Sunday, April 10, 2005

Doctor Who. Yes, really.

My cultural blog, then, which I'm aiming to keep relatively reverent, if only because all this stuff might be useful to me in the future. Well, you never know. (Please look out for my gratuitous use of the word 'otherness'),

So, why am I starting with a TV programme?

Well because the re-starting of Doctor Who felt, bizarrely, important. Not bizarrely for Doctor Who fans, of course, who have been waiting for this event all their days, but for everyone else. I, for example, have never to my knowledge, seen more than a neat thirty Dalek-filled seconds of the series on "I *Heart* 1970s", but I've gotta say I was pretty excited. Scrap that, I was damn excited. True, this was mainly because of the casting of the Doctor himself - Christopher Ecclestone. Ecclestone! Playing the Doctor! The guy I've seen on stage! Playing the Doctor! I love TV. And I want everyone else to love TV too. So getting a "proper" actor to play this icon of Saturday night, family-oriented television made me very happy. People will take it seriously! Hoorah! Some people's enthusiasm may have been dampened by the casting of Billie Piper as the Doctor's assistant, but not mine. Billie! Playing the Doctor's assistant! The 'Because We Want To' girl! Playing the Doctor's Assistant! For some obscure and basically paradoxical reason, having Ecclestone as the Doctor made me yearn for a bit of dumbing down. This is TV dammit! Of course, what I really, secretly wanted, was a bit of magic. The Shakespearean actor and the tween idol defying the nay-sayers and coming up with a piece of fried gold.

And by George, they've done it! Of course I was inclined to like the series. I wanted to like the series. But you could say, then, that I was putting myself up to be disappointed, and I wasn't. Disappointed, I mean, and that equals success in my book.

I've read two things about the opening episode which annoyed me a little too much.

1) That the Doctor is "pointlessly Northern" (this from The People paper, I believe, who do not even deserve a link due to this comment). How can anything, anything be pointlessly northern? Since when has anything needed a reason to be Northern? A ridiculous comment. And this whole issue was negated by a single wonderful response to Rose's question - "If you're an alien, how come you sound like you're from the north?". The Doctor looks indignant - "Lots of planets have a north!"
2) That there is nothing more annoying than Christopher Ecclestone attempting to be impish (this from The Guardian who can have a link because the rest of the review was informed and interesting). I don't agree. He's wonderfully manic! Excited about danger! A proper hero! Grabbing Rose's hand and dragging her towards freedom and uncertainty with a grin on his face. This Doctor is not annoying, he is almost perfectly pitched, and this comes 90% from Ecclestone, though he always credits the writing (which is, admittedly, very witty). He switches from the sublime (eg a speech about being able to feel the earth rotate) to the ridiculous (eg negotiating a peace deal with a huge blob of living plastic) with ease and pulls off both with equal success.

As for Billie as Rose Tyler, I have few complaints and many things to praise. Lets do the complaints first. Well, complaint singular, in fact, as she doesn't do frightened particularly well. Luckily, Rose can generally look after herself, getting into the Doctor's good books in the first episode by saving his life. She does 'normal', however, very well. Once the Doctor has earnt her trust, she talks to him about 'fings' as if she's known him all her life. After coming back to earth after seeing its destruction hundreds of thousands of years later, this brief discussion (paraphrased, I'm afraid) takes place:
Doctor: So where d'you wanna go now?
Rose: . . . . can you smell chips? I really want some chips!
Doctor: Me too, as long as you're paying.
Rose: Some date you are!
It's little moments like this where Piper excels - she makes Rose undeniably human and as such highlights the Doctor's otherness. (10 points!)

I'm loving this series, and will miss Christopher Ecclestone when he leaves after just 13 episodes. But it's a hugely heartwarming show which proves that family T.V. can have weight and importance and good helping of silliness.


Johnno said...

Very good review. you should write for a magazine or newspaper

AnnaWaits said...

Thank you Johnno for my first response! Very kind. If you pop back, could you tell me how you came across my blog? Just interested. Thanks again