Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Doctor Who: My First Foray

So, as I outlined in a recent post, I've decided I'm going to watch the Doctor Who reboot from the first season onward (i.e. from the beginning of the Ninth Doctor) and last night I began. I was told that it would take some getting used to, that I would probably have to stick with it for a few episodes, but eventually I'd like it.

Well... half of that was true. I loved it from the beginning!

"Rose" gives enough backstory to help even the newest of the n00bs. And I'm new. Now, I'll admit I cheated; my husband was sitting on the couch next to me and I was able to fire questions at him throughout. "What's that blue thing he's holding? What does it do? Why is the inside of the TARDIS bigger than the outside? What's the Doctor's name? Does he have a name? OH WAIT A MINUTE! Is that why he's called Doctor Who, because he says he's the Doctor and people say 'Doctor Who'?"

This episode begins in Rose's world. She's just a normal English girl, going to work in a department store until one day she has to drop something off in the basement and suddenly all of the mannequins in storage come to life and start walking toward her. Now, many people said my 6-year-old could watch this with me, but I watched that scene and just pictured her having nightmares for weeks, so I'm glad she wasn't watching with me. It was campy and over-the-top, but hey, Warren built a female robot on Buffy so he could have sex with it -- this wasn't exactly something I hadn't experienced before on TV.

The introduction to the Doctor was awesome; Eccleston is instantly charming and funny, "Nice to meet you, Rose... now run for your life!!!"

I saw the TARDIS for the first time, and heard the noise that my husband said was pretty true to the original series (that grinding noise it makes when it whirs away). We're introduced to Clive, a guy who has a website about the Doctor and seems like a zany conspiracy theorist... if we didn't know he was absolutely right. This is the way Russell T. Davies gets in all of the background on the Doctor to fill in the n00bs, and then we flash back outside to the garbage bin eating Rose's boyfriend. Or, as my husband said, "In order to get eaten by a garbage pail you've really got to do something dumb." (I loved the added effect of the pail burping afterward.)

At first I thought it was a little OTT that Rose doesn't notice her boyfriend is now plastic, but then I thought it was really funny... the guy's a tool, totally boring, and annoying. She almost dies in an explosion and he comes by to make sure she's ok before heading off to the pub to watch a football match. Winner.

Best line comes from Rose: "If you're an alien, how come you sound like you're from the North?" HAHA! Doctor responds: "Lots of planets have Norths!" Brilliant.

About three-quarters of the way through the ep (we were now in the warehouse with the giant goopy plastic gobby mess talking) my husband said, "This is campier than the original series." I just stared at him and said no, I didn't think so (from the minute here, minute there that I'd ever seen, this wasn't nearly as OTT) but he insists it is. What do you guys think?

My favourite moment was at the end, when the London Eye was starting to be filled with electricity and the Doctor yelled, "It's the end of the world!!" I just thought, ah... as a faithful Buffy viewer I heard that line about three times a season, and I cannot TELL you how warm and fuzzy it makes me feel to hear it again. I welcome, um, whatever the plural of apocalypse is. It feels like home again.

Episode 2, The End of the World, is where Rose finds out just how dangerous her new traveling companion is. He says, "Where do you want to go? Into the past or into the future?" I immediately looked at my husband and asked what he would do. Without a moment's hesitation he said, "I'd go to the 70s and see the Velvet Underground play in New York... then to the 80s to see the Smiths play a small place in Manchester." Meanwhile I'd been thinking I'd go to Bono's high school in 1976 and be there the moment U2 was formed.

God, sometimes I think we're just pathetic. I could go back in time and see one of history's great events or talk to Virginia Woolf or warn Oscar Wilde not to go through with the defamation trial or see my grandparents as children... but no, we just want to go see rock stars before they were famous.


So Rose says let's go into the future and show me something interesting, and he takes her 5 billion years into the future where they're going to watch the Earth come to an end once and for all. Wow. They're on an alien spaceship and she sees all of these creatures enter the place -- crazy music is playing and it feels like the Star Wars cantina -- and the episode was definitely filled with funny moments. They roll in a jukebox and say that humans called this an iPod, and it played the music of the greatest composers of the day... a record drops and it's Tainted Love (the second time I heard that song that day, actually, since it was also on Being Human when I'd been watching it earlier). Then as the Earth begins to crumble, one of them says, "Let us mourn the Earth with a traditional ballad," and Britney Spears' "Toxic" begins playing... HAHA!!! SO funny.

This episode begins the intrigue of where the Doctor came from. One of the tree people discovers he's a Time Lord, and he reveals that he's the last of his race after some sort of war. This was exciting. The special effects were better in this one, and while it had its funny moments (including a bad Michael Jackson joke about too much plastic surgery that just seemed to have lost something watching it now) and it's over-the-topness (the "last human" is one that's had 780 facelifts and is now nothing but a sheet of skin with some capillaries stretched out like a canvas), it ended with some profound thoughts of life and death, of mortality and leaving your mark on the world. We all want to be remembered, but some day this will all be gone. As Rose stands on the edge of oblivion, it suddenly makes her feel very small and insignificant. It was a very powerful ending.

So whoo!! I'm so glad I'm liking this, and now, on to the next one!!


Chuck Power said...

So thrilled that you are liking the show. You are just getting warmed up. It gets sooooo much better. I am really looking forward to reading your thoughts on the future episodes. I have been doing my own rewatch. I'm on the second season of the new series. Have fun Nikki. You are in for a wild ride.

Erin {pughs' news} said...

Oh I'm so glad you like it, Nikki. And believe me when I say, it just keeps getting better. David Tennant is AMAZING. Looking forward to hearing your take on it...

SenexMacDonald said...

Nik, you finally have your toes in the water of Who! Congrats.

I really loved Eccleston. It was like starting Who all over again, and so like the first Doctor who I distinctly remembering watching when the show aired on CBC back in the day, Eccleston became my new 'first' Doctor.

I so enjoyed his season. I was really upset when I learned he was not returning but I grew to love Tennant. Okay, I lie. I grew to LOVE Tennant. It still does not mean that I don't love Eccleston too. LOL

Colleen/redeem147 said...

Yes, that was campier. I didn't like the first episode, and it was the character of Rose that kept me going. And it does get better and better, so I'm glad you liked it from the start.

I cringe when people say new series and original series. I think of it more as the natural development of the series with today's sensibilities; where it would have eventually gone anyway if it hadn't been taken off the air.

But it is brilliant, and I love it. Love your fangirling over it. It warms my hearts.

Chris said...

muahahaha.... welcome to the Doctor side. May I interest you in a sonic screwdriver? hehehehehehe

Susan said...

I did buy this for my husband, but we haven't started watching yet.

I've seen the tail end of some of the Tennant ones while waiting for another show, and it seems to me to be overly dramatic. Is this true of the series in general?

LittleMo said...

Oh Nikki - sooooo glad you are hooked, and that you enjoyed it :-)

I'll have to watch again too now :-)

I grew up watching the older series and they were straighter. Definitely aimed at children so fewer if any jokes and less content for adults too. They were just good old fashioned monsters trying to take over the earth and we've got to beat them stuff.
These series definitely have an adult slant too both in the story and humour etc. And thats great now for us.
Oh and in the 'old days' a story might take about 6 episodes to complete - so we had lots of cliffhanger endings. My kids hate a two parter these days - they always want an instant completion!
Talking of which - I wouldn't recommend them for a 6 year old girl, there are some quite scary parts for them that might induce nightmares.

I was quite sad when Christopher Eccleston only stayed for one series - he was good, but maybe didn't want to be tagged as Doctor Who for ever. And of course Tennant was great as the Doctos, as is Matt Smith now too !

Colleen/redeem147 said...

The old series had a lot of political metaphor etc, so no, never just for kids. It could be pretty violent too.

There's more overt emotional content now, but it was always great stuff.

Page48 said...

And, as if DW itself wasn't enough, you get to look forward to brilliant spin-off material like "Torchwood: Children of Earth".

Loretta said...

I started watching with the reboot, too.

I'll admit that I have some reservations about the series generally (which I'll explain to you as you get farther along, as my problems with the series haven't cropped up with what you've seen so far).

I guess my main complaint is that some episodes reach the level of greatness, but mostly it just settles for being very good.

That being said, I do really like it, and I look forward to each new season. :)

Oh, and start watching the spin-off Torchwood, when you get to the point in the series where it's appropriate to do so. The first season isn't that good, the second season is much better, and the third season/miniseries finally reaches that level of greatness I mention above, making all the earlier seasons sooo worth it. :)

JJ said...

Not that I'm some great expert on parenting or whatever, but maybe you should reconsider watching the show with your little one. Yes, it can be a little scary at times, but kids like being scared as much as the rest of us, and her reactions to some scenes might be more entertaining than what's happening onscreen!

Also, if you can put up with the camp of RTD's Doctor Who, and develop an addiction to British accents, do yourself a favour and check out Merlin.

--Like DW, it's a "tea time" show, appropriate for all ages.

--Anthony Head from Buffy plays the King, and the younger cast members (especially Colin Morgan) are all great, too.

--John Hurt is a hilariously horribly CGI-rendered dragon!

Nikki Stafford said...

JJ: I think in a couple more years she'll be good to watch Doctor Who. I think sometimes we push our kids to grow up way too quickly -- she watches Shrek, for instance, but not Beetlejuice (the neighbours were watching her one afternoon and put that movie on and she was very upset about it). I think at 6, G-rated shows are probably still best, and PG can wait until she's a couple of years older. I'd think Doctor Who is PG, so I'll hold off for a bit. Also, every kid is different. My son might be ready for the show at 6, or I might not want him to see it until he's 12. You just end up knowing what your child will like/not like, or what will scare her in a good way (Harry Potter books) or scare her in a bad way.

And besides, at this stage I figure on my first watch through, I don't want her asking me a million questions the whole time. Especially when I'm asking those same questions to my husband. Ha! :)

Nikki Stafford said...

Here's a question for all of you: Did you like the first or second episode better? I liked the first one, where my husband thought the second one was far better. I've talked to a couple of Doctor Who original series fans, and they also both liked the second, didn't like the first. But I liked how it provided a lot of explanation and backstory, and perhaps that's just old hat for those who saw the original series. Do you think watching the original series makes a difference in how you perceive the first few eps of this show?

Scott said...

Nikki, I definitely think the first episode was primarily structured for the general viewing public (with a few nods to older fans). Russell T Davies' goal was to make the viewer identify with Rose, and generate mystery around the character of the Doctor. Older fans were much more used to seeing the Doctor as the heroic centre of the show. The second episode puts the Doctor a bit more into that role. I won't say much more about subsequent episodes, but needless to say that dynamic is a running theme throughout the first season.

Other common quibbles of the first episode:

1) Noel Clarke's broad slapsticky portrayal of Mickey.

2) Keith Boak's somewhat middling direction of the episode (although there are several nicely iconic moments to his credit).

3) People either love or hate Camille Coduri as Jackie.

4) The plot is a little thin (but honestly that's clearly not the point of the episode). Older fans were used to the serialized format with much more time to tell the story.

In retrospect, with all the pressure taken off, "Rose" is a very entertaining story with some brilliant moments and a knockout performance by Billie Piper as Rose. Honestly, when many old time fans found out a former pop star was cast in the role there was much gnashing of teeth and tapping of keyboards.

Rebecca T. said...

Yeah! We've just started the second season. It'll be fun to see what you have to say as you go along!

I've been loving it so much :)

I'd seen bits and pieces of the older show when I was very little. And my Mom always talks about the "Tom Baker" Dr. Who as if he was the only one :) I've looked at getting some of the older ones, but they are scarce and expensive (not that I've looked extensively). But my parents are enjoying the new one as much as my sister and I are. It's fun to have something to watch together now that we've finished StarGate :)

A.G.Wooding said...

Interesting thoughts Nikki, as always. I actually forgot how good those first two episodes were now, but the series definitely gets better from here. Zoe Wanamaker as the last human is one of my favourite bad guys because it's a little horrifying and yet very funny....pretty much sums up this show really.

The great thing about Doctor Who is it really has got better and better so if you loved these episodes, then you should be really excited right now.

Sharon said...

So glad you're enjoying The Doctor...it only gets better. Little glimmers of Lost pop up from time to time if you look for them. Especially one of the Martha episodes....then again, my sister told me you could relate Barney the Dinosaur to Lost if you really tried...I don't speak to her much anymore....oh, and whatever you do...don't blink!

Pam said...

I never wanted to watch Doctor Who. My fiance got the first season and I begrudgingly sat down and watched the first episode with him. I thought it was awful, terribly campy and not in a good way. It took me a year before I gave it another chance. Once I saw the second episode I was hooked. It gets so much better after the first episode (though there is the occasional dud, mainly the Christmas episodes).

I love Doctor Who now, I especially liked Eccleston. I am eagerly awaiting the release of the next season on DVD.

LittleMo said...

I watched them both last night. It got late for the second one so I fell into that pattern of watch for 5 minutes, doze off for 5 10 minutes then wake up, rewind, watch the next five minutes, doze off ......etc

I definitiely like the second one better. Lots of different aliens.
But very sad and meaningful about the earth blowing up and Gallifrey having been destryed etc !!!
Funny with the choice of music - Toxic!!!!!

Sooze said...

JJ - Love Merlin too! Great family show. Very fun to watch. Campy in all the right ways.

Looks like I gotta borrow me some Doctor Who DVDs.

But wait, Fringe is starting soon! And Modern Family!

Unknown said...

OK, so this has nothing to do with Dr. Who. I just want to say to the Lost fans to watch the DVD commentary for "Across the Sea"!!

A lot of insightful things said from Darlton. Especially about the heart of the Island.

Totally changed the ending for me.
Well, the mythology part anyway.

Ernie said...

I too had never watched Who, but one of my friends is a life long fan. I made fun of him a bit about it, until I watched some episodes. My first ever was a Tennant one (The Girl in the Fireplace ... brilliant) and then went back and watch Eccleston's season and have watch all of the new series and lots of old ones now too.

I can't wait until you get to Matt Smith. This year, with Stephen Moffet as show lead blew all of Russell T Davies seasons out of the water. I'm a huge David Tennant fan, but Matt Smith is The Doctor. No question.