Billie Piper

R is for Rose

No, this post is not about Rose Tyler (who I do love a lot and wrote a A-Z post about a couple of years ago), it’s about the episode “Rose” – the first episode of the first series aka the episode that started it all.

I enjoyed “Rose” when I first watched it back in 2005 and watching it again years later I probably love it even more now. It’s such a great introduction to the world of Doctor Who and having it focus on Rose Tyler and her everyday mundane life with her mum and boyfriend was a great choice. As the viewer you’re right alongside her trying to figure out who this man is that took her hand and told her to run, what was going on with the mannequins and how can she just carry on as normal when she’s learnt there’s so much more out there in the universe.

“Rose” also shows the dangers of being a part of the Doctor’s world, even briefly. Clive, the man who’d researched the Doctor and told Rose all he knew, saw the chaos first-hand before being killed. Straightaway the audiences learns that characters will die, and it won’t just be the bad guys. Nice, normal, everyday people who don’t do anything wrong can still get hurt or killed when the Doctor is around.

There’s so much great character work for a first episode. You immediately can see and believe the dynamics between Rose and her mum and her boyfriend Mickey, as well as her home being so incredibly normal and lived in. With hindsight as you can see the character choices laid out and see how these connections will evolve over time – especially Rose and the Doctor’s. From the outset Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper had such great chemistry and a really interesting dynamic.

One of my favourite scenes is where Rose convinces the Doctor to tell her what’s going on. Not only is it a cool sequence as it’s a couple of long takes with the two of them walking and talking, but over the course of the conversation, Rose impresses the Doctor with her questions and he starts being honest with her. They already can laugh and joke but she is also ready to listen even if she’s not 100% sure she believes what he’s saying. When the Doctor takes her hand and explains how he can feel the Earth move, Christopher Eccleston feels ancient in that moment. You truly believe he’s an otherworldly creature that has seen so much, perhaps too much, and his life isn’t anything like Rose’s. Also, that sequence highlights Murray Gold’s score which has echoes of motifs that we’ll end up hearing across the series and instantly connect with characters.

“Rose” does everything you want a first episode of a “new” series to do. It introduces new characters, it has a mystery that you’re trying to solve along with the characters, and it’s still funny. It blends the drama and the outlandishness so well, and even moments that are kind of corny work because that has always been a part of Doctor Who’s charm.

D is for Dalek

While the creatures themselves could well have their own post, this is going to be about the episode titled “Dalek” in the first series which was my first proper introduction to one of the biggest baddies in Doctor Who.

“Dalek” is such a good introduction to this classic Doctor Who foe and the fact it’s no longer beaten by stairs meaning it’s even more terrifying and relentless.

The thing that really sells how dangerous a Dalek is, even one so alone and broken as this one is to begin with, is the Doctor’s reaction to it. Christopher Eccleston is fantastic throughout this episode but when he first encounters the Dalek it’s on another level. Seeing the Doctor so scared, pounding on the door and screaming to be let out is such a shock to the system as so far we’ve not really seen him get scared before, or at least not so vocally. Then how that fear turns into rage as he’s yelling in the Dalek’s face, even going so far as to torture it as he lets all his grief and rage for what he did in the Time War come to the surface. It’s such an intense and powerful scene.

Then there’s the moment where the Doctor believes his actions have led to Rose being exterminated. The guilt, grief, and regret on Eccleston’s face is so strong and I do think “Dalek” is a defining moment in the Doctor and Rose’s relationship as the Doctor had to deal with the emotional fallout of Rose’s death being on his hands. He’d never been able to say to Rose’s mum that she’d be safe with him and then he practically kills her, there’s no wonder that when they were facing a battalion of Daleks later on that he sent Rose home. In his mind he’d already lost her once and he wasn’t going to let that happen again.

Having Rose showing compassion towards a Dalek and unwittingly teaching it how to feel is brilliant. It directly contradicts both what the Dalek feels about itself and how the Doctor sees it and leads to a great standoff when the Doctor is the one pointing a gun at Rose and the Dalek. How Rose helped the Dalek was a similar way to how she was helping the Doctor; asking questions and being ready to listen with no judgement.

On my Doctor Who rewatch I found that the more character-focused episode of the first series were the ones that ended up being my favourites and “Dalek” was one of them. It did so much at showing who the Doctor is post-Time War and how he is slowly starting to change too. It’s a great episode and Eccleston’s performance sells everything about the Doctor’s trauma and guilt.

As a sidenote, I love that when they designed and built the Daleks for the new series, they made it so the Dalek’s eyestalk was exactly at Billie Piper’s eyeline. It makes all the scenes between the Dalek and Rose so good as they are one a level – the Dalek may be the more deadly of the two but it shows how they become connected and reach a level of understanding neither would’ve expected.