The Cutprice Guignol

The Ninth Year: The Haunting of Swill House

Tag: doctor who season one recap

Doctor Who Recaps, Season One, Episode Two: The End of the World

So, hello, and welcome to the second week of our cross-blog Doctor Who extravaganza as we take a look at the second episode of the season, The End of the World. Read a whole different take on the episode-by a strident Tennant fan- over at Red Whine. As before, if you want to join us on this ill-advised adventure through recapping (and also time and space), drop me an email an the Contact Me tab above.

Let me dive right in and start by saying that part of what I dig so much about this episode- aside from the fact it stars the once and future King of Doctors- is that we jump from saving the world in last week’s episode to watching it burn in the background all the way through this week. As a child (and, to an extent, an adult) who was petrified by the thought of the earth being destroyed in some catastrophic event (all those scaremongering Discovery Channel “documentaries” about asteroids and ice ages? Aimed directly at the kind of child I was), this episode scared the fucking bejeesus out of me, and still makes me feel kind of weird to this day. Something about seeing Earth burning out of existence- and having that basically forming the scenery of the episode- is really unsettling, and I can get on board with Rose’s assertion that this might not be the best way to make your second date go with a bang (A big one. PUNS).

“Oh, but he’s not in this episode!” I hear you cry. And I lift a finger to your lips, and shake my head sadly for your lack of pathetic insider DW knowledge.

The plot of this episode revolves around some space dignitaries-in the form of some living trees, the Face of Boe, and Lady Cassandra, the last human alive, who also happens to be, well, a giant piece of skin stretched out between two poles:

Whenever I lose weight, it’s this line that pops into my head and I immediately eat twelve donuts and a croissant because I’m fancy.

Yeah, if you thought “Terry Gilliam’s Brazil” when you saw this, you get twenty points too, because the Doctor Who props department like searing horrifying images into the memories of innocent children. After it’s revealed that a nefarious plot to bump off the guests is afoot, it’s up to Rose and the Doctor (and some living trees, but we’ll get there) to figure out what to do next. I like the simplicity of the plot, mainly because it allows for this episode to become mostly scene-setting, filling out the universe that we’ll be travelling through with this Doctor and providing a good bit of genuinely science-fictiony relief from the Earth-bound episodes on either side of it. One of the best things about this series of Who from a writer’s perspective must have been introducing this universe to whole bunch of new viewers (like me) who had no idea what to expect, and it shows, with real effort put in to making this as casually out-there as possible. Just some sentient trees wandering about, confusing me with how attractive they are. No biggie.

Insert “getting wood” joke here

I tell you what, too- I love this episode for the fact that it sets the vaguely sinister tone for the whole of season one. Now, it might be because I watched them when I was a terminally impressionable child, but I still think the most frightening episodes ever all belong to the first two seasons of New Who, and The End of the World is no exception. As the radiation given off by the dying earth threatens to burn our heroes alive, the whole spaceship set-up moves from dazzlingly inventive and quirky to claustrophobic and deadly, with a handful of guest-stars meeting grisly ends-whether burning alive, exploding in the heat, or being irradiated to death, it’s not just the bad guys who wind up dead.

Not just the bad guys, but the ENTIRE WORLD.

And the Doctor’s callous reaction to the villain of the piece-allowing them to burn in their own trap- marks out Eccleston’s ability to bring something a bit unsettling to his Doctor. From this episode onwards, you don’t want to end up on his bad side, and that’s an important part of the characterisation¬†for the Doctor which is still being explored in Capaldi’s episodes today (by the way, is anyone else feeling less than enthused about the return of the series in just over a month? Until something changes- preferably finding a new showrunner, at fucking last- I’m just expecting a re-run of the off-puttingly patchy season eight, and, terrifyingly, a two-parter written by the creator of the painful Kill the Moon). If the first episode is about filling out Rose’s character, this is about giving us a look into the Doctor. The episode might end with them waltzing off to get chips, but we’ve had a glimpse into the effects of the Time War on our hero (Gallifrey and it’s fate are referenced for the first time in this episode, as is the excellent Bad Wolf season plot, for those keeping score at home).

Unf dat smile tho

The End of the World isn’t the best episode this season had to offer, not by a long shot. But it’s a gratifyingly simple story, filled with plenty of genuinely memorable characters (so good, in fact, that the villain who be brought back for the season two opener) and a pretty dark tone that keeps it from landing in “forgettable” territory. But honestly, who cares, because next week we’ve got the first bonafide New Who classic, in the form of the only episode of TV I was ever outrightly banned from watching, The Unquiet Dead. Stay tuned!

Yeah, insider jokes are the name of the game this week.

Advertisement

Doctor Who Recaps, Series 1, Episode 1: Rose

Doctor Who has been part of my life for ten years now. It started with the rebooted series, watched over dinner on a Sunday night, before Scrapheap Challenge and Time Team. It was my introduction to pop culture, in a lot of ways- the first show that I followed which had long-running, over-arching plots and real character development, it sparked a love affair with television that I still can’t see an end to. I started reviewing Doctor Who from season seven onward on this blog,¬†I met my current boyfriend when he was dressed as Doctor Who (it as Halloween, to be clear, but it is basically his daily attire), and I still have handfuls of Doctor Who annuals tucked away at the back of my bookcase. So when it came time to pick something else to recap, there was only really one choice.

So I’m recapping New Who, from Ecclestone to Capaldi, right here, starting right now. My boyfriend/also a freelance writer will be blogging his recaps of the same episodes over at his blog, Red Whine (because he’s ginger and also a nightmarish whinge- I had a hand in the name), so you can compare and contrast our two very different attitudes to our favourite show-here’s a link to his review of this episode. It might cause us to break up, because we usually have to avoid talking about Doctor Who lest in cause another genuine row, but that’s the sacrifice I’m willing to make. For you. Faithful blog-readers. Oh, and if any of you have your own blogs and would like to join in with our recaps, please do-just drop me an email/tweet so I can link your reviews and let you know what the rough schedule is.

Whether you’ve watched the series before, or want to start watching it now, I’ll be trying to keep these posts spoiler-free (ish) and welcoming to those who don’t know the mythology of the show as well as I do. Which is maybe the nerdiest thing I’ve ever felt smug about. Seriously though, if you haven’t watched it, please come join me on watching at least the first series, because it’s awesome and you can spare forty minutes a week to awesome, can’t you?

So, without further ado, let’s take a look at season one, episode one- Rose.

Let’s get one thing straight: this is the best iteration of the theme song.

Right? Awesome. I’m glad we agree. Murray Gold wrote some incredible music for Who, but he didn’t beat this, and never will. Especially not with the bastardisation of the opening credits we’re subject to now (I’ll have you yet, Moffat). But let’s now think of how badly this show was going to let me down- let’s focus on how utterly bloody brilliant everything about the first series was.

I make no secret of the fact that Christopher Eccleston is my Doctor. Sometimes I get quite irrationally angry about the fact that he only had one season, and stomp around and curse things and bargain with the Gods to sacrifice the first half of season seven for another few episodes of Chris. And I think a huge part of it is his introduction in this episode- how could you NOT find him fascinating? The plot is a throwaway piece of nonsense, as the Doctor attempts to stop Autons (living plastic dummies) destroying the human race, used as a framing device to introduce the Doctor and fill in his backstory for viewers who don’t know who he is. I’m really fond of the way the show introduces him- leaning through a door, grabbing Billie Piper’s hand, and declaring “Run!”- but I’d forgotten just how good the detail was in this episode. Take, for example, the Doctor’s speech to Rose when she asks who he is:

” Do you know like we were saying, about the earth revolving? It’s like when you’re a kid, the first time they tell you that the world is turning and you just can’t quite believe it ’cause everything looks like it’s standing still. I can feel it…the turn of the earth. The ground beneath our feet is spinning at a thousand miles an hour. The entire planet is hurtling around the sun at sixty seven thousand miles an hour. And I can feel it. We’re falling through space, you and me, clinging to the skin of this tiny little world. And, if we let go… That’s who I am. Now forget me, Rose Tyler. Go home.”

I WISH I COULD FORGET YOU

That’s some pretty heavy shit for kid’s TV. It’s a genuinely brilliant speech, and is filled out by an entertaining turn by Mark Benton as Clive, the conspiracy theorist obsessed with the Doctor who Rose contacts for more information. Though she writes him off as insane, he manages to explain his constant appearences through history, his apparent immortality, and his changing face, not to mention squeezing in the immortal line about the Doctor’s only constant companion being death, and I’m a little surprised my parents let me watch this considering what a terrifyingly hyperactive imagination I had (vis: When I was nine and first watching this episode, I had to get my Dad to turn it off before the Doctor even arrived because I found the Autons so scary. Now I just sit around watching The Human Centipede over dinner. Funny how things change). He’s equal parts witty (that “it’ll never work- he’s gay and she’s an alien” line is generally how I describe my relationship), cutting, compassionate and hard-edged (and bloody handsome to boot- just me?), and I love how sharp his scripting makes him. We’re given just enough of the Doctor to tantalise us, but when it comes down to it, this episode isn’t about him. It’s about Rose.

Never without twenty layers of mascara. Seriously, even in the scenes where she’s waking up.

Ah, Rose Tyler: England’s Rose, played by Billie Piper, a tween pop starlet who stars as the nineteen-year-old chav and best assistant ever (she’s since proved herself over again in stuff like Penny Dreadful, which you should have seen by now). The episode’s named after her, for Christ’s sake- this outing, and to an extent the whole series, is about her emotional journey. And the show really takes it’s time setting up her life, and the characters therein. I always really liked that Rose’s life wasn’t awful, just that average kind of dreary, because it would have been so easy to give her an awful boyfriend or an annoying family to escape from. But here, Noel Clarke (who’s BAFTA speech is one of the things that inspired me to take up writing, so thanks for that, mate) as Mickey and Camille Coduri as my MILF-Goddess Jackie are just people, people that you know, people that you work with. They’re played with amazing warmth by both the actors (Camille Coduri’s delivery of “There’s a strange man in my bedroom…anything could happen” is up there in my top ten moments of the series, and Noel Clarke and Billie Piper have a really believable chemistry). Their normality isn’t bad, necessarily, but, when offered the chance to escape, Rose takes it. Because we all would.

Camille Coduri: making nine-year-old girls feel funny feelings since 2005.

And there’s the best part about this episode. The assistant has always been an audience surrogate, but she’s never been more relatable than Rose. Because Rose is living a completely unremarkable life, a moderately satisfying existence that doesn’t really lead to anything of note, as many of us are (or secretly believe we are). So when she’s offered the chance to change everything and travel through time and space in a blue box, of course she says yes. By inviting her along on this adventure, the Doctor (and by extension the show) is inviting the audience, too. And by God, I defy anyone to turn down a trip in the Tardis after this belter of an opening. Join us next week (maybe) for episode two, The End of the World, and maybe a bit less pretension, if I’m feeling generous.

Oh shit, Rose is younger than I am now in this episode. I want to kill myself. I’ll have you yet, Davies.