became a ritual and when we could view all the episodes again on DVD, we jumped at the chance. While there is a message and some intensity, it’s really a great show to watch together and there’s no need to know the whole backstory of Doctor Who. If you’ve never seen a Dalek before in your life, you’ll still be able to follow this season with no problem.

My only slight disappointment was the end of this season. I was enjoying it so much and I have to wonder if, after what happened, the chemistry will be the same as I’ve enjoyed. Time will tell…

Disc One:
• Rose
• The End of the World
• The Unquiet Dead

Disc Two:
• Aliens of London
• World War Three
• Dalek

Disc Three:
• The Long Game
• Father’s Day
• The Empty Child
• The Doctor Dances

Disc Four:
• Boom Town
• Bad Wolf
• The Parting of the Ways

Disc Five:
Various special features including the Doctor Who Confidential series

Special Features:
• BBC Breakfast Interview with Christopher Eccleston
• Destroying the Lair
• Making Doctor Who with Russell T. Davies
• Waking the Dead
• Laying Ghosts
• Launch Trailers
• Storyboard of Opening Trailer
• Deconstructing Big Ben
• On Set With Billie Piper
• Trailers
• Mike Tucker’s Mocks of Balloons
• Designing Doctor Who
• The Adventures of Captain Jack
Doctor Who Confidential:
• Bringing Back the Doctor Featurette
• The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly Featurette
• Tardis Tales
• I Get A Side-Kick Out of You
• Why On Earth?
• Dalek
• The Dark Side
• Special Effects
• Weird Science
• Unsung Heroes and Violent Death
• The World of Who
• The Last Battle
• Christmas Special

3 replies »