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Doctor Who – Season One: The Review

Channel: BBC One

Recurring Cast: Christopher Ecclestone, Billie Piper

It seems silly to think of the Modern Who reboot as a risk, but when you think about the controversy around the show or how vocal the fans are, it is a miracle that Doctor Who made the return it did. There is so much that could have gone wrong.

The newer fans won’t know this (by the way, I have no knowledge of Classic Who, so I would count myself as a Modern Whovian), but this reboot changes so much about the series. For one, it is a common fact that the Doctor is the last of the Time Lords, but this information was first revealed in Episode Two of this season. The Time War happened in between now and the end of the Classic Who period, so that must have been a sucker punch for the older fans tuning in. This whole empire had just fallen ‘behind the scenes’. It must have been hell of a gamble for Russell T. Davies, the mastermind behind the reborn Doctor Who, to play that card. I enjoyed how he expected to win over a new audience and he let the new viewers slowly understand this character. Most of us knew the Doctor as this mythical Sci-Fi character, but we, or at least me, didn’t really understand the basics other than ‘time travel’. Davies broke the story down and fed it to us piece by piece.

Davies also understands that it is important to use the benefits of a 21st century Who, rather than trying to replicate the old stuff. A broken down story wouldn’t really work here, so Russell T. Davies makes Doctor Who thirteen 45 minute stories (with some cliff-hangers thrown in). He also injects some emotion and drama into the mix, something that the Classic Who didn’t really have. The characters are a lot deeper than they used to be and there is an arc to their development, rather than us being able to pick up any old story and be happy watching it, oblivious to what came before. The story arc is also a new feature. I enjoyed that it was pretty much invisible until the very end. These words ‘Bad Wolf’ sprinkled across the episodes, until we learn it ties in with the final menace. I thought that was a really clever narrative device and it’s a shame that we have wised up to it now, because I would much prefer this subtle connection of the stories rather than Moffat’s grand sagas.

Let’s talk the cast. Christopher Ecclestone might have been overshadowed by Tennant and Smith, mainly because he only did this season, but, looking back, he is bloody brilliant. He is responsible for shouldering this weight of a reboot and he handles it magnificently. He is manic one second and serious the next. He can go from that big cheesy smile to that frosty, dark glare. His reactions, when he first encounters old enemy, the Dalek, is fantastic, almost turning him into the villain of the piece (a side to the Doctor I want to see explored with Capaldi). The companion is played by Billie Piper, which is probably the factor that got us worried with the trailer. Isn’t she that girl who brought out those terrible songs in the 90s? While her character is a little creepy in Season Two, Piper is great here. She is instantly relatable, which is important when her co-star is portraying an unpredictable, god-like alien. In many ways, this universe is shown to us through her eyes, so it is imperative that we get along with her. The good news is: we do. I feel like I should also commend John Barrowman for the great character of Captain Jack and also Noel Clarke, who pretty much launched a fantastic career from his role of slightly dim-witted, yet loyal, Mickey.

If you wanted specific episodes I enjoyed, then I would give you ‘The Dalek’, which brought the Doctor’s greatest enemy back incredibly (maybe the best Dalek story of the new Who). I also enjoyed the two-parter that Moffat wrote about World War Two. The gasmask zombies were creepy and it was a time, when Moffat’s wit was boxed into a single episode, so it didn’t get out of hand. I liked the twist, enjoyed the story and applauded it for being what it was. The finale was also really good, bringing the emotion and danger to an absolute high. The ending was also pretty satisfactory, something that I sometimes find lacking in the Matt Smith era. Low points would be certain episodes that were a little slower, but they were created to lay the foundations for the new Doctor Who. Introduce us, bring us up to speed and the writers built from there. A triumphant return for one of Britain’s greatest TV characters.

Final Verdict: The reboot is so terrific, I am willing to overlook filler episodes and dull notes. Russell T. Davies resurrects an old hero and gives us the series we have all wanted.

Five Stars