As we approach the 60th Anniversary of Doctor Who, revisit the story of Doctor Who, the occasional series written for the 50th Anniversary, explaining the origins of the programme.

Episode 31 - An Unearthly Series - The Origins of a TV Legend: First published 23 Nov 2013

Children in Need SpecialBookmark and Share

Friday, 25 November 2005 - Reviewed by Ewen Campion-Clarke

Oh, come on - all I did was change!

Watching these seven minutes of pure characterization, it suddenly struck me - if this little story was scripted, filmed and recorded after The Christmas Invasion, what would it be like to go straight from the end of The Parting of the Ways to the Christmas special? We have for the first time a proper retcon, a story written to plug the gaps. Had Children in Need not wanted this sketch, what would have happened?

Unless this sketch (which I intend to call Afterlife), is merely the first scene of The Christmas Invasion shown a month early how well the Tenth Doctor's debut would have fitted with the Ninth's swansong?

Without it, we would have lost the crucial re-affirmation that the cute bloke with the floppy hair was the big-eared Northerner new viewers had tuned in for the previous series. Without seeing these first few minutes of culture shock between Rose and the new Doctor, without the establishing of just why the hell The Christmas Invasion is set at Christmas (instead of, say, The November Invasion, which is where the Mickey/Jackie scenes seem to take place in The Parting of the Ways), how much would leave us scratching our heads. It would be as jarring as The Twin Dilemma as it opens, not on a rerun of the regeneration, but two idiots we've never seen before playing backgammon.

The thought occurred to me right away. Only able to view Afterlife on a tolerant internet café RealPlayer, it is unlikely that this charity sketch will be screened on Australian TV and definitely no time soon (indeed, at time of writing, the story appearing on DVD is not one hundred per cent confirmed).

Having managed to see Dimensions in Time at a Doctor Who convention I at last shared the horror of other Doctor Who fans at the last Children in Need special, and RTD's script shows someone who learned the lesson - assuming he needed teaching at all. With seven minutes, there's no way in hell you can tell a decent story, and there's also the small matter that it can't spoil the upcoming Christmas special. The answer? A character piece, simple but not unimaginative.

The idea of the story solely concerning showing Rose accepting that David Tennant is the Doctor for better or for worse is a cunning one. It's disposable enough to miss, but casual viewers will be able to grasp the point immediately and they and new viewers will watch to see what this new incarnation is like (the rest of us fans would have watched anyway).

It's hard to judge the Tenth Doctor's character on this single viewing, but that's precisely the point. He's meant to be vague, nothing more than an extrapolation of the toothy madman pronouncing "Barcelona" in that strange way he does. The new Doctor manages a great range of facets. His snapping at Rose recalls the first Doctor, hopping around the console reminds us of the eighth, while his suspicious cover story about Captain Jack reminds us of the manipulative seventh, and overall Afterlife is a kind of condensed cross between Castrovalva and The Twin Dilemma, with a shockingly young and vulnerable-looking Doctor suffering manic moments of insanity.

But while you can point to the Doctor's delight at crash-landing and say 'That's Tom Baker, that is,' or feel a return of Troughton as the Time Lord shuts up for two minutes and lets his companion doing the talking, the only real Doctor Tennant is impersonating is Christopher Eccleston. He too was ranting, chatty, enthusiastic, apparently suicidal and any line the Doctor says in seven minutes could easily have come from his predecessor's mouth. The most obvious moment is when the Doctor finishes setting the coordinates and stands back, arms folded, mirroring the stance he used in The Unquiet Dead and Aliens of London.

There are a few moments that I think show what we might come to know of as the Tenth Doctor (but then again, I could be completely wrong - only time will tell). Just as RTD's The Second Coming had Christopher Eccleston's Steven Baxter just the Ninth Doctor with one heart (they even like the same lack of sugar in their coffee), it would be well to consider RTD's Casanova as the audition for the Tenth Doctor. The bit where the Doctor bursts out about hopping and slowly realizes that Rose isn't joining in, steadily losing his enthusiasm before finishing in embarrassment recalls the (few) scenes where Casanova's charm falls to work. His gentle teasing of Rose, breaking down her barriers reminds me of Casanova's plan to crack Henriette's façade and get her to admit her feelings.

So, basing the Tenth Doctor on Casanova, we will have a Doctor will numerous abilities and social skills, improvising madly on the turn of a dime, with a nice line in self-depreciating wit and the ability to become a desperate man ala Davison in The Caves of Androzani. And his catchphrase will be 'That's weird.' Or maybe just 'Jings!'.


I'll read this again in a year's time and either gloat or squirm.

Of course, while the whole point of the skit might be David Tennant, the story is firmly based on Rose. Billie Piper hasn't lost anything in the months between series and she plays the Tyler girl nicely on the brink. Of course, the Ninth Doctor told her plainly what was going to happen but Rose doesn't blindly accept that - as she says, she's seen beings change their appearance before her eyes before. But it's not hard to see her suspicion of the Tenth Doctor is more motivated by the desire for his predecessor. It's so much easier to think the Doctor's been teleported out and locked up by Slitheen than realize her best friend has changed in body, mind and soul.

Surely no regeneration story has ever been as poignant as Rose's simple question: "Can you change back?"

The original series usually managed to skip over this by careful positioning of companions. Ben and Polly get on with the Second Doctor just as well if not better with the First, and they didn't spend much time with him anyway. There's no Jamie and Zoe to suffer culture shock in Spearhead from Space, and Tegan and Nyssa barely knew the Doctor before his regeneration in Logopolis. Crucially, Adric did and him not being present for the early days explained the alienation of those two companions. Mel's blasse reaction to the Seventh Doctor is one of the more forgivable crimes of Time and the Rani.

The exceptions are Sarah in Robot and Peri in The Twin Dilemma. In the latter, Peri takes a believable amount of time to accept the new Doctor is the genuine article, but it's undermined as its clearly not the same Peri who watched in tears as her friend died saving her life. She dislikes the Sixth Doctor but shows no real affection for his predecessor, bar a defense of his good looks. Sarah's reaction, however is more subtle - after the change, she begins avoiding the Doctor for most of the story. Time and time again she walks out of UNIT HQ, only returning because of this giant robot and fascist scientists. It is notable the only time in the story she and the Doctor share any real feelings is at the endings, when he offers her a jelly baby and the chance to travel with him again respectively - and she accepts both.

Likewise, the Doctor's casual insults of Jackie convince Rose of his identity just as much as his reminiscing of the time they first met. And its unsurprising but still affecting that the moment Rose smiles and finally begins to open up to the new Doctor he starts vomiting five-dimensional bile and running around with no hint of sanity.Afterlife is just what was needed after The Parting of the Ways, and judging about the amount of care and attention and importance in it, is probably vital for The Christmas Invasion as well. We're left with the impression that Tennant has the potential to be a brilliant Doctor, but not sure exactly what that Doctor is like, and the most convincing reaction to seeing a man change his face since The Power of the Daleks.

Oh, and they used the word 'regeneration'! You mark my words, 'Skaro', 'Gallifrey' and 'symbiotic nucleii' will be the next old series mythos to be used, it's only a matter of time!

FILTER: - Television - Charity - Tenth Doctor

Children in Need SpecialBookmark and Share

Friday, 25 November 2005 - Reviewed by Eddy Wolverson

I was delighted when I heard that I wouldn't have to wait until Christmas for my next big Doctor Who fix – a few minutes of the 'Children in Need' telethon would be set aside for Rose and the new Doctor, and even better, unlike it's star-studded charity predecessors it would count. This would be real Doctor Who; Episode 14; Canon!

The pre-credit sequence is a spectacular recap of "The Parting of the Ways," reminding the audience not only how poignant the ninth Doctor's sacrifice was but how 'fantastic' the actor who played him was. David Tennant has certainly got the hardest task since Patrick Troughton took over the role.


The untitled mini-episode picks up right from where we left the Doctor and Rose, David Tennant looking rather small in Christopher Eccleston's clothes. The episode is little more than a lengthy-scene, however it is a vital scene for fans as we see how Rose reacts to the new Doctor – a vital scene that would have surely eaten up too much time of what promises to be a fast-paced, primetime Christmas special.

Rose is in utter shock at the Doctor's explosive regeneration and reacts much as Ben and Polly did way back when – "You're not the Doctor." Billie is excellent as Rose blabbers out her stream of consciousness… Slitheen… teleport… bodyswap…. but unlike her sixties counterparts it takes her six minutes, as opposed to six episodes, to reluctantly accept the Doctor's new incarnation.

Tennant cannot be judged on about seven minutes of TV, nor can the new Doctor's persona be judged in his post-regenerative state. He seems very off the wall, a mockney accent, even a little bit unstable, though he doesn't try to throttle Rose which is probably a good sign. He does, however, spend a worrying about of time hopping about which brought back memories of Tom Baker and a skipping rope. Despite his post-regenerative state, the tenth Doctor has a few lucid moments which look promising, most memorably taking Rose by the hand and asking her to remember when they first met.

Promising stuff.

Of course, the regeneration goes a bit wrong, the Doctor loses it and the Doctor pushes the TARDIS "past the time limit" racing towards Earth, Christmas Eve…

My only disappointment was the lack of a 'NEXT TIME…" trailer!

FILTER: - Television - Charity - Tenth Doctor

Children in Need SpecialBookmark and Share

Friday, 25 November 2005 - Reviewed by John Williams

The anticipation for new Doctor Who since the airing of Series 1 has been huge. With reports that the Children in Need special could be anything from 3 - 15 minutes long everyone was hoping for the latter. Despite the speical only being around six minutes long I found it difficult to complain. At first I thought that the anticipation of the event had covered up a lack of content, but on repeat viewings I found the mini-episode to be just as good.

The untitled special starts with a brief recap of some of the events that took place in the series one final - The Parting of the Ways. With the Doctor now regenerated, Rose has problems trusting him. She is unsure whether the man standing in front of her is really the Doctor. The Doctor attempts to convince her but in the end sets a course for Earth. True to the classic series the Doctor has problems with his regeneration and loses control. He speeds up the Tardis and sets it for a crashlanding. The episode clearly leads directly into the Christmas special.

My impressions of the mini-episode are on the whole positive. David Tennant is superb as the Doctor. He has great screen pesence and is full of energy. Billie Piper is also excellent. In the space of just a few minutes its easy to see the screen chemistry that these two actors have. The script by Russell T. Davies is brilliant and the effects are particularly good for a charity special. Apart from the length I can't find anything negative to say about this episode. It left me anticipating the Christmas special even more.

FILTER: - Television - Charity - Tenth Doctor

Children in Need SpecialBookmark and Share

Friday, 25 November 2005 - Reviewed by Jordan Wilson

The terse and untitled Doctor Who Children in Need special mediates between the closing moments of The Parting of the Ways and the forthcoming The Christmas Invasion (2005). Doctor #10 (David Tennant) - having just regenerated from a dying Doctor #9 (Christopher Eccleston) – attempts to convince a startled Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) that he is who he claims. In-between abysmally failing to support his shocked, traumatized and generally upset companion, The new Doctor excitedly hops around the TARDIS interior, prior to becoming disconcertingly dangerous and unpredictable…

That’s all there is to it. It’s simply an extended scene – footage to support a charity event, and a taster for Christmas 2005 and beyond.

Tennant is OTT, and it’s difficult to judge him solely on this basis. I will say his performance was promising, although I wasn’t overly enthusiastic.

Piper is on top form; her detached and mortified behaviour contrasts starkly with the Time Lord’s eccentricity and post-regeneration problems. She wants Her Doctor back, not this raving loon laden with a dubious limp wrist and concealed beauty spot!

Written by Russell T. Davies, the dialogue obviously isn’t Shakespearian, but it does the job – although his writing style is perhaps forever doomed to make me cringe convulsively.

In conclusion: OK. Surreal, and a fine taster for things to come… ***[/5]

FILTER: - Television - Charity - Tenth Doctor

Aliens of London / World War ThreeBookmark and Share

Thursday, 24 November 2005 - Reviewed by Jordan Wilson

Oscar Wilde once asserted that “consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative”. By implication, then, Doctor Who 2005 has been distinctly unprosaic up to this point. Audiences have been presented with the plotless Rose; the surreal sci-fi-whodunit emotional sandwich, The End of the World; and the pre-watershed The Unquiet Dead. We’ve never known quite what to expect – primarily due to the water-tight production. Now, the Aliens of London and World War Three two-parter prolong this trend, targeting younger viewers and the juvenile with instantly tedious and trite flatulence ‘gags’.

The Doc (Christopher Eccleston) and Rose Tyler (Billie Piper) return to ‘the present’, – a requirement of the new soap opera format - to be both greeted and castigated by the perturbed Jackie Tyler (Camille Coduri) and a now-ostracized Mickey Smith (Noel Clarke). In-between this impromptu reunion, an extraterrestrial space-craft crashes into the Thames. The Doctor must consequently defend Earth from… the Slitheen family from Raxacoricofallapatorius (… and a squealing space-pig).

Let me clarify my position on writer Russell T. Davies: my ‘loyalties’ are divided. He has reinvented Doctor Who with four fast-paced and enjoyable efforts…, if you refrain from bordering cognition. However, he seems to be failing on the flip side of the coin to where the classic series failed: he promotes character, but plot is barely an afterthought. Sadly, character so far refers only to The Doctor and Rose. Supporting cast-members equate with cardboard cut-outs, despite some praise-worthy performances. Furthermore, Rose, The End of the World and the present storyline sway toward the absurd and superficial. Consider The Doctor’s flowery tripe in Rose:

D'you know like we were saying? About the Earth revolving? It's like when you're a kid: the first time they tell you that the world's turning and you just can't quite believe it because everything looks like it's standing still. I can feel it - the turn of the Earth. The ground beneath our feet is spinning at a thousand miles an hour; the entire planet is hurtling around the Sun at sixty-seven thousand miles an hour; and I can feel it. We're falling through space, you and me. Clinging to the skin of this tiny little world, and if we let go... That's who I am.

To some it may sound impressive (myself excluded), but ultimately it’s soulless gorgonzola – a perfect example. There’re vestiges of plot, this time, though, if one overlooks a lot of typical-being-chased-down-corridors padding in World War Three. Anyhow, moving on… !

Eccleston is on form, especially in his solo scenes inside the TARDIS, although his ‘hitching a lift’ in escape from the military elicts a groan. Rose is less intregal, here.

The Slitheen… Well, they’re now infamous among Whovians. This isn’t abetted by their coarse and frequent need to relieve themselves. Episode one’s cliffhanger would’ve been superb had they been significantly different. I won’t dwell. They do get a few good lines: “… I was busy!” and “Oh, boll-” being most memorable ;-)! For some reason, I thoroughly enjoyed David Verrey’s hammed performance as the PM Joseph Green Slitheen. Annette Badland is unsettling as the Margaret Blaine Slitheen from MI5, and the others were admittedly well-cast: Rupert Vanisittart (Gen. Asquith), Eric Potts (Oliver Charles), Steve Speirs (Strickland), Elizabeth Frost, Paul Kasey and Alan Ruscoe. Jimmy Vee returns, this time providing the alien voices. The space-pig is amusing… before we discover ‘he’ isn’t the villain of the piece.

“Rickey” is amusing, if amateurish, whilst Coduri stands around looking anxious and wide-eyed a lot. Penelope Wilton portrays Harriet Jones, from Flydale North, we’re persistently reminded. I don’t particularly care for the character, but the MP has a fan base – possibly deserved.

Andrew Marr and Matt Baker provide media coverage of the alien invasion – a nice touch, but again overused in the second episode. Jack Tarlton plays an emotionally-involved OTT reporter (!).

Other notable performances include Navin Chowdhry (junior secretary, Indra Ganesh) and Naoko Mori (the pathologist, Dr. Sato).

Keith Boak, director of Rose, takes over the reins from Euros Lyn. It shows.

Curiously, throughout the proceedings, a child (Corey Doabe) spray-paints the words “Bad Wolf” on the TARDIS… and the American reporter (Lachele Carl) was originally named “Mal Loup”… Curiouser and curiouser.

Overall, it’s remotely entertaining and watchable; and that’s the main thing. For youngsters, here, I suppose. I guess we can’t always expect another Unquiet Dead. Or Dalek… **1/2[5]

FILTER: - Series 1/27 - Ninth Doctor - Television

Aliens of London / World War ThreeBookmark and Share

Thursday, 24 November 2005 - Reviewed by Billy Higgins

For “Doctor Who” to survive in the world of 21st-century television, Russell T Davies and the production team realised the new series would have to appeal to a broad spectrum of the viewing public.

Gone were the days when you could chuck “hard science-fiction” such as “Warriors’ Gate” at the viewing public on a Saturday night, and expect to succeed. In fact, let’s be honest, had 95 per cent of the old series adventures appeared in this time slot, “Doctor Who” would have gone the way of “Celebrity Wrestling”.

That’s not to say the old series was bad – far from it. But it was of its time, and though the new series has the same title, has the Doctor and companion, and has the TARDIS (even if it is a superTARDIS now!) it feels likes a totally-different show. It has to be. And, for me, yes, it’s GOOD different.

Die-hard fans may not be happy that it’s so far removed from the old series, and you can’t see many, if any, of the episodes from the new series fitting into previous seasons, even allowing for the obvious improvements in budget, sets and special effects.

The first thing which struck me about “Aliens of London” and “World War Three” was the excellence of the pre-credits sequence. The standard had been set in “The Unquiet Dead” – and the revelation that Rose had been away from home for 12 months rather than 12 hours, as The Doctor had told her, was a real surprise. And a clever twist.

It’s difficult to escape spoilers for anything these days, but it genuinely accentuates your enjoyment of the programme if you don’t know what’s going to happen beforehand. And this was a case in point.

Even more so than in “Rose” and “End of the World”, writer Davies’s great strength, characterisation, was very much to the fore. Again, as with his two previous episodes, I felt this aspect of the script was stronger than the actual story – although this was a better yarn than Episodes One and Two, but then it did have a second episode, which is a big help!

However, there were some truly-classic “bits”. Can you imagine any other Doctor being slapped by an irate mother? Camille Coduri (Jackie) put some real venom into her slap – just as you’d expect of someone who’d lost a year of their daughter’s life. How many times have you seen a slap done badly on TV? Not a bit of it here – totally believable. This is probably why the Doctor “doesn’t do domestics” – protective mothers pack a mean punch!

This was one of my favourite exchanges of the whole series – and there were many.

Doctor - “I AM a Doctor!”
Jackie - “Well, stitch this then!”

Wallop. Priceless.

Exploring the effect travelling through time and space has on the families and friends of companions is a new – but welcome – diversion for Doctor Who. Davies’s decision to keep bringing Rose and the Doctor back to a base on Earth has proved to be the correct one, and Jackie and Mickey (Noel Clarke) are immensely-likeable characters in their own right. And there is a warm feeling of “coming home” after your travels, for the viewer as well as Rose.

Contrary to a lot of opinion, I quite liked Mickey in “Rose”. Most of us imagine ourselves to be like the Doctor or Rose but, in reality, deep down, most of us are like Mickey. Work, TV, friends, sleep. Play it safe – and run a mile if there’s danger. I’m pleased he was able to play a key role in saving the world.

Both Coduri and Noel Clarke (Mickey) really grabbed their share of the limelight here, Clarke especially. His closing exchange with the Doctor (in which he “accepted” Mickey and offered him a role as a companion) was nicely done. I had felt the Doctor was too dismissive of him too quickly in “Rose”. Hopefully, Mickey will change his mind about time and space travel in “Series Two” – he has to have at least one trip in the TARDIS!

Talking of great characters, what about Harriet Jones, MP for Flydale North? Is that her full name? The rat-a-tat exchanges between the Doctor, Harriet and Rose in the cabinet rooms were an absolute delight, and a tribute to Davies’s dialogue. Genuinely funny. I would imagine the actors were thrilled to see quality like that on the page before them.

Penelope Wilton (Harriet) was another great choice from the Casting Department – who, like the rest of the production team, make very few mistakes. And she was far too good a character not to make a return, which I believe she does in the 2005 Christmas special.

It goes without saying that the spaceship crashing into Big Ben and then the Thames was a work of art – trouble is, we now expect these high standards from the special effects teams (and it was heavily trailed) so it maybe didn’t have the impact (pardon the pun) it deserved.

Blowing up Downing Street was also, er, an explosive piece of television. Although, on a serious note, as this series was filmed before this summer’s real-life London bombings, I just wonder if that takes the option of such dramatic scenes out of the equation in future.

The downsides of the story? Well, it was stretching things to believe Mickey could use the computer in his bedroom to launch a missile on Downing Street. A hint of “WarGames” – not “THE War Games”, you understand! – about it. Then again, we are talking about a world which baby-faced green monsters want to sell off for scrap – so maybe it wasn’t that far-fetched. And, hey, it’s a TV programme, it doesn’t all have to make perfect sense!

And what of the baby-faced green monsters themselves? My first impression was “not for me”. They didn’t have the menace of a Dalek, a Cyberman, a Sontaran, an Ice Warrior. The farting aspect didn’t do a lot for me either – not being a fan of the puerile or the totally silly - even though it was reasonably explained. And, although the computer-generated versions of the Slitheen moved slickly around the screen, there was a “lumbering” element to the non-CGI creatures (the people in rubber suits) which suggested you could escape them by breaking into a brisk walk.

However, having already brought back the Autons and with the Daleks to come, it was perfectly understandable that Davies would want to create his “own” monster, and the Slitheen have grown on me. I fully expect them to return in Series Two or Three (maybe the Doctor’s much-discussed visit to an alien planet will be Raxacoricofallapatorius?) as they looked like an expensive production, and I’m sure there will be natural encouragement from the budgetary number crunchers to re-use elements of Series One.

Making the Slitheen a family rather than a race was a novel touch, though, and their reason for being on Earth was well thought out. And I was glad that the pig in a spacesuit didn’t turn out to be the alien! I had visions of the programme being slaughtered in the Press.

There was one irritation at the end of “Aliens of London” – terrific cliff-hanger but, to have the trailer for the next episode even before the closing credits, was plain daft. We know that the Doctor isn’t going to die, but at least give us 30 seconds to consider it!

Going back to my original point about “Doctor Who” appealing to a broader spectrum, I would say I found “Aliens of London”/“World War Three” an enjoyable romp, but I think there was more in most of the other stories for my own tastes. This was probably one for the kids, and there’s no disgrace in that. Giant, green, farting aliens trying to destroy the world – stuff of playground legend. And you know what they say – “children are the future” . . .

FILTER: - Series 1/27 - Ninth Doctor - Television