Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Recap: Doctor Who "Rose"

Ladies, gentlemen, multi-sex, undecided or robot, as they say in the year 200,000. After a 16 year hiatus (but only 9 if you include the TV movie), Doctor Who returned with the Revived Series, meant to earn back the old viewers while drawing in the new ones. As such, this episode would have to be a continuation to please the old fans, but if it got too bogged down in its own history, then it would be inaccessible for a new audience. You know, like people still tend to assume Doctor Who is.

So in the end, the plan was simple, but effective: Keep the basic facts of the show, but start fresh with new stories, new actors, and a reintroduction/exploration of the show's premise.

I've already gone over how to start watching Doctor Who, as well as all the issues that got the Classic Series cancelled in 1989. At some point in the future, I'll take a look at the rest of the false starts before the show got back on the air.

Including the attempt to continue the show as an online Flash cartoon.
Yes, this was intended to be canon at the time.
But today, we're talking about the time they finally succeeded.

The date was March 26th, 2005. Doctor Who returned a little over ten years ago. And since then, the title role has changed hands three times, companions have come and gone, and the Revived Series showrunner (Russell T. Davies) even handed the reigns over to another writer.

But what of this first outing for a fresh take on the old show? Sure, it was accessible for new fans, but was it any good? Will it be a masterpiece? Will it be a mess?

Well, grab your jelly babies and make sure not to blink, because the Doctor is back.

And it's absolutely fantastic.
While every episode after this one utilizes a little teaser to get you pumped up before the opening titles, “Rose” just cuts the crap and tells you know straight-up that Doctor Who is back, baby.

The episode proper begins with a shot of the moon above the Earth. And I have to say, on a bit of a personal note, that just seeing the moon in the context of Doctor Who is getting me all excited. From Cybermen attacking, moonbases, killing the moon, the moon landing and beyond, there’s a lot that happens on that little rocky sphere.

But the focus soon shifts to the larger watery sphere below, orbiting a small unregarded yellow sun in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the Galaxy. The camera zooms in from space to an alarm clock somewhere in London.

Doctor Who's classic run was notorious for it's low budget special effects, so this entire opening is basically just here to say "Hey, look! We've got a budget!"

Still, they're zooming in on an alarm clock of all things. They just had to pick the one thing that makes my least favorite sound in the world and show it making that exact sound.

This is my actual alarm clock. It's seen better days.
But I'm not going to hold that against the show. I'm not that nitpicky and opinionated.

This is our protagonist. Rose Tyler, played by Billie Piper.

It's like, how much more pink could her room be? And the answer is none. None more pink.
After quickly turning off her alarm clock (I like her already) and getting up and around, she kisses her mother, Jackie (Camille Coduri), goodbye and leaves for work at Henrik’s (a clothing store) through the hustle and bustle of 2005 London. She spends her lunch break with her boyfriend, Mickey (Noel Clarke), and heads back to work. Soon enough, it's closing time, and all the customers will have to go out to the places they will be from. But Rose has to stay behind and take care of… something having to do with the lottery; I don’t know, it’s not important.

What is important is that she has to head down into the basement, and she’s the last one in the building. When she exits the elevator, she calls out for “Wilson,” but he’s nowhere to be found, not even in his basement office... which is labeled "C.E.O." I can only assume this stands for "Chief Electrical Officer," or some such.

Is... is that a British thing? I mean, I know your basic British English, like "lift," "lorry," "boot," and such, but this is probably as good as time as ever to apologize in advance for any errors I might make in these Recaps, what with the slang differences between the US and UK.

Anyway, Rose has the lottery money or something? And he needs to do something with it? The situation isn’t elaborated upon because Rose suddenly thinks that following a strange noise through the spooky halls of the basement is a good idea. And she also thinks that heading into dark storage rooms is an even better idea.

When she turns the lights on, all she see are plastic mannequins. As the quest for Wilson continues, the only door out shuts and locks. And the strange clattering continues.

Rose: “Izzat someone muckin’ about?”

Good God, you’re so British and I love it.

Rose: “Who is it?”

But before I can use that “Who’s-on-first” routine again, one of the mannequins turns its head and starts following her like a guy earning minimum wage in a haunted house. And the other mannequins follow suit.

Pff. That's a terrible special effect. I mean, it's obviously just plastic.
Rose: “You got me; very funny.”

They walk closer.

Rose: “Right, I’ve got the joke!”

And closer.

Rose: “Derek, is this you?”

She soon finds herself surrounded by walking mannequins in overpriced clothing. And just when it seems like she has no hope of escape, an actual flesh-and-blood person (Christopher Eccleston) grabs her hand.

???: “Run!”

"From them. Not from me. Just want to make that clear."
They take off together, chased by plastic people, and reach the elevator by the narrowest of margins. One of the plastic men reaches inside to stop them, so the mystery man rips its plastic arm off.

Rose: “Very clever; nice trick. Who were they, then, students?”

While we, the audience, can tell that something's up, the mystery man wants to know why she thinks it's a prank.

???: “Why would they be students?”
Rose: “…I don’t know.”
???: “Well, you said it. Why students?”
Rose: “’Cause… to get that many people dressed up ‘n bein’ silly… They gotta be students.”
???: “That makes sense. Well done.”
Rose: “Thanks.”
???: “They’re not students.”

Rose insists that no matter who they are, Wilson will call the police and have them arrested. Or “nicked,” as they say in London. ...which is also slang for stealing something. So you can get nicked for nicking something, oddly enough. ...Where was I? Oh, yeah, Wilson will have them nicked.

???: “Wilson’s dead.”

Nooooooooooo! I'm sorry, Wilson!
As they exit the elevator, she tries to tell him that he’s not very funny, but he interrupts her by whipping out a strange, pen-shaped device with a glowing tip and using it to break the elevator controls. She chases after him, demanding answers, but she doesn’t like the answers he gives.

???: “They’re made of plastic."

It's fantastic!

???: "Living plastic creatures. They’re being controlled by a relay device on the roof.”

So he’s going to disable it with a nifty little piece of futuristic technology.

It's called a "bomb."
He ushers Rose out of an emergency exit to safety, before introducing himself as “the Doctor” and asking her name.

Doctor: “Nice to meet you Rose. Run for your life!”

And once she runs into the street (still clutching the plastic arm), the top floor of Henrik’s explodes. She returns home to her mother, who gabs on the phone about the whole thing while they watch it on “the telly.” Mickey rushes in to do the whole “comforting” thing, because “boyfriend” and all, but Rose doesn’t really want to take about what happened. After all, she’s still trying to piece it together herself. Rose hangs up on an offer of 500 pounds for an interview, which her mother chastises her for. After all, she doesn’t have a job now.

Deep down, though, Mickey would like to go watch soccer (or football, as everyone but Americans call it) down at the pub. And since Rose insists that she's coping with the day's weirdness, she pretty much insists that he go, as long as he takes that plastic arm with him. And because Mickey’s only human, he pretends that the arm is starting to strangle him before he goes. I can’t say I wouldn’t do the exact same thing. Once outside, Mickey dumps the thing in a bin and heads off on his merry way.

The next day, Rose wakes up at the usual time… but has nowhere to go. Once she gets up and around, her mother tries her best to suggest other shops she could get a job at. Like a butcher's shop. But a pitter-pattering gets Rose’s attention, and she gets after her mom for not nailing the catflap shut.

Rose: “We’re gonna get strays!”

But the nails on the floor seem to suggest that something pulled the nails out and scurried inside. Slowly, carefully, she lifts the flap to find…

Doctor, why do you like to stick your face in holes in people’s doors?
Doctor: “What’re you doing here?”
“I live here.”
Doctor: “Well, what’d you do that for?”

The Doctor checks his pen-light again and, after knocking on Rose’s head to make sure she’s not plastic, gets pulled inside by Rose. And she wants answers. After lying to her mom about how the Doctor’s here as part of the official investigation into the bombing….

Jackie: “She deserves compensation.”
Doctor: “Oh, we’re talking millions.

Jackie tries to pull the old “Mrs. Robinson” trick, but it doesn’t seem to work.

Jackie: “I’m in my dressing gown.”
Doctor: “Yes, you are.”
Jackie: “There’s a strange man in my bedroom.”
Doctor: “Yes, there is.”
Jackie: “Well, anything could happen.”
Doctor: “…No.”

Good thing, too. Your daughter’s right there, Jackie. I mean, seriously.
Rose tries to figure out the next step they should take while the Doctor flips through some gossip magazines.

Doctor: “Hm. That won’t last. He’s gay, and she’s an alien.”

He also literally flips through The Lovely Bones in a matter of seconds.

Doctor: “Sad ending.”

“I should really start ripping the endings out so the stories never end.”
As she yammers on, he ignores her and looks at his face for what appears to be the first time.

"I've been redecorated! ...I don't like it."
This is a neat little nod to regeneration, which was pretty much all Davies could do in that regard here. As much as long-time fans would love it if the show started referencing his previous incarnations, that would be a bit of a complicated thing for the premiere to introduce, especially if regeneration didn't even have anything to do with the story itself, which is how the TV movie got away with bringing up regeneration.

So to have the Doctor give his face a quick once over in the mirror is a wink to long-time fans who can read between the lines and it doubles as some subtle foreshadowing to the end of the season for new fans who knew little-to-nothing about regeneration going in.

But as the older fans are wondering how long ago the Doctor regenerated and if he's seeing his new face for the first time, newer ones are probably thinking, "What, he doesn't like the buzz cut?"

Hey, I'd miss those luscious locks, too.
Doctor: “Could’ve been worse."


He sprouted a bowl cut the first time he regenerated.
Doctor: "But look at the ears….”

So I think we can all agree that no matter what, the Doctor's regretting getting his ears lowered. Possibly literally.

"I mean, they wobble to and fro, to say nothing of their ability to be tied in knots and/or bows."
And after discovering that he’s also lost the card-shuffling skills he used to have back when he wore a scarf, he investigates a skittering noise and finds the plastic arm behind a chair. Now, this scene is actually pretty meta. Christopher Eccleston is pretending to be strangled while portraying a man actually being strangled while Rose assumes he’s pretending to be strangled.

Whoa. That's deep, man.
As Rose tries to get a name beyond “the Doctor” out of him, the arm changes targets and goes after her. A quick buzzing from his pen-light renders the arm harmless, or as the Doctor says….

Doctor: “’Armless!”

But... how can it be armless if all it is is an arm?
The Doctor rushes off to investigate further while Rose chases after him, yet again demanding answers.

Rose: “You’ve gotta tell me what’s going on!”
Doctor: “No, I don’t.”

Her attempts to threaten him with police action don’t work, and she gets increasingly frustrated with his choice of name.

Rose: “Doctor what?”
Doctor: “Just ‘the Doctor.’”
Rose: “’The Doctor’?”
Doctor: “Hello!”

She badgers him about why the plastic people are targeting her, but he tells her that she’s nothing more than an innocent bystander who got caught up in something bigger.

Rose: “It tried to kill me!”
Doctor: “It was after me, not you!"

Yep. The basement? The apartment? The target was always the Doctor. Rose just happened to be there twice.

Rose: “So what you’re saying is the entire world revolves around you?”
Doctor: “Sort of, yeah.”
Rose: “You’re full of it.”
Doctor: “Sort of, yeah.”

She asks who else knows about the whole plastic thing.

Doctor: “No one.”

He goes on to claim that no one can help him in this matter… which seems a little insensitive.

Although, to be fair, U.N.I.T.'s gone downhill since Brigadier Banbera took over.
As they walk, the exposition continues. The thing controlling the plastic people uses a psychic signal which the Doctor can cut off using his pen-light. The goal? World domination. Rose asks him, yet again, who the heck he really is, but this time he responds with a pretty epic speech.

Doctor: "Do 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 is turning and you just can't quite believe it 'cause 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...."


Doctor: “Now forget me, Rose Tyler.”

Dude, you can’t burn yourself into somebody’s memory with a speech like that and follow it up with “forget me.” That’s like telling somebody to not think about pink elephants.

The Doctor walks off…

Presumably, to call the authorities.
...but when Rose turns back around, the Police Box he entered is gone. She heads over to Mickey’s place to borrow his computer and searches for information on “Doctor” and “Blue Box,” bringing up a website with the Doctor’s face plastered on the homepage. One car ride later, and she finds herself at the house of the man running the website. Mickey, who tagged along, would rather stay in the car while she meets with some random internet stranger named “Clive.” This can only end well.

Clive meets her at the door, and she warns him not to try anything funny because her boyfriend’s in the car. As Clive’s wife gets a kick out of the fact that a woman showed up this time, Clive takes her to his sensitive information that he didn’t want to put online in case somebody was monitoring them. Information about mysterious men who keep showing up throughout history. For example, a photo of the Kennedy assassination… with the Doctor’s face clearly visible in the crowd. A photo of the Doctor standing beside a family one day before they were due to set sail on the Titanic… and also one day before said family canceled their trip. And finally, a drawing from 1883 that is clearly the same man Rose ran into.

Clive: “The Doctor is a legend woven throughout history. When disaster comes, he’s there. He brings a storm in his wake. And he has one constant companion.”

Jamie McCrimmon? Sarah Jane Smith? Handles! Final answer.

Clive: “Death.”


Back with Mickey, he’s getting a bit bored. So as Clive continues to warn Rose, he decides to investigate a plastic trash bin that starts moving on its own.

It does not go well.
And after it opens up and eats him, it lets out a sizable burp, like this was an old Looney Tunes short. The burp is by far the goofiest thing in this entire episode. While it’s forgivable by itself… well, it’s indicative of a larger problem with the show at this point that I’ll get into in a later episode.

Clive tells Rose his theory about how the Doctor’s an alien traveling through history... which she doesn't exactly believe. So she winds up heading back to the car. When she gets there, she admits to Mickey that he was definitely right about Clive being a bit crazy. Also, Rose is pretty freaking unobservant, since she hasn’t noticed that Mickey is suddenly acting very odd and is looking very much like a sex doll.

I was going to do a side-by-side comparison with a real sex doll here. But then I decided I didn’t want “black man sex doll” in my search history.
They zoom off to go get pizza. Once at their table, Mickey keeps turning the topic of conversation back to the Doctor, no matter how much Rose says she doesn’t want to talk about it anymore.

Mickey: “Tell me about the Doctor and what he’s planning and I can help you, Rose.”

And after stuttering through words like “sweetheart,” “babe,” and “sugar” like Max Headroom, the Doctor shows up with a bottle of champagne to launch a cork in Mickey’s face.

To the dull surprise of the other restaurant patrons.
The Doctor ends up ripping Mickey’s plastic head off, leaving the body to flail around wildly, and Rose hits the fire alarm to get all the civilians out of there. The Doctor and Rose rush out of a back door into the alley, where Rose demands that he uses his little device…

Doctor: “Sonic screwdriver.”

…to open a gate. But instead, he takes her inside a random Police Box like the one from earlier. Once inside, she looks around… and runs out again just to make sure that what she though happened actually did happen.

On the outside: A Police Box.

On the inside...

Rose worriedly tells the Doctor that the thing’s still after them.

Doctor: “The assembled hordes of Genghis Khan couldn’t get through that door. And believe me, they’ve tried.”

The Doctor does some things that look all sciencey for a second as he mutters about using the head to track the signal back to the source.

Doctor: “Right, where d’you wanna start?”
Rose: “The inside’s bigger than the outside?”
Doctor: “Yes.”
Rose: “S’alien.”
Doctor: “Yep.”
Rose: “Are you alien?”
Doctor: “Yes. That alright?”
Rose: “Yeah.”

He explains that they’re in the TARDIS (Time and Relative Dimension in Space), but she gets distracted when she suddenly wonders if the real Mickey is dead somewhere.

Doctor: “Oh. I didn’t think of that.”

Another thing he didn’t think of? Fake Mickey’s plastic head melting into the TARDIS console before he can perfectly track the signal. After some technical jiggery-pokery, he runs back outside. When Rose follows, she discovers that the TARDIS isn't where it used to be. And now neither is she.

Doctor: “Disappears there, reappears here. You wouldn’t understand.”

The Doctor’s a bit upset because he couldn’t track the signal all the way back to the source, but Rose is getting upset that the Doctor isn't upset about Mickey’s possible death. After they argue about this for a second, Rose asks the big question.

Rose: “If you are an alien, how come you sound like you’re from the North?”
Doctor: “Lots of planets have a North!”

The situation cools as he explains that the 1950’s Police Box exterior is his clever way of making his spaceship blend in, and the conversation turns to why something called "the Nestene Consciousness" wants to take over the Earth using the living plastic that's been popping up. Essentially, Earth’s abundant pollutants and synthetic materials make the planet into a nice feeding ground after the Nestene's food supplies were destroyed in “the War.”

Rose: “Any way of stopping it?”
Doctor: “Anti-plastic.”

How convenient. What’s next, stopping a robot’s gears with “anti-oil”?

But first, the Doctor has to track down the Nestene signal back to the source. But how could the Nestene possibly be hiding a giant transmitter inside London?

How, indeed.
Doctor: “Must be completely invisible.”

But once Rose points out the obvious…

Doctor: “What?”

…Anyway, as Rose points out the obvious….

Doctor: “What is it? What?”

It takes him a while, but…

Doctor: “Fan-tas-tic!”

…they soon rush off to save the day. Once there, the Doctor rattles off a list of all the things the Nestene could take over when it puts its plan into motion. Wires, cables, machinery….

Rose: “The breast implants….”

Forget the breast implants, worry about the massive swarms of ever-shifting LEGO that are probably on the rampage.

They find a maintenance hatch and head inside, where the Doctor comes face to face with the Nestene Consciousness.

Well, I say "face."
Rose tells him to use the anti-plastic and get it over with, but the Doctor’s aghast at the suggestion. He’s going to try and talk it out of conquering the world first. He loudly requests and audience “according to article 15 of the Shadow Proclamation,” and gets one. He approaches it while Rose reunites with Mickey. The Doctor calls the Nestene Consciousness out, saying that attempting to conquer worlds is all kinds of illegal, which the Consciousness responds to with hissing and squealing.

Doctor: “Oh, don’t give me that; this is an invasion. Pure and simple. Don’t talk about ‘Constitutional rights.’”

The Doctor breaks into a Captain Kirk-style speech about how humans may be primitive, but they’re capable of so much potential, blah blah blah. A couple plastic people cut it short by grabbing the Doctor and finding the Anti-plastic. This does not go over well with the Nestene.

Doctor: “That was just insurance; I wasn’t gonna use it.”

The Nestene refuses to listen to any more and reveals that it had its plastic henchmen nab the TARDIS. Its cries go untranslated, but it seems to be accusing the Doctor of something that happened in “the War.”

Doctor: “That’s not true. I was there! I fought in the War! It wasn’t my fault! I couldn’t save your world, I couldn’t save any of them!”

The Nestene, freaked out at the idea of someone in a TARDIS coming after it, begins the invasion early as the Doctor yells at Rose to escape. Rose calls her mom and tells her to head home, but it’s too late. The activation signal goes out through the London Eye. Mannequins fill the streets. And they’re packin’ heat.

Ironically enough, Clive himself is the first casualty. Well, technically, we never see what becomes of him....

But a gun pointed straight at his face goes off. You do the math.
Rose tries to escape into the TARDIS, but can’t without the Doctor’s key. With the world at stake, with mannequins closing in on Jackie Tyler, Rose bravely swings on some chain and knocks the Anti-plastic out of a mannequin’s hand and into the vat of Nestene, killing it and stopping the signal.

With the day saved, Mickey, Rose, and the Doctor escape into the TARDIS and vworp over to the streets of London. Mickey hides from the TARIDS once they land, and Rose calls to make sure her mom’s alright. Rose is taking the whole thing in stride, all things considered. She’s even bantering with the Doctor in no time at all.

Rose: “You be dead if it wasn’t for me.”
Doctor: “Yes, I would.”

The Doctor gets ready to fly away in his TARDIS, but not before offering Rose a ride. After all, as he explains, it can take them anywhere in the universe. Mickey’s still riding the struggle bus, trying to get his bearings, and tells her not to. And she agrees.

Oh. Look at that. The black guy is cartoonishly scared of something.
I thought this character's name was "Mickey Smith," not "Stepin Fetchit"?
And so, the Police Box disappears, while Rose and Mickey walk off. But then it comes back.

Doctor: “By the way, did I mention it also travels in time?”

Cue the legions of fans guessing what might have happened in the few seconds the Doctor was gone. I personally like the idea that the Doctor just went back in time to be in all those pictures Clive showed Rose. Hmmm... the doctor should really come up with a phrase to describe how wibbly and wobbly time can be....

With the deal suitably sealed, Rose says goodbye to her boyfriend.

Rose: "Thanks."
Mickey: "Thanks for what?"
Rose: "Exactly."

Oh, that’s nice. She's thanking him for nothing, and basically calling him useless right to his face. To add insult to injury, she abandons her traumatized boyfriend and heads off with the mysterious stranger.

And with that, the episode ends.

As the Doctor and Rose venture throughout space and time, it's time for me to Review this first outing for a new Doctor.

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