The season where things explode a lot


To celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Doctor Who, my household has decided to embark on a ten month marathon rewatch of all the episodes since 2005. Now before you pipe up and say that wouldn’t take ten months if we were really trying, let me just say this: there are 102 episodes of New Who. 102, in case you’re not very good at maths, is a lot of episodes. We have a viewing schedule which will take us right up to the 50th anniversary special in November. This is the long game.
This is the first in a special series of wrap-up blogs, compiling my thoughts and musings on each season. If you don’t like Doctor Who, that’s fine, you can skip these ones. Also if you don’t like minor spoilers for television that aired almost a decade ago, you might want to look away.
But if that isn’t you, read on.    
There are a number of running themes in season one. Here are the main ones:
  • Rose being trapped in a room because she ran off
  • Aliens exploding
  • Death
Rose running off is to be expected. When you let someone as stubborn and frustratingly free-willed as Rose Tyler loose on an alien spaceship, she’s bound to get herself locked in a room. And the nice man with the time machine is going to have to come and break her out because otherwise she’s definitely going to die. Companions have a long history of being a bit damsel-in-distress and Rose takes on this tradition with gusto.
I should probably admit at this point that I am not a Rose fan. Rewatching this season, I couldn’t help thinking that, if faced with the same situation, Amy Pond would just roll up her sleeves and damn well escape from that room. Rose just screams a lot and bangs on doors, begging to be saved. She also says some really, properly bitchy things sometimes. She’s terrible to both Mickey and to her mother, she’s condescending to minor characters because she’s a time traveler and therefore knows more than they do. I do not think that Rose and I could be friends.
Meanwhile, aliens explode, or are exploded, in almost every episode in season one. Bad guys (and sometimes good guys) get disintegrated in gas explosions and crack open because their face skin isn’t moist enough; they get bombed, ignited, self-destructed and some of them just seem to explode of their own accord. I love a good bang as much as the next person, but it does get a bit ridiculous once you start counting. Maybe Nine just really likes blowing things up. Maybe all that Time War angst that’s still pulsing around his system just gives him the overwhelming compulsion to set shit on fire. It isn’t until the Moffat penned gems (‘The Empty Child’ and ‘The Doctor Dances’) that this trend is broken.
The explosions do tend to fit within the wider violence of this season, though. One of the main problems I have with the Russell T Davis era of Doctor Who is the amount of people who are senselessly gunned down. Human life, despite The Doctor constantly trying to save it, doesn’t seem to have a whole lot of value. There’s no consequences. People are obliterated in front of their family, their children, their friends. Some of the scenes from this season, if placed in a different context, would be properly distressing.
Take the double episode that wraps this season up. Have you ever stopped to think about those reality shows? This is a world where people are doomed to live indoors, trapped by crippling pollution. They do nothing but watch TV. Occasionally, and this is the really awful bit, someone is randomly teleported out of their home and to their (almost certain) death.  Can you imagine that? One moment you’re watching TV with the love of your life and the next moment they’re gone and you’re forced to watch them battle for their life, helpless to save them but unable to look away. That sounds like the plot of a B-grade horror movie.
Season one has high points, and it has low points. I don’t think that this season has aged well. And I don’t just mean that some of the effects look dodgy (some of them still look great – ‘The End of the World’ is a beautiful episode) I mean that, in the greater scheme of Doctor Whohistory and mythology, there’s a lot of things in this season that fall short. Nine isn’t a bad Doctor, not at all, but he certainly isn’t the best Doctor. And though, especially with rewatching, I do have a certain fondness for him, I can’t bring myself to rate him highly within the lineage of Doctors. He’s more Colin Baker than Tom Baker.  
Maybe the screaming and the death and the explosions are inspired by Classic Who (a lot of people definitely died in some of those episodes) but having seen the “fairytale” that is season five, it all seems a bit harsh and artificial. I have fond memories of this season. As an excited 14 year old that was addicted to Classic repeats, I was so thrilled to have Doctor Who of my own, that I could see as it was released. The reboot meant a lot to me and if Davis hadn’t got the ball rolling we wouldn’t have all the great stuff that followed.
I can’t love season one. I like it, for sure; but it’s just okay, not great.
Best minor character that gets senselessly killed: that tree woman
Most cringe-worthy moment: most of Boomtown
Less memorable companion in Doctor Who canon: Adam (see you don’t even remember him at all do you?)
Best use of Simon Pegg: The Long Game
Remember when: a Dalek downloaded THE WHOLE INTERNET with a plunger?
Best episode: a tie between ‘The Doctor Dances’ and ‘The Parting of the Way’
Worst episode: ‘Father’s Day’
Average episode rating: 5.7
As of today the ABC has officially announced that the new series will air on Sunday March 31st. Which is finally, officially fast-tracked, just hours after the UK. I’ve been waiting for this since 2005.

Further reading

December – home

I spent the first minutes of 2018 on the beach. I’ve never actually spent New Year