Watching Doctor Who 1.2 & 1.3, Britney vs. Dickens.

I feel the first three episodes create a type of introductory trilogy to Doctor Who. The first episode, “Rose,” occurred in contemporary times, the second, “The End of the World,” takes place 5 billion years in the future and the third episode “The Unquiet Dead,” goes back in time to 1869. This simple, episodic construction maps well to the Doctor Who character himself. Quickly, the bounds of his time travel are established. He can go billions of years into the future.  He can go into the past, and that has consequences. He can also pretty freely go back to contemporary London, where Rose can visit her family.

The freedom of his time travel helped explain one of my issues with Rose in the first episode.  She appears to simply abandon Mickey, her boyfriend. Although the Doctor hasn’t explained how the TARDIS works, she gleefully leaves Mickey on a street corner to run off with the Doctor after he simply states:

By the way, did I also mention that this can also travel in time?

After the first few episodes it becomes apparent that she is able to go back home and her abrupt goodbye to Mickey seems more like “see you later” instead of “it was nice knowing you.”

To the episodes themselves.  Both were perfectly serviceable.  I specifically enjoyed Jabe in “The End of the World,” the representative for the Tree of Cheem. Cassandra, the narcissistic last human, was so obsessed with her purity that she was planning on bleaching her blood. Yet, aside all of Cassandra’s bluster, Jabe’s race was also from Earth. Not only that, but they had survived longer than humans. Further, while the human Cassandra is dominated by deceit, nature has provided Jabe with perspective. She feels sorrow for the Doctor, being the last of his race. And she willingly sacrifices herself to save the entire station.

The most jarring moment of “The End of the World” is the sudden introduction of Britney Spears “Toxic,” played on a 45. Alongside the third episode, the pop queen’s song sounded like a light-hearted anglophile jab at the mass media across the pond.  In that third episode, “The Unquiet Dead,” Rose and the Doctor go back in time to 1869 and meet Charles Dickens for a pseudo-ghost story. Five billion years in the future, the Earth will be burned to a tiny little piece of charcoal while Britney Spears plays in the background, but back in the day, in London, we had Dickens.  Take that!

I would have enjoyed seeing a Dickens story that was more engaged with the story of his life. The story is unrelated to Dickens in any way.  The Doctor coaxes and drags him along to experience what is basically a ghost story.  I would have preferred an episode that perhaps explained the train crash that Dickens was in a few years prior to his death.  Some type of integration would have benefitted the episode, it would have built an interesting connection and unwritten background to the episode.  As it is, the episode is but a simple ghost tale that occurred in the last year of Dickens life and thus had almost no impact on him or his writing, and thus the impact of the episode is muted slightly.

Next Up: the two parter “Aliens of London” and “World War Three,” starring the ever flatulent Slitheen and the kick-ass Harriet Jones.

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