Christopher Eccleston

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.

C is for Christopher Eccleston

Christopher Eccleston who played the Ninth Doctor was my first Doctor and he’s still one of my favourites. Part of me thought it might be childhood nostalgia since he was my first experience of Doctor Who so naturally every other Doctor I then saw I’d compare to him, but on my rewatch last year I realised, no he really was that good.

I’ll be talking about this episode very soon (as in tomorrow) but I have to mention Christopher Eccleston’s performance in “Dalek”. His fury and fear are palpable and for someone like me who had heard of the Daleks having grown up in the UK but have never seen an episode with them before, it’s his performance that made me feel scared of them.

His Doctor is one forged by war and loss and he’s abrupt and rude but is also kind and almost yearning for the normal life he has lost. One of my favourite lines of his is in the episode “Father’s Day” when he learns about how the bride and groom met, “Who said you’re not important? I’ve travelled to all sorts of places, done things you can’t even imagine, but you two? Street corner, two in the morning, getting a taxi home. I’ve never had a life like that.” Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor is lonely and prickly and it’s meeting Rose and finding that connection to humanity again that helps him to start to move on from his grief and pain.

I was a Doctor/Rose shipper while the Doctor was Nine and it only got stronger once they regenerated. Honestly if you ship Ten/Rose, you have Nine and Christopher Eccleston’s performance to thank for that because all the groundwork was laid there. Plus, upon rewatch I was more OK with how Rose’s story ended in series four because the Metacrisis Doctor really does have echoes of how the Doctor was like in his Ninth regeneration when he’d just met Rose. He was born of war like Nine was and was righteous and dangerous and it Rose that helped him be a better person.

While we’re unlikely to ever know the full story about why Christopher Eccleston left after just one series, and Eccleston’s issues with the BBC makes it unlikely that he’d ever return to the show like other past Doctors have, I know if he did, I’d absolutely lose my mind. I’d also have loved if he’d done another series, but at least his one and only series – the series that brought Doctor Who back to the world with a bang – is so good.

REVIEW: G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009)

As Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins is set to be released this summer and looks pretty good, I thought I’d revisit the previous two live-action G.I. Joe films.

After their convoy was destroyed in an attempt to steal highly dangerous warheads, Duke (Channing Tatum) and Ripcord (Marlon Wayans) join an elite military unit comprised of special operatives known as G.I. Joe to help take down the evil organisation that’s after them.

I’ve watched G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra once before and that must be close to ten years ago as I remember recording it off the TV, so while I knew I had watched it, I really couldn’t remember much about it – besides the almost ridiculous cast. Also, I have never read a G.I. Joe comic, seen the cartoon or was even that aware of the action figures – here in the UK Action Man was the military toy I remember as a kid. So, whether or not this film is true to the characters and world of G.I. Joe I have no idea.

Let’s talk about the cast of G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. There are a lot of great actors in this film though very few of them give great performances. Channing Tatum appears to be just going through the motions, and both Sienna Miller and Rachel Nichols were pretty bland too. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is near unrecognisable thanks to his costume and voice performance and Christopher Eccleston seems to be having a whale of a time as a Scottish weapons manufacturer with nefarious schemes. The Mummy alumni Arnold Vosloo and Brendan Fraser also make appearances, Fraser’s being very random and is more of a cameo. It’s like that all these actors don’t quite no where to hit it on the serious to fun scale of their performances so it doesn’t feel very cohesive. Plus, a lot of the characters get little to no backstory or characterisation besides stereotypes like “brash leader” or “tech guy” so it’s hard to get attached to any of them.

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra has a lot of CGI-heavy action sequences and makes full use of the budget to show secret bases under the Sahara Desert and the polar ice caps. Some CGI shots look a bit ropey, mostly from the chase sequence in Paris, but on the whole it still looks decent if excessive – that underwater base with the submarine dogfights truly is something.

While the abundance of CGI and explosions gets old quickly, the sword fights between Snake Eyes (Ray Park) and Storm Shadow (Lee Byung-hun) stand out. The stunt work is great and while many of the other characters just seem to have super suits or big guns, these two actually have skills and with their backstories entwined, anytime they go toe to toe is a highlight in an otherwise bland action film.

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is very silly and mindless. As so many of the characters lack interesting or any characterisation, they aren’t memorable. The only two that aren’t so easily forgotten are Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow and part of that is due to the distinctive costuming. Otherwise, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is pretty forgettable and even as you watch it it’s easy to get bored. 2/5.

REVIEW: Thor: The Dark World (2013)

When Dr. Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) becomes possessed by an ancient and powerful entity known as the Aether, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) must team up with his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) to protect her from the genocidal Dark Elves led by Malekith (Christopher Eccleston), who wants the Aether to throw the Nine Realms into darkness.

Thor: The Dark World finds Loki in prison for his crimes against Earth and his relationship with Thor is put to the test when he is the only one who can get them off Asgard undetected. Loki continues to be one of the most interesting and complex characters in the MCU. The one thing you can guarantee Loki to be is untrustworthy but the way that presents itself is still surprising.

While the Dark Elves do look aesthetically cool and somewhat intimidating, that doesn’t make them good or compelling villains. Malekith has no motivation besides turning the universe into darkness because that’s what he and his people thrive on, not matter the effects on different people. A lack of a decent villain makes this a typical end of the world type story. Algrim (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), Malekith’s second in command, is reduced to a henchman and offers little opportunity for Akinnuoye-Agbaje to show how good an actor he is.

A nice call-back to the events in The Avengers is, like Tony Stark in Iron Man 3, the fact that Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) is suffering from having a God in his head. This reminds us that while the main heroes and villains of this story are Gods and monsters, there are humans here that have very human reactions to the fantastical things they face.

Thor is almost second fiddle to most of the characters in Thor: The Dark World despite being the titular character. Loki proves to be the more interesting and funny brother while Jane Foster saves the day with science. Still, Thor is suitably heroic and the final battle between him and Malekith is both funny and thrilling, thanks to the laws of physics being turned onto their head.

Thor: The Dark World is a more serious film, it even has a darker palette and it definitely likes that mouldy green colour that’s almost ever-present. It still has sprinkles of humour throughout and some good action sequences but it’s an average outing for Thor. 3/5.