Doctor Who – Rose

ROSE

By Tim Doyle

Art by Tim Doyle

Story 1.01
Written by Russell T Davies
Transmitted 26 March 2005

Rose Tyler’s day started like any other. But when she was chased through a department store by living plastic mannequins only a stranger in a leather jacket armed with a screwdriver and a bomb stood between her and certain death. Rose met the Doctor and her life was never the same. After she witnessed the shop she had worked in for ages blown sky high, she was in a daze, unsure if any of it had even happened. Then the Doctor returned, tracking a rogue plastic limb back to her apartment. The Doctor deactivates the limb after it attempts to kill him, explaining that it was under the control of an alien intelligence. He tries to swan off, but Rose is like a bad penny and follows.

Investigating the Doctor online, Rose meets Clive who has been collecting evidence connecting the Doctor to historic disasters including the sinking of the Titanic, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and more. While she confers with Clive, her boyfriend Mickey is replaced by a plastic replica. The Doctor comes to Rose’s rescue once again, but it is Rose herself who not only manages to locate the transmitter used by the alien consciousness to control the plastic Autons, but also save his life.

The Doctor is clearly on the run from a past that has changed him into a pariah, a dark and mysterious figure. While he is in touch with the movement of the universe he is no longer the dashing hero of old. This Doctor is a scarred and tragic figure who just happened to find Rose, a girl who could guide him into finding new purpose and rediscover his true persona.

It had been fifteen years since the familiar sound of the TARDIS had graced the TV screens in a new adventure. Still regarded as a national icon, the program had been considered for a return in various guises (from a cable series starring Rutger Hauer to a feature film with Dudley Moore and even a cartoon) over that duration but Russel T Davies is the man who brought Doctor Who back to the small screen and introduced it to a new generation.

Casting the Doctor was a challenge but former collaborator Christopher Eccleston (who had previously worked with Davies on The Second Coming) was a surprise choice. An established actor and a private man, Eccleston wasn’t a fan of the program, admitting in interviews that he felt alienated by the posh upper class approach and preferred playing out in the yard. Convinced by Davies’ reputation, Eccleston hoped that the modern Doctor Who would appeal to a family audience and provide intelligent, progressive and exciting entertainment.

As the Doctor, Eccleston brought plenty of presence, but seemed painfully out of place during moments of forced comedy. The quirkiness of the Doctor never sat well with him. However, the chemistry with co-star Billie Piper was strong and he managed to breath life into the dialog which made what could have been an embarrassing and silly program a roaring success.

A relative unknown (aside from a brief stint as pop idol), Billie Piper was an ideal actress to play the companion, providing a perfect foil to Eccleston’s Doctor. She was feisty, opinionated, sensitive and brave, charging headlong into danger. Viewers of the classic program could easily see hints of Ace in this companion, but the major difference was that she brought with her a supporting cast of characters from her mother to her boyfriend. Doctor Who was no longer just a science fiction/fantasy adventure series, it was also a situation drama.

When it was first broadcast, Rose was a major media event but still appealing to a core audience. It did not have the strong following it does today and viewers were almost entirely unprepared for such a program. After each episode of Doctor Who, a ‘confidential’ special followed that chronicled the classic 1963-1989/95 episodes along with the production of that night’s adventure. It was a novel idea that hammered home that this was not just any other program, it had a legacy.

I still remember the excitement that I first watched Rose through a dodgy connection on my PC. Just hearing the signature theme was a thrill and seeing the classic Autons return (complete with the same sound effects) was wonderful. But there are some painful moments in this premiere that haunted it throughout its second life. The reliance on pop culture references (Heat magazine) felt cheap and out of place. The special effects ranged from impressive to woeful (the wheelie bin burp still rankles) and the script was clearly not finished (the ‘lots of planets have a North’ line making no sense at all as former script editor Christopher H Bidmead was happy to point out).

But Rose was something entirely new in 2005. This was a different time, back before we knew Eccleston as the Ninth Doctor, back before it was cemented that this was a continuation of the classic program. The premiere feels a bit unsure of its identity, in my opinion. In its defense, in 45 minutes Rose combines moments of humor, drama and fantasy. The contemporary setting of the council estate is the only touchstone with the familiar. In Rose, a curtain is pulled back revealing a world of wild horror and only the Doctor can defend us from it.

2005’s Rose rejuvenated Doctor Who in ways that even the production team did not imagine possible (Davies figured that it might last for a series or two at most). Rose was such a hit that it was not long before the BBC saw it for what it was and the initial 6 part series was lengthened into one 12 part long series… a double bumper year’s worth of stories!

After witnessing the danger that surrounded the Doctor, Rose raced into the TARDIS to experience the unknown. ‘The trip of a lifetime.’

Ratings:
10.5 million overnight viewers (10.81 including recordings), a 44.3% share

(Note: I’m revisiting these episodes thanks to the Doctor Who: Series 1-7 Limited Edition Blu-ray Giftset which presents the first four series in high definition for the first time and I heartily recommend it. It also comes complete with a nifty sonic screwdriver remote control!)

Next time: The End of the World

Read more Doctor Who reviews

Read more Doctor Who reviews

Doctor Who’s Chris Eccleston ‘My conscience is clear’

When Doctor Who returned to the small screen, it was with some surprise that accomplished actor of stage and screen Christopher Eccleston was chosen to play the Time Lord. Beating out the competition of Sir Derek Jacobi (who is rumored to have attended a publicity shoot) and Bill Nighy (who was actually announced as the Doctor by mistake), Eccleston brought a level of credibility to the program, demanding that viewers recognize the importance of Doctor Who and the part that it plays with young people.

Leading up to the premier, Eccleston spoke at length about the importance of communicating to the younger generation using good solid storytelling and had great hopes in Russell T Davies in pulling this off. He also spoke about how as a child he could not relate to the RADA-style Doctors as they were of a different social background that he could not relate to. He cited that his Doctor would be more ‘street level’ rather than a high society and his roughed up leather jacket and black trousers backed this notion up.

A deeply scarred version of the Doctor, Eccleston’s incarnation was tired and worn from events that had occurred off-screen and on, developing a modern view of the Doctor as a man who had fought monsters and tyranny for generations, leaving him alone and shattered. A short period into the new series, there was some friction on the set due to several complications, leading to the announcement of his departure.

Despite all that, Eccleston is still proud of his achievement as the Doctor and he is more than comfortable with his decision to leave in 2005.

Ninth Doctor Who – Christopher Eccleston

 

Via STV:

Christopher Eccleston feels ”hugely grateful” to kids who like talk to him about his ‘Doctor Who’ career.

The 48-year-old actor left the BBC One show in controversial circumstances in 2005 after just one series of portraying the ninth Time Lord, but Christopher insists his ”conscience is completely clear” following his departure from the sci-fi programme.

He said: ”My conscience is completely clear. I’ve lived my life, particularly my working life, on the basis that I have to be able to look at myself in the mirror about the way I behave. It wasn’t a bold move, it was an entirely natural one.

”I’m hugely grateful to the children who to this day come up and talk to me about the show.”

There are some contradictory theories about why Eccleston left. Some say that the quality dropped off severely (witness the farting aliens in Alien of London and the rushed shoddy production of fill-in stories such as Boomtown). Other stories say that Eccleston felt that the program was going in a direction that he did not agree with, prompting him to leave early.

Most confusing of all is the story in RTD’s ‘A Writer’s Tale’ Eccleston had only planned to film one series anyway and the BBC published the story to drum up interest in a new actor taking on the part.

We’ll likely never know the truth, but Eccleston remains a fan favorite incarnation who was just as instrumental as RTD in the BBC Wales’ program’s success. The fact that children still come up to him to talk about Doctor Who is heartening… so long as no members of the media broach the taboo subject!

Why did Christopher Eccleston leave after one series of Doctor Who?

The Ninth Doctor - Chris Eccleston

In 2005, Doctor Who came back to the TV screens. Today, the series is an open book, but in the beginning, everything was very vague. Was this the same Doctor who had last been seen fighting the Master in San Francisco or was it a reboot of the classic series? It wasn’t until the Doctor picked up a Cybermen head from Revenge of the Cybermen and then met a Dalek that it became clearer… this was the same character with a new face. Even so, fans would have to wait until School Reunion to find out that the Doctor was from Gallifrey and in his tenth life cycle. In 2005, it was anyone’s guess.

This was partly down to the tone of the BBC Wales version of Doctor Who, which seemed inspired by the 1978 series known for its zany off-the-wall humor. The new Doctor was by far the most wildly spontaneous version of the character that we had seen to date, throwing himself into the deep end of danger without a second though. However, he was touched by tragedy as well, reluctant to take an active role in saving a life or civilization. Instead, he attempted to push those he met to helping themselves.

Actor Chris Eccleston was the most popular and successful actor to take on the role of the Doctor since Peter Davison back in 1980. It made a bold statement when he was announced over several other possibilities (including Sir Derek Jacobi and Bill Nighy). It made audiences sit up and take notice that this was a serious attempt to revive the program that once commanded the attention of millions. Interviewed at the time, Eccleston stated that he sought to bring the character down to Earth, as it were, by making him more colloquial and less grand and part of the old regime. He spoke of the importance of gaining the attention of children with good material and shouted praise of Russell T Davies to the hills.

Two series were crammed into one, putting a lot of pressure on the leading man who discovered that all of his noble intentions were lost behind farting aliens and a camp space pirate. Frustrated, he resigned and a newcomer named David Tennant was hired to take his place. Given that RTD had already worked with David who was a very devoted fan of Doctor Who, I cannot imagine that this was not planned early on.

Just as the British public was warming to this alien with a Northern accent dressed in as battered leather jacket, the BBC announced that Eccleston was leaving. Furious, the actor fought the press who painted him as an exhausted man overwhelmed by the demands of the role. Ever since, he has been reluctant to talk about his stint as Doctor Who and maintained that he has no wish to ever return. Recently, he gave what could be the most direct statement regarding his departure…

Via Guardian UK:
Speaking at an acting masterclass at the Theatre Royal Haymarket on Wednesday, Eccleston reportedly revealed that it was on-set politics and principles that finally led him to resign. According to Bad Wilf, which has a transcript of the session, Eccleston said he left the show “because I could not get along with the senior people”.

“I left because of politics. I did not see eye to eye with them. I didn’t agree with the way things were being run. I didn’t like the culture that had grown up around the series. So I left, I felt, over a principle.”

It’s brought an end to a lot of speculation. Ever since Eccleston left the show in 2005 he has dropped several lukewarm hints that there was more to his experience as the Doctor than he was letting on – with fan assumptions being that the BBC either wasn’t happy with him or that Eccleston feared he might never regenerate from Doctor Who’s typecasting doom if he stayed longer. When asked recently whether he would return for the show’s 50th anniversary in 2013 (an episode rumoured to feature past Doctors such as David Tennant) he was clear: “No, never bathe in the same river twice.”

A shame, really. For Eccleston’s Doctor may have had many faults – looking like an EastEnders extra and bellowing “FANTASTIC!” at every opportunity being two of them – but he was merely a reflection of a show that, at the time, still didn’t know what it wanted to be. The first series of the revived Doctor Who – which featured farting aliens – was a world away from the intelligent, populist science-fiction we know it as now. But then, it is thanks to Eccleston that it got this far at all – a big, respectable name who laid the foundations for Tennant to swag away with the show.

At his worst, Eccleston was as cheesy as the lines that were written for him. “I think you need a doctor,” he once said, before kissing his companion, Rose. At his best, however – in Steven Moffat’s sinister two-parter The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances, for example – he brought warmth, wit and promise. Yes, he didn’t really look right, but what he lacked in the Doctor’s trademark ‘quirk’ he made up for with a formidable presence.

He painted a picture of a man always on the run for fear of looking back – who had purged two mighty civilisations and was paying for it every day with his conscience. In essence, despite all the hype of a man who burns at the centre of time, Eccleston’s Doctor gave us something human. Given a second chance – or a second series – he could have given us a lot more.

Despite a promising headline, the article itself offers very little insight into why Eccleston left the program. At one point the story was that he had ‘always planned to be in one series only’ but that has since changed. What is interesting is that the article is followed by a slew of comments from readers praising him as the Doctor, something that rarely comes up in Doctor Who fandom more determined to deify his successor David Tennant. The Ninth Doctor was not perfect and his first series was far and away from the classic program, but it is interesting to see attention and praise heaped at his feet.

Of course that doesn’t mean that we’ll ever see him again as the Doctor, does it?

Doctor Who Classics – The Modern Era

In 1989, Doctor Who screened its last adventure with Survival. The story continued in a series of novels taking up the mantle of Andrew Cartmell’s master plan. In 1996 a new Doctor was introduced in a TV movie with less than favorable results. Even though Paul McGann was a fantastic modernization of the character, the film was poorly put together and ultimately failed at achieving a new lease on life for the program. Again, a series of books continued the 8th Doctor’s journey and audio adventures followed as well. When Doctor Who returned to TV screens in 2005 it was with Russell T Davies at the helm. A writer recognized for his success with the drama Queer as Folk and contributer to the Doctor Who novel canon, it seemed a dream come true for Whovians the world over.

A very public figure, Davies was often his worst enemy in the press. At first he declared himself to be a fan of Doctor Who and applauding the efforts of the classic series creators, Virgin Publishing and Big Finish for keeping the torch burning. When he came under fire from fans (mainly on online message boards) during his first two years he changed his tune saying that the detractors by calling them ‘moaning old minnies’ and claiming that they were not in touch with their emotions at all. This created an unnecessary  divide between fans of the old and the new, often making the two groups bitter enemies. It’s important to note that while online forums are a new thing, the kickback from fandom is not. Back in the day viewers wrote in either supporting or denouncing the direction of Doctor Who in very florid epithets. My favorite is the TV program which interviewed members of a Doctor Who Appreciation Society after the airing of the new series opener.  Fans denouncing a new Doctor as terrible or a story as poorly conceived is nothing new.

To add to the confusion, Davies reneged on his stance of fans by including references that only fans would understand and bringing back no less than four monsters/enemies (Daleks, Cybermen, Sontarans, the Master, Davros) during his five years as producer/head writer. He also took liberties by writing his own spin-off into Doctor Who lore and attempted to pull the viewers’ collective leg one time too many with a regeneration that wasn’t a regeneration at all. By the time he left and Moffat took over,  the formerly supportive group of Davies fans was showing signs of frustration. It was time for a change.

The modern era of Doctor Who is full  of problems but it is also immensely successful and still in production, making it a living creation rather than a legacy of programs that can be reviewed and investigated in a TV-style archeological manner. I make no effort to hide the fact that I prefer the classic to the new Doctor Who which is part of the reason why I am reviewing the classics in separate clusters to give each period what I hope is a fair shake. Doctor Who is constantly changing and mutating into something else which may not be one’s cup of tea, but it is never boring. It is its own creature and it is charting a history for a new generation of viewers.

The Modern Era Part One: Christopher Eccleston

The new updated version of Doctor Who would be built around human interactions rather than monsters, an emphasis on quirky humor and romance between the Doctor and his new companion Rose Tyler played by former pop idol Billie Piper. The first series was actually two series filmed back to back at breakneck pace, causing friction with the lead actor Christopher Eccleston. Eccleston had no real love for Doctor Who, but openly spoke of great respect for Davies as a gifted creator. In early interviews he made it plain that he planned to play the role as a more street level character rather than an upper class personality as he had seen in the classic series. He viewed the program as essential to children and had bold ambitions at crafting quality programming. In the end, he and Davies had disagreements in how they approached the material and Eccleston decided to leave. Eccleston was perhaps too fine an actor for the part in retrospect and lacked an ability to convey the oddball humor that Davies had infused into the character. However, Eccleston excelled at drama and portrayed one of the more brooding and intense incarnations on the screen.

The first series of the BBC Wales Doctor Who has very few references to the classic program and in many ways functions better as its own thing. This would change in its second year but for the opening series the Doctor was a distraught traveler trying to come to grips with a great catastrophe called the Time War. Dressed entirely in dark colors, the latest incarnation was a neurotic personality who seemed to charge headlong into danger as a means to escape his past. He also encouraged others to chart their own path rather than take an active part in their worlds. It was a very different approach which only changed in the final adventure when he took an active role against a vast army of Daleks, an unforgettable moment that cemented his place in Doctor Who history as one of the finest incarnations.

Dalek
The first time viewers got to see a Dalek on screen since 1988 (unless you count the Curse of Fatal Death), Dalek is a bit too post-modern for its own good, but it is also amazing. Depicting the sole surviving Dalek from the Time War as a pitiful creature chained in a top security facility was a brilliant move. When it comes to life after absorbing Rose’s time-traveling DNA (whatever that is), it charges onto action just as we had always wanted them to in the classic program. The new ‘golden’ design is brilliant and Nicholas Briggs brings great manic energy to the monsters with his distinctive voice work. The only script to date from Robert Shearman, it does have some flaws such as the deliberate humanizing of the Dalek in the concluding scene where it opens up and feels sunlight on its face. Up until that moment, it seemed that the entire affair was a ruse to escape, but in fact we are meant to pity the Dalek and feel sympathy for it… which felt forced in the end. Or maybe I’m just a cranky fan. In any case, I am very appreciative of this episode as it is the best of the new Dalek stories.

The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances
Steven Moffat’s first script for Doctor Who is the perfect example of how the series can be done well. The characters are rich, their interactions move the plot and the action as well as the horror perfectly quantified. The script is also very witty and full of brilliant inspirations. There are some weird moments such as the modern Doctor Who’s obsession with the Doctor’s sex life, but it’s easily forgiven as this is a great action story tempered with the creepiest visuals and stunning special effects. To round it all off, it’s a periods piece which I have a soft spot for. This story introduced the character of Captain Jack Harkness who has appeared as drastically different characters throughout this series and Torchwood. Here he is a lovable rogue whereas later he appears as a tough heroic type and later still a campy caricature. In his first appearance I loved him, but when he returned in Torchwood it felt very forced.

Honorable mentions: The Unquiet Dead, Father’s Day

The opening 13 stories has a mix of victories and failures with a few middling tales as well. The insistence of an over-arching story was a poor ideas in the end as it made absolutely no sense. The Unquiet Dead has been called far too formulaic but I love it. A Victorian historical adventure with supernatural and alien themes intertwined is wonderful. Father’s Day is another example of the program hitting the right notes with its emphasis on characters and their interactions rather than monsters. However, the monsters are very silly and make very little sense. That said, it’s a well written and emotional tale that uses Rose’s family well… unfortunately this is the only time the concept was used well but we had many more brushes with the Tylers.

I’d like to include the series finale that produced an impressive visual of a Dalek battle fleet, but the two-parter is riddled with horrible ideas such as Daleks using reality TV to take over humanity and Bad Wolf. The regeneration sequence was very odd as the Doctor died on his feet blazing magical energy through his head and arms. The 9th Doctor, still very new to us, was gone but his tale had been told. I do miss this incarnation but feel that his story was complete. As Eccleston refuses to even talk about his time on Doctor Who, I doubt we’ll ever see him return.
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The Modern Era Part Two: David Tennant

The 10th Doctor proved to be the most popular since Tom Baker… or even moreso depending on who you talk to. Tennant had a love for humor and slapstick and a very strong appeal to fans as a sex symbol. Dressed in pinstripes and trainers, this Doctor was quick-footed and a fast talker as well. The Doctor/Companion romance angle again took center stage as Rose and the Doctor were presented as the most perfect couple ever and then separated in an overly emotional sequence. I remember thinking that after Rose had gone we would be rid of the Doctor-in-love idea but Davies was like a dog with a bone, refusing to let go (in fact he had planned to introduce the Doctor’s TRUE love in series 4 before the idea was vetoed and Catherine Tate returned as spinster Donna Noble). The Doctor pined after Rose and nearly every woman he met became smitten with him. It was absurd and dragged the program down.

More classic monsters and companions returned and the connection between the new and classic Who was cemented a few times. The 10th Doctor had some superb adventures, but they were often booby trapped by Davies insistence that there be a human angle, usually involving supporting characters in love or a companion’s family that rarely had any impact on the main story. If these elements had been reduced or removed entirely, this era would have been truly great. In the end, over four years’ worth of programming I can only cite a few classics.

The Girl in the Fireplace
Another Steven Moffat story, Girl in the Fireplace utilized fantasy elements such as magic mirrors, imaginary friends from childhood and monsters hiding in a dark bedroom (there are seeds that would later bear fruit when Matt Smith took over with Moffat as head writer). Tennant plays the dashing hero, buffoon and tragic loner all at once in this one which is a bit much for only 45 minutes but Tennant pulls it off. I remember when I first saw this story I was over the moon at a more active and dynamic Doctor who actively took part in the adventures. Rose and ‘new’ companion Mickey are lots of fun here and roam around the spooky space craft arguing about the Doctor’s intentions. It’s a wonderful episode, features an impressive new monster (of sorts) in the Clockwork Men and even operates on an emotional level.

The Impossible Planet/The Satan Pit
Russell T Davies was quoted as saying that he despised alien planets in TV science fiction and was determined to avoid them. Much of his era is set on contemporary London and involved alien invasions of one kind or another along with numerous TV reports conveying the events. His first foray into an alien planet was this two-parter which proved to be a real standout adventure. Arriving on a base perched precariously on the rim of a black hole, the Doctor and Rose appear to have a case of the giggles. After losing the TARDIS to the planetoid’s unstable nature, they become more somber, however, and become linked to the crew of the base who are determined to solve the mystery of the impossible planet. The slave race known as the Ood are seen for the first time here and they are beautifully crafted by the special effects team. When the Ood become taken over by the evil entity inside the planet (voiced by Pyramids of Mars’ Gabriel Woolf), they become the standard lumbering Doctor Who monster chasing kiddies under their beds.

It’s all great stuff that sadly comes apart in the second portion when it becomes clear the story has nowhere to go. Even Davies admitted that he had no idea what would be at the bottom of the pit and the monster that we do see only exists thanks to some CG animators who agreed to do the work out of love for Doctor Who. Even so, this is a memorable story that had amazingly impressive sequences, an astounding guest cast, some real scary material and a diversity of action that kept it fresh.

Human Nature/Family of Blood
Initially a vehicle for the 7th Doctor as part of the New Adventures line of novels, Human Nature had very different origins than what we ended up with. In the book, the Doctor has just lost the trust of his companion Ace who had grown sick of his head games. Disgusted with himself and questioning his himself, he decides to take human form to better understand the race. As a human, the Doctor teaches young boys at a school, confronts the horrors of war, falls in love and feels all of the things humans are heir to. Meanwhile his companion Bernice Summerfield is watching over him, but neither she nor the Doctor planned on the Family of Blood who arrive desperate for the Doctor’s blood in order to spawn a race of blood-thirsty warriors.

Paul Cornell does a fine job of adapting his novel to TV creating one of the more memorable and enjoyable of the Tennant era adventures (in fact it was voted #1 overall by fans recently) but taken out of context the impetus is lost entirely. In the TV version the Family is hot on the Doctor’s heels and he decides to masquerade as a human being as a way of the perfect hiding spot. Additionally, when he regains his Time Lord persona, he insists that he is the same man which misses the point of the story entirely. Nevertheless, the story is very creepy, has some wonderful characters and excellent action sequences. The second part is surprisingly slim on plot and mainly consists of people running around… but nothing’s perfect.

Honorable mentions: Army of Ghosts/Doomsday, 42, Blink, Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead, Midnight

There are many also-rans of the Tennant era that are undermined by the same problems again and again. Army of Ghosts/Doomsday should be one of the best Doctor Who stories ever as it features Cybermen versus Daleks, but that part of the story plays second fiddle to Torchwood, Rose’s parents and the Doctor/Rose romance. Much like Rise of the Cybermen/Age of Steel this is so close to being a classic but it falls flat in the end. That said, the Daleks are magnificent in this one and their arrival is one of the high points of the second series. 42 has some awesome ideas and offers up some juicy opportunities for Tennant acting wise as he struggles to maintain his sanity as the intelligent star matter tears away at him. It also has Martha Jones who is a great companion sadly forgotten and underused. It’s rather strange to me to note Blink as a Tennant classic as it featured so little of the Doctor. A cleverly written plot playing with not only narrative styles but also time travel concepts that Moffat would later explore in series 5. Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead is a stunner and has lots of cool ideas and a knock-out monster as well as super plot ideas but there are poor ideas a-plenty as well such as the cliffhanger resolution and Tennant seems out of control acting-wise. Midnight is a clever idea and very atmospheric, but full of ridiculously boring characters and a vague alien threat that just disappears at the end. I want to like this one, really, but it just has too many flaws for me.

David Tennant had brought Doctor Who to new heights of popularity. A CGi animated feature, TARDISODES that could be downloaded to cellular phones and more were introduced in his time. Many fans of the series grew devoted to him and were angered that anyone could take his place, but in the end Tennant left the program and young Matt Smith arrived.
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The Modern Era Part Three: Matt Smith

Matt Smith and Steven Moffat arrived in 2010 to take Doctor Who into its new era. With Tennant gone, many feared for the future of the program that had become a major ratings star and cash earner for the BBC. Doctor Who became a fairy tale under Moffat’s guidance and the Doctor a Peter Pan-like character of magical ability and impish charm. When I had heard of Moffat’s intentions, my heart sank. I had my hopes of Patterson Joseph being cast as a kind of Pertwee-like gentleman Doctor. Instead, the frenzied and dizzy-headed 11th Doctor won me over and I became assured that Doctor Who was in good hands.

The program has only had a single series and a holiday special to date and while I have enjoyed the material, there’s not much that stands out so far as a candidate classic. The new Daleks were introduced (and the golden Daleks destroyed), the Silurians were given another face-lift and a new race of aquatic vampires made their debut. The overarching story of a crack in time, the pandorica and the new companion Amy Pond was a major success and the several ideas converged into the best finale Doctor Who has had since it has returned in 2005.

The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone
Smith’s first two-parter adventure is remarkable for using the multi-part format well for the first time in ages. Whereas the previous two-parters were often uneven in material or filled with superfluous scenes, but in this case the story perfectly fits the format. The return of the Weeping Angels from Blink and River Song from Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead makes this one a bit continuity heavy but Moffat uses the concepts to build both up and enhance the plot thread of the Pandorica/Crack in Time. The dynamic between the Doctor and Amy is deepened and additional layers are added as they work together to solve the mystery of the Weeping Angels. The special effects budget was cut down significantly in 2010, causing the crew to come up with new imaginative ways to convey ideas and monsters which is is interesting. I have to admit that I am cheating a bit by including this one as it is not entirely a classic, but it is the closes that I think Smith’s era has come to date.

Honorable mentions: The Hungry Earth/Cold Blood, Amy’s Choice, The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang

The new series has a tradition of bringing back a classic monster or villain each year. In 2010, the returning monster was the Silurians who look very impressive but character-wise are a far cry from their former selves. In an effort to give the monsters more complexity, the Silurians come off as more of a Star Trek villain. The special effects and scenery are both breathtaking and the plot unusual, but the execution is lacking. Amy’s Choice is a fun tale that has the characters placed into a fantasy reality, something that is entirely absurd considering the ‘reality’ that the Doctor and his companions exist in. The series finale is quite divisive as it is very silly and contains a vast amount pf plot coincidences and contrivances. Faced with an impossible situation, the Doctor finds an incredibly unlikely solution that borders on the ridiculous. The saving grace of the adventure is that Moffat cuts down the power and near-indestructibility that the Doctor’s ability to flit back and forth in time quite well. Too often the year-long story lines are tired ideas that barely hold together but in the 5th series, it really worked well and came together in the final two-parter.

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Thanks to readers to sticking with me on this long exploration of Doctor Who. It has been enlightening to me as the writer and I hope that it has been fun and interesting to read. Please remember to chime in below on your own opinions!