Retrospective: Series 1 (2005)
Guest contributor David Selby takes a trip back to Doctor Who’s triumphant TV return.
For many of us, it all began in 2005. After a huge gap and several (unsuccessful) attempts at bringing the show back, Doctor Who was finally resurrected by the BBC. But it wasn’t just a spin-off, it wasn’t just a single episode with cheap special FX and unrealistic plots, this was Doctor Who – and arguably, it was better than it had ever been before. You’ll definitely find that Series 1 has a special place in a lot of Whovian’s hearts. But sadly, many have forgotten it, and a few fans haven’t even seen it. I’m here to tell you that it is a series which should not be missed – and should be watched properly, episode by episode. Here’s a proper look at every episode in the first series.
To say that executive producer and lead writer Russell T. Davies did well on this episode was an understatement. What he did, essentially, was transform something which was a fairly simple, classic sci-fi show, into a modern-day drama which mixed practically every genre out there. For a start, you were introduced to the Ninth Doctor and Rose, who gripped the audience from the word go. Secondary characters like Jackie Tyler -- Rose’s mother - and Mickey Smith, Rose’s boyfriend, were also introduced in this episode. In a way that was how Doctor Who became popular, its appeal broadened and it attracted everyone – men, women, kids and adults. The whole family would sit down on a Saturday night and watch Doctor Who. Doctor Who was no longer an event – it was an occasion – and if you haven’t seen this, then I would beg you to, because this is the An Unearthly Child of the 21st Century.
The End of the World
To me, The End of the World was the episode which bridged ‘Classic Who’ and ‘New Who’ in one story. On one hand, you had the Platform One guests, which looked a lot like classic monsters, but on the other hand you had the impressive Platform One special FX. I find, and always find, that like New Earth and Gridlock, The End of the World is a fascinating episode. It creates a completely new setting which is only explored three times in the new series, which is the far, far future, and yet, by the end of the episode, you realize that it’s not so different to the world that we live in now.
The Unquiet Dead
In a sense, The Unquiet Dead is a very important episode in New Who’s history. Not only was it the first adventure to go into the past, but it was also the first story by a writer who would go on to write for the show for many more years (Mark Gatiss). The Unquiet Dead had a great plot, and was quite scary at times, plus Charles Dickens appearing was the icing on the cake. If you’ve started watching Series 1 and are still watching here, then you’re probably hooked. But don’t stop there, because it gets better.
Aliens of London
I know that Aliens of London is an unpopular episode with many fans, however I have a lot more respect for it as it is, to me, the most important Doctor Who episode. This is the episode which got me into Doctor Who. One Saturday, seven years ago, I was just sitting around when my dad said to me, “Oh, Dave, come and watch this with me.” I was only half interested when he told me that as a child he had been into the classic show with William Hartnell, however after watching for about five minutes, the episode had me hooked. The next week my dad was shocked that I’d arranged my day around not missing the next episode, and after that I became a huge fan. This shows really, that this episode isn’t at all bad. So don’t go listening to people whining about this episode and think, “Right, I’m watching Series 1 but I’m going to skip these ones because they are apparently rubbish” because every episode of Doctor Who is individual, every episode has something which can get a disinterested kid to become a die-hard fan.
World War Three
So, maybe the Slitheen did stay one more episode than they needed to. But many viewers have forgotten that this episode put the Doctor in the position to realize that he’s putting his companion’s lives in danger. It also shows how Rose is affected by her new life, and how she couldn’t leave it behind. Plus the missile strike in this episode is very suspense-building; the only problem is that the Slitheen are a bit too silly for a whole two-parter.
Another very important episode; the introduction of the Daleks to modern-day Who, and writer Robert Shearman did an amazing job of it. The Dalek in this episode was utterly terrifying, an evil, emotionless creature trapped in a cold, metal shell. One creature, and yet it was clever enough and powerful enough to destroy the lives of over half the characters in the episode. Once again, if you don’t plan on ever watching Series 1 then please do at least watch this.
The Long Game
Anyone who says that Russell T. Davies doesn’t create strong plots has obviously not seen The Long Game. The episode in itself is very individual and peculiar, whilst having threads connected to the final all over the place, without the audience knowing. Now that is clever. The only weakness is Adam Mitchell who was unpopular character with many fans, but then he shows a moral; not everyone who travels with the Doctor is perfect.
One of my favourite episodes of the new series. The whole thing (for those of you who haven’t yet seen it) revolves around Rose Tyler and her desire to meet her father (Pete Tyler), which later causes trouble. This episode shows not only that time is a dangerous thing, and that the Doctor is the only one at this stage who can control it but it also gives us an insight into how different the past is to how we’ve been told it. A beautiful episode, get the tissues ready!
The Empty Child
Steven Moffat’s excellent debut scared the wits out of me when I was a small child. I had nightmares about the dreaded gas mask zombies for the next year, and when I saw one on my Doctor Who calendar in 2006 I was horrified! This episode also introduced Captain Jack Harkness, who became one of the longest serving New Who companions! This episode obviously inspired Russell T. Davies a lot…
The Doctor Dances
A brilliant resolution to a brilliant story (or should I say, “fantastic”) which has a lovely ending. This two-parter is also filled with a lot of tongue-in-cheek comments which I won’t spoil for those who haven’t seen it.
Oh no! The Slitheen are back! Grow up, please. We don’t cower in the shadows just because an unpopular monster returns (besides, I quite liked the Slitheen). This episode put the Doctor in the position of an executioner (so to speak) and put Rose in the position of a guilty girlfriend who hasn’t spent enough time with her boyfriend. Can you keep a relationship from the TARDIS to Earth? The answer is in the episode.
A humorous spoof of the world of game shows? There’s more to it than that. This is the start of something big, and the Doctor has no idea (spoilers)! Alright, I’ll stop being dramatic!
The Parting of the Ways
At last, the big finale, and one of the best! This episode was by far one of the scariest Dalek stories (apart from Dalek) and for once showed how millions of Daleks could have the potential to slaughter the universe. The episode also gave a ‘fantastic’ send off to one of the greatest Doctors, Christopher Eccleston. One of my favourites of the series.
All in all, Series 1 is an amazing series and leaves you wanting more. It finished off with you finally realizing that Rose is a very brave, strong character, who means far more to the Doctor than previously thought. The thing that stands out to me about this series is that there isn’t a single truly bad episode, and that’s what makes it my favourite series of New Who.