Normally, conventions are a place of joy. They’re filled with happy fanboys and girls, all cavorting about in costumes and cosplays and skintight outfits. There are good things, like comics and posters and plush toys and keychains and Jayne hats and DVD box sets and t-shirts and Storm Troopers and panels with movie stars and previews of some of the exciting new movies that are coming up, and there are bad things, like two bimbos in Avengers outfits that hit on Karl Urban right as you’re in the middle of telling your boyfriend that no, girls can dress up like that without trying to hook up with celebrities because maybe they’re just really big fans or something.
But that’s not the annoying thing about cons lately. The annoying thing is that the convention floor is absolutely flooded with guys in pinstripe suits, trench coats, and Converse, or similar-looking guys in tweed suits, red bow-ties, and fezzes. Because the first time you see it, you’re like, “Awesome.” The second time you see it, you’re like, “Heh-heh, clever.” The thirty-seventh time you see it, you’re like, “If I see a David Tennant lookalike one more time, I’m going to jam his sonic screwdriver somewhere unpleasant.”
But the nice thing about Doctor Who is that, no matter how annoying the fans are, the show isn’t like that at all. Well, except for Mickey and Jackie, but we’ll get to that… actually, no, we won’t, because they’re just that annoying. So you’ll have to take my word for it.
With the long-awaited 50th anniversary special and the much-anticipated Christmas episode nearly upon us, I thought it was a good time to do a three-part review of the show that I’ve been watching for about eight months now.
I started the show on Christmas Day, 2013, only hours after giving my sister—a longtime fan of the show—the first season of the new series as a gift. I was mildly curious, and that curiosity faded abruptly to bewilderment when plastic mannequins came to life.
I’m not gonna lie, the first episode is a head trip. Mickey is an idiot (an opinion I never got over), Jackie is the last person anyone would want for a roommate, and seriously what is with the mannequins. I didn’t understand the premise of the episode, I didn’t understand why mannequins would be terrifying—they don’t even have opposable thumbs!—and the quality of the video in general was just really questionable.
But none of that matters, because it’s introducing us—many of us for the first time—to perhaps one of the greatest characters of all time.
A long time ago, or possibly in the future, a Time Lord stole a box called a TARDIS and went on grand adventures through time and space (though he kept coming back to modern-day England, which prompts the question why don’t I live there). But travelling alone has a way of making him a little crazy, and ruthless, and incredibly lonely, so he picks up people off the streets of London (or Cardiff; the Doctor seems to like Cardiff) and brings them along as companions on his adventures. And every so often he dies, at which time he regenerates and gets a new face and a new personality, which is just incredibly distressing if you’ve gotten attached to the old face. You’ll see.
Christopher Eccleston was only around for season 1, which makes this review an easy place to start. That being said, his Doctor is not my favourite, not by any stretch of the imagination. That may have come from the fact that I knew that David Tennant came next, and I was waiting for him to regenerate so I could see that gorgeous head of hair. It may have also come from the fact that the season 1 stories just weren’t as good as those in the later seasons. Or it may just have been that his performance, which was quietly brilliant, was unfortunately eclipsed by that of the Doctor who is my favourite. (Not telling yet.)
Eccleston’s Doctor has a certain boyish charm about him, which is completely at odds with the way he dresses. That seems to be a theme with the Doctor: his clothes reflect his new personality. Eccleston has the leather jacket and the t-shirt, which say bad boy, but it’s a bit hard to take that seriously most of the time when he grins that grin of his. The rest of the time, though, watch out—Eccleston does ruthless, and he does it well; everything from Slitheen to Jagafress to Daleks is fair game for an almighty beat-down.
But that does fade: the more time he spends with Rose, the more he softens. He hates the idea of anything “domestic,” and he doesn’t want to be tamed, but—in my opinion, anyway—the Doctor spends time with humans because he likes the person he is when he’s around them. And in a lot of ways, that’s domestic. I mean, he even tries to get the approval of Jackie, Rose’s mom, even though he’d never admit that’s what he’s doing.
Yes, he’s dangerous. He’s a vagabond with a peculiar moral code and some pretty odd behaviours; how could he be anything but dangerous? So even if Christopher Eccleston isn’t my favourite Doctor, he’s definitely a worthy successor to the title and a great way to get started on the show.
Rose Tyler. How do I even describe Rose Tyler? Well, she’s not classy, for one thing. She’s not particularly motivated before meeting the Doctor. She’s stubborn and irreverent, and she does have her blonde moments. But she has a big heart, which is full of curiosity and empathy and longing for the father she never knew. And that heart also fills up pretty quickly with love for the Doctor, despite the fact that she knows he’s a 900-year-old alien and she’s only nineteen.
Rose (played by Billie Piper) is also a complete and utter badass. In the season (the Brits call it “series” but that’ll just confuse you) finale, Rose breaks into the TARDIS’ core and travels through time to save the Doctor from a fleet of Daleks who have completely screwed up the future. And if that weren’t enough, she actually leaves clues scattered all throughout time, in the form of the words “Bad Wolf,” to lead her back there. And then she just destroys the entire fleet like it was no big thing.
I’ll grant you, she has her flaws. She ditches her boyfriend and her mom at the drop of a hat to run off with a stranger, and while some people may say that shows “guts” and “moxie,” because those people are 1940s gangsters, it’s also pretty selfish. And Mickey calls her out on it, which was the only time in Season 1 that I actually liked him, and she comes to realize that yeah, she did a pretty crappy thing. But I think she learned from it, and I think she became a better person as a result.
So no, she may not be the classiest of dames, and her accent can occasionally be a bit unintelligible, but Rose seems like a girl I’d enjoy hanging around with. She’s the kind of girl I’d like to be, if I had the courage to follow a madman in a box. Which I don’t, because in my city, most madmen in boxes tend to be actually mentally unwell, which is actually really sad so let’s move on to something else.
Let’s get something straight right off the bat: you don’t just call him Jack. You call him “Captain Jack,” “Captain Jack Harkness,” or “hello, handsome.” Captain Jack comes from a time (the 51st century, to be specific) when everybody has some really casual views about sexuality. Which means he’ll bang anything on two legs. Or four. Or seven. Or really anything with functioning genitalia. And even if you don’t have that, he’ll probably still spoon, at the very least.
Captain Jack (John Barrowman) is a Time Agent, which means he, too, likes to traipse around through time and space. Except he doesn’t do it to help people, as a general rule: he’s a con man, a swindler, and a bit of a swashbuckler. He meets the Doctor and Rose during World War II when he tries to sell them a ship that turns people into gas mask monsters, and also there’s a kid saying “Mummy” in a creepy way, which has very nearly turned me off the idea of parenting, and it’s a really long story so let’s move on.
Captain Jack is charming. He is roguish. He is is cocky, and a liar, and more than a little promiscuous (I’ve mentioned that already, I know, but it’s a major selling point). He doesn’t stick his neck out for anybody, much like every fictional captain ever, but he does change over the course of the season, eventually even (spoilers!) giving his life, not just for the Doctor and Rose, but for the whole of humanity, past, present, and future, as well. (Don’t worry, he comes back. It’s pretty awesome.) It’s pretty great to see a character that’s so perfect to begin with—not as a person, but as a fully fleshed-out character—become even more perfect through personal growth. And speaking of growth, apparently he’s well-endowed, so that’s another plus.
Once upon a time in space, there was an enemy even more heartless than the Doctor, colder than the heart of a frozen moon, greater in number than the stars in the sky, universally feared by all, finally defeated by only one: the Daleks. Their cloned bodies are encased inside giant metal shells, equipped with all kinds of advanced weaponry and the absolute latest in robot voice software. Also, suction cups.
For all that they’re built up to be so terrifying, the Daleks are almost comical at times. Yes, they can vaporize people with a shot of energy that looks like lasers. Yes, they can float. Yes, their voices are… kinda scary, I guess, maybe. But, at least in this season, I don’t find them to be the villain they’re built up to be. We know the Doctor hates them and that they were a universe-wide scourge he once eliminated (although there sure are a lot of them for a race that was massacred), but it’s kind of hard to be afraid of them when they look like the result of C3PO and R2D2‘s angry sex in the boiler room of the Millennium Falcon.
So maybe that’s distressing for the fans who wet themselves in fear when they hear the word “exterminate,” but I just find Daleks… kind of adorable.
Something Eccleston once said (something that’s popped up on Reddit quite a bit, actually, but hasn’t lost any of its punch, at least for me): “The Doctor’s message seems to be, accept life in all its forms. He doesn’t react with horror when he sees a blue three-headed monster. He reacts with wonder, and I think that’s a very important message to send out to children.”
That’s one of the awesome things about the Doctor. Yeah, he’s brutal. But this is a family show. This is for families to watch together. Yeah, there’s some violence (although it’s never gory). Yeah, there’s some dude-on-dude action, which some people would object to. But overall, this is a show about curiosity and discovery and people finding out things about themselves they didn’t even know were there, whether it’s courage or cowardice or just that they’re decent people. There’s something to be learned from every single episode, things ranging from “don’t be racist” to “don’t get plastic surgery or you’ll look like a trampoline.”
No, the effect aren’t very good, and neither are the enemies. But I don’t watch it for the action, at least not this season. I watch it for the characters and for the stories, because there’s always something new to see and important lessons to learn. Especially the trampoline one.
Favourite Episode: “The Parting of the Ways”
Reason: Rose is a badass; Rose and the Doctor kiss; the Doctor regenerates
Least Favourite Episode: “Rose”
Reason: Autons; Jackie; Mickey; people bashing beans on toast
Final Grade: B+
- Simon Pegg was in this! How great is that? (I bet Karl Urban was pissed, though.)
- “Moisturize me!” MADAM HOOCH WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU.
- Naked Captain Jack on reality TV: “Your ratings just went up.”
- I’m now incredibly suspicious of large people, just waiting for them to fart around me. I just know there are aliens hiding inside of them.
- Why can’t people ever kiss at happy times? Why does it have to be a big climactic thing that ends in disappointed hopes? Because Moffat, that’s why—oh God, I’m one of them. I’m a fangirl. I’m sorry… I’m so, so sorry. That is all.