A first-timer watches Doctor Who: episodes 101-103

by Eleni Deacon 4. June 2013 12:08

It’s been pretty embarrassing around these parts to have never seen an episode of Doctor Who. Not only am I regularly confused about what the heck people are talking about, I also feel like I’m missing out on some straight-up good TV. To rectify this wrong, I’m going back to 2005 (on my TV, at least) and watching the whole thing from episode one of the revival. And writing about it over here on this blog.

This week I watched the first three episodes of series one. To summarize what happened in TARDIS-fast terms: The Doctor meets Rose after she gets attacked by mannequins in the department store where she works, and together they save the world from the Nestene Consciousness (i.e. that giant vat of talking evil goo); after ditching her bf in the 2000s, Rose and the Doctor almost get killed by the last human while visiting the final day of the world; then they go back to 1869, hang out with Dickens, and fight off some Gelth who’ve been reanimating old-timey dead bodies.

There’s too much going on here to offer a play-by-play of my thoughts, so in no particular order, here are some of the things I dug and didn’t dig three episodes deep:

I had been warned that the show starts off on a pretty campy note, and while there were some eye-roll moments (like when the Doctor pronounces “Bleak house!” after walking into a dilapidated room with Charles Dickens), overall I enjoyed the goofy, space-caper vibe. I was more charmed than irritated with the silly 1960s-style alien costumes when they visit the last day of the world.

On that note, it was a pretty bold move to use planet Earth’s last day as the setting for the second episode of the series. And while there wasn’t anything too original about how they conceptualized Platform One—it could easily have been the set of any other space show—it was a lot of fun to watch Cassandra, the looks-obsessed final human who, after hundreds of plastic surgeries, has become no more than a flap of skin with a face stretched onto a metal frame. Having the Earth burn up to Britney Spears’ “Toxic” was also a great way to go.

While I like Rose and her slightly-rough-around-the-edges attitude, I’m not totally sold on her chemistry with the Doctor. One minute she’s thrilled to be there, the next minute she’s yelling at him—and the transition between the two emotions isn’t totally gelling for me. That said, it’s probably a bit of a mindfuck to be suddenly hurtling through the ages in a police box. Also, are she and the Doctor gonna make out?

The first moment I found myself really drawn in was when Jabe, the tree alien from the Forest of Cheem, offers her condolences to the Doctor about his planet. Up until then, the show hadn’t come down off its somewhat hyperactive register. The quiet, darker scenes bring a necessary depth behind the wackiness. And of course, now I really want to know what happened to the Doctor’s people.

I like Christopher Eccleston’s enthusiastic, almost child-like Doctor, but the character’s emotional/moral imperatives are still a bit of a question mark to me. If human feelings and attachments are a mystery to him, why does he care about saving the world and helping people? It doesn’t seem like he’s incapable of forming emotional connections, like some kind of robot, maybe just that having close relationships with others isn’t a very familiar for him. It will be interesting to see how this tension plays out within the character as the series continues.

That’s it for the first three episodes of season one! Feel free to agree, disagree, or reminisce in the comments below.

And you can still stream all of the most recent season of Doctor Who by clicking here!