I remember first watching this one and not being, well, terribly impressed other than liking Christopher Eccleston. However, I already liked Eccleston -- mostly from Jude with Kate Winslet ... AMAZING film! -- so that didn't say much for the show itself. The thing was, though, that I'd read enough comments from my flist that I figured I'd give it a few more episodes to make up my mind. (Obviously, I decided to stick with the show ... eventually.) Watching again a month or so ago -- two years and a few months after I first watched it, I was so excited because I was now ADDICTED to Doctor Who, had such fond memories of Eccleston and his chemistry with Billie Piper that I was pretty much giddy while watching the whole thing. So, any quibbles I had were lost in my high level of squeee!! This time, I just watched it with a less fangirl-y/shipper-y point of view. And, unfortunately, I completely get why I was unimpressed the first time around. A few reasons why ...
- Living plastic? Really? Re-inventing, re-starting the entire Doctor Who franchise and Russell T Davies decided to go with living plastic? A glow-y, orange, mouthy blob thing of living plastic in a basement? Sigh.
- The deus ex machina at the end of Rose's gymnastic medal, something that is NEVER referred to again, it just ... yeah. Look, I get that we don't know Rose; she's a new character, and I did like the dialogue leading up to it ("No A-levels, no job, no future ..."), but still. It was clunky, it came out of nowhere and it just seemed like too easy of an out for the Doctor.
- Speaking of ... the Doctor was pretty much an idiot in this one, wasn't he? GAVE the plastic arm to Rose. Could not figure out for the life of him where the power source thing was despite Rose pointing it out, him looking at it not once, but TWICE. And completely useless (as Rose said) with the Nestene Consciousness. The Doctor shows so much more intelligence and brilliance in later episodes, there's no comparison. I know that we were supposed to get that Rose would make a great companion, but I think RTD went too far. That was clear in so many countless other scenes, ones that did NOT make the Doctor look like an idiot.
So, yes, there were negatives, and thus why I get the underwhelming-ness. However, there were still a lot of great things about it too and those are much more fun to write about.
To start with what I find positive now, but didn't when first watching, I'm gonna talk about Mickey. His introduction really did him no favors. He was fairly pathetic, and made to look buffoonish at moments. But watching this in hindsight, I think it was possibly a potentially deliberate angle on RTD's part should the show succeed. Because we saw a great arc with Mickey, despite his limited onscreen time, it was done in steps that made sense so that when he did become a hero, it played out believably. Of course, that could have been completely luck on RTD's part. It's likely it was more about who he was and his place in Rose's life. See it was quite, quite clear in ALL of Rose's interactions with him that while Mickey was her boyfriend, he didn't hold her heart, or her focus at all. He was just kinda there for her.
She's gone through a traumatic experience, and she doesn't call him, and when he shows up, it's clear she wants him gone. She goes to see him ... only to use his computer so she can find out information on the Doctor. He's replaced with living plastic and she doesn't even notice. It's only when he skips on terms of endearments that she notices something off. She does cry about his possible death, but she also forgets it almost as easily as the Doctor does in the midst of the mystery (to her) of the Nestene Consciousness. However, it didn't come across as selfish and self-involved to me -- although, I could see how it would to others, but rather just another sign that she was going through the motions in her life. This was her life, but she didn't care. Like the Doctor, at this point she was just going through the motions. They were both at a similar point in their lives (the Doctor blithely pointing out that he could die on the roof, simply not caring, just going through the motions of saving the world ... Hmm, anyone else suddenly start hearing "Going through the Motions" from the Buffy musical episode? Okay, just me). Ahem, the point is that Mickey was just part of that going through the motions. A nice enough bloke; she cared about him, but like everything else in her life, there was no passion there.
And Rose wanted more; she just didn't know what, or how to get that more. She was clearly itching for that something more, wanting to change, better herself even before the Doctor showed up. It was almost a throwaway line, and one that I missed the first time I watched it. When Jackie was trying to get her to get a job at the butcher's and Rose protested, Jackie commented that it would be good for her because she was starting to get "airs and graces" working at the shop. To me, it read that whether the Doctor had shown up or not, Rose would have found something, anything eventually to improve her lot in life. The Doctor just gave her the opportunity sooner rather than latter.
Which brings us to the Doctor ... ah, I do love Christopher Eccleston. He so beautifully and subtly captured the Doctor's pain that was just there under the surface. And when it came bubbling over -- his anguished cry to the Nestene Consciousness that it wasn't his fault, the destruction of its planet -- it was heartbreaking; he was heartbreaking. That catch in his voice, his expression. Oh, he's wonderful. And it was also wonderful how we saw Rose draw him out without him even realizing that she was doing so. That she kept popping up, and that she kept doing the smart thing (running when he said, figuring out a perfectly reasonable conclusion for the mannequins, listening to him, hitting the fire alarm and getting everyone out of the cafe, finding the power source and the box, etc.) ... every step of the way you could sense him becoming more and more intrigued with the idea of this young girl and how she kept doing the right thing. Figuring stuff out, understanding what was going on. On top of all of that, we had those great moments of vulnerability first in the TARDIS when he told her he was an alien, and then when he asked her to travel with him. It was just there in the edge of his voice, a look in his eyes, a tightness in his frame. Such a great actor. I do love David Tennant's Doctor, but I'll always mourn that we didn't get at least one more series with Eccleston.
And part of that mourning would come into play because I would have loved to have seen the Doctor's relationship with Rose blossom with Eccleston in the role simply because as great as the chemistry is between Tennant and Piper (and they DO have great chemistry), I still believe that it's just that more electric between Eccleston and Piper, I don't care if he's got almost twenty years on her, LOL! When he first takes her hand; when she pulls him into her flat; when he talks to her about the earth spinning and takes her hand again; when he tells her he's an alien; the looks they share as he's being held by the plastic men; again, the looks they share when he's asking her to travel with him .... There was just this connection, this rightness between them. They just ... fit. And it was an immediate chemistry that made it so believable as to why the Doctor would ask her to join him ... on an emotional level because of that instinctive rightness.
I use that phrase because his reasons for asking both Martha and Donna were so very different. There was nothing about them being right together, in my opinion. With Martha it was because he'd taken Donna's words to heart in "The Runaway Bride" -- that he needed someone to stop him -- and Martha had, intellectually, proven that she had the goods to travel with him. She asked the right questions, had the right attitude. And that is what it was about. It was about how she would make a good traveling companion, not about how she would make a good traveling companion for him. As for Donna ... well, he knew that she had just saved him from making a mistake that would haunt his soul and he simply did NOT want to be alone after losing Rose. I think he also wanted, needed the antithesis of Rose, which is what Donna appeared to be in TRB. And, of course, when she did start traveling with him ... well, it wasn't his decision at that point. Donna simply made it for him and he went along because he'd learned that it was best not to travel alone, and well, alright. Donna didn't really give him much choice. Oh, Donna, how I love you so.
So, again, with Martha it was about her being the right kind of traveling companion. With Donna, it was (initially) about his needing a buffer, anyone would have done, for the pain, and then him being right for her. However with Rose, it was about her being right for him. And I felt and believed that because of the chemistry and connection between Eccleston and Piper.
Which was a big part of my two favorite scenes ... The first I mentioned briefly above was when the Doctor was talking to her about feeling the earth spin. I loved how he took her hand (close-up! hand-porn!) and talked in that voice, their eyes connecting, Rose aborbing what he was saying, fascinated and mildly horrified at the same time at how he described it, and then the hand dropping, his final words and walking away. While she watched him. So, so good and it wouldn't have held such power did the two actors not connect so quickly, so completely, so believably on-screen. See for yourself.
(Download the scene for better quality, or watch it here via youtube.)
The second was the best part of that final scene. I mentioned above how much I loved the writing, direction and acting of it. And I really did. I felt the tension between them arcing across the distance between, the vulnerability from the Doctor, the wanting in Rose's eyes, in her voice. And then there was Mickey, her responsibility, a reminder of the people who depended on her and that alone was a lovely point showing that Rose is not selfish :: and OHMYGOD! I'm an idiot!! I just got the why of the "time travel" line and why it worked. I. am. a. moron. ::
Right, Rose is NOT selfish. She couldn't leave Mickey and her mum because she was important to them and to just swan off like that would be irresponsible and selfish. And then the Doctor came back and told her "Did I mention it also travels in time?" And that was it! That was her escape route ... she could go anywhere, face that exciting danger again everywhere with this man who was already occupying so much of her thoughts -- Rose's comment to PlasticMickey in the cafe about it not being about the Doctor as a "him" was another throwaway line that she'd been talking about the Doctor pretty non-stop to Mickey -- but because it was a time machine, she could always come back without Mickey or her mum missing her.
Okay, idiocy resolved. I get it now. (Only took watching it three times, and writing an insanely-long review about the episode.) Okay, going back to my comment above about the tension in those moments between the Doctor and Rose when he's inviting her to come with him, honestly, these two just have such incredible chemistry and it's vividly in display here. See for yourself.
(Download the scene for better quality, or watch it here via youtube.)
Lastly, a word or two about Billie Piper. I did not appreciate her the first time I watched series one. I did through series two, and upon rewatch of series one the first time, I appreciated her even more. She really did an excellent job from the get go. So believable, so warm and real, sharp and selling so much of who Rose is in this one introductory episode. Despite her youth and acting inexperience in comparison, she was a great match for the extraordinary Eccleston.
Random thoughts ...
- A small scene (32 seconds long), but I loved, loved the catflap/knock on Rose scene. Check it out (either download for better quality or watch embedded below:
- Jackie was pretty annoying. But I DID love the fact that her first reaction to the Doctor was coming on to him. And his response? Cracks my shit up every time.
- I liked Clive; I really did. Damn you, RTD, for killing him off.
- I loved the little quick cliffnotes versions of some of the Doctor's alien-ness. Looking at the tabloid: "He's an alien and she's gay." Flipping though a book quickly, "sad ending." Etc. Hee!
- Finally, handporn! Time: For "Rose" we have two hand-close-ups, and a third medium-shot of their hands while running.
The first, the much-beloved "Run." Ah, the one that started it all ...
Then the beautiful "the earth spinning" hand-hold. Pure poetry, not just in the words, but how the hand-hold becomes a part of the Doctor's imagery.
And, lastly, a medium-shot of the two running, the Doctor grabs her hand and they don't let go (even though, really, it probably would have made the run easier had they, but the Doctor and Rose just can't say no to handporn!, even when they barely knew each other).
Phew! Okay, so that's my first one. I dunno if I'll do this for all of them. We'll see. It may depend on response, or my own obsession. Who knows? LOL!
Okay, if you're read through all of my rambling, as a treat, head on over to this "Rose" picspam by fid_gin which captures many of the moments I talked about above. And it's pretty dang fantastic picspam just on its own. So go.