Monday, August 15, 2005

Is There a Doctor in the House?

Taking a break from political conspiracy theories, I would like to do a post-mortem of the new Doctor Who.

I had waited years for DW to return, and from the moment Chris Eccleston appeared as the Doctor, without any explanation as to what had happened to Paul McGann, I knew this series was going to disappoint. Then came the killer council wheelie bin, and it all went downhill from there...

I'll start with the pros, so as to make clear that, while disappointed, I was not always unimpressed.


1. Rose Tyler. Possibly the most 3-dimensional and best-written female assistant in the show's history, or at least on par with Barbara Wright, Sarah-Jane Smith and Ace. Former Britney clone Billie Piper was a revelation to us all (and don't think I'm not a wee bit excited that she's turning up to play Vicky Pollard's arch-nemesis in the third series of Little Britain).

2. Episode Dalek. I really didn't care for this episode the first time I watched. Then I saw it sober. A lot more became clear and there are rumours I may have even been a little teary by the end of it.

3. Special guest stars. There was a time in Doctor Who when John Cleese cameoing in a three-line spot was the height of its celebrity. This season gave us Simon Callow, Zoe Wanamaker, Penelope Wilton, Simon Pegg and John Barrowman (let's just pretend Central Park West was a super-hit in the mid 90s). Next season promises us Anthony Stewart Head, among others. OK, so they're all not exactly superstars, but they're recognisable, very talented in their respective roles and an improvement on all the stuffy Shakespearean has-been poofs in silver jump suits that otherwise defined the DW "special guest" roll.

4. Opening titles and theme song. Goose-bump inducing. Well, the theme anyway.


1. Rose Tyler. Yes, she's in both columns. The problem was that she was a little too good - to the point that the show could have quite reasonably been called Rose. Which leads us into the most significant con...

2. The ninth Doctor/Christopher Eccleston. Eccleston is a good actor. Watch Shallow Grave, Jude or 28 Days Later to confirm this. But as with that other good actor Colin Baker, his Doctor was just not very well-written. A whole season later, and I was left with little pathos or appreciation as to what made this Doctor tick. His character was wildly inconsistent and often quite useless - Rose saved the day in more than one episode.

3. Homosexuality. As I've said before, Russell T Davies' resurrection of DW was at times way too gratuitously gay. Everything from "Toxic" to extreme plastic surgery to gender-bending to a muscular bi-sexual pilot in leather pants was thrown in - but to what end (so to speak)? OK, many of the hard-core DW fans are big 'mos, myself included, but the gay thing stopped being cute fairly early on in the series and quickly became tiresome and predictable.

Camp is like the Daleks or the Cybermen - use infrequently for maximum effect. Unless we're talking about Desperate Housewives or the Golden Girls. But we're not. So there.

4. Doctor/Rose relationship. Remember how narky DW purists were in the Paul McGann telemovie where he kissed his companion? "So cheesy, so Americanised, it's just not cricket" they were heard to wail. And yet, no-one seems upset by Eccleston's "you need a doctor!" line moments before kissing Rose. And yes, I know it was to save her life, but come on! That's a very, very stinky piece of cheese indeed.

5. Narrative holes. Particularly that minor little tidbit about the end of the Timelords. Be fair - the writers give us a whole series where this defines the Doctot's motivation, and is referred to in almost every episode, and it's never been seen? I can only hope the David Tennant years to come will take us to this great Time War, otherwise it's all a bit Shada-eqsue - sounds very impressive when Tom Baker's narrating it but without any vision it's all somewhat redundant.

6. What the hell happened to Paul McGann? The reason why The Secret Life of Us stopped rating after 2 episodes? Half the cast wasn't there anymore and no attempt was made to offer explanations as to where they'd all gone. It's a great shame a whole DW regeneration is wasted. McGann is also a great actor - better than Eccelston, I would say - and it's not his fault the American telemovie was so shit. He deserved better.

Conclusion: I'm conflicted. I'm glad DW is back on my Aunty, and I'm hanging for the new series with the quite pleasant-looking Tennant (not that Eccleston wasn't without a sexual charm, in a big-eared, ridiculously thick Northern accent sort of way). But I would also call this series a very shaky start, to say the least.


At 15/8/05 4:48 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are you sure Billie Piper was post Britney? I can't remember exactly.

At 15/8/05 4:53 pm, Blogger Sam said...

Just post, I think. I seem to remember jumping around as a stupid gay boi teen to "Because We Want To!" after I was slutty teen gay boi gyrating to "Hit Me Baby".

At 15/8/05 7:28 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

National Day of Action on Saturday, Victory in the Pacific commemoration today with the mighty midget in full patriotic mode and QP puts everything in perspective with a brilliant blog on Dr. Who. I don't know why people say you're shallow Sam. (meant to put a smiley face here but it turned out somewhat phallic and you don't need encouraging)JT.

At 15/8/05 8:19 pm, Blogger Nic White said...

Theres nothing wrong with the 1996 telemovie. It rated badly because the yank just didnt get it. It was a smash hit when it was shown in Britain a bit later.

I liked D9, but he was a bit too hip in being an adrenaline junkie, but a lot of fun.

And of course it was campy, its Dr Who! It was supposed to be corny, campy and cheesy, thats what its all about.

Jack better return, I liked him.

At 15/8/05 9:14 pm, Blogger Sam said...

Fair go JT, I've been making with the intense analytical political postings all week - I think we all need a break!

You're right though, I don't need encouraging.

At 16/8/05 10:37 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Paul McGann turned up in the Hornblower series along with Ioan Gryfidds (you try welsh spelling when p***ed). A double dose of eye candy, I mean great acting. Did think of you on Saturday. Walking back from Federation Square, there above Young & Jacksons, in red sparkling lights - Naomi Robson This Day Tonight. I said a silent hello to the Penguin. JT

At 16/8/05 11:01 am, Anonymous Bazza (Crow scouser) said...

Twenty years ago.The Globe Pub next door to the Half Moon fringe theatre East London, having a drink with Paul McCann (scouse). Memories gorgeous memories; aaahhhh!

Dream on bazza.......

At 16/8/05 11:01 am, Anonymous Zakalwe said...

Latest Dr Who series had no wobbly sets, monsters wernt made of bubble wrap and styrofoam, and no crappy special effects. There had to be some camp elements injected some how! ;-)

All hail the defabricator!

At 16/8/05 11:13 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope to see lots more like this!

I have a article site/blog. It pretty much covers article related stuff.

Please check it out if you get time.

At 16/8/05 11:17 am, Blogger Sam said...

Anon: What does selling diamonds have to do with Doctor Who?

At 19/8/05 9:23 am, Anonymous Adrian said...

I'd agree with most of what you say. The problem for me is that the new series doesn't follow up on what are potentially its most interesting concepts, like the Time War; and too often it settles for emotionally exiguous melodrama. Dalek and Father's Day, two big episodes for the series, were light on plot and embarrassingly twee.

Yet the episode featuring Simon Callow was an effective homage to Weng Chi'ang. And the first part of the WWI story introducing Jack Harkness was also very good in most aspects, with the notable exception of Jack Harkness himself.

Here's hoping that the next season improves on the first. There are signs: David Tennant suits the part. And he's cute, in a Peter Davison kind of way (did I say that?). Rose should continue to be a successfully updated combination of Barbara and Ace. Stephen Fry is writing an episode. And Sarah-Jane supposedly has a cameo in the next season...but will she trip and fall over?


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