Shabgraff does Series 1 of the revival. It’s my blather from Timelash II, plus a little new stuff. (I may do something separate about ‘The End of the World’ at some point.) This is about a series which works because its about a young woman growing up. I feel like I’ve grown up too, in a sense, since 2005… which is why my opinions about Series 1 have drastically changed since first viewing.
I have never been able to entirely make up my mind about this.
The characterisation is glib, sneering at ditzy blonde ‘chavvy’ people who say silly things about making legal claims and flirt with anything in sight, etc (admittedly, this improves later in the series)… not to mention having a LAD character who is OBSESSED WITH FOOTBALL (as are all men, obviously), probably looks at porn on the internet and is stupid (this doesn’t improve ever… though, in fairness to RTD’s writing, it might’ve helped if they’d cast somebody who could act, even just a little bit).
There are things about it that are puzzlingly wrong… just off somehow… like the way Rose calls for a lone store caretaker (!) and calls him “Wilson”, as though he’s an underfootman or something. Huh?
Plus, the music is absolutely awful. And about half the comedy bombs. I know we’re all supposed to look down our more-sophisticated-and-ironic-than-thou noses at people who hate the wheelie bin… but it’s still stupid.
There are some great things in it, however. They whole idea of the Autons being the first monster in the new series is inspired… and they’re quite well done… though, obviously, the priority was to use monsters that were on Earth in the present day, i.e. to make the initial setting as inoffensive to sneery meedja types as possible.
This really is the underlying logic of the whole episode: appease the meedja. Look meedja, it’s a “serious” actor… and he’s not wearing anything naff, he’s wearing a leather jacket, etc. Look meedja, a pop star/lad’s mag companion! Look meedja, London (the only place people like you think fucking exists).
Luckily there’s enough magic in the TARDIS and the Autons and Chris (who’s miscast but good anyway) and the excellent Billie Piper (who will be the unexpected jewel of the first series) to make the whole thing watchable and, often, fun.
Oh, and the ferocious, unrelenting, slavering meedja hype helped too, I imagine.
There’s a germ of something interesting in the Doctor’s appearance as a lone bomber (soon junked)… and the geeky internet bloke who’s somewhere between an obsessed fan, a conspiracy theorist and a cultural dissident. It suggests a support for the uncool, the obsessional, the underground that strangely belies the meedja-pleasing and brand-resurrecting surface priorities on display.
The Autons retain their original charge as emblems of commodity fetishism… products become autonomous and threatening because they represent alienated labour. Rose’s status as a wage slave only emphasises these undertones, as does the Doctor’s reference to a “price war” and the Auton’s imperialistic lust for our plastic (oil).…