Monday, August 31, 2015

Doctor Who: Recap Series 1

After a 16 year hiatus and one terrible terrible movie, Doctor Who returned to the air  The Doctor (9th incarnation) was played by Christopher Eccleston and his companion Rose Tyler by Billie Piper. From the beginning, the two are well matched and quickly develop a fun friendly banter.  The Doctor may be Rose's guide but she keeps him grounded. Rose meets the doctor during an alien invasion and when he offers her the chance to travel with him, she accepts after some reservation.

In their first adventure together, the Doctor takes Rose to see the end of earth.  I understand that they had to explain how the Doctor and Rose came to travel together for new fans of the series; however, it wasn't until the second episode that I truly felt like I began to get a sense of who these people are. Like Rose, we are new to everything that we are being exposed to and it's easy to see this alien world through her eyes.  The reality is that one day our sun is going to super nova and no one alive today will be there to witness it. The Doctor tells Rose that all the humans have scattered out across the universe. The End of the World encourages viewers to imagine what might be, even as the Doctor attempts to bring an end to the Lady Cassandra's evil plans.

Speaking of the Lady Cassandra, "moisturize me, moisturize me!" I love her vain and conniving ways.   It is however problematic that in discussion with Rose, Cassandra calls earth the place where she grew up as a little boy.  This means that this twisted remnant of humanity is trans*.  Had lady Cassandra been cisgender, altering her body into something completely unnatural wouldn't have made me raise a single eyebrow.  The treatment of Lady Cassandra heavily implies that only cisgender bodies are natural and that the path taken to achieve body gender alignment in the end leads to something that isn't quite human, despite the fact that  Cassandra relishes her status as the last so-called pure human. The very awfulness of Cassandra's body is realised the moment Rose stands beside her.  Rose, the cisgender woman, in this context is normal and Casandra, the trans* woman, is a freak and in complete denial of this.  If Cassandra's 708 surgeries are a commentary on societies absolute fascination with youth that's one thing but if it's a commentary on SRS, then it is most certainly transphobic.

The only character of colour to make an appearance in The End of the World is Jabe, and she plays the role of a tree. The Doctor offers air from his lungs to Jabe when he cannot find a gift for the exchange.  Jabe is the one to discover who the Doctor is and offer her condolences because he is the last of his kind. They share a moment and the Doctor's eyes water.  It's short lived because it's not long before Jabe is sacrificing herself, so that the Doctor can once again save the world. She is yet another dead body in the Doctor's wake. The 9th Doctor is still very much processing that he is the last of his kind and the weight of what he has done.

Travelling with The Doctor, means that Cassandra et al are but the first of the aliens that Rose will meet. I really do wish we had not met the Slitheen family.  These aliens are bent upon destroying the earth and because of bad gas exchange they are constantly farting. I know that Doctor Who was originally intended to be a children's show but farting aliens? Really?  It was just so puerile at times that the three episodes involving the Slitheens did not capture my full attention, even if I was amused by the Doctor's date with Margaret Slitheen. Talk about a terrible first date.  

In the Daleks, we meet the Doctor's enduring enemy for the first time.  The Dalek, just like the Doctor, is the last of its kind and without any commands, it follows it's prime directive (yes, I know that's a Star Trek reference shut up!) to EXTERMINATE.  It gets DNA from Rose and begins to terrorize the underground bunker where it has been held captive.  Rose at first sympathises with the Dalek's loneliness, until it shows her why the Doctor had been so adamant that it must destroyed. No other creature rises the ire of the Doctor like the Daleks and it is quickly evident in the way the Doctor immediately calls for its destruction. With other alien antagonists the Doctor at least tries to reason and negotiate  as can be seen in The Unquiet Dead  for example and this is quite different than his approach to the Daleks. When dealing with the Slitheens, the Doctor is quick to reject a gun but when offered a gun by Adam when facing the Dalek, The Doctor readily accepts.

It is only upon realising that the Dalek has inadvertently contaminated itself by using Rose's DNA that the Doctor can find any sympathy in his heart for it.  He watches as the Dalek questions who it is and what its purpose is. The Dalek however discovers that it has been contaminated because it used Rose's DNA to fix itself and this is why it begins to halt its aggression.  When the Doctor tells the Dalek that it is mutating into something new, The Doctor says that he is sorry. Though he does not like the fact that the Dalek is a violent murderer, he can relate to having lost so much given that all the Time Lords are dead. He can probably even relate to the Dalek questioning who it is and what purpose it serves, given that this is the first time that the Doctor doesn't really have to answer to anyone. Rose believes the Dalek's transformation to be a good thing until she is informed by the Doctor that for the Dalek, it is not. The desperate Dalek asks Rose to order it to die because it feels that it's not living a life and instead has only sickness.  Rose refuses at first but gives the order, admitting that she is frightened. The Dalek says,"exterminate" one last time before destroying itself. The Doctor actually sees himself in the Dalek because they are both the last of their kind. In the end, the Doctor tells Rose that he is the only one left but whatever thoughts he has on this he does not share with Rose.  The Doctor invites Adam to join him and Rose in the T.A.R.D.I.S and it's off to the next adventure.

The Fourth Great And Bountiful Human Empire just cannot seem to stay on track.  The first time The Doctor, and Rose arrive there, an alien has used the news to control and twist humanities development. People don't question and simply follow along orders. It takes the Doctor to untwist this world gone wrong. The second time the Doctor and Rose arrive, people are forced to participate in reality television where the losers die.  There's a part of me that really believes that to some degree that these episodes are a commentary on the impact of media and the degree to which far too many are happy to allow others to do their thinking for them.

Bad Wolf marks the beginning of the end of Eccleston's tenure as the Doctor. Throughout the series, the words, "bad wolf" keep making an appearance.  It's a warning of the destruction to come.  In The Parting of Ways, The Doctor is facing over 2 million Daleks. Seeing that the Daleks are still alive, the Doctor now feels that his people have died for nothing. When Rose is captured and held ransom, the Doctor says he is going to save Rose, save the earth and then "wipe every last stinking Dalek out of the sky." Once again, the Doctor's rage is palpable, so much so that he acknowledges to the Daleks that he has no plan, defenses or weapons but will act. His rage makes it easy to understand why in Dalek legends the Doctor is called "the oncoming storm." The Doctor rescues Rose from the Daleks and then sends her home, keeping his promise to Jackie (Rose's mother) to keep her safe. The Doctor then finds himself having to choose between allowing the Daleks to win and destroying the Daleks along with humanity. This time, destruction is not a choice the Doctor can make; he knows all to well what this looks like and refuses to have anymore blood on his hands.

Rose is not content to be left on the sidelines and so she looks into the time vortex, something no one is meant to see.  Rose destroys the Dalek fleet, brings Captain Jack back to life and sends the words "bad wolf" into time and space in order to lead herself back to this moment.  At this point, the power begins to overwhelm Rose and so the Doctor kisses her tenderly, thus absorbing the power and causing the Doctor to regenerate.  

The three reoccurring characters in series one other than the Doctor and Rose are: Captain Jack, Mickey and Jackie Tyler.  Captain Jack is introduced in The Empty Child.  Captain Jack immediately establishes a flirtatious relationship with Rose and the Doctor is quick to point out that being from a different time, Captain Jack doesn't have the same kind of sexual hangups that the people of Rose's era do. Yes, it's the Doctor who announces Captain Jack's bisexuality.  Jack himself confirms it when he goes off to act as a distraction, certain that the soldier in question will not be interested in what Rose has to offer.  Jack is the second GLBT character to be introduced in the series.  Unfortunately, we don't really get to see him flirting with someone of the same sex.

Mickey is the only reoccurring character of colour and he is in a word pathetic.  Rose runs off leaving Mickey behind and when she returns, a year has passed. In the ensuing year, Mickey has been questioned by the police, ostracized by his community and blamed for Rose's absence by Jackie. Mickey is extremely hurt by Rose's desertion but he continues to wait for her return.  He has zero sense of adventure and refuses the offer to travel with the Doctor.  When Mickey does start dating, it's with someone who apparently pales in Rose's shadow. Mickey has a somewhat antagonistic relationship with the Doctor and though he proved himself to be resourceful in World War Three, the Doctor has absolutely no respect for him, constantly calling him Rickey.  Mickey is the ultimate third wheel and seems to exist to be lesser than the Doctor. It's telling that The Doctor, who is white is the heroic figure while Mickey just stands in the background, just begging to be noticed.

Jackie Tyler though generally speaking is very irritating gave us one of the best moments in this series when she slapped the Doctor.  From her point of view an older man hiring her young daughter as a companion for the year is just creepy and wrong, particularly given that Rose will not talk with her about it. Jackie is at her best when she is trying to protect Rose, even if it means getting in the Doctor's face.

It's impossible to sum up an entire season in just one post because there are so many nuances to the characters and the storyline.  As a re-introduction to this iconic series however, season one did an excellent job of introducing us to the Whoverse.  More than anything, the 9th Doctor represents rage, coming as he did on the heels of the War Doctor. Eccleston's Doctor is just trying to relearn what it is to be the Doctor and how to deal with destroying all the Time Lords and the Daleks.  He is constantly battling his rage at both the Daleks and himself and dealing with the loss of his people. Beyond that there's also the issue that people around the doctor tend to die, as we saw both Jabe (The End of the World) of and Gwyneth  (Unquiet Dead) do.  In his moment of triumph in The Doctor Dances, he announces, "Everybody lives Rose, just this once, everybody lives." The Doctors losses have been been so deep that in this moment, being able to walk away with everyone surviving makes him euphoric.  I think in this moment he is reminded of who he is and what he can do.  This version of the Doctor however quickly disappears and he goes back to being angry.

When discussing New Who, Eccleston often gets overlooked because people tend to argue between David Tennant and Matt Smith, both of whom played the Doctor far longer than Eccleston.  The 9th Doctor has a touch of the cheeky arrogance that we have come to expect from the Doctor but its also the beginning of The Doctor as a complex character.  The Doctor now feels the weight of all of his actions and they manifest in his anger and fear of being put in that position again.  When it does happen, no mater the consequences the Doctor now fully himself and no long the War Doctor cannot bring himself to once again try and destroy the Daleks because the cost is too high. For the first time, he feels the weight of what he has done and that regret is reified in the 10th Doctor.