Series 1 – Episode 1
“Nice to meet you, Rose. Run for your life!” – the Doctor
Young Rose Tyler leads a happy but humdrum life, at home with mum Jackie on a south London estate and working in a West End department store – but everything is about to change. Trapped in the basement after hours, she’s attacked by plastic display dummies, and her life is saved by a mysterious Doctor, who then blows up the building. As Rose tries to track down the Doctor via the internet, a plastic duplicate is made of her boyfriend Mickey. Rose teams up with the Doctor and they discover that the deadly plastic is being controlled by his old enemy, the Nestene Consciousness, from its lair beneath the London Eye. The Nestene activates its invasion early, and shoppers across town, including Jackie, are assailed by animated dummies. During a struggle, the Nestene is nixed by a phial of antiplastic. The Doctor invites Rose to join his travels in the Tardis. She demurs – until he reveals it can also travel in time…
First UK transmission
Saturday 26 March 2005
Locations: July 2004 at Howells department store, St Mary’s Street, Working Street and Queens Arcade in Cardiff. Trafalgar Square, Westminster Bridge, Victoria Embankment, the London Eye and at Brandon Estate, Kennington in London.
August 2004 at the University Hospital of Wales; La Fosse restaurant, The Hayes; and the Paper Mill in Cardiff.
September 2004 at Taff Terrace, Grangetown; Cardiff Royal Infirmary; BBC Broadcasting House, Llandaff, Cardiff; M&S, Newport.
October 2004 at Lydstep Flats, Gabalfa.
Studio: August–October 2004 at Unit Q2, Newport. November 2004 at Studio 1, HTV Wales, Cardiff.
Model work: September 2004 at BBC Model Unit Stage, Kendal Avenue, London.
Doctor Who – Christopher Eccleston
Rose Tyler – Billie Piper
Jackie Tyler – Camille Coduri
Mickey Smith – Noel Clarke
Clive – Mark Benton
Caroline – Elli Garnett
Clive’s son – Adam McCoy
Autons – Alan Ruscoe, Paul Kasey, David Sant, Elizabeth Fost, Helen Otway
Nestene voice – Nicholas Briggs
Writer – Russell T Davies
Director – Keith Boak
Designer – Edward Thomas
Incidental music – Murray Gold
Producer – Phil Collinson
Executive producers – Russell T Davies, Julie Gardner, Mal Young
RT review by Patrick Mulkern
“The trip of a lifetime!” That’s what Christopher Eccleston promised in the BBC’s explosive trailers – and, boy, did Doctor Who deliver in 2005. A TV series that had disappeared up its own fundament decades earlier was defiantly back, a critical and ratings hit, and, astonishingly, cool for the very first time.
I admit that I’d drifted from Who in the late 80s. In the 90s, my fan zeal shrank to negligible, so when the news broke on 26 September 2003 that my one-time favourite TV series was returning, the detail that intrigued me most was that BBC1 controller Lorraine Heggessey had “green-lit scripts from award-winning writer Russell T Davies”.
I had the utmost confidence in him. His Channel 4 drama Queer as Folk (1999–2000) had been such dazzlingly bold, epoch-seizing telly. Central character Vince was a Doctor Who fan, and Davies peppered the scripts with little nods to Who; ultimately the ability to rattle off a list of actors who’d played the Time Lord became the sign of true love. In short, via Queer as Folk, Davies had already made Who kinda cool again.
In Rose, he and his team get everything right. As the episode title makes clear, it’s all about Rose Tyler – a young woman with a humdrum life, who’s sleepy in the opening moments but soon wakens to the mystery, the magic and enticing dangers offered by the Time Lord and his Tardis. And she takes legions of new viewers along with her.
The casting of Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper is spot on. He’s a leading actor at the top of his game, wanting to stretch himself, thirsting for good material. And while he doesn’t wholly convince me in the Doctor’s frivolous moments, I love the blend of muscularity and sensitivity he brings to the role – a Doctor really unlike any other. Piper, on the other hand, was more of a risk. A media darling for her teen pop career and marriage to much older DJ Chris Evans, she had more to prove – but is instantly “right” for Rose. Plus she draws in her fan-base and defies her detractors.
Some critics complained that Rose and her milieu were too soapy, but the series needs to be grounded in the real world before going off into flights off fancy. This was the hook of An Unearthly Child in 1963, but often neglected since. We need to be impressed by the programme’s constant – the Tardis. Do you remember seeing Sarah, Harry or Leela’s reactions to its interior? No. It never happened.
For too long, especially in the 70s, Doctor Who was male-dominated, with women cast only as eye-candy or frumps. At last, we have a proper female perspective, which draws in a wider audience. Who cares if a few superannuated fan-boys are alienated?
Unlike most companions in the past, Rose has a family, a home life and a sex life. She can take it or leave it with her pussycat partner, Mickey, while her mum, daytime-TV obsessed Jackie (the winning Camille Coduri) is clearly… frustrated. She tells the Doctor, “There’s a strange man in my bedroom… Anything could happen.” Davies gets sex and a gay reference cheekily in under the radar: the Doctor flicks through Heat magazine and says, “That won’t last. He’s gay and she’s an alien.” Inconceivable in earlier days.
The pace of the script in matched by Keith Boak’s energetic, dash-about direction. There’s a real sense of place – London today – even though a lot of it was filmed in Cardiff. We see Rose and Mickey in Trafalgar Square; there’s a night shoot on Westminster Bridge and by the London Eye – which now would be far trickier to film unmolested by fan observers.
There’s a superb, sustained walking-and-talking tracking shot as the Doctor and Rose wander through her estate. One section goes on for an astonishing 90 seconds without a cut or mugging passer-by. I was intrigued to read that much of this eye-catching scene was padding, extended dialogue shot at a later date by another director, Euros Lyn. (Similar filler scenes occur in The End of the World and The Unquiet Dead, stop-and-chat moments that are also highlights.)
The estate stroll ends on a gift for Eccleston, a Doctor-defining moment: “I can feel it. The turn of the Earth. The ground beneath our feet is spinning at a thousand miles an hour, and the entire planet is hurtling round the sun at 67,000 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.”
Another thrill for me is that the Autons are back – complete with the weapon sound effects that Brian Hodgson created in the Radiophonic Workshop in 1969. Oddly, although listed as Autons in the credits, they’re never named as such in the dialogue (and never have been since). And while they’re an effective “monster”, they’re less chilling than the 70s originals, whose waxen faces and rictus grins still give me the creeps. In Spearhead from Space, we saw their victims’ blood, bodies flying through the air. The mayhem caused 35 years later looks too carefully “toned”. No one is actually seen to die on screen.
The burping wheelie bin that gobbles Mickey is a lapse in judgment and, crucially, isn’t funny; there’s also an error in the CGI when Noel Clarke’s hands, glued to the lid, suddenly switch sides. But I’m reluctant to find any fault with this. These are minor gripes that do not in any way detract from a blinding success.
As Rose rushes towards the Tardis in the final slo-mo shot, to the sound of Delia Derbyshire’s cliffhanger sting, you cannot help but share the surge of euphoria at a legend majestically reborn.
Radio Times archive
RT made a big splash to herald the return of Doctor Who with a front cover police box that opened out to a shot of the Tardis interior. The issue came with a 16-page collectors’ special, wherein Russell T Davies introduced his first series.