Doctor Who: Series 1
Although franchises spanning many years and multiple means of expression can be found in any category of entertainment statistics would most definitely bare out that science fiction have a greater propensity to such expansion. Among this laudable category a few stand out among the rather large number of stories that have reached this plateau ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Star Trek’ are undoubtedly at the top but there is one science fiction series that has undeniably reached a level paramount even to these iconic series of television series and movies; ‘Doctor Who’. Beginning in 1963 this series of about an alien with a means to travel through time and space has manifested a constant present among its legion of fans. Although the BBC television series ended in 1989 the Doctor continued to provide new stories through radio plays, comic books and novelizations. There was an attempt to bring the series back with a made for TV movie in 1986 introducing the eighth incarnation of the character as played by Paul McGann. The genius behind the longevity was imbuing the Doctor with the ability to regenerate when about to die. This plot device includes an entirely different physical appearance and new personality. This permitted the incoming actor incredible latitude in redefining the role making it his own. After almost a decade after this one off film the BBC decided it was time to introduce The Doctor for the new millennium. In 2005 series one of the new Doctor Who series was launched.
By this point in time the network had a few challenges to face. Many of the members of the new audience weren’t yet born when the original show was active. In fact, the show was a favorite of their parents giving it a feel of outdated to the younger viewers. The decision to cast a new Doctor and the all-important role of his companion was shrouded in a level of secrecy that would make MI-6 impressed. Finally the announcements were made and series one on the reboot was on its way. Under normal circumstances I am not an advocate of most so called reimaginings this instance is inherently different. Going back to the tradition of allowing each new actor to reinterpret the main character sets the stage for the show to naturally travel down a different path. The actor that was awarded this highly coveted role was Christopher Eccleston, an actor of considerable reputation on stage and screen with a reputation of breathing life into extremely intense portrayals. Equally important is the part of the Doctor’s companion. From the start of the franchise there has always been one or more people that accompany the Time Lord in his wondrous TARDIS, the simple blue police call box larger on the inside and capable of transporting it passengers to any place and time. This role was hotly sought after but ultimately was given to Billy Piper, as Rose Tyler, a London shop girl. Ms Piper was already a familiar face in England as a popular music star similar in recognition to a Britany Spears arguably limited in scope to Europe.
The responsibility of successfully rebooting the show was placed in the highly innovative hands of Russell T Davies. His mission was to take a series that was originally a half hour show targeted for appeal to children and transformed it into an hour long series intended to attract the more sophisticated Sci-Fi enthusiast that frequent the conferences and chat rooms around the globe. Inserting an experienced actor infused with the gravitas of Mr. Eccleston and juxtaposing him with a bubbly young star known to the current youthful audiences would quickly prove to be nothing short than a stroke of genius. Ancillary decisions made by Mr. Davies were exceptionally well thought out including the initial limitation of references to the mythos developed in the show’s original incarnation and avoiding too much space travel until the different generations of fans could become acclimated to the new format and more serious thematic direction the revitalized show was undertaking.
Prior to the beginning of March, 2005 Rose Tyler (Billy Piper) works in a London department store, has a boyfriend, Mickey (Noel Clarke) and has the typical relationship with her flamboyant mother Jackie (Camille Coduri). At that time the day started routinely enough until the city is besieged by plastic mannequins mysteriously brought to life. Coming to her aid is a strange man called The Doctor (Christopher Eccleston), with a blue call box called the TARDIS and an unusual multi-purpose device called a sonic screwdriver; an extraterrestrial Swiss army knife. After defeating the alien invaders the Doctor offers Ms Tyler the chance of her lifetime to travel through time and space with him. Bored with her life and intrigued by the prospect Rose agrees. The next stop is a space station in the year 5,000,000,000 CE where various extraterrestrial species have gathered to party as the earth reaches its last day of existence.
The pair continues to travel back and forth in time, albeit remaining close to the planet Earth experiencing amazing adventures. In several cases it is Rose who exhibits the ingenuity and fortitude rescue the Doctor. Throughout all these adventures two words keep appearing; ‘Bad Wolf’, the meaning of which initially eludes even the 800 year old Time Lord. The final revelation would not only launch a new chapter in there ever growing mythology of the Doctor but leads into the immortality of one of the Doctor’s most colorful associates, Captain Jack (John Barrowman) , a time traveler and adventurer from the 51st century. This would eventually lead to the popular spin off series, ‘Torchwood’ vested with a more mature and sexualized themes. The dénouement of this series, or season as it is called on this side of the Atlantic, fatally injured the Doctor resulting in his regeneration to the tenth Doctor (David Tennant). Although only the Doctor existed in the ninth form for only a single series Mr. Eccleston brought the reinvigoration of the show to a solid start in England and the United States.
The combination of the inherent seriousness of Eccleston’s interpretation of the Doctor and the feisty twentieth century woman character of Rose that Ms Piper provided successfully set the show in the right direction. What happened between the eighth Doctor (Paul McGann), and Mr. Eccleston assuming the position of the ninth was left as a mystery until the end of the reign of the Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith), the events were alluded to fairly frequently and were established as highly traumatic to the Doctor. What was disclosed was the eighth/ninth Doctors were involved with what was called the ‘Time War’. The most deadly enemy the Doctor ever faced was the Dalek, a cybernetic killing machine intent on annihilating all forms of non Dalek life in the universe. Apparently the only way the ninth Doctor could save the trillions on entities in the universe was to utterly destroy both the Daleks and hid own race, the Time Lords of planet Gallifrey. Eccleston brilliantly utilized this point, the Doctor committing an act of dual genocide, as the foundation for the persona he would infuse in his Doctor. His was a being alone in the universe as the last of his long lived kind. For the first time in countless eons there race of Time Lords was reduced to a single representative and to further distress the Doctor, he was the author of the situation. He is almost crushed by the guilt, a feeling made immeasurably worse when during one episode he discovers a surviving Dalek. The intrinsic sense of humor does manage to emerge mostly due to the uplifting effect Rose would have on him. All companions interact with their Doctors mutually affecting each other but Rose would remain a special influence on the Doctor. In one episode the Doctor is once again faced with a seemingly impossible situation but devises a non-lethal solution. In a moment of unbounded elation the ninth Doctor shouts; "today nobody dies". Now we are about to be introduced to the twelfth Doctor but this was the series that made the leap from a campy show for kids to one of the best science fiction franchises in history. Like the Doctor the show has proven itself capable of constantly reinventing itself.