I believe that Executive Producer Russell T Davies would rather you call it Doctor Who 2005 rather than 2.0, because he’s quoted often in the Doctor Who Confidential episodes following each showing as saying this series was expressly written for the 21st century.
This wasn’t a particularly strong episode by any means, but it’s also not as out of place in Doctor Who as one new to the series might imagine.
Like many of the other episodes this season, it harkens back to one or more definite previous episodes. In this case, the 4th Doctor episode The Sun Makers and the 2nd Doctor episode The Krotons.
On one hand, I certainly agree that the 2nd season will be a welcome relief in that we’re promised the regular assortment of alien worlds long-time fans of the series are used to, but I also understand why Davies has stuck with Earth for the first season.
Long-time fans sometimes forget just how poor the ratings for the series had gotten during the last four years of its previous run and the 1996 Fox movie certainly didn’t help. Like it or not, the BBC is counting on large numbers of new fans to keep the series going. Remember that it’s been 16 full years since the last BBC produced episode of the previous series.
The plan Davies has of keeping the 1st season of the series tied closely to the human experience seems to be working in terms of getting new viewers and keeping them. The ratings have been pretty consistent through most of the run and have been dominating the time slot. A 40-45% share is pretty impressive for what’s still a family scifi show.
There are some things I did like in this episode. There’s a nice symmetry between this episode and The End of the World, with the space station and view port. One showing a beautiful world that’s about to die and another showing a rather ugly planet that’s at the height of it’s expansion. There’s also a link here in this episode to the last two episodes, because there are very strong hints given that the ceiling thingie was also working for someone or something else and that someone is involved with the big bad wolf of the end of this season.
There were a number of things I didn’t like. This was an episode that could actually have benefited from the “filler” episodes of the old series, to give us time to physically see how the humans are being help back psychologically by the media manipulation. Sure, there’s the one journalist that the Doctor goads into action, but the fact that the human race is acting rather insular and unquestioning isn’t really brought across clearly. And the obvious modern political nods are starting to wear a bit thin, even if they are timely.
It’s becoming clear to me that the Doctor feels old and tired and in many ways feels like his time as the universe’s champion is over. The little moment with the Cyberman head in van Statton’s museum, the comments he has to Rose about why he let Cassandra die, the odd hint of a death wish hidden within his joy for adventure.
I also believe that he hasn’t just brought Rose along as a normal companion. I believe he sees her as a possible replacement for himself in the way he’s training her at the beginning. Sure it’s to impress the boy, but from clues given about the remaining episodes, he seems to be making sure that she’ll be able to handle the universe without him by the last episode.
I believe that by the time season two starts showing up on our screens and we’re introduced to David Tennant’s 10th Doctor, we’re going to realize that the entire 27th season is one big regeneration sequence, not just for the Doctor, but for the show itself. I think that the short length of this Doctor’s run will actually work to the series advantage in that it will allow the grief and angst that comes with the rather heavy consequences and universal changes of the Time War and the destruction of the TimeLords to run it’s course through Eccleston and allow Tennant to renew himself without them.
So, “meh” this week. It’ll be interesting to see how they explore temporal physics in the next episode, but I’m looking forward to the two parter with WW2 zombies in gas masks afterwards.