Quick reviews of the first seven episodes:
1. Rose — A harmless romp, introducing the characters and concepts for new viewers, and reminding us oldsters too. Thank goodness not too much emphasis was on the baggage from the old series, something the 1996 telemovie fell victim to, thus alienating half the audience.
2. The End of the World — Through Rose, we are introduced to time travel, and the aliens of the universe. There was nothing terribly deep about this episode, but it did touch on Rose’s sudden realisation that she was a long way from home, dependent on a stranger.
3. The Unquiet Dead — A bit of a horror story, with Charles Dickens thrown in. I loved the bit where Gwyneth was picking up visions of Rose’s background. Some great imagery with the “ghosts”.
4. Aliens of London/5. World War 3 — The first few minutes covered some ground which the old series never really touched on: what is the impact on loved-ones when someone just disappears for a year? Rose’s mum has been putting up Missing posters, her boyfriend has been repeatedly questioned by the police. This gets overtaken by an alien invasion, and I really enjoyed the faux news coverage. There was much outrage from some old school Doctor Who fans at the fart jokes, but it was all in keeping including a few comic moments in the series. A poke at the Weapons of Mass Destruction got a laugh from me. I’m not convinced the alien monsters quite worked, and while it was fun, this story wasn’t deep, and it didn’t quite feel like it was worth telling over two episodes.
6. Dalek — The return of the series’ most popular/feared enemy was always going to be a big event for seasoned viewers. No mucking about, this showed just how evil, cunning and formidable the Daleks are, tricking Rose, then using the sucker, draining the power supply, consuming the Internet looking for information, then single-handedly accounting for almost every human on the base. Nasty stuff, making up for past appearances which had watered down their power.
But then the plot pushed further: via some slightly clumsy techno-babble, the Dalek was contaminated with Rose’s DNA, and got emotions. Like a rabid Klansman discovering he has a black father, it was horrified: “I can feel so many ideas. So much darkness grows. … This is not life. This is sickness. I shall not be like you. Order my destruction!”
Simultaneously we explored the Doctor’s past: the apocalyptic time war which wiped out his people. So when the final showdown between him — the last Timelord — and the last Dalek happened, he found it difficult to cope. I found the last few minutes quite gripping.
7. The Long Game — The year 200,000. I know the Doctor said the technology was out of date, but he reckoned only 90 years. This just didn’t seem realistic to me. The year 3000 might have been more believable. This episode lacked anything too deep, just a straightforward look at the power of the mass media, and the amusing disposal of companion hopeful Adam [Click], emphasising why the Doctor chooses to travel with Rose.
All in all so far, a great return to an old favourite. Executive producer Russell T Davies and new doctor Christopher Eccleston have done extremely well. And some very promising episodes yet to come, too.
(See also: my review of the second half of the season.)