Doctor Doctor Who Guide

I have chosen Mark Gatiss' script as the first story of the new season I shall review for "Outpost Gallifrey". Not that I have anything nasty to say about the first two episodes particularly (Rose was, well… I'll come back to Rose in a moment, whilst The End of the World is an excellent 45 minutes of entertainment), but because this episode was the one I was looking forward to the most (the Dalek episodes, rather unpredictably, being the second). I love "Doctor Who"'s visits to the past, as it is something the BBC do well. Ghost Light, The Visitation, Masque of Mandragora even The King's Demons all look good and contain solid performances from the actors involved (even if, sometimes, the story itself is weak). The early press shoots covering the filming at Swansea led me to believe that, once again, the BBC was not to disappoint in the recreation of the past. Simon Callow, hundreds of extras, fake snow, horse drawn carriages, night filming, etc. Not only was the BBC doing what they do best, they were doing it with some serious money – on "Doctor Who"! Unbelievable! I thought I'd never see the day. Yes, I couldn't wait for this episode.

March 26th 2005 finally arrived. Not only was it my (and of course, my twin brother, Terry's) 31st birthday, "Doctor Who" also made its long awaited return with Rose (I couldn't have asked for a better birthday present – a whole new series of "Who").

Oh yes, it looked good, and Billie Pier was great, Eccleston not so great (but thankfully, his performance has got better over the next two episodes, so I'm putting his ‘dopey' personality down to post-regeneration stress or something similar), but quite frankly I was gutted. I couldn't fault the production itself, top marks to the special and visual effects team for the Autons, the TARDIS, etc. It was the story I had a problem with – or the lack of it. No wonder some newspapers slated it in the review pages. By all means you had to introduce the basic concepts of the show to a new audience, but leaving only ten short minutes for the Auton invasion and the thwarting thereof was unforgivable. As for the resolution to said invasion, having the Doctor produce a bottle of jollop he whipped-up earlier (in true "Blue Peter" fashion) is just sloppy. As in introduction episode, the BBC should have allowed it to be a bit longer (maybe an hour instead of 45 minutes) to let the story grow naturally alongside the ‘now-this-is-the-TARDIS' scenes, I feel Rose would have been a better tale for it. Then again, what do I know? A mate at worked loved Rose, he found it hilarious (especially the ‘cork-in-Auton-head' scene) and loved every second of it and is quite willing to watch the rest of the series. He praised Billie on her acting, but thought Christopher was (his words not mine) "a complete twat" though.

I was more impressed with The End of the World. Not only had Eccleston's performance mellowed (although my mate at work is still stating, "Can't stand him, when's Tennant taking over?"), the story had the luxury of the full 45 minutes to play with. The scene between Rose and Raffalo (Beccy Armory), in my opinion, is worthy of a mention. Nicely played by the actresses concerned and proof that, even at 45 minutes, "Doctor Who" can still find time for lovely character driven scenes such as this between the action set-pieces. Incidentally, my work mate thought Rose was far better than The End of the World, which just goes to show that every audience members taste is different (he also isn't a fan, so I'd say his views on the show probably are of more importance than mine). However, with a much happier heart (I'd be very worried if every episode was as bland as Rose), I eagerly awaited ‘the-one-with-Charles-Dickens'.

First the pre-credit sequence. Brilliant. If I don't hear of any complaints about the show being too scary for the little ‘uns, I'd be very disappointed. Despite the wide variety of aliens on display in the previous episode, none of them really provided much scope for terror, but then again that was the whole point of that episode. Hey, they may look different from you and me, but that doesn't mean they mean you any harm.

Now walking cadavers – that's exactly what "Doctor Who" is about; turning the everyday into something terrifying, and you can't get more commonplace than a corpse.

I've now accepted Christopher as the Doctor; he is on fine form in this story. His scenes between Simon Callow and himself are superb. Billie just keeps better and better though, the realisation that Rose really does think Gwyneth (Eve Myles) is stupid is played beautifully. Despite the time-travelling, the modern girl from London may think she knows it all, but in reality she knows nothing. This spoke volumes about both characters.

Simon Callow is spot-on as Charles Dickens, but as he's played the role many times, I expected nothing less than perfection.

Yet what impressed me most about this episode is that no-one hams it up. From the leading roles right down to the extras (sorry…. supporting artistes), not one is thinking,"It's only "Doctor Who" let's mess about a bit". What could've easily been made-up actors badly grunting in an over-the-top way (as witnessed in many poor zombie films), the final moments of the episode genuinely held some tension.

Ah yes, the final moments! If anything the 45 minute format has proven is that the story endings are rushed. In Rose a handy virus was used, in The End of the World the Doctor pulled a lever to save the day, in The Unquiet Dead…

… let's just say that once you learned very early on that the Gelth are made of gas, it didn't take a genius long to work out how they were to be defeated. It was no surprise when the obvious did occur. Just as obvious as mentioning silver bullets early in Battlefield or Hexachromite gas in Warriors of the Deep for instance. I was hoping for the obvious not to happen, but alas I had my only disappointment with this episode in this respect. However, to get to the obvious solution was an eventful and excellent adventure that I can forget this small detail. It will be interesting to see if the episode denouements become a lot more detailed and cleverer in the two-parters though, as they will have more time to tell their stories.

More well produced tales like this please. A triumph for the BBC!

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