Way way back in 2005, Doctor Who returned to UK screens after years in the wilderness – and it carried with it some pretty big expectations. Would the pairing of new Doctor Christopher Eccleston with former popstar Billie Piper click? Could Queer as Folk writer Russell T Davies manage the move into science-fiction?
Well, yes – with hindsight we know that the premiere episode, Rose, was to kick off a rebooted series that would run and run and become a worldwide success.
But we weren’t to know that at the time – so we’ve dug into our archives to find out exactly what the reaction was to the Doctor’s return from the press and the public. Who says time travel is impossible…?
Radio Times (Alison Graham):
“It’s here at long, long last. And it’s great — lively, funny and immensely good-hearted. Christopher Eccleston, who has a slightly otherworldly quality about him anyway, is a fine, likeable Doctor, who jitters with energy and good humour. And Billie Piper, as his sidekick Rose, delivers on all the acting promise she showed in Canterbury Tales….
…This is a Doctor Who with humanity, which should be welcomed to a new TV world dominated by witless, soulless, serial-killer dramas.”
The Daily Mail (Michael Hanlon)
“Everything is here. No Daleks yet (we are told that when they appear they will have solved the stair problem once and for all by acquiring the power of flight) but we do have the Tardis, a 1950s police box, the sonic screwdriver and the eternal Manichaean struggle between good and evil that characterised the finest Doctor Who plots…. a children’s programme it might be, but played for laughs, never.”
Though not everyone was convinced…
The Guardian (Stephen Brook)
“This is Who for the attention deficit disorder generation. The wonderfully slow build-up of tension that was a hallmark of the series at its finest – think of the Hand of Fear creeping towards Sarah Jane! – was entirely absent from episode one, entitled Rose…
… As a diehard Who fan, I will watch all the remaining episodes wishing, hopefully not totally in vain, that they had laid off the Ritalin.”
Still, in letters to Radio Times at the time, fans were generally pretty excited. Doctor Who was back!
“The wait for Dr Who was worth every minute, it was brilliant! The fear factor was just as good if not better. It reminded me of the original series in the 60s when our eldest daughter, Grainne, was watching from her usual position behind the sofa shouting ‘I don’t like it’.
“As a dutiful father I switched the television off to be met with more cries to turn it back on. It transpired that it was the Marmite sandwiches she was given for tea which she did not like, not Dr. Who. Incidentally she now likes both, and well done Saturday evening television is back on form.
“Eccleston as Dr Who was superb. Billie Piper, who in all honesty I didn’t expect to be up to the job, performed very well.
“The new interior of the Tardis is a wonder of modern gothic. The plot was excellent, with a good balance between the humour, tension and a few ‘in’ jokes.
“Oh the joy of it, I’ve not felt so enthused about a TV programme for years… I’m knocking on a bit now… Late 50s but I did so enjoy episode one, and I’m really, really looking forward to next week’s episode.”
Though again, some were concerned about how it compared to classic Who.
“We had a Tardis that looked like a cross between the Tardis of old and the enchanted forest from Star Wars, we had special effects straight out of The Terminator, comedy monsters courtesy of Madame Toussauds, and best of all, a Doctor who had a better patter of one-liners than Paul Daniels, and was as colourfully dressed as an undertaker. Oh and what about the dustbin that belched as it ate one of the characters – laugh, I nearly went to Barcelona.
As a comedy it was great, but as serious sci-fi, well pull the other one. Obviously the Master did beat the Doctor in the end, and has now left us with the new comedy Doctor in a vain attempt to cover his tracks. Time to start worrying.”
But we think this reader had it best – hopefully it’s still making them feel the same a decade later.
“Brilliant Dr. Who. Brilliant Christopher Eccleston. Brilliant Billie Piper. Thank you BBC Television. You have made me young again.”
Happy birthday NuWho – hip hip, Who-ray!