Series 1 summary
Before I start, a quick reminder that this is the last biweekly installment of my weblog as promised almost half a year ago. From now on, I will publish here much less frequently unless I manage to gain some support. If you want to be able to read articles about the episodes from Series 2 (and possibly other series, too) earlier, you can help make it happen!
So, as promised in the beginning, here is my summary of Series 1. Since I analyzed every episode rather thoroughly, I won’t repeat myself – the purpose of this summary is to say something about Series 1 as a whole. And since I was rather serious in many of my articles, I’m going to have a bit of fun here – how about some Series 1 “top five” lists? I don’t think we necessarily should categorize and rank everything, especially when it comes to art – but I like making these lists, even if they are not meaningful in any serious way. Note that in many cases the order on the lists is a bit arbitrary, and on another day my lists could look differently.
Let’s start, though, with exploring the series’ main theme. I’m not entirely sure it even has one – we humans are good in seeing patterns even when they’re not there. But you know what? I don’t care. I am pretty sure my interpretations of many an episode were wildly different than what the writers intended, and that’s ok – so why not interpret the series as a whole in my own way?
Overcoming the grief
There were many themes present in more than one or even two episodes. Rose’s compassion, the Doctor respect for life are the first ones to come to my mind. But we’ll see the former in Series 2 and the latter in all subsequent series, so they don’t seem to be exclusive to Series 1. Let’s look instead at something that seems unique to it. In the second episode we learn early on that the Doctor lost his folk and a bit later that he actually caused their demise. This must have been a severe trauma, and we can see a whole range of responses. The further in the series we get, the more we can see the Doctor coming to terms with his situation. During most of Rose, he is a detached cynic; in The end of the world, he switches between a sad clown and a ruthless executioner. In The unquiet dead he meets Dickens, which is definitely a moment of joy, and learns about the Gelth, which is fantastic for him, and starts to soften – for example, it’s one of the first times he shows how he cares for Rose. In Aliens of London and World War III he’s back to being a bitter cynic and risks losing Rose again, only to be further traumatized in Dalek. Then he needs to deal with Rose being (very shortly) attached to Adam in The long game. In Father’s Day he fights with Rose and fails to save the humanity because of her stupid mistake. In The empty child his Rose falls for another man (again), but we see him genuinely happy for the first time in The Doctor dances and later again in Boom town (though that episode is a bumpy ride for him because of all the Blon’s taunting). Then he sees Rose killed (for all he knows) in Bad Wolf and learns (again) that he didn’t kill the Daleks after all.
Now that I made that short trip through all the episodes, I’m wondering where he draws his strength from – between short moments of pure happiness (mostly in the second half of the Series) he has a lot to deal with… Does it make his calm acceptance of his fate in The parting of the ways (twice, in fact – first he assumes the Daleks will kill him for real and then he is aware of the approaching regeneration) less plausible? That is a difficult question. On the one hand, he is dying knowing that he sacrificed his life for someone he loved – one of the best deaths a man could possibly have. What’s more, he must have known – even seen – how Rose is a better person than when he first met her, so his “you were fantastic, absolutely fantastic!” is spot on. On the other hand, what reasons did he have for the second part, “so was I”? I can see three explanations, and I’m torn between two of them. The first one is simple – it is Christopher Eccleston who says it to Billie Piper, not the Doctor who says it to Rose. Eccleston knew he was leaving Doctor Who forever (well, it turned out he came back much later for some audio stories, but I guess he couldn’t have known that at the time), and I think we can all agree that he was fantastic (even if he’s not everybody’s favorite Doctor). Now, that was the Doylist answer – and what about a Watsonian one? A pessimistic explanation is that it was just an act to keep Rose’s spirits up, and he didn’t really believe in what he was saying. That is a sad possibility. The more optimistic one is being loved by Rose helped him see himself for what he truly was – flawed for sure, but doing his best to love others, which is one of the most fundamental things. This might be one of the most important lessons from The parting of the ways (and the whole series) – being loved is what drives our efforts to change for the better, and of course our awareness and openness to God’s love towards ourselves is the most powerful factor of all.
Ok, enough serious seriousness for now – let’s now have a bit of fun with a few top (more or less) five lists! As I said, don’t treat them too seriously, but feel free to argue with me over email if your choices are different. Note also that one of the aspects I take into consideration is how the given moment is underrated, so I might value some scene a bit more even if it is not so much scary, funny or whatever list I am compiling, but not talked about enough in my opinion.
Five scariest moments
How about starting with top five most scary and/or creepy moments of Series 1? Doctor Who is famous for making kids hide under the sofa, and that fame is well deserved. Here is my personal and subjective list, starting with number five to build just a bit of suspence;-).
For number five I decided to go with the scene when Rose wakes up in the mortuary near the beginning of The unquiet dead. It may be obvious that the Doctor would save her, but it is still quite horrifying to see the dead-looking eyes of Mr Redpath and his grandmother. Interestingly enough, we are very soon tricked into believing the story of poor Gelth just looking to survive…
My number four is one of the first scenes of Rose, when the Autons start to move and soon chase Rose in the basement. It is a fantastic opening, and seeing the first “dummy” slightly turn its head, hearing it creak, and then see more and more of them coming for Rose is one of the most creepy scenes in the first episode – and the first series indeed.
Number three for me is the very short moment of The parting of the ways when the Daleks start to pour from their saucers and surround the Game Station. It was established seven episodes earlier that one Dalek can wreak havoc on a massive scale, and here we have thousands of them – how not to be scared?
For number two I decided to go with another Dalek moment, this time from their eponymous episode. The angry pepper pot confronts a flight of stairs, gets mocked by Adam and promptly elevates. This basically gives the impression that it is basically invincible. I think what sold this scene to me was the calmness of its voice when it uttered the word “elevate” combined with the slowness of its ascent – the effect was not just “oh my, we will all die”, but “oh my, we will all die slowly while being terrorized and methodically killed by this horrible creature”.
Before I get to my number one (which by now is probably not difficult to guess anyway…), let me list three honorable mentions. Raffalo being sucked in into the ventilation shaft, even if 100% expected, was still pretty frightening for me, probably because of the claustrophobic feeling and the creepiness of the robot spiders.
However silly the Slitheen were, the whole sequence of Sip Fel-Fotch Passameer-Day Slitheen hunting Jackie down in her flat was another moment I found terrifying. Here she was, with someone who she believed was there to ensure her safety, and who turned out to be the exact person who was the most dangerous to her. Oversized farting alien or not, he was truly frightening.
For the last honorable mention, let me choose the Dalek killing Simmons using his infamous toilet plunger. It was the first person in New Who to be killed by a Dalek, and while he wasn’t exterminated in a typical fasion, his death was gruesome even if expected.
And this way, we got to my number one. Quite obviously it is the moment when Doctor Constantine grew his gas mask and became yet another soldier in the army of the Empty Child. Big kudos to the special effects team for making a totally expected scene nightmare-inducing anyway!
Are you my mummy?
Five most awesome moments
Even though the Ninth Doctor is pretty low-key, he still has his moments of awesomeness – not to mention Rose and other people. Here are my five (9 with honorable mentions) moments of awesomeness in Series 1.
For the fifth one I went with captain Jack Harkness. Whatever I say about him, no list of awesome moments could be complete without him. My pick is his exclamation in Bad Wolf: “Doctor, Rose is still alive!”. (And I would say that he should share the prize with the T.A.R.D.I.S. – in his own words, “the T.A.R.D.I.S. worked it out”!)
The fourth one is from the Doctor, only a few minutes later. His whole exchange with the Daleks is absolutely fantastic, from his “no”, to the “doesn’t that scare you to death” taunt, to the final “Rose? I’m coming to get you!”.
The third one is slightly cheesy, but I still find it pretty awesome. And that is the famous “Everybody lives!” from The Doctor dances. I honestly don’t know what else to say – it’s pretty obvious that this should make the list.
For the second one I went with one of my favorite speeches of the Doctor (and by that I don’t mean the Ninth Doctor, but the Doctor in general!) – the “Earth revolving” speech from Rose. The whole scene is very impressive (moreso when you notice that most of their chat is one long camera shot!), but the final answer to Rose’s question – “Really, though, Doctor. Tell me, who are you?” – is great. The writing, the delivery, and then the Doctor just walks to the T.A.R.D.I.S. parked in the background while his theme is playing. The whole scene gives me goosebumps!
Before I reveal my choice for the first place (which might be surprising), four honorable mentions. Three of them are different people saving the Doctor (and a lot of other people): Rose defating the Nestene Consciousness, Charles Dickens using gas to drive the Gelth out, and Jackie lending Rose and Mickey the big yellow truck with which they opened the T.A.R.D.I.S. console. The fourth one is the Doctor – this time not saving anyone, but bragging to Rose about the “red bicycle when [she was] twelve”. Well, I could count it in the “everybody lives” scene, but it’s a cute little moment which I feel deserves a separate mention.
This way we made it to my number one most awesome moment in Series 1. Let me repeat the disclaimer – I am aware that this may not be objectively number one, but I have a feeling that it is really good and very underrated, which boosts it on my list. So, here it is. When the Doctor and Rose hide in the T.A.R.D.I.S. from the ridiculous plastic Mickey, and Rose is afraid that he will follow them inside, the Doctor calmly states: “The assembled hordes of Genghis Khan couldn’t get through that door, and believe me, they’ve tried.” The slightly menacing way he says it – and the idea itself – are great, especially that this is the first episode, and for many viewers the first time they learn what the T.A.R.D.I.S. is. So, top of my list!
The assembled hordes of Genghis Khan couldn’t get through that door, and believe me, they’ve tried
Five most heart-breaking moments
Doctor Who wouldn’t be Doctor Who if it weren’t breaking the viewers’ hearts time and again. We Whovians all appreciate a good laugh, but we appreciate a good cry even more. And Series 1 is no exception. Finding five heart-breaking moment in it is easy; ranking them is not, so let me remind you that the order I chose is not the only possible one.
With that said, let’s get to it. My number five is Mickey talking with Rose in The parting of the ways, and specifically Rose telling him that “there's nothing left [for her] here.” We already established that Rose treated Mickey in a very unfair way, but that particular moment was the pinnacle of it, and Mickey’s sad reaction made me decide that this should make my list.
Number four is something we all knew would make it, too – the Doctor’s regeneration scene. It doesn’t need any explanation apart from the obvious question – why this isn’t number one? Well, just wait and see! Again, it’s been almost 20 years now since it first aired, and people are still talking about it – so the next three entries on my list will be the ones not talked about that often. Still, this is definitely a phenomenal scene, and I had to put it here.
Number three I already mentioned when discussing Father’s Day – the short exchange when Rose apologizes for saving her dad’s life of all things is truly heartbreaking for me. I won’t repeat myself, so go on and reread that post. I’ll wait!
Ok, now that you have difficulties reading because of tears in your eyes, I’ll mention another underrated Rose moment which is actually one of my favorite scenes in Series 1. It’s The parting of the ways again, and this time this is Rose talking with Jackie. When I first watched it, I gasped when Rose let it slip that she and the Doctor visited Pete on the day he died. It was totally unexpected, almost easy to miss and I think it was also a turning point in the difficult relation between Jackie and the Doctor. So, easily in my top five.
And of course now it’s time for a few honorable mentions. The Doctor almost turning into a Dalek – brandishing a big gun and threatening to shoot it, and Rose asking the poignant question, “What […] are you changing into?”, definitely deserved to be here. The ending of The end of the world, when the Doctor muses about how Earth will be gone one day, and tells Rose that his planet is gone, is probably not one of the top five, but surely one of the top ten, so here it is. Another moment which I wanted to touch on is the Doctor’s desperate question to the anonymous U.N.I.T. soldier who killed the poor pig in Aliens of London, “what did you do that for? It was scared!” He just realized what the creature was, he wanted to help it, and it got killed right before his eyes… And for the last honorable mention I chose the Doctor quietly asking Nancy, “who did you lose?” in The empty child.
So, have you already guessed my number one? It may come as a surprise for you, but I decided to go with another Nancy moment – the scene when she pleads with the soldier guarding her to let her free. I already discussed how her “Please, let me go. It’s too late for you. I’m sorry, but please let me go” was touching, but let me mention one thing that only occurred to me right now. Learning that you are about to die is not an easy experience, but telling someone that is not simple either. It must have been difficult for Nancy, too, to break that news to the poor guy… This scene is heartbreaking for me even though I know that “everybody lives!” in the end.
It’s too late for you. I’m sorry, but please let me go.
Five funniest moments
So, we had our cry, let’s move on and laugh for a while. Despite all the sadness, all the grimness and all the horror we meet during Series 1, there are also many, many truly funny moments – so many that it’s difficult to only choose five of them! (In fact, after I wrote my list down and started to actually write this a few days later, I added someting to the list and rearranged a few other items….) But let’s do it anyway.
Number five is the Doctor’s comeback to Rose asking to take Adam with them. It cracks me up every single time. “Adam was saying that all his life he wanted to see the stars” – it’s so poetic, and we almost expect the Doctor to take him into the T.A.R.D.I.S. and show him the wonders of the universe. And what we get instead? “Tell him to go and stand outside, then!” It’s brilliant and to the point.
My number four is the Doctor ordering Jackie about in Father’s Day. “Jackie Tyler, do as I say – go and check the doors!”, followed by “I should have done that ages ago”, is hilarious.
For number three I selected another of the Doctor’s wisecracks. In Rose, when asked about his Northern accent, he just looks offended and replies, “lots of planets have a north!” The sheer absurdity of that answer, and the deadpan way he delivers it, are enough to secure the place on this list, and in fact I can easily imagine someone putting it higher.
Number two is Nancy once again. (I really like Nancy, she’s one of my favorite characters in Series 1, even if she is a thief!) It might be the only time she was genuinely laughing (well, smiling at least), but when the Doctor explains to her that “[his] nose has special powers” (after she expresses her astonishment that he was able to follow her), she asks him if his ears have special powers, too. And even if it’s not the best joke in the world, her mischievous little smile when she says that makes the scene very funny for me.
Before I get to my favorite funny moment of Series 1, let me just list my honorable mentions. There are as many as eight of them this time, and I have a feeling I could double that number without much difficulty. So, let’s make it quick.
The Doctor getting into the room full of U.N.I.T. soldiers and quickly ordering them – “Defence plan delta, come on! Move, move!” – and the soldiers instantly obeying him – is one of my candidates. Another one is Rose reacting to a compliment by her father: “I know what you’re saying, and we’re not going there. At no point are we going anywhere near there. You aren’t even aware that there exists. I don’t even want to think about there, and believe me, neither do you”. Yet another one is Charles Dickens warming up to the Doctor after hearing that he is “his number one fan”. The Doctor assessing various weapons when preparing to fight the lone Dalek (“Broken. Broken. Hair dryer.”) is also a very fun moment. And of course Jackie Tyler just had to have more than one entry on the “funniest moments” list. After the incident on the Powell Estate, the Doctor comments: “Nine hundred years of time and space, and I've never been slapped by someone's mother” – and his slightly offended tone is hysterical (as is Rose’s reaction to his words). And younger Jackie learning that Rose is Pete’s daughter, not yet understanding that it’s the Rose, and asking Pete “How many are there? Do you call them all Rose?” is yet another funny piece of dialog. The last one is the famous “– My mother’s cooking. – Good. Put her on a slow heat and let her simmer.” exchange from World War III.
Ok, with that out of the way, here is my number one funniest scene of Series 1. Also in World War III, when the Doctor gives Rose, Harriet Jones and the Slitheen a history lesson about 10 Downing Street, concluded with “Three inches of steel lining every single wall. They'll never get in”. Rose then asks, “and how do we get out?”, to which the Doctor grins like an idiot and utters one syllable: “Ah.” No matter how many times I see this scene, I laugh every single time.
– And how do we get out?
Five most heartwarming moments
We did scary, we did tear-inducing, and we did funny. Now it’s time for heartwarming moments of Series 1. We all need some comforting now and then, and Doctor Who delivers on that front, too. Here are my top five most heartwarming moments of Series 1.
So, my number five is a very short and easy to miss scene in The end of the world when the Doctor gets back after saving Platform One. The first thing he does is to go to the trees and tell them about Jabe’s death, and then gives them a hug. That short hug is truly touching, and since it’s the Doctor comforting people, it made this list.
Number four is Nancy finally telling the Empty Child that she is his mummy. I don’t know what else to say – the only thing that might raise a brow is, why number four and not higher on the list? Well, we’ll see in a minute.
My number three is another gesture of compassion from the Doctor. Near the beginning of Father’s Day, when Rose is about to witness her father’s death, he silently takes her by the hand. No unnecessary words, he just lets her know that he is there for her.
Number two is another moment from The Doctor dances. When Rose and Nancy talk while cutting the wires, Nancy has no trouble believing in time travel, but cannot believe that there is any future in which Rose is not German… And then Rose tells her this: “Nancy, the Germans don't come here. They don’t win. Don’t tell anyone I told you so, but you know what? You win.” I love that moment!
And now the time for the honorable mentions. Dickens regaining his happiness and will to live at the end of The unquiet dead is one of them. Another is the Doctor berating Cathica in The long game – he has this to say about Rose: “Now, Rose. Look at Rose. Rose is asking the right kind of question.” Not very heartwarming for Cathica, sure, but definitely healthy for Rose’s self-esteem. And finally, when the T.A.R.D.I.S. team saved captain Jack near the end of The Doctor dances, the Doctor says this: “Close the door, will you? Your ship’s about to blow up. There’s going to be a draught.” This could as well make the “funny” list, but saving someone from certain death is definitely also heartwarming.
So, number one. For this one I decided to apply once again the “underrated” clause. Even if this moment is not the most heartwarming one in the Series, my impression is that nobody ever mentions that in online discussions. Hence, here is my shout-out to the Doctor and Rose making up after their fight in Father’s Day. (I have nothing more to say about it than what I said back then, so just go and reread that post to have more context.)
I forgive you
Five best musical pieces
Ok, so we’re almost done with this list of lists. The last three are going to be much shorter. For this one, I’m not knowledgeable enough about music to make a lot of meaningful comments about it, so let me just list my five (six with one honorable mention) favorite pieces of music from Series 1 (with links to YouTube so that you’ll be able to listen to them in case you don’t remember which one is which), and the last two lists don’t need much justification, either, after all I wrote about Series 1. Let’s first get to my favorite five musical pieces from the soundtrack of Series 1.
Number 5 is Hologram, from The parting of the ways. Beautiful music for a beautiful scene. My number 4 is Father’s day, a haunting piece which apparently wasn’t used in any other episode. Number 3 is Rose’s theme – even if Rose is not my favorite companion, her theme is really great. My number 2 is Boom town suite – another case of a few motives used only in one particular episode to great effect.
For the only honorable mention I chose Clockwork T.A.R.D.I.S., an upbeat piece which is used in The end of the world (and currently in my phone as the ringtone) to convey the sense of surprise and adventure.
And quite expectedly, my number one is obviously The Doctor's theme, which will stay with us until at least Series 4 (and will even return sometimes later). It’s beautiful, it’s mysterious, it’s alien in a sense – it’s a perfect theme for the protagonist of our beloved show.
Three best companion looks
If I count correctly, once per series (spoiler for series 7or twice, if there is a change of companion mid-series) the companion dons a period outfit. And even with more contemporary attire, the costume designers work very hard to make sure the companion (and other characters) look good. Let’s appreciate their work by listing my top three best companion looks.
Number three was a bit difficult for me to decide, but I finally went with how Rose looked in Aliens of London and World War III. Number two, on the other hand, was easy – The unquiet dead and the beautiful period dress. And number one is even easier – the beautiful braids Rose has in Boom town are impossible to beat.
Best three stories
And for the last list, let me tell you which three episodes are my favorite ones from Series 1. While selecting them was rather easy for me, ranking them was much more difficult, and on any other day I could completely change the order – all three are very solid episodes with a lot of strong parts.
After a while of thinking, I decided that Boom town is my number three. It doesn’t have fast-paced action like many others, it is definitely a budget-saving episode of Series 1, but it has a message I like (overall at least), a very good mix of sad and funny parts, and beautiful music. If not for the slightly disappointing resolution and Rose being so terrible to Mickey, it might as well be the first one on this list.
For number two, I went with Father’s Day. I like more emotional episodes, and Father’s Day gives me almost a perfect mix of emotions – a bit of laugh, a bit more sadness, but after all a (sort-of) happy ending. (spoiler for series 5In a sense, it is a precursor of Vincent and the Doctor.) I already shared my reservations about Pete’s way to resolve the situation, but after all I decided that I’m ok with it.
And my number one is (obviously) The end of the world. I think many people do not like it very much, but for some reason I cannot exactly pinpoint I love that episode. (I had a temptation to treat Rose – which probably deserves an honorable mention – and The end of the world as a two-parter, but it would be cheating, wouldn’t it?)
So, that’s it for Series 1. Thank you for reading this, and expect a break now. I hope to be back with a post on The Christmas invasion in about a month or two. Stay tuned!