Well, it's better than that brainless monstrosity of
a TV movie that poor old Paul McGann battled
And, for the comics readers in the audience, that
is indisputably a Bryan Hitch-designed TARDIS
Christopher Eccleston, as the Doctor, is a delight.
I imagine he'll settle down as the series progresses,
but right now he's a walking mood-swing -- Tom
Baker's mad grin and sudden command, Jon
Pertwee's physicality, Patrick Troughton's impish
side. And he's got a great old leather jacket.
He keeps his Northern accent, and when his new
assistant asks him why he sounds Northern when
he's an alien, writer Russell Davies gives him
the fine line: "LOTS of planets have a North!"
Word is that Sci-Fi Channel declined to acquire this
new DOCTOR WHO series. And I can see why.
It's too damned English. As Rich Johnston said to
me tonight, it's your actual English family sci-fi
show. There's no way it'd fit on Sci-Fi. I imagine, to
be honest, it's going to bypass much of the American
audience, and possibly even the gap between my
generation and my daughter's generation.
It is, in fact, DOCTOR WHO, as it was, complete with
fake jeopardy for the kids and laughs for the adults. It
will probably disappoint old fans -- and anyone looking for
a BATTLESTAR GALACTICA-style treatment -- because it
resolutely refuses to take itself too seriously. It's not afraid
of doing gags like having a kid eaten by a marauding plastic
rubbish bin because that's all part of the ride, all part of the
style. In Michael Moorcock's phrase, it obeys and enjoys
And so you get that nice little
counterpoint between strange comedy bits
and straight dramatic moments that is the hallmark
of a certain strain of British fiction. Showroom
dummies (yes) coming to life and shooting people
might look funny, and it is -- but the bodies are
just as dead. And that -- the placing of an alien
element into a naturalistic contemporary British
context -- is the signature of the old British sf
style, from WAR OF THE WORLDS to DAY OF
THE TRIFFIDS, from QUATERMASS AND THE
PIT to, especially, DOCTOR WHO.
(For the old WHO watchers, this first story is
a riff on the Autons, from back in the 70s.)
Billie Piper, best known over here for being a
teenaged pap-pop singer and the (ex-)wife of
ginger mini-media-mogul Chris Evans, is
something of a revelation as the Doctor's new
assistant, Rose Tyler. She's much better
than anyone would expect. Eccleston's a big
actor. She does better than hold her own.
It's shot on digital video, by the looks of it.
The production values are, despite everything,
a little ropey in places. Not the old cardboard walls
and blokes in latex monster suits, though. The
credit sequence is just horrible, the incidental music
ranges from passable to fucking awful, and some of
the gags don't land at all. Davies works best
in the naturalistic stuff, and in the interplay
between the Doctor and Rose. That said,
DOCTOR WHO hasn't been this good since
the early days of Peter Davison in the role.
It's nice to have it back, and I'm looking forward
to watching it with my daughter when it
airs on the BBC in a few weeks.
You're just jealous because the voices only talk to me.
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