I finally got round to watching episode one of the new BBC Doctor Who series, entitled Rose. This is our first glimpse of Christopher Eccleston as the ninth Doctor and it's a tricky one- there's no set up to show his transformation from the previous Doctor. He simply turns up in the life of Rose (former pop star Billie Piper) and saves her from death at the hands of the Autons. If you're not a huge geek-fan of Doctor Who, the Autons are simply shop dummies come to life. I loved Doctor Who when I was a kid and back then there was no easy way to see episodes so I had a massive pile of paperbacks- even at that I don't think I came across the Autons once. From watching the episode the Nestene/Auton consciousness is able to bring plastic objects to life. Here's my first complaint- we see Rose in a department store, with a mass of mannequins coming at her; surely the obvious thing to do is create the same sense of dread and horror that you would with zombies. Shop dummies twitching forward robotically, faces blank and lifeless, a mass of blind destruction. The horror of the Autons was missed here and then later in the episode in a big "come to life" scene. Doctor Who used to have a reputation as being a scary programme. Sure it had lousy production values but that was because of a tight budget. With the new Doctor a little too much of it was light-hearted and tongue in cheek and that grated a bit- the way to bring a successful franchise, whether it's a comic or a classic show like this, to life and to keep it successful is to do it seriously. There are some faintly comic moments in the episode and the dialogue with the Doctor and Rose is well done but the sense of threat and danger is somewhat lacking- the Autons are supposed to be coming to Earth to suck the planet dry and destroy everything on it but the threat is confined to a couple of autons here and there. They could really have taken a cue form Shaun of the Dead were we see odd things happening in the background as Simon Pegg's character travels to and from work.
As it is I spent the first half of the show wondering if this news series was going to be an astonishing flop but by the time the second part came around I was beginning to slowly warm to Eccleston's slightly manic portrayal of the Doctor- he has a stupid smile plastered across his faced just a little too much of the time but he's a good enough actor that he can switch from weirdly jolly to intense in the blink of an eye- and his "I can feel the planet moving through space" speech was very well done. I wasn't too sure about Piper either, but she seems like she could be a good companion. A really tiny bit of action (note to the show's producers, the pilot episode should have been longer to allow time to introduce the characters and have a cracking story) and a curious intimacy with the Doctor early on- holding hands as they run- indicate that there's an odd attraction between the pair and the chemistry seems to work. I'm hoping that as the series goes on the writers will take the subject matter seriously and not try to spoof it too much. The big Millenium episode with Paul McGann as the Doctor was played straight down the line so I don't see why this one can't be one the same way.
No doubt more reviews will follow as I watch the rest of the episodes I've recorded.