Wake Up Call

DW1 Rose

Doctor Who Retrospective “Rose”

The 26th March, 2005 is a date that will live long and be remembered by Doctor Who fans across the globe because this is when the series re-launched itself at 7pm on BBC1.  Following 16 years in the television wilderness (save for 90 minutes of the TV movie, which some may argue was all part of that “wilderness” as well), the return was an astonishing success.  The concept of family viewing had long since been consigned to the bottom of the BBC filing cabinet labelled “In The Old Days…” but there was belief ingrained in the whole production team that they could create something special.  They had still expected viewing figures of about 5 million, had even hoped for viewing figures of 6, or may be even 7 million but what they got were viewing figures of 10.8 million people.  This was a number of viewers that only major sporting events and soap opera deaths and weddings could hope to attract.  I had the pleasure of meeting Russell T Davies, Executive Producer and evangelist of all things Who, and asked him how he had felt when he’d heard how many people had watched.  He replied that it was an amazing feeling for about 2 minutes before he began to question how on Earth he could maintain the momentum and success for the second episode as he feared that the only way was down.

It was way back in 2003 that Lorraine Heggasy had announced that Doctor Who was to return and the media immediately pounced on this to begin their wild speculation.  Most of it was nonsense, of course, (remember the “Paul Daniels to play the Doctor” story?) but over time it all served to re-introduce the idea of the show into the public consciousness.  As announcements were made and news leaked out of BBC Wales, who had been charged with the job of producing the show, there seemed to be a growing feeling that it could be something special.  Eventually, on New Year’s Day 2005 just after The Vicar Of Dibley, viewers got their first chance to see a clip of the show, a simple effects shot of the TARDIS materialising.  It was back.  In the week’s leading up to transmission of Rose, the marketing blitz went into over-drive.  A glamourous launch party, interviews, TV spots, Radio discussions, magazine covers and features… it was everywhere.  Oh, and that trailer.  “D’you wanna come wi’ me?” asked Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor and everyone did.
On screen the title’s rolled, the classic theme music was back with some punchier undertones added by Murray Gold and then we met Rose.  We got to see a day in the life of this insignificant shop assistant to a thumping, relentless soundtrack (that reflected the heartbeat of many a fan, old and new) and it was clear that the pace of the show was immeasurably faster than anything in Doctor Who before.  As Rose took the lift to the basement of Henrik’s department store, the bell sounded, the doors opened, the music stopped and the fear factor stepped up as Rose searched for Mr Wilson amongst the junk and mannequins in the basement.  If it hadn’t been for the still vaguely unbelievable cock-up of the sound bleeding in from Graham Norton’s studio, the tension of the scene would have been even higher.  “Run!” was first word the Doctor said to Rose and, as the Doctor himself refected in the Children In Need special months later, they never stopped.

The frenetic pace continued throughout… Henriks exploded, Auton Mickey rampaged through a restaurant, Rose’s first trip in the TARDIS, racing across Westminister Bridge and the Auton attack on the shopping centre that was intercut with the Doctor and Rose facing off against the Nestene Consciousness, all at a hundred miles an hour, all genuinely exciting.  There were a few other key scenes worthy of note, the brilliant writing of the “The world is spinning” speech is one of my favourites from the whole series, Mark Benton’s appearance as Clive was a great bit of casting but on the flipside of all this goodness there was the “Wheelie Bin Scene”.  There was no speech during it, so it’s hard to blame the writer but the execution was terrible with its dodgy looking not-so-special effects looking highly rushed and the poorly thought out belching denoument.  I won’t say that it spoilt the episode but it was certainly left tarnished by it.
Rose, rather unfairly I feel, often ends up nears the bottom of the list when the fans rank or rate their favourite stories of the new batch.  Perhaps it is because the Doctor is not the focus or hero of the tale, or because the story hardly illuminates Camille Coduri or Noel Clarke’s acting talents in their most favourable light, or may be because of the whellie bin after all, but it is what it is and I, for one, wouldn’t have it any other way.  No-one could’ve predicted what the next seven days of the Doctor Who story would bring but that I shall save that for the next review.  For now, and for all its faults, Doctor Who was back and it was brilliant.

“It’s like when you’re a kid, the first time they tell you that the world is turning and you just can’t believe it cos 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.”

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