Doctor Doctor Who Guide

I was not very impressed with the first two episodes of the new Doctor Who but after seeing tonight's I just have to say…. Hell yes!!!!!! It is one of the best new things I have seen on British Television for quite a while. I am no ‘TV-buff' and I rarely bother watching anything at all so I am not the best judge about the state of current television but this was truly brilliant.

Eccleston was humourous, eccentric, moody and mysterious in all the right proportions and did some excellent work living up to and exceeding the potential showed in the first two stories, which I found rather showy, shallow and contrived as if they were an extended introduction just to prove a point. The Unquiet Dead really hit it for me and if the rest of the series stays as good I will be impressed.

I find the new (well, either previously unused, new or redesigned because as we know there are a few in there) TARDIS console room rather odd though, it is like a sort of cross between the organic spaceship on Farscape and the TARDIS set used in the 1960s Doctor Who movies starring Peter Cushing. There is a sort of half organic, half junkyard feel to the whole thing, which after watching the BBC Three documentary accompanying this series I can see is totally intended but for me you just can't beat the classic 70s/80s TARDIS. I found the 1996 one a little two gothic and Wellsian for my tastes. I was not a huge fan of the wooden/stained glass console room used by Tom Baker for a while either. I have always had a bit of a hatred of mock-Victorian ‘futuristic' technology along those lines, so it is an improvement on the TARDIS as last seen in my own view. I love the way you can see the ‘Police Box' sign, window and even the old police telephone from the inside though, that little touch pleased me immensely.

Eccleston and Billie Piper were fantastic and the supporting cast was superb, the writing (ominously by Mark Gatiss this time out instead of Russell T Davies) was exquisite and gave the perfect balance I have always adored about Doctor Who at its best. I couldn't help but think of my all time favourite ‘The Talons of Weng Chiang' with the Victorian setting and it is these sort of references back and signs of continuity that I feel are important. The new series should be new but should not be so new that is not Doctor Who as it used to be between 1963 and 1989.

I find Eccleston's lines a bit alarming, I have to concede that. It is a much more modern and working class mode of speech and I have to confess to preferring the eccentric, elaborate and often donnish affectations of the scripts where The Doctor was not so readily mistakable for an, albeit rather remarkable, common Earthling.

What I do like is the fact Rose Tyler (Piper) does not accept The Doctor as her superior and is very forthright and blunt in disagreeing with him. Some co-stars in the series have tended to be a little too submissive and overly trusting and I like how this is a more complex relationship in that it is extremely apparent The Doctor and Rose are really different, they see things in very different ways but they do have an understanding, respect and empathy for each other that allows the friendship to work. The relationships in the new series are the one thing that have not struck me as contrived and forced, you can understand how everyone fits together in every scene.

I also must give an entire paragraph to Simon Callow. He is an actor that just becomes a character in such a real way that even though he is a very recognisable person (to me at least) he is ALWAYS the character when you watch him, not many who are so recognisable can consistently manage such a trick. I think Christopher Eccleston and Billie, although good actors, do not quite make that jump. I can't help but see them partially as the actor. Callow's gift is a rare one so I don't expect anyone to live up to such pure brilliance in acting. This is not meant to be negative about Christopher and Billie in any way, only positive about Simon Callow.

This is how I want to see Doctor Who. An excellent plot, brilliantly and believably acted with an unforced but highly effective humorous edge to it. I laughed out loud several times but this did not take anything away from the seriousness and horror of the story unlike Rose and The End of the World where I felt they tried for cheap laughs.

I have to honestly say that it was fantastic and that I am far more optimistic about the future of the series than the first two episodes had caused me to be. If this marked difference is purely down to the writing I think the BBC should hand the series over to Mark Gatiss, who is now even further up in my estimation than he was because of The League of Gentlemen. They should at least bring him in to write more and be a script editor, a role in which he will bring as much ingenuity, originality and humour as Douglas Adams did in that role during the late 1970s. I think Gatiss has an excellent grasp of what Doctor Who was, is and should be.

I am a bit sad about Eccleston leaving now that I have seen his potential in all its glory. The temperament of the ninth doctor is very reminiscent of Tom Baker's portrayal in some ways. I have seen at least one childish sulk, several losses of temper and numerous sudden mad grins in just these three episodes but he also brings something more damaged and edgy and I am starting to think after a couple of false starts that he has nailed it perfectly.

Now, someone please send me a TARDIS (or an untrustworthy Canadian television employee if you can't find one) I want to see the rest of this series. NOW.

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