Press and Publicity Articles for Rose
Doctor Who Magazine confirms Mark Benton has joined the cast.
Benton, who played the devil in Russell T Davies' drama The Second Coming, will play the character of Clive.
Of the casting, Phil Collinson told DWM, "It's a delight to welcome Mark Benton on board. He's incredibly gifted, with lead roles in traditional comedy, such as ITV1's Booze Cruise, and more radical sitcoms, such as BBC2's Early Doors. This is coupled with a brilliant flair for serious drama, as seen in BBC2's Eureka Street, and his terrifying performance as the Devil in ITV1's The Second Coming.
"He's a wonderful man to have on the team – at the first readthrough, the moment Mark said his first line, the whole room came alive. He's playing Clive... but you'll have to wait until 2005 to find out who Clive is, and how he's connected to the Doctor!"
Mark has also appeared in Gimme Gimme Gimme, Holby City, Ballykissangel, Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) and Clocking Off.
The BBC is investigating how an episode of the new Doctor Who series ended up on the internet three weeks before the show is due to begin on BBC One.
A show spokesperson said the leak was a "significant breach of copyright".
"We would urge viewers not to spoil their enjoyment and to wait for the finished version, which airs at the end of the month," a statement said.
Christopher Eccleston plays the Doctor in the first new series since the sci-fi favourite was cancelled in 1989.
A 45-minute episode called Rose appeared on the internet on Monday. Rose is the name of the Doctor's assistant, played by pop singer Billie Piper.
"The source of it appears to be connected to our co-production partner," the BBC statement said. The partner is the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC).
A CBC spokesperson said: "We are looking into it. That's all I can say at this point because we don't know exactly what happened. It certainly wasn't done intentionally."
The episode appears to be the series' first instalment. The new series is hotly anticipated by fans, who have remained avid followers since the end of the last series more than 15 years ago.
The show has since been resurrected for a one-off TV movie and in the form of animated online adventures. In 2003, it was voted the show people would most like to see back on TV.
It has also been revealed that Eccleston, who appeared in the film Shallow Grave and TV's Cracker, e-mailed writer and executive producer Russell T Davies to ask for the lead role.
The Doctor has returned. Not the same Doctor I first got to know many decades ago in flickering black and white when the BBC scared the living daylights out of kids who, pretending not to watch, had their eyes glued to “the box” from behind the nearest sofa.
The new Doctor, which comes from BBC Wales, is in digital widescreen and unlike in the early programmes of last century none of the props appeared to have been made earlier in the “Blue Peter” studio! And I loved every second of it. “Doctor Who” is as good as ever.
Forty years ago, when William Hartnell ruled the TARDIS, it was all very middle-class Home Counties and quite serious – so serious that it was camp. And how we loved it, no matter what our age was. And over the years, the programme has also gained cult status in the gay community – there are suspicions about the Doctor who has never made a pass at his always beautiful female “assistants” (but don’t tell Focus on the Family about that).
Arguably, Doctor Who is the most popular series ever devised by the BBC. No matter where you go in the world, everyone knows about the Doctor.
So it was good news when we learned that the Beeb was planning to revive the series. And when it was learned that the news series was being written by Russell T. Davies (also the series producer), more than a few eyebrows were raised.
For the good Mr. Davies is probably best known in the gay community as the writer of “Queer as Folk” and “Doctor Who” is essentially kiddies TV that adults adore.
No one needed to have worried! If the first episode of the new series is anything to go by, the BBC has a hit. No need for any ‘filler’ between “Grandstand” and “Juke Box Jury” as was the case back in 1963.
Davies’ “Doctor Who”, with Christopher Eccleston in the title role, combines suspense with humour in a wonderful way. The Davies/Eccleston combination works so well, just as it did in ITV’s “The Second Coming” of two years ago.
The basic story-line of the new series is that there is a dastardly plot by the “baddie”, as yet unknown, to make all plastic come alive (environmental message here?) and we saw shop window mannequins and even modern rubbish bins suddenly spring into action. They are the “Autons”.
So we know that Doctor Who is out to protect the planet from plastic … And he has another 12 episodes of 45 minutes each to thwart any plot to exterminate the population. And he has his beautiful young assistant Rose, played by Billie Piper, not to mention the classic police phone box as the escape route. The TARDIS and the programme's theme (now remixed) are about the sole remnants of the original, though the main title sequence remains true to the 40 years-old original.
Still the Doctor never made a pass at Rose. Was there a tiny clue? It was just one line: “That won’t last, he’s gay and she’s an alien.” And the deadpan remark was made by the Doctor about the mannequins!
Perhaps the most poignant visual in the this first episode was when Rose was visiting a “nerd” who was investigating The Doctor and he produced a photo showing Dr. Who in the crowd at Dealey Plaza on that fateful day in Dallas. The very first episode of “Doctor Who” was broadcast the day after President Kennedy’s assassination.
After a long absence Doctor Who lands at 7pm on BBC1 on Saturday, smack, bang, up-to-date. It works. Thumbs up. Let them live.
It is like watching a completely new programme but with enough references to the great tradition to make it authentic. It has the Tardis, the monsters, the female companion responsible for the sexual awakening of boy viewers everywhere, the sonic screwdriver and that crucial balance between scariness and comedy. But no scarves.
Gone are the flamboyance and the air of theatricality. The theme tune is more edgily orchestrated, like the whole show.
Christopher Eccleston's doctor, with his black leather jacket and northern accent, is modern, urban and of today, manically driven by his desire to save the world.
His new assistant, Rose (Billie Piper), lives on a housing estate. She has a black boyfriend and a mum in tracksuit bottoms who is only interested in getting compensation for her daughter's distress during an attack of the Autons.
Rose did not know what a blue police box was, never mind a Tardis.
Watching a preview tape, we adults thought it was state-of-the-art ("Wow, we never had faces morphing like that"), whereas the children, raised on The Matrix and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, found it charmingly low-tech, particularly when Dr Who was attacked by the disembodied arm of a possessed shop dummy.
"There's hardly any CGI," they observed. (Computer-generated imagery. Catch up.)
Eccleston is such an electrifying actor that he conveys the doctor's alien status (he is 900 years old with two hearts) by the means of wide-eyed, slightly unhinged over-enthusiasm.
He has real chemistry with Piper's Rose, who is the most interesting development of all. Like the Roman centurion's costume, Doctor Who constantly evolved during its lifetime. The female companion, for example, changed from a screaming, helpless girl only good for rescuing into a feisty, independent young thing, like Leela in her leather leotard or street-wise Ace. Rose is post-feminist. Soft, feminine, caring and unashamedly attractive but she still saves her pathetic boyfriend, and even Doctor Who, with a moment of no-fuss girl power. Russell T Davies's script is vastly better than anything before it and the scariness, this week at least, seems more everyday.
Under the London Eye, a seething, malevolent porridge of alien consciousness is bringing plastic everywhere to life aimed at wiping out humanity. It includes dolls, shop mannequins and, as Rose says, "breast implants".
Will it be popular? This is not for an adult to say. My teenage son twice purred "This is really cool," which augurs well. But he worried that his friends would not watch it. "It's sad watching programmes your parents liked." Do these children have no sense of tradition?
Sixteen years after the icy winds of obsolescence sent him spinning into the televisual ether, Doctor Who is to rematerialise in the glittering wasteland that is BBC1's Saturday evening line-up, an event that bears testament to the persistent nature of nostalgia. Had it not been for the affection still accorded to the elderly Time Lord by those whose childhood fantasies were stuffed with fearful images of stocky extras in silver bubble wrap, it's doubtful whether the revival would've made it past Auntie's doorman, let alone been handed a £10m budget and the estimable services of script man Russell T Davies (Queer As Folk, Casanova, etc) and Christopher Eccleston (the ninth incarnation of the Gallifreyan).
While the most recent attempt to revive the franchise - a 1996 TV movie starring a pointlessly bewigged Paul McGann - was an unmitigated mound of disaster, grumblers have suggested that the format is simply too naff to make an impact on today's cynical young audiences. Thus, with the weight of expectation squatting fatly on the Doctor's time-weary shoulders, we force the scarf-wearing pensioner to square up against his toughest enemy yet: himselves.
Then: Each new Doctor brought with him a bumper holdall of fresh quirks and mad clobber, exposure to which would instantly determine whether fans would continue to partake of the Time Lord's space-placed adventures or abandon the Tardis with a harrumph of disgust/despair.
In chronological order, then, we've had: William Hartnell (who played the Doctor as a harried academic), Patrick Troughton (a pratfall-prone tramp), Jon Pertwee (a flouncing dandy in frock-coat and frills), Tom Baker (the nation's official favourite; a brilliantly booming wag whose huge scarf and roaring eccentricity helped ratings top 16million), Peter Davison (a panting schoolboy), Colin Baker (a massive sod) and, finally, Sylvester McCoy (a lisping ninny whose profoundly irritating habit of suddenly BELLOWING for absolutely no REASON WHATSOEVER was at least partly responsible for the BBC tugging the chain after 26 years of dogged but ultimately quite silly service). Oh, and Paul McGann, whose sole outing makes him the George Lazenby of the Who franchise and therefore of no use to anyone at all.
Now: Formerly a dandy in aspic, now, apparently, a youth worker in Hellmann's mayonnaise. Russell T Davies' insistence that today's Time Lord be "more emotional and down to earth" has ensured that the latest incarnation of this pan-galactic icon is an emphatically un-extraordinary cove. Indeed, with his leather blouson, shabby jeans and bluff northern rationality, he looks more likely to be found reasoning with a ruffian outside a chip shop in Salford than he would discussing the minutiae of quantum physics with the president of Gallifrey. Still, his saturnine scowl, wanton cheekbones and bawdy use of common language ("shut up," "brilliant", etc) also suggest that Eccleston's Doctor may finally get to use his sonic screwdriver for purposes other than removing the terullian diode bypass transformer from the spaceship of a passing Sontaran (ie he might get to boff).
Then: As vital to the Doctor's grasp of human emotions and mores as they were to the nocturnal reveries of the nation's grateful schoolboys, the best companions were those who displayed as much wit and self-sufficiency as they did tights (Jo, Sarah-Jane, Tegan and K9). And the worst? Everyone pre-Jon Pertwee (too twee) and post-Tom Baker (either too dull or too self-consciously "feisty"). Shoddiest of these was the thunderously inconsequential Adric, a dough-faced bore whose death, at the end of 1982's Earthshock, saw the legendary theme tune replaced by several moments of appallingly misjudged silence. Overcome by grief, the nation yawned and switched over to Bullseye.
Now: The name? Rose Tyler. The look? Skint teen at Etam. The attitude? Superdrug cashier on a day out at the Royal Observatory. Her working-class credentials may be a blatant sop to today's slovenly, toff-wary youth, but London shop girl Rose (reformed pop singer Billie Piper) is a worthy successor to the companion's spray-painted throne, her gum-chewing insouciance and natural inquisitiveness compensating for the fact that her trainers are crap and she looks like she smells of Impulse Hint of Musk.
Then: Given that one man's Dalek is another man's Android of Tara, it would be folly to attempt to compile a definitive list of the Scariest Doctor Who Monsters Ever. Nevertheless, here is my list of the Scariest Doctor Who Monsters Ever, which is definitive: Davros (camel's scrotum on a commode), Scaroth (rotting vegetation in a suit), the mummies from Pyramids Of Mars (ex-wrestlers wrapped in bog-roll), the Nimon (half bull, half middle-aged extra in Timpsons platforms) and Pertwee-battering bruisers The Sea Devils, whose crocheted tabards and abysmal posture pre-dated the work of Spandau Ballet by some nine years.
Now: Mindful of postmodernism's cynical eye, the new series capitulates to the demands of today's multiplex-minded sophisticates by swapping the Velcro and felt for a fresh spread of wow-inducing CGI effects and impressively disgusting prosthetics. The resulting foe include the Gelth (wispy green things that bear more than a passing resemblance to the wraiths from Lord Of The Rings), the unnervingly baby-faced Slitheen, the newly rubberised Autons (expressionless gits that first appeared in 1970's Spearhead From Space) and the return of long-time adversaries the Daleks, which can now, according to Davies, "fly like bastards".
Most impressive of all, however, is the Moxx of Balhoon, a dome-headed pig-like bloke whose trotters and bitch-tits hark back to the days when Saturday night telly was properly frightening.
Then: Housed inside a pre-second world war police box (if only to enable a constant stream of gags involving baffled "comedy" bobbies), the Tardis boasted an interior so big it contained not merely a control room and the Doctor's living quarters, but a library, swimming pool and cricket pavilion. Unfortunately, what it boasted in size and relative dimensions it lacked in decent armour. Indeed, so shoddy was the time machine's chassis that even the briefest spot of turbulence would precipitate several minutes of violent juddering; a design flaw that saw the Doctor "accidentally" fall into his attractive companion as many as nine times per episode. This, in turn, enabled dads across the country to imagine what it might be like to find themselves momentarily pressed against Bonnie Langford's polyester/ wool-mix leggings. The general consensus? "A bit itchy".
Now: Out go the wobbly fittings and plastic console: in come thrusting hydraulics, metal platforms, vein-like protrusions on the walls and what look like strange glowing bits of coral and bendy tubes that dangle from the ceiling like massive dreadlocks. The look? HR Giger meets Bob Marley. In a brain. In, like, another dimension. Maaaan. On a more practical "tip", there's a wooden coat-stand, which will allow the Doctor to hang up his leather blouson should accusations of looking a bit like Ian Beale get too much for the big-nosed time-botherer.
Question: How many Doctor Who fans does it take to change a light bulb?
Answer: Four -- one to change the bulb, and three to say, "Nah, not as good as the last one."
Christopher Eccleston knows what he's up against -- don't let that cool, laser-eyed northern stare fool you. He is about to leap from the minors to the majors, from character actor to superhero, and while the chances are it will be as sweet as sunshine, the possibility remains that he will perform a belly flop of epic proportions. In front of millions of people. Heard around the world.
Tonight, Eccleston will don the mantle of Dr. Who, the ninth actor to play the role on television. You thought I'd say "don the scarf," but the Doctor's trailing muffler, worn famously by Tom Baker in the 1970s, has been banished, along with the floppy hats, celery-bedecked lapels, and other cheesy relics of the past. This Doctor, the BBC wants us to know, is real. He wears a leather jacket. He's the most modern time traveller you've seen.
After a hiatus of 16 years -- a mere blip to a 900-year-old Time Lord, but an eternity for obsessive Whovians -- the BBC has launched a new Doctor Who series (the original ran from 1963 to 1989) with the triumphal blast usually reserved for Royal weddings. The return of Doctor Who. That's something people are talking about, perhaps thanks to the BBC's indefatigable promotional efforts. The Royal wedding, by contrast, lacks the buzz of even a hundred honeybees.
In order to spread the good word, the BBC has invited hundreds of "opinion formers" to a hotel on the shores of Cardiff Bay in Wales to watch the first episode (Canadians can check it out when the series launches on the CBC on April 5 at 8 p.m.). The opinion they form appears to be a good one: They whoop with delight when Selfridges department store blows up; the appearance of those villainous robots, the Daleks (in a clip from a future episode), is greeted with a wave of applause. And for those who had childhood fights about whether Daleks can climb stairs: Oh yes, they can.
After the screening, Eccleston, 41, sits nursing a pint, ready to concede that taking on this beloved role "could be a poisoned chalice." He is best known as a serious actor, a blade-faced scrapper from movies like 28 Days Later and Elizabeth. But what audiences haven't seen is that he can do wit and whimsy. When asked if he took the role as seriously as he did Hamlet on-stage, he responds, deadpan, "Well, my Hamlet was unintentionally comic, apparently."
In the hands of writer and creative visionary Russell T. Davies, this incarnation of Doctor Who is funny, but not the least bit camp. He's a little odd, a little menacing, as befits an alien from the planet Gallifrey. As Eccleston says, "I wanted the flamboyance and the eccentricity to be in the performance, to see if I could convince you he was an alien just with the performance." This Dr. Who is also the sexiest Time Lord we've seen, although -- how to put this delicately? -- it's not exactly been a crowded field.
The first Doctor Who episode, An Unearthly Child, aired on Nov. 23, 1963.
It was not, as rumour has it, delayed by the assassination a day earlier of John F. Kennedy, although it did go to air one minute late. As well, the BBC's head of drama, Sydney Newman, complained about the episode's fluffed dialogue and the crabbiness of the Doctor (played by William Hartnell), and insisted the pilot be reshot.
Hartnell's Doctor was a cranky oldster, and as the character "regenerated" he got progressively more approachable and more funky. Jon Pertwee's Time Lord was a Brian Jones-ish dandy; Tom Baker's, a plummy-voiced oddball; and Peter Davison's, a celery-wearing schoolboy.
As the actors changed, almost everything else about the show remained constant: The Doctor travelled through time and space in the Tardis -- a police phone box on the outside, a whole lot more within -- fighting monsters and evildoers while accompanied by one of his companions, often female, always gormless. The writing was clever -- Douglas Adams (The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) was for a time a scriptwriter -- and that made up for the sets, which looked like they were constructed with a glue gun and a box of macaroni.
The devotion of Doctor Who fans is a state of mind -- or perhaps a state of suspended disbelief -- that can be hard for the outsider to fathom. Did they really enjoy the monster who was covered in hard candy? The terrifying mummies made from what appear to be old diapers?
The best place to understand this state of mind is from inside the Who Shop in East London. This is proprietor Alexandra Loosely-Saul on the Philosophy of Who: "If you actually stick with the Doctor's rules of life, you can't go far wrong. He always tried to think the best of people, and while situations would happen, he would never judge. He didn't go on with guns blazing; he went in using his mind."
A bubbly woman from the north of England (already she is predisposed to liking Eccleston's Who, just on the basis of regional loyalty), Loosely-Saul has been catering to Whovians' shopping needs for 20 years, assisted by her husband, Kevin Loosely. In one corner is a replica Tardis, full-size, for which an American collector offered "a silly amount of money." Above her head in a glass case is a gun from the episode Galaxy Four in 1965. If your eight-year-old had made it in art class, you'd pat him on the head and tell him it was a job well done.
"The BBC was very into recycling. Very green," says Kevin Loosely. "They'd use bits of hairdryers, everything."
And yet, somehow, it scared the kids. One of the most charming things about the collective nostalgia around Doctor Who is the oft-repeated "behind the sofa" remark. As soon as the familiar theme music kicked in, kids could be found, bug-eyed, watching it from behind the sofa while parents relaxed in armchairs. It was a family experience -- of course, there was nothing else on.
"It was pants-wettingly frightening in its day," says Loosely. There would be discussions in the House of Commons, he says, about whether children should watch the show; Britain's moral watchdog, Mary Whitehouse, thumped and railed against it.
While the show was never as popular abroad as in Britain, it does have stalwart fans in Europe and North America, perhaps due, in Loosely's opinion, to a particularly English sensibility. "Americans all think we're mad anyway," he says. "And here's the Doctor, who stops an invasion, and then sits down and has a cup of tea. He'd chuck a bunch of marbles at a monster to trip it, and then try to talk it into giving up."
This time, in an effort to win the hearts of savvy eight-to-12-year-olds and their parents, the BBC has splashed out on special effects, using London's The Mill studio (which also provided effects for the film Gladiator). No more snot monsters, in other words, unless it's very realistic snot.
It used to be that special effects were almost an afterthought, says Mark Campbell, author of Dimensions in Time & Space, a guide to Doctor Who.
Episodes would have to be shot in three or four hours, with special effects crammed into the last 10 minutes, or they'd move into dreaded overtime. "Now, there's a feeling at the BBC that the effects have to be very good," he says.
In the 1980s, Campbell says, under producer John Nathan-Turner, the show became increasingly cultish and aimed at die-hard fans. "You had to have seen an episode 10 years before to understand," he says, "and casual viewers couldn't cotton on."
Michael Grade, the former BBC boss, reportedly loathed Doctor Who and canned the show for good in 1989. (A two-hour telefilm starring Paul McGann appeared in 1996.)
As one commentator said recently, "There was a bit of a bad smell about it at the BBC." It was just too quaint, too backward-looking, too ridiculous -- and, in the end, too recognizable a brand not to be resurrected. However, there were complicated rights issues to be worked out; everyone seemed to own a small piece of the pie. "If you have a Dalek story," says Campbell, "you have to get the rights from the estate of [the robots' creator] Terry Nation."
The show found a saviour in Lorraine Heggessey, the former BBC1 executive who commissioned the new series. And Heggessey knew exactly whose vision she wanted to propel the Tardis into the 21st century. One day, she walked past the agent of Russell T. Davies, one of the wonder boys of British TV. She said, "Doctor Who. Russell. We're doing it."
This is, in many ways, Davies's moment. Doctor Who's writer and executive producer is beaming, seated in the hotel in Cardiff after the screening of his baby. Really, he should be in front of the cameras, not behind them. He's asked if the Doctor will finally get to use one of his two hearts -- whether there will be any romantic action between the Time Lord and his new companion, Rose Tyler, played by British pop star Billie Piper.
"They're going to be in a state of tension for 13 weeks," he says, and stops, pulls a face. "The men I've said that to!"
This gets a laugh, as expected. It is easy to see why Eccleston says he based his performance, at least in part, on Davies: the mad, roller-coaster speech, the quickness of thought.
Davies might be most famous, up till this point, for creating and writing the original Queer as Folk. Now he's back in Wales, where he was born 41 years ago.
The writer and the star are the exact same age as the show. But while Eccleston didn't watch Doctor Who as a youngster -- the sets were too silly, the doctor's voice too posh -- Davies loved it.
"One of Doctor Who's best qualities is that it involves the real world, the normal world," he says. "When I was a kid, one of the best things about it was that you could imagine the Tardis landing, and you joining in the adventure in a way you could never imagine being part of the Star Trek crew. That's a really magical thing."
Part of rooting the show in reality as opposed to setting it in the land of one-eyed aliens is to make use of London's landmarks (this despite the fact that the show was shot mainly in Wales). In the first episode, the Doctor wonders where they might find a transmitter, "something round and massive, right in the middle of London." As he says this, Rose points to the London Eye, looming over his shoulder. "Something like that?" Coming in a later episode: the decapitation of Big Ben.
From the outset, there were things that Davies knew he wanted to keep from the original show: the famous woo-eee-ooo theme music; the Tardis; the Doctor's handy sonic screwdriver. And he was equally clear about what had to go, as he explained recently to BBC Radio: "The man is 900 years old, he's got two hearts. Does he really have to wear a funny coat? Doesn't he have enough going on?"
Yes, he certainly does. There are worlds to save, possibly a romance to kindle, a Tardis to keep in shape. Oh, and along the way? Perhaps he can bolster the fortunes of a certain public broadcaster and scare some kids while he's at it.
He travels through time and space in an alien ship disguised as a 1950s police telephone box. He has saved the universe countless times but in the end lost out in a fight for survival with the BBC bigwigs.
But you can't keep a good Time Lord down. Doctor Who is back.
Tonight sees his return to BBC1 prime time in the first regular series since 1989. There was the American co-production in 1996 and the odd fleeting appearance (who can forget Rowan Atkinson's Comic Relief sketch?) but for the majority of the time he's been kept alive by loyal fans buying new adventures in the form of books, original cast CDs and comics.
However, you don't need to know anything about all those to enjoy the new series.
It's bold, it's brave and boy does it move fast. It keeps the old stalwarts from the original show such as the theme tune, the Tardis, the Daleks (who have been able to go up stairs since the 1980s despite what others say!) and the Doctor's quirky nature.
It re-introduces the show to a new generation and, while some of the fans might not like it, there are some scenes that are squarely levelled at the kids - something forgotten to a large extent since the late 1970s.
How do I know? It appears an unfinished copy of the first episode slipped into the hands of some fans who promptly posted it on the internet.
There's something amusing about the first episode of a time-travel show slipping out into the public domain before it is due. I'm sure the Doctor would approve.
In this first episode we are introduced to Rose Tyler, played by former-pop-star-turned-actress Billie Piper. Here we have a very contemporary character, bored with the treadmill of everyday life. She is soon attracted to a mysterious stranger known as the Doctor.
And he is very different to what we've known before.
Gone are the silly question-mark costumes that made the later incarnations look like some spoof of an American superhero. Here we have a Doctor who is wearing a trendy leather jacket and is not at all worried about using slang.
The role is brought to life by Christopher Eccleston, more widely known for his TV work in Our Friends in the North and Cracker.
Here he relishes in the Doctor's sense of humour and shifts effortlessly between the frivolous and the dramatic. There is also an instant chemistry between Eccleston and Piper that shows clearly on screen.
For me, Piper is the biggest surprise of the series. Forget the pop star business. She can act!
She plays her role with conviction and some of the expressions used at the Doctor's actions are genuinely funny without going too far.
For the first episode we are brought face-to-face with the Nestene; an alien force that can bring plastic to life.
You may remember the shop dummies (Autons) breaking through windows to attack shoppers. Well, the memory cheats a bit here in a wonderful piece of budget-saving ingenuity from the time - we never saw the window smash, just heard it and saw the reactions of a policeman.
Here, we see lots of windows smashing as hordes of Autons attack shoppers. There's even a cheeky nod to the viewers of old as we don't even hear the word Auton throughout the episode!
As you've probably gathered, the BBC have finally thrown some money at the special effects. In their day, the old effects were good enough but we've now been spoilt by Buffy, Star Trek and Babylon 5.
The Doctor is now able to compete with the best; thanks to computer imagery brought to the screen by Oscar winners who supplied the effects in Gladiator.
But there is always a down-side. It could be argued that the middle of the first episode sinks too far towards a children's show.
Two main scenes both involving Rose's boyfriend are unconvincing. Hopefully, this will be put right in the final edit before it airs.
We are assured that the scripts will stand up with the best that current drama has to offer.
We have episodes from Russell T Davies, who is also Executive Producer. Don't know the name? How about Casanova, Queer As Folk or Second Coming?
Other writers include League of Gentlemen's Mark Gatiss, Casualty and Coronation Street's Paul Cornell and Coupling's Stephan Moffatt.
As well as attracting the cream of today's writing talent, the show also has its fair share of famous faces in front of the camera including Zoe Wanamaker, Simon Callow, Simon Pegg and Richard Wilson.
Overall, the first episode works. Considering what it has to do, it's hugely enjoyable. It's fast-paced, funny, well made and all the other things you could ask of a new drama from the BBC.
As the series goes on, it may become a bit darker and develop into what it should be - the BBC's flagship show enjoyed by millions across the country and not a few fans.
The Doctor is back. Long may he stay to entertain us.
Dale Brotherton has a Dalek in his garage. Dale seems surprisingly calm about this, and so does the Dalek. But there’s still a chill in the air when you walk tentatively around it, a feeling that its lights might suddenly blink into life and it could start gliding across the floor as the rasping cry of “Exterminate!” drills through everything in its path.
For most of his 34 years Dale, who is chairman of Workington Reds Football Club, has been captivated – and sometimes terrified – by the Daleks and various other monsters and baddies on Doctor Who.
And now a new generation will be hiding behind the sofa and peering at the screen through their fingers, because the Doctor is back. Tonight Christopher Eccleston will be seen in the first of 13 new 45-minute episodes, with Billie Piper as his assistant Rose Tyler.
This is the first series of Doctor Who since 1989. Sixteen years may be nothing to a Timelord but for hundreds of Cumbrians it’s been an eternity.
As much a part of British culture as The Beatles and Carry On films, Doctor Who is the longest-running science fiction show in this or any other world.
Although it’s traditionally been seen as a children’s programme, Doctor Who has always appealed to adults as well as kids.
At its best the programme combined suspense, comedy and drama in an irresistible package. At its worst, with rubber monsters, hammy acting and tired storylines, it was just embarrassing.
Dale Brotherton grew up during the show’s 1970s glory years when Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker piloted the Tardis to amazing adventures in past, present and future, watched by around 13 million people at Saturday teatime.
“I used to watch the programme on my dad’s knee,“ says Dale. “I was terrified. I can remember when I was four, Jon Pertwee turned into Tom Baker. I couldn’t work out what was happening. It’s frightening when you think that was 30 years ago.”
Dale has every one of the 600 surviving episodes on video and regularly watches favourite stories, such as the Tom Baker classics Terror of the Zygons and Pyramids of Mars.
But his love of the programme does not extend to blind faith.
“There are episodes I’ve watched once and not had them out of the box since. The whole of the Sylvester McCoy era should go in the bin. It became a parody of itself.
“You can have unbelievable characters but you’ve got to have them in believable situations. In the end it was right and proper that it was scrapped. It needed resting.”
But for Dale, and thousands of other devotees, the Doctor has remained an important part of life. Dale has attended fan conventions around the country and the friends he has made include several Doctors.
“I knew Jon Pertwee personally. To me he is the definitive Doctor Who. It’s kind of humbling when you get to meet your hero. Jon had a real input into the series. He knew what worked. He was a winner. He once halted filming because some extras who were supposed to be in the army had hair that was too long.
“It’s amazing the number of people I’ve met at conventions over the years who have gone on to better things. They say to me ‘How are Workington getting on?’ and I ask them how they’re doing.
“One is editor of Blue Peter. Two or three have written episodes for the new series, including Mark Gatiss, who starred in The League of Gentlemen.
There are a lot of very successful people. Tim Collins, the MP for Westmorland, is a big Doctor Who fan.
“When I go to these conventions I listen to the speakers then I just go in the bar. Unfortunately there are some people who will talk incessantly about it. There’s more to life than Doctor Who. But there’d be a big gulf in my life without it.”
Dale says he doesn’t go into the pub and start discussing the relative merits of Daleks and Cybermen, but lots of people want to talk to him about the programme.
“I get the feeling that the man in the street will be watching tonight. It’s held in affection by just about everybody.
“The way I feel about the new series is not how I used to feel back in 1979 or whenever, but I am looking forward to it.”
Dale started collecting Doctor Who merchandise when he was a child. Now his house near Dalston is home to about 3,000 items.
There are ring binders full of postcards, cigarette cards and autographed photos, some of Dale with various Doctors.
He has a letter from Jon Pertwee accepting Dale’s invitation to visit Lime House School. Pertwee died three weeks after writing it.
He has board games from the 1960s, such as Dodge the Daleks. It’s worth about £300.
There’s a Dalek gun, which fires sucker darts, a Dalek playsuit (never worn) and a Cyberman helmet from 1968.
He has an “explosive canister” from a Sylvester McCoy story. Under the can’s silver paint you can just make out the word ‘Sainsbury’s’.
In the garage there’s a replica of Tom Baker’s robot dog K-9 and there’s the previously mentioned Dalek, which appeared in the 1988 story Remembrance of the Daleks. Dale bought it for “a four-figure sum”.
And then there’s Bessie, the same model of car driven by Jon Pertwee’s Doctor. This is one of only six in existence.
Dale bought it 14 years ago. “I got done for speeding on the way back from picking it up at High Wycombe.”
Now Dale doesn’t have to travel that far to meet fellow Doctor Who enthusiasts. Two months ago, inspired by the Doctor’s return, a Cumbrian club for Doctor Who devotees was born.
Border Who was set up by Callum MacFarlane, a 37-year-old from Cockermouth who works at the British Cattle Movement Centre in Workington.
The club meets at the Lakes Court Hotel, Carlisle, on the first Sunday of every month, between 1pm and 6pm. The first meeting, in February, attracted 75 fans, aged from four to 65.
“The programme touches people’s lives in a real way,” says Callum. “It’s to do with the quirkiness of the British character, from the old-fashioned police box to what it’s like to be human, even though the Doctor isn’t human. He doesn’t go around killing monsters and aliens. He tries to talk to them.
“I’ve been a fan since I was four. Tom Baker’s obviously most people’s favourite, and my favourite, but I enjoy all the Doctors.I remember going to my grandmother’s house every Saturday and sitting down to watch it with my brother. I couldn’t believe that we were allowed to watch something so frightening.
“People might have hidden behind the sofa but they were still watching. I didn’t hide behind the sofa but I had dreams and nightmares about it.
“My favourite monsters were probably the Sontarans. They just wanted to kill everything in sight. For a young person that was a shock.
“You never knew what to expect. It could be an historical drama, something set in the future or something contemporary. It’s a wonderful storytelling device that’s unlike any other. That potential to tell stories from the past, present and future is unparalleled.”
Maybe so, but it didn’t stop viewing figures slumping to about five million during the last series 16 years ago. Back then the show was pitted against Coronation Street and the Doctor’s adversaries included a baddie who looked remarkably like Bertie Bassett.
Callum has no doubt that the new series will restore the programme’s reputation. He has already seen the first Christopher Eccleston episode and is convinced that the Doctor’s appeal is about to capture a new generation of fans.
“I think people will be blown away by Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper. There are references to the programme’s past, as when Christopher Eccleston looks in the mirror and says ‘Shame about the ears’, so we assume he’s recently regenerated.
“But it’s been updated for the 21st century. You’ll see Doctor Who reading Heat magazine. And with a budget of about £1million an episode there’ll be no wobbly sets or unconvincing monsters.
“We’ll go forward to the year five million. You’ll see the earth die and the sun explode. I’m sure the public think they won’t be scared. But when you see one characters being eaten by a wheelie-bin, it does make you look at wheelie-bins in a different way.”
Callum thinks viewers will identify with Billie Piper’s character, as she decides whether to stay in her world or travel with the Doctor.
“She’s got a chance to move away from the mundane and explore worlds she’s never seen before. I think a lot of people will tap into that idea. The Doctor’s message is ‘Be positive and make the best of it. We’ve only got one short life’.
“He’s 900 years old so he’s in a position to give good advice.”
Credit: Radio Times
I'd like to claim I spent my youthful Saturday evenings huddled in terror behind the family sofa as ghastly monsters pursued Doctor Who and his plucky girl assistants.
Sadly I was already a hardened teenager of 13 and therefore too old when the first black-and-white episode was shown. I was captivated nevertheless and was one of the gabbling proselytisers who helped create the show's worth-of-mouth popularity.
Four decades later, I cannot now remember why Doctor Who held me in its thrall for the next 10 years. It was fun and imaginative, I suppose, and of course we lads could oggle Leela, Jo and other Doctor Who lovelies.
But science fiction is now mainstream entertainment. Stargate, Millennium, and The X-Files have extremely high production values. You can't get away with polystyrene monsters trundling through old quarries any more.
Bringing back the old boy was therefore a courageous move and I'm pleased to say it was also an inspired one, a triumph of tight writing, wit, good editing and some smashing acting. Watching with my nine-year-old daughter Olivia added an extra pleasure, of course.
Things have changed since 1963 when everyone in Doctor Who was Home Counties and white. The Doctor (William Hartnell) was a grumpy old man, with a mimsy obedient grand-daughter whose strange antics attracted the attention of two very proper teachers from her school. They paid a visit and ended up being whisked through time and space. Next stop the Stone Age and then the Daleks. Served them right, too.
In 2005 all that remains of the old Doctor is his police box (strangely unadorned by graffiti), the weird whooshing noise it makes when heading into hyperspace, and the theme music. The Doctor (Christopher Eccleston) is now a craggily good-looking bit of trouser with a fine line in leather jackets and a pronounced northern accent. ('Lots of planets have a north,' he snarls to a complaint about his speech.)
His assistant Rose (Billie Piper) lives on a housing estate, has flunked her A-levels, is stuck with a dodgy, compensation-seeking mum, possesses a fine estuary accent and has a black boyfriend. The fact that the latter is subsequently eaten by a wheelie-bin - only to survive and then be dumped by Rose - merely adds spice to the proceedings.
However, it's not the contemporary values that make the show. It is its clever imitation of US hits such as Buffy and Angel : a mixture of smart, ironic humour and creepy horror. 'That won't last,' says the Doctor, peering at a couple posing for the pages of Heat . 'He's gay and she's an alien.' And Rose has some equally sassy gags. Told that an Evil Intelligence is going to bring all the world's plastic to life, she gasps: 'What, even breast implants?'
Thus the adult half of the audience is - on the evidence of the first episode - well-catered for. It remains to be seen what younger, thrill-seeking TV-watchers will make of it. Last night's episode was primarily concerned with establishing character and had few special effects.
Trailers suggest some fairly strong production values for future Saturdays, so I would have thought the BBC - thanks mainly to producer Russell T Davies who also penned last night's episode - is on to a winner. I for one will be watching.
The BBC's gamble on the return of Doctor Who seemed to have paid off spectacularly last night as fans - including former occupants of the Tardis - heaped praise on the Time Lord's latest reincarnation.
Sylvester McCoy, the last full-time Doctor, who watched the show last night, admitted that he was a little "envious" not to be a part of the new series, which he described as "simply wonderful".
"It is a Doctor Who for the new millennium," said Mr McCoy, who played the role between 1987 and 1989. "It is fast-paced, imaginative and very wonderful. There is something gorgeously, gloriously British about the whole thing and I think it has hit written all over it.
"You can't really compare different series of Doctor Who because they are very much of their time and very different animals. Having said that, I am very envious about not being in it. The writing is terrific and the toys they play with are much more sophisticated than they were in my day."
Mr McCoy and other Doctor Who veterans last night praised the way the programme had managed to re-brand itself with state-of-the-art special effects, while holding onto its essential ingredients.
There were several key breaks with the past. Producers did away with the traditional on-screen "reincarnation" of the Doctor, and viewers were instead introduced to the eponymous hero in the thick of the action as he battled to save Rose Tyler, his soon-to-be assistant, from an army of possessed shop dummies.
Manchester-born Christopher Eccleston, who is the ninth actor to take on the role, is the first to play the Doctor as a fast-talking and flirtatious Northerner, who - when he is not explaining the earth's rotation - is happy to pour scorn on Britain's compensation culture and its obsession with celebrity.
When a sceptical Rose (played by Billie Piper) asks why an alien has a regional accent, he replies: "Lots of planets have a North." There are, however, crucial links with the past. The theme music remains the same, the Tardis is still a blue police box with a deceptively small exterior, and much of the action takes place in contemporary London.
Mr McCoy said his successor "was absolutely alien" and gave off a "very strange madness". The actor watched the show with his sons, both of whom are in their 20s and neither of whom had seen Doctor Who before. "They didn't watch it when I was in it because it was such a disruptive influence on their lives. So they didn't quite know what to expect this time around. They are of a generation that associates television drama with things like Casualty and Holby City. They didn't realise television was capable of doing anything like this and they were blown away by it."
He added: "My only criticism was about the Tardis. It was far too clean. It needs to look a bit more battered and bruised as if it's been through the odd asteroid or two. When I was in the show the thing was a positive health hazard which looked like it was about to collapse on us at any time."
Bonnie Langford, the actress who played the assistant to both McCoy and his predecessor, Colin Baker, said that her own successor was much more the Doctor's equal than she had been.
"The relationship between the Doctor and Rose is very different than it was in my day. There is an element of sexual chemistry which would have been unthinkable then. There was an awful lot of contact and hand holding in last night's episode, possibly a little too much. There were times when I thought, 'OK, we have got the message, let's move on.' "
"I think Billie Piper is terrific. In the past the assistant was the one that always ran off and got into trouble and the Doctor would come to the rescue. Billie Piper, on the other hand, had a lot more to do. There were times when the camera was very much on her and you were watching her think, which, of course, is far more compelling than watching her run down endless corridors."
Fans of the Time Lord were equally impressed. Gavin Fuller, the 1993 national Mastermind champion whose specialist subject was Doctor Who, said that Eccleston's mood swings and tetchiness reminded him of William Hartnell, the very first incarnation of the Doctor.
"Christopher Eccleston was astonishing from the moment he suddenly appeared on the screen in the middle of the action. I think they are trying to do it as if the Doctor suddenly rushed into our own lives."
Clay Hickman, the editor of the Doctor Who magazine, also liked the way that Eccleston could "flip" from one mood to the next.
"This is the first real family drama for a decade," he said.
"Episode one was not terrifying, but that's because it was trying to introduce us to new characters.
"It could not have been any better, and Eccleston has the potential to be one of the very great Doctors. No one can say they haven't tried to do the very best they can. If it doesn't work this time it can only mean there is no place for the character any more."
The enthusiastic reception will be welcomed by the BBC, which has staked millions of pounds (it refuses to reveal exactly how much, though estimates put it at £10 million) on the new series. It axed the show in 1989 because of falling viewing figures, but is now convinced that it could prove crucial in the battle for Saturday-night ratings.
The new series has already been sold to Canada, and the BBC's commercial division believes that the Doctor, who managed to maintain a worldwide fan base even when he was off screen, has the potential to become one of the most lucrative franchises in television history. Spin-off computer games, toys and books are already being prepared.
Last night's episode was pitted against ITV's flagship Ant & Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway show and the corporation will be eagerly awaiting ratings figures.
To further bolster its chances of success the programme, which is scheduled to run for 13 weeks, is being shown immediately after Strictly Dance Fever, the latest incarnation of the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing series.
The long-awaited return of Doctor Who pulled in more than 10 million viewers, figures revealed yesterday, bringing a much-needed boost to the BBC’s Saturday night television schedules.
Unofficial overnight figures showed a peak of 10.5 million at 7:30pm and an average of 9.9 million for the whole programme, giving new timelord Christopher Eccleston and his assistant Billie Piper an audience share of 43.2 per cent.
The figures overshadow those of weekday stalwart EastEnders, which earlier this month slipped to a record low of 6.2 million viewers. Rival soap Emmerdale averaged 8.8 million in a recent one-hour special.
The latest version of the cult programme, which returns after an absence of more than 15 years, also won acclaim from fans and former Doctor Who stars. Producers have added an array of new special effects to the traditional mix of eccentric science-fiction and battles with arch-enemies.
Saturday night’s episode won a head-to-head contest with ITV1’s Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway, which drew an average of 7.2 million viewers and only a 31.4 per cent share despite a guest appearance by England footballer David Beckham.
A spokesman for the BBC said the figures proved many had "sat down as a family to watch the return of Doctor Who".
But an ITV spokeswoman said it was untroubled by the defeat, claiming any comparisons between an entertainment show and a big budget drama would be unfair. "The audience for Ant and Dec was up on the show last Easter Saturday, which got 7.1 million viewers, so we have no complaints," she said.
Yesterday’s unofficial numbers reveal Salford-born Eccleston may challenge Tom Baker’s record for the most watched debut episode of a new Doctor since the show began in 1963. In 1974, when Tom Baker first threw a scarf around his neck and became Doctor Who, 10.8 million people tuned in. Official figures, due to be published later this week, usually show a slight rise on unofficial numbers.
Saturday’s audience also dwarfed figures for the last full series of the show in 1989, when Sylvester McCoy’s seventh Doctor won an average of 4.2 million viewers, prompting the programme to be axed.
In the first episode of the new series, aided by pop singer turned actress Piper, who took on the role of his new assistant, Rose, the Doctor battled with possessed plastic mannequins called Autons.
At its height in the 1970s, 10.2 million people watched Doctor Who, many retreating behind sofas in fear of the programme’s famous Daleks.
Douglas McNaughton, who organises publicity for the Edinburgh and Lothians Doctor Who Group, loved the start of the new series. He said: "It was terrific - very fast, very pacy and very 2005. They kept the same magic but managed to make it appeal to a new audience."
He added: "My niece, who is nine, loved it and couldn’t believe it when I told her there are 12 more episodes to come."
Estimates suggest Doctor Who could make the BBC as much as £75 million over the next five years. The new series cost £12 million to make and has already been sold to broadcasters in Canada, New Zealand and Italy.
Much of the cash is expected to come from the sale of merchandise - a radio-controlled Dalek is due to hit the shops in October, and a replica of The Doctor’s Sonic Screwdriver is tipped to be the must-have toy next Christmas.
Die-hard fans and newly hooked children are expected to want their very own version of the Screwdriver, a tool that successive Doctors have used since 1968. The toy will have a blue flashing light that can be withdrawn into its handle by pressing a button.
Dunoon-born McCoy said the new version of the programme was "simply wonderful". He added: "The writing is terrific and the toys they play with are much more sophisticated than they were in my day.
"You can’t really compare different series’ of Doctor Who because they are very much of their time and very different animals. Having said that, I am very envious about not being in it."
It’s the same now as it was in 1963 - it looks fantastic
The first episode of the new Doctor Who series was exhilarating. After a long gap since the last Doctor sped through time and space, I was on the edge of my seat while I watched.
I had fairly low expectations of it, partly because of the leak that appeared on the internet a few weeks ago, but also because people said it was going to be too comedic. However, I was wrong - this was brilliant.
Christopher Eccleston will take a bit of getting used to as The Doctor, but it was the same when Tom Baker stepped into the role for the first time. On Saturday The Doctor was all over the place but, like Baker, I think Eccleston has the potential to be a really good Doctor.
I really rate him as an actor: Our Friends in the North is one of my favourite TV dramas. I was surprised an actor of his stature would take on a role with such baggage, but having a big name like him will attract better guest stars to the series.
Billie Piper was also absolutely brilliant, really believable. It’s interesting what the producers have done with the role of the assistant - she can’t just be a cipher anymore to ask The Doctor questions and explain the plot to the viewers. Billie held her own well and could be as good as my favourite assistant, Sarah Jane Smith, played by Elisabeth Sladen back in 1970s.
The man behind the new series, Russell T Davies, is one of the best writers around. He has a good way with dialogue and character and will make the show engage with today’s television audience.
The new look for the TARDIS was interesting. They couldn’t go back to it being a one-room set, but the new interior does give a nod to the way it used to look. It looks really fantastic, as if it’s a working machine.
I was pleased with what I saw of the special effects in the first episode. Long-term fans like me have never liked the shaky sets of days gone by and I won’t miss them. It’s the same now as it was back in 1963 - the success of the show is down to the stories and the dialogue and the characters, not the sets.
I’m very excited about what’s coming next because the clips that were shown on Saturday night before the new episode looked fantastic.
First impressions? Too early to say, but I’ll say it anyway: Christopher Eccleston is, (by an intergalactic mile), the most engaging Doctor Who there has been to date - witty, warm-hearted, slyly mysterious and intensely energetic. His on-screen presence is bigger than that of all his predecessors combined - with the single exception, of course, of Tom Baker. Eccleston radiates charisma - even his absence has a presence of its own.
Add to this Russell T Davies’s seamless script in the opening episode - among the slickest, funniest and most knowing Doctor Who scripts there have ever been. The Timelord’s return was a timely hit from its opening signature tune (were you hiding behind the sofa?) to the pay-off scene, when Rose (the Doc’s new sidekick, beautifully played by Billie Piper with just the right amount of awe) decided to kiss goodbye to her boyfriend and to her shopaholic mum and throw in her lot with this strangely attractive and magnetic alien who had come to save the world - and, as we learned, not a moment too soon.
The threat to the planet came in the guise of the Autons and the Nestene consciousness - "Living Plastic" - a force for evil whose secret headquarters lay beneath the Thames embankment, in a cauldron of molten plastic, red-hot and bubbling. In pools of light along Oxford Street’s shop-fronts plastic mannequins twitched and contorted, jerking their limbs, smashing out of their glassy confines to stroll amok among screaming shoppers. Only the Doctor’s tiny phial of "anti-plastic" could quell the invasion. Which it did - but not before the gallant Rose had saved the Doctor from near destruction, thereby proving herself to be worthy of a billet in the TARDIS.
As there are 12 further episodes remaining, you knew for sure the Doc would prevail. He and Rose will doubtless chance their luck, coming close each week, but always escaping. Along the way there may be surprises, trips to the extraterrestrial funfair of the writers’ imaginations, but no suspense. Suspense has never been Doctor Who’s forte. Instead it’s concerned with quelling our fears, not stoking them up. When good confronts evil (more often than not dressed up in Bacofoil, dripping slime and sounding hoarse) - it routinely defeats it. Now over 40 years after its first transmission, Doctor Who is long past its scare-by-date. Entertainment, faith in humanity’s basic decency, plus a weakness for wryly-amusing implausible plots are its stock in trade. A welcome return.
The wait must have seemed timeless to his army of fans. Among the most devoted – or obsessive – of any television series, Doctor Who followers have been desperate to see timelord and TARDIS back on the nation's television screens.
After nearly 16 years away, 10.6 million viewers saw the Doctor again on Saturday night.
And this time, the creaky sets and dodgy foam monsters were replaced by slick special effects, knowing humour, and a cool, assured performance from elfin beauty Billie Piper.
Doing the Doctor's rounds this time was intense Mancunian actor Christopher Ecclestone, who pitched his two-hearted timelord at just the right level of over-the-topness.
But what would did a diehard Doctor Who fan make of it all? Teacher Chris Hoyle, of Oakwood, Leeds, who has filmed his own amateur Doctor Who films, gives his verdict below:
"I'm always wary of a re-launch; there's inevitably going to be high expectation, and the hope that it will live up to what's gone before. With Doctor Who, a show that has a legacy older than I, the expectation was, understandably, huge.
From the moment that familiar signature-tune screams in, and we're thrown down a flailing vortex after the TARDIS, it'' evident that the show has been modernised with a capital 'M'.
Murray Gold's reworking of the original 1970s title music is inspired; whilst retaining elements of the original theme, it's now been augmented with orchestral sounds as well as subtle 'wah-wah' guitar riffs to give it almost a tense urgency – a theme carried throughout the entire episode, in fact. The whole production is fast-paced, with a good scattering of tension-building – just enough to let you catch your breath (or poise, holding it!!). Five or ten minutes into the story and a good, consistent atmosphere has been established; light-hearted but very realistic – a trade-mark of Russell T Davies' writing.
On occasion, though, this does tend to stray into the realms of comedy, suggesting a slightly tongue-in-cheek attitude, the two most noticeable examples being the initial tomfoolery with the Auton arm at Rose's flat, as the Doctor tries to fend off the disembodied arm whilst Rose is completely oblivious, and the scene where Rose meets Clive; a man who has been studying the Doctor for some time and has noticed his continual presence throughout history. In what is an excellent pastiche on a scene from Terry Gilliam's 'Twelve Monkeys', Clive suggests that the Doctor is some sort of dark angel, bringing death wherever he appears, identifying the Doctor in various photographs throughout history. The gravitas of the scene is tempered somewhat by being intercut with shots of Rose's boyfriend being swallowed by an almost cartoon-style wheelie-bin, complete with comedy burp afterwards. These are my only two gripes, though, and small ones, too. They're more than made up for by the excellence of the production as a whole. Ecclestone is definitely a Doctor for the 21st Century, with superb mood-swings and detachment emphasising his alien attributes; his openness to Rose as he describes feeling the motion of the Earth spinning through space, followed by the private grimace as he walks away from her, suggest a darker side to the character. This is borne out in a later sequence where Rose enters the TARDIS for the first time – superbly written and realised. If this is the shape of things to come for Ecclestone's Doctor, we're onto a winner. Will I be watching next week? Without doubt!!! Is it still 'Doctor Who' after 42 years? Well, I was led to believe that 42 was the answer to life, the Universe and everything, but that's another story...."
"LOOK, it's Queen's Arcade!"
In how many living rooms across Wales was that shout echoed on Saturday night as Doctor Who returned to our screens, this time made in Wales?
It was almost impossible to concentrate on what was going on in the programme because of the temptation to shout out every time you recognised a landmark.
Although the first episode, featuring Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor and Billie Piper as his assistant Rose, was set in London, there were enough glimpses of Cardiff to know it had been filmed here.
"Ooh, there's a sale on in Howells", "Isn't that Grangetown?" and "I've eaten in that restaurant" were popular comments as I watched the show.
The show grabbed 9.9 million viewers, beating off competition from Ant and Dec on ITV.
But from the outset, spot the location was the game to play.
Rose's job as a shop assistant was based in Howells in the centre of Cardiff, and the store was the setting for a large part of the programme.
The store's shop dummies came alive - living plastic that wants to take over the earth - and Rose and the Doctor were chased through the bowels of the store before jumping in the Tardis and reappearing on the Embankment in London.
One of the most memorable shots was the store exploding in a ball of flame, Rose escaping just in time.
I struggled to recognise the block of flats where Rose lived with her mother, although I am convinced the street where she visited Clive, the internet anorak, was somewhere in Roath.
When her boyfriend was abducted by a strange rubber wheelie bin (Cardiff Council could expect a compensation claim for that), I was peering at the street sign in the background to see if the wording was in Welsh.
I'm sure they were eating in La Fosse when he turned into a bizarre "spades-for-hands" plastic man and started to attack her.
There was no doubting the venue for the scene when allthe dummies came alive, as Rose's mother entered the Queen's Arcade with the entrance sign in full view.
But when they ran on to the street and chaos ensued, I couldn't help shouting, "but that street's pedestrianised" as the London bus crashed.
Eagle-eyed viewers will also have noticed that the final scene, when Rose decided she'd join the Doctor on his crusade through time and space, the Tardis was actually sitting in the middle of Cardiff's outdoor market.
In the forthcoming programmes there will be plenty more Cardiff locations to spot, but also other locations around Wales.
Two out of the first 13 episodes are set in South Wales, with filming also taking place in Swansea and Monmouth.
When he began working on the series, writer Russell T Davies was hopeful it would lead to more mainstream programmes being made in Wales.
"There is a resistance to Welshness on the network that needs to change, and I think the fact that a series as big as Doctor Who is being made by BBC Wales can only help," he said.
"Cardiff is an extremely underrated production centre.
"It is so easy to film here.
"The range of locations is fantastic, so we can do rural and beaches and urban and Vic-torian."
I Watched the first episode of the new Doctor Who with a mixture of delight and ruefulness. Delight because it is precisely the mix of innovative creativity and connection to the past that the future of the programme needed.
Christopher Ecclestone is absolutely spot on. He looks splendid; that's the costume I would have liked black leather jacket, black T-shirt - although, I must admit it looks better on him.
He has just the right mix of humour, passion, quirkiness and single-mindedness to provide the dynamo that is necessary at the centre of the programme.
Billie Piper too is an unexpected revelation and has made the perfect start.
And the writing, special effects, filmic style and "look" have been pitched at precisely the right level.
All of which has contributed to a whole fresh and inspiring feel to the programme.
A new audience could not fail to be gripped and I believe that a significant proportion of the old loyal diehards will find enough that is familiar to be carried along for the ride, with a smile.
Ruefulness? I would have loved to have been playing the part when all that was possible.
On behalf of my children and their contemporaries, thanks are due to the executive producer and writer Russell T Davies for having the vision to prove what we all knew that there was life in Doctor Who yet.
One small cavil not about the programme just stop going on about your Mancunian roots and comparing them with your "posh" predecessors, Mr. Ecclestone.
You're following a Liverpudlian (Paul McGann), a Scot (Sylvester McCoy), and another Mancunian (me) none of whom would have been invited, or allowed, to play the role as a northerner.
Television has changed in 20 years. You had to speak "standard English" when Tom Baker (another Liverpudlian), Peter Davison, Sylvester, Paul and I started; now, quite rightly, the media embrace and show diversity in accent, appearance and race.
So be grateful, Christopher, that you're allowed to be a northerner and shut up, please. You can rely on your talent. The work needs no justification. It stands alone. The accent is irrelevant.
Play the part with passion, talent and commitment (and the signs are that you certainly are doing all three) and we don't care if you sound like an Etonian, a Grimsby fisherman or a Northern Irish preacher.
Anyway, it's nice to have something to look forward to apart from the football results on a Saturday again.
And get that sofa away from the wall! The Doctor is back with a vengeance.
It was great to sit down and watch the new Doctor Who from the very first moment, knowing I was not in it.
When I was the Doctor, I was the one hiding behind the sofa as soon as that exciting 1960s theme tune started.
The episode began by zooming into our universe, down to Europe, Britain and London, into the bedroom of Billie Piper's character Rose before she rushed off to her department store job.
We were given several glimpses of her day, which wonderfully conveyed a sense that life was passing her by, without a single word being said.
The adventures started when Rose went into the shop basement, wandering along famous dark Doctor Who corridors which I always found myself running up and down.
When shop dummies suddenly came to life, it was a fitting homage to old Doctor Who stories (1970s episodes Spearhead from Space and Terror of the Autons) as well as introducing a new and exciting Who.
Just as Rose was about to be chopped to death by hard plastic hands, another alien came to pull her away. The Doctor had made his entrance.
After saving her life he blew up the department store in spectacular fashion. It was a pretty good beginning.
Christopher Eccleston was quite alien as the Doctor. He looked wonderful.
He had this manic grin which worried me. We were not sure if he was on the edge of insanity or not, which was rather good. He just ran into danger with such gusto, he galloped at it joyfully.
Billie Piper was just quite fantastic, she really was wonderful in the role. The relationship between the two of them was quite extraordinary.
In a way this Doctor was not the brightest brain in the universe - he's a bit like an Oxford don in that he's full of brains but with not much nous.
There was a great scene when he was searching for a giant round object and Rose had to point out that he was standing right in front of the London Eye.
He seemed to need Rose more than any other Doctor needed his companion, because she could really help him out.
I was not so sure about the new Tardis, however. I loved the one they made for the 1996 Doctor Who movie, a fantastic Jules Verne-type of creation.
The inside of this one looked more organic, like a skull or a brain held together by a bony structure. I'll have to see whether it grows on me.
I was also a bit dismayed that more wasn't made of the show's incidental music, which seemed fairly anonymous in the background.
I previously took part in an internet Doctor Who adventure - 2001's Death Comes to Time - which used classical music brilliantly and showed how closely you could incorporate music into the story.
However, I was pleased to hear the Doctor explain about the speed of the earth's turn and the pollutants which made our planet so attractive to the aliens.
That educational element would have kept Doctor Who's original BBC commissioners happy in 1963.
There was also a great scene in a restaurant, after Rose's boyfriend had been turned into plastic.
The Doctor pulled his head off and his hands suddenly changed into hammers, demolishing furniture like some wild cartoon character. It was terrifically done and great fun.
Overall I was left feeling very positive about the new series. It had a great pace, it moved really quickly and was witty.
Before I saw the episode I didn't think I would catch the new series, as I am working in the theatre all the time and watching television can be difficult.
But I have been captivated by both the new Doctor and his assistant, Rose. I want to learn more about them as the series progresses.
The Doctor also provided us with a marvellous new chat-up line: "It also travels through time."
Try that out on a Friday night and, my God, things will happen.