Writer: Russell T Davies
Director: Keith Boak
Starring: Christopher Eccleston (Ninth Doctor), Billie Piper (Rose Tyler), Camille Coduri (Jackie Tyler), Noel Clarke (Mickey Smith), Mark Benton (Clive) and Nicholas Briggs (Voice of the Nestene Consciousness)
“Nice to meet you Rose. Run for your life!”
So, after almost sixteen years off air, apart from a brief outing for Paul McGann’s Eighth Doctor in 1996, Doctor Who was back on television, rebooted and ready for action. After the failure of the TV Movie to spawn a subsequent American run series, the production team seem to have learnt some lessons when making this introduction to the world of Doctor Who a success.
In Doctor Who in general, the companion is the vehicle for the audience to see the Doctor, and in Rose, we see Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor from Rose’s perspective entirely, with us seeing Rose’s day at work in the lead up to her meeting the Doctor. This is particularly effective, especially aspects such as the two close-ups we get of Rose’s alarm clock, which allow the audience to establish both routine and monotony of her life. Also, by not seeing the Doctor before they meet in the basement, it allows that scene when Rose is looking for Wilson in the basement all the more creepy, as the viewer isn’t sure when the Doctor will appear to rescue her. As someone who works in retail, I can vouch for how eerie a dark and apparently empty stockroom can be! The introduction through the character of Rose allows the TARDIS to seem almost inconsequential. We first see it when the Doctor is delivering the “turn of the Earth” speech, which is still one of the finest in the show’s history, and we don’t see the TARDIS dematerialise until Rose is actually in it later in the episode.
Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper also have really nice chemistry together – the scene in the elevator at Henrick’s where Rose is hypothesising that students are behind what she believes to be a prank is well played by both and helps to demonstrate that Rose, who may seem to be an ordinary shop worker has the potential to be a strong companion. The supporting cast also helps the story, although Noel Clarke’s performance is a bit weak. Camille Coduri as Jackie Tyler is great though, and I especially love how she trots out some of her lines, especially about Rose getting compensation (“…I know she is Greek, but that’s not the point” makes me laugh every time).
It is also interesting to note how continuity-light this reintroduction is. The use of the Autons as the main villain is a callback to Spearhead from Space, Jon Pertwee’s debut story and the first episode to be shot in colour. Furthermore, it is interesting that when Rose meets Clive, although there are allusions to previous regenerations when Clive says that the title of the Doctor is passed from father to son, the only images that we see are of the Ninth Doctor. This helps to ease new viewers into the show, and as chance would have it, the concept of regeneration would have to be dealt with by the end of the series anyway.
Although this is a strong episode, there are some problems that I do have with it. The main one is the whole Mickey becomes an Auton aspect, and that infamous dustbin scene, where the special effects wouldn’t look out of place amongst some of the worst of the Classic era of the show. I also have an issue with the way that Rose does not notice that Mickey looks completely different once he has been converted to living plastic. In Spearhead From Space, there is an Auton duplicate of Major General Scobie, who looks almost completely identical, and I find it baffling that the production team wouldn’t go in the same direction here. I know that Rose regards her life as boring, which is her reasoning behind leaving at the end of the episode, but not noticing this shows that she is perhaps not quite so perfect as some later stories would like to make out.
Verdict: A strong reintroduction to Doctor Who, with a fantastic lead actor and a strong companion. 8/10
Best Quote: “Do you know like we were saying, about the earth revolving? It’s like when you’re a kid, the first time they tell you that the world is turning and you just can’t quite believe it ’cause everything looks like it’s standing still. I can feel it…the turn of the earth. The ground beneath our feet is spinning at a thousand miles an hour. The entire planet is hurtling around the sun at sixty seven thousand miles an hour. And I can feel it. We’re falling through space, you and me, clinging to the skin of this tiny little world. And, if we let go…That’s who I am. Now forget me, Rose Tyler. Go home.” – The Ninth Doctor
Best Moment: The Autons breaking through the shop windows – another call back to Spearhead from Space, but this time actually showing the windows breaking. This is something that the production team in the 1970s were disappointed they couldn’t do at the time, and one of RTD’s few problems with Spearhead.