Saturday, 3 April 2010

Doctor Who: The Ninth Doctor.

Doctor Who didn't really play much of a part in my childhood. I knew of its existance, of course. I doubt any child who could remain ignorant when in the playground small children ran around with one arm stuck out in front of them, croaking, "EX-TER-MIN-ATE! EX-TER-MIN-ATE!"but I grew up in what Eleventh Doctor actor Matt Smith refers to as "The Barren Age" after the series was cancelled. Repeats were shown on Friday nights on BBC 2, along with Thunderbirds and The Man from UNCLE, but I didn't very often watch them, except Thunderbirds. So without any further ado, I'll go straight onto when the series made its much-hyped return in the spring of 2005.

I wasn't quite sure about the casting of Christopher Eccleston as The Doctor, though. He looked too ordinary. The Doctors of my childhood all had wacky hair. William Hartnell, the First Doctor, was the default Doctor in my mind, followed, of course, by Fourth Doctor Tom Baker with his scarf. Still, the first introduction: "Run!" was perfect. There's a book out at the moment by James Patterson called Run For Your Life. I see that and I hear in my mind, the Ninth Doctor's northern accent saying, "Nice to meet you, Rose Tyler. Run for your life!"
With the exception of the Slitheen story, the series just got better and better, causing us to actually feel sorry for a Dalek, get spooked out by a gas-mask-wearing child asking, "Are you my mummy?" However, I did start to feel a little uncomfortable with the way they were taking the relationship between the Doctor and his nineteen-year-old companion Rose (It's funny to think, now, of the outcry when it was revealed that teen pop star of "because we want to" fame, Billie Piper, was cast as the Doctor's companion.) It started as the odd line, when either Rose or someone else would speak of the Doctor in the same way one would speak of their partner. I was sure that wasn't the way things should be between the Doctor and his companion, though perhaps it is a more realistic portrayal than Peter Davison's Fifth Doctor not even putting his arm around any of the girls, even to comfort them. But what bothered me was the way she treated her boyfriend Mickey.

Mickey first appears as a bit daft, a bit cowardly, and after being swallowed by a bin, Rose didn't even notice that he had been replaced by a living plastic version of himself. (As I said at the time, "She was a bit thick, not noticing that her boyfriend had been turned into a dummy. Wait...") But Rose was not a good girlfriend. Although it's never quite named, and nothing ever happens between her and the Doctor like that, Rose makes it quite clear that she's falling for this 900-year-old alien with two hearts. (As you do.) What she doesn't make so clear is where Mickey stands. She goes off travelling with the Doctor, but never ends it with Mickey, and every now and then she goes back to him and tries to act like he's still her boyfriend.

The other big character of the first series of New Who, was 51st century former Time Agent Captain Jack Harkness, who became so popular he had a whole show created around him. Ridiculously handsome and charming, Jack will flirt with anyone with a pulse... or two. I certainly enjoyed the episodes where he was a companion, however I never watched Torchwood. I found Jack fantastic as a sidekick, but wasn't sure I would like him very much in a lead role.

Partway through the series, Christopher Ecclestone announced he would be leaving at the end of only thirteen episodes. I'm still not convinced that wasn't a mistake. The Ninth Doctor was a perfect introduction to the series for a new generation - but he just wasn't around long enough to make a lasting impression (at least, to me.) I go back to the first series, and then think to myself, "Oh, yeah... him."

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