‘Go home and have your lovely beans on toast…’
Can the best Doctor Who stories be summed up in a question?
Once taking bronze in a school gymnastics competition is the very thing that jaded shop girl Rose Tyler requires in order to help her new friend Doctor Who – fugitive from a space war – to defeat a living plastic entity that wants to eat the world, but does she really want to join him on his adventures in time and space?
Best moment for Old School Who?
Much was made in 2005 of how Who’s effects would have to compete once more with flashier SF franchises and once again it proves that the best effects are when something mundane starts doing something unexpected. Such as when shop dummies come to life and smash plate glass windows, all over again.
Some of the marching about is a bit ropey, but the Autons are remarkable here for their sound effects – the popping noise of their hand-guns is the same as it was in 1970, but they also have new, very sinister creaking noises when they move.
Best new thing?
We are in the present day. That’s the new thing. We’re in a world of shopping malls, mobile phones, the internet and the London Eye – all are grist to the mill for new stories about aliens attacking London.
They’d never have got away with that in the 20th century…
The new companion has a boyfriend, who she’s sleeping with. She has a life. She isn’t related to a scientific uncle who works for the military. She isn’t posh. She folds jumpers in a shop and lives in a flat with her mum, who’s as common as muck.
Hurray for Jackie Tyler! The best guest moment?
Jackie does some late night shopping and, by the time she reaches the bottom of the escalator, she notices that the shopping mall is under attack from evil waxwork dummies who are shooting bargain-hunters dead. Jackie’s struck momentarily dumb and her response, when it eventually comes, is to give a very old-school Doctor Who lady scream and to throw her shopping bag away. Then she toddles off in the revived series’ first proper moment of sheer camp.
The ‘I love me Nan…’ moment.
These are moments of egregious sentimentality or over-egging of the emotional pudding (so-called because of a Charlotte Church sketch from circa 2005.) I’d say ‘Rose’ is completely free of them. There’s not an ounce of sentimentality here, nor any slackening in the pace.
Those moments that make you sit up and realise something astonishing’s been said. Here it’s the revelations to do with Doctor Who’s recent past: ‘I fought in the war.’ And how he tried to save the Nestene homeworld.
Remember, at this point we didn’t know what the war was, or who was involved, or what the Doctor’s part in it might have been. We were avid for scraps of this developing storyline. Also, we didn’t know how much the series would take from the old, in terms of the mythology of the show and the character. It was quite a blast to hear the Nestene Consciousness named as such, and for it to address the Doctor as ‘Time Lord.’ It was exciting, and like slowly watching the massive backstory of the series bleed through into the new in a very measured, clever way.
Those twisty plot things. Here’s it’s a phial of blue ‘anti-plastic’ that the Doctor produces from inside his oddly-fitting jacket. In almost reverent homage to his voluminous pockets of old, and his instant-fixes of old, here comes the literal solution to the world’s predicament. But ironic or not, it’s still an overly convenient fix.
Where was I?
Here in this house. We’d only just moved in. After all those years waiting, and such a long time since the announcement that the show was coming back. It was almost impossible to believe that it was upon us. The music made it feel too much like that strange reboot of ‘Randall and Hopkirk Deceased.’ It was trying hard to be upbeat and youth-oriented and action-packed. But the Doctor was gangly and awkwardly charming, and everyone talked like real people - twenty to the dozen and caught up in their usual preoccupations. It was like someone was taking hold of an old six-part Pertwee story and shaking it hard till all the rubbish fell out and we were left with something shiny, and new.
Singlemost fabulous thing
For me, it has to be Doctor Who and Rose running over Westminster Bridge towards the underground lair of the Nestenes and the final act of the adventure. Heading towards deadly danger Rose is GRINNING like crazy. Clearly she oughtn’t to be. Maybe they used the wrong take, or they couldn’t shoot it again. But I love the fact she’s smiling like that: it’s like she can’t believe her luck.