Doctor Who: 50 Years, 50 Stories Countdown – Part 4
The Day of the Doctor is tomorrow! To celebrate fifty years, TV AFTER DARK is looking back at fifty of his most important adventures. And we have reached 2005, the revived series…
30. Rose (2005)
I’m going to say it. I don’t think anyone puts a foot wrong in Rose. If Doctor Who was ever to come back, it had to be perfect in order to survive, and redeem its crumbling reputation. And that’s what Rose did. The good points are just too numerous to list, but at the heart of it is this: that opener, a big broad untouchable space vista that zooms down, down, down, down… into Rose Tyler’s bedroom. Her alarm’s going off and she’s got another dreary day ahead of her. Doctor Who had been great before, but it had never before been as thoughtful, as bold, as emotionally-charged or as beautifully-shot as this. If you want a jumping-on point in Doctor Who, bar episode 1 from 1963 (which is also excellent), Rose is your best shot. It establishes everything, and more. And from here a new golden age of Doctor Who begins, thanks to showrunner Russell T Davies and his team.
31. The End of the World (2005)
If Rose was the pinnacle of Doctor Who then The End of the World was surely designed to say “we can keep going – we can be even better and do even more!” Having grounded us in a very real, tangible universe, we are unexpectedly flung into the far future as Billie Piper’s Rose (a perfect companion) watches the day the sun expands and her planet – our planet – dies. Heartbreaking and yet packed with action, fun and lots of aliens, this episode achieves the impossible and raises the bar again.
32. Aliens of London/World War Three (2005)
The first post-2005 full-on alien invasion story – and what an invasion! The Slitheen may not be the best realised monsters, but few other episodes demonstrate the broad appeal-range of Doctor Who: for the kids, there’s political satire in Downing Street and for the parents, there’s farting green bog monsters. Or should that be the other way around? Introducing the brilliant Penelope Wilton (Downton Abbey) as Harriet Jones, future Prime Minister, this story works so well because it really sticks to what an alien invasion might feel like, what the movies tell us it will be like, and then brings it right down to the Doctor choosing between saving the world or saving Rose…
33. Dalek (2005)
One of the masterstrokes of this series is the revelations of the Time War… the Doctor’s had dark days since we last knew him and now all his people, and all the Daleks, are gone. Or so he thinks. Wiping out those years of complicated backstory worked tremendously well, and it gives Christopher Eccleston, the Ninth Doctor, some ‘fantastic’ material to work with when faced with just one of his enemies. Another lone survivor. It’s deep and dark stuff (far deeper and darker you would expect Doctor Who to be), and absolutely succeeds in re-establishing the Doctor’s most famous foes as his most deadliest too.
34. Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways (2005)
This was the story that see the proper, full-blooded season finale instated – and what a season finale! Davies has a knack of making ideas that sound silly into a wonderful reality, and this story’s examination of the evolution of TV gameshows into something deadly is an example of that. It has everything a finale should have, plus some very emotive scenes back on Rose’s estate, and a several twists in store. A dark roller-coaster, culminating in the regeneration of Eccleston into the Tenth Doctor, and arguably the most popular: David Tennant.
35. School Reunion (2006)
For fans new to the series, it might have come as a surprise to learn that the Doctor has had Roses before Rose. The fact that she is, as she puts it, “just the latest in a long line”, hits her hard when she meets Sarah Jane Smith. The gorgeously talented 1970s companion actress Elisabeth Sladen makes a brilliant comeback in a romp set in a school, but that’s all window-dressing for the advancements in our understanding of the way the Doctor lives his life. Tennant hits the ground running (sometimes literally) and Sladen and Piper give it their all, as does guest star Anthony Head (Buffy) as the villain.
36. Love & Monsters (2006)
From this season onwards, every year there is some sort of episode that has minimal involvement of the Doctor and his companion due to filming necessities. What sounds like a production nightmare, the producers turn into a golden opportunity: taking the Doctor out of the show makes the show even more about him, and the impact he has on ordinary lives… people like Jackie Tyler, Rose’s mum, played by the superb Camille Coduri. The scenes involving her are by far the highlight of this mad operatic episode that zings from heartbreak to sex gags, from kid-friendly monsters to bereavement and swelling musical numbers. It’s not your average episode. Doctor Who doesn’t get more experimental than this!
37. Army of Ghosts/Doomsday (2006)
Anyone thinking Davies could never top last season’s finale was in for a pleasant surprise. Army of Ghosts/Doomsday finally introduces us to the much-fabled institution of Torchwood, but it’s two great punch-the-air successes are the shock cliffhanger which leads to a huge space battle, and the departure of Billie Piper’s Rose. The battle was exactly what everyone watching the show has wanted for years – the exit of one of the most popular companions of all time was definitely not wanted. But it is truly, beautifully handled.
38. Gridlock (2007)
The ongoing story of the Doctor dealing with Rose’s exit is a new addition by Davies too. The Doctor moving on in a heartbeat just would not hold the attention of an audience so attached to Rose, so Martha Jones (the amazing Freema Agyeman) is drafted in as a very different sort of companion. As he says in this story, he barely knows her. As she says in this story, she absolutely trusts him and adores him. But he’s still thinking of Rose… Gridlock is a masterpiece. A scary polemic warning about the descent of society into endless, mindless motorways, human susceptibility and faith, it’s very deep and moving – particularly in the hymn sequences. Very cathartic; a classy piece of television.
39. Human Nature/The Family of Blood (2007)
The Doctor is chased through time and space by enemies who just will not give up… so he has to hide. He has to become human. Watching this story again it occurred to me how much is packed into these two episodes. And all of the elements are thematically tied up with such a deft hand by Paul Cornell and Russell T Davies, it really is astounding television. That is all that occurred to me because everything else was already clear: how beautiful a love story it is, how wonderful Martha’s role is, how amazing all of the lead performances are, how stunning the period work is, and how gut-wrenching an ending it has.
40. Blink (2007)
Blink is famous, you must have heard of Blink. “Don’t blink! Blink and you’re dead! Don’t turn your back, don’t turn away, and don’t blink! … Good luck.” Everyone’s hooked from the monologue onwards! The Weeping Angels – statue creatures that can advance and attack only when you’re not looking – are absolutely terrifying, and the stars of this story. Having said that, they are closely rivaled by Carey Mulligan of Gatsby fame in an early role that shows her for the great, natural talent she is. Playing Sally Sparrow, she acts as our companion figure in another absent-Doctor story, but again that works entirely to the episode’s advantage. A slightly simplistic climax and a plot that feels a little too tightly-focused sometimes… but they are the only criticisms of Blink you will ever read, because everybody loves it! Considered the zenith of Doctor Who by many, written by current showrunner Steven Moffat, it seems like here is a good place to draw this article to a close…