Sunday, 13 December 2009

Doctor Who: Rose

“Nice to meet you, Rose. Run for your life!”

Now that’s what I call a set of opening titles, especially after what we were subjected to by the TV Movie! The theme tune is fantastic as well, very much based on the classic template, as it should be. And not only the titles but the programme itself seems to have an overriding sense of redness, which in a bizarre outbreak of synaesthesia I tend to associate with the visual style of the middle of this decade. I know, I’m weird.

It feels very strange watching this again a few years later, and seeing the name of Russell T. Davies for what I’ll try and pretend is the first time. But it’s just as great now as it was then, starting in space above the Earth, zooming down to Rose’s alarm clock and whizzing us through her working day. The pace is incredibly fast compared to anything we’ve previously assumed in the Marathon, and trusts the audience to understand narrative short cuts which the programme hasn’t used before. It’s also a jolt to see an unmistakably contemporary London. And we’re introduced, of course, not only to Rose but her mother, Jackie, and her boyfriend, Mickey, who’s portrayed as quite the prat here.

Rose ends the working day in a claustrophobic basement, surrounded by shop window dummies which we all instinctively know to be Autons cos we’ve seen Spearhead From Space. And incidentally, that’s two stories in a row that borrow heavily from said Pertwee tale.

The dummies come to life and surround Rose, but suddenly a mysterious, leather jacketed man grabs her hands and simply says “Run!” He appears fleetingly, blows up the building, and then disappears from Rose’s life, apparently forever.

We then move to scenes from Rose’s domestic life, establishing the characters of Rose, Jackie and Mickey, all of whom we’ll be getting to know quite well over the next few weeks. Mickey, in particular, seems to be behaving exactly like the bloke who gets killed first in a slasher flick.

It’s a new day, signalled by a very nice repeating of the shot of the alarm clock, and suddenly the Doctor turns up at Rose’s door, drawn there by the plastic arm that Rose has kept. We get some amusing moments, as Jackie flirts with the Doctor, and the Doctor seems to appraise what is apparently a new regeneration by looking at his face in the mirror. But then we get to the important bit, as Rose follows the Doctor out of the flat and they have a very interesting conversation, the subtext of which is that they’re both sizing each other up. Suddenly the Doctor comes out with a fantastic speech about the planet revolving, but then he disappears, again seemingly forever, as he tells Rose to forget him. The camera moves away as he walks towards the police box, and then, alongside our first instance of what would become known as the “Chancellor Flavia” theme, we hear that old familiar sound…

In a nice modern touch, Rose looks up the Doctor on the Internet; inevitably, in the Whoniverse, he’s generated conspiracy theories, the theorist here being Clive, played rather interestingly, by the same actor who played the Devil in Davies’s own excellent The Second Coming, opposite Christopher Eccleston. In what is presumably a nod to Who Killed Kennedy, also concerning conspiracy theories in the Whoniverse, the Doctor is shown to have been at the assassination of JFK.

Meanwhile, Mickey has some trouble with CGI while investigating a wheelie bin, and there is burping. Mickey is replaced by a plastic version, and Rose fails utterly to notice the extreme oddness of his behaviour in spite of the time that must elapse before they end up in the restaurant. Here, the Doctor turns up again, and plastic Mickey is strangely scary as his arms suddenly turn into meat cleavers and he lashes out at anything in front of him. The Doctor defeats him, but Rose is no less impressive, having the presence of mind to sound the alarm and evacuate everyone.

They flee to the TARDIS, which gets exactly the sort of introduction here that it should have been given in the TV Movie. Everything is introduced to us through Rose’s eyes, and the fact that it’s bigger on the inside is played for maximum effect by having Rose walk right round it. The new TARDIS interior is brilliant, too. And the conversation between the Doctor and Rose is brilliant, too- I love the way the Doctor replies “Yep. That all right?” as Rose suggests he might be an alien. He’s also shown to be alien, in a rather Tom Baker-ish way, in his apparent lack of concern for Mickey, or Rose’s need for reassurance as to his fate, focussing instead on the bigger picture.

We get some admirably concise exposition; the Nestene have lost their “protein planets” in some unspecified recent catastrophe, and the Doctor has a MacGuffin called “anti-plastic”. Although this is technically a cheat, something like this is needed if we’re to fit everything necessary into an introductory episode with so many different jobs to do. The bare bones of the actual plot, quite rightly, are perfunctory.

After the highly amusing scene in front of the London Eye, the Doctor confronts the Shadow Proclamation. Refusing to just use the Anti-plastic, he insists on giving the Nestenes a chance. We get some information here; there’s some authority called the Shadow Proclamation, and the Doctor has recently fought in a war, during which he failed to save the Nestene homeworld “or any of them.”

As all this is happening, the Autons smash through windows in scenes we never actually got to see during Spearhead From Space. Clive is killed, thus proving him right about the Doctor bringing death in his wake, with his last words suggesting he’s heard about the events of the earlier story. I’m pleased that the sound effect for the Auton guns is exactly the same as the original.

Back to the Nestene Consciousness, and I’m surprised to hear (well, read in the subtitles) that it cries “Time Lord!” Rose saves the day, with the Doctor taking her and Mickey away from danger in the TARDIS. Mickey’s terrified reaction to its dimensions here underlines even further the contrast between him and Rose. Rose initially refuses the offer to travel in the TARDIS, rather unconvincingly citing her responsibilities to her mother and boyfriend, but when the Doctor gives her a second chance she doesn’t take much convincing.

Wow. Now that’s what I call an introduction. This story got so much done in the course of its 45 minutes, and did it with wit, style and incredible characterisation. Our two leads are both fab too. 5/5.

No comments:

Post a Comment