Sunday, May 24, 2015

10 Years of Doctor Who Reborn: Series One

Hi there, Whovians! It's hard to believe that the return of Doctor Who to our TV screens happened all of 10 years ago. The phenomenon that is Doctor Who has really exploded over that 10 year span to a degree that long time fans of the show could not have dreamed possible back in the wilderness days when television was bereft of the Doctor's adventures. 

Today is the first of a series of posts as I look at each season of Doctor Who and rank each episode according to the rigorous standards of my own subjective criteria. Your mileage may vary.  I will rank the episodes from worst to first and rate each episode on a scale of 1 to 5, 1 for "yeah, that could've been better" and 5 for "oh yeah, the Doctor rocks!

Also, I am rating each individual episode, even if its part of a two-parter. Sometimes two part episodes are not necessarily a single entity with Part 1 being a weaker or stronger installment than Part 2.

When this is all done, I will then assess what I think is the single best season of Doctor Who since the show relaunched. 

So let's get started with the year that started it all, 2005, when Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper made us believe all over again that a wonderful blue box could take us anywhere. 



#13     World War Three **
I know the conventional wisdom is that Boom Town was the low point of Series One and with good reason. However, I'm placing the 2nd episode of the revived series' first two parter in the bottom spot. Why? Mostly because the Slitheen just didn't work for me as effective protagonists and their whole scheme seemed so half-baked. And the solution of bringing a missile down on 10 Downing Street was a bit over the top. 

#12     Boom Town **
This was a quickly written episode to replace another script that just wasn't coming together and the seams show. I don't rate this as dead last simply because I like this type of "slice of life" episodes as we see the Doctor and his crew just hanging and swapping stories. Margaret the Slitheen was slimy and creepy even as she appealed for mercy. 

#11     Aliens of London  **

After this one, we're done with the Slitheen, OK? There are some good points to this episode: the Doctor getting the time wrong (Rose has been gone for 12 months, not 12 hours), the space ship crashing into Big Ben, the media frenzy over this alien encounter, the reactions of regular people. But I have a sense that once we have the set piece of the space ship crash landing, there's an uncertainty as to where to go next. 

#10     The Empty Child ***

As I noted earlier, the thing about two part episodes is that they don't always work as a cohesive whole. The set up may be a doozy but the pay off sucks. Or the pay off is stronger than the set up would have us believe. Steven Moffat's first contribution to the revived Doctor Who kind of fits in the latter camp. There's a lot to like about this episode: the skin crawling atmosphere, Rose's first encounter with Capt. Jack and more. But this is all set up and I have to admit a bias against the first scene where after watching this episode several times, I still have no idea what the Doctor and Rose are saying.

#09     Bad Wolf ***

The opening is a bit frantic for my tastes and the joke about the reality TV shows of the future wears a bit thin. But the big reveal of the Daleks at the end and the Doctor's kick ass speech that he's going to rescue Rose and blast every Dalek out of the sky? Epic! 

#08     The Long Game ***

The subplot with Adam seems like filler and eats up way too much time. Still, the pointed commentary about a society having access to so much information but lacking true knowledge and wisdom is aimed directly at us here in the 21st Century. And Simon Pegg's performance as the evil Director elevates the proceedings. 

#07     The Unquiet Dead ***

I wanted to rank and rate this one higher. I don't find anything particularly wrong with the episode, an entertaining combination of gothic horror, science fiction and real history in the form of Charles Dickens. It's a solid story, not too flashy but it holds together well enough.  

#06     The End of the World ***

This one declares with no hesitation, this is not your old Doctor Who. A plethora of alien races, a massively realized sci-fi base, a major cosmic event and Brittney Spears. In addition, we see some of the complexity of a Doctor/companion relationship that was rarely explored on the classic series. 

#05     The Doctor Dances ****

If I was kind of "meh" for the first installment, this second part of Steven Moffat's story kicks things up to the next level. The banter between the Doctor, Rose and Jack is rapid-fire and clever. And the ending is so heartbreaking realized yet ends on the most joyous of notes: "Just this once, everybody lives!"

#04     Father's Day ****

One thing the classic series didn't really do a lot was to explore the background of the companions. Basically, once someone gets on the TARDIS to travel with the Doctor, that's all they are until it's time to leave. Father's Day brings a level of drama and pathos not seen on the show back in the day and underscores the importance of the companion and her story. 

#03     Dalek ****

How to make the Daleks scary? Show just one, beaten, damaged, helpless. Then watch as that one Dalek rises up to slaughter on its path. Yet for all that, this story actually does the impossible and makes you care about a Dalek, at least for a little bit.

#02     Rose *****
Yes, I'm giving this one five stars. No, it is not a masterpiece of creative writing but it does exactly what it needs to do as the first episode of the revived Doctor Who. 

#01     The Parting of the Ways *****

There's so much at work here and it's not just the spectacle of the Doctor up against a Dalek armada. We see how Rose has been affected by her journeys with the Doctor and we see growth in Mickey Smith and Jackie Tyler. And there's the Doctor himself, facing up to his guilt over the Time War evening as he brings himself to realize that he can't do the same thing again, sacrificing innocents to stop a more dangerous threat. 


And there's my first list of episodes. You may disagree with their rankings or ratings but that's OK, this is just my thing. 

This time next week, I look back on Doctor Who Series Two.

Until then, be good to one another.  

Dave-El
I'm So Glad My Suffering Amuses You

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