Mark Watches ‘Doctor Who’: S01E01 – Rose

In the first episode (of Doctor #9) of Doctor Who, a new group of people (myself included) are introduced to the bizarre world of the Doctor, an alien who battles…well, I’m not sure what. But he’s saving the world, guys! Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Doctor Who.

I have to say, as someone who only knew that a TARDIS was a phone booth that traveled through time, this was a fine introduction to the world of Doctor Who.

Aside from that detail, like most things I decide to tackle, I seriously don’t know much at all. I know Matt Smith wears a cute as hell bowtie and David Tennant did that weird tongue thing during Goblet of Fire. There are things called Daleks and Autons and I don’t know what they are or what they do. And Matt Smith’s companion is like the cutest being in all of existence.

That’s it. That’s all I know.

I wanted to do Doctor Who because I admired the challenge it would be to watch a show that’s been on since before I was born and I also wanted to do something that wasn’t centric to America. And…well, let’s be honest. I have seen about half of this show already through the sheer virtue of the GIFs you guys used during Mark Reads Harry Potter. I needed to see what all the fuss was about!

So, a bit more about how this is going to go down. I realize that this is the newest incarnation of the series and, despite being an introduction to the show at large, is still smack dab in the middle of everything. I’m sure for those of you following the older parts of the series, nearly everything that is confusing to me is perfectly logical for you. This was brought to my attention by quite a few of you, so for Doctor Who, we will have a slightly modified spoiler guide this time around. Please see the Official Spoiler Guide first, and here’s what we’re going to change:

  • Anything from a future episode is considered a spoiler. ANYTHING. Don’t do it.
  • However, in order to explain certain aspects of the current series, it’s going to be inevitable that you will need to reference past episodes so that I don’t do something stupid and hate a plot twist or character development out of ignorance.
  • If you feel compelled to explain something to me (and most times I will outright ask you to), please give me the most minimal information possible. I am going to watch older episodes/arcs each week and I don’t want them outright spoiled. But if I say, for example, “What is a TARDIS? I don’t get it,” you can provide what the acronym stands for and what it does. I don’t want you to like…provide the plot summary of the episode that deals with the origin of the TARDIS.

Make sense? Additionally, later today, I’ll put up the post with instructions on how we will nominate and vote for “old” episodes to be watched! Weeeeee!

I think I’ll stick with the labeling convention at the top, as long as it’s understood that “Season One” implies this is the first season of the “new” series. Or would it be better if I labeled it by Doctor? CONFUSED.

I sense that all Doctors have a companion and the companion is female. (Correct me if I’m wrong.) I enjoyed that the episode opened with her point of view instead of introducing us to the Doctor outright. Rose is portrayed as ordinary as possible, a working class woman who enjoys shopping, lives with a well-meaning, if decidedly awkward mother, and is employed at a local department store. It doesn’t take long for things to take a much darker turn as one of my worst fears is realized on screen: the mannequins in the back room come alive and begin to surround her.

NO. NO THANK YOU. FOREVER. I already find mannequins to be unsettling and have since I was a child; I always appreciate it when a store uses the ones without creepy heads and faces, but here, they’re the full-bodied ones, complete with blank faces. (Can I also say that those costumes look horrifically uncomfortable to wear? How did the actors playing them see out of them?)

It’s at this point that the Doctor, played by Christopher Eccleson, shows up at the very last minute to save her, right before one of them was going to karate chop her to death. The scenes are certainly played for their eeriness, but the sci-fi elements are ultimately more campy than they are frightening. That’s not a criticism, though, because right after this is when it becomes clear what the actual driving force is going to be for this show: the unbelievably witty, fast-paced dialogue.

When I was watching Firefly (oh god, why is it over sadness forever), I would take notes each episode and jot down quotes I particularly liked. Here, however, I kept missing them because they were spoken so quickly; after one particularly biting line from the Doctor that had me smiling, I’d already be laughing at something that Rose said. Most of it wasn’t necessarily laugh-out-loud funny, but that’s not also to say it wasn’t humorous.

I felt like the Doctor was taking new fans to task in a way. Here we have Rose, who has just witnessed something completely absurd to her understanding of the universe. Of course she’s going to quiz this man incessantly about all the details of his life and what just happened, just like I was doing while watching the episode. The Doctor uses wit to flippantly dismiss as much of what she’s saying as possible, but I was also surprised that he did nothing to contain her or what had happened. In fact, throughout the episode, the Doctor seems to work right out in the open without much attempt to be subtle or inconspicuous. I wonder why. (Don’t answer that.)

This episode also deals with a heavy amount of exposition. Once Rose tells her boyfriends about this strange Doctor, she finds a conspiracy-laden site about him and decides to visit the man responsible for it. I laughed at the seething rage Mickey displayed while she went inside Clive’s house; he’s clearly trying to act like the tough, protective boyfriend, but Rose has a sort of confidence about her. She doesn’t really need him to act that way.

Clive is a great character and I was a bit disappointment that his appearance is so brief, since he is later killed by one of the mannequins. The idea that a man who ran a conspiracy theory website was just an unassuming father and husband was such a fantastic detail to add to his character, right? The trope usually involves a single man with no social skills and a lack of bathing, but here, Russell T Davies (who wrote this episode) chose a much different route.

RIP Clive. 🙁 🙁

A point of criticism: HOW ON EARTH DID ROSE NOT NOTICE THAT HER BOYFRIEND HAD BEEN TURNED INTO A PLASTIC REPLICANT. Like, seriously, he looked completely different than before.

Just a thought. It’s never really explained exactly what these plastic things are, except that the Doctor explains they were activated by something called the Nestene Consciousness. I have not the slightest idea what this thing is, but it can apparently “replace” people who can turn their hands into chopping things. And it’s trying to take over the world.

We get to see inside the TARDIS (first time for me, that is), and I actually didn’t expect it to be like that. I always assumed the TARDIS just transported the Doctor to whatever place he used as his headquarters, but nope. Totally wrong. He explains more to Rose about what he’s doing (trying to disable the Nestene Consciousness with an “anti-plastic” solution) and also outright confirms he’s an alien. Oh. So the Doctor is an alien??? I didn’t know that. I just assumed he was some strange human who had to assume a new identity over and over again. But no, not a human. ALL MY PERCEPTIONS ARE BEING SHATTERED.

The actual battle with the Nestene Consciousness isn’t that good, but the dialogue is far more interesting. There’s a reference to the home planet of the NC being destroy during something called “The Time War.” (I don’t know if that is supposed to be capitalized, but I’M STICKING WITH IT.) NC’s anger at this causes it to activate all the mannequins inside the Queens Arcade, which kills shoppers, including Clive. (NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO).

The resolution isn’t that exciting, but it was nice to see Rose basically go FUCK IT, WHO CARES and attempt to save the Doctor. It was certainly the strangest couple of days in her life and what did she have to lose? There was a nice contrast between the opening scenes of London and her life, and with these moments beneath the London Eye. In comparison, the life Rose has lived has simply been…well, uninteresting. Why not take a chance?

And so we are thrust into this story when Rose finally accepts the Doctor’s offer to become his companion. She is sold with the promise of only one thing: time travel. That would also be the selling point for myself because, as I stated during my read of Prisoner of Azkaban, I love time travel more than most things.

In short, I enjoyed this episode quite a bit; it wasn’t groundbreaking television for me, but I laughed a lot. I think I’m going to like Doctor Who a lot.

THOUGHTS

  • When Clive was providing exposition for the Doctor, explaining how long he’d been showing up in history and that he seemed to change appearance, I couldn’t help but smile. I really love when shows/literature proposes theories for explaining gaps, mysteries, or events in history. I immediately thought of one particular season of The X-Files (season four), where the show’s mythology tackles Roswell, the JFK murder, and the MLK assassination in “Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man” and the Tunguska explosion in the double episode of “Tunguska / Terma.” (They did it with quite a few things over the course of nine seasons, but those two episodes popped into my head. I’m also catching up on a season and a half of Fringe that I missed and the episode “August” also suggests a similar bout of explanation to The Observer. I don’t really know why I enjoy it so much; maybe because the “answer” these shows propose is so interesting, I want it to be real.
  • Rose’s mom IS THE BEST THING EVER. When she hits on the Doctor, my heart warmed with laughter. I hope we see more of her.
  • “Well, you said it. Why students?” I would want the Doctor on my side of an argument. Just saying’.
  • “GO ON, HAVE YOUR LOVELY BEANS ON TOAST.” Now I’m hungry.
  • “I know she is Greek, but that’s not the point.”
  • “Huh. That won’t last. He’s gay and she’s an alien.” HAHAAHA BLESS YOU.
  • “That’s exactly what a lunatic Internet murdered would say?”
  • “If you’re an alien, how come you sound like you’re from the North?” “LOTS OF PLANETS HAVE A NORTH!” Best line in the whole episode.
  • FUCK YEAH. This is going to be fun. GIFS AWAY, MY FRIENDS.

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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