Right then, I’ll be off, unless, er, I don’t know, you could come with me.
Oh, this is such an incredible episode. I can only imagine feeling the anticipation after 16 years’ hiatus, the anxiousness of people afraid that the new Doctor Who just won’t work… and the relief when it turned out that yes, it works, and in fact is fantastic.
Would you be so kind to run with me for thirteen episodes? – the Doctor to all the audience
As a new fan who actually started with the Matt Smith era very late – in 2020 – I can only imagine all that. But I do, and my goosebumps when the Doctor grabs Rose’s hand – and with her, all of the audience’s hands – are so, so real.
I was wondering if I can say anything about Rose that hasn’t been said before. The Doctor’s “Earth revolving” speech. The amazing scene when Rose chats with him right before that. The plastic Mickey, which is so over-the-top cheesy that it’s actually really funny. The Rose looking at the London Eye while the Doctor rambles about “a huge, metal, circular structure”. The “lots of planets have a North” quip.
But you know what? One of my goals with this very weblog is to try and point out details – tiny but important – that caught my eye. Especially ones I think might be easily overlooked. So, let’s see if there is anything like that here.
For starters, the way the Doctor says “I was just passing through. I’m a long way from home”… The sadness in his voice… Of course, it will take a few episodes before we learn why he is so sad – but it’s a great piece of foreshadowing, and a great piece of acting.
But there is more. Much more.
One of the most important things about this episode – which serves as an introduction both for the Doctor and Rose – is the fact that it’s one big interview for the companion’s job. The Doctor is constantly testing Rose – perhaps subconsciously, so that he can decide if he wants to invite her to the T.A.R.D.I.S. For example, when she claims it must have been a students’ joke, he immediately asks, “why students?” – and then comments her answer, “that makes sense. Well done. Thanks.” During the famous chat scene he asks, “do you believe me?”, to which Rose answers plainly “no” – but the Doctor immediately remarks, “but you’re still listening” – as if he wanted to know why she is listening to him. I have a suspicion that when he was installing plastic Mickey’s head in the T.A.R.D.I.S., he knew very well that Mickey must be alive, but didn’t comfort Rose to see her reaction. After all, not caring if some human (idiot or otherwise;-)) is dead or not is very un-Doctor-y. But by pretending that he didn’t care he was able to see that Rose did care. There were more moments when Rose apparently passed the “test for companion” very well. Starting a fire alarm in the restaurant after plastic Mickey started trashing about. Noticing the London Eye, although it is rather obvious that the Doctor did not plan that one. Also, I am sure he didn’t tell Rose to come down to the Nestene Consciousness on purpose, just to see if she would come by herself – and he was not disappointed!
How can you hide something that big in a city this small?
And by the way, here is an interesting thing. Rose didn’t plan to save her mother from Autons – in fact, she had no idea what would happen (apart from Doctor’s vague warnings about the war against humanity). She just did The Right Thing – and inadvertently saved her mother’s life! This is much like the story of Digory Kirke, who also did what should be done (his situation was even more difficult because of Jadis tempting him) and as a result saved his mom. This is a true gem – a word of wisdom about how it is, well, good to do good, even if you give something up along the way. It might turn out that you get even more of what you gave up! (This reminds me of what Jesus says in Mark 10:29–30: “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come.”) It doesn’t mean, of course, that by doing a good thing you will somehow magically be granted other things you gave up, but I’m certain that no good is truly lost. In fact, even my personal, necessarily limited experience tells me that whenever something “bad” happened to me, or something “good” didn’t happen, after some time I realize that it was for my good. (See also 1 Thess, 5:18a: “In all circumstances give thanks”.)
Here’s another one. When Clive says that “this Doctor keeps cropping up all over the place. Political diaries, conspiracy theories, even ghost stories” – this got me wondering what he refers to, actually? I don’t know enough of Classic Who to know, but I’ve seen series 1 to 7, so… maybe there are some diaries of spoiler for series 6 Richard Nixon or spoiler for series 5 Winston Churchill where the Doctor gets a mention? Or spoiler for series 2 Louis XV’s? Maybe spoiler for series 6 doctor Renfrew was taken to a psychiatric hospital after the spoiler for series 6 Greystark Hall incident and had some flashes of memory? (To be fair, he never actually met the Doctor, but spoiler for series 6 Canton Everett Delaware III did, and maybe – just maybe – someone spilled the beans just a little bit and someone else connected the dots?) Someone must have remembered the kerfuffle around spoiler for series 2 Queen Elisabeth’s coronation, right? And after all, it was spoiler for series 2 Queen Victoria who established the spoiler for series 2 Torchwood Institute with a very specific aim. For ghost stories, while it is established that spoiler for series 1 Charles Dickens (probably) didn’t live long enough to write his next book, we have spoiler for series 7 Emma Grayling and her mysterious “daughter”. Even the Titanic was mentioned at least twice at other times (once during the Fourth Doctor tenure and once in spoiler for series 1 the very next episode).
All those stories you’ve heard about him, they’re not stories, they’re true… – spoiler for series 6Dorium Maldovar
Also, poor Clive. The expression on his face when he sees the Autons, like he wanted to say “I myself sometimes didn’t believe this”… And the terror of his wife and kid was probably one of the most horrible moments in the entire episode – probably the entire series, really. Imagine making fun of your husband and dad for ages because of his stupid conspiracy theories, and having them suddenly confirmed in this way. They could struggle with guilt for the rest of their lives… This is exactly one of these little things that we tend to forget all the time, and I’m really grateful for this reminder: we, and people dear to our hearts, will not live on this Earth forever. Why not treat them the way we’d want to remember if an Auton is suddenly going to kill them in a few seconds? It is difficult, and we won’t succeed all the time – we’re all sinners, obviously – but it’s a good thing to try to live in such a way that we’re ready for us or someone else to die anytime. (This also means mundane things, like having your will ready, making sure that your family will have enough money to live if you die, keeping your passwords in a place your family will have access to if something – maybe death, maybe even just a temporary health issues rendering you unconscious for a few weeks – happens to you…) That, of course, doesn’t mean we should think about death all the time – but a healthy dose of memento mori is, well, healthy for your soul. (By the way, the Catholic funeral rite is an interesting mixture of sadness because a loved one is now far away and joy because we hope them to be in a much better place – but never despair, because it would mean hopelessness, which is very un-Catholic.)
Moving on. One of my favorite sentences from this very episode is this: “The assembled hordes of Genghis Khan couldn’t get through that door, and believe me, they’ve tried.” Not sure why, but it gives me goosebumps. (And I love how it was reused in spoiler for series 7 “The journey to the centre of the T.A.R.D.I.S.” many years later.)
Another favorite of mine is this: “If I might observe, you infiltrated this civilisation by means of warp shunt technology. So, may I suggest, with the greatest respect, that you shunt off?” It is a bit subtle, but I think that the Ninth Doctor started out as a cynical jerk (which is kind of understandable given what he went through) and then proceeded to become a much more caring person later during his run.
And am I the only one to find Mickey’s poor attempt to bring Rose to a pub so that he could watch the game absolutely priceless? In fact, there are much more funny moments in this episode. Caroline (Clive’s wife) saying to herself in disbelief “she read the website about the Doctor, and she’s a she?” made me almost fall from my chair. (I did some reading and I’m still not sure if most conspiracy theorists are male, but the stereotype is definitely there, which makes this joke work.)
In a minute this will be armless. For now, we might get killed by a pun. Also, notice the telephone book under the phone. Telephone books (and landline phones) were still a thing in 2005.
Another moment I find very funny is when Rose talks with her mother about getting a new job. “Is that it then, dishing out chips?”, she asks. Guess what she’s going to be doing spoiler for series 2 sixteen episodes later?
For more serious things, let’s consider this sentence the Doctor uses to invite (tempt?) Rose into the T.A.R.D.I.S.: “you could stay here, fill your life with work and food and sleep, or you could go anywhere”? Frankly, I have very mixed feelings about this. I mean, what’s wrong with a life of working, eating and sleeping, if you are just doing your job as well as you can, and can even be quite content with that? (Obviously, we humans need to have something greater than just work, food and sleep in our lives, but there are other options than life-threatening adventures!) In fact, I think we need more “heroes of everyday life”. As spoiler for series 6 Rory Williams will put it many years later, “I’d forgotten not all victories are about saving the universe”. This is one of those places where the Doctor is, well… biased a bit;-). (Although we later learn – again and again – that he probably couldn’t just lead a “normal” life.)
And did you know that the https://whoisdoctorwho.co.uk website actually existed (the past tense is because it seems not to work anymore), and was a treasure trove of Doctor Who-related flash- and short stories? Also, do you have any idea who did the Nestene Consciousness’ voice? Guess what – it was Nicolas Briggs, the same guy who did the voices of spoiler for series 1 Daleks and spoiler for series 2 Cybermen!
Last but not least
I left two thoughts for the end of this post. One is this.
spoiler for series 1 We know that the Ninth Doctor regenerated in episode 13, and he was with Rose all the time starting from the last scene of Rose. Also, the mirror scene in Rose’s flat suggests that he had regenerated shortly before. (To be fair, this is disputed.) So, a question arises: when were all the pictures Clive showed Rose made? Clearly, Rose was not in them! And by the way, the only adventures the Ninth Doctor and Rose had in the past during Series 1 were the one with Charles Dickens and ghosts (and we know that Dickens didn’t live long enough to write the account of that), the one with the Dalek captured by Henry van Statten (which happened in a semi-secret facility, and Adam Mitchell of course wouldn’t be willing to tell too much), the story of Pete Tyler’s death (which was subsequently erased from history or something timey-wimey like that) and the events of The empty child and The Doctor dances (where basically the only persons knowing anything about Rose and the Doctor were Doctor Constantine and Nancy, and Rose explicitly avoided telling Nancy who they were) – so there was almost no danger of Clive showing Rose accounts of herself.
spoiler for series 1 To answer the question, though, we know that there is one major “gap” in the events of Series 1 when the Doctor is not with Rose: the time between Rose refuses his offer to travel with him (which she seems to regret immediately) and when – given another chance – she agrees. It was said somewhere that after the Doctor first leaves, he wanders about the universe alone for a hundred years, and only then comes back to tell her that he can also travel in time. This means that he must have thought about her a lot of the time! spoiler for series 6Also, he was able to come back to the exact same moment – and that means that the T.A.R.D.I.S. must have thought he was needed there and then! Basically, the Old Girl must have liked Rose at the first sight, or at least she considered her to be a good companion for her beloved Doctor… Of course, as we know from the events of the subsequent series, she was perfectly right!
spoiler for series 2 And speaking of the T.A.R.D.I.S., here is one of the most jaw-dropping observations about this episode. (I am sad to say that I missed it myself – I found it on the Internet.) When Rose first enters the T.A.R.D.I.S., she immediately goes out and starts to walk around it in disbelief (while the plastic Mickey is banging at the door – the scene is hilarious), and only then gets back inside. This is the first time Rose sees the T.A.R.D.I.S.’ interior – and the first time we see it – and guess what musical theme is playing at that moment?
spoiler for series 2 T.A.R.D.I.S. plays the Doomsday theme in this moment. In other words, she knows exactly how all this is going to end…
spoiler for series 2 The Doomsday theme.