01 – Series One – Christopher Eccleston


Doctor Who as a TV show was cancelled in 1989 for a number of reasons, ranging from concerns over violence, to the hostility of Michael Grade, BBC Controller. He stated a number of times that he hated the show and wanted it dead, so he starved it of resources to drive down the audience, then killed it. They tried to do a reboot with Paul McGann in 1996 with a made-for-TV movie, but that deal was about getting on American TV, and Fox declined to pick it up. So for fans of Dr. Who it was fantastic when the BBC announced a reboot to begin in 2005 under the leadership of Russell T. Davies, a well-regarded TV producer in England. The new Doctor would be Christopher Eccleston, and his companion would be Billie Piper, an English pop singer, who would play Rose Tyler. To the surprise of many, she turned out to be good despite relatively little acting experience. This episode introduced both her and the new Doctor, and kicked off the new series.

An interesting choice of monster here is the Autons, who were introduced in the run of the Third Doctor, Jon Pertwee. In his very first story, Spearhead From Space, the Autons were introduced. In the first story of the following season, inTerror of the Autons, he meets Jo Grant for the first time and The Master is introduced. So the Autons have history in Doctor Who. In this story we meet Rose, her mother Jackie, and her boyfriend Mickey, all of who will will play recurring roles over the first two seasons. An interesting part of this story is an obsessed “fan” if that is the right term, who has collected sightings of the Doctor, though sadly he comes to a bad end. But in this collection of sightings we see some of the history of the Doctor presented as way to bring new fans up-to-speed. A good episode, not really great, but because Rose has become a beloved figure in Doctor Who it has a certain cachet.


The End of the World

It is a known fact that in the future the sun will expand and the Earth will come to an end. So in this story the Doctor takes Rose to a viewing platform in the far future (5 billion years) where beings from a variety of races have come to watch the spectacle. Unfortunately, someone wants to kill them all and the Doctor has to save the day. Two characters are introduced that we will see again, the Lady Cassandra, who calls herself the “last true human”, and the Face of Boe. For fans of the old Doctor Who, this episode is a sign of how things have changed. Instead of the old “shaky sets” of the original series, there is current technology CGI to provide the science fictional images.

Two ideas are introduced here. The first is the Time War (though it is not named) where the Doctor had to kill off his own race along with the Daleks. (We will see later in The Day of the Doctor, the 50th anniversary show, that in fact he did not kill his own people, but that somehow the fact he changed his mind about that was wiped from his memory). The Christopher Eccleston Doctor would be haunted by his genocide for the entire series, so this is pretty significant. The other meme introduced is the first mention of Bad Wolf. It will keep coming up mysteriously through this series. Every story in this season except Rose contains a reference, though in the two-parters it is only in one episode.


The Unquiet Dead

This time the TARDIS goes back in time and they meet up with Charles Dickens, who is giving a public reading that is interrupted by an apparent ghost. The Doctor finds this decidedly odd and has to investigate. This takes them to a funeral parlor, where corpses seem to be reanimating for some reason. We meet a young maid servant played by Eve Myles, who would also be the lead in the spin-off show Torchwood. The name Torchwood, by the way, is an anagram of Doctor Who. It seems that the producers were eager to stop premature release of shows and info, so they created a code name to use on the film canisters, and then decided to use it for a spin-off, though this comes later.

The ghosts and reanimated corpses are the work of a race called the Gelth, who are trying to escape their dying world and come to Earth. Their open door is caused by a rift in the space-time continuum centered on Cardiff, and this rift will show up again in multiple stories.


Aliens of London

An alien family called the Slitheen (and this is not the name of the race, just the name of the family) causes a flying saucer to crash through Big Ben and into the Thames. It turns out they have infiltrated the British Government in disguise, and are using this crisis to lure all of the experts on alien life to London where they can eliminate them as part of their plan to take over the Earth. Of course, the Doctor is one of the experts who is lured in by this. The Slitheen are large fluffy creatures who have to squish themselves down to fit into their “human” costumes, and in part for this reason are fairly constantly farting. Of note in this story is is the introduction of Harriet Jones, a backbencher in Parliament who later takes control of the situation when almost all the rest of the government is wiped out, and will ride that to becoming Prime Minister. She will appear in two future stories, The Christmas Invasion and Stolen Earth.

Also of interest is the reappearance of U.N.I.T. This organization was introduced with Patrick Troughton, featured heavily with Jon Pertwee (whose Doctor was officially the Scientific Advisor to U.N.I.T), and continued into Tom Baker’s run). The acronym stands for United Nations Intelligence Taskforce, but this is the last time it has that meaning. The real United Nations complained, and it was later changed to Unified Intelligence Taskforce. This is the first part of a two-part story, continued in World War Three.


World War Three

Now the Slitheen must be beaten. They’ve killed the PM and taken over the government of Great Britain. And it is revealed that their plan is to start World War Three, turn the Earth into a nuclear wasteland, and then sell the radioactive substances as fuel. Mickey starts the story arc of his redemption in this episode when he helps Jackie kill a Slitheen who is trying to kill them. The Doctor helps Mickey to hack into the computer of U.N.I.T., where he learns that the Slitheen spaceship is in the North Sea, and later he helps Mickey hack the computer of a Royal Navy submarine to launch a cruise missile aimed at 10 Downing Street. The Slitheen are killed, but the Doctor, Rose, and Harriet Jones survive.



This almost didn’t happen because the Estate of Terry Nation controls rights to the Daleks and was at first reluctant to license them to the new BBC program. Fortunately this was resolved in time. But a replacement script with a different “killer robot” was prepared.

This is an interesting story because it again raises issues of morality and genocide. In the Tom Baker story Genesis of the Daleks he agonizes over whether he has the moral right to kill the Dalek race, and ultimately decides he doesn’t. Eccleston’s Doctor is wracked with survivor guilt over (he thinks) killing his own race and the Dalek race to end the Time War, then he finds a lone Dalek in a collection of oddities put together by a rich collector. When Rose accidently brings the Dalek to full life, it kills many people, and the Doctor confronts it. But as he tells Rose to get out of the way, that the Dalek is dangerous, she says “He’s not the one pointing a gun at me right now.” This moral dilemma happens again in the final episode of the series, The Parting of Ways.


The Long Game

The Doctor and Rose pick up a young man from the previous story and let him come along. Looks like a new companion being added. But it turns out not to be the case. Back in the early 1980s Russell T. Davies had submitted a story idea to the Doctor Who production team which he called “The Companion Who Couldn’t”, and while it was not accepted back then, he held on to it for this story. This story is set on a satellite station orbiting the Earth in the year 200,000, and something is not right. The Doctor is expecting a more advanced human culture, so something must be interfering. He finds out who is at the bottom of it, and rights things. Or does he? This episode sets up the 2-part finale of the series, where again things are not what they should be. Simon Pegg as The Editor is treat in this story.


Father’s Day

One of the questions that comes up a lot in Doctor Who is the question of changing the past, and that is the focus here. Rose saves her father from being killed by a car, and everything starts to go wrong after that. So changing the past is something you should never do, apprently. Except the Doctor has done it plenty of times, such as saving a family in the Fires of Pompeii. In Father’s Day, the change causes beings called Reapers to appear, and attack everyone. Interesting concept, but we never see the Reapers again. In Earthshock, the Doctor allows a companion Adric to die, and says he had no choice. So maybe the issue is that sometimes a character dies a death due to Dramatic Necessity. Still, this is an inventive story, and was nominated for a Hugo award, so there is something here worth watching.


The Empty Child

This is another two-part story, concluding with The Doctor Dances, and is widely considered one of the best. It won the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form. The Doctor is following the trace of a time traveling cylinder to London during the Blitz in WWII. He discovers people who seem to be fused to their gas masks, then a doctor transforms into such a person before his eyes. This is somehow related to young boy who is going around asking “Are you my mummy?”, and a young lady who is guiding a group of children. This is the first episode written by Steven Moffat, who became the main writer when he took over for Russell T. Davies a few years later. And it introduces a fan favorite character, Capt. Jack Harkness, a renegade time agent from the future. Capt. Jack would not only continue to appear in Doctor Who, he would head up the spinoff series Torchwood.


The Doctor Dances

This concludes the story begun in The Empty Child. The dance is a euphemism for sex/romance, as the Doctor explains that he too can particpate in such things after Rose is attracted to Capt. Jack. The whole idea of romance would continue in the next series with the Tenth Doctor, David Tennant, falling in love with Rose, but it is controversial in some fan quarters since there was never even a hint of this in the original classic series. Other than that, the scene at the end when the Doctor says “Just this once, everyone lives” is a reminder of the pain of the Doctor from the Time War. Capt. Jack prepares to sacrifice himself by taking a live exploding bomb into space so no one else gets hurt, but he is rescued at the last moment by the Doctor.


Boom Town

One of the Slitheen from Aliens of London/World War Three has apparently survived and gotten herself elected mayor or Cardiff. Cardiff appears a lot in the new Doctor Who because it was BBC Cardiff that brought the show back, and they wanted to showcase it. The spinoff series Torchwood is also set in Cardiff. And the rift mentioned in The Unquiet Dead also makes another appearance, as it clear this Slitheen is building a nuclear reactor with a deliberate flaw that will melt down and open the rift. The Doctor, Rose, and Capt. Jack capture her before her plan is complete, and this leads to an interestingly different episode where the Doctor has to look at the consequences of his actions, and question whether he has the right to sentence someone to death. This is even more interesting when you get to the next Doctor, David Tennant who proclaims he is a “No second chances” Doctor, though in fact he usually finds a way to avoid cold-blooded killing (see The Family of Blood, for instance).


Bad Wolf

All this season the phrase Bad Wolf has popped up, and now we are at the first part of the two-part series finale. Will all be revealed? Well, not until next week, as it happens. Instead, it just continues to build. The three companions arrive back on the space station from The Long Game, a hundred years further into the future. But again, something is wrong. They are separately placed into game shows, because now the main purpose of this satellite is to broadcast game shows to Earth, and corporation that ones the satellie and oversees these games is named Bad Wolf. The Doctor and Jack escape their games, but Rose is seemingly disintegrated when she loses. Only it turns out that the station using transmat technology to move things around. The Doctor discovers it is the Daleks behind all of this, and that Rose is being held captive by them. The Daleks want to use her to control the Doctor, but the Doctor is not that kind of person. That closing scene is powerful.


The Parting of Ways

The Doctor does rescue Rose, and sends her back in the TARDIS to her own time and place because the Daleks are invading the station and whatever happens it won’t end well. The Doctor is preparing a device that will kill all of the Daleks, but also kill all of life on Earth. Can he actually do it? In the end, he can’t. Capt. Jack dies at the hands of the Daleks but it is an heroic fighting death. Rose, back in the London of 2005, is pissed at being sent home, and finds a way by opening up the TARDIS, which transforms her, and we finally discover that Rose is Bad Wolf. She becomes a supernatural being, kills all of the Daleks, and brings Capt. Jack back to life. We later discover he cannot be killed again as a result of what she does. The Doctor realizes that the energy she absorbed will kill her, and instead takes it into himself. It kills him, of course, but as a Time Lord that just triggers regeneration into the next Doctor. This is one of the best regeneration stories in my opinion.


Review of Christopher Eccleston

I don’t think you could have had a better “reboot” than we had this season. Sadly, it appears that some not quite specified issues led Christopher Eccleston to walk away after one season, though since he has appeared in some Big Finish stories, and has expressed a willingness to return, though on terms that make that unlikely (he would not come back for any multi-Doctor stories, just ones where it is only him). That’s too bad, I would have liked to see more of him. But then, I suspect the series would have been different if he was going to continue. They knew fairly early on that he was leaving, and I would imagine the last few stories were influenced by that knowledge.

Review of the Series

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