Thursday, 2 October 2014

Doctor Who, Season 1 (2005)

I have been fairly dissatisfied with the new Doctor Who since series three.  It's had good moments, but the bad has in my eyes outweighed the good.  That made me wonder if my fond memories of the first two seasons were somewhat rose-tinted (heh, "Rose"-tinted).  Hence I cracked open my boxed set of the series one to see how it held up.

The first thing I'd like to mention is how much I dislike the packaging of this series: it's grossly inefficient, taking up about eight DVDs worth of space on my shelf, and no doubt inflating the BBC's already jacked-up asking price.  It can be a pain to get the darn thing closed, too.

That said, and for those of you who have been living under a rock; the Doctor is an alien hero who travels through time and space fighting the good fight, usually with an attractive young human woman as his companion.  I've leave the uncomfortable implications of that last part alone, since this is a family-friendly show.  In season one, the companion is Rose Tyler, a working class Londoner whom many Who fans hate for some reason.  I'm not sure why.

So other than having packaging, how is season one?  Pretty good, on the whole.  The cast is strong, for one thing (not that I have any complaints about the acting in the later seasons, either, to be honest).  Christopher Eccleston does a bang-up job as a Doctor whose madcap antics mask terrible pain, and Billie Piper is thankfully a much better actress than she was pop star.

But it's the writing where I have issues with more recent Who, so how does that hold up?  Well, some episodes better than others to be honest.  I think I actually liked the double-episode Empty Child / The Doctor Dances even better this time around, for instance, and I know my opinion of The Long Game has improved from re-watching it.  On the other hand, Dalek, which I liked a lot, is now somewhat tainted by all the lesser Dalek-episodes that have followed and re-trod the same "these are the enemy so monstrous they can make the Doctor a monster as well" motif.

(Daleks are the Doctor's number one enemy: think of homicidal flying trash cans with lasers, and wonder why it was that as a child, they sent me scurrying behind the couch)

Where this series shines, I think, is that it manages to balance the silly and the scary pretty well.  Sure, we have fart jokes, but the show gets points for making those actually plot-relevant, and for knowing when to use them and when to focus on "scary monster time".  That's a balance I think the show doesn't do so well, any more.

So overall, this is solid family-friendly SF adventure.  It's a bit silly and a bit wacky, and it sometimes doesn't quite gel, but more often than not it does.

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