Saturday, 29 March 2014

The Mothership Rose


Written by Russell T Davies
Reviewed by Reece Morris Jones

I should probably add a caveat before I get down to writing about this. I am hugely, massively biased when it comes to Christopher Eccleston's Doctor. Whilst he does tend to appear in roles that are pretty forgettable these days (Thor 2, G.I. Joe-anyone remember his parts?), there was a time that he was THAT actor, in part due to a series of well received roles through the 90's and early 2000's. So when it was announced he was to be the new Doctor...well I was over the moon.

There's one thing New Who does right and it’s that for the most part, the actors in it can act with something approaching nuance. The old series has its moments, but each week you were more likely to tune into someone emoting on the screen like it was their first big performance down at the amateur dramatics society. So when the first thing I saw was a show that was clearly about themes, with a new Doctor and a new approach, well I was ecstatic and completely stunned. Compared the two eras of the show in feel and scale and its phenomenal the difference.

But like all Doctor Who episodes, its defined by how good its Doctor is. My god, what a good Doctor Eccleston makes. Taking elements of the Doctor we recognise and know (his childlike wonder, his arrogance, his towering intelligence as we get to watch him piece things together) and adding a harsher but melancholic edge works. There's something not quite right about this Doctor, almost an enforced cheer and as the series goes on we get to find out more about that. But as I've spend a paragraph or two getting sidetracked already, for now, let’s turn our attention to the episode Rose.

God I love this episode. Though it’s not the strongest of Eccleston's run, it's an episode determined to set a new paradigm for the show and it does that rather successfully, whilst having to do the hard work of introducing a world, characters and a setup to a whole new generation, and more importantly, make us care about it. Rose does this rather brilliantly by making the episode an introduction to the world via Rose, the new companion, herself.

It's pretty rare to see this in an episode from Davies, but Rose as a construct is a well oiled machine. Everything rattles along at almost breakneck speed. Everything is there for a reason and there's barely any flab to the script. It’s all geared to introducing us to the world of Who again and making realise just what we had been missing. Davies usual indulgences are kept in check, or at least used to best effect.

Rose and the Doctor's role in the episode itself is pretty simple. Rose discovers the Doctor one day and slowly goes down the rabbit hole until she finds a new world that was under her nose all this time. Rose herself is the focus of the episode with the Doctor being a sort of mythical figure, only appearing in short bits until about 2/3rds of the way through the episode. What is apparent though, is wherever the Doctor goes, trouble soon follows.

This does mean the Autons get the short end of the stick when it comes to being involved in the plot though. Used more as a way to being immediate tension and hurry the story along whenever it’s in fear of slowing down too much. Case in point; Rose’s (literal) descent down into the fantastic world of the Doctors' that is just outside our everyday view, results in a scene that stands as a series highlight ("Run!") and manages to make the plastic dummies scary to kids of the 21st century.

There's no real plot to talk about. The Auton's menace people a bit and the Doctor (with help from Rose) defeat them after finding the Nestine Consciousness and being forced to destroy it. Sure, the 'anti-plastic' the Doctor has is a bit naff, but Davies wisely avoids too much scrutiny falling upon it by making its introduction and use over and dealt with rather quickly.
So what doesn't work? Well, the CG effects are poor even considering the time of broadcast (something Who is just getting a handle on nearly a decade later to be honest) so Mickey's' absorption by the Auton bin (which burps-urgh) and the Nestine Consciousness itself look pretty naff, along with Eccleston being added not so artfully into old photos, Forrest Gump style.

Noel Clarke isn't bad, but it did feel like he was just getting a handle on what the character was about. The script certainly doesn't help him in this regard, making him come across as needy, selfish and a hindrance to Rose, who clearly feels like she is being held back in life. Contrast this with the much more assured debut of Rory in the Eleventh Hour and you can see the difference.

In the end, Rose does what it sets out to do. By the end of the episode we have been introduced to the principal characters of the first season, had a bit of action and set up a few things that will make sense later via, what seemed at the time was, throwaway expository dialogue. Moreover though, we had finally gotten a sense of wonder back in the TV landscape, which at the time was dominated by talking head shows that sneered at pretty much everything in the name of 'comedy'. Nice for a bit, but it quickly erodes all sense of grandeur about things.

Rose is a tonic to that and is a must watch, considering its the first glimpse we get of what the revitalized show was aiming to do. Not only that, but its an example of a show leanly trimmed down to what works, so if you enjoy watching shows with a production mindset, there's plenty to enjoy.

Who knows, you may even come to realise the truth about new Who- that David Tennant is the weakest of the new Doctors.

After that controversial comment, I think I had best take the Doctors advice and RUN!

©BBC Doctor Who 1963

No comments:

Post a Comment