A Dark, 21st Century Doctor


Review of The Doctors Revisited - Ninth Doctor

No matter who ends up being our favorite, I think if we're honest with ourselves, each fan instinctually compares every other Doctor to the one they see first. Whether you declare that one "your" Doctor or simply your first, everyone else is, on some level, automatically compared with the one who set your personal standard.

Thus it is for me with Eccleston. Sure, I became a Tennant fan, and consider him "my" Doctor because it was him who cemented my fandom—but Eccelston's Ninth Doctor defined the Doctor for me, and watching him in the role always feels like coming home.

I was gratified that those interviewed (including Neil Gaiman, Steven Moffat, Marcus Wilson, Nicholas Briggs, Noel Clarke (Mickey Smith), Corey Johnson (Henry van Statten), and John Barrowman (Capt. Jack Harkness)) picked up on some of the same things that drew me to Nine. For one thing, he was always sure of himself—no "absent-minded professor" vibe to this guy. (This could explain why it took me a while to warm to, for example, T. Baker's Four, who often seemed at a loss.) Further, he doesn't have to be busy, busy, busy to be in control. As Gaiman put it, "He doesn't do anything quite a lot and yet he's still the center of attention."

There's a distinctive darkness about him, too. Perhaps one reason I so love Dalek is that moment when he first comes face-to-face with the eponymous creature. We've only ever seen this Doctor (and on first viewing for me, that meant the Doctor) be confident; even on Platform One when things went wrong, his "that's funny" face is not one of "how unexpected; now what?" but of "I've just found a new puzzle to solve." Here, though, suddenly confronted with not only a known-dangerous foe but also a reminder of the atrocity he had been forced (now in vain?) to commit, he stands before us stripped to the bare emotions. His whole arc is about showing us how damaged he is. Moffat expanded on that idea as follows:


Meanwhile, In an Alternate Universe...


Review of Scream of the Shalka (webcast)

DVD Release Date: 17 Sep 13
Original Air Date: [online webcast] 13 Nov - 18 Dec 2003
Doctor/Companion: Alternate Ninth, Alison, the Master
Stars: Richard E. Grant, Sophie Okonedo, Derek Jacobi
Preceding Story: Shada [webcast] (Eight, Romana II)
Succeeding Story: N/A

In the year or two leading up to the 40th anniversary of Doctor Who, fans knew not to expect much. The Movie had made a brave effort at reviving the flagging franchise, and now everyone just knew it was deader than a proverbial doornail. Nothing official was being done to commemorate the milestone, and the future of the show seemed to be relegated to alternative media.

Enter webcasts. The Web seemed to be where everything was at these days. Naturally, the BBC decided that if it were to continue the Doctor Who storyline at all, it would be online. Thus was born the idea of a series of webcasts, to star an entirely new, Ninth Doctor.

As we know by now, things went wahooney-shaped when it was announced in September 2003 that the show would be returning to television proper. Richard E. Grant's stellar Ninth Doctor became obsolete before he'd even made a proper appearance. But somewhere, in some alternate universe, the show didn't make it back to tellie, and we all know and love Grant as the Ninth Doctor instead of Eccleston.

His debut (and sadly—in our universe—only) story Scream of the Shalka consists of six ~13-minute episodes (or the equivalent of a three-parter in the pre-Hiatus format), that serves as an excellent introduction to both a new Doctor and a new Companion (or two!). As I watched it again on DVD, there were two things that jumped out at me right off the bat. First, it came as a great relief not to be watching it in Flash on a computer screen (like I had to the first time). Second, I love the cranky, snarky personality that the Doctor displays here.


Nu-View #14: Strength Through Adversity


Father's Day (Series One, Ep. 8; 2005)
Viewed 04 Apr 2013

Doctor/Companion: Nine, Rose Tyler
Stars: Christopher Eccleston, Billie Piper
Preceding Story: The Long Game (Nine, Rose)
Succeeding Story: The Empty Child (Nine, Rose)

    I know the Ninth Doctor isn't everyone's cup of tea (especially with last week's frankly unsurprising news that Eccleston definitely will not be participating in the 50th), but great heavens, is he ever mine.

    While Father's Day doesn't grab me the same way that Dalek does, it serves a vital purpose in terms of character development. Of course, the "character" in this case is actually the relationship between the Doctor and Rose. (Just a heads-up, in case you haven't seen the episode: the rest of the post is pretty spoilery.)

    Rose decides she wants to see her long-dead father and the Doctor questions her motivation. When she passive-aggressively suggests he can't do it, he responds that "I can do anything. I'm just more worried about you." And that, effectively, is the theme of the whole piece.

    But first we have to see Rose be an utter idiot (some would argue there should be an "again" in that sentence). The Doctor loves her enough (however you define that love in your own headcanon) to do something dangerous to please her. "What ever happened to the 'you can't cross your own timeline' thing?" wondered jE. Of course, it all backfires. The second Rose rushes to save Pete. "Ruh roh,"says jO. The camera pans back to Nine's furious face. "RUH roh..." (I suspect jO hasn't seen this since I first hooked her on the show, some four years ago.)


    Nu-View #13: Setting the Standard


    Dalek and The Long Game
    (Series One, Eps. 6-7; 2005)

    Viewed 12 Mar 2013

    Doctor/Companion: Nine, Rose Tyler
    Stars: Christopher Eccleston, Billie Piper
    Preceding Story: World War Three (Nine, Rose)
    Succeeding Story: Father's Day (Nine, Rose)

      I distinctly remember my Original Who Mentor watching my face avidly for my reaction when the trailer for Dalek ran at the end of the previous episode. Not having grown up in the UK, and not having been one of "those people" growing up, I'd never even heard of a Dalek before. He was, needless to say, somewhat disappointed.

      It was an entirely different sort of expression I was anticipating on the Ladies' faces when we watched this the other night. This episode has become one of my all-time favorites, and certainly my favorite of Series One. So I was hoping for some "oh, yeah - I remember this!" looks of pleasant surprise as the details slowly dug their way out of foggy memories.

      However, things were even foggier than I'd feared. "I don't even remember this one," jO said confusedly as the opening credits rolled. Not that it got in the way of our enjoyment. It's a bloody brilliant episode, and I'm not sure Eccleston's ever better in the role. First, when he encounters the Dalek in its "cage," the consternation and terror are plain to read on his face. Once he realizes the Dalek isn't, shall we say, fully functional any more, he does a beautiful job going off the deep end. The Doctor really is insane in those moments, and you see it in his eyes. Later, his "I killed her. ... She was nineteen years old" speech is one of the best deliveries he gives throughout his tenure. Writer Rob Shearman gave Eccleston plenty to sink his teeth into, and did he ever run with it!

      One of the things I love most about the episode, in retrospect, is what a perfect introduction it was to the Daleks and what they're all about. As I mentioned above, I'd never even heard of one before, yet by the end I knew plenty about them. They're engineered beings bred for war and not for compassion. They seem limited by their casings but aren't really - as evidenced by the way this Dalek worked the 10-key pad to open the cage ("It's got sucky pressers. It's an oxymoron, but look - it works!" observed jE) and how it navigated stairs without more than a brief pause for effect. A single individual can slaughter millions, given the chance. And its only real weakness, aside from self-hate born of racial purity issues, is its eye stalk. It's a tall order to summarize Daleks in forty-five minutes, but it certainly worked for me.


      Nu-View #12: New Monsters on the Block


      Aliens of London and World War Three
      (Series One, Eps. 4-5; 2005)

      Viewed 05 Feb 2013

      Doctor/Companion: Nine, Rose Tyler
      Stars: Christopher Eccleston, Billie Piper
      Preceding Story: The Unquiet Dead (Nine, Rose)
      Succeeding Story: Dalek (Nine, Rose)

        Looking back, it's amazing I ever became a fan at all. In all honesty, I very nearly didn't make it past these two episodes.

        I watched the first five over a period of a week or two with the friend who introduced me to Who, and then it all kind of fell by the wayside. I don't think we came back to it again for a year or more. When we did, I was reluctant. The stuff I'd seen was OK - pretty good, even - but with Slitheen as my last impression, I was, shall we say, less than keen on continuing (perhaps understandably).

        I was willing to give it another shot, though - and obviously, I'm extremely glad that I did! But as I look back, these are among my least favorite episodes of this series. I think that's partly because the Slitheen got so overused after this, both in Who and especially in The Sarah Jane Adventures, but just something about these introductory episodes has put me off.

        Imagine my surprise when, upon watching them again with the Ladies, they didn't suck as hard as I'd remembered.

        The Doctor returns Rose home, a mere twelve hours after she'd left (yay, time travel!) only to discover it had actually been twelve months ("details," scoffed jE). All of the mother/daughter stuff between Jackie and Rose is well done here, from the snarking and frustration with each other to the honest concern and regret for having caused it. RTD may have brought families a bit too much into the mix for my taste, but there's some good storytelling around it in these episodes.



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