This is not just a Doctor Debut Story, but it was the story that re-debuted the series in general and made it a success all over again. Writer Russell T. Davies looked back on past debut stories for this, specifically Spearhead from Space, and then weaved a more modern family story into it. The result is a very good adventure indeed, and a great debut for both Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor and Billie Piper’s Rose Tyler. Let’s take a closer look!
Rose Tyler, a young woman of 19 is accidentally trapped one evening in the London department store where she works. Soon she finds herself surrounded by plastic mannequins that have come to life and moments before her death she’s saved by a man who introduces himself as “the Doctor”. This fateful encounter is just the beginning of their journey…
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
Cast of Characters:
How could you say no to that face?
The Doctor (Christopher Eccleston) – The Time War is finally over, but The Doctor has a lot of cleaning up to do. The battles between the Daleks and the Time Lords have left many planets in ruins, and many species looking for a new home…
Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) – Rose is just your average young adult beginning to make her way in life, working a regular dead-end job and hanging out with her boyfriend… Boy is her life ever going to get turned around soon!
Jackie Tyler (Camille Coduri) – Jackie is a single mother who has been raising Rose since she was little. Due to this, she is very weary of seeing her go out and about, let alone when she survives a shop exploding…
Mickey Smith (Noel Clark) – Mickey is Rose’s boyfriend, and a bit of a wimp who thinks he’s a cool bad-ass. Still, could be worse, he could be made of plastic and wanting to kill you!
The Nestene Consciousness – The Nestene Consciousness has returned to Earth in order to take it over again, but this time out of necessity due to its home worlds being dramatically effected, if not lost entirely, during the Time War.
Clive (Mark Benton) – Clive is a Doctor obsessive, having tracked the same man over multiple time periods. Can one man really be immortal, or is he an… ALIEN?!
Hey look, it’s Rose from “Rose”.
As I stated in the opening paragraph, this does a great job of establishing, or rather re-establishing, the world of Doctor Who, though a different one. The Doctor is a war-torn man full of regret and wearing a leather jacket, and his companion is given more character development in this one episode than most of the companions from the original TV series ever got. Rose is a great creation by Russell T. Davies, 19-year-old who is living with her mother in a rundown flat in a block of rundown flats, ends up becoming a hero of sorts by meeting up with The Doctor at the right time.
Christopher Eccleston is great in his role as well, funny and sarcastic, but also full of anger and regret. After all the Time War-related fiction we’ve had recently, you end up seeing this episode in a new light, The Doctor is trying his best to be his old self again after a long time fighting in a war and not going by that name. He’s initially unwilling to even see Rose again, but soon tries his best to get her to come along with him on his journey, almost desperate for her to help him return to his old ways. The final shot of Rose, who had turned The Doctor down before he returned and she accepted, running towards the TARDIS with glee in slow motion is great stuff.
A common theme during this series is races that were adversely affected by the Time War wanting recompense or just a new home, and kicking things off with a displaced Nestene Consciousness was a great idea. The Autons (shop dummies come to life) are such an effectively creepy but also classically wacky idea that it is a great choice to introduce people to the show, as it did back in the 70s. While the effects of the Nestene Consciousness itself is a bit wonky now (to say the least) the Autons themselves, being physical things, still hold up. Plus they actually get to smash through shop windows this time!
There are some fun things done with the Autons this time round as well, with an Auton arm attacking The Doctor and Rose in the latter’s apartment, and The Doctor removing an Auton-d Mickey’s head to use to track a signal, leaving the body to flail about smashing things.
Some good fun to be had with Jackie Tyler as well. Her trying to come on to The Doctor, who repels her advances with perfectly timed retorts, still puts a smile on my face. Super-fan parody Clive is harmless as well, it’s a shame to see him get gunned down in front of his family by an Auton, but hey-ho, that was the intention!
It’s better than the 80s Who CGI at least, which you’d expect after two decades…
Auton Mickey is a little too… Auton-y, so much so that I just don’t buy that Rose would fall for it, especially when he started malfunctioning and repeating the same word, and she just asked if he was “feeling okay”.
Also, I’ll mention it, when Mickey gets captured he’s “sucked” into a wheelie bin that’s being controlled by the Nestene, and after it swallows him it lets out a burp, which… yeah, makes no sense at all, it’s just there to get a laugh out of the kids watching. That’s fine, obviously, but it’s also true that Doctor Who entertained kids for decades without dropping to the lowest (and cheapest) way of getting them to laugh possible. This obviously gets worse before it goes away, but that’s a review for another time…
Killer shop window dummies… still as freaky now as it was then (and in 1970, I imagine!)
The obvious one is the Nestene Concsiouness and its Autons having debuted in the Third Doctor debut story “Spearhead From Space”, and subsequently returned the following season in “Terror of the Autons”. This makes this only their third TV appearance, which is surprising, really!
Beyond that and slight references to the Time War, this doesn’t really connect with any other story, which is how it was designed to be.
Rose was a great way to kick off a new era of Doctor Who. Plenty of action and a great new Doctor, but also lots of development for the new companion, creating a little world of her own to come from. “Series One” has some ups and downs, but it certainly gets off on the right note!