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Doctor Who: Ranking the Russell T Davies Era Part 1

When I first moved to England in 2010, Chris wanted me to watch pretty much everything he had ever seen that he liked that I hadn’t seen before. We didn’t have to find new TV programs for about 2 years. ūüôā

One of those shows was Doctor Who. I had never seen it before and knew almost nothing about it. It is one of the first things we watched when I moved there. People who know me well know it has ended up becoming one of my favorites things generally. I’ve reads dozens of the books, listened to some of the audios and certainly seen all the episodes of the modern series several times. Since we were traveling much of last year, we hadn’t watched any Doctor Who except the most recent series in at least a year, so we decided to re-watch all of the 2005 revival again.

As a minor note, series means season as well as a full series in British usage. In the case of Doctor Who, it’s actually a bit more meaningful. This is because there was the first one in 1963 and the first one of the revival in 2005, which was not a reboot, but a continuation, the most epic case of being brought back after cancellation ever basically. As a result, season is used for Classic Who, i.e. Doctor Who before 2005, and series is used for 2005 onward.

All two parters will be considered together as a single story.

The first post will deal with Rose’s primary tenure as a companion in series 1 and 2. Obviously, massive spoilers abound. If you haven’t seen series 1 and 2 of Doctor Who,¬†this probably isn’t for you.

1)¬†The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances is easily my favourite episode of the first series.¬†Christopher Eccleston was at his most charming and even John Barrowman was pleasant despite his limited acting abilities. Nancy is one of Steven Moffat‘s many excellent one off female characters. Her story is compelling and the ‘villain’ still sort of freaks me out to this day. And of course, “just this once, everybody lives.” The ending is heart warming without being cheesy.

2)¬†The Girl in the Fireplace¬†is probably my favourite Rose/10 story, but in large part to Rose having a limited role. David Tennant’s¬†chemistry with¬†Sophia Miles, another great one off character of Steven Moffat’s, as¬†Madame de Pompadour, was fantastic. This is a very sad one in many ways, but it’s beautiful.

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3)¬†Bad Wolf / The Parting of the Ways¬†was an epic end for the Ninth Doctor. It was one of the better uses of the Daleks in the revived series. Lynda with a y was a great one off character. I would have liked to have seen more of her. This episode is, of course, why the world’s cheesiest actor gets to live forever in the Doctor Who universe. I have mixed feelings about this as I think he peaked in series 1. Having him as a brooding immortal was more than a bit of stretch for the poor fellow’s range. That said, that is the only thing I can even sort of knock about this episode. Nine’s regeneration scene was beautiful and this episode really tied in beautifully with things that came much later in the revived series about the Time War.

4)¬†The Long Game¬†is a very underrated episode I think. Even though the jagrafess is on the cheesy side, the human characters in it were compelling. I very much enjoyed Simon Pegg as the Editor, the brief cameo by Tamsin Greig and Christine Adam’s performance as Cathica Santini Khadeni, the determined young reporter. There also aren’t enough Doctor Who episodes set in the future. I can really appreciate it when they do one in the distant future well. Satellite Five was an excellent location.

5)¬†The End of the World¬†is the episode where I was certain I liked Doctor Who and wanted to see more. I wasn’t entirely sold on the very first episode and still don’t think it’s one of the stronger ones. The End of the World, on the other hand, has an interesting cast of characters. Cassandra is a bit on the cheese ball side, but I loved Yasmin Bannerman as Jabe, the tree, and the blue plumber. Billie Piper and Christopher Eccleston play off each other beautifully in this. A very solid episode.

6)¬†Army of Ghosts / Doomsday¬†is an story I always forget that I like until I re-watch it. This is in large part due to how wildly popular it is on things like Pinterest amongst fans who strongly ship¬†the Doctor and Rose. Now I do think the Doctor really cared about, perhaps even loved, Rose Tyler.¬†She was clearly important to him at a vulnerable point in his life, but I don’t think their not quite romance is just the height of love in the universe, so all of that is a bit lost on me. At any rate, this episode is so highly rated as the peak of tragedy by 10/Rose shippers that I tend to get bored with that concept in between re-watches as I don’t feel anywhere as strongly about it. Upon actually seeing the thing again though, it is a very solid story. It is an emotional story as well, though personally not the saddest Who by a long run. If anything, personally, I always end up feeling more emotional about The Girl in the Fireplace amongst several other episodes that came¬†later. More than that, this is a story that I feel was somewhat robbed of its proper string by events that would go on to happen in series 4. It would have been more properly tragic if they hadn’t felt the need to bring her back and give her a whole other David Tennant.

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7)¬†Love & Monsters¬†is regularly slated by Doctor Who fans. Chris and I both think it’s really underrated though. Although the monster is pretty cheesy, it was created by a little boy who won a contest. I always feel a bit bad for that boy. His monster was fine and still better than at least a few created by professional writers. What the monster lacked in scariness, the other characters made up for with the sweetness of the little Doctor-seeking gang. Elton Pope was excellent as Marc and his relationship with Ursula was very sweet. It also has one of the better lines of the whole series that really wraps up what Doctor Who is about: “When you’re a kid, they tell you it’s all… grow up. Get a job. Get married. Get a house. Have a kid, and that’s it. But the truth is, the world is so much stranger than that. It’s so much darker. And so much madder. And so much better.”

8) New Earth is a reasonable start for 10 and Rose. As usual, I think I am probably a bit more forgiving to episodes set in the far future as that in and of itself is interesting. I enjoyed the cat nurses. As cheesy as Cassandra was in her first episode, The End of the World, she managed to have some proper character development in this. Her end was actually very touching.

9)¬†Boomtown¬†is probably my favourite of the Slitheen episodes. That said, they are a pretty cheesy villain. Russel T. Davies was generally good at using existing Doctor Who baddies, but not as good as creating his own. I do like Annette Badland’s performance as¬†Blon Fel-Fotch Passameer-Day Slitheen i.e. Margaret Blaine though and it is generally quite a fun episode.

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Approximately where the TARDIS landed in Boomtown

10)¬†Dalek¬†is a bit overrated as an episode. I do like it, but I never enjoy it as much as many other Doctor Who episodes. I am not even quite sure why. It just never holds up as strongly for me as it seems to for many. It certainly fits in well with the mythology and everyone in it was fine, it just never popped for me as much as many other episodes. The ending is still quite compelling though and it’s far from a bad episode.

11) The Unquiet Dead is probably the best one written by Mark Gatiss. I generally like him as an actor and writer of other things, but I have no idea why he continues to be hired for Doctor Who. He produces the worst episodes of series regularly. He managed not to this time, however. This is quite a solid episode. The villain is believable enough. He made good use of Charles Dickens as well and I love Eve Myles as Gwyneth.

12) Rise of the Cyberman / Age of Steel is a solid Cybermen story. They never seem to pop in the modern era as well as the Daleks, but taking them to a parallel universe generally worked. Roger Lloyd Pack was excellent as the mad John Lumic, riding around the world in his zeppelin. I enjoyed Mickey finally finding his place in the universe(s) as well.

The TARDIS control room in the Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff

The TARDIS control room in the Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff

13)¬†Rose, of course, is the one where it all restarted. I wasn’t quite as sold on this when I first saw it, though upon rewatching it does fit very nicely in with later developments. It appears that Russel T. Davies had a plan even then for things that would end up being written long after he was gone with the events of the Time War. It was obvious from certain moments that this Doctor was fresh out from the war with a bit of amnesia after the events of the the Day of the Doctor, which would be written and air 8 years later. The villains in this are a bit cheesy and it’s obvious they weren’t quite sure who the audience was yet. Doctor Who has got slicker over the years, whereas this has some pretty cheesy moments with the autons and some of Mickey’s scenes. It does have some great lines though for instance:

Rose Tyler: If you are an alien how come you sound like you’re from the North?

The Doctor: Lots of planets have a North!

14) School Reunion suffers from the cheese ball villain problem typical of the Russel T. Davies era, but bringing Sarah Jane back was lovely. She is an excellent character played by an excellent actress, so that was always going to bring something good to the episode.

15)¬†Aliens of London / World War Three¬†is a solid two parter. As I mentioned above, the Slitheen are hardly my favourite Doctor Who villain, but the story works well enough and it has the excellent and often overlooked line “Excuse me, do you mind not farting while I’m saving the world?” as the Slitheen are on the smelly side. It is generally an enjoyable episode if not a favourite.

16)¬†Father’s Day¬†is an episode, much like Dalek, that tends to be fairly highly rated by others, but never popped as much for either me or Chris. I am not a great fan of the villains, but it does have some touching moments.

17)¬†The Impossible Planet / The Satan Pit¬†is another one with villains that didn’t entirely work for me. The Ood aren’t exactly villains, but rather just used to do evil. At any rate, neither of us are especially big fans of the Ood. They just didn’t pop for either of us. Upon rewatching, Chris managed to figure out the thing that always made this episode grate a bit though,¬†Ood aside. Mr. Jefferson as played by Danny Web is really annoying. His character was not very believable. He acts like a big macho military guy, but then he can’t even shoot an Ood to protect himself and his friends. It is a pity, as other characters, like Ida Scott as played by Claire Rushbrook were very good. This writer has not written for Doctor Who since and I can see why.

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More of the TARDIS as seen in the Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff in 2014

18)¬†Tooth and Claw¬†has one thing I quite liked about it, which was the strong portrayal of Queen Victoria by Pauline Collins. I am not a great fan of ‘existing mythical earth monsters as aliens’ ¬†as Doctor Who stories unless they are very clever. This take on werewolves was not especially interesting and I wasn’t a big fan of the location and time of 1879 Scotland. I tend to like the episodes that go further back than a century or two¬†better than the ones that are fairly near in time to the present unless the story is fantastic.

19)¬†The Idiot’s Lantern¬†is an especially weak offering from Mark Gatiss. I didn’t especially like the villain or general concept, but I actually enjoyed the time period of the coronation. Despite that, much of the story felt forced.

20) Fear Her is possibly my least favorite Doctor Who episode of any series. It definitely is out the first two series of the revived series. No part of it really gelled from the time period of the 2012 London Olympics to any of the characters or the reasons they did anything.

Overall, I prefer series one and the chemistry of the Ninth Doctor with Rose and even Jack to nearly anything in the second series. The second series did have some excellent episodes like the Girl in the Fireplace, but then also had far more duds. Even the episodes from series one that didn’t pop for me as much were usually still of better quality in my opinion than some of the better ones in series two. Rose and 10 together is a great favourite of many, but personally,¬†I liked her better with 9. I also like it when there is a bit more a team. Some of my favourite series 2 episodes were those in which Mickey was traveling with them as well. I hope to see more teams in the future rather than just an Earth girl from the modern era traveling with the Doctor.

No video because I have surely said enough already. ūüôā Part 2 will follow shortly.

 

4 thoughts on “Doctor Who: Ranking the Russell T Davies Era Part 1

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