Season 1, Story 1 (Overall Series Story #157)
But "new" isn't a thing that lasts. It's 8 years later and if it were only a pleasure to watch because it was new ... well, that wouldn't do us much good. We've been through two more regenerations and the return of far more than just the Nestene: we've had Daleks, Cybermen, Weeping Angels, the Silence, and Vashta Nerada, and so much more. So, now that it's just familiar again, is this story, this season, still worthwhile?
It sure is.
Said it before and I'll say it again, we deserved more time with Eccleston's Doctor. Not that I'd take it from Tennant's time ... I guess I'm saying they made us wait too long for Eccleston's Doctor, we should have had at least three or four years of him in the role, then Tennant. Eccleston was so good from the start, with that Northern accent ("Lots of planets have a North!") and the way he transitioned from cold anger to a giant grin and back, he was alien, but an interesting alien. Clive's research having so many photographs and sketches of Nine, since he was freshly regenerated, it tells us he had lots more adventures ahead then what we ever saw in the Bad Wolf storyline. Would've liked to have seen those is all. I don't think many fans count Eccleston as a favorite, certainly not the way Tennant and even Smith have joined Tom Baker in the fans' collective pantheon of the best of the best, but I think his short run and the distance he's kept from the series since leaving have left many cold and prone to short-shrifting his Doctor.
|Is it the ears?|
On the downside, the incidental music is uneven in this episode, it felt a bit dated when it was fresh back in 2005. (My wife remarked during one of the running scenes that it is sounded a bit Wonder Woman-y and she wasn't wrong.) And Mickey's still a bit too cowering and unlikable, that he brings out a contemptuous side of the Doctor doesn't play well, but we understand why the Doctor doesn't invite him, and that he wouldn't have wanted to go, so it's at least coherent. (The character improves over time and I'm glad this wasn't the last we saw of him, it just wasn't enjoyable chemistry.) The Nestene invasion isn't much of an invasion, the killing of Clive feels a bit mean-spirited, and it all wraps up rather quickly. As far as plotting, mystery, interestingness of the threat, this episode doesn't offer much. But ...
But that's because it's all about meeting Rose. Billie Piper is perfectly cast and she's got great chemistry with Eccleston, that's what really carries this episode beyond the novelty of the return. She may be just a shop girl living with her mum, but she's both only that and a bright, brave young woman capable of so much more. That Billie Piper sells both parts of character is a testament to her skill and natural charm. Casting her was a master stroke at least equal to the casting of Eccleston.
So, despite my nitpicks, this is still a strong episode and a well-worth watching to get a sense of what this new Doctor is all about. While this Doctor may be capable of anger and indifference, his hallmarks are fairness and broad-mindedness -- he's a much needed character in an era of neoconservativism, rising inequality, and ascendant oligarchy. Whether he's the Doctor you think you want, he's the Doctor we needed.
[Update: I'm reading this post on "Rose" by Mr. Sandifer -- he's author of the brilliant TARDIS Eruditorum over in the blogroll) and it's making me think I need to step up my game. Not necessarily by going all Rose-asserts-her-narrative-nature, but by bringing more to table than gobsmacked fan gush. As much as I enjoy that post, good grief, I dread being told what songs were at the top of the charts with each post about a broadcast.]