Wednesday 9 March 2005

A Rose by any other name

This is a review of the first episode of the new Doctor Who series, as shown to the press, and differs to the final broadcast version.


The opening title sequence marks the welcome return of the Jon Pertwee/Tom Baker main theme arrangement and sent chills down my spine. The CGI TARDIS, blurrily tumbling through time and space, recalls the Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy eras. The logo is the work of someone who has never heard of Photoshop! Why not update the classic diamond logo?

The subsequent montage, introducing Rose, pays homage to BBC franchises EastEnders and S-Club! The producers make excellent use of diegetic and non-diegetic sound and make reference to gay and popular consumer culture.

Billie Piper's pop career still haunts this reviewer and I'm ashamed to admit that, gulp, I liked "Because We Want To"! However, before Piper's pop career she was trained at Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts (BBC taps this rich reservoir) and once she encounters the good Doctor, amidst an Auton attack, their chemistry is electric. Somehow Piper disarms you and the Doctor is, well, the Doctor! I couldn't help smiling and thinking Christopher Eccleston was a canny choice. He's funny, but there's an edge waiting to be explored.

The Autons (controlled by the plastic manipulating and octopus-like Nestene Consciousness) were an infamous enemy and irked parents and the self-appointed moral guardian Mary Whitehouse following the broadcast of Terror of the Autons (1971). I saw the notorious serial in 1983. Terror was screened at the Doctor Who 20th Anniversary convention and followed by a Q&A with the principal actors (including Jon Pertwee) and production crew.

I could opine that the production values of the new series are not on a par with Angel, Buffy, Battlestar or The X-Files. However, this is a postmodern parody and Rose is loosely based on Spearhead From Space (1970). So, international audiences may be left out in the cold at its superficial lack of sophistication. I defy any Doctor Who fan not to be deeply moved by the sight of the TARDIS and its familiar sounds.

All in all, I'm delighted to see the Doctor back (sans episode cliffhangers) and so should you. Just in time...

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